God Loves You So Much!

When I left the prison a week ago Thursday, I had a very uncomfortable feeling. At first, I thought it was due to my concern about how well I was able to respond to the men’s questions. But after talking that through, the feeling was still there. I realized that the feeling was coming from a deeper place.

In the past, I’ve had feelings come into my body that were for my instruction. 430px-A_woman_thinkingWhen I took time to sit with them, I learned something. Sometimes, they have even helped me know what I should do next.


My body was picking up on something my mind could not. It had entered my body below my common, everyday level of consciousness. I needed to allow the feeling to rise, so I could determine its meaning. So, I took some time to stay with the feeling.

Two phrases came to mind: “God loves you so much!” and “Christ is still suffering for you!” My interpretation of those phrases was that the Christ in me began to suffer because the men were not able to see how much God loved them. Yesterday, I shared with them a metaphor that I hoped would give them at least an inkling of how much they are loved. This is what I told them.

“God loves you as much as there are leaves on every tree. This includes the number of leaves that are on every tree that I see that line the highway between my house and the prison. And the number of leaves that are on the trees that surround my house. And the number of leaves on the trees that surround your house. And the number of leaves on every tree along every street in my neighborhood. And the number of leaves that are on every tree around your neighborhood. And the number of leaves that there are on every tree around everyone else’s home, in everyone else’s neighborhood, town, or village that participates in this group. RainForestCanopyAnd the number of leaves that there are on every tree in everyone else’s neighborhood, town or village that does not participate in this group. And the number of leaves that there are on every tree in every other place between neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities, in our country and in every other country and in every other place that is not considered a country in this world. And the number of leaves that were on those trees last year in all of those places. And the number of leaves that will  be on all of those trees next year in all of those places. And the number of leaves that were on all of those trees in previous years in all of those places. And the number of leaves that will be on every tree in all of those places, as well as in all the other places everywhere that have been or yet will be!

That is how much God loves you.”

This is how much God loves you too! An amount that is too great for our conscious minds to comprehend.

Spiritual Condition and the Analogy of Physical Fitness

In my previous post, “Naming Our Own Spiritual Condition,” I talked about spiritual condition in terms of our ability to help accomplish God’s purposes. In this post, through the use of physical fitness as an analogy, I offer some elements of spiritual condition and contend that one of them affects all the others. Using a physical fitness framework is limiting, but I hope that it might also be helpful.

Art used by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. http://www.revelationillustrated.com

Art used by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. http://www.revelationillustrated.com

I believe that one’s spiritual condition can be thought of as the fitness of one’s spiritual body and the extent to which it is free to operate in daily life. When we are spiritually fit, we perceive, respond to and accomplish the purpose that God has given us with ease and confidence. When we are less fit, we misperceive what we are called to do, try to speed up or slow down down the process, or approach it using means that will limit or derail the outcome.

Prior to assisting with the redemption of the world, we need to have moved through some preliminary conditions. In particular, we need to have become aware of, open to and able to receive Spirit. Also, we need to have assented to be changed by God. I believe that once a person has become willing to be changed, the quality of one’s spiritual condition influences how the relationship and work will proceed.

How well a person engages in or accomplishes a physical activity is likely influenced by their physical fitness. A personal training website lists eleven components of physical fitness. As you read the list, imagine yourself or another person engaged in a sport (e.g., football, gymnastics) or physical activity (e.g., cooking, repairing a car).

1. Agility – The ability to stop, start, and change directions quickly
2. Balance – Controlling body positions while standing still or moving
3. Body Composition – The ratio of muscle to fat in the body
4. Cardiovascular Endurance – Engaging in physical activity for long periods of time
5. Coordination – Making movements work together smoothly
6. Flexibility – Moving joints through a wide range of motion
7. Muscular Endurance – Using muscles repetitively without fatiguing
8. Muscular Strength – Produces force using muscles
9. Power – The ability to use muscle strength quickly
10. Reaction Time – How quickly an individual responds to a stimulus
11. Speed – Performing a movement of covering a distance in a short period of time

When you are finished, review the list again thinking about how these elements might or have come into play in your response to a call or leading. You might focus on a single incident or a life-long endeavor.

A single incident might be speaking in meeting. Have you spoken in Meeting then later learned that the message was for you or should have been spoken by another? Have you found that you might get more than one message and that one may be for you and the other for the Meeting?

A life-long endeavor might be your following a leading. What have you learned about your ability to carry out the leading? What have you discerned about yourself given your times of obedience and your times of getting off the path?

Whether for single incidents or for life-long endeavors, I believe body composition (#3) affects all of the other elements. When doing a physical activity, if a person carries a lot of fat, they will have difficulty with balancing and coordination and limited speed. If a person has little muscle, they will have little strength, power, or agility.

I believe the same is true in spiritual matters. Spiritual fat might be thought of as deposits in our spiritual body that weigh us down, limiting our ability to connect with or stay with Spirit. Spiritual muscle might be our ability to stay centered, aligning our will with God’s desire for us.

In my next post, I will discuss “naming” and how we can use it to change our “body composition.” Through naming, I believe we can release the weight of the world and come to find rest in God (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

Wafers Made with Honey

Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will rule over all. (Gospel of Thomas 2:1-4, SV)

This post is the fourth in a series. This series explores how we might leave Egypt –the American Empire and travel to the Promised Land—the Beloved Community of All Peoples where peace and plenty prevail. (To read the full series, start with Becoming a Wilderness People.)

Once we cross the river beyond worldly life and those temptations that would bring us back, we must learn to trust in that which compelled us to leave. But we cannot see God, so how can we, who have learned to orient via our senses and intellect, find our way forward?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” (Exodus 16: 4 NRSV)

During this time of traveling in the wilderness, we inch forward, learning to live by that which God provides daily, trusting that the little we get is sufficient.

…Those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. (Exodus 16:18b-20a)

When we gather too much, wanting to believe that we can provide for ourselves, believing that now we have found the way, we will realize that we’re lost—our manna moldy and full of worms. This is our discipline, to live by daily bread. To believe that what God provides each day is enough. Through this practice alone we are shaped into instruments for the Divine.

Paul, like the Israelites, left behind a way of life to spread the Word of God. He turned his back on the Roman Empire and his prior understanding of God. Through an encounter with Christ, he was able to see beyond the reality created by the Roman Empire and the religious practices of his day. After some time in the wilderness, he became fully open to and trusted in God’s provision. He, like the story of the Exodus, persuades us to trust God fully so that we might live a truly meaningful life. Paul says,

“Don’t allow the seductive power of corruption to reign over your earthly life inducing you to submit to worldly desires. Don’t put any part of your body at the disposal of that power as an instrument for doing wrong, but put yourselves at God’s disposal as people who have been brought to life from the dead and present your bodies to God as instruments for doing right.” (Romans 6:12-13, SV)

and…

So, I appeal to you, friends, as recipients of the wondrous mercy of God, to dedicate every fiber of your being to a life that is consecrated and pleasing to God, which is what enlightened worship ought to be. Don’t accept the life of this age as your model, but let yourselves be remodeled by the recovery of your true mind, so that you can discern what is consistent with God’s purposes –what is good, worthwhile, and completely genuine. (Romans 12:1-2, SV)

While the way toward the Promised Land is dark, every morning God provides fresh bread.

And the family of Israel called the name of it manna; which was like coriander seed, but white, and the taste of it like wafers with honey. (Exodus 16:31, QB)

Let us gather and share it. Through the transformation of our hearts and minds, we will come to trust the God of Israel who frees the captives. May we come to receive the grace we need to become a Church filled with lives empowered and sustained by manna.

God’s Love

Baklava.
Surrounding us,
Shining like morning dew.

But don’t get fat.
Take only what you need;
Trusting that One is All.

Join us.
Just beyond the river;
Lilies swaying in a field.