GarThoma

The contemplative artist

Gathered Words

Gathered words are
Wrapped into Fragrant
Bundles of flowers.

Given on your doorstep
Where you stand,
waiting for guidance

From above where
birds sing into the fatness
of your earlobes

A song about
Finding freedom to live
Into your intention

Instead of fantasizing
About what you
Might become.

Why I Cannot Identify as a Gay Christian

GarThoma:

One of my former students wrote this. I am impressed with his vulnerability and courage of this young man, especially in this day and age. He is certainly taking the unpopular view on this issue, but I think his voice needs to be heard.

Originally posted on liberum servus.:

So lately God has been on a roll with dropping little bombs filled with exactly what I need to hear, exactly when I need to hear it.

“Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” – Luke 6:26

This was one of those bombs. I came across it innocently enough while reading an article online, and it annoyed me enough that I needed to look up the context.

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you…

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River

The shattered pieces of the
Soul carry the story.

They are all strewn about and
Floating down the stream

Of a thousand yesterdays destined to
Damnation to another day after

Tomorrow. The wind catches a few folded
Pieces and carries them to a place

Undiscovered and raw. That’s the place the
Telling continues for the courageous

Souls who venture into this land to
Find hope and carry on.

Superfluous

Art is superfluous
When all we do is buy

Wings are superfluous
When they’re not meant to fly

Life is superfluous
When it’s sitting on a shelf

God is superfluous
When living for yourself

A heart is superfluous
When it’s not meant to feel

Art is superfluous
When it’s not meant to heal

A Meditation on Acceptance

I don’t know about you, but I have learned that things do not always go the way I want them to go. I have been surprised to find that God does not always act in the way I expected. In these times I have been faced with a choice: cling to my own desires, which often leads to disappointment, anger, frustration — or I can accept that God has a better way. Following are a few things I have discovered in this process. 

Acceptance opens the door that allows the grace of God to enter in. 

Acceptance opens our eyes to see divine providence happening all around us. 

Acceptance, not simply resignation, but acceptance with thanksgiving will create a new space in the soul where one can truly see the hand of god at work; where one can truly receive the many gifts and blessings of God. You cannot to see the blessings of God while you hold onto your own desire for personal comfort, pleasure or some kind of immediate change. 

Acceptance leads to new eyes to see the goodness of God in the way things are; it leads to true thanksgiving. 

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased the strength of my soul.” Ps.138:3

With acceptance comes eyes to see the strength of soul that God gives; eyes to see a light breaking through the darkness. With acceptance comes an awareness of the grace that God gives. 

A haughty attitude creates distance between us and God. It is our own pride and ungratefulness that keep s us from acceptance and thus creates distance between our heart and God’s heart. “… the haughty He perceives from far away.” Ps. 138:6

Do you want to feel God’s presence? With acceptance comes a sense of God’s nearness. 

Acceptance brings a new freedom. When we cling to our own shortsighted desires we will inevitably find ourselves in bondage to those desires. When we let go and accept things as they are we enter into a new freedom in Christ. 

Acceptance is something I must choose to do. God cannot do this for me. 

Are you Living in Hell or Heaven? 

I remember when I first became a Christian many of my friends turned away from me. That was mostly because I became this radical Bible thumper and told them they needed to get saved or they would go to hell. Are any of these following Jesus today? Did my radical transformation bring them to radical transformation in Christ? No. I was just worried abut being a radical Christian, I was so into my new found faith that I thought it was a good thing that they all left. 

Now, however I feel remorse at the fact that they are still living lives outside the love of Christ; that they have never really experienced the beautiful love of God as expressed in Christ.  

The doctrine of salvation seems so selfish as it is expressed in many of our churches. It seems to me like it is all about a personal salvation. It seems like it is just for the purpose of “me “ getting into heaven; like it is all about my “reward” in a heavenly home or kingdom after I die. Something feels incomplete about this. Biblical salvation is not simply about to being saved “from” something, we are also saved “to” something. We are saved from alienation from God and others, to show forth the love and salvation of God toward others. In Christ we are light and salt to bring light to a dark world and flavor to a bland world. 

It was said in my church today that when one becomes a Christian that their old friends will pull away, or he or she needs to pull away from them so as to not be affected by them in this new life. But when I look at scripture I can’t help but see that sinners were naturally drawn to Jesus. They didn’t pull away from him. And He didn’t pull away from or avoid them. I am reminded that the one’s who pulled away from Jesus were the “separated ones” — the Pharisees. Those who want to remain in their sin will probably separate from Jesus. But when people see and genuinely encounter the love of Christ in the church through Spirit-filled Christians they can’t help but be attracted to that kind of love. My Christianity ought to change me in such a way as to become Christ-like. The more I allow Christ to take over my life; the more I “decrease so that He may increase,” the more others will come to know Him. This is the goal of the Christian faith. 

Of course no one wants to die and go to hell, everyone wants to go to heaven. But what about the life we live now? In Christ I can be living a heavenly life today. A life of serving and glorifying God. Salvation matters for today, not just for the “great by and by” . 

Living a life of heaven or the eternal kind of life — now, will draw people in to Christ, it will not repel them. If it’s just all about me getting to heaven I will practice my faith in a way that is repulsive to others, it will be awkward and weird and forced. But when I am living the eternal kind of life; the heavenly life — now, I am living a life in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is real and I am being transformed; I am living in such a way that invites others to ask: “what is the reason for the hope that is within you?” 

Do you see the difference?

Obedience is Hard

John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while      every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.


 

Obedience is hard for a number of reasons. The very word brings connotations of force and the strong overpowering weak, for some, it brings memories of abuse. But that is not the kind of obedience I am referring to. Obedience to God is not about being overpowered and being forced to do things against my will. I want to obey the Lord.  If I am to grow in grace I need to obey the Lord. I will always be obedient to something or someone. The way I live my life is determined by who I obey. The thing or person I obey is the kingdom I walk in. If I am to live in the Kingdom of God then I must walk in obedience to God. 

Another reason obedience is hard is because there are so many options. There are so many things demanding my attention. I want to obey You, Lord. I want to hear Your voice.  But hearing Your voice is so hard because You often speak in such a still, small voice. And other voices are so loud and demanding — and, I must add; appealing. They offer me immediate gratification. But obedience to You is necessary if I want to grow in grace; if I want to live the eternal life of Your kingdom.

It is my desire to be like the flower who obeys the sun, turning its head in the direction of the sun. 

To turn my ear toward the Lord is to be like that flower. Obedience requires discipline. I need to create a space in my soul where God can speak. Disciplines of the faith are the ways to carve out that space. The disciplines of silence and solitude are like a hammer and chisel to carve into the hard stone that has been built up inside my soul; that keeps me from hearing the voice of God. 

 

So Long Summer

Birds are picking through severed blades of grass
Left strewn about by the mower.

Sweat beads once formed on the water glass
Sitting by the porch swing now dried

There’s bits of sand on the concrete by the front door where
Kids come dragging through with damp towels and bodies.

Summer is not a  good time for poetry, except maybe on rainy mornings.

Sunshine doesn’t lend itself to the kind of poetry that resonates with the soul.
Its got to be soaked in pain and severed relationships, 
Streaked with grains of sand that cut deep in to the heart.

It has to be sprinkled with tears like the ones once streaming
down the side of the glass by the porch swing.

From Disillusionment to Clarity

Let prayer lead me from disillusionment to clarity. May prayer not be a tool for manipulation but rather a way to live more fully in the presence of God – to be more completely who He created me to be.

This is holiness. 

Denial is a prison
That’s built on illusion.
Let disillusionment tear 
Denial from your heart
And replace it with the 
Truth that sets you free. 

We deny the truth through the things we hope in. The hopes we have usually reveal themselves in the choices we make. What some call bad choices are actually things we hope in. We hope this thing or that thing will work out well for us. We hope that relationship will work out, make us feel better and take away our loneliness. We hope that drug or that next drink or that next sexual encounter will give pleasure and fill the gaping hole in our soul.

And this is the illusion: hope outside of the truth is merely an illusion. We don’t usually hope in God until all these things have been exhausted and the illusions are revealed. 

Clarity reveals the truth. 

Prayer:

Lord, reveal the areas of denial that have built up and continue to work in my life. Help me to root them out of my heart so that they no longer influence my life. Let Your grace work in my life to reveal areas of denial. Set me free from the things I believe as true but are not. Help me to escape into truth as it is in You. Lord, your truth is not just one truth among many; Your truth is The Truth; the ground of all truth. I want to know this truth; this primary, unmediated, undiluted truth. Oh that I would dig down to the bedrock of truth and build my life on that. Jesus, You say that the one who hears Your words and does them is the one who builds his house on the rock and the storms of life, though they beat against it do not destroy it. 

Amen. 

Impasse

I just finished reading a wonderful book by Robert J. Wicks, called Living Simply in an Anxious World. I think it was the final chapter that spoke to me the most. In it, Wicks talks about being in an impasse situation. “An impasse situation is such that the more action one applies to escape it, the worse it gets…” An impasse requires one to change his or her normal way of doing things. It often requires a radical breaking out of our regular way of thinking. An impasse can be a way toward creative breakthrough. It shows us our real powerlessness to continue in the same way we always have. Sometimes, though it can lead to cynicism and bitterness if one does not discover a creative alternative. I have to admit, that this is where I have found myself on numerous occasions. And, quite likely, my own choice to give in to my own flesh and desire for comfort during these times has often caused me to enter into cynicism and bitterness. 

Even when we do our best and work our hardest, things may not work out the way we thought they would or the way we wanted. We try to reason things out to no avail. Human reason rarely works in an impasse situation, especially spiritual impasse situations. Wicks uses the example of how pilots navigate their planes in high altitude. When a pilot flies at high altitude they must rely on the instruments rather than their eyes. The horizon can appear inverted to them and if they are not careful to focus on what the plane’s instruments are telling them rather than their eyes they can end up flying upside down. In an impasse situation all may be inverted; all may be darkness and when we try to look with our human eyes; our eyes of reason, often all we will see is despair and hopelessness, but we  must not look with our natural eyes at the situation, we must not rely on our reason; we must use the instrument God has given us: “walk by faith, not by sight.” “If anything,” says Wicks, “impasse and helplessness… can dramatically drive us to recognize and embrace there reality of grace.” 

Wicks goes on to discuss the notion of security. The one thing many of us want more that anything else in the world is security. An impasse situation often threatens our security. Wicks quotes a little pamphlet about simplicity by Quaker writer Elaine Prevallet, “If security is our treasure,” says Prevallet, “then we need to look there to find our idols.” Prevallet goes on to say that it is our double-mindeness, our fractured self, that keeps us from being wholly devoted to God. The things that cause our double mindedness, she says, is “trying to find security in more than one thing.” Anytime I seek security in something less than God, I am making myself double-minded and fracturing myself in however many pieces as the things I am seeking find security in: success, riches, acceptance, being liked and admired by others, comfort… or any other thing that is less than God. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters…” and it is in the time of impasse, the time of darkness and mystery, that I am most tempted to seek other “masters.” 

I want to be fully devoted to God; fully surrendered to his will and walk in his way even (perhaps especially) at the fime of impasse;  It is here in the darkness that the place of my devotion is most clearly seen. 

Prayer: 
Father, please help me to not look to the situation to find my peace. Help me to find it in you and you alone. Please forgive my cynicism and the bitterness that results from my seeking security and comfort in other things and people besides you. Please forgive me for trying to serve two masters. My hope is in you alone. Help me to look to the instruments you have given to help me get my bearings during the times of impasse. I choose to walk by faith rather than by sight. In Christ, Amen.

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