Contemplative Life

Rhythms of Life with Jesus

I find myself basking in a season of great richness.  My heart is swelling with gratitude for how Jesus is choosing to be with me and inviting me to be with Him in diversity of contexts and settings.  Whether I’m traveling with Jesus in the company of friends or nestled in the warmth of solitude with Him, I’m learning experientially how much He desires to intimately share all of my life with me.

Here in the greater Baltimore area we are entering a sweet Lenten and Spring season of offering respite and healing.  We continue to offer the Deeper Journey in person once a month along with  An Intimate Lenten Retreat.  We have been invited by Church of the Resurrection to facilitate a five week experiential journey in prayer during Lent called Learning to Follow Jesus.  And particularly dear to my heart is the offering of our first weekend long Walking with Jesus In Grief retreat.  This will be held at the beautiful Claggett Retreat Center south of Frederick. That is to catch you up on happenings here, but let me mention something more.

Many years ago Dallas Willard made me aware that I needed to embrace an ongoing  rhythm of engagement and disengagement in service to others.  I understood this at the time as a prescription for balancing my expenditure of energy in serving others, of being on mission with Jesus, with pulling away to be with Jesus in silence and solitude.  I came to understand that I could only give out of what I was receiving from Jesus if I was to avoid running dry.  So I began to prioritize more regular periods of pulling away with Jesus whether for a couple hours or for a personal retreat.  These times of refreshment were essential to my having the capacity to care for others.

Over the last couple of years Jesus has been persistently inviting me to recognize that He desires to share all of life with me.  Yes, I desperately need to regularly “get away with Him and recover my life” (Mt. 11:28 The Message);  to learn in companionship with Him “how to take a real rest.”  The piece that was lacking however was I saw my service as being for Him, not with Him.  His invitation is also to “walk with Me and work with Me-watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (v. 29)

What a powerful image!  Not just rhythms of engagement and disengagement, but rhythms characterized by His grace!  I’ve come to understand that grace includes both Jesus’s gracious compassionate presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to live out the reality of God’s love in my daily interactions.

So what has this invitation looked like for me in the past month?  On a daily basis I am experiencing the amazing gift of the Ignatian exercises where I have been shepherded by a wise and compassionate spiritual director in meditating deeply and imaginatively on the life and love of Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit through slow, focused engagement with Scripture.  I have been able to carry this rhythm on my travels to Indonesia to offer spiritual direction to men and women who’ve given up so much that is familiar to embody Jesus among a vast array of Southeast Asian cultures where He is still rarely known.

I’ve gotten to spend extended time praying and dialoguing with those seeking to serve humble people desperately in need of the fullness of God’s shalom as it impacts their relationships with God and with their neighbors in a context where the average family lives on $100-$200 a month.  I’ve been able to reconnect with dear Muslim friends who have given their lives to serving the poor and to dialogue with them about how Jesus has enabled me to share their longing for shalom (salam in Arabic) to be realized.

I’ve experienced their delight as they have resonated deeply with my accounts of the journey we have been on with George Hopkins and BUILD in Baltimore to advocate for those living simply in disinvested communities in Baltimore.

What I am discovering experientially is that everywhere I walk, I walk with Jesus.  Everywhere I serve, I have the opportunity to converse with Him, lament with Him, dream with Him, and embrace those who are weary and heavy laden with Him.  I’m growing to trust and experience that “He won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on me.”  That as I “keep company with Him” I can grow in actually experiencing living “freely and lightly.” (v. 30)

So this week, along with others with Coracle ties, I am joining brothers and sisters from across Baltimore in gathering in Annapolis, our state capital, to advocate for investment in the communities that for too long have suffered the last consequences of redlining and disinvestment.  Concurrently, we continue to dialogue with church leaders across the city and in the suburbs about how we can come together in mutual blessing to strengthen relational ties that can serve as a bridge across which the fullness of God’s kingdom life can flow back and forth to the nourishment of all our communities.

The convergence I am experiencing of walking with Jesus in Indonesia and in Baltimore (and in Scottish Celtic pilgrimages); in rural, urban, and suburban contexts; in communal gatherings of spiritual formation and of kingdom action is the unique realization of Jesus’s invitation to walk with Him and work with Him in my life.  How is Jesus inviting you to live into His desire to be with you in every dimension of your life?   May you continue to explore and grow in your own experience Jesus’s intimate unforced rhythms for you in this season of your life.

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