Thursday, June 25, 2015

Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Ordinary Life

Paul's prayer for the people of the Colossian church, asking that they may "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

Discernment is "spiritual understanding" or "perceptive knowledge". Each day we are faced with struggles and stresses calling for greater understanding, for deeper wisdom and bringing new opportunities to share Christ's love, to bear fruit for His Kingdom. Henri Nouwen says this about finding God's voice in everyday, ordinary life:
"We should invite the Holy Spirit into our direct experience, into our thoughts, memories, worries, and plans. Instead of seeking a life free from pain and suffering, we should trust that Jesus is present in our pain and suffering."
During an intensive Survey of the Bible course a few years ago, about 20 of us spent nearly 10 months together for 2 or more hours a week studying. We learned an immense amount of information about God's Word but also experienced a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. A young couple, Andy and Jillian, were part of that group. Within a year of the study, this dental student and news anchor relocated when Andy began a dental residency with the Air Force, taking with them their new baby girl, Violet. Then - ordinary life changed with a new pregnancy and a Down Syndrome diagnosis. (You can read her blog and their story here!) Faced with this unexpected unknown, raw emotions of disappointment and uncertainty poured out. With soul-searching questions, this family embodied the process of discernment through real-life experience, through pain and suffering.

Nouwen goes on to write, "We need to acknowledge our suffering honestly - our loneliness, regrets, sadness, hopelessness, and anger - then open our hearts to the One who loves us in every detail of our lives." By inviting the Holy Spirit into their heartache and doubt, Andy and Jillian placed their emotions and decisions in God's hands and discovered His peace and hope! Anderson was born on New Year's Eve; a new life, a new year, a new beginning!

Paul's prayer continues, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father..." Seeking God's voice requires us to invite the Holy Spirit into all the messy, ordinariness of life and then listen. God's goodness and love never change, and He uses circumstances to make us stronger, grow our faith-walk, teach us dependence on His mercy. God loves us and embraces us as all the details of life unfold. Today marks Anderson's phenomenal recovery from open heart surgery last week to repair two holes in his tiny, 5 month old heart. Bring all your life to the Creator, and prayerfully ask Him how to move forward! ~ dho

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is Discernment?

"We have been brought together by the goodness of God for reasons beyond our own choosing and for the purposes of God." Henri Nouwen

Discernment is a spiritual process that seeks to comprehend God's voice. Utilizing both community and solitude, discernment reaches beyond the ordinary and below the surfaces, through the noise and into the silences of God's presence.  Nouwen says, "We have to know the darkness to be able to search for the light." This process of hearing and understanding God's direction requires us to experience life both as a part of Christian community and with intentional solitude. As children of God, we acknowledge that God has a vision and a purpose for every person. From daily decisions to an unexpected life crisis, somewhere between prayerful petitions and listening for God's reply, each faith-journey evolves.

Discernment involves the core Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, community, and ministry. In seeking greater wisdom, insight, and understanding we must cultivate patience and a deeper knowledge of God. In 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 David explains to his son King Solomon the importance of knowing and serving God "with a whole heart and with a willing heart." God knows all about us, inside and out, and He desires a relationship with us. David reminds Solomon, "Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a home for the sanctuary; be strong and do it." (vs. 10) Just as God chose Solomon to build the temple as a place for worship, a sacred dwelling place for God, God chooses each believer in Christ to become a temple for the Holy Spirit, a place of holiness where we meet God. Discernment must become a way of Christian living, a daily spiritual discipline that seeks, listens and knows the Spirit's leading. ~ dho

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Every Purpose, Every Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
"How will we know when to act, when to wait? How will we know when it is our time to lead rather than our time to follow? Discernment calls us to spiritual understanding but also to action." Henri Nouwen
Earlier this year, I spent some time considering discernment; what does discernment mean and how do I apply it to my faith journey. Some of the very questions Nouwen identified above called me to explore discernment. How do I know when to wait? How do I wait? When is waiting just avoiding action? When does following become the easy answer? What if stepping out in action is not God's purpose for this season of life? How can the soul discern God's purpose anyway? The answers are myriad. Perhaps somewhat of a paradox, the path of discernment can be both clouded by uncertainty and fueled by possibility.
In the weeks to come, let's take a journey together as we explore discernment, evaluate where we are in the process, examine how to find God's purpose. Of all the unknowns, this truth remains: God has a plan, a specific plan for every person. God desires us to know His plan for our lives and gives us not only the insight to find the purpose but also equips for the chosen task. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." God will reveal the best plan for our lives, the best purpose for our energies, while we frequently settle for the better way. Let's seek His purpose in this season, whatever that may individually mean. ~dho

Thursday, June 04, 2015

"Beauty in the Breaking"

"I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places - firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past..." Isaiah 58:11-12 The Message

Nicole Nordeman's new release, "The Unmaking", reminds us that within our disappointments, failures, vain efforts, difficult decisions, and circumstances beyond our understanding God meets us. She writes, God "wanted to sit with me in the silence and the dust, after the wrecking ball, and put His arms around me for a while." Nordeman says God wasn't asking for a new plan of action; rather, "He asked for my vulnerability." 

God desires that we turn to Him, seek His Presence, and allow Him to comfort us! In the mess, the muck, the middle of the ruins of lost hope and broken dreams God is waiting. He always finds us in our need. Nordeman writes, "the rubble is where we have to start." Listen to this beautiful song of sifting through the debris, defining an ending, seeing the hope in a new beginning. Listen to the open, sincere whispers of the heart, "What happens now?...What happens next when all of you is all that's left?...This is the unmaking, beauty in the breaking...sitting in the rubble..." ~dho