I’ve been talking about my belief that God is involved in the ongoing Story of Life. In this YouTube video, I tell about an assignment I had in high school, shortly after I became a Christian, and what happened when I prayed about the assignment.
Click here to watch the video. It will open in a separate screen.
As a fairly new Christian, I was surprised to discover that my testimony seemed like a different genre from the testimonies of other Christians. Mine seemed much more secular than theirs. That was how I started recognizing the importance of the Story of Life. I talk about that in this video.
This is the first of a series of videos on the practice of meditating on the Story of Life. For most of my life as a Christian, I have deliberately kept in mind the Story of Life when I’m praying. In this video, I use The Junior Wall Chart of History to explain what that means and why I find it helpful in my spiritual life.
My article, “The Problem with Congregational Histories” is on pages 28-29 of the latest issue of The Congregationalist. I argue that “congregational histories are not written in a way that is even remotely ‘congregational.'”
(It will take you to the September issue, then scroll down to page 28.)
You’ve probably heard the old question, “How is it with your soul?”
In most religious circles I’ve been in, we’re reminded from time to time that we should be asking each other this, but here’s what we do instead. Person A asks Person B, with a cock of the head, “How are you doing?” because Person A isn’t comfortable prying into Person B’s spiritual life. In response, Person B talks about her aches and pains and woes. Person A empathizes, commiserates, and promises to pray for Person B. And this is all fine, because we ought to care about each other and bear each other’s burdens.
But that’s not the same thing as asking each other about the state of our souls.
What we’re missing is the fact that we Christians are supposed to be caught up in the most exciting project ever, and we inquire about each other’s progress as a way of spurring each other on toward accomplishment of the seemingly-impossible goal that’s been set before us. That goal, in New Testament parlance, is to “go on toward perfection” (Hebrews 6:1 NRSV). But to put it in less grandiose terms, it is to become, as fully as possible, the people God created us to be.
In order to understand what sort of answer would be appropriate in response to the question, “How is it with your soul?” we should first ask ourselves, “How is it supposed to be with our souls?”
And here is just one answer. There are many, many others, but this one’s ambitious enough. Christ says, “[T]hose who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14 NRSV).
That’s a metaphor, of course, but all metaphors refer to something. What is this one referring to, do you suppose? I interpret it as promising a spiritual life that is not only deeply satisfying but immediately available — an inexhaustible source of refreshment within oneself. You don’t have to stand in line at a drinking fountain. It’s within you.
But it’s more than that. It’s not just a form of self-satisfaction. What we’re enjoying is the presence of Jesus Christ. He’s the Living Water. The goal is for us to be imbibing him — in sips, if that’s all we can manage, or in great gulps if we can — and finding a refreshment and satisfaction that are available nowhere else.
Let’s take this one text as an example. If we have a prayer partner or good friend in the faith, and it seems too artificial to ask them, “How is it with your soul?” we could instead have a conversation about the progress each of us is making toward experiencing that gushing spring of water within us.
Have we asked Christ to give us this water? If not, why not? If we have, what’s been the outcome? If there hasn’t been any obvious response to that prayer, let’s talk about it (or better yet, pray about it together) and see if we can figure out what’s hindering us. If there has been a positive response, let’s encourage each other by talking about it, and let’s see what we can do to increase our ability to drink even more freely.
See what I’m saying? The whole point is for us to help each other get deeper into a relationship with the Living God.
Lately, I’ve been particularly impressed by the kinds of metaphors Christ used to describe the Christian life. They were some of the most enjoyable things in life: eating, drinking, partying (he used the party metaphor so often, his enemies ended up using it against him), basking in the sunlight, playing like children in the marketplace — indeed, even becoming like little children again. As enjoyable as each of these things are in human life, they’re metaphors of even greater spiritual possibilities. They’re glimpses of where we’re supposed to be going, both as individuals and as churches. They’re examples of how it’s supposed to be with our souls.
How is it with your soul?
This blog is a place for me to share my meditations on the subject of workplace spirituality, and there is one piece of music in particular that I use to meditate on this theme. You may be surprised by what it is: it’s the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten. It was written in order to teach children about the various sections of the orchestra and how they all fit together, but I use it for something else: to meditate on how God’s purposes move forward even in the midst of all our busy-ness.
The sun was shining today in Southwest Michigan. That doesn’t happen a lot this time of year, so everybody around here was very appreciative.
We all know how deeply we crave sunlight, especially when we’re deprived of it. We don’t just want to see it; we feel a need to get out into it. We want to make actual, physical contact with the sun’s rays. And when we don’t have a chance to do so for any significant length of time, we feel the loss.
Christ uses a number of powerful metaphors to describe the life that he offers, and here’s one of them. He promises that we can have the light inside us.
“Your eye is the lamp of the body,” he says. “If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light” (Luke 11:34; Matthew 6:22 NRSV).
When I was a young man, I embarked on a flight during a blinding snowstorm. The weather was bad, but apparently not bad enough to ground us. So we took off, and I couldn’t see a thing outside the window of the plane. But in a matter of minutes, we got above the clouds, and — up there — it was a bright, sunny day. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I always knew in theory that the sun was there above the storm clouds, but its reality meant very little when I was in the middle of a blizzard. From that day on, I’ve always tried to remind myself that the sun is still there in the midst of any storm, both figuratively and literally.
But this scripture promises much more than that. It’s not just telling us to believe that God’s light persists even in moments of darkness. Christ is promising us that we can experience that light within ourselves. And that light will shine even on the darkest of days.
We’ve been going through some pretty dark days lately. As citizens of a free country, we Americans have a responsibility to keep up on what our elected officials are doing, particularly if we believe that our freedoms are being endangered. But I’m seeing a lot of foot soldiers faltering spiritually the past few weeks. I know I have been. As the storm clouds gather, it’s so tempting to fixate on the darkness. And the more we do, the more we are tempted to feel anger… and even hatred… toward those whom we identify as the enemy.
But as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility that far outweighs our need to keep up on the news. We are called to be the light of the world, but we cannot send forth those rays of light if they are not radiating from within us. It is our Number One task, through these dark days, to make sure that our souls are fed, and that the Light of Christ within us does not grow dim. Everyone around us needs us to keep stoking the flame of the Spirit within us. That’s the most important thing we can do now.
For it is not our light that the world needs, but His. We are the light of the world only because He is, if He lives within us. But if the light that is in us is darkness, then how great the darkness — both for ourselves and for those who are depending on us for strength and inspiration.
It was good to see the sun today. But I aspire, more than ever, to tend to the flame within, and to filter everything that happens through the light of the Son.