Tag Archives: Days

The Miraculous and the Mundane

“There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.”
Daniel 5:11 (NIV)

The book of Daniel is actually a literary compilation with two distinct sections. The first six chapters are selected stories from Daniel’s life in exile. The rest of the chapters are a journal of Daniel’s prophetic dreams, visions, and prayer.

In order to understand the context of the first section of the book and today’s chapter, I have to dig a little into the dates. Daniel, along with a host of other Hebrews, was taken into exile and captivity in 597 B.C. He was a young man. Today’s story takes place when Belshazzar lost the Babylonian throne to the Medes in 539 B.C. It’s now 58 years that Daniel has lived in captivity. Even if he was only 12 when taken captive, he’d be 70 years old in this story.

The six stories told in the first six chapters of Daniel are great stories. They are incredible, miraculous events both instructive and inspiring. But there are six of them in roughly 60 years. Across a lifetime of living captive in exile trying to be faithful to God in a foreign nation often hostile to foreigners, Daniel experienced six miraculous events. There are almost 22,000 days in a 60 year period. Daniel had six incredible days. So, what about the other 21,994?

Daniel served as an administrator for a foreign king. He went to work. He spent time in prayer. He sought God and did his best to be faithful to God’s commands. He did what all of us do as we walk this earthly journey. The mundane, everyday stuff of walking the journey for 21,994 days. And, he had six amazing experiences that were instructive and inspiring.

Along my own life journey, I’ve noticed that it’s easy for those of us fortunate enough to live in the luxury of the West to get addicted to experiences. We go to great lengths to have amazing experiences. For those of us who follow Jesus and regularly gather to worship, we desire to have amazing, miraculous experiences and events, even to the point of trying to conjure them and make them happen.

I’ve had a small handful of amazing spiritual experiences myself. I’m happy to say there were no fiery furnaces involved, and I am by no means saying they were on par with what I’ve read the past few days in Daniel. They were, however, pretty cool spiritual experiences that were unexpected. They were unlooked for. They came out of nowhere. I did nothing to conjure them. I was simply physically present, and spiritually open. Without wasting a lot of time recounting how many I’m talking about, let’s say there are five of them.

The rest of my 19,424 days on this Earthly journey have been spent doing what is the often mundane monotony of walking this life journey. I spend quiet time with God most mornings. I gather with other followers to worship once a week which is often spiritually filling and sometimes just feels routine. I work. I pay bills. I maintain stuff. I cultivate friendships. Wendy and I enjoy time together doing things we do.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about the focus of my life. It’s so easy to slip into a mode where I’m chasing after experiences of all kinds. I’ve observed that social media isn’t helpful with this. I see everyone’s amazing experiences that make my mundane, routine existence today feel like I’m doing something wrong or that my life sucks compared to others.

I’ve come to the conclusion of late that if I seek after and find God in the everyday, mundane liturgies of my life then I find myself both more content and open to God doing the amazing and miraculous in His time, for His purpose, if and when He chooses.

And so, I enter day 19, 429.

Getting Direction and Flow Right

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility….
Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)

It’s quiet in my home office this morning. A steady rain is falling and resonating off the roof and window as I sip my coffee. Today marks the end of my 53rd year on this life journey which has me in a particularly introspective mood as I mull over today’s chapter.

For the past year our local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been studying the book of Acts. In this chapter-a-day journey I’ve been making my way through the letters of Paul in, more-or-less, chronological order. As a twenty-first century westerner, I’ve come to accept that it is virtually impossible for me to understand the racial, social, and religious division that existed among the first century believers. There was a giant, black-and-white dividing line between those of Jewish heritage and non-Jewish heritage. For centuries they had lived highly segregated lives. Now they were suddenly trying to live together as followers of Jesus.

The conflict within those early groups of Jesus’ followers was very real, and often intense. It was the reason for the first major “Council” of leaders of the Jesus Movement (Acts 15). Most local gatherings struggled with the division. I believe the political divide in our current era provides a hint of the divisive emotions percolating within the two groups, but I believe even that parallel falls short of the divide that Paul is addressing.

In today’s chapter Paul continues to focus his readers on the eternal, cosmic, Level Four spiritual realities in which both Jewish believer and non-Jewish believer stand on common and equal footing. All knew and experienced lack of control with our human appetites (lust, greed, pride, sloth, anger, and etc.). All had been saved by grace (unearned merit) through faith, not in who they were or what they had done to earn God’s favor, but in what Jesus had done on the cross and through His resurrection.

Having established that Level 4 reality, Paul then moves on to  address the conflict that was being felt in individuals (Level 1), between believers (Level 2), and in society (Level 3) between these sharply divided two ethnic groups. He repeatedly speaks of the “two” being “one” through what Christ had done on Level 4. Hostility is transformed into peace, division gives way to unity, and that which is separate becomes whole.

I can’t help but notice the direction and flow of thought. Paul’s focus on, and acceptance of, Level 4 reality flows down and transforms the very human conflict and struggles of Levels 1 through 3. As I look back across my 53 year journey I realize how often I have done the exact opposite. I allow my Levels 1-3 realities to flow upward and dictate my Level 4 perspective. I essentially transform my perception and belief system on Level 4 to justify and defend my entrenched prejudices on Levels 1 through 3.

This morning I contemplate 19,359 days on this Earth, and quietly wonder about however many I have left. I can’t change any of those nearly 20,000 yesterdays, but I want to make sure today, and moving forward, that I get the direction and the flow right. I want the eternal Spirit realities to transform my daily life and relationships here on this terrestrial ball. Not the other way around.

Resuscitating a Worn Out Phrase

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
John 3:5 (NRSV)

I find it fascinating how some words or phrases take on unintended meanings. As I follow the media coverage of the presidential elections, I will on occasion hear those in the media labeling people, or groups of people, as “Born Again” Christians. The phrase became popular back in the 1970s when Chuck Colson, a convicted Watergate conspirator, wrote a book entitled Born Again to tell the story of his own spiritual rebirth. Now when the label is used by members of the media, I get the feeling that the intended image is that of a narrow-minded, widely ignorant, politically conservative, socially repressed minion blindly leading some televangelist. While there are definitely people who fit that description, I find it sad that they seem to have become synonymous with the term “born again” because it empties the phrase of its intensely powerful meaning.

The phrase “born again” did not originate with Chuck Colson or evangelical Christians. It comes directly from Jesus, and it’s found in today’s chapter. Jesus was having a conversation with a religious man name Nicodemus and he simply makes the statement that if you want to enter God’s kingdom you must experience a rebirth.

The idea of rebirth is not new and it wasn’t new when Jesus said it to Nicodemus. It’s a theme woven into the tapestry of time and creation, and even Jesus seemed a bit frustrated that Nic was perplexed by something so spiritually elementary. Every year lifeless seeds buried in the ground bear life from the ground in the spring, grow to maturity in the heat of the summer, bear fruit during autumn’s harvest, then die and decompose in the harshness of winter. Spring is an annual, seasonal rebirth. Each week we start on Monday and work towards Friday night when we can take a break, end the week and start a new one. Every night we go to bed in darkness, enter the oblivion of sleep then with the break of light and the dawn we start a new day.

“Wait ’til next year.”
“Tomorrow’s a new day.”
“This is only for a season.”
“I just have to get through this week.”

God layers the Great Story with this theme of rebirth. The final chapters speak of a new heaven and new earth, and God says, “Behold, I make all things new” (btw, the reference to that verse was embedded in the the crux of my first tat). So, it should not be a surprise that Jesus tells Nicodemus that one of the basic realities and necessities of God’s Kingdom is a rebirth of Spirit, a new start, a new season, a spiritual new beginning. It has nothing to do with political affiliation, demographics, denomination, or attending church. What Jesus was saying was simple and organic: those facing a dead end need a new start, anyone whose spirit is languishing in darkness needs a new day to dawn, those whose hearts are frozen need the thaw of Spring, everyone who is dead in their sin and shame need to experience the power of a spiritual resurrection.

Today, I’m feeling the desire to breath new life into the worn out phrase “born again.”

Where’s this Story Headed?

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them: “I am now one hundred twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’
Deuteronomy 31:1 (NRSV)

Last night on the way to dinner with friends, Wendy was sharing with me about a podcast she listened to by Donald Miller. The crux of the message was, what story are you trying to tell with your life? She expressed a desire for the two of us to spend some time in conversation about the story we want our lives to tell. I’m looking forward to that.

In less than a half-year I will hit the big 5-0. I’ve never been one to stress about birthdays and aging. It is what it is. I’m less concerned about the number of my years and more concerned with what I have done with the days I have been given, and with my purpose in however many days I have left. Nevertheless, when you reach certain waypoints in life’s journey there is a natural tendency to recalibrate your position.

Where have I been?
Where am I now?
Where am I going?

In today’s chapter, Moses is approaching a monumental waypoint in life: the finish line. Moses had an amazing life. Saved from genocide as a baby, he grew up in Pharaoh’s courts. He was a murderer and a wanted man living life on the lam. Despite his human shortcomings both moral and physical, God called him to confront his past and unite his people. He stood up to Pharaoh, led the people out of Egypt, and then established an entire nation. He gave the nation organizational leadership structure,  a thorough set of governing laws, and a monotheistic national religion unlike anything humanity of that day had ever seen. Not a bad resume for one man looking back on his life journey What a great story.

Today, I’m thinking about my own story. I’m mulling over the chapters that have brought me here, and thinking about where I want the story to go from here.

So, what’s your story?

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En-Joy

IMG_3379_Snapseed

In the course of my life he broke my strength;
    he cut short my days.
Psalm 102:23 (NLT)

It is early morning as I write this. The rising sun lends a gorgeous pink hue above the tree line. The unseasonably cool temperatures are causing mist to rise off the lake and blow like clouds across the picture window.

It is going to be a beautiful day. I am alive and well. I love and am loved.

I read Psalm 102 and in the lyric I hear the heart struggle of a young man afflicted and terminal. His days are cut short and he doesn’t know why. It could be me, but it’s not. Not today.

I look out once again through the picture window this morning and am reminded that this is the day I have.

I am promised no others.

En-joy.

Pondering Today

Snowdon - Watching The Sunrise
(Photo credit: Eifion)

(I wrote this post this past Monday morning, but forgot to hit “publish.” Some mornings I’m less awake than others. You get a two-fer today!)

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

I was a little surprised yesterday afternoon when Wendy mentioned to me the song that she would like played at her funeral. Then, last night at dinner with friends the conversation again turned to death. We talked about aging parents, cremation, cemetery plots, and the tradition of visiting gravesides. It perhaps sounds more morbid than it was. It was fascinating to hear what others thought and felt about the subject.

I wake up this morning to find the song of Moses reminding us to be mindful of our mortality. As I number my days this morning and find myself living out my 17,257th day on this earth I am reminded of:

  • 17,256 previous days. What do I have to show for them? How have I invested myself in them? What mistakes have I made? What corrections have I made? What can I learn from where I’ve been?
  • This one day I have before me and the reality that I have no guarantee of another one. How will I spend it? What will I value? How much Life can I experience within it? How can I not waste it?
  • The physical death which will come for each of us. Am I ready? Will I have walked this journey well?
  • My faith in Jesus and His teaching that whoever believes in Him will not ultimately perish but have eternal life. How should my day today look different in light of this?

So much to ponder so early in the morning. Have a great day!

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 16

The long and winding road
Image by Vardhana via Flickr

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.” Matthew 16:24 (MSG)

I’ve been on this earth a good number of days now. Today makes 16, 418 to be exact. You’d think that somewhere along the 10,000 day mark I’d have things pretty well figured out. I mean, even with the fact that your cognitive memory doesn’t kick in for a thousand days or so, there’s still plenty of days to get things figured out.

I think the I’m as much “in process” today as any time in my entire life. The first 4,000 days processes a lot of physical growth. Then social and relational growth kicks in for a few thousand days as you process how to walk with others in the midst of your community. While relational growth pretty much goes on your entire life, my experience is that the bulk of it happens in the first 10,000 days. The patterns are set and major changes are rare (though sometimes necessary). It’s fine tuning at that point. 

So after your 10,000th day, what is left to process and grow is largely spiritual. In my experience, that’s the hardest part of all. The phsyical and relational growth sort of happens naturally on its own, but spiritual growth happens mostly by choice, and choosing out of the process of spiritual growth is usually much easier in the moment than choosing in. Choosing to follow Jesus, by Jesus own admission, is a difficult path. It’s a lot about giving up possession and letting loose from control, and I’ve discovered I’m not very good at it. I am reminded today that the path that leads to Life first leads through suffering and the death. The path to the empty tomb leads first to the cross. [sigh]

I look back, then look forward, then peek deep inside. If the psalmist is right, I’ve got about 12,000 to 13,000 days left at best. Some days, I’m not sure it’ll be enough for all the spiritual processing that’s still needed.

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