Posted by: lwnewstart | September 2, 2013

For Good…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpXm_sXcc_Y

(Elphaba):
I’m limited
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
For both of us – now it’s up to you…

(Glinda):
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

(Glinda):
Because I knew you

(Both):
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

(Glinda):
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

(Both):
And none of it seems to matter anymore

(Glinda):
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

(Elphaba):
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

(Both):
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

(Glinda):
And because I knew you…

(Elphaba):
Because I knew you…

(Both):
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

Wicked – “For Good”

There is something about light that fascinates me. The interplay between light and shadow is just beautiful to me. A few moments ago, I walked outside onto my patio, and noticed a beam of light that somehow worked its way through the branches of a tree and then caressed the side of a long strand of Spanish Moss hanging on the side of the trunk. The light was softened by it journey through the prism of branches, and it landed on just the outer edge of the naturally hanging plant. It was beautiful in its simplicity. The sight reminded me again about how wonderful the human eye is, and how frustrated I become that although I can see such subtle beauty with my eyes, I have a difficult time capturing the beauty with my camera in order to share it with others. I guess that means I just need to take more pictures, in order to get to know my camera better. Capturing and sharing beauty takes time, effort, and vision. And yet, there are times when one captures beauty, and the means of its capture isn’t relevant to the deep luster. The imagination takes over, and the warmth of the interplay between:

light and shadow…
reality and romance…
true and false…

pales in the moment as the Heart hears another Voice and sees another Brilliance.

The video and song above captured my imagination the other day. I was introduced to it by a friend on Facebook. A short version of what I have deduced to be at least the surface story behind it, is that Kristen Chenoweth from time to time brings a voice from the crowd onstage to sing with her. Supposedly, it isn’t staged. Although this seems a little far-fetched to my rational mind, and the manner in which they choose the “guest” vocalist is hazy to me; my romantic heart hopes it to be the truth. Sometimes grace just happens.

For those of you that don’t happen across musical theater in your daily lives very often, or don’t have a daughter who spent much of her adolescence immersed in it; Kristen Chenoweth is a growing, Broadway musical legend. She was one of the leads in the initial troop of “Wicked”, a musical which tells the backstory of the good witch and bad witch of Oz-fame. For those fans of musical theater, Kristen Chenoweth is a star. But stars, at least the more honest and humble ones, know just how blessed they are; and that there is a multitude of talent in the world around them… talent that has been either overlooked, or isn’t particularly what the funders of Broadway want. Maybe the body-type doesn’t quite fit the hypocrisy of our times.

Sometimes, a star can step away from the light, or rather share the light.

For me, the video shows just such an event. It is a reminder to me of just how deeply the cultural expectations of beauty have delved into my perceptions. When Sarah Horn was led onstage, I saw a tall, rather frumpy looking woman. As she stood next to Chenoweth, who is petite and dressed for the bright lights, the dissonance was startling. Then she began to sing… A lump formed in my throat and tears began to well up in my eyes in response to absolute beauty. Sarah took charge of the moment. She became for us: the observers… Chenoweth included… more than our expectations. She took off the mask we…I…had placed on her, and allowed the Light to reflect off her in a fuller way. She was a reminder to me that you never know what beauty there is beneath the façade’ we create for others, and ourselves for that matter.

I have been reading “Immortal Diamond” by Richard Rohr, an exploration of the journey we each take to unearth the True Self we were created to be. Rohr, along with other, more ancient writers, distinguishes this Self against the manufactured False Self:

“Your True Self is that part of you that knows who you are and whose you are, although largely unconsciously. Your False Self is just who you think you are—but thinking doesn’t make it so.” Pg. vi-vii

It must be said that our True Self is more than just our talents…as Horn so beautifully shared. It is innate to who we are, and who we were born to be, and contrasts with our False Self, which is largely manufactured. Rohr mentions the process as beginning with a pursuit of the question: “Who am I?” Curiosity about where we fit in the world:

“This curiosity about ourselves grows more intense in the teen and young adult years as we try on a dozen costumes and roles, and we surely covet any recognition or praise of our most recent incarnation. We quickly grab it and try it on for size, as if to say, ‘This might be me!’ Some never take their costume off. A too early or too successful self becomes a total life agenda, occasionally for good but more often for ill.” Pg. 8-9

That may be why so many talented people get lost within the role their talents have created for them. Or, I might ask, “Does the talent define the role, or the audience?” We may continue to live incessantly in the False Self, because we perceive the people around us to care for us based on our performance, rather than who we truly are…and sadly this may be true. Surely there are people who rely on us for our performance, but are they the ones we hope to be most intimate with?

In my life, I was late coming to the table of intimacy. A number of factors in my early years stunted my growth in learning how to develop positive, intimate relationships. I became very adept at presenting a good, outward impression, and hid from anything that would signify…to me at least…weakness. Yet, I DO have weaknesses, and the development of my False Self was a means of living mostly in areas of talent and performance. As Rohr mentions:

“Your False Self is not your bad self, your clever or inherently deceitful self, the self that God does not like or you should not like. Actually, your False Self is quite good and necessary as far as it goes. It just does not go far enough, and it often poses and thus substitutes for the real thing. That is its only problem, and that is why we call it ‘false.’ The False Self is bogus more than bad, and bogus only when it pretends to be more than it is. Various false selves (temporary costumes) are necessary to get us started, and they show their limitations when they stay around too long. If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light.” Pg.27

(Maybe this is why Kristen Chenoweth has begun to share the spotlight in her concerts. Maybe she is transforming from being concerned with only HER performance, and more concerned with introducing others’ talents to the world.)

In my view, our True Self is accessed through a process of humility, dying, and resurrection.

I define humility as being honest about our Self, both in recognition of strengths and weaknesses. Intimacy with people that are cognizant of and accepting of both is an important part of the journey to resurrection and the uncovering of the True Self.

In, The Lazarus Life, Stephen W. Smith writes about this process by using the death and resurrection of Lazarus, taken from John, chapter 11, as a metaphor for our journey towards the True Self. Smith emphasizes the importance of human relationships in this process. He mentions that Lazarus’ re-entry to life after the tomb, was restricted due to the presence of graves clothes, which were part of the early embalming process. Long strips of cloth were wrapped around the body in layers with spices in between the layers to preserve the body.

(This was outside-in preservation of a corpse. Today, our embalming methods consist of inside-out preservation. The body’s blood is drained, and replaced by chemicals to retard the natural process of decomposition. No matter which process is used, dead is dead… no matter how life-like the corpse may look in five years.)

In our process of resurrection from the death of the False Self, into the uncovering of the True Self, we have grave clothes which hide the True Self, and restrict its movements. In order to remove these clothes, we need the help of intimate, loving relationships. People that are willing to get naked:

“Vulnerability means a certain kind of soul nakedness. Sharing your own stench (of death) allows others to share theirs. Who feels safe in the presence of perfection? Feeling safe leads to being real. It requires mutual sharing, not just one-way listening or talking.” Pg.165

So…if you’re gonna get naked…make sure the other person is getting naked too! Getting naked is a very self-conscious, humbling, and sometimes dangerous undertaking. (As I get older, I find this especially true!) It requires people that are trustworthy, and committed to their own process of growth. People that have been wounded, not willing to deny it, but are seeking to embrace it in order to move forward. Holding on to the False Self may feel comfortable…like being fully clothed in a room full of people getting naked…and may even seem to be prudent; with answers to all of life’s problems. (“Just put more clothes on, Mildred…. Please!”) Ultimately, though, holding on to the False Self restricts growth, resurrection, and becoming truer representations of who we were meant to be.

I am still struggling with the process. I get in my own way more often than not. I have a strong suspicion that if I were given the opportunity to share the light with Kristen Chenoweth, the very least of my screw-ups would be to forget the words! Being able to accept the reality that I will make mistakes, and letting go of the comfort of my False Self takes an assurance that I am loved.

Mistakes are ok…
Risks are ok…
It is ok to be playful…
These are forays into both discerning the True Self and an expression of it. The confidence to do these needs an inside-out transformation. It is easy to go from one community to another in search of a “safe” community, all the while expecting the community to “take care” of us:

“What God has reminded me is that in every group, every family, and every church, people are wearing their own graveclothes. So am I. But I forget this so often, hoping that this group could be the place where I can finally deal with something important in my life, and all my needs will be met—finally.” Pg. 158

As in a marriage, if we expect people to meet our deepest emotional wants and needs; we will be disappointed. Only God can resurrect us on the inside. We want to be loved…

Deeply…
Intimately…
Unreservedly…

Only God can give that kind of love. God can break through the hardened shell of the False Self to introduce us to the Immortal Diamond within each one of us, and the Light reflects off each cut surface to reveal its beauty.

“Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
(Elphaba):
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood
(Both):
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
(Glinda):
And because I knew you…
(Elphaba):
Because I knew you…
(Both):
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…”

Posted by: lwnewstart | August 27, 2013

Still More Questions…

Has social media changed the manner in which we relate to each other?

Are we becoming more isolated?

Is communication enhanced by needing to fit into 140 characters, or diminished?

Will children’s books ever go to an electronic medium only?

Does the internet enhance creativity and imagination, or curtail it?

Does our ability to see violence and its affects across the world encourage us to be more violent or less?

Does God believe in evolution?

Are the “rules” of marriage changing?

Are we destined to get irritated easily as we age?

Is it possible to be moved by beauty and by tragedy with great depth, or does one limit our perception of the other?

Does living alone and being alone change us, so that we are more likely to continue that way?

How truly intimate is an open marriage?

Posted by: lwnewstart | August 21, 2013

Only Love Matters…

Every other Sunday evening, I take my mother to church. Connie, my sister, and I take turns. The service we attend is called: Country Church. Most of the folks that attend are older, and the music is kind of down-home with more than a hint of Southern gospel. They have a background set that looks like an old country store. The band and worship ensemble wear western boots and an occasional western hat. The service begins with the worship leader…or maybe that should be trail boss… greeting the congregation with “HowDEEE!”
Really….
Pure kitsch…
But… I sometimes kind of like it. (When my eyes aren’t rolling…) Mainly because many of the songs they sing are ones from my childhood. It reminds me from where I came, and my heritage, or at least some of it. Mom really enjoys it, especially the preaching. That part I sometimes find hard to sit through. It is a Southern Baptist church, and the conservative slant can really grate on my moderate nerves.
Mom is 89-years-old. She has increasing, age-related dementia, exacerbated, I think, by the fact that she has bi-polar disorder. We never knew that as we were growing up, but noticed that about every 7 years, she would have a depressive break. Looking back, and talking to my brother and sister, I think that each break changed her. She is on medication now, but my sister bore the brunt of her last break, and it was really difficult for her and Butch, my brother-in-law. Moving here has been an opportunity for me to take on some of the load of dealing with Mom.

As I considered moving, that was one of the issues that worried me. How would I respond to Mom? Our relationship, or maybe it is more accurate to say my relationship with her, has been difficult. Yet I am not sure I realized that, until the last 10-15 years. It especially became apparent to me after my divorce, and I began to take some classes in seminary that led me to explore issues with my family of origin. Especially issues with my mother. I had to take an honest look at this most intimate, and fundamental female relationship.
We each begin existence encased in the body of another person. When we are born, the mother-child relationship is extremely important, because in it we find our most basic needs are met, or they aren’t. We learn a lot about the world, or rather what we expect from the world in terms of safety and comfort and provision in this one relationship. Even though a father can come alongside to care and help a mother meet the needs of an infant, the child’s attachment to its mother contributes to what it feels about life and the world… and themselves.
I won’t go into it here, but Mom’s illness affected me in those earliest days of my infancy. I have needed to look back, be honest about the lack of stability in our relationship, but also other parts of my life as a growing child. I needed to grieve it, which included anger at the way I felt I was perceived by my mother. I felt like I was expected to be a heathen, and many times as an adolescent, I fulfilled the expectation nicely. I know that she and my father loved me, but I couldn’t gloss over how some of their decisions, manner of living, and approach to life; which included Mom’s illness; affected me. I am NOT trying to figure out where to place blame. Blame is a form of denial, not truth-finding. I needed to understand why I felt the way I did for much of my life, so I could begin to heal, grow and change.

When I first moved to Florida, near my mother, and siblings; I was still angry with her. I now understand the anger was both natural… I needed to feel it… but it was tied to my own unfulfilled expectations of her, and how I wished she would have interacted with me. This was a necessary step in my healing. When she called…I didn’t answer. I seldom spent time with her. I was afraid that her tendency to live in guilt would affect my thinking and feelings about myself. It had my whole life, and I was just being freed from it due to personal growth, and God’s grace. She felt the absence, too, and kept trying to get me to draw nearer to her. By using guilt… so it was a vicious circle.
Then I became involved in a relationship with a woman that eventually didn’t work out. When we broke up, I began to explore my part in the break-up. I did a similar, much more extensive process when my marriage of 23 years ended. In both circumstances, I tried to examine what I did well, and what I didn’t do so well.
One day, as I was thinking about the most recent break-up, I believe God spoke to me, and helped me realize that in order for me to go forward into another relationship with a woman; I needed to seek reconciliation with my mother. Or, more honestly, reconciliation with my feelings about Mom. I needed to see her as she is, was, and what she was capable of being, rather than what I wished and expected her to be. She needed to be a flesh-and-blood person, with great strengths and great failings. I needed to see… her… not a caricature of my own making. I was beginning to believe I could see her as a sister-in-Christ…as the Beloved of God. Maybe, if I could see her in that light, I could love her as she is and was, and maybe even…myself. God began to show me that, as she continues to grow older, and more child-like, I would sort of father my mother. This began to give me some hope, because I enjoy many aspects of being a father. Age has softened me, too, so I am more patient, and am able to find humor instead of frustration…

Mostly…
Every quarter, Country Church has a service with only music. They call it: The Grand Old Gospel Opry…
Of course they do…
The Grand Old Gospel Opry is quite popular especially with the crowd that usually attends Country Church, which are generally senior adults. Mom, however, usually doesn’t attend because she likes to hear the pastor preach. This past Sunday evening was one of those nights and there were “Special Guests” to go along with the regular bunkhouse gang. (Actually, the worship team and band is quite talented…) On this night there was a bluegrass band and a men’s quartet, a man and wife who travel as evangelists, and other groupings of people that attend the church.
We began with congregational singing. I enjoyed the songs, because they were ones we would sing while my family was in evangelism. A noticeable theme began to evolve with each song: Heaven.
“That makes sense…” I thought. “Play to your crowd.”
The evangelists got up next and began to sing together. I was reminded of sooo many couples I have seen and known through the years. People that travelled from church to church, singing and preaching the gospel. People like my family. This was before four-dollar-gas and one-hundred-dollar-a-night motels; when singers used pre-recorded-sound-tracks that weren’t considered karaoke, and there were only three or four channels on TV, so there weren’t as many entertainment opportunities to compete with the drama of revivals. My first thoughts in response to the couple were pretty negative:

“C’mon brother… don’t you know that your time has passed? That style of doing church is dead and ineffective.”
However, it occurs to me just how much I needed to see them. They were like characters emanating from my heritage of faith. People who put aside a safe, and consumptive lifestyle in order to tell other people about the Christ of new beginnings, of new life, of resurrection… I need to embrace that heritage. It was hard and disruptive… for me, but also for my mother. Mom raised three kids on the road, from one conglomeration of church services to another, all the while having to keep the kids occupied and quiet every evening for a couple hours of church, while sitting IN FRONT of scores of people that could be VERY critical of the preacher’s wife and kids! It was keeping the kids entertained in the car through endless miles of travel. It was keeping the family fed while in poverty, and in clean clothes washed either in borrowed washers and dryers, in a laundromat, or in the sink of a travel trailer and then hung to dry on a makeshift clothesline. It was using cold starch on my father’s white shirts, so they would be… just….so……. It was being the kids’ first (and only at least for a period of time) teacher. It was singing in front of people though she felt intimidated by her self-perceived lack of musical talent.
A tough life…
A committed life…
The service wound along until a trio of women began to sing. Mom said that one of the women was…

“…the daughter of the song leader. She just finished college and is really pretty. I wish I knew somebody that knows her, so I could introduce you to her.”
“Um…. Mom….she is the same age as my daughter…”
“Oh…”
Right now, to my mother at times, I am still about 27. A young man. I think it is because I am single, and we weren’t around each other for so many years. For my first birthday after I moved here, she gave me a book entitled: “God’s Little Instruction Book for Graduates”.
Well… I have been in grad-school for the past three years…
And I confess that in my OWN mind, I still feel like I am 27… at least until I wake up in the morning… then my body says: “Helloooo 52…”
The most beautiful part of the Opry was several songs into the set of the men’s quartet. I had been enjoying the quartet, and remembered how often we would drive many miles to hear quartets when I was young. My dad loved men’s quartets. While he was in college and grad-school at small religious schools, Dad travelled with other young men in a quartet doing public relations for the school. In fact, that was how my mom and dad first met. Dad’s quartet held a concert at the church my mother attended, and they first noticed each other. Eventually, Mom enrolled in the same school.
Pretty effective public relations, I would say…
My father was the first tenor in that quartet, and as Mom and I listened to the first tenor of the Opry quartet singing lead; she leaned in to me and said with quivering voice, “That makes me think of your dad.”

I gently put my arm around my mother, and pulled her tightly against me. She began to quietly cry freely.
For just a moment, my imagination took me to a little church in West Virginia, and I saw a young woman, with striking auburn hair and expressive brown eyes, about 17 or 18-years-old sitting in a hot, crowded sanctuary listening attentively to a group of young men sing. One young man especially held her attention… the good looking first tenor with the crisply starched, white shirt beneath the trimly cut black suit. His hair was dark, and slicked back, and she noticed that as his gaze travelled across the crowd, it would linger with increasing frequency in her direction. With each repeated gaze, both their hearts would beat a little faster. After the concert was over, she would go to the table with information about the college he represented, and ask for a brochure… just to, you know, learn about the academic programs. He would shyly approach her, and their eyes would once again meet. He would hand her the brochure… their hands would touch ever-so slightly… Sparks!
As she cried, my heart cried with her.
For her loss of her Love…
For the loneliness in her life now…
For her desire to be near him again…
Somewhere inside me, I began to see my mother for the first time. The past disappointments and frustrations I felt through the years didn’t really matter. Love began to vibrate for this woman that bore me and introduced me so imperfectly to the world. I saw, instead, God’s beloved daughter. My natural fatherly instincts began to take over. As the song ended, and before we began to applaud, I kissed her on the forehead, as I would my own daughter.

Before I moved to Florida, I wrote four blogs in which I suggested the need for me to be redeemed to my heritage, and my heritage redeemed to me.
God is doing just that…

Posted by: lwnewstart | August 14, 2013

When Sisters Collide… (Repost)

Two of my favorite people in the New Testament are the sisters, Martha and Mary. I love that they appear to have been so different and approached life in their own unique ways. I get a feel for these differences in the story told in Luke 10: 38-42. They had an unexpected visitor and the manner in which they approached his visit tells us not only about Martha and Mary, but also about ourselves.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I grew up in the church and heard sermons preached about these two women several times. I seem to recall, that most of the preachers took a similar slant teaching about these two women.

Mary was the “good” sister… she laid aside everything to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. Nothing else was as important as hearing what God had to say.

Martha was the “bad” sister… she was preoccupied with serving pie and tea, and making sure the linen was freshly laid out on the table. Everything had to be just so to please the important visitor. In the trite view, Martha chose busyness rather than taking time to listen to God.

Although I know Jesus redirected Martha from all the duties she believed were important to prepare and care for her visitors, Jesus seemed to be even more concerned by the reasons for her busyness. Could it be that Jesus sensed in Martha a tendency to base her value on the duties she accomplished? She had become so consumed in making her guests’ experience in her house of the highest quality that she had isolated herself from the guest! Mary, however, was completely occupied with taking in the words and presence of Jesus. She was available to the person of Jesus. She listened, and I bet she asked a question or two. She probably had heard about Jesus, but wanted to know him personally. So she let everything else slide in order to be near him. She made space in her life, and then was attentive to what Jesus was saying.

Now the activities Martha was involve in were necessary. These men had walked for some time and were probably hungry. Martha knew that. Feeding them was a time consuming task. No refridgerator. No Pizza Hut. Not even Chinese delivery. She had to make the food. Their feet needed to be washed. Water needed to be drawn from the well to quench their thirst. Practical needs were pressing, or so she must have thought. So Martha didn’t wait… she got busy! Make a list. Plan the work and then work the plan. But time was pressing! There were too many “to do’s” and not enough “to doers”. And there was Mary… daydreaming, boy chasing Mary… lazily sitting on the floor… not even folding napkins!

“I can’t get it all done, soon enough!”

“It’s not fair!”

” Why doesn’t she see?”

” Why doesn’t Jesus see?”

Doesn’t that sound like life on some days…. or weeks…. or months…. or even every day? It’s all important stuff! Done to benefit others, or to meet our basic physical needs. Be honest, everyday life requires us to be Martha. Martha’s days are filled with practical activity. We need food and shelter and transportation. And with each one of those comes necessary activities.

Preparation

Maintenance

Clean-up

Repair

Scheduling

Shopping

Planning

There is nothing wrong with Martha’s activities…. and Jesus knows that. He grew up as a carpenter. A working man in the house of a working family. And yet he knew the temptations Martha faced…

Self-worth tied to a job…

Performance based personal value…

Ability to produce equals worth…

To do list is pre-eminent…

Breathless….. Running….

Needing to control, control, control…

Living with an underlying irritation from others’ choices…

Believing the lie: “I am a commodity!”

And living all the time in that fashion robbed her of deep relationships. She was “distracted” from “the important by the tyranny of the urgent,” to quote Charles Swindoll. We all face those same temptations.

Or, we can be like Mary. She was fully invested in the present and the conversation with Jesus. She was open to the beauty of God. She wasn’t letting normal activity distract her from what she believed was most important. She was passionate about knowing Jesus. She didn’t care what Martha thought or what anybody else did… she was going to sit, listen, and learn.

So we see two sisters on a collision course towards conflict. I’m sure the other people in the room saw and felt it coming. The tension growing into a greater and greater distraction to hearing Jesus, that Martha finally interupted the makeshif love fest to complain to her guest… whom she had invited in… because HE didn’t intervene!

” It’s YOUR fault, Jesus, because you won’t tell her to help me!” Although those aren’t Martha’s exact words, the message seems to be inferred.

Can’t you see Mary’s face getting red? She rises to her feet, looking squarely at her sister…. Uh, oh. Stand back… Cat fight coming… Martha and Mary are careening into confrontation and then…

Jesus meets them in the middle. He puts his arm around Martha and responds calmly. He doesn’t speak down to her. He speaks to her need. She feels alone, overwhelmed by what needs to be done, and disappointed she can’t be around Jesus. His visit is being taken away from her, because of her to do list.

Now, honestly, I don’t believe Martha’s intentions were bad. But her timing was. She had chosen the wrong time to do necessary things. Had she spent some time with Jesus, He most likely would have joined her in the activities she was trying to take on by herself, a little later. And I suspect, he would have… invited… Mary,and several of the others under her roof, to help.

I confess, my problem many times is to know when to be Martha, and when to be Mary. I need to learn how to walk away from busyness, and clear space to listen to God’s voice. There are many ways to do that, too. God speaks everywhere, but I only know it when I center myself to listen. God speaks:

in the natural world…

through other people…

in world events…

I’m writing this a little over a week after a major earthquake struck the country of Haiti. One of the images that was so powerful to me was that of an 8-year-old child being pulled from the wreckage of a building. As he was lifted in the arms of one of his rescuers, he lifted his arms high in celebration. How incredible it must have felt to be helplessly trapped within a prison of wreckage he was unable to lift, and then to hear the voices of people coming to his aid. Can you imagine how long those 8 days of entrapment must have felt and then how time must’ve slowed as the sounds of digging got closer and closer? Can you imagine the feeling of exhilaration of being freed? That image is a whisper from God… Be free! Lift up your arms! Celebrate life and liberation!

Mary was listening to that voice. We need to listen, as well. But we also must remember, there is a time to become Martha. There are others trapped in their own prisons, and it is very normal for the rescued to become rescuers.

Especially when Jesus meets them in the middle…

Posted by: lwnewstart | April 30, 2013

Reflecting on Reconciliation…

The thoughts below are from a reflection paper for a class: Christian Ministry of Reconciliation. The class covered the process of reconciliation in varied circumstances. A partial list included: Marriage, racial, gender, and reconciliation between people groups after atrocities such as the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and as written in the book, “The Sunflower” written by Simon Wiesenthal about his experience in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. The class was extremely valuable, but also quite emotional taxing. We dealt with difficult issues and heard both hard, and heartening stories of different methods of reconciliation.

 

I was interested in and respected the teaching decision to begin a class on reconciliation with a text about marriage. This was especially pertinent to my personal experience of divorce, and as a former leader of several divorce support groups. Through my experience, I came to further understand the Christian covenant of marriage to be a means of uniting two people in such a way that their physical, emotional, and spiritual union creates a new entity, or personality. Scripture describes this as becoming “one flesh.” [1] I understand this entity to be like a child that can either grow and mature, or fail to thrive and eventually die altogether. Once a marriage, or that “oneness”, dies, it cannot be revived by human effort alone. Only God can resurrect that which was formerly dead. Just as the formerly dead Jesus of Nazareth was dead, and then resurrected in new life as Jesus the Christ;[2] through resurrection, God creates something new which hints towards an old relational design originally written about in Genesis 1.

Essentially, a dead marriage cannot become a new marriage through the re-branding inherent in “cheap reconciliation”,[3] where external exchanges of mutual regret are given and promises of better future behavior and choices are made. Such perceived changes neglect relational and personal systems which are internal and bring similar actions and responses as in the past. A dead marriage is still a dead marriage even though you stuff the carcass with potpourri. The couple must decide individually and collectively to undergo the resurrection process of re-creation that is reconciliation. Both people must decide to truly reconcile, while it only takes one person to “take the spurs off and unsaddle the horse when it is dead,” and pursue a divorce.

Although divorce occurs, it does not always mean a cessation of strife and the potential for emotional and even physical violence. When the issues of a dead marriage are continued to be held internally and mutual forgiveness is not given and received by both former partners; the war is most likely not over. New battlegrounds are sought. Children and custody disputes can be one of these battlegrounds. In other cases, however, when forgiveness is given and received by former partners, reconciliation may take place in how they relate to each other as persons while a form of partnership remains in caring for children of the former marriage by parenting with shared values for the benefit of the children. Reconciliation, then, could be said to occur even while they remain divorced and mea each choose to marry other people. Obviously, these two types of divorced partnerships: warring former partners and reconciled/reconciling former partnerships, becom two poles of a relational continuum along which great, messy relational and personal diversity occurs. Defining reconciliation for these relationships may be as complicated and difficult as when a couple decides to remain married and not divorce.

If this is true in a basic societal structure like marriage, how much more complicated when larger numbers of people and systems are involved? This class has helped me see, in a larger sense, just how difficult and messy a decision to follow the process of reconciliation can be. Thankfully, I also now have a better understanding that there IS a process, and learned some of the components of it as well as where some of the sticking points of that process might be. I understand the overall state of a reconciled/reconciling relationship to look like the following:

 

Mercy>——————Grace & Trustworthy Action—————-<Justice

 

Mercy:

Mercy holds in tension both forgiveness of Self and forgiveness of Others. We forgive both ourselves and others for mistakes previously made, and pursue and attitude of forgiveness for those which we will make in the future. We also make room for the growth process of understanding and continuing to work through personal issues which stem from our families of origin and the ongoing relationships with those persons which affect the current relationship. Mercy could be understood like this:

 

Forgiveness of Self>————–Mercy————-<Forgiveness of Others

 

Justice:

Justice holds in tension respect for Self, and respect for Others. In justice, we realize that we must treat ourselves with respect, and that we are responsible for our own feelings and the action we take in response to them. We treat others with respect by giving them room to work out their own feelings by exercising self-soothing techniques;[4] however we also realize that our actions communicate our perceived value of the other person. Our sense of justice leads us away from coercion and blaming others, while also strongly communicating our own self-respect. Justice could look like this:

Self Respect>————-Justice————Respect for Others

 

Giving grace to others and one’s Self for being imperfect humans, while also acting in ways towards the Other that cultivate mutual trust increases our level of intimacy and feelings of hopefulness for the future together. Grace both mediates between and engages with mercy and justice through trustworthy action. Only God exemplifies this process completely. Yet God invites us in Genesis 2:15-17[5] to be partners with God and each other in a generative, co-creative way of living through “Vocation… Permission… and Prohibition.” [6]

Vocation:

Through vocation, we are invited to care for our relationships with God, Self, Others, and Creation in ways that promote a healthy balance which benefits all four. (I would say that a determination to confront systems, organizations, or persons that have values and actions that become barriers to this balance is part of our vocation. The manner in which we confront, however, is intended to restore justice rather than violate it further.)

Permission:

Freedom. We are given permission and invited to freely explore and express in ways beneficial to God, Self, Others and Creation; who we are created to be. Freedom allows us to learn and grow in order to enrich, care for, and benefit all in the time and place into which we have been born.

Prohibition:

We are prohibited from living in self-interest to the exclusion, coercion, or detriment of others and the Creation.

Throughout the class, most of what we read, the media we watched, or conversations we had were pictures of systems which deviated from the above model. The systems we studied modeled several ways to mediate the change needed for people or groups of people to become reconciled to each other following some level of atrocity or prolonged prejudice. My emotional response to many of these activities was that of deep sadness. Sadness over not only my discovery of the atrocities which have been committed and even continue to be committed; but also in the realization of just how stark both the possibilities of and process of reconciliation might be in response to them. I am also deeply saddened about how many of the atrocities and injustices occurred over an extended period of time, and were committed with apparent nonchalance by the perpetrators. Despite knowing the reality of each tragic event or series of events, the question of my heart and mind was: “How could that be?”

It occurs to me that while the process of reconciliation doesn’t attempt to answer that question, the goal of reconciliation: a new way of living with each other; just might give practical steps to be proactive in limiting the need for reconciliation. Overall, the conclusion of all this for me is a couple of questions I must ask myself:

“What can I do? How can I be reconciled and become a mediator of reconciliation?”

I will mention some actions I might take to answer these questions.

  • A Commitment to Ongoing Confession:

I define confession as honesty with God, myself, and trusted others about what I know to be true about me. Honest about not only my weakness, my fear, my diseased prejudices, and actions towards others; but also my strengths, gifts, and courageous actions towards life and others. I need to be open to the convicting and convincing voice of God and others in my life, so I become aware of my need for forgiveness. I also need to be aware of how shame tries to steal my perception of the goodness of the Imago Dei in me.

 

  • Repentance Rather than Regret:

I need to order my life socially, economically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways that promote love and respect for God, myself, others and Creation. This includes choosing forgiveness over retribution, yet acting to confront systemic and personal marginalization of and disrespect for people. I must choose to cross over lines of personal discomfort to experience people and cultures different than me and mine.

 

  • Receive and Give Grace Which is Manifested in Trustworthy Action:

I need to listen to the stories of people. I need to tell my own as well. By so doing, we might understand each other better, and gain insight as to why we act and respond to life in certain ways. Listening to and telling our stories can generate a feeling of being in a safe place. A safe place is necessary, because many of our personal prejudices are buried deep within, sometimes out of sight of our consciousness.


[1] Genesis 2:24; New Revised Standard Version, HarperCollins Publishers, San Francisco, CA; Pg. 5

[2] Romans 1:1-4; NRSV

[3]  Holeman Virginia Todd, Reconcilable Differences; InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL; Pg. 12

[4] Holeman, Pg.114

[5] NRSV, Pg. 5

[6] Brueggemann, Walter, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching—Genesis; Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY; Pg.46-49.

Posted by: lwnewstart | March 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on Job…

The following are thoughts about the Old Testament character of Job from the Book of Job. I wrote them in my journal in January 2010. My divorce was to be final at the end of January in that year, and I guess I was trying to allow God to speak to me about my life before, during, and then what would come next. About 3 and one-half years prior to this, I was asked by the director of drama ministries at the church we were attending at the time, to play the lead in “God’s Favorite”, by Neil Simon. The play is an adaptation of the story of Job. At that time, my marriage was at the beginning of the end stage. I felt certain that God was using the part to speak to me. It indeed gave me an outlet to give voice to my anger, fear, and pain; while also to express the vital release valve of sarcastic, dark humor. (I love Neil Simon!) Once again, I was trying to allow Job to talk to me plainly about life when it sucks…(I was using the NIV for scripture references, so the language might be a bit “clanky” for some readers.) These thoughts are of a man in process… trying to make sense of the Life Cataclysm that had recently been his experience, all the while reaching out to God for assurance and with deep questions about the past, present, and of Tomorrow’s promise or doubt.

 

January 1, 2010


Job 1-3
Job’s character: “…blameless and upright…” (1:1)
Job’s spiritual orientation: “…feared God and shunned evil…” (1:1)
Job’s family: “…seven sons and three daughters…” (1:2 )

Job’s stuff: “7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys” (1:3)

Job’s reputation: “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (1:3)

Job’s heart: “His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes and they would invite their sisters to eat and drink with them.” (1:4)
Job was generous and passed the trait to his children. He had to make the food available from his estate for these feasts. After the feast:
“Job would send and have them purified.” (1:5)


Job passed on his faith and its availability to his children:


“Early in the morning, he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’” (1:5)


Job interceded in prayer for his children:


“This was Job’s regular custom.” (1:5)

A great man of substance and faith!

*Superimpose an eternal/spiritual scene over the home, time, and place Job lived:

“The angels came to present themselves before the Lord…” (1:6)
Angels are subject to God. They are accountable to God.
“…and Satan also came with them.” (1:7)
This seems to infer that Satan has access to the throne of God. ? Is this:
• A statement of spiritual reality?
• A theatrical component of the story?
• A testament to God’s dominion over all the spirit world?
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’” (1:7)
Is this God holding Satan accountable?
“Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’” (1:7)
Inferences:
• Satan can’t be everywhere at once.
• Satan has open access to the earth.
• Satan is free to “roam” where and when Satan chooses.
God points out Job with pride and respect:
“Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8)
Why does God point out Job to Satan?
What point is God trying to make?

Satan responds with a sneer:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” (1:9)
Satan points out the blessings Job enjoys from God:
God has placed “…a hedge of protection around…” :
1. Him…
2. His household…
3. Everything he has…
You have blessed the work of his hands.” (1:10)
“Look, God… his relationship with you has made him rich! Why wouldn’t he take a ride on that gravy train?” Satan begins to try and take Job out of God’s care. But God has to give Job over to Satan. Satan can not take Job away.
“…but stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (1:11)
Satan tries to incite God’s action against Job… God’s child. God’s and Satan’s intentions were headed in opposite directions.
• God intended to stretch Job’s trust and belief and faith to a place where Job didn’t rely on a comfortable, successful life to choose God.
• Satan intended to sew doubt in Job’s heart in order to entice Job away from God’s face.

The Question: Was Job’s trust in God dependent on a comfortable life?

Is that what has happened in my life? I certainly haven’t show the character and earthly wisdom of Job, but my love and trust of God has been determined by my circumstances. While I believed God’s love for me was determined by my performance, my own love for God was defined by…
NO… that’s not true! As life got harder, I learned MORE about God’s love and faithfulness. God’s love in these dark days has inspired my own changing love for God.

CATASTROPHE: All of Job’s stuff and his children are taken and he is advised of each incident in blow after blow at one period of time! (1:13-19)
“At this, Job got up and tore his robes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship…” (1:20)
Job’s response: Acts of grief and worship!
“…and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
May the name of the Lord be praised.” (1:21)

Poetry….
Job’s world was crushed and he responded with poetry…

In this song, coming from his broken heart, Job shows his understanding that God owned everything in his life and could require it at any moment. Somehow, Job was able to worship in his grief…
…In the beginning. But his test was just at the Start. God wasn’t done, yet.

Thoughts:
Through the last three years, I have believed I deserved all the catastrophe in my life. I believed I had earned the bad. But did I originally believe I had earned or could earn the good? Is God trying to teach me that God owns it all AND loves me in spite of what I have or don’t have? I am learning to trust God… come what may. God’s love for me can never be earned, or lost.

1/03/10:


“In all of this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing.” (1:22)
Asking God, “Why?” and telling God he is wrong is NOT the same thing. “Why” sometimes comes rushing out from the depths of our soul. It carries the assumption that God has a reason, or that there IS a reason for the events of our lives. Honestly, I don’t think there is a reason. Sometimes things just are! Like a snowfall in winter, or earthquakes, or faulty wiring causing a fire… Sometimes physical conditions are such that things happen. We are then called upon to respond. Either with trust and faith, or with distrust and accusations. Anger can be present in either personal response. God’s ultimate desire is to use what happens in our lives to draw us closer to God and invite us to be healthier, fuller functioning creations of God. We become fuller-figure expressions of the Imago Dei. Sin closes us off to God’s actions in our lives and leaves us more alone. Asking “Why?” actually shows we are opening ourselves more deeply to God.

Job 2:3- The same scene of heavenly accountability as in 1:6, with the same opening exchange between God and Satan. Job’s economic and familial circumstances had changed, but Job’s response to life and to God had not… nor had Job’s standing with God.

*Next Test:
“’Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’” (2:4-5)
Job sits in the ashes of his life, scraping the sores on his body with broken pottery. “Where is the purpose in this?” he must have thought. His wife attacks his faith and personal integrity in 2:9. “Give up Job… I have…” she seems to say. Job responds out of the frustration caused by the pain…
“You are talking like a foolish woman! Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)
It’s easy to understand where both people are…
Both afraid of their “out of control” lives…
Anger rising from an inability to change the past…
Deep grief from the loss of their children…

Awaiting the drop of the next shoe…
Questioning their security of life fundamentals…
Crisis…
Ongoing…
Life changing…
But Job’s wife had to watch her husband’s health deteriorate. Formerly a healthy, confident, capable man. Now a dirty, diseased, bruised man. And yet… Job still trusted. His earthly resources gone, he still trusted God’s provision and plan, even though he couldn’t see it.

*Next Test:
“When Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” (2:11)
A good start by these men:
• Get together…
• Get a plan…
• Go!
Sounds like business men. And then…
“When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him;” (2:12)

Maybe they saw the dust and smoke rising from where Job’s house used to be. As they grew closer, they saw a lone figure seated amid the desolation. The figure did not rise to greet them as he would ordinarily have done. He had an unknown disease, so would’ve kept his distance, as would they, to protect against its spread. His friends wept at the destruction of their friend… yes… but also possible the destruction of their own feelings of invincibility. If this could happen to Job, could it not also happen to them? So… their grief for him left them quiet.
They couldn’t touch him…
They most likely could think of nothing constructive to do…
They showed wisdom, I think, in saying nothing…
None of them could relate to Job’s predicament, but they cared. So…
They sat…
And slept…
And sat…
And slept…
For seven days.

*Next Test:
Job’s agony turns into the “Black Why?” His pain nudges him towards the slippery slope of disillusionment. All he previously believed about life and God were being attacked by his own faith immune system… his own questions.

“What did I do to deserve this?”
“How can I go another day in this kind of pain?”
“What do I do next?”
“How could God love me, yet do this to me?”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen to me!”
Finally, when he can’t figure out the answers to his own questions, and determines the search is futile, anyway; Job collapses into the “Black Why?”
“Why was I ever born?” (Chapter 3)
Everyone who has gone through prolonged pain and heartache is at least tempted to ask the “Black Why?” by the apparent futility of their life. As Henry Nouwen writes:

“A person of faith from long ago who asked and lived the difficult questions of existence was Job. A careful reading of the biblical Book of Job shows that Job’s questions were ‘answered’ by his friends, but not by God. As he lives his own questions in the face of suffering, all Job can say is, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” (Spiritual Direction, by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Pg. 6)
God has the decency and wisdom to leave unanswered questions we ask in despair, because “living out our questions” as Nouwen calls the process, leaves us with much more than answers. We gain a deeper, richer life. We also catch a clearer glimpse of our God-given value. So the “Black Why?” answers itself.

Thought:
The challenge during the “Black Why?” is…
To keep living…
To keep walking…

And that is where my thoughts on Job concluded. The years since have been my attempt to do that. Just keep living and walking and listening and speaking, and questioning, and… live out my unanswered questions. I have found that as you live out those questions, the answers become not relevant, eventually. Because life changes, and the answers don’t really matter. I am finding that God lives in dissonance, and we must learn to hold seemingly opposite views in tension. Like needing to ask questions, but not needing answers…

Posted by: lwnewstart | March 15, 2013

Hopelessly Addicted to Grace…

Below is a personal journal entry I wrote for the class: Spiritual Leadership.

 

 

I want to become hopelessly addicted to grace. I have been in worship services… I can count them on one hand…. where God’s grace permeated the atmosphere. I wanted to soak in it and allow spiritual osmosis carry the luxuriant flow of grace to the deepest parts of my soul.

For much of my life, however, my addictions have been connected to shame. The shame grid deflected grace so that I only caught a whif of it, and the scent drove me crazy with desire and hope. Yet I cling mightily to the last vestiges of shame. Several years ago, God showed me how cigarettes were becoming my “Asherah poles.” Idols to which I cling which destract me from drawing near to God. Worshipping  “Ashera poles” were an attempt by ancient people to convince or coerce the gods to allow fertility to pervade the earth and tribe… to allow the richness of life to invade a parched desert. 

Culturaly, Asherah Poles may be making a come back:

http://www.larknews.com/archives/479

I am coming to find that my smoking habit can diminish as I respect myself in relation to my love of God. It is tied to the experience of grace. During part of my journey, I found grace IN THE MIDST of my smoking habit! God loves me and speaks to me while I smoke. For me to truly receive my life and body as a wonderful gift from God, I want to treat it with respect and with a small amount of awe. I am God’s second gift to myself… the first gift being God. I believe this to be one of the lessons of the second telling of Creation.

All of this, however, is an intellectual undertaking. What I NEED, is a deeper one, that incorporates my body. I believe I am getting there… But still have more to go. 

Posted by: lwnewstart | February 17, 2013

Liturgy for A Political Divide…

I just returned from the Face 2 Face component of my online seminary program at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Part of the program entails travelling to the seminary campus in Portland, for a more traditional classroom setting. This occurs each semester, and allows us to come together with the members of our cohort, meet the professor and online coordinator, and other members of the seminary community. Face 2 Face is always the highlight of each semester. The document below, was written for a class I am taking: Christian Ministry for Reconciliation. The class is about the process of reconciliation; whether it be in a marriage, racial divides, societal issues, gender issues, or whatever division needing reconciliation. The document below was drafted by myself and two classmates for an assignment which required us to draft a liturgy for a public worship service. My group had to choose the issue needing reconciliation, and then create the liturgy. Our group chose the issue of reconciliation between political parties after a national election. My group was compiled of three men. Two of us came from denominational traditions which had little experience designing liturgy, and one member from a tradition which frequently does use liturgy. Derek, designed the liturgy, while John wrote the statement from the winning party, and I wrote the statement from the losing party. While I didn’t vote for the candidate which lost the recent presidential election, I found it quite helpful to have to put myself in the place of the opposing side. In fact, I think it very helpful in working towards political unity, at least a functional unity with a commitment to choose active engagement with the other side in order to come to practical consensus leading to effective governance, in order to be forced to consider the other side’s position and “place”. In other words, to put myself in the shoes of the other guy/gal. Actually, in the reconciliation of a marriage, one of the important parts in the process is to understand how our choices, actions, and beliefs affect the other person. 

We could see this being used in a Washington Prayer Breakfast, or similar worship service attended by members of both parties:

( I should note that the “enemy” which is part of the scripture passage in Lamentations, is not the other political party! The “Enemy” is rather the Enemy of our souls, who thrives on dissension and divided communities.)

Opening Scripture

Matthew 5:24 ESV

Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Call and Response

LEADER: Lord, we come together, but we stand divided

RESPONSE: This is why we weep and our eyes overflow with tears.
we find no comfort and no one restores our spirit.
Our nation is destitute because the enemy has prevailed.
(Lam. 1:16)

 

LEADER: Lord, our hearts share the interest of our peopl, but we have failed to deliver them their hope

RESPONSE: This is why we weep and our eyes overflow with tears.
we find no comfort and no one restores our spirit.
Our nation is destitute because the enemy has prevailed.
(Lam. 1:16)

LEADER: Lord, we have not become all things to all people, willing to see both sides of every issue as equal and relevant.

RESPONSE: This is why we weep and our eyes overflow with tears.
we find no comfort and no one restores our spirit.
Our nation is destitute because the enemy has prevailed.
(Lam. 1:16)

 

ALL: Reconcile us, we pray.

 

 

 

The Confession of the elected Party

With sincere humility we confess that the outcome of this election in no way confers moral or divine superiority to our party. We recognize that no one group or party can represent every issue, or understand the needs and concerns of every person. In light of this we commit to the following:

1)      To walk in humility, honesty, integrity and respect for every person regardless of their stance on any particular issue or affiliation with any particular party

2)      To seek the good of all people and groups regardless of their race, gender, age, culture, or personal conviction.

3)      When the inevitable change of power comes about, to seek the good of the nation as a whole and work with those duly elected in a spirit of peace and reconciliation

 

Confession of the defeated Party

We acknowledge the recent political election has resulted in our electoral loss.

We acknowledge that our country is currently divided along disparate lines.

We acknowledge the need for greater statesmanship and a commitment to governance.

We realize the necessity of listening to each other and refrain from the temptation to believe political power will ultimately answer all the issues we face as a country.

We realize the need to live in respect for each other, and hold our views and interests in humility.

We realize our country is in tumultuous change, and in need of compassion, and justice for all.

We commit ourselves to courageously voice our principles and to listen to those which disagree with us.

We commit ourselves to maintain an open mind, and open heart to those with differing opinions.

We commit ourselves to stay engaged in ongoing conversations and to work to unity in addressing the issues our country faces.

ALL:

May the Lord give us strength; may the Lord bless us with peace.  Amen

Psalms 29:11

Posted by: lwnewstart | February 2, 2013

All Things….

I’m taking a class called Christian Ministry for Reconciliation. My small group was given a scripture passage and asked to reflect on it. The scripture for my group was Colossians 1:20-23. Below is the scripture and my reflection:

 

“…and through him (Jesus) God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him…”

 

 

I didn’t see the “if”….

…”if you agree with a certain, particular statement”…

…”if you do this certain act”…

Reconciliation with and from God doesn’t seem to be a bargain. For example: “God will do THIS if you will do THIS.” And we are part of “all things” God’s reconciliation affects. In the church, we seem to talk a lot about “the curse”… “the fall”… Maybe we should start talking more about “the fact” of God’s reconciling action in Christ, and how it does NOT rely on the action of humanity at all.

I know….

Syria…

Newtown…

Climate change…

Political division…

Religious division…

Doesn’t look much like reconciliation. Reconciliation sounds like a lie… a joke… a farce.

But…

What if…

…the world as we see it is the lie? What if it is the farce? What if we would begin to live in the world as if it were reconciled to God? As if we were reconciled to God? As if science were reconciled to God?

Or better yet…

…what if we saw eternity as the reality and time as simply the mirror image of it? Would we still curse the image? Would we still try to withdraw from it? Or would we embrace it? Would we seek the redemption that is in the image? Would we look at it differently…

kindly…

generatively…?

A little further down in the passage, Paul states: “…provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.”

Can we live in the world in such a way that we acknowledge by our actions that the world, including us, already is reconciled?

Posted by: lwnewstart | January 22, 2013

Originally posted on Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly:

I was thinking about dreams the other day. Most of my dreams seem to be about:

how things SHOULD be…

what it would be like if…

one day I see myself…

how would the world be better…

life would make more sense if…

Well…. to be honest…. there is also the one where I have a cup of coffee with a certain brunette… but…. nevermind.

Anyway….

Sometimes these kinds of thoughts begin with a picture of what life COULD be like. Some kind of deep longing brings a picture of a better tomorrow. I suppose if I were to classify dreams, I would choose at least two categories:

Personal Dreams and Dreams in Community…

Personal dreams are the ones in which your personal passions find their deepest expression through activities or events which touch something deep within. These dreams certainly may be shared, but I suspect they are linked with those closest to…

View original 641 more words

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