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Instruments Of Peace

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.”
“O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
~ Prayer of  St. Francis~

May we all make this our living prayer. In our workplaces where there’s hatred, sow love. In any relationship where there’s injury, forgive. In every place you find despair, darkness, and sadness around you–offer hope, light, and joy!

Basic Identity

April 5, 2011 Inspiration, Love Comments

One of the purest things I’m learning about myself these days is also the most basic and true identity we own as human beings:

I am LOVED and CREATED by God. And YOU are too. We all are.

Our breath and life are real gifts given to us by God to freely live.

Do you ever feel it necessary to ask permission from someone or something to actually live? Me too. And I don’t think we are alone.

Permission finds it roots in understanding our most basic identity.

I love the way Henri Nouwen says this…

The great conversion [of our life is to] learn the courage to say, ‘I don’t have to ask permission from the world to live. I am not what other people say I am. I am not what I produce. I am not what I own. What I truly am is the chosen, beloved child of Divine God.’

Who or what is greater than the ‘Divine God?’

It is so good to have permission to be so freely alive and loved so greatly! 

Ash Wednesday Prayer

Today is Ash Wednesday.

And I believe it can be more than just empty ritual for those who take this season of Lent seriously. Click Here: for yesterday’s post on Lent.

Ashes give us a real important picture. They remind us that LIFE IS SHORT! We are fragile and need to be forgiven.

Ashes played an important part in the ancient world of the scriptures, they were used as an external way of identifying outwardly with what was happening in their hearts.

Ashes were also a SYMBOL OF CLEANSING. In ancient cultures when they didn’t have soap, they’d cleanse themselves with ashes. Ashes remind us that cleansing is possible because the LOVE and GRACE OF GOD ARE SO GREAT!

So ashes then symbolize both OUR need to repent and GOD’S cleansing of our hearts and lives!

“Now, now, – it is the Lord who speaks, come back to me with all your heart… for God is all tenderness and compassion…” (Joel 2)

ASH WEDNESDAY - PRAYER OF REPENTANCE

Please, Lord, be with us at every moment and in every place. Give us the strength and the courage to live this life faithfully and hear this prayer…

Most holy and merciful Father: (We confess to you, Lord) and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven. We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit. (Have mercy on us, Lord).

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy and impatience of our lives, Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, Our anger at our own frustration and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, Our negligence in prayer and worship and our failure to commend the faith that is in us(Have mercy on us, Lord).

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, for all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us. (Accept our repentance, Lord).

Hidden Greatness

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself,” the writer says, in Phillipians 2 (vs 5).

So, how did Christ think of himself? Verse 6 tells us

“He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status.”

Jesus’ humility inspires me as much as it challenges me, in contrast to the values of this world which have found roots in my heart and life.

The truth is: I see prominent and successful people and think I need and want what they have to truly be great.

But I’ve also grown weary of wrestling with my restless heart and its tendency to cling to a false and “needy” self. That self has an insatiable hunger to be seen, praised, and admired.

Then, I see Jesus,  and I know what I really need and desire is the kind of greatness He possessed. It’s different and even better than the greatness most of us pursue every day.

“There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician.

Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love!” - Henri Nouwen

May we be shaken loose from the values of a world obsessed with image, power, and prestige.

May we all get a glimpse of the truth of greatness that so gently but plainly reveals how deeply confused about what being truly great is all about.

And, finally, may the GREATNESS of JESUS not be so hidden to us any longer, so we can know what true greatness really looks like.

Ugly + Grace = Beauty!

Most of us feel guilty when we’ve done something wrong. Have you ever given much thought as to what guilt might be producing in your life?

For instance, if we never felt any guilt, no one could ever heal–it’s the first warning sign that something’s not right!

The truth is that guilt can either help heal or harm us depending on how we use it.

The helpful result of guilt should be to restore health, not feel bad. In fact, guilt has ‘directional movement’ pointing us toward more than just a mood or bad feeling.

It can help us when it reminds us of our place as human beings accountable to God. It can hurt us when we punish ourselves for not measuring up to someone else’s standard–perhaps even a parent’s, religious system’s, or society’s.

When guilt directs our movement toward accountability to God, we progress through three things:

  • GRACE: God’s unique free gift to us.

Our sin is often so great, that GRACE has to be greater [Romans 5:20-21]: Covering the shame. Taking the blame. Removing the stain. Grace is so GREAT that it finds the goodness in everyone and everything and makes beauty out of ugly stuff.

Ugly + Grace = Beauty!

Grace meets us surprisingly with something unexpected and undeserved. And it leads us through the rest of this guilt-freeing progression as it moves us along…

  • REPENTANCE: the steps we take to return to the person God made us to be.

We need to repent because somehow we’ve be lured off God’s path for various reasons and we know we’re not being true to who God made us and the life he gave us. To repent, then, is to say…

“God,  I’m so sorry. How messed up is this thing I’ve done. Please restore me!”

It’s not just being aware of our brokenness or a better kind of life. But intentionally taking steps back onto to God’s path for us. And these steps are guided by God’s grace and not just guilty feelings.

True repentance is a prayer of surrender that might sound like this: Jesus, I need to be united with you in the DEATH of THIS, so that I can be united with you in the RESURRECTION of LIFE OVER THIS!

  • CONFESSION: involves sharing the secrets about ourselves that we try so diligently to hide.

Central to confession is the idea that we’re no longer carrying guilt around alone, otherwise it can become too heavy and wear us out! We often forget that confession is part of the healing process.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”James 5:16

Honest confession might be the only way to silence the “shaming voices,”  as author Keith Miller puts it. Our secrets control us and hold power from the threat of being revealed. When we voluntarily share these secrets in spiritual community, says Miller, we break the power of shaming voices which opens us to even greater healing.

The goal in this entire progression is to restore our health, which can only take place if we fully cooperate in the process and use guilt appropriately leading us to grace.

Rejecting Heaven

February 3, 2011 Inspiration, Love Comments

This is a clip from the Poets, Prophets and Preachers conference which I attended back in 2009.

I loved this parable Peter Rollins shared about how we can affirm and/or reject the resurrection every day–one of the most inspired and convicting moments of the conference for me!

MLK: In The Name Of Love

January 17, 2011 Inspiration Comments

Martin Luther King Jr. makes my top ten list of most inspiring people of all time.

I never bore of reading or studying everything I can about his life and legacy. It always seems to stir a deeper longing in me to consider every human being as my brother and sister.

In honor of MLK today, I’ve compiled in this post, his voice and thoughts which have influenced me the most over the years.

Thanks MLK for making me a better man and the world a better place!

The journey of equality lives on…

” Early morning, April 4th, shot rings out in the Memphis sky. Free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride.” In The Name Of Love - U2

The Voice of MLK Jr.

“A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a  friend.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ “

“Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek; an ‘eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind.”

“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“We must use time creatively.”


The Anatomy of Prayer

“HELP” and “THANKS” are our most basic prayers.

We find ourselves in need and cry out for HELP to God. We discover ourselves immensely blessed and cry out in THANKS to God.

Other essential parts in the anatomy of prayer are that of absolute HONESTY and SURRENDER.

Authentic prayer to God is accompanied with a giving of ourselves wholly and entirely to Him.

And allowing prayer to influence our thoughts, attitudes, actions, relationships, vocations, hopes, disappointments, etc.

A prayer of HONESTY and SURRENDER might go like this…

“Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Your will, that has not been ordered by You, or that is not entirely given up to You?”

These construct for me a basic anatomy of prayer: Help, Thanks, and absolute Honesty and Surrender. And I think Jesus teaches us to pray very much like this in Matthew 6…

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense.

This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!”

Christmas Night Commentary

December 25, 2010 Inspiration, Wonder & Awe Comments

This is fascinating commentary from, Frederick Buechner [beekner], writing about Christ being born as a child:

“…those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure to where he’ll appear, to what lengths he will go, or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his passionate pursuit to reclaim human kind.”

If God will go to these depths to reclaim his dream for humanity, then he’d do anything!

“If the holiness and this kind of power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, then there is no place or time so lowly or earth bound, but that holiness can be present there too.”

“…and this means that we are never safe and there is no place we can hide from God, no place we are safe from his power to break into and recreate the human heart. Because, it is just where God seems most helpless that he is most strong, and it’s just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.”

This is the story of a God who never gives up on us! And every human being can find God present where they might least expect Him.

This God, our God, is the God of unending surprise!

The Best Dressed Wear Joy

Doesn’t everyone like to look their best? Why is that?

Perhaps its because when we look our best we often feel our best? Like it or not, there is an obvious connection with what we wear and how we feel.

I’ll save the judgement of that assertion for another day. Nevertheless, it is the reality of our culture and true for many: what we wear externally can impact us internally. If that’s true, then couldn’t the opposite be true as well: what we “wear” internally impacts us externally?

The external experience of joy may actually begin with the internal choice to choose it!

Conventional thinking is that how we feel dictates how we act. This makes us slaves to our emotions and guarantees a life that is often out of control. But the truth is precisely the opposite.

When we discipline ourselves to act in certain ways, even when we don’t feel like it, those actions can create or even change the emotion that we feel.

For example, when I treat people lovingly, I slowly begin to care for them, even if I didn’t much at first.

Or, think about smiling, you may not feel like smiling, but if you choose to smile, the transformation is almost immediate.

We can’t always wait around for the right emotions to come flooding our way. But one of the greatest secrets of life is that you can manage your emotions by controlling your actions.

What makes us human is precisely the freedom of choice we have: to CHOOSE JOY every day regardless of our emotions or circumstances.

I love what the writer of one Psalm says:

God…You Clothe me with Joy” -Ps. 30:11

The best dressed wear joy. It’s one of the most attractive pieces of anyone’s wardrobe. And God’s given us that joy to be clothed in every day.

But it’s our CHOICE whether or not we choose to wear it.

Welcome

The world God created is good. He created all people in his image and no amount of darkness or sin can ever fully erase God's original imprint. So, we should choose to look for God's goodness everywhere and in everyone!

About George Stull

Pastor, teacher, father and husband who believes the world is more malleable than we think and we can all help bend it into a better shape. www.hopepark.com




How can we find our way through any darkness? By making the light a little brighter!

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