Pneuma & Alētheia L4L.27

File:Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Holy Spirit.JPG

File:Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit.JPG

The WORD

“But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (New Living Translation)

“But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.” (Good News Translation)

One more time, so as not to miss the riches contained in these words of Jesus:

“But the time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (The Message)

Two thousand years later and we still haven’t realized that what we’re called and where we go to worship does not matter…

At least, not to God.

The APP

One year ago I spent a weekend at camp with seven middle school students – my Confirmation class from church. We immersed ourselves in Jesus – His words, His actions, His life experiences – and we ended the weekend with a service of worship.

Those of you who work with youth will agree that it takes a great deal of faith in the Spirit of God to allow teenagers to design and lead worship for adults. Something (SomeONE) told me, in my preparations for this end-of-the-year event, that I needed to trust Him and give the students lots of wiggle room as they planned to lead worship on Sunday morning, for their parents and mentors.

We began on Friday night by agreeing that we would not do anything in our worship service that wasn’t meaningful to us, and we proceeded to create a time of communal worship to reflect God’s presence and activity in each of our lives. One student wrote two prayers for worship (“God, at camp we went outside and looked at the stars. We were supposed to whisper a prayer, then we were supposed to yell a prayer. I yelled that You are so amazing!”).

Another student connected with the scriptures and found several passages that she read aloud, and we selected songs to go with each. Three students experienced God’s presence in a particular Station of the Cross, and they worked together to share not only the words of the Station, but their personal reflections and feelings about it as well. Two students remembered Jesus’ words at the last supper and shared these with us as we prepared to commune with Him over grapes and crackers. We built in time for hugs and handshakes and conversation about God’s Word, and we set aside time for a student to tell jokes (because laughing out loud made these students feel closer to God).

What emerged from their honest efforts to connect with each other in the presence of God was true, Spirit-empowered worship.

The kind of worship God seeks from you and me.

Two Greek words from this John 4 passage jump out at me as we seek to be literal today:

Pneuma – Spirit

Alētheia – Truth

No matter how sincerely we attempt to worship God from deep within ourselves – from our God-created spirit-nature – the only way we can do this is by the power of God’s Spirit. He is the influence that breathes pneuma into our otherwise physical existence.

It is only by the power of His Spirit working within us that we stand a chance of being the kind of worshipers God is actively searching for today.

Animated by the pneuma of God, we find a fluidity to our worship that simply flows from who He is into who we are, both as individuals and as a community of faith. This is what happened at camp last weekend, when we let God lead us into His presence (rather than creating a worship form and then trying to make God fit inside).

Strong’s Greek Lexicon describes the word alētheia (truth) as“that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretense, simulation, falsehood, deceit.” When we do the faithful work of separating from the influences of the fallen world we live in, we find ourselves free from the fiction that our culture exalts as truth. We find the ability to unbuckle ourselves from the simulators and strip away the obligatory social/political correctness, releasing us to enter into unadulterated worship of the God who sees our true selves and longs for us to see Him, too. As He really is.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Interested in music created in celebration of TRUTH and COMMUNITY? Check out the two-woman band, Alathea.

Gimme A BREAK!

YS Bookstore

YS Bookstore

I’ve been on a retreat this week.

Never mind that I worked as many as 13 hours a day while retreat-ing. Never mind that what occupied much of my mind-space this week had to do with counting books and counting money. Never mind that my retreat required air travel and taxi rides and coordinating a busy calendar for my family at home in my absence.

I’ve been on a retreat this week, and I NEEDED THIS BREAK!

Maybe no one has ever come right out and told YOU this, but YOU NEED A BREAK, TOO!

YOU need to schedule time to get away from the routine of life.

YOU need to step outside the boundaries of safety and predictability that you’ve created.

YOU need to be reminded that you are ALIVE (not the robot you sometimes feel like, doing the same thing day in and day out, rain or shine, like it or not).

WHY do you need a BREAK? Because it’s HEALTHY!

Stepping outside of the boxes you’ve been stored in is CRITICAL to your health! Shifting gears mentally, even for a couple of days, allows you to process your thoughts differently, often shedding light that the shadowlands of your mind are most desperate to receive. Looking at your life from any distance, even if only from across town, gives perspective to who you ARE, what you DO and the gap between your reality and the YOU that may be hiding beneath the surface, just DYING to get OUT.

Some of us are so busy LIVING on the outside that we’re DYING a slow death on the inside – going through the motions in a state of disconnect from the E-motions we are MEANT to experience as humans who were created to share in the joy of our Creator (John 15:11).

Letting go of to-do lists and the noose of schedule for a time naturally frees up space in your head, making room for the dreams you keep ‘stuffing’ and the memories you need to re-visit.

Connecting yesterday with tomorrow can only happen when you are fully present TODAY – and most of us, on a normal day, are tardy at best.

You need a BREAK because we all need to be reminded of our value as an individual.

You are wife, mother, volunteer, employee, daughter, friend, leader, boss – but first and foremost, you are YOU! Stripping away your identity-by-relationship forces a good, long look at the you in the mirror – the one person you tend to avoid, overlook and underestimate. The one person who most desperately needs to spend some quality time with you.

During Advent – the season that begins on Sunday and runs through Christmas Eve – Pink Shoes Ministries will be exploring ways to turn toward Christ while unloading some of the excess baggage we’ve accumulated as a result of living in a broken world.

Walk with me toward the manger!

Take a daily break during this busy season and consider a new wardrobe – taking off the ill-fitting shrouds and putting on a mantle of ageless beauty designed FOR YOU by God Himself!

If “Gimme a BREAK!” is the cry of your heart, you are in good company.

Trek Orientation will be posted here on Saturday.

The Journey begins on Sunday.

I hope you’ll join us! (Don’t be late!)

the Betsy Candle

I’m preparing for a women’s retreat today.

It’s a rainy, chilly autumn day and so my mind has wandered from the task at hand to a snowy, chilly winter day… years ago.

My first retreat.

The first retreat I ever planned and led was in February 2006, and it was truly a labor of LOVE.

LOVE for the God who created me with gifts and called me to share them with others.

LOVE for the mountains and quiet time and camp.

LOVE for the women of my church home, whom I desperately missed, having moved away months before.

With only weeks to go before gathering my girlfriends together at camp, one of them was taken away.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly.

Violently.

Tragically.

Still reeling from this inconceivable death-blow, we gathered as planned. 25 women arrived with broken hearts and lots and LOTS of emotional baggage.

We were…

ANGRY at God for allowing such horrific events to take place.

SORROWFUL for the loss of one who was wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend.

CONFUSED by an entire range of never-before-experienced emotions toward the one who took her life – our friend, too – her husband.

Sitting in a circle of chairs that Friday night, our faces betrayed the true state of our hearts. One chair was empty and it should NOT HAVE BEEN.

Betsy should have been here.

In the midst of us was a candle – we called it the Betsy Candle – and we lit it up not only with flame, but with the flames of our unanswered questions and unnamed emotions. Intended to represent what her presence in our lives had meant to us, the candle burned quietly among us all weekend.

A reminder of a woman of beauty.

A reminder of the unpredictable nature of this life.

And a reminder to us that sometimes there are no words to express the brokenness we feel inside.

The Betsy Candle was unobtrusive that weekend – it didn’t demand our attention.

Instead, its sweet fragrance drifted from room to room, bringing a smile to one of us here and surprising with a happy memory another one over there.

In quiet ways, the flickering flame of the Betsy Candle brought to life the words of Lamentations 3:22, 23, 26, & 32:

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

The Betsy Candle is long gone. I continued to burn it in my home for months after that first retreat, but the lesson is more clear today than ever before: Sometimes all we can do is to quietly wait.

Without words.

Without understanding.

Without a clue as to what to do next.

But WITH the compassionate, loving and faithful God whose presence burns steadily within us, and whose salvation is absolutely worth the wait.

Signs

I spent a couple of days at a retreat center last winter and I was happy to find that there was a labyrinth outside, at the back of the property. I don’t know if you are familiar with labyrinths, but if you’re like me, you may have gotten the impression that they are sacred, holy spaces. At Spirit in the Desert (in Carefree, AZ), the labyrinth is situated right next to a residential street, and from the “sacred” path, you can see a couple of road signs:

Keep Right

Stop Ahead

I had to shake my head at first – they seemed so out of place! More careful consideration made me realize, though, that these street signs were a reminder to me that:

  • God can use anything as a sign to anyone, and He doesn’t limit his methods to the “sacred & holy.”
  • God loves us too much to stop trying to get our attention! Just in case I didn’t get something from the “sacred & holy”, He posted some glaringly obvious signs right across the street.

Here’s what these two signs said to me:

Keep Right

On the path of the labyrinth, a narrow path, it’s important to share the space with others. Just like when we drive, we “Keep Right” to stay in our own lane and to keep from hurting or hindering ourselves & others. This way we can all:

  • share the road
  • walk the path
  • do life together.

Stop Ahead

To which I say, “DUH!”

There are definitely “stops” up ahead in spite of (or maybe because of) our best efforts to keep things moving. Some of these stops seem pretty inconvenient to a driver with an insatiable need for speed! Constant motion is applauded by our world, and we subscribe to a pace that eventually leaves us with only one option: the screeching halt.

Maybe if we took some scheduled stops ahead we would find our stride – that balance of the sacred & the obvious, the holy & the utilitarian – where humanity and divinity most assuredly collide.

Labyrinth at Spirit in the Desert