“If you will, you can become all flame.”

I have read the following conversation between two of the saints of the fifth century many times over during the past twenty plus years and it has never made sense to me:                                                                Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts.  What else can I do?”  Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven.  His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Why would I want my fingers to become like ten lamps of fire?  But today the story makes sense to me, at least my interpretation of it.  To me it all has to do with passion!  So often we live our spiritual journey with routine, on remote control.  We have our moments when something comes alive, but then we go back to remote control.  Passion is the missing ingredient in our faith journey.  Maybe that is why I so much enjoy being with Christians in the developing countries.  Many of them have a passion in their faith that I do not see in the United States, nor in myself.

Henri Nouwen is quoted by author Tony Jones as saying, “In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”  Passion is not something we create, but I think it is enhanced when we have the opportunity to experience God doing something that we “hadn’t planned or counted on.”  The Psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and the more we experience the goodness of the Lord, the greater our passion for our Lord becomes.

The word that I have used a couple times in the last few sentences is experience.  In my Lutheran tradition experience is not often mentioned.  Lutherans tend to be “head oriented,” not heart oriented.  Heart is not simply feelings; it is feelings, thoughts, intentions, intellect. Heart is all of who I am.  It is that which we believe in the head lived out in our total life, that is experienced!  No wonder so many people are leaving mainline churches if they do not have the opportunity or even the expectation of living, experiencing God in their lives.  Passion is a lived experience.

Boiler Rooms

I have just started reading a book called The Sacred Way by Tony Jones and in the opening pages he wrote briefly about the Boiler Room, a 24-7 prayer movement in England and so I, of course, went to the internet.  It is not simply an English movement but they are in half the countries of the world, touching 2,000,000 people with over 10,000 prayer rooms.

I submit this for us to be informed as to what God is doing around the world.  The following is from https://www.24-7prayer.com

The Vision Poem

Some words stick.

They pulse with meaning, and germinate in our heart and mind. Some words create longing, express hope, shape vision and change our direction. Resonant, infectious words like these had a big hand in shaping the 24-7 Prayer movement. Words shaped into phrases, crafted into a poem, a cry, a vision, scribbled late one night on the wall of the first ever 24-7 Prayer Room…
So this guy comes up to me and says, “What’s the vision? What’s the big idea?”
I open my mouth and words come out like this…

The vision?

The vision is JESUS – obsessively, dangerously, undeniably Jesus.
The vision is an army of young people.
You see bones? I see an army. And they are FREE from materialism.

They laugh at 9-5 little prisons. They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday. They wouldn’t even notice. They know the meaning of the Matrix, the way the west was won.

They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations. They need no passport. People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.
They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and
dirty and dying.

What is the vision?

The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes. It makes children laugh and adults angry. It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars. It scorns the good and strains for the best. It is dangerously pure.

Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation. It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games. This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause. A million times a day its soldiers choose to lose that they might one day win the great ‘Well done’ of faithful sons and daughters.

Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night. They don’t need fame from names. Instead they grin quietly upwards and hear the crowds chanting
again and again:

“COME ON!”

And this is the sound of the underground. The whisper of history in the making. Foundations shaking. Revolutionaries dreaming once again. Mystery is scheming in whispers. Conspiracy is breathing. This is the sound of the underground

And the army is discipl(in)ed. Young people who beat their bodies into submission.
Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade at arms. The tattoo on their back boasts “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes. Winners. Martyrs. Who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them?

And the generation prays like a dying man with groans beyond talking, with warrior cries, sulphuric tears and with great barrow loads of laughter!

Waiting. Watching. 24 – 7 – 365.

Whatever it takes they will give: Breaking the rules. Shaking mediocrity from its cosy little hide. Laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials. The advertisers cannot mould them. Hollywood cannot hold them. Peer-pressure is powerless to shake their resolve at late night parties before the cockerel cries.

They are incredibly cool, dangerously attractive inside.

On the outside? They hardly care. They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate but never to hide. Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives – swap seats with the man on death row – guilty as hell. A throne for an electric chair.

With blood and sweat and many tears, with sleepless nights and fruitless days, they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them.

Their DNA chooses JESUS. (He breathes out, they breathe in.) Their subconscious sings. They had a blood transfusion with Jesus. Their words make demons scream in shopping centres.

Don’t you hear them coming? Herald the weirdos! Summon the losers and the freaks. Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes. They walk tall and trees applaud, skyscrapers bow, mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension.

Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.

And this vision will be. It will come to pass; it will come easily; it will come soon. How do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God. My tomorrow is his today. My distant hope is his 3D. And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from heroes of the faith, from Christ himself. And he is the original dreamer, the ultimate winner.

Guaranteed.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” says Pete Greig, “just a very personal thing – trying to work out the call on my life and why I was awake at 3am praying when others were tucked up in bed!”

But somehow the words of ‘The Vision’ (as it was named) escaped that room and spread virally across the globe.

“I didn’t realise any of this until someone in Canada emailed my own poem to me saying they had come across it and thought I might like it”, continues Pete.

Before long ‘The Vision’ was being printed in magazines, remixed by DJs in New York and Sweden and even choreographed into dance in Spain! In 2001 The Vision was published in a magazine called ‘The Way’ which circulates a staggering 100,000 underground churches in China. The very same week the words were quoted by tens of thousands of young people at an event called ‘The Call’ in Washington DC. Somehow the words scrawled on a prayer room wall had taken on a life of their own. The Vision had become a personal mission-statement for many – a generational call to a living, impacting faith in Jesus.

storms

Remember the story of Jonah?  God called him to go to Nineveh.  Jonah obeyed, sort of.  He did go, but he chose the destination: Tarshish, as far away as possible from Nineveh in the known world at the time.   So it is a little ridiculous to say that Jonah obeyed!  He boarded a merchant ship and headed in the opposite direction.  That is, he headed west until God’s storm stopped him in his sea-born flight.

Eugene H. Peterson in the book Under the Unpredictable Plant says that “Storm is the environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved.” (p. 68)  Furthermore he says that “Prayer is the essential action in storm.” (p. 70)  Storms appear often in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.  There was a man named Noah who faced a major storm.  There was the storm of thunder, lightening and clouds on Mt Sinai for Moses, the storm on the Sea of Galilee for the disciples and the storm unleashed by God at the time of the death of his Son on Mt. Calvary.  This is to name of few of the storms that sweep through the pages of the Bible.

It is often in the storms of life that our faith is either made stronger or broken into seemingly irretrievable pieces.  How many people have I met who want no part of God because of some difficult tragedy, storm, in their lives, but equally there are those for whom storm is the means, the kiln, which God uses to create a beautiful vessel.  I have not figured it out why some are broken and others are fashioned in the storms of life, but for those who are fashioned and molded in storm, prayed is one of the essential tools of survival and growth.

In the midst of storms some people rely upon the “prayers of their youth,” those set, memorized prays from past years while others rely upon “free, spontaneous” prayers, prayers created in the “furnace” or in the belly of the great fish.   But Eugene Peterson points out that every word in Jonah’s prayer in crisis was from the Hebrew Prayer Book, the book of Psalms.  Psalms is the prayer book of both the Hebrew people and the followers of the Messiah.

It is my spiritual practice to read and pray the Psalms every day.  Most days the Psalms are simply read and prayed, but at other times they become so significant to me that I write in the margin of my Bible the day that I prayed them.  It is when the Psalms become the daily meat and potatoes of our spiritual food, that they then can become the necessary nutrients that we need in the storm.