Feb 28, 2011

Evangelical Christian Wars

Recently I've read a lot of blog posts on a variety of topics where I have observed professing evangelical Christians cock their pistols, aim, and fire. They blow each other away, turn around, walk away, and don't look back. Whether it's through a blog, twittering, or in comments, we are killing one another with our words. Personal attacks abound. We are at war with one another because of disagreements over what is and isn't orthodox, over what is conservative and what is liberal. I am not saying that there are not legitimate disagreements or issues.

You see it in the fact that we Protestants are splintered into over 30,000 different denominations or denominational groups or just groups, if you will. Yet we boldly proclaim, "We have no pope." But we do. We have our popes. We align ourselves with this person or that person and then demonize anyone not in our camp. One of my friends who studied Church history is fond of saying, "Independent or non-denominational churches have a pope in every pulpit--the pastor." Perhaps this is unfair to the humble pastors of such churches who seek to do God's will and lovingly shepherd their sheep. But I find that I can list some of these more popular pope-like individuals, but I won't. I will only say that their words are nearly gospel truth to their followers. It's the "I follow Peter, I follow Paul, I follow Apollos" mentality.

So right now, there is a power struggle amongst evangelicals. These are wars over power. The question is, who calls the shots on what is and isn't orthodox? Who's in control of the theological minds and hearts of the people? Many who are reading their bibles are coming to different conclusions. Not over who Jesus is. Not over the central tenets of the gospel. But over some issues that are open to debate. In some cases, over lifestyle preferences. The result? Battle lines are drawn. Shots fired. Bayonets inserted into the bowels of theological opponents and ruthlessly twisted and extracted (by publicly and personally insulting their opponents who are really brothers and sisters in the body). Bodies hit the ground.

If witch hunts and burning people at the stake and throwing people to the lions weren't illegal or seen as barbaric ways of ridding the world of those with whom we disagree--some of us would do it. Our words and behavior betray hearts that would do such things.

Some see these public rebukes as their Christian duty, as defending the faith.

But others see it as wearisome. And some unbelievers or those at the periphery of the Church see it as proof that the Jesus we proclaim is powerless to transform his people. We murder each other with our words and insult Jesus with our behavior (and words) and then wonder why unbelievers have the view of us that they do?

If the world is going to hate us, let the world hate us for actually being Jesus to them. Not for sullying his image. John 13:15 says people will know we are Christians by our love. Maybe that's why our collective Christianity is mostly unkown in the known world.

Where are the peacemakers?

Feb 26, 2011

Cultivate Goodness and Beauty Where You Are - In the Name of Jesus

This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.  Isaiah 49:8-10.

We as Christians believe that God is speaking of Jesus in Isaiah 49. It is Jesus that will accomplish all these things. And yet I am quick to believe that part of the way he will accomplish this is through his people. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, God wants to bring his shalom to you and wants you to be an agent of shalom. He redeems you and uses you to help make things as they should be. Once he redeems you, he uses you as an instrument of redemption. He wants you to see him for who he is and to pour out his grace on  you. He wants to show you that he is a good and beautiful God who means to do good unto you. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all of the days of your life (Psalm 23).

Yet many of us who profess to be followers of Jesus have God-awful views of God. We're not always aware of it. But it comes out in how we live.  Do we really believe that he means us well, in the painful and suffering world? That's where the rubber meets the road isn't it? Can we say with Job, "though he slay me I will trust him?" Now there's this matter. Is God doing the "slaying?" That has to do with the problem of evil. I don't think God is evil. But there is evil in the world.

But even in the midst of evil, God wants us to cultivate the land he has given us. We all have a circle of influence--even if you misbelieve yourself to be alone in this world. God calls us to cultivate the land. To be stewards of the garden he has given each one of us. We are to weed it. We are to water it. We are to take care of it all in the strength and grace of the Lord. Our garden includes ourselves, family and/or friends, workplaces, places of worship, gifts, abilities, our local communities, and even the earth. Our garden includes "Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth" in one way or another.

But mostly it is where we find ourselves. How can we cultivate the seeds of God's love and beauty and goodness (I am distilling attritubes of beauty and goodness from his love, I know). Am I doing it on this blog? More importantly, am I doing that where I find myself--among family, friends, and neighbors?

Often the problem of evil in the world overwhelms us. But doesn't God through Paul in Romans chapter 12 tell us to overcome evil with good? Are we overcoming evil with good? Are we doing our part to cultivate the land he has given us? Are we doing  our part to, "restore the land and reassign its desolate places" as Isaiah 49 says?

Feb 23, 2011

Labeling People

"Once I can label you, I can stop listening. Or at least that’s how we tend to act isn’t it?" See the rest of this good post by Mason here.

Feb 22, 2011

Love and Our Motivations

This review by Linda was so good and full of insights that I wanted to include it. It'll be to your benefit if you read it!


Feb 20, 2011

Glory Is My Work. Beauty Crazed. Holiness.

 A Meditation from Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18.

Let us once more thoughtfully and prayerfully read our collect (from BCP):

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This week, I read our Scripture passages alongside Mary Oliver’s book length poem entitled: The Leaf and the Cloud. These phrases from the poem clung to the walls of my mind : crazed by beauty and glory is my work.

In the Leviticus 19 passage God tells Moses, “Tell my people that I want them to be holy.” But he doesn’t stop there. Just to make sure they know what holiness looks like in everyday life, the LORD, through Moses, describes everyday holiness in their ancient culture. As we in the church know today it is an important thing to be holy, for as Hebrew 12:4 says, “without holiness, we won’t see the Lord.” We won’t see God. So what of holiness then and now?

The Lord tells them, when you harvest, when you reap the reward of your long hours of planting, don’t gather everything. Leave some for the poor and alien. And in verse eleven God tells the Israelites as well as us not to steal. Perhaps St. Paul was thinking of these verses when he told the Ephesians (4:28), “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

It seems to me from the verses in Leviticus that part of our aim in our work is make money to share with those in need. We have to keep that in the front of our minds. When we collect or reap our paychecks, we are to reserve some for the poor and aliens, or foreigners. And I don’t think questions like, “Do we give ten percent before or after taxes?” exemplify the generosity of God. Ten percent is a suggestion for the minimum. Just recently, I ran across this quote on a friend's Facebook page, “Everybody wants to be righteous when they can afford it.” But God often calls us to give liberally—generously. God calls us to be righteous—to be holy—to be Jesus even when we can’t afford it—when it’s most inconvenient and painful. It is in those times that we most exemplify Jesus. Our actions show that they don’t stem from our own power and inclinations, but from God’s.

If you can afford to go to the university down the road, even with loans, you’re some of the richest people in the world—the school is so darn expensive. And I thank you for paying my family’s salary. Seriously. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some of you. Yet, it is well documented that rich people, like you and me, give less than the poor—per capita that is. Poor people out-give us most of the time. Maybe it’s because they remember what it is like to be in need and what it was like for someone to save their necks just about the time they were about to give up. But lest I be guilty of doing what Leviticus 19:15 says and showing all partiality to the poor, let me say this: you don’t have to be poor to be generous—to give liberally. If we realize our spiritual poverty, that God saved and continues to save our necks, if we really come to terms with the fact that nothing we have is ours, not even our junior high and high school and for some—college educations and jobs and cars and communities and food and our minds and abilities too—all were given to us by God—then we’ll be crazed by the beauty and generosity of God.

That beauty and generosity of God induced craze will drive us to be liberal—generous with all we have. So then our lives will be characterized by “mi casa, es tu casa” as well as my food and clothing and vehicles and education and/or skills. It kind of reminds you of the early church doesn’t it? The early church, some throughout history, and even some of us today do embody the holiness God is talking about in Leviticus 19. But let us remember it’s a holiness flowing from love, for remember as Paul says in I Corinthians 13, without love—even our painful sacrifices are worthless. When we live such holy lives, glory is our work.

Surely these verses in Leviticus are places where we can stop for a while and linger in the compassion and love and kindness and wisdom of God. Left to ourselves, we don’t do what God commands us to for our own good and the good of others. Instead, we devise our own schemes for ensuring our own good. And that my dear friends leads to our own destruction and the destruction of others and even of the earth. As the Heidlerberg Catechism says, we are inclined to hate both God and our neighbor. So here as in other places throughout Scripture, the Lord lays it out for us and gives us the power, through the Spirit of Jesus, to be holy.

Our LORD says (and here is my translation), for goodness sake, yes for goodness sake, and so that you and everything around you will flourish: “Don’t lie or steal—even when you think doing so would help you or help you save face. Tell the truth and deal honestly. Don’t deceive or casually use my name. And please, don’t violate my name by making me look bad by leading a careless life within the kingdom. Be careful with me and others. I am God. The more you realize how wonderful and holy I am the less you dare do such things—because of your love for me. And by the way, I really want to know, do you love me?

And he goes on to say, (again in my own paraphrase of the passage), “Don’t exploit your friends or rob them. Don’t use them for your own advantages…to get ahead. Rather serve them so that they might have the advantage. Be others directed, like me. Love them. And pay people on time. Withholding pay when it is due others puts them in a bind. Think of them and their families. A few more things. Don’t be cruel to those who are in any way disadvantaged. Don’t curse the deaf knowing they can’t hear you. How cruel is that? And don’t trip up the blind by putting a stumbling block in their paths. For that matter, don’t play such games—the kinds many of you love to play with the lives of others—don’t pick on them. I’m talking to you whether you’re in junior high or you’re an adult. Those things are cruel and unlike me. I am not cruel. A few more things my dear children. Please don’t talk badly about anyone when they’re out of ear shot or even when they’re within earshot. And if someone is in danger, or going through a hard time in life and you find out about it, don’t stand by. For goodness’ sake, do something in my name. And don’t hate your brother or sister, seek their good. Don’t hold a grudge against a family member, a neighbor, or anyone in the body of Christ. If you want to look like me you’ll seek their good. You’ll do the hard work of forgiveness. If you want to be truly holy, then you’ll understand what I mean."

Such a life, I believe, is a beauty-crazed life. One where glory is your life. Being holy like God and through the power of God—is a life that causes others to stop and look. They are staggered and become overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder of your life. Your life becomes a beautiful and fragrant flower growing in the most unlikely of places—a nuclear wasteland. It becomes an icon of hope, an icon of what is to come when all things are redeemed. An icon of Christ. It is a redeemed life. A God-crazed, a God-full life. A beautiful life, beauty crazed life. A glory full-glorious life. A holy life.

Brothers and sisters, glory is our work.


Feb 18, 2011

A Little Bit About Me & And The God Life Part II

As young as three years old I think, I remember having a sense of the supernatural or eternal and also of defending those picked on--the oppressed. Maybe that's not unique to me--maybe all children experience the world as magical at that age and cringe when someone else is hurt. I just had a sense there was more to life than what I saw or experienced and that someone had to defend the child being picked on, except when I was picking on my brother or sister of course.

When I was four, our next door neighbor in what I believe was Navy housing in San Diego, invited me to her five day club that she was hosting in her garage. All I did was walk out of the door from my house for what I take to have been fifteen feet. At one point, I remember sitting on the bumper of her 77ish or 78ish huge Cadillac and asking her, "So, if Jesus wouldn't have died on the cross, the whole world would've gone to hell?" She said, "yes." I feel like I understood the principle she was getting at: without Christ, hell for all.

 I don't remember whether or not I made a decision right then to follow Jesus, but like I said, I sort of understood an implication about his death. I don't think she knows what a lasting impression she had on me. She at least planted a seed. She was the mother of my best friend, Kabari. Kabari was an African-American little boy and we were just two peas in a pod. We played everyday. I remember wailing when we left just after my sixth birthday. I had been there three years. If you remember, I was born in Puerto Rico. So, I think I left Puerto Rico at the age of three and then moved to California until I was six. Then came the great long drive through the desert. I don't know if it was in California or Arizona. But I remember it. However, I don't remember the rest of the drive from there to Pennsylvania. That is a blank.

There is no doubt the Lord had his hand on me as a child--like little Samuel. Now, I've sort of gone backwards from my post the other day. In that post, I started in Pennsylvania and then backed up to California with this post. Now I'll fastforward back to Crawford County, PA.

In elementary school, during fifth and sixth grade, a bus from the United Methodist Church in Townville, Pa used to pick us up for what was called "Release Time." Instead of eating lunch and playing outside at recess, once a week, we'd board the bus for a five minute ride and head to the basement of the church. There we had snacks, learned Bible stories, and sang Bible songs. That is where I learned the ten commandments through song. I don't know what the name of the song was, but the chorus repeated the words, "The perfect ten, the perfect ten, they're just as good as they were way back when, God gave the perfect ten, the perfect ten, let's say them once again." And then it'd go on with,

Number one we just begun God should be first in your life, number two the idol rule, those graven images aren't nice, number three God's name should be never spoken in jest, number four the sabbath is for our worship and for rest. Number five we all should strive to honor father and mother. Number six don't get your kicks from killing one another. Number seven life is heaven when you're true to your mate. Number eight don't steal and break this rule for goodness sake. Number nine don't be the kind who goes around telling lies. Number ten don't covet when you see your neighbor's house or wife. That's the list that God insists we stay away from these sins, that is why we memorize commandments one through ten!

Then the chorus again. Release Time is where I asked Jesus to be my savior a bazillion times. And the reason why I did so many times is because after I did, I didn't feel the change. I noticed that I still continued to sin. But I'll tell you one thing. Once I "asked Jesus into my heart," I became an evangelist. I told everyone I knew about Jesus. Everyone. Boys, girls, and adults. My younger sister Michelle and my younger brother Kenny were my first converts and disciples. Actually God's converts. But they're my spiritual children in a way and still following Jesus. Michelle was eight and Kenny six.  I'll stop here for today. I'll continue with their little tale of conversion--the tale where I was the evangelist. You might laugh at the means God sometimes uses to call his children.

Feb 16, 2011

When It's Hard To Pray.

I will continue the story about my life very soon. But I thought it important to include this today instead. Below is a comment (with a little bit more editing on my part) that I made to Kate over at Between The Lines. She was discussing the place she finds herself in right now. It's a place where it is hard to pray. I am sure most of us have been in that situation. But then we must remember that praying is much more than we are often taught. 

Remember too that your soul groans and that you can pray through silence. Your wonder at God's earth, your thankfulness for friends, your service to them, your listening ear, your heart that leaps for joy at goodness and weeps over evil--it is a life of prayer. If prayer is a conversation then there are times when you will be listening. Maybe it's your turn to listen. I know I've been in that situation. The soul that loves God communes with him...it's sort of like being in a room with someone you love. You don't always have to speak...but there is a closeness.

Feb 15, 2011

A Little Bit About Me & And The God Life Part I

Now I know that I grew up poor. I wasn't too aware of it when I was in elementary school. Maybe its just because I thought that others also had days when they had little food and no heat. Rich people, like some of my friends, used Paul Mitchell shampoo or Biolage. Even at the age of fifteen or sixteen, McDonald's was a treat. We seldom went because we seldom had the money or the gas to get there. But we ate lots of arroz con pollo or when there was no chicken, arroz con gandules. Or when there was nothing but flour, water, and oil, a type of flat bread that is now really popular.

Here we were a Puerto Rican family (the dictionary says I am Puerto-Rican because I was born there and have at least one parent who is full-blooded ) in rural Crawford County which is located in northwest Pennsylvania. We lived with my father who is very white, who although he couldn't speak very much Spanish, could somewhat understand it, and my very Puerto-Rican mother.  I grew up with both my parents in the house and with Abuelita and Abuelito, my mom's parents. Siblings included me, my younger sister Michelle, younger brother Kenny, and older brother Marco (at least for while until he left for the military. He left when I was nine and he eighteen).

We were a displaced people who made up the Hispanic population in our school district. Yet it was years before I realized how much my half Puerto-Rican/half white ethnicity and my location formed me. I say a school district instead of  a town because I lived out in the boon docks--in the largest (geographical) district in PA. We were isolated from friends because we lived on the edge of that district and because our phone number was long distance from most of them. So me, Michelle, and Kenny ended up becoming really close to each other and to abuela. My Mom and Dad (whom we dearly love) were busy trying to sort out their chaotic lives while bequeathing a sort of chaos on us. Yet in all this, they loved us and we love(d) them.

Abuelito died when I was younger. Yet he was one of the most comical persons I've ever known, although now I realize he had Alzheimers most of my life with him. He used to jiggle his stomach and play it like a guitar (guitarra) and just laugh and laugh and make us double over with laughter and tears. What made it very funny is that he was short torsoed (like me or me like him) with long legs. He'd pull up his pants real high, and look like a living Humpty Dumpty. He also carried around a large machete somehow strapped to his side on his belt as he'd go on walks on our land. Moreover, he'd sew his back pockets closed every day to keep abuelita from getting his money. Money that he was sure she wanted to use for her lover (She had no lover. It was all in his mind).  And she never wanted or tried to get his money.

Nearly everyday he'd yell, "Mu-----jer, Mu-----jer no tocques mi dinero!" Wo------man, Wo------man don't touch my money!  It was money from his monthly social security check. I was so sad when abuelito died. I was twelve when he and abuelita were in Florida for a stint and living with tio Lenny (my mom's only brother). We couldn't afford to bring his body to where we lived and somehow that seems weird too--for him to have been a displaced Puerto Rican in a rural cemetery in Crawford County . So now his body is down there in West Palm Beach and we don't even know where and there is no one to take care of his grave. Abuelita is no longer living. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In winter, there were many times (too many to count) when we ran out of fuel oil. So either we cut wood to stay warm--sleeping downstairs next to the fireplace or we nearly froze upstairs with plenty of blankets on us. Actually, that was in our second house in Crawford County. Until the age of thirteen, I lived in Chapmanville. It was a similar situation with frozen pipes adding to winter complications. When there was no wood in the house, there were a few times when we turned on the stove. Yes, the stove. Yes, we knew it could lead to fires but we needed to stay warm somehow. The worst days were when there was no school, no fuel oil, and very little food. That was the worst.

Now I know that we probably qualified for HEAP [The Home  Energy Assistance Program that helps many working poor people, and elderly, and others who have a hard time making ends meet (a program that I later helped run for three counties in Ohio)  and that by the way, a program my Republican brothers and sisters are seeking to cut].

But a lot of the time, all we had was green wood for our big old drafty house. We didn't have a woodstove with a fan to circulate heat throughout the house. Like I said, the fireplace was downstairs. But even so, I remember almost always smelling like firewood in the winter. And I hated smelling like firewood. I was completely mortified because it stuck to our clothes probably because, oh I don't know, the chimney didn't suck the smoke up like it should've. And I don't know the proper term for that. All I remember is that the smoke stung my eyes throughout the winter and added to my asthmatic condition and whatever misery I was experiencing.

Daily life was hard. Not as hard as the lives of most in the world, or of all the poor people in our county, but hard compared to now. It was a wilderness of sorts, in more ways than one. I have yet to say anything about Jesus and the God-life. Well, I'll get to that tomorrow I guess. Its too late. 1AM EST and I should be sleeping. But I thought that you might want to know a little about the person some of you know personally and that others of you know through this site.

I'll continue tomorrow which is really today. Iliana will wake up in seven hours or less.

Feb 13, 2011

A Good Word From G.K.!

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they're generally the same people."

G.K. Chesterton

Feb 11, 2011

Watching The Clock Tick Away

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." Luke 16:10

This is a Repost from 7/2009

Last night as I lay in my warm bath, I was again wondering when God would fulfill a promise he made to me. I wonder about this promise much of the day everyday. And while I trust God that he will bring it about, I also do what is in my power to move towards this calling. But the waiting is diffcult and I wait in anticipation for the day when I'll no longer be waiting.

As I continued to lay there and ponder, the Lord brought this thought to me. "Marlena, your incessant pondering about this is like a student who sits in a classroom just itching for class to be over. All she does is glance up at the clock without really listening to what the professor is saying. Although present in the classroom, she is disengaged and learning nothing, all because her attention is on the clock--waiting for class time to wind down because she'd rather be somewhere else."

While my eyes are on the fulfillment of his promise, they are not on him. And I am therefore disengaged or not fully engaged with the rest of life. I am not fully paying attention to life right in front of me -- as if everything else in life doesn't matter as much as the fulfillment of the promise. That is idolatry, for I am loving the gift more than the giver. And I am missing out on so much. I must live the blessed life, not just ponder a future blessing yet to be revealed.

Who knows? God might take 25 years to fulfill his promise to me as he did with Abraham. Or it could be much sooner than I think. Only he knows when the fullness of time will be. Until then, I repent and ask God to give me the grace to be fully engaged right now. For as Jesus said, if he can trust me with the little of the everyday, he can trust me with very much. Can he trust me?

Note: This prayer is still unanswered and yet I seek to live in the sacrament of the present moment.

Feb 9, 2011


Here in the Midwest USA, it's been frigid and mostly cloudy. Many around me have bemoaned the long cold winter and this present darkness of February. It's the time of year when people get more depressed than usual. Much of the depression is spawned by the lack of sunlight and by remaining indoors. One friend of mine mentioned that she even feels like hibernating. It is a common thing 'round these parts.

I even find that I get bogged down by the monotony of things. Perhaps acedia is taking hold. But as I have written before, at least for me, it is these very monotonous days that can serve as our spiritual discipline.
So this morning I thought, "Let's change up our schedule a bit". My daughter Iliana and I played "school" with her little stuffed animal friends. She probably has fifty. Each of course has a distinct voice and mannerisms. Today's lesson was words in the English language that end in "-ing". Ring, sing, bring, and sting. We played show and tell. She showed her little animal friends and  baby dolls two toy trains and a track.

We then went to the downtown library (we live in a very small town but it has a good and friendly library). We signed out a few books.

And this is what I think about. If I am having a dreary monotonous day, I must not allow it to seep into her. Indeed, it is quite a spiritual discipline to be a good mother--or any caretaker really. It is a spiritual discipline to do what needs done throughout the day--to show up. If we would be responsible for our family and friends--for the well-being of the souls around us, although we all have bad days, we must ask God for the strength not to let monotony or the long cold dark winter months get the most of us.

God cares about the simplest things in our lives, like our energy and motivation levels. And he wants us to ask him for enough manna for the day. Like today, I needed motivation and energy to be a good mommy, to not let the weather make me frigid inside and cold (lacking enthusiasm) towards my daughter. I am her world and one of the icons of God in her life (along with my husband and others).

I am not sure where you are today, it may be summer where you live. But know that God cares about the simplest things in our lives and he gives us bursts of energy and the graces to do even the little things faithfully if we'd but come to him (see Matthew 11:28-29).

Feb 8, 2011

Hurt By Christians

Repost from 2007
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." Isaiah 42:3a

You’re in a swirl of darkness. You experience soul-searing pain. Open wounds. Not only from your own pain, but from the countless injustices and atrocities around you. Numb. Your soul is numb. Your faith fragile. One wrong move and you’ll fall to pieces. You can’t see God through the fog of his people. Jesus said that people would spot Christians by their love, if that’s the case, then you couldn’t be surrounded by Christians because these people are selfish, stubborn, mean and angry. Grinding all sorts of axes. Tunnel-visioned.

You’re disillusioned, don’t know what to believe or if you believe. “Is God who he says he is? Is what I’ve been taught about him true?” you wonder. Moreover if God is good and loving why so much evil, pain, and suffering? Why so many professing Christians who are nothing like Jesus? What can be done for you? Is this all there is? You fear falling into the bottomless abyss of unbelief. What you don’t want, what you don’t need is someone to quote Bible verses to you. Giving you pat answers. You bristle at the thought.

You know what? Jesus isn’t that way. He doesn't kick you when you're down. But he asks, “What can I do for you?” Jesus came to reconcile you and all of creation to God. He wants to show you how to live, to make you whole--fully human. And he will walk with you as you heal. He knows the pace you can manage.

He will sharpen your perceptions of reality through his word, through Christians who behave(d) like him, and through creation's graces. He'll answer many questions, and make you okay with not knowing the answers to others. He'll pour his life into you as you follow him. In turn you'll live your life to serve God and others. It's not the end for you. Right now, the best thing you can do is trust him and relax in his arms even if you can't pray or go to church or serve (he knows all this). He'll bring you around to truth and life and comfort.

Feb 5, 2011

Cross Bearing and Humility

From John Calvin's Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life:

"Even the greatest saints, though realizing that they can only be strong in the grace of God and not in themselves, are nevertheless more sure than they ought to be of their own bravery and persistence, unless he leads them by the trials of life into a deeper knowledge of themselves. This proud idea even induced David to say: 'In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved; Lord, by thy favor thou has made my mountain to stand strong. Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.'

For he confesses that prosperity had so stupefied and benumbed his senses that he disregarded the grace of God on which he should have depended, relied on himself instead, and imagined that he could not fall."

Feb 2, 2011

God's World And Our Assignments - His Will

These days I often hear "It's not about me; it's about him." It's still a popular, over-used, even if well-meaning, Christian slogan. It has become cliche. But recently, this cliche has burrowed into my soul. As I considered my desires about where I want to end up, I had this thought, "If I am to be a servant, then I must do the master's bidding, not my own." God's will, his cosmic plan, isn't all about me. It's about him and his kingdom. It's about us and all of creation. We can verbally assent to the idea, we do all the time, but do we know what it means?

God has many things in mind as he brings forth his kingdom. He is redeeming all things. I am included in his kingdom coming, in his redemption. I am a beloved daughter. As I obey him, his life-giving waters flow through me into the life of others. But his kingdom coming and my definition of personal, even kingdom success, are not always the same. Nor are they always at odds.

God isn't careless towards me or about me and my desires. He often blesses me by granting my requests. However, sometimes he and I might interpret blessing differently; sometimes he'll bless me differently than I'd bless myself if I were he because I am not. And who is wiser? Me or him? I am a small, yet intrical and infinitely loved part, of his family, of his kindgom, of his living story.

Of course, I have my own ideas of the part I want to play in God's story. But he's the author. My job is to serve him--to obey the assignments or part he gives me, even if it is a bit part. I am to be a his faithful servant and the servant of all. I can't wander off and do my own thing. I can't rewrite or edit the story. If I try, not only is it is to my own detriment and destruction--it is destructive to my brothers and sisters, to the his kingdom.

And the thing is, I can barely conceive of the grand scheme of things--the story. I just can't imagine it. Oh yes, scripture tells us how it will end. It gives us some of the cosmic highlights. However, scripture doesn't give us a detailed description of how God's will, his story, will unfold in our lives.

Are we content at playing the minor roles? Will we be faithful to what we are called to do when life doesn't pan out the way we think it should? Or will we throw in the servant's towel, exchanging it for mastery of our own lives?

Servants are often overlooked, invisible, underappreciated, and mistreated. They are to work hard for the master's will, not their own. They are to respect the master and not talk back. They're obscure.

Servants aren't celebrities.

God's great reversal is this: whoever is greatest in the kingdom of heaven will be the servant of all--not a servant of herself or himself.


the last shall be first.

Feb 1, 2011

Am I The Servant of All?

Last year, I asked the Lord to make me a servant. I just ran across these words from Edward F. Markquart's sermon entitled: Having the Heart and Hands of a Servant. You can access it online at: http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/

"A servant always has a loving heart and working hands. Both the heart and the hands. Not just the heart of a servant who sees the needs of others. Not just a heart who feels the pain of those who lost their homes to the hurricanes. Not just a heart who empathizes with those who have lost their jobs, income and insurance. Servants always have good, loving and generous hearts, but they also have hands to do the dirty work. Hands that clean up the tables. Hands that do the dishes. Hands that actually help people in their needs."

God has begun answering my prayer by making me more of a servant and showing me how I would rather be the Master and call the shots rather than take orders I don't like. God always mortally wounds my pride--pride I don't know I possess until I am awakened to its presence by its shrieks of death that result from it receiving God's death blows. If you were to peek behind the veil of my soul, you'd see pride splattered all about and the Lord cleaning up the bloody mess. The Lord, who is truly the servant of all, is cleaning up my mess. He is cleaning me. Here I see the Lord again, being the servant of all, serving me, a most undeserving child.