Anna Update: “You’re Blessed…”

Our tradition of “Lectio Walking” began six years ago when Anna and I spent time alone on Maui celebrating our 15th anniversary. “Lectio Walking” involves selecting a few verses of scripture, reading them aloud, then pausing for a few minutes to let the words sink in. The reading is repeated four times, with a pause between each reading. After the fourth reading, each of us has a chance to say a word or phrase that stands out, and then we talk about the passage. As we returned home from Maui, we committed to making this our new rhythm. So for the past six years, Anna and I have shared “Lectio Walks” together.

A few hours after Anna went to be with Jesus on Tuesday morning, Art and our pastor Jack said, “Shawn, let’s get you some exercise and fresh air.” As Art, Jack and I walked, we decided to share in a “Lectio Walk” in her honor. Jack asked what text she and I began with six years ago on Maui. It was Matthew 5. Jack pulled out his phone and read these verses from The Message version:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matt 5:3-4) 

As we walked the ravine, Jack reflected on the words of Jesus about being at the end of our rope with the image of trapeze in mind. He said, “What if the end of your rope is not the bottom of a pit but the pinnacle of our flying through life? What if it’s the point when you can let go, soar and be caught?”

Over the past week, the Lord graciously placed an image on the hearts of three of our dear friends. It started with Anna’s spiritual director. The Father gave her the vision of Anna as a trapeze artist, flying through the air into the arms of Jesus, her Catcher. In the following days, two other beloved friends independently shared a similar vision, drawing us into Henri Nouwen’s story of the flyer and the catcher.

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers.
The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.
“One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’
‘How does it work?’ I asked.
‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.’
‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised.
‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’
“When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’ “
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With this sweet image on Anna on my heart, I was then able to read the next verse with new eyes during our fourth Lectio reading…

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

The kids and I have lost what is most dear to us, our beloved Anna. Anna has lost what it most dear to her, her family. And yet somehow mysteriously we are all being embraced by the One most dear – the ultimate Catcher.

Know that you are participating with the Catcher as you have been there for us and will continue to be with us in the moments, hours, days, months and years ahead. The kids and I feel held and trust that you will continue to hold us and participate in the Father’s embrace of us all.

 

Our Bodies: From Distrust to Wonder

Our physical bodies are mostly ignored. Although we see them in the mirror, put things into them for sustenance, and walk around in these bodies all day, we seldom pause to appreciate what we have. My friend Tina Sellers, PhD., who has an amazing new book coming, out says, “Our bodies are good and need to be reflected as such through the truth and light in our eyes AND we are created, (as God is demonstrated in the trinity), in relationship.”

So what is the harm in ignoring our bodies or, worse, believing lies about these incredible bodies that our creator has given us? Jesus addresses this plainly in Matthew 6:

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

According to Jesus we have two options when it comes to our bodies. We can view our bodies with wonder and belief or greed and mistrust. If we choose wonder and belief our bodies fill up with light. And not just light, but the light of the one who created us! If we choose to view our bodies with greed and mistrust our body becomes a dank cellar. This type of living out of the body leads to a dark life.

You and I have the unspeakable privilege of living in these amazing bodies that God has given us! We get to believe the truth about our bodies and move from distrust to wonder. It is a conscious decision every day to believe the truth, to take care of our bodies and to live as if what God says about us is true. As we do this, Jesus’ promise becomes a reality: our whole body fills up with light!

The Power of Money

In considering different things to moving away from and moving toward during Lent, I read Matthew 6 with a few friends this week. The wisdom of Jesus is sobering:

“No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time.” (v.24)

Moving away from the power of money and toward God is a conscious effort. We live in a culture that worships the power of money, and man is it powerful! So how do we utilize money in a healthy way without allowing the power of money rule our lives? Maybe the answer is in Jesus’ teaching earlier in the same chapter of Matthew.

“Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!” (v. 19-21)

We may be able to answer the question for ourselves about our draw toward the power of money by taking an honest assessment of what type of treasures we are building today. Are we piling up things and possessions, or are we investing in relationships. A growing relationship with God, ourselves (becoming more self-aware, yet less self-focused), and growing relationships with others.

As we come to the close of a week look at your schedule, what is your focus? Possessions or Relationships?

From Lust to Satisfaction

Lust is a buzz word in our culture. Most often it is linked to sexual desire, but lust is much broader than that. Lust is an intense longing, crazing, appetite, deep desire for something or someone. We can lust after a person, desiring to be with him or her physically or emotionally. We can also lust after money, possessions, recognition, prestige, and position. The apostle John says, this about lust, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). Essentially, John is talking about things that in the moment can feel like life, but always end in death.

In continuing to look at Jesus’ “Your blessed..” statements in Matthew 5, we next come to this: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” (Matt 5:6)

Is Jesus encouraging lust in this teaching? Is there such a thing as good lust? Jesus does not use the word lust here, but instead uses two words that have similar meaning, yet lead to life. The first word Jesus uses is to hunger, peinaō – to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire. Jesus also uses the word to thirst, dipsaō– those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.

I don’t love the Message interpretation of Matthew 5:6, but wanted to stick with it as we look at these blessed statements of Jesus. This interpretation leaves out the word righteousness. That is what Jesus instructs us to hunger and thirst after, righteousness. Righteousness is best understood as right relationship with God, oneself, and others. As we learn to apply true hunger and thirst to relationships, especially relationship with God, the promise is that we will be satisfied.

The thing about lust is that it never satisfies. It always leaves us wanting more. We can crave, manipulate and do everything in our power to get what we think we want, but unless our pursuit is righteousness, we will be left empty and alone. Jesus promises the deepest satisfaction possible for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness.