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Two Fundamental Directions of Life

How is it already Week 4 of Lent? I recently began reading St. Ignatius Rules for Spiritual Discernment. These Rules are incredibly insightful! I spent last week looking at the First Rule:

First Rule. In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.

In his book, The Discernment of Spirits, Timothy Gallagher simplifies Ignatius’ First Rule by noting that two basic directions emerge in a person’s life. The first is a movement away from God and toward a self-indulgent life in which moral boundaries are ignored. The second is movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life. (pg 31)

During this season of Lent, a time to consciously move away from sinful tendencies in our lives and move toward a growing relationship with God, the Rules of St Ignatius can provide needed path. It is helpful to realize or remember that we have an Enemy that is seeking to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10) our lives. It is equally important to consider St. Ignatius’ comment about the “good spirit” in the last sentence of the First Rule. The “good spirit” is understood by Ignatius as comprehensive. The “good spirit” includes God as Father, Son and Spirit, as well as the angels. You are I are drawn toward God by the “good spirit”. May the fundamental direction in our lives be movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life.

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Have You Lost What is Most Dear?

In continuing the look at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, the second “blessed” in the Message translation is,

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:4)

What is most dear to you? I thought I lost what was most dear to me many years ago. As we know, love is a basic human need. I believe there is validity to the 5 Love Languages book that came out years ago. I took the test back then and realized that my primary love language is physical touch. I took me years after reading that book to realize that I did not receive physical touch on a daily and sometime even weekly basis. My mom left town when I was 7 and my dad remarried quickly to a lady who had a son my age. Any affection she had to give was toward her birth son, not my siblings or me. My dad had four young kids and a high-pressure job, so physical touch wasn’t on his radar.

As a young man I began to crave physical touch. I entered into a number of short-term relationships with girls trying to get my need met. Each relationship would last about three months, then I would break it off because emotional closeness was being offered along with the physical touch. That was too much for me.

When Anna and I married I thought physical touch was most dear to me. After all that was my love language. It turns out that seeking physical touch without relational vulnerability, intimacy and connection doesn’t work. Confused and hurt on why I wasn’t getting my love “need” met, I turned to God to meet the void I was feeling.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Did you see it. “Only then” Ofte we have to loose something in order to gain something. In my case I lost the counterfeit promise that physical touch alone could meet my longing. This allowed me to be “embraced by the One most dear.” The embrace of the One has become the primary embrace in my life. Practically, spending time each day sitting in silence with God as Father, Son and Spirit provides a mysterious embrace and meets a deeper longing than I knew I had.

What is most dear to you and have you lost it?

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From Control to Kingdom

We are a few weeks into Lent, almost. Have you been able to put your finger on what you would like to move away from and what you would like to move toward? Lately I have been reading the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 over and over. I like reading Matthew 5:1-12 in the Message translation. I’ve found that these teaching of Jesus can help us identify what we want to move away from and what we want to move toward.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matt 5:3)

Really? Jesus begins there. Who wants to be at the end of their rope? I know I don’t. I like having things figured out. I like knowing what is going to happen and when. The end of the rope does not feel good. So why does Jesus say we are blessed when we are at the end of our rope?

My friend Doug Barrem is 79 years old going on 59. He has a sharp mind and has taken good care of his body over the years. He is wise beyond his years, and that is saying something.  Recently he was reading Matthew 5 and saw something new in Jesus’ teaching. He showed me that each one of the “Your blessed…” is an invitation to lose something or order to gain something. Matthew 5:3, according to Doug, is an invitation to loose power in order to gain the Kingdom.

I think I hear what Jesus was saying, along with my friend Doug. The more we release control and power, there more room there is for God to be who he is in our lives. Maybe that is something to move away from, control and power. Jesus teaches as we move away from control and power we naturally moved toward the Kingdom.

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Finding the Father

Our 5 year-old daughter Hadassah, our youngest, finds me in the morning. Most mornings of the week I leave the house early before our kids awake, but on the weekend Hadassah wakes up first and she finds me. I have a few places I like to sit in the house. She looks for me, finds me, crawls into my lap and sits there in my arms. (I know, she’s 5 it surprises me too that she just sits there for a while)

Each morning Hadassah finds me she enters into my morning ritual of sitting with the Father. It has become my favorite thing to do. To sit, to listen, to be still. So I sit there with the Father and in comes my daughter to sit with her father. I promise I am not making this up to make a point or be poetic, or give a visual of what is offered to us each morning through a growing intimate relationship with God the Father. I am just letting you in on what is happening, real time, in my own life and in the life of our youngest daughter.

If you have young kids chances are you are experiencing or have experienced the joy and exhaustion of young kids wanting as much face time with you as possible. They will take as much as they can get. Especially that one-on-one, on the floor down on their level, playing the games they choose. Or the time right before bed when they ask for one more story, one more song, one more kiss.

It’s hard to imagine sometimes but it is true, in fact the truest reality there is, that you and I have a Father who can’t get enough of us. He is with us, giving us as much time and attention as we want. And his favorite time is that one-on-one, on the floor down on our level, playing the games we choose. And somehow, in a mysterious way you are his favorite one.

 

 

 

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From a Good Idea Toward Action

In my last post I pointed out that I noticed something new in the story of the father and two son’s in the Gospel of Luke. The statement, “He got the the point,” stood out. It happened to me again this morning as I kept reading that same story.

“Then he came to his senses and cried aloud, ‘Why, dozens of my father’s hired men have got more food than they can eat and here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go back to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have done wrong in the sight of Heaven and in your eyes. I don’t deserve to be called your son any more. Please take me on as one of your hired men.”’ (Luke 15:18)

The son had an idea, an ah ha of sorts. As I imagine the posture of this young man, desperate and out of options, feeling at the end of himself I wonder if he ran scenarios through his head the way I do. I often think, ok this isn’t working, I wonder if this would. Surely if I do this it will help the situation. Rarely does it help. Returning to this story with this son it seems like of the the things he came up with was, “Oh I’ve got it! I will get up and go back to my father… that’s what I’ll do. I’ll prepare a speech and go, that’s a great idea!”

Here is the new learning for me this morning, it’s in the following verse. Jesus, as the narrator of the story says this about the son, “So he got up and went to his father.” There it is, action. True repentence: re-evaluation that leads to action. The son didn’t just come up with the idea to go to the father, or consider it enough that he knew what would be best for him at the moment, to go to the father. No, this son actually got up and went to the father.

Chances are if you are reading this blog you know how the story ends, you know the fathers reaction. It’s remarkable to say the least. You and I have access to that same reaction, that same love as we move from time with the Father being a good idea toward physically, actually getting up and going to the Father. We are his sons and daughters after all.

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Have You Gotten To The Point?

Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 about two sons. It might be familiar to you. One of the sons decides to move away from one thing in his life and move toward another. This one decision changes the course of this son’s life.

After demanding his inheritance from his Father, something that would have been implausible in the Jewish culture, the son leaves home and spends all of his money on wild living. After his money runs out, the son eventually gets hired on with a pig farmer, possibly the most humiliating job for a Jewish son. Check out Jesus’ words as he tells the next part of the story, “He got to the point of longing to stuff himself with the food the pigs were eating and not a soul gave him anything.” (v16)

From privilege and wealth to poverty and pig slop. Young Literal Translation translates Jesus’ words this way, “And having come to himself…” I like to think that this young man comes to the end of himself and realizes something has to change. He gets to the point where life is not working the way he planned, so he decides to return to his father. He moves away from doing life on his own, and moves toward home, not knowing what is waiting for him there.

Have you gotten to the point? Is what you are doing in your life working? Are you trying to do life on your own? The son in this story  longs to stuff himself with pig slop, but he knows that, even in his deep hunger, the food will not satisfy. Only one thing curbs our longing, and it’s actually not a thing at all; it’s a return to the Father.

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Only Two Primary Relationships

I believe there are only two primary relationships for each person on earth. Every other relationship is secondary. Want to guess what they are before you keep reading? In my 43 years of life I am now more convinced than ever that the two primary relationships in a persons life are relationship with Creator, and relationship with self.

The word primary suggests that something is important and worthy of time and attention. If these two relationships are, in fact, the two primary relationships in life, do they get the attention they deserve? Think about it. We have access to an ongoing growing relationship with the one who created us! In fact, the deepest intimacy that we can experience as a human being is being (that’s not a mistake use of the word being twice, we aren’t human doings) in relationship with God the Father. Jesus himself considered his relationship with God the Father as primary and so can we.

On to the second primary relationship in our lives, relationship with ourselves. Developing a growing relationship with ourselves may sound selfish at first glance, but let’s unpack it. Brene’ Brown says this about love: “Love is not something that we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” (Men, Women and Worthiness)

Jesus said it this way, “… love your neighbor as yourself”, implying that a person will love and care for his or herself first before he or she attempts to care for anyone else. So, as the Lenten season begins you might consider asking yourself how you are doing in these two primary relationships in your life. Maybe what you want to move away from is making other relationships (or things) primary, and move toward these two relationships with God and yourself.

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Moving Away/ Moving Toward: Ash Wed

You may have seen my post yesterday with the invitation during the next six weeks of Lent to ask yourself two questions:

What do I want to move away from? What do I want to move toward?

As mentioned, these two questions were asked of me and a few friends last fall, and the practical action of moving away and moving toward has had noticeable impact. Tina Sellers, who lead us through these two questions on a couples weekend, provides a little more clarity “What thoughts, actions, beliefs, habits inhibit you from giving and receiving love the way you would like?” (move away) Tina went on to say, “What do you want to be more of, grow more into, believe about yourself? (moving toward)

Here are a few examples:

I want to move away from worry. I want to move toward believing that God has me.

I want to move away from screens. I want to move toward face-to-face relationships.

I want to move away from being stoic. I want to move toward allowing myself to feel.

I want to move away from distraction. I want to move toward being present wherever I am.

In asking these two questions of myself it was helpful to take 30 minutes with each question over two days, ask the Lord and write out what came to mind. The season of Lent is a great opportunity to ask these questions of yourself. You might be surprised by the impact this can have in your own life.

 

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Lent Day 36: The battle today

It all started when Satan decided he wanted to be God, left his post as an angel and declared war on God, trying to take his place as ruler of all things. Satan’s biggest blow was his attack on Eve and Adam. God allowed it because he didn’t want his creation to be summoned to love him, but instead wanted his creation to choose him. Satan saw this as a prime opportunity, tempted Eve who invited Adam into the temptation, and they chose to believe the lie and not the truth that they were loved, that God’s love was enough. This deeply grieved God, because he longed to be in relationship with his creation, and it greatly pained Eve and Adam because they were created to be in an intimate relationship with God.

God, of course, knew that the story would play out like this, and also knew that he would pull off the greatest rescue mission in history, God’s rescue of man. He became a man (Phil 2) and came to the earth, not only to show man how to live, but ultimately to die. The interesting thing here is that the Western belief brought in the idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penance to his wrathful Father for all of man sins. That was not the understanding of the Early Church. The Early Church believed that the cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. Jesus became sin, he became it! (2 Cor 5:21) He didn’t just take on our sin, he literally embraced his humanity to such an extent that he became sin and through that voluntary process he defeated sin’s power. The result of that defeat was man’s opportunity to be rescued by a God that loves him, and to provide a way for man to be in an intimate relationship to God once again.

So the question then becomes, what is the battle now? In light of this great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission, the battle is now against an ongoing intimate relationship between individual man and God. Yes, that’s it, Satan’s primary concern is to keep men and women from believing that we are loved! And it turns out that he is pretty good at it…

 

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Lent Day 32: Breaking the Lies

As theses lies came to the surface I knew that something had to be done about it there in the San Juan Islands that weekend. Sunday morning of the trip Ryan and I crept over a bluff, journal in hand. I shared with him the lies that the Father had revealed, and asked him to pray through each lie with me in order to break my cycle of fear and unbelief. We put a stake in the ground that morning on Saddlebag Island. The lies were broken and the hard work of replacing those lies with truth was awaiting me back home. Thankfully, before our trip ended the Lord walked me through an amazing experience of writing down His truth about me. I used the famous “What is your name” scene from the movie Gladiator as a template, and this is what I wrote:

(I have read this statement each morning for the past 10 years. It has become a daily prayer for me. As Jesus has continued to reveal new truths about myself I have tweaked the prayer. In fact, the prayer in my journal today looks quite a bit different):

My name is Shawn Raymond Petree, Beloved, I am loved.

I am Your chosen son. I am family.  Your Spirit is in me. Christ is formed (and is forming) in me. I am an heir of Your Kingdom, a prince, a saint.

I choose joy and gratitude today!

I am a strong, confident, warm, generous, assertive, courageous, creative man, a writer, a warrior

Husband to a beautiful Godly wife. Father to three provided children

Friend to many.  I am loved.