What is the perfect life, and if it exists, how do we go about pursuing the attaining of it – or is it something that can be attained?  We are commanded in the Bible, Therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect. [1]

Being a Kingdom-minded person, I believe the answer is that through my relationship with him, God is making me perfect, but I am not perfect yet.  But what does it mean to be perfect?  I consider this passage to be helpful in understanding perfection:

This is true perfection:  not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement.  On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire.  This, as I have said, is the perfection of life. [2]

Sounds nice, huh?  Being God’s friend that is.  I find myself this morning trying to understand what that means.  I think about other friendships that I have, and find myself comparing my friends to people I know things about – perhaps distant acquaintances.  What are the differences between my friends and my acquaintances?  Where does my relationship with God line up in light of this?  Is God my friend, or is he simply someone that I know things about?

I resolve that friendship with God is my goal – it is that which I press on toward, forgetting what lies behind.  I want not to simply learn more about God – but to know God more.

[1] Matthew 5:48 
[2] Gregory of Nyssa (edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith),Devotional Classics (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 126-127

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There is a song by an artist named Gabe Dixon that quickly became one of my favorites after just the first hearing.  I first heard it on an advertisement for a new Law & Order series – Conviction.  The series was a failure, but the song surely isn’t.  You can have a listen here:  All Will Be Well

After spending a day cleaning carpets in our newly leased church building, and rushing to soccer practice, I found my mind willing to cooperate this morning, but not my body.  Yet I pushed through, forcing my body to wake with the delight of a warm shower.

Ready to encounter God, I made my way to my office, only to hear the cries of a discontent baby, whose mother was enjoying a shower of her very own.  So I sat and happily held my son, lovingly, tenderly, and patiently like only a good dad could do…  well… not exactly.

I did hold my son, and enjoy every opportunity to do so.  But I did it with grumbling and complaining in my heart.  “Why does this have to happen right as I’m about to start my devotional time?”.  “Couldn’t this have happened just a little while later?”.

Let me be clear on this: my son is not an inconvenience.  But I’m convinced if I had woken an hour earlier to spend this time pursuing God and being pursued, that some other distraction equally as powerful would have manifest itself.  Isn’t that how it works?

This morning I contemplate the goodness of God:

All of the strength that may come through prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything.

For the highest form of prayer is to the goodness of God.  It comes down to us to meet our humblest needs.  It gives life to our souls and makes them live and grow in grace and virtue.  It is near in nature and swift in grace, for it is the same grace which our souls seek and always will. [1]

Every good and perfect gift comes from God.  Deeper still, only God can give things which are truly good.  I think of all the good things that I try to do and realize that they ultimately lack and are of little worth, unless they are full of God’s goodness.  Remembering that we are incapable of giving what we do not have, I press in and ask God to fill me with his goodness.

This world – this wonderful creation which we have been given dominion over, is desperately in need of God’s goodness.  If that is what nurtures life, then may I spend every breath in pursuit.

In the midst of his goodness, I am assured and reassured that all will be well.  Or as Julian penned, “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

[1] Julian of Norwich (edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith),Devotional Classics (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 77

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There is so much more to God than I can fathom.  This morning, as I sit here in his presence, I find myself asking how the more is achieved, or is it achieved at all?  Must one simply work harder – even give more time, to find a satisfying relationship emerge?  I find myself at conflict as I process what it means to surrender more to God – to have him direct even my very thoughts.

It almost seems to contradict the need to simplify.  Spending more time intentionally pursuing God does not necessarily seem to be a simple thing.  And yet I’m convinced that’s exactly what it is supposed to be.

… it seems to me now that the very Bible cannot be read as a substitute for meeting with God soul to soul and face to face [1].  I have often found that in my times of quiet and contemplation I attempt to read or do – something, anything that will help me feel that I am hearing God’s voice.  When I am not doing, the chaos of my thoughts creeps in and then this one – that one – yet another, all bombard me and I go chasing, try to make sense of it all.

But it turns out that this time I’ve set aside is not meant to reconcile all of my wandering thoughts.  Rather than ignore them, though, I find it more effective to intentionally give each thought to God.  It brings the focus back to him.

I grasp to this thought by Frank Laubach the strongest: “Any hour of any day may be made perfect by merely choosing.  It is perfect if one looks to God that entire hour, waiting for his leadership all through the hour and trying hard to do every tiny thing exactly as God wishes it done.” [2]

That is what I want to do – to seek God without ceasing.  That these times alone, in the quiet, with God, would not be “my time with God for today”, but would be springboards into a day full of God.

[1] Frank Laubach (edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith),Devotional Classics (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 104
[2] Ibid, 104

As I type in the title the words seem haunting and blunt.  Perhaps even stirring negative feelings.  The practice of silence and solitude can truly feel worthless, and leaves no room for ego.  Whether it’s 10 minutes or 1 hour, it’s not something that can really even provide useful fuel for burning a brag fire.

Henri J. M. Nouwen writes that solitude can cause an inner chaos to open up in us, which is disturbing and confusing, causing us to desire the return of busyness [1].  I find this rather true, as thoughts and feelings I didn’t even know existed rise to the surface.

I’ve often made excuses for not spending more time in silence and solitude.  Here are a few:

  • I have a deep well.  I just don’t need to spend as much time in silence and solitude as those with “shallow” wells.
  • I’m a night person.  That’s really the only time the house is quiet enough, but if I try it then, I usually just end up falling asleep.
  • I can do it on the fly – like when I’m driving somewhere, or in the middle of doing something else.
  • I hear from God just fine, without having to dedicate a specific time to trying to hear from him.

Maybe you could relate to some of these excuses, or even have some to add.  The reality is that the spiritual life is not just a gift, but also really hard work [2].  We are deceiving ourselves if we think that it should just come easy (see Mark 10:23).

I welcome you to join me in the journey, of which I am re-committed to as of today.  Spotty times of being alone with God may have perhaps gotten me through in a pinch, but there is so much more.  God awaits.

[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen (edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith), Devotional Classics (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 82
[2] Ibid, 80

Some of you asked about a recording of this song.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

The Name Above all Names

For my final project, I decided to arrange a hymn.  I am not familiar with many hymns as I became part of the church during a time when hymns were not very popular – dare I say it was what the “old people” used in the early service at church.

During this course, I became so much more aware of the richness, beauty, and wisdom that is found in our history, and hymns became a prevalent way that I could connect with it.

I hope to continue to go deeper on this adventure and arrange more hymns for use in our church,and perhaps yours.

Chord Chart (pdf)

Audio (mp3)

1. It is Well With my Soul, Words: Horatio G. Spafford, 1873; Music: Philip P. Bliss, 1876

2. Scripture reading from Psalm 116:5-9, Holy Bible – NIV, (c) 1973, 1978, 1984

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

For my creative project, I recorded a song I actually wrote some time ago that kept coming to mind.  This course was very much for me about connecting with God and learning again how to respond to God’s love instead of acting as though I am initiating it.

Without further ado, here’s the mp3 and chord chart:

Chord Chart (pdf)

Audio (mp3)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Green Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt