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Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Self Are We Feeding?

As I prepare to study for the Doctor of Ministry degree through Asbury Seminary's Beeson Pastor Program beginning this July, I have many assigned text books to read before arriving. For the Spirituality of Leadership class, I have been asked to read one of the works of Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk who wrote extensively in the mid Twentieth Century. I am by no means a Merton expert, but I'll attempt to summarize what I know of one of his major themes.

Merton differentiates between the false self and the true self. He suggests that too many of us live with masks on that cause us to live in the bondage of the false self. The false self is always busy, always buying, always bullying, always focused on the exterior non-realities of life. The true self is realized when we go beyond the exterior and discover the interior of who we are in so far as we are able to experience through contemplative reflection the Ultimate Reality who is God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's be honest, too many of us Christ-followers are living lives focused more on developing the exterior, mask-wearing false self than the interior, mask-shedding true self. I know this because many of my Christian friends (as well as yours truly) expend more energy on false self development than true self development. For example, many of us, like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, put forth elaborate spiritual displays when people are looking on. We pray eloquent public prayers, quote Scriptural admonitions to others, and sing with passion while gathered with the sacred Sunday assembly. Yet, when no one but God is looking on we fall asleep during prayer, neglect bible reading for days on end, and fail to deeply connect with the God of the universe because we're not willing to invest the needed time and energy for such connection.

Some sobering questions begin to surface for our reflection that help us discern whether we're developing the false self or the true self: If I continue to live as I have lived these past three days, will I feed the false self or the true self God has made me to be? Am I more concerned with what I do outwardly or who I am inwardly? Do I constantly need the approval and affirmation of others or is my contentment found through pleasing God alone?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Piety or Poverty?

As I grow older it becomes even clearer to me that I need God. Sometimes I allow my education, position, relationships or possessions to hide my need for God. But the fact is that I am as needy for God as a newborn is for milk, a poet is for inspiration, and an Italian is for pasta. I'm beginning to believe that the key to a developing and deepening friendship with Christ comes not from the awareness of my piety but my poverty without Him. Jesus would agree as He preached, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I welcome your you agree that growth in the Christian journey has as much to do with an awareness of our need for God as anything else?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Introducing My Family...

Here is my gorgeous wife, Amy, and my daughter Lia. Amy and I have been married for almost 9 years. Every day with her is sweeter than the day before...unless, of course, she has been inside all day with our three kids!!!

These are my beautiful children who teach me more about life, myself and God than any theology book I've ever read. Their names, from left to right, are Zachary (almost 4), Samuel (9 months), and Liana (2.5). They are the funest, most adorable little rascals I've ever met...yeh, I'm biased!