Flow, a Pentecost Sermon

flame of passion

If you would like to hear the message from Sunday, please go to http://www.kwcc.org and click on Sermons.

Flow.  What images comes to mind when I say the word flow?  A stream.  Breath in and out of the body (slide).  Blood coursing through veins and arteries (slide). Energy (slide) . Wind (slide).   Waves in the ocean (slide).

There are so many just natural and normal everday occurances for us to discover flow.  But Flow also talks about those intense moments in time where we join something beyond us.  Something mysterious.    Writers might think of the time when words naturally begin to take form and shape and bring life to an idea.  Our greatest actors understand flow.  These actors work incredibly hard to create a character and feel and move and dress and find similarities between themselves and the person and then they let go and they are that person.

good will hunting

You can see it happen with Robert Williams in Dead Poet Society.  There is a scene where he is talking about how much he loved his wife who had passed away.  At first it is an intense moment and then he cuts a joke about missing her farting in her sleep at night and he and matt Damon bust up laughing.  You just know that his words were not a part of the script but in the moment he became that character and he knew this was what that character would have said.  Richard Rohr says “any gifted person knows this to be true.  They look like geniuses to the outsider and they often are, but there is method behind their holy madness.  They have learned to wait for and fully expect what Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi brilliantly calls “Flow.”

 

Flow has movement and connection.

Flow is as ordinary as breath and as magical as art.  Flow connects us deeply to the things of this earth but also allows us to stretch up towards the mystery of the heavens.   For me, when I hear the word flow, I think of yoga.  Last week in class, the focus on the class was this saying, “I am rooted and so I flow.”  As I moved through the class I thought about how the strength of my legs allowed by upper body to bend and twist.  I thought about how my mind was rooted or focused on my breath and that this breath flowing through me activated each and every pose.  I feel this best in tree pose .

Vrikshasana-Tree-pose

My strong leg sends energy down to all that is earthy and human and yet my arms reach with similar energy and strength towards the heavens.  I feel energy coursing through my body as i activate every muscle but if I am open to it I also feel the energy of the earth and the heavens flowing through me.   Now, in the church, we use this same flowing language to describe the mystery of the Spirit.  Spirit as descending dove.  Spirit as fire and wind and water.  Spirit as here in the beginning of creation hovering over the deep and spirit as power descending on the people at Pentecost.  John 3:8 says this “the wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  The spirit flows wherever the spirit flows and when the power of the spirit comes, we flow…  Let us hear the story of Pentecost this morning thinking about this idea of flow.

holy spirit

Let us read the Pentecost story together this morning.

Luke 24:45-49

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and he said to them this it is written, that the messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And see I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.  Then he led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Acts 2: 1-4

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues as of fire appeared among them and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak I other languages as the spirit gave them ability.

Acts 2: 42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.  All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need.  Day by day as they spent much time together in the temple they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  And day by day the lord added to their number those who were being saved.

***********

Today is the day in the life of the church that we celebrate Pentecost.  Pentecost is really the culmination of our Easter Celebration.  Jesus’ resurrection showed God’s power to act in human history and even God’s power over death. Resurrections power to bring Jesus back from the dead was poured out on all people of all nations.  Now we celebrate that the power of resurrection was given to you and to me through the flow of the Holy Spirit.  I think it is through step 6 of the 12 steps that we encounter this flow and I think Our Pentecost story gives us great insight into how this step works.

For those of you who are just joining us we are in a teaching series following Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Underwater.  In this book, we are looking at the 12 steps to recovery that AA follows.  We see the deep spiritual connections to the 12 steps and we can identify with the idea that we all have our own issues.  Each of us has character defects, struggles and addictions.  And so we entered the 12 steps with step 1  acknowledging that we all are addicted to something: shopping, the internet, approval, drama “I call these ambulance chasers!”, sex, pain medications, perfection….you name it and someone in here probably has a story.  These addictions are blocking and even fighting the flow of God in our life.  In steps 1-3, we decide to admit our powerlessness over these addictions and we acknowledge our great need for God’s holy power to work in our life.  Then in steps 4-6, we are challenged to do the intense and hard work of looking deeply into our lives in order to discover areas that are blocking the flow of God in our life.  Today we are looking at step 6 which states (slide) “were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.  Hear the flow as I state this step in a different way “We have to practice opening our heart, mind and body to God in order to be ready for what God is already doing.”

Let’s take the 1st part of that statement “entirely ready.”

Luke tells us both in his gospel and in Acts that after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and opened their minds to the scriptures.  Then Jesus ascends into heaven and we see the followers of Jesus continuing to practice their faith.  We see them doing the very ordinary daily practices of spending time in the temple, worshipping, praying and spending time with each other.  But while these ordinary acts were performed they were awaiting the power of the holy spirit to come.   They were practicing with anticipation!

ansel adams

So, what does it mean to practice with anticipation?  Photographer Ansel Adams who would wait days and hours for the perfect circumstances and ideal light to take his iconic photos said it like this, (slide)“Chance favors the prepared mind.”  This idea that magical art the kind that takes our breaths away happens when the artist continues to practice their craft in the most ordinary sense but they do so awaiting a moment of divine inspiration or what Ansel Adams calls Chance!

Richard Rohr says it like this, “So the waiting, the preparing of the mind for “chance,” the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the “readiness” to really let go, the recognition that I really do not want to let go, the actual willingness to change is the work of weeks, months and years of “fear and trembling.”

We see this in artists who practice their craft daily eagerly awaiting the  spark of inspiration.  We see this in lovers who practice loving deeply and in tender moments ignite the flame of passion and desire.  Sparks and flames come from practicing an openness and a willingness, from anticipation and waiting and longing.  After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the disciples eagerly awaited the coming of the spirit and continued practicing their faith which readied them for whatever God would do.  Or you can say it readied them for what God was already doing!  But the readying is not a step they skipped.  They readied themselves through study and worship and prayer and through loving and serving each other.  They did the work to be entirely ready!

Flow.  Flow has ordinary but intentional work but Flow has a bit of magic!

The sixth step says “were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character”

The second part of this statement “to have God remove” is where the magic happens because we let go and await what God is going to do.

 

Here is a story that Brian McLaren shared in his book Finding our Way again.  I think it speaks to the magic and mystery of step 6.

violin

Imagine a great violinist who gives 200 concerts a year.  Let’s say that 3 of her concerts were disastrous—she had the flu or her bridge broke in the middle of the evening, or a fire alarm buzzed five min into her first song.  Let’s say that 190 of her concerts were good-some stronger than others, but the crowds were satisfied.  And what were the remaining 7 concerts?  They were exceptional, the reviewers might say: Inspired, transcendent, ecstatic.  They might even use the term magical, but of course they don’t mean it in a literal sense.  They mean that some inexplicable things converged that night and the music somehow unleashed latent power that was unknown the other 193 nights.  The violinist herself can’t explain this.  She feels on those nights that she has been taken up to a higher level, that on those 7 nights a glorious mystery has filled her and the audience and the sound waves that connect them….She knows that what happened those nights was not simply in her power; she was every bit as prepared, practiced, serious, committed and dedicated the other nights as well.

In Step 6 there is a divine flow moving us between ordinary practice and anticipating a God encounter.

Some of us may be really comfortable with the first part of step 6, the idea that we have to work on ourselves and scripture supports this idea that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling like it says in Philippians 2:12.   We have to do the deep work!

Then there are others of us who know deep in our guts that God is so powerful that God will speak and it is done and scripture supports this by saying that salvation is a gift from God so that no one can boast.  Thank God for Grace!

So is it all up to us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?

Or

Is it all up to God so that no one can boast?

The answer is simply YES!  Paul in Phillippians 3:12 puts it like this “I have not yet won, but I am still running to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me.”  We run to get the prize which Jesus has already captured us to give to us freely!  WHAT!  We ready ourselves for Grace which is already happening.  Sometimes this may feel like a relay race  where you have run your leg of the race and then you hand the baton to God expecting God will do the rest but more than likely it is like partner ice skating where we don’t realize that God is the one holding onto me the whole time.  God is the one empowering me to fly through the air and God is the one holding onto me as the motions of our body become as one.

 

The followers of Jesus practiced their faith in such a way that their hearts; minds and bodies were open and they waited expectantly for God to Flow.  And God flowed through the power of the Holy Spirit. The power flowed through them causing all the people to be filled with awe.  Power flowed through them and many signs and wonders took place.  Flow.

So, Let us be people who work the steps.  Let us be who we are….. a community of faith in practice.

And then

May we be open to The God Flow.

Hi, my name is Peyton

In the month of April, we celebrate autism awareness month.  I would like to celebrate these last few days by beginning a conversation about autism and friendship, but not in a way that you might naturally consider.  There is lots of information about how to help neuro-typical children understand and be good friends to children with autism.  You can also find great resources on helping your child with autism understand friendship. I am grateful for these resources and applaud the amazing strides we have made for not only awareness but acceptance.   My hope is to open up conversation about how a child with autism can be a good friend to a neuro-typical child.  This idea was planted in my head after my son and I attended a birthday party a year ago for a school friend whose family I did not know very well.  While the children were jumping at the massive trampoline park, I thanked the mother for the invitation.  She looked at me and said, “I was surprised that my son would want to invite your son to his birthday party.”  From her body language, I could tell that this was not a snub on my child being different although I will say my heart ached.  Through continued conversation, I realized she marveled at the fact that her son considered my son a good friend.  I heard two things in her statement: She was happy that her son includes children with differences and she marveled at the idea that a child with autism could be considered a good friend.

Can a child with autism make a good friend?  I think so.  I think there are many benefits to having a friend with autism.  Disclaimer: This blog is about my son and what I see in him.  I was once told and have repeated often, “When you have met ONE child with autism, you have met ONE child with autism.”  Truth.  So, if you have a child with autism, you may find similarities in our stories or you may not.  You  may not have a child with autism or your neuro-typical child might never have encountered a child with autism wanting to be his/her friend.   No matter your situation, I hope these shared stories open up conversation between parents because parents will be the ones to help foster openness to a true friendship with a child with autism.  I hope these stories foster better communication between parents and children about unique friendships.  I also hope that these stories empower parents of children with autism to share their stories.  May all of our lives be enriched through the power of shared stories.

  • My son had the privilege of attending an amazing school called Rivendale from age 3-8.  This school worked with students with autism but also included a preschool for neuro-typical children.  This school cultivated the type of environment every mom dreams about for their child in that instead of focusing on the deficits, we focused on finding out each child’s unique gifts.  Every child learned that they had strengths and areas where they struggle but the hope was to instill confidence that we can celebrate our strengths and put energy towards our struggles.  Peyton’s confidence and acceptance of who he is as a person is due in large part to this school.  He will talk about his struggles with autism openly because he accepts that all people have different struggles in life.   He will also come home and say, “I rocked that STAAR test!”  Where lots of children have anxiety about large tests, he knows that he will do his best.
  • Here is a story from a neuro-typical friend we met when he was 5:   Ahlante was lucky enough to create some great friendships during his time at Rivendale. As with all childhood friends, each one influenced him in a different way. I believe the most valuable lesson taught in his short time with Peyton and his other friends was that of acceptance. As I look back, I don’t believe there was ever a time that Ahlante mentioned a difference between him or the other neuro-typical children and the children with autism. He was taught that a friend is a friend no matter if there are differences in behavior. This valuable lesson has made a great impact on Ahlante during his elementary school years. He has been chosen for several leadership and mentor roles and continues to see people for who they truly are.
  • We noticed around 6 months that he was not reaching milestones and I began to read about autism and the importance of early intervention.  We pushed for an early intervention program and after his first birthday, we began therapy.  Peyton was taught to be interested in playing with toys and not just sit on the floor and flap his hands.  He was taught to roll, to crawl, to walk, to talk and even to chew his food.  Trained therapist lead Peyton’s teaching, but I taught him on a day-to-day basis.  Many times even my own family thought I was being too pushy or too hard on Peyton.  My dad felt like I was not loving and accepting him for who he was but as his mother, I knew that if I did not push then I would not get the opportunity to know my son.  So, I would push up to the edge of total meltdown (mom and son meltdown!) and then reward for progress made.  This was a brutal process on me and on Peyton but now I have the awesome privilege of knowing this beautiful soul .  He is my hero.

I believe in the power of sharing our story.  I open up most of Peyton’s school meetings with reminders of where we started at age 1 and how far we have come.  Just last year, I was told that because of his IQ, he would plateau after second grade level work.  I reminded where we have been and how far we have come and so I asked that we not let that scientific information cloud what we ask and what we expect of Peyton.  I want him to be challenged and now we have grown academically more this year than ever before.

  • One fall day after church, his friend wanted to play tackle football in our fellowship hall.  As the Associate pastor at our church this is not something we condone but these things happen!  Well, after this friendly game, Peyton got in the car, grabbed his wrist, turned white and started sweating profusely.  Not knowing what had happened, we drove home quickly and applied ice.  As he sat on our love seat with an ice pack, I asked him what happened.  He said, “my friend wanted to play tackle football.”  I followed this with another question, “Peyton, you don’t like tackle football so why would you join in?”  His sweet little face looked up at me and said, “But my best friend wanted to play.”  To him, an opportunity to play with his friend was worth an afternoon spent at Urgent Care.
  • We had a child at school who was annoyed with my son’s repetition of a certain word.  This child wrote my son a note that told him he wanted to kill Peyton because Peyton was annoying him.  The school handled the situation beautifully but so did my child.  We talked about the situation and he shared how fearful he was about going to school and I let him know that he was safe.  He then said, “Mom,  (friend’s name)’s parents are going through a divorce.”  That is all he said but I was given a window into the beautiful soul of my child that saw through another child’s behavior into the reason for the pain and anger.
  • He has faced so many challenges in life not only with autism but with the diagnosis as failure to thrive and now ID (intellectual disability) but he faces them all with such acceptance and courage.  This week, he is preparing a report, slide show, and practicing presenting all the information to his class.  He picked his favorite NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon.  He was very proud to show us at home all that he had worked on at school.  After he showed us his work, I asked him how he felt about standing up in front of the class to present.  He said, “It’s fine.”  I told him that I stand up in front of people every Sunday and that I still get nervous every single time.  He said, “I am not nervous.  I just present the information I have worked on all week.”  I never possessed that kind of courage as a 5th grader.
  • One summer, we decided to pick up a few friends and head to the water park.  We love water parks and all the slides except for the ones that go straight down!  Peyton’s friend had never been to a water park and was very scared but excited about trying the slides.  We arrived at the water park and headed for the family slide so that all of us could go on the first slide together in a large tube!  At the end of that ride, Peyton was so excited to talk to his friend about his experience on his first water slide.  The friend confided that he liked it but was not ready to try any of the other slides.  I held my breath thinking that Peyton was going to be frustrated about not going on a different slide but he replied, “That’s ok.  Let’s do this one again!”  The entire day at the water park, we rode the same slide over and over again.
  • My friend whose daughter has autism sent me a story about friendship that I would love to share.  She considers her daughter to be severely affected by autism:

My son’s best friend is a little girl whose mother is a special education teacher.  This little girl also has a very compassionate heart and is not afraid of my daughter.  One day, my son and his friend were in the backyard jumping on the trampoline.  My daughter kept looking out the window, so I let her out to join them.  As I looked at the kids jumping on the trampoline, that’s exactly what I saw.  Three kids.  Not two neuro-typical children and one with severe autism, but three KIDS.  Three kids jumping and laughing and having fun.  It was then that I realized that friendship doesn’t have to involve words.  The smiles on the three children’s faces spoke volumes about friendship.

I was listening to my children talk about making friends one day in the kitchen.  My neuro-typical daughter has a very difficult time connecting to her peers and sometimes just prefers to spend time on the playground alone with her thoughts.  She told my son that she makes friends over a longer period of time.  My son replied that if he wanted a friend, he would walk up and say, “Hi, my name is Peyton” and then he has a friend.  Sometimes I have to remember that beginning a friendship can be that simple.

Do you have a child with autism and have a story about friendship to tell?  Do you have a neuro-typical child who has a friend with autism?  We need to hear your stories so please share your stories in the comments section.    As Peyton says, “Let’s do this thing!”

beach42

Counting Hairs

IMG_3904

My worst nightmare began at 8am Sunday morning.  Lice.  I became a mother 12 years ago and the one thing I feared most was lice.  My friend’s children would get lice and I would pray for their sanity but even more urgently I would pray, “Dear God, please not us!!”  Creepy crawly little creatures in my daughter’s hair.  Needless to say, the thought of going to church flew out of my mind while I text friends for advice,consulted with Google, started laundry & ran to the store to get an OTC lice treatment.  The next three hours were filled with tears, my daughters and mine, as we worked through the process.  Hair by hair, we massaged in the solution.  Hair by hair, we combed out the excess.  Hair by hair, we picked out the nits.  Hair by hair, we  seal it all in with the hair dryer.  Exhausted and shaking from trying to console my beautiful daughter while trying not to hurt her sensitive head, we swore that this was the worst Sunday EVER.  Then, I began the process of treating my own hair just in case.

In some ways, this Sunday was the worst Sunday EVER, but as I reflected on my time spent at home instead of in church, I think I learned more this Sunday spent at home with the lice.   Now, I love my church & my Sunday school class.  I am a minister by profession and so I promote corporate worship whole heartedly.  Worship.  Community.  Spiritual Formation.  Fellowship.    I would not be a minister if these things were not at the core of my being but God always surprises us if we are ready.  This morning, I spent time meditating prior to all the craziness and in my meditation time, I felt a leading to look for where The Spirit is moving.  Naturally as a minister, I related this idea to my needing to be more present to The Spirit when I got to church.  Nope.  I expected to find The Spirit at church but today I found The Spirit in one of the most disgusting  jobs I ever had to do.

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” Jesus said.  This verse came to mind during the last bit of treating my daughter and then my own hair.  Now, I understand better what this means.  1-This takes time and dedication to the process.  God loves us so abundantly that God would sit and count every hair.  Think hours of conversation one on one.  Think tears.  Think kind and encouraging words. Think belly laughs as you look in the mirror and see half your hair down and half piled on top of your head with chip clips.  2-This kind of intimacy exposes areas that we are clean and free to be who God created us to be AND it exposes areas that need healing from our own chosen junk, baggage, anger, addictions, fear etc that are feeding off what is supposed to be life-giving like the lice needing to feed off of us. In this intimate setting, God sees it all. Like a loving parent, God celebrates over the areas where we have found freedom and God gently removes the nits and washes them down the drain.  God loves this setting because God wants us to come to be loved just as we are…… naked, crying, angry and lice infested.

I might have missed this sweet message as I am sure I often do. I find God’s messages easier to hear when I sit in church ready and prepared to listen, but in everyday life, I am not always so intentional.  God always wants to spend this intimate time with me but I have to set my intention to open my mind, my heart and my body to the healing process.    Today, I felt in the flow with this God as I sat in the bathroom counting hairs.

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