Quotes: Calling, Purpose, Vision

Reaching for StarJoel 2:28 NRSV
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, and
your young men shall see visions.

When we speak of vision, we are speaking of more than a moment of inspiration; we are talking about a conviction that alters us completely—inside and out.  A vision is a sense of “for this I was made” —- “to this I must give my life.” It is the flame that ignites our ministry and the foundation that enables it to stand against winds of opposition and change. – Steve Harper, Shepherd’s Care: Vision (1)

The two most important days in your life
are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
-Mark Twain

If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up the people to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The human imagination hungers for substance, for meaning, for God. If it encounters a world without meaning, it slowly starves for lack of anything to chew on. The “organs of meaning” must have something to eat. Feeding the God-hungry imagination is, I believe, precisely the church’s task in spiritual formation.
– Sarah Arthur, The God-Hungry Imagination

Habakkuk 2:1-3 NRSV
I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

A vision without a task is hopeless, a task without a vision is treachery
but a task and a vision together is the hope of the world. –Suzette Hattingh

You get God’s vision by saying

  • What do You want me to do?
  • How do You want me to do it?
  • And when do You want me to do it?

You need to stop praying, “God, bless what I’m doing.” And instead start praying, “God, help me to do what You want to bless.” I get up in the morning and I pray a very similar prayer every day. “God, I know You’re going to do some very exciting things in the world today. Would You give me the privilege of just being in on some of them? I just want to be in on what You’re doing. I want to do what You’re blessing.”
– Rick Warren, 3 Aspects of the Vision God Has for Your Church

The Bible doesn’t teach us to keep looking over our shoulders to see if others approve of us or not or to second guess ourselves when we see an opportunity to do more or to rise to the next level in the work God has given us to do. We’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to love God with every fiber of our being and give ourselves wholeheartedly to his purposes. – Carolyn Custiss James

“Do not be afraid,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear. “Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway. But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day. – John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

Quote and Blessing from In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan Richardson
One of the signs that we’ve found our way to a core desire, something that God desires for us, is that in following it, we feed not only our own hunger but that of others as well. When we pursue God’s longing for our life, it never serves only ourselves. Vocation is a word that gets at this idea. … Vocation isn’t merely about what job we have but about who God has created us to be in this world. Vocation conveys the notion that God has designs on us and has placed us within this world to work for its flourishing in concert with our own. In writing about vocation, Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

BLESSING
Where the hunger of the world beyond you
meets the hunger of the world within you:
may you find yourself in this place.

Ephesians 1:17-19 NRSV
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

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For an excellent article by Steve Harper on the four dimensions of a vision, click here

For a summary of how a vision becomes manifest in the world as explained in the book Visionary Leadership by Burt Nanos, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

For Times of Despairing

Hope by Iranian Graffiti Artists ICY and SOT

Psalm 69:16-20 NRSV
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies. You know the insults I receive, and my shame and dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

Jesus’ life didn’t go well. He didn’t reach his earning potential. He didn’t have the respect of his colleagues. His friends weren’t loyal. His life wasn’t long. He didn’t meet his soul mate. And he wasn’t understood by his mother. Yet I think I deserve all those things because I am spiritual. — Hugh Prather, quoted in Secrets of a Good Life

Big Truth invariably comes from the edges of society, or those who have been to the edges, or the “wilderness” as it is here called (Mark 1:3). Jesus’ new reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the center is seldom ready for the truth because it has too much to protect; it has bought into the system and will invariably protect the status quo. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt,” and it is seldom comfort or security. – Richard Rohr

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Following Jesus means that we have to keep walking on the ground, keep struggling. The work of living does not necessarily become easier because we are disciples. In fact, discipleship can make life more difficult. At the same time, life becomes radically different. Our struggles and pains become different struggles and pains. The reason for this is that we are no longer living our struggles and pains alone. Following Jesus indeed means that we live our same life, but we live it in companionship with the one who understands us fully — our guide, fellow traveler, the one in whom we can trust our whole life. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

Deliver me, O God,
from a slothful mind, from all lukewarmness, and all dejection of spirit.
I know these cannot but deaden my love to thee;
mercifully free my heart from them,
and give me a lively, zealous, active, and cheerful spirit;
that I may vigorously perform whatever thou commandest,
thankfully suffer whatever thou choosest for me,
and be ever ardent to obey in all things thy holy love.
– John Wesley

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be afraid,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear. “Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway. But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day. – John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

Extended quote by Steve Harper from A Gift From Thomas Merton
The witness of the saints is not perfect consistency, but unceasing devotion. For whether it be Merton, Wesley, or someone else—what we find is that they are as devoted to God when they “don’t feel like it” as they are when they do. Their experience fluctuates, but their commitment does not. And that’s what makes their witness authentic.

It’s only those who try to project the idea that “every day in every way I’m getting better and better” who actually project illusion, rather than reality. It’s only those who believe the only witness they can make is that they “have the victory” who become the plaster saints, who must be treated carefully or they’ll shatter into a million pieces.

Give me a fluctuating saint any day—a witness that faces success and failure—pleasure and pain—advance and decline—happiness and heartache—with unwavering devotion to an unchanging God.

God,
Collect our tears
Tears of sadness
tears of joy
Tears of anxiety
nervous tears
Tears that don’t know why they run like rivers down the face
Gracious God,
collect our tears in your bottle
And pour them back on us as life-giving water!
– Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book: Year A

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For an article describing the brave work of today’s featured graffiti artists from Iran, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: Biblical Leadership

leadership quote - JQ Adams1 Peter 5:2-4 NIV
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Excerpt from I will raise up Shepherds, by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus shows us: the shepherds won’t be kings.
They will be the humble but courageous
who speak and act for justice and mercy,
who receive power not by coronation
but by the anointing of the Spirit.
We won’t look to the powers to save us.
We will look to one another to tend us.

And God will give might to their compassion,
and fill their shepherding with power.
God will dwell within their struggle for justice,
and speak in their voices.
God will raise up shepherds who set free the oppressed
and bind up the brokenhearted—
in their wounds and to each other—
who resist those who destroy and scatter,
who tend to those who are fearful or dismayed or missing.
God will anoint them and raise them up
and they will be the shepherds who heal the people,
and justice and mercy will rule.

The prophet’s cry is not a promise of comfort.
This is a call to action. (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

We like to declare that the Gospel is counter-cultural, and thereby God-given and transformative.  Should we not draw the same conclusion about ministry that is rooted in the Gospel? Isn’t our ministry supposed to be counter-cultural. too?  And the most powerful way we do this is by adopting the biblical model of ministry–of being shepherds. The Bible’s use of this metaphor (in both Old and New Testaments) was a way of overturning the “CEO” model of religious leadership that defined and dominated Jewish priesthood.  It made ministry relational, not regulatory–incarnational not institutional.  Ministers were to be servants, not masters.  Holiness was the watch-word, not hierarchy.  People mattered more than position and power. Our need for counter-cultural ministry is as great as ever.  The world experiences CEO’s all the time.  But what they are longing for is pastors–people who will show up in their valleys with rods and staffs, ready to help them make it home. – Steve Harper, Counter Culture Ministry

There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life, for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for restoration and healing, that anyone who has any authority in the Church should constantly be reminded that the best word to characterize religious authority is compassion. Let’s keep looking at Jesus whose authority was expressed in compassion. – Henri Nouwen

Listen Friends, what I want to tell you is this. The world needs you to start leading again. To step out of the shadows and into your strength, your skills, your compassionate heart, your crazy ideas. But you don’t have to be THE ONE in charge. And you don’t have to go it alone. Let’s share our strength. Let’s make room on the stage for the voices that have a whisper in a crowd. (They want to roar, and we need to hear them.) Let us – well and truly – LEAD.
– Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Tithe Your Power 

The Bible doesn’t teach us to keep looking over our shoulders to see if others approve of us or not or to second guess ourselves when we see an opportunity to do more or to rise to the next level in the work God has given us to do. We’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to love God with every fiber of our being and give ourselves wholeheartedly to his purposes. – Carolyn Custiss James

Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Spiritual leaders fear being judged in this one way—as either a success or a failure based solely upon numbers. If we live in this fear, we can never allow ourselves to listen to God. This is the pivotal choice every spiritual leader must make: serve God or serve our fear. If we serve our fear, we will be enslaved to the ways of the world and the egos of those around us who seek to control our lives. If we serve God, we will fearlessly be able to see and discern how God is working for life and growth in every situation, large and small. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

I think being able to apologize for my mistakes and not ever seeing that as a threat to my authority is critical…but that is different than apologizing for who I am.  Everyone does this but I hear women do it all the time. It’s not helpful. I think trying to pretend to be someone that you are not does nothing but water down your power.  Because in a way, we are most powerful when we are simply who God made us where God put us. Maybe this and only this is where our authority rests. No need to defend it or protect it or apologize for it. Just rock it, brothers and sisters.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Authority of Apology

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, he is not going to ask me if I was a clever orator. He is not going to ask me how many books I wrote. He is only going to ask whether I continued in the line of men and women, starting way back in the time of Adam’s grandchildren, who led others to call upon God.
– Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

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Click here for an interesting discussion of authority, spiritual disciplines, and the Great Commission entitled Making Disciples in a Postmodern World by Bishop Ken Carter.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Quotes: Kingdom of God

Logo from the 2011 Baptist Union of Great Britain's (BUGB) Assembly

Logo from the 2011 Baptist Union of Great Britain’s (BUGB) Assembly

Matthew 6:33 NRSV
Jesus said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it. – Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

Daniel 6:26 NRSV
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end.

The ultimate reality is the kingdom of God, and Christianity at its best is here to proclaim and lead people into that kingdom, calling them out of smaller rings, smaller kingdoms. Christianity at its worst, using the definition in this paragraph, can become a sin when it holds people within its ring and won’t let them enter the kingdom of God. Jesus diagnosed the religious leaders of his day as doing this very thing.
– Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy

Mark 1:14-15 NRSV
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Sometimes I’m so focused on the ‘Not Yet’ of the Kingdom of God
that I miss the ‘Now’ of it, too. – Sarah Bessey

God is the God of the future, and that is good news to our longing for something better to come. But the truly radical good news resides in the fact that God is not content to rest up until kingdom come. “I am with you” declares, among other things, that matters dear to God’s heart like justice and love, compassion and righteousness, are God’s pressing desires for the current day. God’s presence affirms that we have not been left behind or abandoned to fend for ourselves. Divine presence provides notice of God’s transformation of this world for the good. Jesus’ life and ministry serves as that notice made incarnate for our sake and for the sake of this God-filled world. As individuals and communities who follow Jesus, God invites us to make those our priorities as we trust holy presence to dispel fear and lead us on the way ahead.
– John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

The Kingdom of God is greater than all report, better than all praise of it, more manifold than every conceivable glory. The Kingdom of God is so full of light, peace, charity, wisdom, glory, honesty, sweetness, loving-kindness and every unspeakable and unutterable good, that it can neither be described nor envisioned by the mind. The citizens of heaven are the just and the angels, whose king is Almighty God. In the Kingdom of God, nothing is desired that may not be found. In the Kingdom of God is nothing that does not delight and satisfy. In the eternal Kingdom there shall be life without death, truth without falsehood, and happiness without a shadow of unrest or change. -Saint Patrick

The church, the community of Christ, is a joyful people, but the source of their joy is not that they live easy lives in a happy world or that things are getting better every day, but that their trust is in God’s coming kingdom. … If God’s promise of the kingdom of heaven is an empty promise, then a life of seeking justice and showing mercy is a fool’s illusion. Only the promised kingdom validates a life of hopeful service. But the promise of the kingdom is sure; therefore, joyful, blessed, happy are those who put their lives on the line, trusting that promise. – Tom Long, Commentary on Matthew

When we pray “thy kingdom come,” it is an engagement of our will to act in ways that can bring the Kingdom to pass on the earth. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Our thoughts, words and deeds are the means through which the Kingdom comes.  A spirituality which expects God to do it all while we watch passively from the sidelines is a false spirituality. We only pray “thy kingdom come” correctly when we are in the game.- Steve Harper

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Extended quote and blessing from In the Sanctuary of Women by Jan Richardson
It is hard to keep our eyes open to the things of heaven while attending to the things of earth, and vice versa. How do we sort through these competing claims? There are days I long to escape the mundane, days I want to flee from dealing with dishes, with laundry, with phone calls, with taxes, with errands, with paperwork, with institutions, with broken systems, with all that tries my patience and wears me out. Yet at the same time I recognize that even at their most maddening, these recurring activities help ground me, keep me from tilting off the planet, root me in this world where God lives. Where God hides. Where God waits for me to look for the holy not beyond my daily life but in the very midst and sometimes mess of it.

BLESSING
May you give your devotion to the things of heaven.
May you give your attention to the things of earth.
May they find a place of meeting in you.

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Click here to check out a wonderful visual and musical meditation, Let Your Kingdom Come from Songs for a Revolution of Hope by Brian McLaren.

Click here for a wonderful, honest reflection on Jesus’ Matthew 13 Kingdom of God Parables by Rachel Held Evans entitled Slow.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Blessing: New Life Out of Chaos

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Transforming Our Pain by Richard Rohr
All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become “sacred wounds” and not something to deny, disguise, or export to others.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying storyline of human history. Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals, so that we don’t just keep handing the pain on to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, humanity is in major trouble.

Genesis 1:1-3 NRSV
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Isaiah 45:17-18 NIV
Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.

May the God of the heavens
and of the earth
enter into the place within you
that holds the keenest chaos,
the deepest mystery,
the most intense darkness

and there
may the God of
sun and moon
stars and seasons
breathe the words
that will bring forth
a new world.
-Jan L. Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women

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It is with great joy that I recommend the art, writing, and speaking ministry of Jan Richardson. It’s a blessing to know Jan and to live near her, so I’ve sat in her circle many times as God used her to break open a new place in my heart that was in need of light and love. You’ll find the door to her many blogs and offerings here.

Quotes: Deny Yourself

deny-yourselfMatthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, and Luke 9:23-25 (NRSV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Self-denial is not a mask for self-contempt, but the necessary means for achieving self-mastery; for self-mastery makes possible our self-giving and self-fulfillment. Sin is not wanting too much, but settling for too little. It’s settling for self-gratification rather than self-fulfillment. -Scott Hahn

You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real. – Richard Rohr 

Follow me. One of the most compelling sentences in the Bible. Two words, when spoken by Jesus, create a sense of power and mystery and awe. To follow is to enter into the unknown, to give your life over to another. We rarely want to do this. Yet at the same time it is exactly what we desire: to be led into a better place, a better world, a better life. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

Following Jesus does not mean imitating Jesus, copying his way of doing things. If we imitate someone, we are not developing an intimate relationship with that person. Instead, following Jesus means to give our own unique form, our own unique incarnation, to God’s love. To follow Jesus means to live our lives as authentically as he lived his. It means to give away our ego and follow the God of love as Jesus shows us how to do it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is extremely important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life.
~ N. T. Wright, Simply Christian

Lord, spare me from my wishes, that I may be free for you.
Spare me from my little self, that I may be my divine self.
Spare me from my life, that, dying, I may become yours.
– Excerpt of a prayer entitled Spare Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes. For more on the ideas of denying our “little self”, ego, and false self, click on over to another reflection by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Deny Yourself.

“Denying yourself” in its Jewish context means resting in the righteousness of Jesus and denying yourself of the righteousness that comes from performance of the law.
– Simon Yap, What is the meaning of “denying yourself”? 

Yap invites us to consider Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7; Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 16:31.

What we are all  searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves! The irony is that we actually find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. – Richard Rohr

In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. -Henri Nouwen

Extended Quote from Steve Garnaas Holmes
To deny yourself is not to punish yourself, or to take on misery. It’s not to live in denial, to turn your back on who you are, but the opposite. We falsely see ourselves as finite, discreet individuals, separate from the world, in danger at any moment of disappearing back into the abyss. It’s not the real truth, but an image of our “self” that the ego uses to manage our consciousness. And we believe it. We spend our lives—mostly unconsciously— protecting that little “self,” and in particular its power, security and esteem. (Hence Jesus’ temptations in the desert.) It’s what St. Paul calls “the flesh.” He doesn’t mean our body; he means something even smaller, contained within our body, limited by our fears and appetites.

But we aren’t such little “selves.” We are part of something infinite. By the life of Holy Spirit in us we are members of the infinite Body of God, who dwells in us and we in God. We are sustained not by our own protection of our little lives but by the life-giving fountain of grace welling up within us to eternal life, flowing with perfect, infinite compassion.

To “deny ourselves” is to deny whatever fears keep us from loving fully. It is let go of our self-centeredness, to say no the illusion, to transcend our ego, to abandon our little skull-caged, death-leashed bit of fear and desire and instead become the infinitely alive and loving children of God we truly are. As those who embody God’s love we give of our lives for love; we are not afraid even of death, because we trust that with love and grace God overabundantly renews life in us. So we follow Jesus out of our selves and into infinite life: without fear we take up our cross, practice compassionate self-giving and join Jesus in loving the world into its newness. You are love; you are Beloved. Deny anything less, and love without limit.

Extended Quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber
Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

This saying of Jesus that we are to deny the self and lose our life to gain it has been abused and perverted. Perverted into messages like “If you want to be a follower of Jesus you must deny your Queerness, pick up your cross of heterosexuality and follow him.” Or “deny your diginity and pick up your cross of continued domestic abuse and follow him.” Or “deny your experience and pick up your cross of trusting religious authorities to tell you what to believe.”

I wanted to convince you that when Jesus says deny yourself, that maybe it’s really denying the self that wants to see itself as separate from God and others. Deny the self that believes that spirituality is a suffering avoidance program. Deny the self that does not feel worthy of God’s love. Deny the self that thinks it is more worthy of God’s love than it’s enemy is. Deny the self that thinks it can do it self. Deny the self that is turned in on the self.

Because I really want you to know that dying to that false self no matter how painful, will bring you real life.

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Click here for another incredibly honest and faithful sermon on the “deny yourself, take up your cross” passage by Nadia Bolz-Weber, entitled “A Sermon on Addiction and the Problem with our Me-based Solutions.”

For quotes on “taking up your cross”, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer: King of Glory, Lift Up Our Heads (Psalm 24)

Psalm 24 by Anneke Kaai

Psalm 24 by Anneke Kaai

Psalm 24 NIV
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
The world, and all who live in it;
For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
Who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
Be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
Lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory.

Prayer: King of Glory, Lift Up Our Heads
King of Glory
Lift up our heads
You, our Provider and Parent
You, the Maker of All Things New

King of Glory
Lift up our heads
Bowed low beneath the weight of fear
and worry
and falsehood
So much that is out of our control
So much we have brought upon ourselves

King of Glory
Lift up our heads
How can we seek your face with our eyes on the dust?

King of Glory
Lift up our gates
How can you save us if we keep trying to save ourselves?

King of Glory
Lift up the latch on every door
That you may enter in
With Your blessing
Your healing
Your cleansing
Your strength
Your glory

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Today’s featured artist is Anneke Kaai. Click here for an explanation of her piece, Psalm 24, from the book The Psalms: An Artist’s Impression. Her work was found via Eyekons, a Multi-Tiered Marketplace for Christian Art.

Prayer: King of Glory, Lift Up Our Head © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.