Tag Archives: dreams

Is the movement finally starting? Keep praying and pushing.

When Donald Trump was elected, I hoped it was the final straw to break the power of delusion choking so many people here in the last days of the Empire. There is some evidence this week that my hope was not in vain. The Spirit of God is moving among us and in our region and people are waking up. Things are happening that remind me of the stories I have heard about Jesus appearing to Muslims in places where it is illegal to even entertain the thought of becoming a Christian. People who can’t trust and are afraid to think are meeting Jesus personally in ways that change them forever.

Movement: the Spirit poured out
Acts 2:17

The movement of the Spirit in our church never really ground to a halt, but it seemed to slow so much, we began to wonder if we were missing something or doing something wrong. Our “flywheel” was slowing down and we realized we had better get behind it and do some pushing so the engine of our mission would get back to speed. We have been doing that and things are changing.

But there is only so much pushing one can do. The movement of the Spirit in a group or society is a mystery that is more about prayer than technique. So I have been praying for us and praying for our region, country and the whole desperate world. And I am not alone. Many of us have been drawn to pray and we have even started groups to do it together.

Evidence keeps popping up that something is starting. I almost don’t want to talk about it, lest I be wrong. But it is hard not to appreciate the possibility.

Cell mates of all kinds

For instance, my pastor, Rachel, could not contain herself last week and had to share the good things happening  in our cells:

  • She visited our Spanish-speaking cell and sensed the presence of God so strongly it made her “choke back tears.” The members were opening up about their lives, sharing real struggles and then praying for each other and reading the Bible together. For some of them, it was all brand new.
  • At her own cell, her host “shared a growing sense that Someone is leading her into a future that she doesn’t know yet, and she is actually excited about that, because she’s discovering that God has better things in store for her than she had for herself. She’s being surprised by hope.”
  • Then on her walk home, she ran into three of Jimmy & Zoe’s cell mates who looked like something good had just happened to them. They had just prayed with two friends who asked to receive Christ right there in their meeting.

A deluded millennial

About the same time, I was looking around YouTube for this video when I ran into this one by Steve Bancarz. I understand about zero why anyone would listen to a YouTube personality or how they get a following. But here is this guy who apparently made a living selling “new age” philosophies through his website. Then he had this remarkable experience with Jesus, gave it all up, and started his new internet business: debunking his old one.

I almost never get through a fifteen minute video, but this one intrigued me. When it was done, I felt it might be a scam. But evangelical outlets like Christian Post and Charisma have been telling the story too. His experience is like ones reported by Muslims, in which Jesus came to him and convinced him to change. I think his fundamentalist connections are serving him well as he gets over his drug use. It should be interesting to see how he moves on. Is this how Jesus is going to penetrate the despairing, enslaved, avoidant and cynical millennials?

A burned out evangelical

Movement from outside and in
Ocean waves and brain waves

Finally, I have been reading an “earth” book I keep recommending to people who don’t have faith, or who are interested in the new atheist arguments: Finding God in the Waves. It is about a Christian who lost his faith but who also had a life changing experience with God at the beach one night. He became “Science Mike” on the podcast from the group known as the  Liturgists  who say, “We create art and experiences for the spiritually homeless and frustrated.” (I have not listened their podcast, I admit).  Gungor is also a “Liturgist;” you can click his name and get a ticket to hear him on August 1 at 1125 S. Broad.

In Finding God in the Waves, Mike describes how science convinced him faith is not only possible, but preferable. Here is a quote about what he found most convincing:

“Trying to describe God is a lot like trying to describe falling in love. And that’s a serious problem for people who doubt that God is real…The unbelieving brain has no God construct, no neurological model for processing spiritual ideas and experiences in a way that feels real. This is why Bible stories and arguments for God’s existence will always sound like nonsense to a skeptic. For the unbeliever, God is truly absent from his or her brain. …

[Unlike how Christians tend to view solutions to doubt] neurotheology treats doubt as a neurological condition and would instead encourage people to imagine any God they can accept, and then pray or meditate on that God, in order to reorient the person’s neurobiological image of God back toward the experiential parts of the brain.…This insight was the most significant turning point in my return to God. I now knew I had to stop trying to perfect my knowledge of God and instead shift toward activities that would help me cultivate a healthy neurological image of God – secure in the knowledge that this network would help me connect with God and live a peaceful, helpful life.” 

It all amazes me. The desperate immigrants and illegals, the millions who are deluded by spirituality without Jesus, the science-laden who think their disciplines exclude the possibility of God, all of them popped up in my own experience with a story about Jesus coming to them in a way they never expected. And now they are joined around our own table in an odd way, celebrating the life, death and resurrection of the Lord.

Pray and push. Move with the movement. I can tell you are doing it, so all I can say is that I am with you as you pray and push. I am with you as we celebrate how Jesus transforms people who never expected to meet Him.

The pleasure of dreaming with God

Let’s consider how God might move us through a dream. Last night I talked a lot about dreaming in honor of Peter’s great outburst of enthusiasm as he quoted the prophet Joel to explain what the Holy Spirit of God had done in the gathered disciples on Pentecost.

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.’ Acts 2:16-17 (from Joel 2:28)

Prophecy, visions and dreams are being poured out “upon all flesh” as God calls us back into the spiritual intimacy we were created to enjoy.

Scientists measure dreams

This reality is a bit off the grid for many of us. We have been trained to think our dreams, in particular, are a matter of predictable, physical processes we can measure — and it is true, researchers have been watching our dreams for a long time. The invention of the electroencephalograph allowed scientists to study sleep in ways that were not previously

Eugene Aserinsky measured dreams
Eugene Aserinsky

possible. During the 1950s, a graduate student named Eugene Aserinsky (along with others, but long live graduate students!) used this tool to discover what is known today as REM sleep. Further studies demonstrated how sleep progresses through a series of stages in which different brain wave patterns are displayed. We mainly dream during stage four when we experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep (also known as active sleep or paradoxical sleep).

Continue reading The pleasure of dreaming with God

Good, Disturbing Dreams

My friend told me about a troubling dream the other day. He was disturbed by it. He was interpreting it according to his ordinary awareness—the same awareness he has about what he feels about his dinner choices or his latest review from the boss. So he was not completely excited when I became enthused about what he had dreamt. He initially thought I was taking his bad feelings lightly.

I thought his dream was a wonderful expression of his spiritual awareness, which I have had the privilege of watching as it developed. Just below the surface of his ordinary awareness, his dreams were holding the spiritual awareness of the great changes God was making in him. I think that God’s work in us is emanating from places too deep for us to be fully aware of. We can often spot what is happening and cooperate when his works rises as close to our ordinary awareness as our dreams.

In this case the dream seemed to be about the classic struggle to put together the competing and complementary elements of the gifts and desires we all contain. How can I be myself and serve? How can I do what I want and do what I should? How can I follow love and still tell the truth? How can I experience what I think I need and still give what I have to contribute? How can I leave my past behind and still be true to what I have become? In the words of Jesus: how can I lose my life and find it? It is no wonder that the dream felt disturbing! Spiritual birth pangs were sending an urgent message that something new was trying to be born.

I am wondering how many of my readers are experiencing similar disturbance? What are your dreams telling you? I have to say that I think our whole network has definitely experienced the surfacing of dreams lately – from Haddon and Fern’s emergence, to Frankford and Norris’ crowning new baby congregation, to the rumblings of newness at Broad and Washington. Several people have told me that they are aware that God is bringing about something new. Are you aware of it, too? Any dreamers care to share?

Pray and Not Faint…again

This morning, I woke up to one of those dreams with a cast of thousands. Gwen and I were going to some show at some stadium and I had a part in it. But I had forgotten my script in the room, so I went dashing back to get it. Halfway to the room I realized I had no keys and no time to get back to Gwen and no cell phone to call her and no idea where I was and no one would help me for various reasons, etc. It was a good, frustrating dream about anxieties and inabilities trying to find a way to the surface to be redeemed. It was a good post-Lent dream about facing the possibilities that were uncovered during the long season of turning toward death and leaning into life.

As I meditated on the dream, I remembered a blog post I wrote last September about being reminded to “Pray and not faint” (Luke 18:1 KJV). I translated the word of the Lord to me as, “If you come up against the impossible, my friends, pray with abandon.”

Generally, I have been pretty successful at listening to that word and doing it since then. I not only did not faint, I think I got better at praying. The most immediate results were that I grew up some more, I faced some more fears, I reconciled more relationships, I withstood some major meltdowns among my intimates and God built some new capacity in me and the church. Now, as my dream seems to indicate, it is back to square one – time to face the next big things and the big societal things (that did not pray with me) and not faint…again. It is time to take a few more little chunks out of the hide of the monsters that we are all facing. Joshua and I were talking about a few of them yesterday when we met, and they are still much like what I was noting last year:

“Some days I feel surrounded by a spirit of disengagement. It’ s not that everyone is possessed by it, of course, but so many of us seem to be trying to survive by keeping away from threatening or even challenging people, by hiding from the overwhelming facts of gigantic governments and corporations fighting for power, by avoiding enormous info machines dominating communication, incomprehensible food production and invasive medical care turning us into things we can’t imagine. In my neighborhood, people try to turn a blind eye to the constant threat that the thousands of guns littering the zip code will be used when the thin fabric of community finally tears.”

Post Lent, it is always tempting to keep eating chocolate, to return to the bad habits we gave up for Jesus (or at least for Lent), to let our spiritual belts out a few notches and to re-insulate ourselves with the fat of the false promises which dissipation offers us as a substitute for being truly safe and happy. It is tempting to go back into some numbing habit that puts us into a stupor of avoidance rather than pray.

I feel blessed today that my interpretation of my dream is like an alarm bell – a stupor alert. Jesus ended his word to his disciples with, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8) Rather than sinking into the frustrations of my inabilities churning around in my unconscious or cowering in the face of the monstrosities of my time, I need to pray with abandon. I need to trust the Lord and be found trustworthy. I need to pray and not faint…again.