Dec 31, 2009


A thought for this New Year:

"Somehow our welcome into the Kingdom of God is tied to our welcome of others." Matthew 25, Luke 12 ~ Christine Pohl

Dec 30, 2009

Lonely. Depressed. Sick. Addicted. Stressed. Find Rest in Jesus

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.

Jesus says:

"Come. Come all of you who are sick and tired and stressed out. Those of you weighed down by life, those of you weighed down by your sins. Hey! You over there! Yeah, you who are spinning your wheels but find yourself only deeper in a rut. Hey Mr.! Hey Miss! I can see you're exhausted because of your rebellious child and are paralyzed by debt. I know that you lost your job and you're worried sick that you won't find another one before your bills and collectors swallow you up.

Lonely singles, come to me.

Those of you anxious to fit in at school, who feel disliked and misunderstood, come.

College student--you can't sleep because you're about to graduate and you're not dating anyone. You wonder about marriage--you don't want to live alone the rest of your life. You worry about finding a job in a bad economy along with the others who have been laid off. Come to me.

Addicts, addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, shopping, or approval, come to me. Come to me, all of you who feel trapped by your sins, who feel like life is a noose around your neck.

If you're depressed, even so bad that you can't get out of bed, come to me.

Those of you sick, fearing the diagnosis, come to me.

You may ask me, 'Jesus, why should we come to you and not go to a self-help book, money, careers, our drugs of choice, or someone else's arms?' And I tell you because I am gentle, not violent. I won't kick you when you're down or suck the life out of you. You get what I promise you--peace and rest. Everything else is just a mirage, an illusion in the desert. I am the oasis in the desert. I am real. I am Faithful. I am True. My peaceful ways are but a light burden, easy compared to the ones you are now carrying."

If you wonder what it means to come to Jesus, please reader, cry out to him. Find a Christian you trust. He or she can help you come. Ask for prayer and seek him out. He will not disappoint you, although his ways of bringing about peace in your soul may be different than you expected.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you, too. I leave you with the Message version of Matthew 11:28-30:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Dec 29, 2009

Does a Large Congregation Mean a Church and Pastor Are Blessed by God?

"On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

John 6:60 (NIV)

"From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." John 6:66 (NIV)

As we traveled south on I-75 in western Ohio, my husband Shawn and I wondered whether or not the following was true: huge church = blessing of God. A comment we heard by a popular preacher sparked the discussion. She said something like, "Small churches of 80-150 are that small because they're not being Jesus to others." She is the pastor of a very large church--a church with thousands upon thousands of people.

I get what she is saying. I believe she would say that Jesus attracted people to himself, so people (who are hurting and searching) would want to come to our churches if we were being Jesus to them. If people aren't coming to our churches, it's because we're not being Jesus to those around us.

I grant her point. But then I think about some mega-churches with thousands attending. It is probably true that these pastors are charismatic, good at amassing followers, and good at telling parishioners what they want to hear. Yet perhaps they're more in love with money, fame, and prestige. Because it just is the case that in some of these churches pastors don't share the gospel and good news of the kingdom; they share and spread heresy. The Old Testament indicates that the nation of Israel was full of false prophets who told people what they wanted to hear. Consequently, it should be no surprise that false prophets infiltrate our churches today (and they're not just in mega-churches!).

There are pastors of small congregations who are wonderful people and powerful preachers--who follow Jesus daily and still have tiny congregations. What gives?

Well, I am not completely sure and the answer to that question isn't within the scope of this little post. I will just say that Shawn and I concluded the obvious: huge church does not necessarily = the blessing of God. A corollary is: small church doesn't necessarily = curse of God.

Jesus had huge crowds following him. His popularity threatened the religious rulers of his day. However, in John 6, when he told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, many turned away. The number of followers shrank because of the offense of the gospel. The gospel is offensively good news.

If we are preaching and living the truth in our churches--following Jesus with our hearts, souls, strengths and minds, many will be attracted but some will be repelled.

Dec 24, 2009

Most Blessed Christmas To You! Take A Look Around

May the wonder of God with us invade your soul and the entire earth! We have perpetually good news!

Hey, please take a look around the up on some old posts. Perhaps you'll find something worthwhile. I'll be away from computer technology for several days up to a week. I'll post some time before the new year.

Thanks for stopping by!


Dec 23, 2009

God's Will

This is a snippet from Reverend Robert Arbogast's 4th Sunday of Advent Sermon at Olentangy Christian Reformed Church in Columbus, Ohio. He is a humble and gifted preacher and a wonderful person. If you would like to read more of his sermons, and I highly recommend it, just go to:

". . . people are always quoting Micah 6:8 about doing justice. But the whole set of verses there in Micah 6 are instructive for today's purposes. 'What should I offer to God?' That's the question. 'What should I offer to God? I'm not sure what God wants. A burnt offering of a thousand rams? Rivers and rivers of olive oil? Is that what God wants from me, something expensive like that? How about my own child, my first born? How about I do what Abraham almost did? Is that what God wants from me?'

That's the question and here's the answer: 'He has told you, he has told you what is good. He has told you what is required. You already know. Just do it!' Are we as ignorant of God's will as we sometimes tell ourselves we are, protesting the lack of a sign or clear signal from God, when we already know? Say I have a spare $150. I may think about buying a new "stompbox" for my electric guitar, even though I don't need one. Another option would be to send the money to the Open Door ministry in Kalazmazoo, Michigan, a ministry that helps vulnerable people get on their feet and take their place in society.

Well, don't I know what God wants me to do with my $150? Isn't it less a question of knowing what God wants than wanting what God wants? That's sure how it is for me. I know you can supply your own examples. Times in the past when you knew what God wanted but you didn't want what God wanted. Times in the past--and maybe you have an example right now, something that is haunting you because you know what God wants. And none of the excuses you've tried have worked, none of the attempts to forget what you know, what you know better than you want to. You know what God wants but you don't want it yourself. And you're ready to turn your back. Mary could have turned her back . . . . Mary could have said, "No!" But she said, "Yes!" She decided in faith to want what God wanted, whatever the price. A sword would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). You and I? We'll turn our backs because of inconvenience. We'll turn our backs because we have other plans, plans for the evening or plans for our lives. But Mary is our model, as is everyone who makes herself a servant of God's will.

Advent, the patient season, is nearly over. The time is upon us, the time to welcome the Lord. For you, for me, for the Church, the time has come. Time to do what we know. Time to put ourselves and what we treasure at risk. Time to trust God enough to welcome and to serve what God wants, and to learn in time to want it, too. Amen.

Dec 22, 2009

Joy Unspeakable

You give me joy that is unspeakable
And I like it, I like it, yeah
Your love for me is irresistable
I can't fight it, I can't fight it yeah,
You carried the cross and took my shame,
I believe it, I believe it, yeah
You shine the light of amazing grace,
I receive it, I receive it yeah . . . .

Lyrics above from the song "Joy" by the Newsboys

I throw my head back in laughter
as inklings of the divine
reverberate throughout me
I'm enraptured,
full of joy because of the implications
and benefits and glories of Christ's
incarnation, death and resurrection.
Immanuel, God with us! O the joy!
O the goodness of God.

My Magnificat.

May the divine inklings find you this Christmastide.

Dec 21, 2009

Perception Determines Theology

"Yet a time is coming and now has come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kinds of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and this worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:23,24 (NIV).

If our perceptions of God are inconsistent with his own revelation of himself, then we do not have an accurate understanding of him (granted, we will never completely be able to perceive him). If we worship the God of our fancy, we do not have an accurate understanding of him and our spirits are not worshiping in truth. Instead, we are worshiping a false image, an idol. Our view of God, in other words, our theology, will determine how we live. However, our perception determines our theology. And our theology will determine how we respond to God, ourselves, the world, others, and ideas. Thus, it seems that it is of utmost importance that we have the most accurate understanding (perception) of God that is available to us. All else turns on this.

Until Jesus touches our eyes again and again, we are like the blind man in the Scriptures who saw trees. His perception was skewed until Jesus touched his eyes a second time. Each time Jesus touches our eyes, truths, like the faces of the people in the gospel story, come into clearer focus. As Jesus touches our eyes, through his word, through creation, through others, through beauty, through the wisdom of the ages--we start to see God clearly and consequently, everything else clearly.

Dec 20, 2009

Reflections On Scripture - Fourth Sunday of Advent

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)

"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. . . . He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.'" Luke 1: 46-48, 52 Part of Mary's Magnificat (NIV).

What does it mean to walk humbly with God? I can think of a few things. We shouldn't promote ourselves and our agenda. Jesus said that the greatest ones in the kingdom of heaven would be the servants of all. We are not the ones who call the shots in our lives.

Walking humbly means that we patiently trust him and believe in him to work things out for good in our lives, even when we can see no good in our circumstances or in the circumstances of those around us. It means that we place our confidence in him and wait without striving, even when we are itching to take action on our own behalf despite God having forbidden us from doing so.

Walking humbly means that we assume people besides ourselves have words of wisdom to offer. We listen to others who disagree with us without dehumanizing them or clobbering them with our beliefs. It also means that we listen to ancient wisdom, not assuming that our denomination or stripe of Christianity represents the full breadth of God's wisdom.

It means being full of grace and truth like Jesus. And only Jesus can cultivate grace and truth in our lives. We need only be open to him (a disclaimer: God's cultivation of fruits in our lives such as grace and truth is often painful as he must till the hard and unplowed ground of our lives in order for us to flourish).

God elevates those who do not elevate themselves but elevate him.

We see how he elevated Mary. She was blessed among women for carrying and raising our Savior. As pastor Bob said this morning, God chose a girl in a backwater town--not (these are my words) a girl from the royal court. She had no connections, nothing to recommend her. But God observed her and chose her.

God observes us--our quiet and secret obediences--our struggles and doubts. Nothing before him remains unseen.

Are you struggling with waiting on God to promote you, to work in and through you? Wait on God. He promises to lift up those who humble themselves before him--in due time.

Do you have insights on what it means to walk humbly? If so, do share them with me and any others that stumble across this blog! We have much to learn from you.

May God's blessing rest upon you.

Dec 19, 2009

Head Into the Wilderness this Season

The wilderness in the Bible is always seen as the antithesis of society. It is the barren place where people have to go to hear God's word because there is just too much noise in society that drowns out God's voice. We know that John spent a lot of time in the wilderness, and that is why he knew about God's word. If you really want to hear the word of God, you too have to withdraw from the noise. That is why we keep inviting you to worship. Here you can hear sounds the busy world doesn't make. As your hurried life is calmed, at last you are prepared to hear the still small voice of God's word.

Craig Barnes

Dec 18, 2009

Inner Peace

The Holy Spirit kneads peace into our souls as we continually give up our worry and self-reliance--as we cease striving. Indeed, even though quietness is an unnatural state for most of us, those who place their utmost confidence in God find that the Holy Spirit, among other things, produces a spring of inner peace and tranquility that continually bubbles forth throughout their lives. And therefore the unnatural thing is unrest.

Dec 17, 2009

At Play In the Fields of the Lord!

I think about a lot of serious issues. I care deeply about the worldwide body of Christ. I want to be Jesus to others. Those who read my blog might ascertain a few things about me, like some of the issues I care about and think about. Perhaps some might think I am a killjoy 'nary ever allowing laughter to escape from my mouth. However, what you may not know is that I laugh a lot, that I find people, including myself, funny. I know God laughs a lot. He celebrates. One day there will be a great wedding feast, where entire nations and people groups will celebrate. I am sure there'll be singing and dancing and much laughter and much horseplay. I'll never forget what my pastor in Rochester, NY, Russ Palsrok, said on Sunday morning. He said that we could be sure that Jesus danced at weddings. Jesus did partake of the wine that wasn't mostly water. Up until that time, I had never pictured Jesus dancing. But that is what they did at Jewish weddings.

I think sometimes we forget that Jesus enjoyed himself in the midst of his calling. I wonder what Jesus found funny? The first question and answer in the Westminster Catechism calls us to love God and enjoy him forever. And an implication of loving and enjoying God is that we will love and enjoy others and life. That's part of being fully human. So, if those of you who do not know me personally have found me to be dour, I apologize. Those who do know me know that I am not.

Blessings this day!

Dec 16, 2009

Fighting Against Abortion Is Working For Social Justice Too!

I believe we will be judged for our casual indifference toward the children we allow to die through abortion. We're horrified at the WWII German people for allowing the Holocaust and the South for allowing slavery. We're nauseated by our massacre of Native Americans. But here we are, amusing ourselves to death in the midst of the abortion massacre. We are as guilty as the German people, the South, and those who oppressed and murdered the Native Americans. May God have mercy on us. May our children not ask why we Christians, collectively, didn't do more.

Dec 15, 2009

Preaching, Origen, and Arrows of God

"In his commentary on Psalm 36 Origen is talking of Christian preachers under the metaphor of arrows of God. 'All in whom Christ speaks, that is to say every upright man and preacher who speaks the word of God to bring men to salvation--and not merely the apostles and prophets--can be called an arrow of God. But, what is rather sad,' he continues, 'I see very few arrows of God. There are few who so speak that they inflame the heart of the hearer, drag him away from his sin, and convert him to repentance. Few so speak that the heart of their hearer is deeply convicted and his eyes weep for contrition. There are few who unveil the light of the future hope, the wonder of heaven and glory of God's kingdom to such effect that by their earnest preaching they succeed in persuading men to despise the visible and seek the invisible, to spurn the temporal and seek the eternal. There are too few preachers of this calibre.'"

From Michael Green's book Evangelism in the Early Church p. 245.

Oh that my words and life be an arrow of God!

Dec 14, 2009

Greedy Church Staff, Power, and Poverty

A friend of mine recently related some exceptionally disturbing details about her church. It has over a million dollar budget but spends 99.9% of it's money on itself (salaries and building). None of the money is going to missions. That's right, zero dollars in the budget for missions! Close to $25,000 is allotted to the phone plan. And under $15,000 is going to help those in the local community. $3,000 goes to the youth group. Are other outreach ministries in the church eating up the budget? Nope. They get nothing either.

My friend is wrestling with whether or not she should give to the church or just donate to ministries outside of her church. It's my opinion that she should not give to her church. Her money, and most of the parishioners' money, is going to salaries and a building. Don't get me wrong, I believe the worker should be paid her or his wage. But in this case, from what I understand, the workers are getting rich off of the church. They've forgotten the poor. In my opinion, giving to her church is like giving money to a corrupt organization or government. The whole situation is nauseating.

She confronted the pastor and staff about the complete lack of missions funding. They said they probably could find money for missions somewhere. Hmmm.

To me it looks like the staff doesn't want to give up their salaries and expensive lifestyle. My friend is convinced of the same.

In his book, Power and Poverty: Divine and Human Rule in a World of Need, Dewi Hughes makes a statement that makes me tremble. I provide the context and then highlight the statement:

"the creation of humankind in the image of God is reaffirmed and seen as the basis for a very high view of the value of human life, so that murder opens an account that can be paid only by the blood of the murderer. Cain was indeed Abel's keeper (Genesis 4:9b). Many Christians believe that this text means that capital punishment is the just response to homicide. To discuss this is beyond the scope of this book, but if poverty is primarily the result of oppression, then whose who cause the death of the poor through oppression are guilty of murder. The way we live in luxury in the minority world while millions die in poverty could well make us liable for the blood of the poor before God. Ignorance and a lack of intent can reduce culpability, but there could still be blood on our hands.

May God have mercy on us and may we, may I, in the name of Jesus, do what is right (not just say what is right) on behalf of the poor and powerless.

Dec 11, 2009

Beautiful Assurance From The Heidleberg Catechism

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Dec 10, 2009

There is Life

There is life in the desert. God brings life in the least likely places, even in the desert wilderness.

Dec 9, 2009

Howard Thurman on Hatred

Jesus and the Disinherited is one of the best books I have read. We were required to read it in seminary. I highly recommend it.

Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment. The urgent needs of personality for creative expression are starved to death. A man's horizon may become so completely dominated by the intense character of his hatred that there remains no creative residue in his mind and spirit to give to great ideas, to great concepts. He becomes lopsided.

~ Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited page 88.

Dec 8, 2009


Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives--healing, teaching, and guiding--we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention.

~ Henri Nouwen in Making All Things New

Dec 7, 2009

When Despair Grows In Me

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be -- I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

A quote from Wendell Berry

Dec 6, 2009

Prepare For The God Who Comes - Second Sunday of Advent Meditation

Luke 3:1-6

1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "[a]

Prepare the Way for the Lord!

In ancient times, inhabitants of cities built wide, straight, smooth roads when kings were coming into the city. The king had to have a special entrance. Craig Barnes tells us that:

One of the most exciting archeological digs going on in Israel is in Beit Shean which is uncovering a great Roman City. If you go there today you can see the main entrance into the city which is a wide, straight, even road, with magnificent columns on either side. That city is located at the juncture of the Jezreel and Jericho valleys. John the Baptist must have been by it all the time. Anyone traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem would have seen it. Everyone knew that a long straight road was what you made when a king was coming.[1]

The Romans spent a lot of time building good roads so that they could expand their empire. Roads were used as trade routes, for foot travel, and to move armies from place to place. And as I said earlier, the best roads were built to welcome the royal entourage. It is said that at the height of the Roman Empire, there were 53,000 miles of good road.[2] Of course the roads fell into disrepair when the empire crumbled. But some of those ancient roads are still used today, although they’ve been paved and repaved over and over again.

During Advent, we wait in joyful expectation preparing for the God who comes, for the God who is always coming as Carlo Carretto so beautifully put it. We need God to come because we are inclined toward destruction. Left to ourselves we make straight paths crooked and smooth places rough. We throw booby traps onto the road, make pot-holes or manholes that people fall into and can’t climb out of. Left to ourselves, we cut paths that depart from the way, the truth, and life without even knowing it, ending up God-knows-where. Left to ourselves, we become destroyers of the road and destroyers of all who pass by—robbing them, beating them up and even killing them. We pollute. We corrupt. We devalue the valuable and value the worthless. So you see, we desperately need the God who comes and is always coming and will eventually come to redeem all things.

I love my husband and daughter infinitely, but at times I say and do things that can destroy, things that mar the beauty of our marriage and family. I cringe as I think about a time when words that I meant for good, had an evil effect in the church, on a friend, because I didn’t think more about how to say them. And you know, as Coldplay sings, sometimes I wonder if I am part of the cure or part of the disease, the destruction. So you see, I desperately need the God who comes, who is coming.

John the Baptist has been considered by some to be the last Old Testament prophet. Although he wasn’t the Messiah, he paved the way for Jesus the Messiah. He was filling religious valleys and excavating spiritual hills and mountains. But his road construction didn’t just affect and threaten the gospel-less religious institutions, his message paved socio-political and economic roads that some didn’t want paved. He both intrigued and threatened Herod in the political establishment. However, neither Herod nor his wife would allow John the Baptist to build inroads. So eventually he lost his head, beheaded on the road to Zion. Sometimes that happens when you make ready the pathways for the Lord. And God will reward those who sacrifice their lives to pave the way for his coming.

John the Baptist still speaks. He speaks to us in the words of Isaiah the prophet in Luke chapter three and calls us to prepare the way for the Lord, to make straight paths for him so that every valley is filled in, and every mountain and hill is made low. Then the crooked roads will become straight and the rough ways smooth. But we’re going to have a hard go of it, a hard time making straight paths for others if we are all crooked inside. And all of us are crooked in some way.

It is said that the phrase, “I am stumped” comes from back in the day when tree stumps were left on wagon trails.[3] Apparently, when the trees weren’t completely taken out, when stumps were left, sometimes wagons got hung up on a stump, thus the phrase, “I’m stumped.”[4] Are we stumping Christ, stumping others or are we currently stumped?

This Advent, Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts asking if he can come in to make the rough places in us smooth. Are we going to be hospitable to God? Are we going to allow him to get to work and fill in the valleys and bring low the hills and mountains in our souls so that we can do the same in the world? We must. For as Saint Teresa of Avila says (as quoted in A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants):

Christ has
No body on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes
Through which is to look out
Christ’s compassion on the world;
Yours are the feet
With which he is to go about
Doing good;
Yours are the hands
With which he is to bless now.[5]

Missing His Coming

We know Christ came, is coming and will come again, but we need to remind ourselves that it is possible to miss his coming. Many who looked forward to his coming, missed it because he came unexpectedly. Most of the educated religious people of his day missed it. And today, we can miss him because we’re too busy. Too busy paving our own roads while claiming to be doing his work. Notice that the word of God came to John the Baptist in the desert. The desert wilderness was a place where people went to hear God.[6] Sometimes God sends us into the wilderness to get us away from our busy lives, so that we can hear him. Sometimes, we have to pack up and head there ourselves if we are to hear him. What I mean is, we have to have silence and solitude to hear God. It could be in our rooms or in a park in the city. But we have to make time to hear him speak.

Why? Because our incessant busyness puts us in grave danger of missing Christ when he comes. We want to advance ourselves, sometimes in the church or in Christian institutions. So we miss him as we play church or play at Christianity. It is a very real danger. In Matthew 25, at the end of the age, when Jesus rewards those who were hospitable to him, who noticed him when he came, he says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”[7] We can’t say, Oh Jesus, I wanted to, but I was too busy doing things (or paving my own roads) to welcome you when you came. He’ll tell us to depart, that we never knew him. May that never be for anyone here. May we not miss Jesus when he comes.

I close with a poem written by monk John L’Hereux reprinted in the book, Monk Habits For Everyday People by Dennis Okholm:

Christ came into my room
and stood there
and I was bored to death.
I had work to do.
I wouldn’t have minded
If he’d been crippled
Or something—I do well
With cripples—but he
Just stood there, all face,
And with that d—ned guitar.
I didn’t ask him to sit down:
He’d have stayed all day.
(Let’s be honest. You can
Be crucified just so often;
Then you’ve had it. I mean
You’re useless; no good
To God, let alone
Anybody else.) So I said
To him after a while—
Well, what’s up? What do you want?
And he laughed, stupid,
Said he was just passing by
And thought he’d say hello.
Great, I said, hello.
So he left.
And I was so d—ned mad
I couldn’t even listen
To the radio. I went
And got some coffee.
The trouble with Christ is
He always comes at the wrong time.[8]

Christ is coming this Advent, may we be prepared for his coming and pave the way for him to come into the lives and institutions and the world so that all humankind will see his salvation. Amen.


[1] Found online at:
[2] Found online at:
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ruben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants, (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1983), 22.
[6] Found online at:
[7] Matthew 25:34-37 NIV.
[8] Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits For Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2007), 88.

Dec 4, 2009

Cynicism To Joy ~ From Henri Nouwen

For me, it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental. They sneer at enthusiasm, fervor, and despise charismatic behavior. They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by "escapist emotions." But in belittling God's joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other's wounds, forgive each other's offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God's glory. Every moment, I have the chance to choose between cynicism and joy . . . . Increasingly, I am aware of all these possible choices, and increasingly I discover that every choice for joy in turn reveals more joy and offers more reason to make life a true celebration in the house of the Father.

From The Return of the Prodigal Son page 109.

Dec 3, 2009

Hunger for Fame and Power in the Church/ Obscurity

Speaking of John the Baptist, Scripture says,"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." Luke 1:80

In the December 1, 2009 issue of the Christian Century, Andrew Finstuan, in an article entitled: Where is Reinhold Niebuhr when we need him? This American mess quotes Niebuhr as saying, "men want power and glory as much, if not more than material possessions." I think Niebuhr was on to something.

Even in Christendom, within every church community, within every heart, there is the temptation to promote self instead of God. Our flesh and the devil and his minions can take a good desire, a desire to serve God, and twist it so that it becomes self-serving. At times we're so hungry for fame and recognition and power (control) that we are willing to act in our own strength, do whatever it takes, to achieve the ambitions of our hearts. Perhaps unknowingly, we seek to overthrow God by seeking the glory and power and honor that he alone deserves. It is a subtle temptation because our ambitions, our wills are cloaked in righteousness. However, should we be stripped of that cloak, we find that we are not purely righteous for we want to be superstar writers, pastors, monastics, social-justice activists, priests, servers, moms, fathers, musicians, holy men and women because we seek glory and power for ourselves. The church is merely our venue for glory and power grabbing.

As I mentioned, we're often not aware of our sometimes sinister motives, but let us remember Jesus' words in Mattew 7:21, ""Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." If we are to enter the Kingdom, we have to be obedient to his will, not our own. And sometimes we equate our own will with his. So how do we know the difference? We must be careful to listen for his voice and direction (through Scripture first and foremost, tradition--the Christian community now and throughout the ages, reason and experience).

And we must remember that the Lord often forges his vessels in the fires of obscurity. Abraham away from his people, Joseph in prison, Moses in the desert for forty years, David in the wilderness fleeing from Saul, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus for the first thirty years of his life.

Obscurity--God's school of humility and purification, transformation, renewal, and wisdom. In obscurity we grow and become strong in spirit as did John the baptist.

Perhaps we'll leave obscurity and enter public ministry. Perhaps not. Either way, God is the one who decides. God is the one who promotes. And God is the one who alone receives the glory. It would behoove us, behoove me, to remember that the person who would be greatest in the Kingdom will be servant of all. Our God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another.

Dec 2, 2009

The Gospel Isn't General, It's Specific

Here is short excerpt from Eugene Peterson's commentary on 2 Samuel 12:7 "You are the man!" from his book: Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians (another book I recommend!)

This is the gospel focus: you are the man; you are the woman. The gospel is never about somebody else; it's always about you, about me. The gospel is never truth in general; it's always specific. The gospel is never a commentary on ideas or culture or conditions; it's always about actual persons, actual pain, actual trouble, actual sin: you, me; who you are and what you've done; who I am and what I've done.

It's both easy and common to lose this focus, to let the gospel blur into generalized pronouncements, boozy cosmic opinions, religious indignation. That's what David is doing in this story, listening to his pastor preach a sermon about somebody else and getting all worked up about this someone else's sin, this someone else's plight. That kind of religious response is worthless: it's the religion of the college dormitory bull session, the TV spectacular, the talk-show gossip. It's the religion of moral judgmentalism, self-righteous finger-pointing, the religion of accusation and blame.

With each additonal word in Nathan's sermon, David becomes more religious--feeling sorry for the poor man who lost his pet lamb, seething with indignation over the rich man who stole the lamb. Pitying and judging are religious sentiments that can be indulged endlessly, making us feel vastly superior to everyone around us, but they're incapable of making a particle of difference in our lives. David, pitying and judging, becoming more religious by the minute, absorbed in a huge blur of moral sentimentality.

And then the sudden, clear gospel focus: you are the one--you . . . . David is now in the gospel focus. Addressed personally, he answers personally: "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). He abandons the generalities of religion. He quits giving out opinions on other people's lives, good or bad, realizes his position before God--a sinner! A person in trouble, a person who needs help, a human being who nees God.

~ Eugene Peterson in Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everday Christians page 185.

Dec 1, 2009

No Dream World In Christian Community

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but of the truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner the shock of this disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

The very wise words of Bonhoeffer in Life Together page 27. I am pondering them yet again.