Jun 29, 2010

Born Again. Again.

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. John 14:19-24

God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has made his home with me. I would say that my awakening dates back to June 24th 1988. I was 10 years old. It was then that I told Jesus that I'd follow him. Now I am 32 years old.

 Last night I was thinking about my life as a teenager. Back then I fervently followed Jesus. But there was a time where I fell into sin and was a slave to it. I had to be born again yet again. I don't mean that I somehow fell out of God's favor or that I lost my salvation. But that sin, that which I was a slave to, had to die. Only when it died, was I set free and given new life in that area. What I do mean is that not all parts of me are new. But I am being made new.

Slowly and surely, if we are in Christ, we are being made new. Things in us, habits, dispositions, temperments, sins--they have to die. If God were to excise all the death in us at once it'd be too much, too much for us. We couldn't take the pain. We couldn't learn all those lessons at once. So he does it little by little. One good thing about the wilderness is that in it we discover who we really are. That includes discovering things in us that we never saw previously. Things in us that have to die. We need to be born again, again. Wilderness suffering and difficulties are the fires that force our soul's dross, our soul's impurities, to the surface.

Impurities have been bubbling up in my life recently. Years ago, I wouldn't have had eyes to see them. Back then, I was blind to those impurities that are now surfacing. And to think that back then I thought myself a saint. Ha! God laughs a loving fatherly laugh. How immature and proud I was, and still am. I have to be born again in certain areas today.

Last night God gave me a glimpse of myself, of how much I am not like Jesus. I am painful to look at. And I realize I can do nothing, really nothing to change myself. I have to admit who I am. I have to call it all what it is--sin. That is confession.  I have to repent and trust God to cleanse me from all of my sin (I John 1:9). I need the support from my brothers and sisters in the community to encourage me in my pursuit of Jesus. I have to abide in Jesus (John 15:5). It is God who cleanses me, the home he has come to dwell in.

As I am born again, yet again today, God is making a home for  himself. I pray he can feel more at home in you and in his body the Church, too.

Jun 28, 2010

On Silence & Self-Assertion & Prayer - Another Good Word From Peterson

"Why is there so much noise in the world? Why do we chatter so much? In this most expensively schooled society in the history of civilization, why is there such a torrent of verbal garbage? Why do we put up with it? Why don't we turn off the bluff and bluster of our radios and televisions and enter into the silence? Is it because we really do not want to hear the word that will expose the futility of our self-assertiveness and make us new, that will command the abandonment of our cozy fantasies for a life of hazardous faith? Silence is prerequisite to hearing. If we reject silence, our words are reduced to puffing our own shriveled selves. If we talk all the time, or let others talk all the time, our ears and mouths are filled with cliches and platitudes, mindless chatter and pretentious gibberish. In silence, language is renewed. In the absence of human sound it becomes possible to hear the logos, the word of God that gives shape and meaning to our words . . . .

Neither persons nor nations can exist in a healthy state absorbed in novelty and defined by advertising . . . . A self that denies itself, it seems, is not anemic and spindly. Unself-assertion is not wallflower piety. There is something healthy going on here connoting solidity and strength. In contrast, self-assertion turns out to be not self-assertion at all, but impulse assertion. The self wants to be excited, entertained, gratified, coddled, reassured, rewarded, challenged, indulged. There are people on hand to manipulate and market these impulses by seduction and persuasion. The American self [*including American Christian culture]characteristically chooses advertisers instead of apostles as guides. Self-assertion is, in fact, a euphemism for a way of life dominated by impulse and pressure. The self is alternately moved from within by whatever occurs in the emotions and glands, from without by whatever is presented by fashion and fad. As we become practiced in prayer we are unmoved by such bagaelles."

Excerpted from one of my favorite books by Eugene Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is. Pieces taken from pages 88-90.

Jun 27, 2010

Not A Prosperity Gospel ~ No!

Yes God seeks to bless us and yes we will suffer. Here are Dallas Willard's words from his book Hearing God:

Any voice that promises total exemption from suffering and failure is most certainly not God's voice. In recent years, innumerable spokspeople for God have offered ways we can use God and his Bible as guarantees of health, success and wealth. The Bible is treated as a how-to book, a manual for the successful life in the way of the Western world, which if followed will ensure that you will prosper financially, that you will not get cancer or even a cold and that your church will never split or lack a successful minister and program. To the question from the old hymn

Shall I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through the bloody seas?

these people shout, "Yes, most certainly!"
But if we consider those who stand throughout history as the best practitioners of the Way, we will find that they went through great difficulties, often living their entire lives and dying amidst these great trials. The word of God does not just come to lead us out of trouble--though it sometimes does this--or to make sure that we have it easy and that everything goes our way.

Dallas Willard p. 180 in Hearing God.

Jun 26, 2010

Ennui ~ Acedia or Sloth ~ A Definition

When we come to think of it, conversation between [Adam and Eve] must have been difficult . . . because they had nobody to talk about. If we exiled our neighbors permanently from our discussions, we should soon be reduced to silence; and if we confined ourselves even to laudatory remarks, we should probably but say little . . . . Here, indeed, is the very soul and essence of ennui; not the virtuous sentiment which revolts at the disclosure of another's faults, but deep and deadly ennui of life which welcomes evil as a distraction. The same selfish lassitude which made the gladiatorial combats a pleasant sight for the jaded eyes that witnessed them finds relief for its tediousness today in the swift destruction of confidence and reputation.

~ Agnes Repplier quote found in Kathleen Norris' Acedia and Me p. 301.

Jun 25, 2010

Creativity of the Divine Imagination

Have you ever gone to an aquarium or looked inside a picture book to see different colors of fish? I remember seeing  a certain kind of fish at the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky ( I don't remember its name). It is neon yellow with neon blue fins. The colors are beautiful. When I see amazing colors on fish or other animals like a peacock, I always think "Lord, you have Crayola Crayon Company beat." They imitate what they've already seen. Crayola got its ideas for crayon colors from nature, from God's creation. The Lord has the most beautiful mind, the most beautifully imaginiative mind.

 Other creatures I enjoy are seahorses. Aren't they interesting? So little and curious. I think also of the creatures of the deep, creatures I'll never see but that live everyday, going about their business. Some are not so eye-pleasing as the seahorse or little chipmunks, but God created them for his pleasure none the less. And when I think of animals, I wonder if they have a sensus divinitatus. I believe that is Calvin's term for divine sense. Do they know or sense their creator? I have to think so. God loves his creation, human beings as well as animals.

One last thing, and I saw this the other day. I love watching a calf skip. "A calf skipping" is mentioned in Scripture too. Maybe in the Psalms or Isaiah. I can't remember at this moment. God gives us creation and all things for our pleasure. Creation including human beings are gifts. Trees--old, old ones that have seen many things, are gifts.

Let us take pleasure in the creation God has gifted us with. That means getting outside. Then we'll walk around in perpetual wonder and gratitude for the many gifts God has given us.

Jun 23, 2010

Disappointment with God - Dealing With It

"Though he slay me I will trust him." Job 13:15

There's a wide range of disappointment in our lives. Disappointment ranges from minor daily irritations and let downs to deep griefs that never really heal due to the death of loved ones or friends. What happens when wave upon wave batters our souls or families or churches or friends? How do we go on?

It's hard. It's hard not to throw in the towel, especially if we've been as faithful and obedient to God as we know how to be. It doesn't seem fair that we should endure long seasons of unanswered prayers, of grief and depression, when we've sought God with all of our hearts--yet it happens. It has happened to all the saints throughout history. We become disappointed in God's silences, in God's inaction. Disillusionment sets in. We find ourselves posing the question that the serpent in the Garden posed, "Did God really say?" and find that our trust in God is starting to slowly crumble.

I always wonder if I would've lasted as long as Job. Would I have given into despair and cursed God? Job suffered tremendously--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But God gave him the grace to persevere even when everyone, including his wife and his friends were accusing him, saying he must of sinned and telling him to give up.

I suppose that by nature, I am easily discouraged or maybe just impatient. At my worst, I am impatient with myself, impatient with God, impatient with the sins of others and impatient with the Church. So when I think about it, I can see how God is teaching me patience and perserverance as I wait on him, as I am frequently disappointed that my answer to a particular prayer hasn't come. And when I think of it, my prayer is nothing. I am experiencing nothing compared to the millions who are suffering right now. If I capitulate to self-pity, I can see how selfish and self-absorbed I've become. Yet another reason God might have me waiting--purification.

But for those who are suffering and enduring God's silences, for those of us experiencing comparably minor disappointments and delays from God, for all of us, it is important that we continue to lean on the body of Christ--the Church. It is important that we continue to receive the means of grace that come through prayer, God's word, communion, and the spiritual disciplines. But if we find we cannot do any of these, we must confide in trusted people within Christ's body, so they can bear our burdens with us--so they can lower us through the roof as I posted a few days ago.

It is amazing to me that I've met people who have suffered far more than I have and they can still say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." God gives us the grace to say that and mean that. So, I say it today with many of you, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."

May God's grace be poured into you today. And feel free to let me know if you need prayer brothers and sisters. I always welcome prayer on my behalf. That is the best gift I can receive from another and give to another. Amen.

Jun 22, 2010

Divine Relocation

Genesis 12:1-4

From the time of Abraham forward, God often removes his people from the place of familiarity and comfort to places of unfamiliarity and discomfort. He dislocates them so that they do not attempt self-sufficiency. We can call it creative dislocation. When we feel dislocated, God does his most creative work. Think of Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. All churches, except Jerusalem are in diaspora.

Notes from Duke's Center of Reconciliation's Summer Institute.

Jun 21, 2010

Four Sources of Peace

"Finally, I want to teach you the way of peace and true liberty. There are four things you must do. First, strive to do another's will rather than your own. Second, choose always to have less than more. Third, seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important. Fourth, always and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you. The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest."

Thomas A Kempis

Jun 18, 2010

All things bright and beautiful

Hello, my computer is down so I have to repost something I wrote in May because it is nearly impossible to see what I am writing. As soon as it is up and running again, I will resume. Thank you for understanding.

Blessings! Marlena

The other day as I was doing some research, I stumbled upon the website of a glossy women's magazine. I was thoroughly disappointed but not shocked to find the magazine unashamedly promoting porn. It's not just a men's issue anymore. Porn and talk about porn is trendy. The porn industry and its consumers are successfully marketing themselves to adults and children. Christians aren't exemplars in this area either. Many believers are trapped in the throws of a porn addiction and need support from the body of Christ to help free them from slavery. But lest you think I am merely going to rail against porn in this post, I raise the issue because something greater is at stake. I fear that many of us do not have large souls nor large imaginations. We have not tasted of the beauty and goodness of God. We salivate over vile paltry things, laying our lives down for innumerable death-filled hoaxes that consume us. But God, through the good, the true, and the beautiful calls to us. He calls us to something higher, to beautiful, good, satisfying, healthy life. He calls to us in the streets, in creation, in our lives, through beautiful music, literature, art, films, the church, and others, perhaps through this post. He calls to us most loudly through Scripture. But more often we choose death instead of life because we don't know what life looks like, what it tastes like. But we do get hints of it in the good, the true, the beautiful, in this life. All of the time. God's fingerprint and life-filled breath is all over the universe. If we cannot see, if cannot taste or feel it, perhaps our senses are out of whack. We are sick or bent up. That is the reality of sin.

So if you are drowning (whether a Christian or not) and have little hope, if you know that there has got to be more to life than this, please receive this answer: there is. God has not abandoned you to death or a meaningless, beautiless, pitiful, existence. God in Christ calls out to you and wants to set you free to live and to taste of the good, the true, and the beautiful in the midst of a suffering world. And then you too can tell others that what the ancients have been saying about God in Christ is true, because you experienced it (it is true regardless of our experience, but we are better able to explain that which we experience).

Although I am not saying that the theology in this particular song is completley accurate, I think the song Viva La Vida by Cold Play hints at what I've been talking about in the post. Coldplay hints at that which is beyond us (the good and the beautiful calling out to us). They sense it and I think we can sense it in their song. I post it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE

Jun 16, 2010

An Act of God Incinerates Statue

I remember the first time I saw it off of I-75. I was aghast. It was so over the top. The Touchdown Jesus isn't too terribly far away from where I live. But now people all over the world know about it. The news that it has been struck by lightning and is now no more has been splashed all over the American media.  Am I echoing Judas in wishing that they would take the money and give it to the poor? Maybe the church sees it as a perfume offering, like the perfume the woman used to bathe Jesus' feet prior to his death on the cross (that is what Judas thought should be given to the poor). They want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild it. Yet even unbelievers think the money should be given to the poor. Any opinions?


Jun 15, 2010

The Faith of Friends...

So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Mark 2:2-5

Who were these four men? Were they family members? The paralytic's friends? Or compassionate passersbys, good Samaritans? Scripture doesn't tell us. But this is one of my favorite mental images for praying on behalf of others or for seeking prayer on my own behalf. Whenever someone else is in desperate need of prayer, in desperate need of God's action or God's calming stillness in their lives, I picture myself as one of the people lowering them through the roof into the presence of Jesus.

I even tell the Lord, "I am lowering so-and-so through the roof right into the midst of your presence." And when people pray for me, when they cry out on my behalf, I think, "I am being lowered through the roof." It's like Hebrews 4 talks about...going boldly to the throne of grace.  What is interesting about this passage are the words, "When Jesus saw their faith." Whose faith? The faith of the four men, or the faith of the five (including the paralytic's)? 

Whatever the reference, the faith of the four is included. Isn't it true that sometimes, we are so weary, so full of despair, and so disoriented that we can barely utter a prayer? We are paralyzed by the enemy's posionous and fiery darts, even though we've tried to stand our ground with the full armor of  God on. Maybe we've missed something, overlooked a sin. Or maybe we're just being attacked--suffering because of the problem of evil. Like Job, we suffer not because of our own sins.

It is in moments like these that we need to summon our friends or acquaintences. We need to summon the prayers of the Church so that we may be lowered through the roof. There is something about the faith of friends, or the faith of the compassionate passerby or acquaintence that  God notices. This passage tells us so.

So if you feel battered and hopeless, if you feel like the darkness is consuming you, or if you feel battle weary, let some people know. Let them pray for you, let them lower you through the roof. God notices.

Many times the prayer of friends and family, and even the prayers of those I am not aware of have saved my life.  I am not overstating the case.

God's Shalom to you brothers and sisters. Pass the peace.


Jun 14, 2010

Father Stephen on the Problem of Goodness

I am referring you to Father Stephen's post on the problem of goodness. It goes hand in hand with Lazarus' answer (yesterday's post). I had a post planned for today, but I must include what I find helpful! Here it is: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/the-problem-of-goodness-2


Jun 13, 2010

God Works All Things Together For Our Good...

Recently, I asked a wise man about the problem of evil and why many professing Christians do not look more like Christ. I've written about this before and have been pondering it for sometime. I realize as I ponder this that I must watch my own walk, ask for God's grace, and work out my salvation with fear and trembling lest I stumble. Here is the answer that Lazarus of Hyacinth gave. He is of the Orthodox persuasion. His Oasis blog is one of my favorites http://lazarus-oasis.blogspot.com/.

"In † Romans 8:28, St. Paul talks about how all things work for the good of them that love God and who are called according to His purpose.

But this again is speaking of the Wisdom and Providence of God, which we cannot always fathom, and so we do not see the true cause and end of things. In our limited view, we make wrong choices, draw wrong conclusions, and we FAIL TO TRUST GOD AT HIS WORD, thinking that we can manage it all on our own. This is an incredible pride and arrogance, is it not, thinking that we know better than God!

In the storms of life, we often cannot explain why things happen as they do, and to make matter worse, we cut ourselves off from heavenly aid by our failure to trust in God.

We either say that God is God, and believe in His goodness and wisdom, or we do not. Scripture tells us that God desires that none perish, and that all be saved and enter the eternal Kingdom. If we REALLY believe that, then we must "hang on," no matter what life throws at us, to the Divine purpose for which we are called, and for which we were created. We must run the race to the end.

Our other option is despair and darkness.

We do not always understand the lessons we are being taught by our sorrows and sufferings, but all the Saints testify to the necessity of dying to self and the world. Christ must be our first and chief love above all else. It is the only Wisdom and Love that can save us and prepare us for the Kingdom. In our delusion, we think that this world is all there is, and we convince ourselves, against all the evidence, that we can become its masters. Death tells us otherwise. It is a sword in the heart of our pride and arrogance. This is why all the Saints speak about the constant remembrance of death.

While I do use a traditional prayer rope, most of the time I pray using some prayer beads made of bones. This is one way I keep the constant remembrance of death before my mind, lest I become arrogant before God and start to think I know something!

When we stay in the Father's will, He helps us, and sends us heavenly aid in our struggles. When I leave His will because of my sins, then I have real trouble hearing His voice, and my aid deserts me. I suffer, and this is another way of God's teaching me.

If we think God is unfair, and could have done a better job in creating the world, then we are pretending to a knowledge INFINITELY far above us, and it can only be called arrogance and rebellion . . . "

Jun 12, 2010

The Discipline of Stability . . . Resting in Jesus

I get this excerpt from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's book, The Wisdom of Stability. I actually met him at Duke Divinity school. He is as humble and peaceful as his writing in this book. He is speaking of the discipline of stability in a mobile culture. It is a well-written, beautiful book, one that I'll read over and over again. I usually go back to the good ones over and over again. An interesting thing to note is that he writes from inner-city Durham, NC where he has committed to staying with his family. There is great despair and hope visibly intertwined in his community. He is not writing from a serene country alcove. This book is one I highly recommend!

"When Jesus invites us into the rest of his his easy  yoke, he is not saying that we can take it easy while he does all the work. Rest is not a couch where we kick back in front of the TV, glad to be home for the holidays. Rather, it is the place where we learn the rhythms for the work we were made for from the One who made us. Rest is coming home to the way of life that fits, learning to inhabit the story of God's people and practice the craft of life with God wherever we are.

If stability challenges us to stay put in a mobile world, its wisdom also promises a way of life that is sustainable, giving rest to weary souls. By sitting in their cells and looking the devil in the face, the desert mothers and fathers were able to name the powers that keep us from life with God. Seeing the problem clearly, they focused their attention on developing practices that made it possible to resist the devil's schemes. The very practical pursuit of life with God revealed to our desert forbears their utter dependence on the grace of God and other people. 'One thing that comes out very clearly from the reading of the great desert monastic writers,' says Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams, "is the the impossibility of thinking about contemplation or meditation or 'spiritual life' in abstraction from the actual business of living in the body of Christ, living in concrete community. The life of intimacy with God in contemplation is both the fruit and the course of a renwed style of living together." Again we cannot rest in God without learning a new way of life with our neighbors. The craft of life with God is learned in the workshop of stability in community."

pp. 60-61.

Jun 11, 2010

A Little Bit More on Loving Our Neighbors

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Cor. 13:4-7

Are there forms of unlove in our souls? Sadly, I think I've discovered a form of unlove in mine. If we do not think the best of others, if we pigeon-hole them, not allowing them to climb out of those holes we've dug and placed them in, that is not love. I must confess that I do not always give the benefit of the doubt to, or think the highest of, some of those in the body or some groups of Christians who are rabidly unloving in their language and legalistic. But (until Jesus seperates the sheeps from the goats) for all intense and purposes, as far as I am concerned, these are my brothers and sisters however much I am tempted to disown them. This is my family. They're just like me, a mixed bag of virtue and vice (sin). I must love them, especially when I perceive them to be acting like the enemy, working against the kingdom they profess to be a part of. Jesus showed great love for the church of his time, praying "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing" even as they nailed him to the cross. It was the religious people that killed Jesus on a Roman cross mind you. 

And I must remind myself that these brothers and sisters who turn me off by certain words and behaviors, may be turned off by my way of being. Surely, my sins are evident to mostly all but myself. I have logs galore protruding from my eyes. How is it that I can even see the speck of dust in the eye of another? Remembering these things will guard against spiritual pride. It will guard us against thinking more highly of ourselves then we ought to. I also must remember that sometimes the most loving thing to do is lovingly confront a brother or sister...like Paul confronted Peter. There is a whole lot of unloving confrontation going on though. Or impersonal confrontation.

At the same time, let me say there are sins in the church that are clearly wrong. Racism, spoiling our environment, superficiality, idolatry, immorality, arrogance, and pride. We can speak out lovingly against these things. There is more, Christians have even murdered other Christians (most recently in Rwanda). So perhaps we can take a stand when the body is acting as the anti-Christ.

Maybe what I am saying applies between individuals. Perhaps a reader has clarification or some more insight. Feel free to share. All I know is that scripture tells us to love each other, our brothers and sisters, from our hearts. If we do not even love our brothers and sisters, how can we love God whom we have not seen? We have to think seriously about what it means to love one another. Then the world will know we are Christians.

Jun 10, 2010

The Gift of Shalom.

 "It is a gift of God . . . " Ephesians 2:8

Salvation is an ongoing gift of God. It's something we receive, not something we pry out of His hands with our good works. God graciously offers the gift of salvation in and through his son Jesus and wrapped up in that salvation gift is shalom. God desires to knead his shalom into our lives. He is kneading shalom into all of creation for he is in the process of reconciling all things to himself as he makes all things new. What is shalom?

According to Strong's Concordance 7965, the Hebrew word shalom denotes completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Can we taste it? Can we even imagine it? It is a salvation gift that God wants to pour into our lives. As we humble ourselves, and turn (repent) away from the world and our own flesh and towards God, as we renounce all in us that is not of him (as we become aware of it), shalom breaks forth in our lives and spills into the lives and institutions around  us. Imagine instead of a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, shalom spilling over and invading all things. It is happening. However, we might not be able to perceive it.

Even as I write, I realize that it is only through God's grace that we can repent and renounce all  in us that is not of him. So we must ask him for that grace, a sustaining grace that allows us to follow him and that unleashes shalom. As shalom fills us, it'll spill over into our relationships. Ask God for this ongoing gift and be ready to continually receive it.

Here is a true story of shalom breaking forth in the midst of suffering--Maggie's House of Shalom or Maison Shalom as it is called in Burundi. Click for the video.

Jun 9, 2010

We Are Workers Not Master Builders - Bishop Oscar Romero

"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Jun 8, 2010

What Forgiveness Looks Like

I've been away for a little over a week. Thank you for your patience.

I spent a week in Durham, North Carolina at Duke Divinity's Center of Reconciliation's Summer Institute. It is truly a holy place. Christians from all over North America and many parts of the world gathered to learn more about the journey of biblical reconciliation. As my friend Carmille and I sat down for lunch on the second day, we met Bishop Johnson, a bishop from northern Uganda. If you're not familiar with that part of the world, that is where Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (around 1996) began kidnapping Ugandan children, taking them out to the bush, training them as soldiers, and then sending them back to kill, rape, and maim their own family members. The children were threatened with death and torture if they did not follow orders.

The bishop asked my friend and I to come and see (as opposed to coming and trying to fix) northern Uganda. He also told us that he and other church leaders told their government that they would forgive the children who had killed their own families. They would welcome the child soldiers back without retaliation. Many of these child soldiers want to return to what is left of their homes and are willing to try and escape from the LRA. However, they fear retaliation. With this promise from bishop Johnson and other church leaders, many child soldiers have escaped the LRA returning to open arms of forgiveness.

I do not think that this forgiveness comes easy, but these brothers and sisters in northern Uganda who are extending forgiveness to the child soldiers after having been ravaged by them display the power of the gospel. They incarnate forgiveness.

I talked to another woman who cares for aids orphans in northern Uganda. She said she prays that not one more child will be kidnapped by Kony's LRA and that no more children or people will be killed. The Lord's Resistance Army is now moving into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us pray that God will stop Kony somehow, that he'd be arrested, and that peace and restoration would return in the midst of murder, pain, and violence.

If one part of the body hurts, the rest of us hurt.

For more information about the LRA and the child soldiers (called the invisible children) see this link: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/