Thoughts: Prayer and Presence

I don’t pray for God to “show up.” 

There’s never any PLACE nor any TIME in which He is not. 

(If he wasn’t, the whole operation of creation would cease to exist.) 

What I pray is for the eyes to SEE where and how He is moving.

I don’t pray for God to speak; He’s always speaking. 

What I pray is for my openness to HEAR, and then the strength and COURAGE to obey. 

I don’t pray for God to be with me; when He—in the form of Jesus the Christ—opted to take on human skin, He did that ONCE AND FOR ALL

His love is not conditional. 

What I pray is for me to live in the reality of that solidarity and love, to reject shame and any effort to try and EARN grace. 

If God only showed up in certain times and places, if He only spoke or revealed Himself to certain people in certain conditions, if He was only with SOME people at SOME times, than (to me, at least), it would mean that there were “special people” that get to experience God, while the rest of us get some kind of lesser experience or portion of Him. 

And that’s not grace. 

So I take God at His word—that grace is REALLY grace (“unmerited favor”)—and that “Good News” (“Gospel”) REALLY IS GOOD NEWS. 

I have all I need, SHOULD I CHOOSE TO LET HIM BE IN CHARGE. 

When all is said and done, it looks a little like this: 

“God show me how You are moving today. I surrender everything: my will, my plans, my thoughts. You are in charge. Guide me, and show me Your will, and give me the strength and courage to follow You today.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

"I Know Something"

I may not know a lot about you, but I know something
I may not know a lot about you, but I know one thing (and that’s)
I’m alive.

“I’m Alive” by pop poppins

Some of my favorite lyrics and musical ideas come from local bands that no one has ever heard of. 

If you weren’t there, you missed it: in this case, Dallas, TX, in the early 1990s. 

I’ve always loved that line, and I was so grateful when the internet gave me the gift of being able to once again hear some of the music that we were soaking up, just out of college and being oh-so-serious about music. 

That line comes from a song called, “I’m Alive,” and the band was called “pop poppins” (inspired from Mary Poppins, no less). 

Beautiful, dreamy alternative (from when that word really mattered) music. 

But I use that line a lot. 

Seems like the older I get, the less I “know.” 

And I’m becoming okay with that. 

But it’s not like I don’t know ANYTHING. 

I do not have to know everything: about God, about life, about music, about creativity, about my wife or my children, or my friends.

I know SOMETHING. 

And that’s, well, SOMETHING. 

All I have to do is do something with the something that I know. 

And be content with all of the stuff I don’t know. 

Morning Pages, 3 Dec: When the Music is All Around

There are moments when the music is all around, when it surrounds me like a great blanket and I feel LOVE and there’s nothing between me and the universe and I’m not taking (nor faking) and there’s only notes BUT notes aren’t really notes they are BLOOMS and messages to and from the soul place. 

There are moments. 

There are moments when all the HURT and PAIN and DOUBT DISAPPEAR and I-am-making-a-difference to myself at least and that is usually enough and I can give and receive at the same time because they are actually both the same. 

I do not think of the shoes I’m wearing then, not do I remember why I picked the shirt to wear then I only CHOOSE without thought — is that a choice? — Maybe I only have to MOVE TOWARDS (not choose) the next note or chord, only because THAT’s the next note/chord to play. I need no reason, because THE MOMENT IS THE REASON. 

I don’t have an itchy soul then. I AM ERIC, and ERIC is music, because MUSIC is what is happening then. When music is not happening, then to be Eric will mean something else…

… making-eggs Eric

… reading-books Eric

… having-an-argument Eric

… praying Eric

… sleeping Eric

… being-lazy eric

ALL of those Erics are Eric, and they are all valid and LOVED.

It’s just that… music is… well, music is…

SSHHHHHHHHHHH. 

Manifesto: What the World Needs Now…

(Is for you to write for 10 minutes.)

Somewhere—I can’t remember where or even exactly when—I stumbled across the idea that my vocation, in general, is to “live creatively in response to the gospel.” 

Actually, the implication was that this truth applies to all people who call themselves Christ followers (“Christians”). 

Truth is, most of us don’t really do a good job of this. 

We get the “living” part, and even though I’m convinced a lot of us don’t really understand what “good news” (that’s what “gospel” means, in case you didn’t know) actually means, many of us could quote a Bible verse or two about the term. 

But what about that little adverb there: “creatively”? 

Many of us would just ignore it, and pretend it’s not there. Just do the “living” part, and go to church, and hope that things get better. 

We leave “creativity” to people with tattoos, funny hats, skinny jeans, and interesting glasses. 

(Artists and hipsters.)

But let me push on that just a bit. 

First, CREATIVITY AND ART ARE NOT THE SAME THING. “Art” is a subset of creativity. Creativity simply means bringing something into being, and for most of us it occurs when someone simply brings two things or concepts together that typically don’t belong together, and the result is somehow useful, or beautiful, or delightful, or just simply moves people in some way. 

In this way, ALL OF US can be creative. It’s actually pretty easy. 

(NOTE: It’s not always easy to get results that are amazing, or beautiful, or delightful, etc. But results ≠ process. We’re talking about PROCESS here.) 

Second, I believe the world is begging for more faith-inspired, intentional creativity.

Why? 

Well, Einstein said it best: “You can’t solve the world’s problems at the same level of consciousness that created them.” 

(I paraphrase.) 

We need new solutions to the problems that continue to plague our world: selfishness, greed, pride, anger, divisiveness, etc., etc. 

I’m pretty convinced that all good people—even (especially?) Christians—want to do the right thing, but what we are faced with is the same approaches to the the same problems. 

We need MORE. We need NEW. 

We need more/new from our leaders, we need more/new from our preachers, we need more/new from EVERYONE. 

(Including YOU and ME.) 

Let me be clear: we don’t need MORE/NEW so that we can ONLY have more/new songs, paintings, poems, sculptures, etc. We need more/new so that we can have more/new IDEAS, INSPIRATION, APPROACHES, INNOVATION. 

Because one of the great gifts of creativity is the increased ability to make “lateral leaps”—surprise linkages—in our thinking. THIS is how we stumble into new ways of thinking, new and innovative ways to approach old problems. 

MORE/NEW. 

Over my years of creative exploration, one tool has emerged as an absolutely essential building block, a foundation for songwriting, leadership, blogging, problem-solving, etc., etc. I first discovered it in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s seminal work, and I’ve continued to tweak the process as I’ve gotten older. Cameron called them “Morning Pages”, and the concept was actually pretty simple: 

  1. Write three pages—absolutely no less—every single day. Even if the pages are filled with “I don’t know what to write,” etc., you have to fill the three pages. 
  2. Do NOT stop to edit, or go back to read what you wrote. Immediately put the pages away (I used to put a time limit of a minimum of two weeks). 

Later on, I combined Cameron’s approach with something I read in a book on lyric writing by Pat Pattison called “Object Writing,” where you take an object around you, and for ten minutes you write EVERYTHING you can about the object: it’s shape, it’s significance, it’s color, it’s position on the table, etc. Other principles remained the same: you HAD to write for ten minutes, not stopping, and you could NOT edit or go back and read. 

(NOTE: You can ALSO use these same exercises—particularly the “Object Writing” approach—to solve more specific problems. You simply take whatever problem or challenge you’re trying to solve and write SPECIFICALLY about that problem for ten minutes, using the same rules. No editing, have to keep the words flowing, etc. In THIS context, you CAN go back and read what you wrote, but maybe give yourself an hour gap between writing and reading.)

This SIMPLE act is the foundational creative exercise: it’s like stretching in the morning for an athlete. Sports and training metaphors are often found in the New Testament, and I believe they apply—critically—to more than just our physical bodies. We need foundational “exercises” that prime and prepare our minds (AND hearts AND souls) for more unexpected (i.e., “creative”) thinking. 

Remember: as best I can tell, Jesus says we are ALL—not just some of us, or the “good Christians—supposed to be the light of the world. That means ALL of us have a job to do, to do a little good in the world.

In other words, “to live creatively in response to the Good News.” 

The world needs more CREATIVE action that is Good News. 

So go: pick up your pen. Spend 10 minutes (or three pages, whichever you prefer). Then do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, etc. 

And let the ideas come. We need them. 

Writing and Spirituality

“If you want to become a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot. And don’t think so much. Just enter the heat of words and sounds and colored sensations and keep your pen moving across the page.”

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Given that the way you do anything is the way you do everything, that quote struck me this morning. Just substitute the word “writer” with anything else that you’d like to be, and tweak a few of the other words, and the advice holds true.

Including “Christian”. 

One of the challenges that Jesus repeatedly threw out to his listeners was to keep their eyes and ears open (“If you have eyes to see and ears to hear…”). Just like the quote above, Jesus seems to be saying that spiritual growth is a matter of deeply seeing and hearing, and then DOING things. 

“If you want to become a Christ-follower/spiritually mature person, you need to do three things. Read a lot/observe other spiritually mature people. Listen to the world around you and be present to it, and DO spiritually mature things—service, acts of love and compassion, etc. 

And don’t think so much. 

Just enter the heat of the world and sounds and colored sensations, and keep walking/following/doing the best you can.”

What ELSE Went With Abram

Still thinking about this guy named Abram.

It’s important to remember what else he brought on his journey (besides his issues). 

Namely, all the faith that he needed in order to start on that journey. 

There’s nothing in the Biblical text that indicates why Abram might have been chosen to go on this unexpected journey. Nothing that might reveal why this God might have picked him above everyone else. 

(By the way: what if it’s not so much that God PICKED Abram; maybe it’s that God is ALWAYS calling, and Abram was the only one who just happened to be willing to hear?)

It would have been easy for Abram to focus on the gaps in the invitation “go to a land which I will show you”? How do I enter that into GPS? 

Or on the enormity of the invitation—“Uh, how am I supposed to be the father of a nation when my wife and I appear to be unable to have children?” 

Instead Abram just does what life requires of us: he just starts moving. 

Life doesn’t require that we have all the answers (because I can guarantee you that we do not). 

Life doesn’t require that we know the DESTINATION. 

Life just requires that we are willing to take the first step. 

And what Abram is taking with him is that willingness to take the first step. He’s willing to believe that maybe, JUST MAYBE, life is more than what he’s experienced so far. 

And so he starts moving, and becomes the paradigm of faith for everyone, a reminder that how you do anything is how you do everything. 

Abram’s journey starts with a willingness to start moving—from Ur to Canaan. Our journey starts EVERY DAY with that same willingness. Start moving. Our unknown journey every 24 hours can be just as adventurous (and impactful) as Abram’s. 

What Came With Abram

The Bible is filled with story after story of men and women following the Voice of God—either literally or metaphorically—into places of ambiguity, trust and surrender.

Mostly it begins with Abram who is told to leave his family and his father’s household and to go a land God will “show him” (Genesis 12).

And, almost unbelievably, Abram decides to go for it and trust the Voice.

But you know what else came with Abram?

HIMSELF.

I don’t know what all Abram left behind in his father’s house, but I can guarantee that what he did NOT leave behind was his own brokenness.

If Abram was self-righteous and greedy in Ur, he was self-righteous and greedy all the way to Canaan.

If he was given to anger and isolation in Ur, he took that with him to Canaan.

It’s tempting to think that we can change something “out there”—even in the name of FOLLOWING GOD—and so fix the problems that have plagued us (and therefore, plagued the ones around us), but that’s not really the way life works.

And “the way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

Because, you see, the problem is not “out there”, with our circumstances, our job, our family, our grouchy co-workers, fellow students or friends.

No, the problem is “in here,” in OUR hearts and souls.

Which come with us no matter where we go.

The bad news is that there is no place too far that we can go to get away from ourselves.

The good news is that no matter where we go, we always have an OPPORTUNITY to work on the problem.

There is deep, deep spiritual wisdom in the idea that whenever I’m disturbed, the problem is with ME, not with anyone else, or what’s going on around me. I have to examine MY heart, MY soul and mind, in order to regain my peace so that I may be of service to God and to others.