A number of years ago I stumbled across a book that changed my life. We were in a cabin up in the mountains and, looking for something to read, I pulled a thin, dull looking paperback off the bookshelf, plopped into a rocker and began to read.
The book was Letters by a Modern Mystic. Don't let the title throw you. But, if the word mystic does make you nervous, I guess I feel the need to ask: what is more mystical than following a God who made Himself a man for a while, died, but wouldn't stay dead, and then sent his spirit to live inside us? If you're a follower of Jesus, get over it...it's mystical.
Letters is a collection of some of the correspondence between Frank Laubach, a missionary to the southern Philippines in the 1930's, and his father. The beautifully written letters chronicle Laubach's journey through an experiment to intentionally call God to mind as he walked through his days...to walk in the moment by moment presence of God.
For me, this was so much more than a book--it introduced me to a new way of living in a conscious awareness of God's presence. It had a profound impact on my life. So how am I doing? Have I succeeded at this? By no means...in fact, in the past few months I have let my practice of God's presence slide so far that I felt compelled to set aside some time and basically reset things...and part of that is re-reading Letters once more. And that prompted this post.
If you long for the joy, power and peace of communing with the Creator, I would highly recommend this book. Here's the foreword, written by Dallas Willard (who also wrote a fascinating review here.)
Monday, August 29, 2011
Our travels have come to a much anticipated end. And what a place to end: northern New England. We plan to spend the remainder of this year here before heading back to Papua in January.
Through the incredible grace of some fellow followers of Jesus, we have been given the use of a quiet cabin on a lake in Vermont. We're still in awe of this tender mercy the Lord has shown us.
The beauty that surrounds us and the miles between this world and the world we normally live in have already begun to wash some of the weariness from our souls.
I'll probably begin writing stuff in these pages a little more regularly now that we've gotten back on the grid a bit by having internet run to the cabin. Was that a sacrilegious thing to do? It almost feels like it.
Posted by Nate Gordon at 9:04 AM
Friday, August 12, 2011
I came to the story of the rich young guy in Luke 18 and honestly, I breezed right through it because I had already spent a fair chunk of time chewing on Mathew's account of this story a few months ago (here). But after my initial breeze-through, I forced myself to read it again...a couple things caught my eye.
You know the story: rich guy comes to Jesus wanting to know what he needs to do to 'inherit eternal life.' Jesus gives him a tract with the four spiritual laws. Oops, sorry...that's what we do. Jesus, on the other hand, completely forgets everything he learned in Sunday School and answers our man's question by telling him he needs to, get this, obey the law. Let's google it: see if we can find me a modern evangelism course that starts off by teaching people they need to obey the Ten Commandments. And yet this is exactly what Jesus does. Honestly, I don't have that one figured out yet. In any case, while it gives me significant pause, it didn't bother our rich guy one bit—he's got this Ten Commandment stuff in the bag and he tells Jesus as much.
Jesus doesn't dispute his claim to having been a good boy. He simply adds one more thing for the rich man to do. And this one thing puts the kabosh on his whole get-into-heaven quest. But wait, is it one thing that Jesus asks of him, or two? Jesus tells him
Sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.
My guess is that Part One—the garage sale idea—was enough to derail our guy. Getting any of us to part with our filthy lucre is a pretty tall order...and the more we have of it, the more attached to it we tend to be. But I really wonder what might have happened if Jesus had left it at that—just get rid of your stuff and you're good to go. Here we have a rich guy in complete control of his life. If all Jesus gave him was Part One, and our rich guy managed to pull it off, then all we'd end up with is a poor guy in complete control of his life. To me, Part Two—follow me—is the much harder thing.
Part One is expensive. Part Two is ruinous.
Part One bankrupts your wallet. Part Two bankrupts your self-determination.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Luke includes in his book the story of Jesus healing a blind beggar on the road to Jericho (18:35-43). I've read this story before, but for some reason I found some fresh things there this time. Three things.
The first is that we followers of Jesus haven't changed much over the years...we're still a mess. When the blind beggar tries to get Jesus' attention,
those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet
Not much has changed in the intervening two millenia. We who follow Christ can be completely out of sync with Him. We think the focus is getting to Jericho. We think the focus is building a huge church building so that we can "be more effective." His focus is the drunk we pass on the way into the church parking lot.
The second thing that strikes me as interesting is that when the blind beggar hears the crowd going by and asks what's going on, he is told that the one passing by is
Jesus of Nazareth
He is given the earthbound identity of Jesus. Of Nazareth. It's a town. Over there. Jesus of Nazareth...there's Fred of Nazareth walking behind him and over there is Susy of Nazareth. So that's who our blind guy has been told is going by. But when he cries out for him, he doesn't call out for Jesus of Nazareth, instead he hollers for
Jesus, Son of David
The guy was blind. But he saw things so much clearer than those who had good eyes. He could see exactly who Jesus was. He identifies Him with His kingly status. I think the blind guy saw that Jesus was indeed the Promised One from the line of David. Doesn't it seem like Jesus always responds dramatically to people who see Him with eyes of faith instead of fleshly eyes. People like this have stepped off the earth and into the kingdom of heaven...and so they see things differently. The Centurion in Luke 7 is another example of this.
The final thing that really strikes me about this story is that this blind guy obviously has a need. His eyes don't work for crying out loud! He obviously would love to have them fixed. So, you'd reasonably assume he'd yell out something like
fix my eyes!
But he doesn't. Instead, it's
have mercy on me!
Blind as bat and yet he sees perfectly. He knows that the ability to see isn't his right (everyone else can see, why can't I?). He doesn't demand that Jesus restore his right to see. I think he understood his rights very well. The text doesn't tell us explicitly, but by his simple cry for mercy, I think this man knew his rights...his sin had purchased him the right to hell. So he pleads not for his sight, not for justice, not for his rights, but for mercy. And that's exactly what Jesus gives him.
And this is exactly what I need. Mercy. As I write this, the sun is filtering through a forest still dripping from an overnight rain. The birds are singing. A woodpecker taps in the distance. Deep in the woods I can hear the brook tumbling down the mountain. I don't deserve to have ears to hear these things or eyes to take it in. This is mercy.
'tis mercy all, immense and free
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I'm not a very good fire starter. Sometimes it takes me a half hour to get a fire going...using newspaper, kerosene and a lighter. Come camping with me sometime and you'll see what I mean. Gotta be bad kerosene. Occasionally I hang with some folks that really aggravate my complex about my fire starting abilities.
As I approached the mountains one hundred miles south of home, the early morning skies were crowded with heavy, wet clouds. Large areas of what filled the airplane's windshield were grey with rain. Still, when I called my destination on the radio they reported that their tiny little pocket of a valley was open. And so I pressed on, weaving my way around the rain in seams of decent visibility. I called the village several more times on the radio—and each time received the same assurance that the weather there was still open.