Tuesday, January 28, 2020

R/C 01/01/2020 A Question of Language

Philippians 1:20
Paul’s Life for Christ
“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.”

Chambers begins the year with one of his core issues-surrender of the will. “To get there (to my utmost for His highest)...is an absolute and irrevocable surrender [of the will]...”on the point in question. I have found this to be true for many years. In most cases the issue is not that I don’t know what to do but rather that I don’t want-I don’t have the will-to do what I know. When things aren’t as clear as they could be, I find-as Sean Connery says in The Last Crusade-‘A solution presents itself’ given a little time. It is the difference between reacting and responding, the importance of patient waiting. 
Rohr says “The most common [reactions] to a new moment (what Chambers might call crisis) are mistrust, fear, knee-jerk reactions...dismissal...judgement...”; what I have come to call ‘beginning with no’. Chambers makes an interesting and somewhat unusual point-we may say someone else will be adversely affected if we follow God on whatever point is before us (what will happen to him or her if I do this) but we are in fact only concerned with ourselves-what will become of me. The ‘someone else’ is just an excuse for our own fear or or negative judgement, or even lack of will. This concern for ourselves (what Rohr calls the ‘little I’ or ego; what Chambers calls the will) will come up again and again. 
The bottom line for both is learning to ‘keep yourself before God’ in absolute surrender of will (Chambers); allowing a takeover of the ‘little I’-ego-by the Big I-God, of whom we are all a part-(Rohr). What Chambers calls surrender Rohr calls connecting, or realizing the connection that already exists. 
Here Rohr’s insight becomes helpful. He speaks of surrendering to the awe of the moment, using Moses at the burning bush to illustrate his point. Moses, struck a bush that burned without being consumed, went to check it out. God speaks to Moses and Moses realizes he is on holy ground. The ground had been holy all along; Moses simply failed to realize it. Seeing the visible bush allowed Moses to see the invisible holy ground.  How many ‘burning bush’ moments do we encounter, and how many more do we miss by not paying attention? Specific visible moments (the bush) lead to a broader invisible revelation (holy ground). Moments of awe followed by surrender to the moment which together have the ability to change how we see. Rohr says once we become accustomed to this type of seeing our whole world becomes sacramental; we see God everywhere, the invisible behind the visible. This is an important first step towards discovering our connectedness, with God and with one another. It is the beginning of keeping ourselves before God. We learn to love God whom we cannot see by loving our neighbor whom we can see (1Jn 4:20); with loving comes surrender. Love, after all, is about the other while will and ego are about the self. 
And so the journey to become ‘our utmost for His highest’-the men and women we were created to be all along-begins. Let us all be bold for Christ and trust His life in us to bring honor to our lives in Him. 

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Uhrichsville, Ohio, Barbour Publishing
Richard Rohr, Just This, Albuquerque, New Mexico, CAC Publishing, 2017

Richard Rohr and Oswald Chambers-Strange Bedfellows

I’ve had a copy of Oswald Chambers’ devotional My Utmost for His Highest around since I was first ordained as a Presbyterian elder, around 1991 or so. While I’ve started many years with it since then, and finished up a few as well, I’ve never managed to read it through in one year. Chambers’ focus on relationship to Jesus, things like ‘coming to the end of yourself’ and ‘giving up my right to myself’ may have been nice catch phrases which I could use intelligently in sentences, but they had no real meaning for me personally. I was speaking of things about which I had no real knowledge, understanding or experience. It was all very frustrating. Rather than producing the inner transformation Chambers had in mind, all I ever experienced was guilt. Or worse, spiritual hubris. I simply did not know what I was talking about. 
This began to change with several more or less simultaneous events.  I began reading Richard Rohr, which led to Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, where I discovered many striking similarities between Buddhism and Christianity (and no, I did not become a Buddhist). Then there was The Book of Joy (His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams)), Holy Envy Finding God in the Faith of Others (Barbara Brown Taylor) and Pernnial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent (Rami Shapiro-I haven’t finished this yet) and finally back to Just This, a wonderful little book by Richard Rohr. What those books have in common is the insistence of common truths running through all the worlds great religions. Which brings me back around to Oswald Chambers. 
I have discovered Chambers’ My Utmost and Rohr’s Just This often say much the same thing in different words. This is true of so much of religion-it’s a sort of religious language barrier. Understanding Rohr has helped me understand Chambers as well. This year I have begun to jot down my thoughts as I read through these two books. I hope to share them here. Some of you-maybe most of you-may already know this stuff. That’s ok. It never hurts to hear it again. Feel free to share your thoughts as well. Others may be hearing this for the first time. Welcome. I hope you will discover, along with me, what this connected life-what Richard Foster (there’s another one, by the way) calls the With God Life-is all about.