Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sully Notes 18 | One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Part 3 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities Sully Notes 17

Sully Notes 18: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here is the link to the previous Sully Notes 18:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Review of Quotes | Sully Notes 18: Part 3 of 3  

Chapter 8 | how will he not also?

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.– Ralph Waldo Emerson – pg. 141

"Stress isn't only a joy stealer. The way we respond to it can be sin. ... (Jesus) directly, tenderly commands: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me' (John 14:1 NIV, emphasis added). I know an untroubled heart relaxes, trusts, leans assured into His ever-dependable arms. Trust, it's the antithesis of stress. 'Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord' (Psalm 40:4). But how to learn trust like that? Can trust be conjured up simply by sheer will, on command? I've got to get this thing, what it means to trust, to gut-believe in the good touch of God toward me, because it's true: 'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow' (Romans 15:13 NIV, emphasis added). The full life, the one spilling joy and peace, happens only as I come to trust the caress of the Lover, Lover who never burdens His children with shame or self-condemnation but keeps stroking the fears with gentle grace." – pg. 146

"Belief in God has to be more than mental assent, more than a cliched exercise in cognition. Even the demons believe (James 2:19). What is saving belief if it isn't the radical dare to wholly trust? I read it in one of the thick commentaries, that two hundred twenty times that word pisteuo is used in the New Testament, most often translated as 'belief.' But it changes everything when I read that pisteuo ultimately means 'to put one's faith in; to trust.' Belief is a verb, something that you do. Then the truth is that authentic, saving belief must be also? The very real, everyday action of trusting. Then a true saving faith is a faith that gives thanks, a faith that sees God, a faith that deeply trusts?– pgs. 146-147

" ... 'Jesus replied, 'This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger)'' (John 6:29 AMP). That's my daily work, the work God asks of me? To trust. The work I shirk. To trust in the Son, to trust in the wisdom of this moment, to trust in now. And trust is that: work. The work of trusting love. Intentional and focused. Sometimes, too often, I don't want to muster the energy. Stress and anxiety seem easier. Easier to let a mind run wild with the worry than to exercise discipline, to reign her in, slip the blinders on and train her to walk steady in certain assurance, not spooked by the specters looming ahead. Are stress and worry evidences of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, to keep gaze fixed on God? To stay in love? I don't like to ask these questions. ... Isn't joy worth the effort of trust?– pg. 147

"Because I kid no one: stress brings no joy. In fact, stress may be far worse than that: 'He who believes (who adheres to and trusts in and relies on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth) ... will be saved ...; but he who does not believe (who does not adhere to and trust in and rely on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth) will be condemned' (Mark 16:16 AMP). Without trust in the good news of Jesus, without trust in the good news of God's saving work even in this moment, without an active, moment-by-moment trust in the good news of an all-sovereign, all-good God, how can we claim to fully believe? This is the trust I lack: to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there. Trust in the wholeness of the gospel – including this moment, good news too – and be saved. Choose stress, worry, anxiety, reject what God has given now, which is good news too – refuse to trust – and be condemned." – pgs. 147-148

"If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of belief ... atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism. I wince. Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. To lack faith perhaps isn't as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God. If I don't emotionally believe, practically believe, in the goodness of God, am I a believer? Don't the believers have to believe? Don't the saved have to trust the Savior? For yes, salvation from sins, but this too: the salvation from fear. True, certainly, there are organic, biological causes to anxiety, and there may certainly be underlying chemical issues that warrant medication. I have filled prescriptions. This has been right. All anxiety is not spiritual. And yet I know and haltingly confess: Much of the worry in my own life has been a failure to believe ... a wariness to thank and trust the loving hand of God. ... I know my supreme need is joy in God and I know I can't experience deep joy in God until I deeply trust in God. ... trusting God is my most urgent need. If I deeply trusted God in all the facets of my life, wouldn't that deep heal my anxiety, my self-condemnation, my soul holes? The fear is suffocating, terrorizing, and I want the remedy, and it is trust. Trust is everything. If fear keeps our lives small, does a life that receives all of God in this moment grow large, too?" – pgs. 148-149

"Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on. Isn't that what had been happening, quite unexpectedly? This living a lifestyle of intentional gratitude became an unintentional test in the trustworthiness of God  and in counting blessings I stumbled upon the way out of fear. Can God be counted on? Count blessings and find out how many of His bridges have already held. Had I not trusted all these years because I had not counted? ...  Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren't I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don't believe? But if I'm grateful to the Bridge Builder for the crossing of a million strong bridges, thankful for a million faithful moments, my life speaks my beliefs and I trust Him again. I fearlessly cross the next bridge.– pg. 151

"Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks – from known to unknown – and know: He holds. Is that why the Israelites kept recounting their past – to trust God for their future? Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way, this turn of the heart over time's shoulder to see all the long way His arms have carried. ... And for the first time I see why the Israelites are covenanted with God to be a people who remember with thanks (see Psalm 136:6-7). It is thanksgiving that shapes a theology of trust and the Israelites bear witness and I see. Isn't this what ultimately Christ asks of us in the Last Supper? One of the very last directives He offers to His disciples, the one of supreme import but I too often neglect: to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks. This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo. Why? Why is remembering and giving thanks the core of the Christ-faith? Because remembering with thanks is what causes us to trust – to really believe. I once read the words, 'The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness.' ... It's only when you live the prayer of thanksgiving that you live the power of trusting God.– pgs. 152-153

"In the wait, memories blister. And in the still, Spirit comes and He whispers a name. Christ. And I see a world through His lens: 'He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?' (Romans 8:32 NIV). He gave us Jesus. Jesus! Gave Him up for us all. If we have only one memory, isn't this one enough? Why is this the memory I most often take for granted? He cut open the flesh of the God-Man and let the blood. He washed our grime with the bloody grace. He drove the iron ore through His own vein. Doesn't that memory alone suffice? Need there by anything more? If God didn't withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold anything we need? If trust must be earned, hasn't God unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on the raw wounds, the thorns pressed into the brow, your name on the cracked lips? How will He not also graciously give us all things He deems best and right? He's already given the incomprehensible. Christ our Crossbeam. The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One. All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him. For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being. Thus Christ is all there is to give thanks for; Christ is all there is to remember. To know how we can count on God, we count graces, but ultimately there is really one One. ... When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ's safe arms, true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust! We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust! We can give thanks in everything because there's a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust! The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye, but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust.– pgs. 154-155

"In time, years, dust settles. In memory, ages, God emerges. Then when we look back, we see God's back. Wasn't that too His way with Moses? 'When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back' (Exodus 33:22-23 NIV). Is that it? When it gets dark, it's only because God has tucked me a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? ... But maybe this is true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look. Then we look back and see His back. ... God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors. And I've an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God's back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven – that kind of distance. Then to turn, and see His face.– pgs. 156-157

"'For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ' (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV). Yes in Christ! To the Enfleshed Yes who said yes to this moment and yes to last year's illness and yes to the cracks of my childhood and yes to the nail and yes to my name in the Book of Life, hear me say YES! Not 'I'm worried.' Not 'I'm stressed out.' Not 'I'm anxious.' Not I'm too afraid.' Hear me say thank you. Hear me say YES! Watch me live a life of yes. To all that was and is and is to come. The power of sin and death and fear-sent-from-the Enemy are forever ended because we can trust in the bridge even if it's caving, in God even when it's black, in manna-nourishment even when we don't know what it is. The God whom we thank for fulfilling the promises of the past will fulfill His promises again." – pg. 159

"All fear is but the notion that God's love ends. Did you think I end, that My bread warehouses are limited, that I will not be enough? But I am infinite child. What can end in Me? Can life end in Me? Can happiness? Or peace? Or anything you need? Doesn't your Father always give you what you need? I am the Bread of Life and My bread for you will never end. Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough and hasn't counting one thousand gifts, endlessly counting gifts, exposed the lie at the heart of all fear? In Me, blessings never end because My love for you never ends. If My goodnesses toward you end, I will cease to exist, child. As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-and-grace." – pg. 161

Chapter 9 | go lower

"God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.– Martin Luther – pg. 163

"Don't I often desperately want to wriggle free of the confines of a small life? Yet when I stand before immensity that heightens my smallness – I have never felt sadness. Only burgeoning wonder. Is it because within each frame of finite flesh lies the likeness of infinite God? In all things large and spectacular, we recognize glimpses of home and the call to our own deeper chemistry. Do we writhe to peel out of our smallness and into the big life because that fits our inborn God-image? ... the God-likeness within our smallness speaks to Father-God in His magnificence."  pg. 167

"My mama, valley wise and grief traveled, she always said, 'Expectations kill relationships.' And I've known expectations as a disease, silent killer heaping her burdens on the shoulders of a relationship until a soul bursts a pulmonary and dies. Expectations kill relationships  especially with God. And that's what a child doesn't have: this whole edifice of expectation. Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?– pg. 169

"Is it only when our lives are emptied that we're surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled. ... Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise? The way the small live. Every day. Yes, the small even have a biblical nomenclature. Doesn't God call them the humble? The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy. I am ear and Jesus whispers to the surprised, 'God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth' (Matthew 5:5). The humble are the laid-low and bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives. He hands them the earth. The earth. But is it any wonder? That word humility itself comes from the Latin root humus – the kind of earth that grows good crops. God gives the earth to the humus-people, the humble ones. Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yields abundant joy. In the upside-down kingdom of heaven, down is up and up is down, and those who want to ascend higher must descend lower. And so 'anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven' (Matthew 18:4). Later I read the words of F.B. Meyer. They wring me and I think about the earth and the knees and the things I never knew: 'I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts.' To receive God's gifts, to live exalted and joy filled, isn't a function of straining higher, harder, doing more, carrying long the burdens of the super-Pharisees or ultra-saints. Recovering God's gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower. ... 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (John 3:30 NASB). ... humility is the only posture that can receive the wondrous grace gifts of God – God who humbled Himself and came to the feed trough ... in that place of humble thanks, God exalts and gives more gifts and more of Himself, which humbles and lays the soul down lower. ... whenever I am parched and dry, I must go lower with the water and I must kneel low in thanks. The river of joy flows down to the lowest places. pgs. 170-173

"I carry these David words memorized, grace for when I can't get the David lament right: 'I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you' (Psalm 73:22). God holds us in the untamed moments too. I breathe deep, look at them. Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart. God's anger kindles hot when the essence of the complaint implies doubt in His love and I rub my forehead and shake my head. ... doesn't God Himself express righteous indignation, wounded deep with His own sinning Israelite children? Didn't God's heart often break? Didn't He grieve and rage and feel rejection (Genesis 6:6; Exodus 4:14)? I read it in the pages of Scripture, lines of His own story, the Joy-God owning His own grief, so I won't be Naaman and I won't pretend I don't feel any pain."  pg. 175

"While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. True saints know that the place where all the joy comes from is far deeper than that of feelings; joy comes from the place of the very presence of God. Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn't negate all other emotions – joy transcends all other emotions. Though my marriage tree may not bud and though my crop of children may fail and my work produce little yield, though there is no money in the bank and no dream left in the heart, though others may choose different ways to live their one life, till my last heaving breath, I will fight to the death for this: 'I will take joy' (Habakkuk 3:18 ESV). I will struggle to heed this until I am no more: 'Dear brothers and sisters, when trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy' (James 1:2), and I will listen and again I will listen and I will wrestle to put skin on it: 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Philippians 4:4 NIV, emphasis added)."  pgs. 176-177

"'No man can live without joy' is what Thomas Aquinas wrote. ... Only self can kill joy. I'm the one doing this to me (when I don't have joy). ... Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand. In an open and humble palm, released and surrendered to receive, light dances, flickers happy. The moment the hand is clenched tight, fingers all pointing toward self and rights and demands, joy is snuffed out. Anger is the lid that suffocates joy until she lies limp and lifeless. ... The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy – nothing else. Pride, mine – that beast that pulls on the mask of anger – this is what snaps this hand shut, crushes joy. When I would read Henry Ward Beecher's words later, I'd take it for my own story, so familiar his thoughts: 'Pride slays thanksgiving ... A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.' Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life of material comfort? A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering? A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences? Are there times that a sense of entitlement – expectations – is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy? And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives. God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities – response-abilities – inviting us to respond to His love-gifts. ... All these years, these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy's fragile flame from the blasts. In a storm of strugglers, I had tried to control the elements, clasp the fist tight so as to protect self and happiness. But palms curled into protective fists fill with darkness. I feel that sharply, even in this ... and this realization in all its full emptiness: My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light. Flames need a bit of wind. ... Humbly let go. ... let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust. I can let go."  pgs. 178-179

"True humility is self-smallness to the point of 'blessed self-forgetfulness' and what could bring more happiness than emptying of self-will and being wholly immersed in the will of God for this moment? Joy  it's always obedience. ... 'No one who ever said to God, 'Thy will be done,' and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy  not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, asserts Peter Kreeft."  pgs. 179-180

" ... I think of Jesus' beginning, His supernatural conception. His mother bends the knee and submits her will to God's: 'Let this happen to me as you say!' (Luke 1:38 NCV). This is a woman, a womb, a hand humbly opening to the perfect will of God. Jesus' mother sings over the dividing cells of His divinity: 'How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl ... He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things.' (Luke 1:47-48, 52-53). In Mary's humility – her willingness to die to her expectations and plans – God exalts her. In her submissiveness to His will, He fills her emptiness with fulness of Himself. Her refrain of humble, surrendered gratitude quietly sings through all ages. I think of the end of His earthly life. Jesus Himself bends the knee in a garden and weeps His own song: 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done' (Luke 22:42 NIV). He opens wide His mouth and accepts; He will drink this cup of suffering too. Why? For the greater joy. Joy now, joy forever. Conceived in grateful humility, Jesus faces death in grateful humility. ... I can't be receptive to God unless I receive what He gives. Joy's light flickers, breathes, fueled by the will of God – fueled by Him.– pgs. 180-181

Chapter 10 | empty to fill

"Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purposes and in whatever way you may require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with your grace.– D.L. Moody – pg. 182

"If I close these fingers, try to hold, hoard the river – dam up the grace – won't the water grow stagnant? Long the children and I once looked at photos of the Dead Sea, and we read how the Jordan River streams into the sea and nothing flows out of the sea and the salt content rises and everything dies. I think of this. That fullness grows foul. Grace is alive, living waters. If I dam up the grace, hold the blessings tight, joy within dies ... waters that have no life. I turn my hand over, spread my fingers open. I receive grace. And through me, grace could flow on." – pg. 184

" ... in the breaking and giving of bread, in the washing of feet, Jesus makes it clear that eucharisteo is, yes, more: it is giving grace away. Eucharisteo is the hand that opens to receive grace, then, with thanks, breaks the bread; that moves out into the larger circle of life and washes the feet of the world with that grace. Without the breaking and giving, without the washing of feet, eucharisteo isn't complete. The Communion service is only complete in service. Communion, by necessity, always leads us into community. ... I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift! ... Christ's ministry began with His miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana. And at the close of His earthly ministry, Christ turns from the wine of the Last Supper back to the water, the water for the washing of feet. ... liturgy has its roots in the Greek word leitourgia, meaning 'public work' or 'public servant' ... – pgs. 192-193
" ... Dorothy Sayers: 'whenever man is made the centre of things, he becomes the storm-centre of trouble. The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains ... You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause.' When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it's true, I think I'm due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy. But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains. Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone – the bones, they sing joy, and the work returns to its purest state: eucharisteo. The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness. 'The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action,' writes Mother Theresa. 'If we pray the work ... if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus ... that's what makes us content.' That is what makes us content  – the contented, deep joy is always in the touching of Christ – in whatever skin He comes to us in.– pgs. 194-195 

"All His created world throbs with the joy in eucharisteo: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35). This is the way Jesus Himself chose. 'That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage' (Matthew 20:28 MSG). It's astonishing truth that while I serve Christ, it is He who serves me. Jesus Christ still lives with a towel around His waist, bent in service to His people ... in service to me, as I serve, that I need never serve in my own strength. Jesus Christ, who came into this world 'not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45), will one day come again and 'put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!' (Luke 12:37), and even this very day He faithfully serves that we might say, 'The LORD is my helper' (Hebrews 13:6). ... our happiness comes, too, not in the having but in the handing over. Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God. I can bless, pour out, be broken and given in our home and the larger world and never fear that there won't be enough to give. Eucharisteo has taught me to trust that there is always enough God. He has no end. He calls us to serve, and it is Him whom we serve, but He, very God, kneels down to serve us as we serve. The servant-hearted never serve alone. Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him." – pgs. 196-197

Chapter 11 | the joy of intimacy

"It's impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear. This is the anti-anxiety medicine I try to lay in my wide-open palm every day. Thank You, God, for surprising songs."  – pg. 203

"He's singing that song! The one I really didn't believe He sang! ' He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs' (Zephaniah 3:17). ... Love is the face at the center of the universe. A sacred Smile; Holiness ready to die for intimacy. Light and waves and land and sky crescendo in passion and He serenades, 'How do I love thee?' ... With every grace, He sings, 'You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you' (Isaiah 43:4). 'For you are a chosen people ... God's very own possession' (1 Peter 2:9)." – pgs. 203-204

"It really is like C.S. Lewis argued: that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us: 'How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important.' Years of Christian discipleship, Bible study, churchgoing had been about me thinking about God: practicing eucharisteo was the very first I had really considered at length what God thought of me – this ridiculous and relentlessly pursuing love, so bold. ... 'Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are ... a divine choice,' wrote Henri Nouwen. A divine choice! He chooses His children to fully live! Fully live the fullest life: the astonished gratitude, the awed joy, the flying and the free. ... 'I have loved you,' says the LORD (Malachi 1:2 NIV). 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness' (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV). In a thousand ways He woos. In a thousand ways I fall in love. Isn't falling in love always the fullest life?– pgs. 205-206 

" ... (the ancients) thought the steps to the God-consummation were but three: (1) purgation, (2) illumination, (3) union. 

  1. Purgation was the first step toward full life in God, according to ancients. Awakened to the chasm separating from God, one prays for divine assistance to purge the soul of self-will. And for me too, eucharisteo had gently slowed me down, opened my hand to purge me of my hold, my control, on the world. With each gift I had accepted and given thanks for, I let go of my own will and accepted His. But my purgation, this releasing of sin and self, wasn't an act of will or effort, but the act of Christ and His grace all-sufficient. Overwhelming grace drew me to the Christ full of glory that I might empty of the self.
  2. Illumination, the intermediary step in the path to full life in God ... What the ancient saints called a vision of heaven, a way of seeing that draws one closer to God. Eucharisteo had been exactly this for me, opening my eyes to a way of seeing, to a realization that belief is, in essence, a way of the eyes. ... living eucharisteo, living in thanks, had done the far harder work of keeping me awake to Him. ... all that I count of Him counts for everything – seeing eyes might illuminate the glory of Christ in all.
  3. Union, the medieval Christans thought, was the final and culminating step in the hungry pursuit of the full life, the mystical oneness achieved by only the most devout. Union. Yet don't all the true believers, the ardent see-ers, have union from the first moment of repentance, becoming one with Christ in His death, burial, and rising from the dead? Union is actually and always the first step of the Christ journey. And yet attending to grace upon grace ushers into an ever deepening union ... From initial union to intimate communion – it isn't exclusively the domain of the monastics and ascetics, pastors and missionaries, but I, domestic scrubber of potatoes, sister to Brother Lawrence, could I have unbroken communion, fullest life with fullest God? 'To be saint is to be fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less,' writes Ronald Rolheiser.– pgs. 209-210   
" ... real communion terrifies. And who wouldn't cower at the invitation to communion with limitless Holiness Himself? When I read the words of Walter Brueggemann, I nod fervently, my sentiments encapsulated exactly: 'The shock of such a partner destabilizes us too much. The risk is too great, the discomfort so demanding. We much prefer to settle for a less demanding, less overwhelming meeting. Yet we are haunted by the awareness that only this overwhelming meeting gives life.' Yes, God as partner shocks and I'm too ugly, spiritually, physically, too filthy, too ... low to be courted by God and He lavishes His love, the uncontainable riches, and can I trust His love and part of me is right anxious to flee. Yet I am haunted. Only this overwhelming meeting gives the fullest life: the holy and hallowed communion. ... Jesus says there is no other way to take up the faith but complete union: 'I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you' (John 14:20). I am stilled. I think on being in Christ and Him being in me and He is wind whisperer and I am leaf and He stirs and I tremble: 'Remain in me, and I will remain in you' (John 15:4). He's calling me to graft on, become one with the True Vine, the vine the biblical symbol of joy, festivity ... fullness. He's calling to come and celebrate being made one, and in Him, to bear the fruit of the full life round. ... If God, who could have any life of His choosing, finds the most satisfying joy in communion within the Trinity, wouldn't I? I know and don't know why I am afraid. How receptive to God do I really want to be?– pgs. 211-213

"'Would a soul continually eye His everlasting tenderness and compassion ... (then) it could not bear an hour's absence from Him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with Him one hour,' writes John Owen, Puritan theologian. 'Every other discovery of God, without this, will be make the soul fly from Him; but if the heart be once much taken with the eminency of the Father's love, it cannot choose but be overpowered, conquered, and endeared to Him.' ... Communion with God, what was broken in the Garden, this is wholly restored when I want the God-communion more than I want the world-consumption. ... 'O my soul, thou art capable of enjoying God, woe to thee if thou art contented with anything less than God,' Frances de Sales gently, rightly urges.– pgs. 219-220 

Next post: Sully Notes 19 | The Rest of God Part 1 of 3


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