Posts Tagged ‘faith’

This little light of ours…

IMG_1993The sun is big. Like, really big. Bigger than most of us can even fathom, given how huge our own planet seems.

For a quick example, the circumference of the sun (how far one continuous path would be around its surface) is over 2.7 Million miles. In perspective, the circumference of the earth is just under 25,000 miles.

In regards to the massive size, people who sit around figuring out such things have determined that it would take about 1.3 Million earths to fill the area of the sun.

All of this really makes the moon pale in comparison. At a mere circumference under 6,800 miles, it’s pretty small in comparison even to earth. Yet, on August 21, 2017, the moon will cover the sun for about 3 minutes (in the center of the viewing areas path), casting millions of people into freakish mid-day darkness. This happens even with the size differences, because of proximity. The moon is 400 times further from the sun, than it is from the earth. It’s the same as being able to hold a background national monument in your hand, using proximity to make it look real. IMG_1991

So how do we harness this occasion, to listen to what Gods’ creation might be whispering into our lives? What important message might this offer, especially in conversation with our kids/others?

Some small things can bring large amounts of darkness. Especially in regards to our consumption and/or creation of content in social media. Something that may seem tiny or insignificant, can actually make a larger impact than we first realized. Whether it’s movies, music, Apps, or other; we can easily inadvertently place these things in such a position in our lives that makes it very difficult for the light of Gods Love to shine on, or through us.

Thankfully, scripture reminds us: nothing has the power to separate us from the Love of God. But, we can choose to elevate other things into our field of vision, forgetting where our True Life comes from. This causes all sorts of expressing ourselves in the world – seeking the identity and peace that we’ve been created to receive from the Love of Jesus.

The question becomes – What might be “eclipsing” the Light & Love of Jesus from being the foundational light by which you see all things, yourself included? What small thing, if moved out of your focus even a small amount, or completely if necessary, could allow Love & the perspective of Gods Grace to illuminate your life in new ways?  The Love of God for you is strong and deep enough, no matter how long you’ve lived under an eclipse, to shine just as warm and brightly  as ever.  You might find yourself needing help to “move a moon” that has been in position for way too long. God has given us the power of His Spirit, always with us. Not to mention, the gift of living these lives together in Loving community.  Open yourself up to committed life together with others who desire the Light of New Creation to shine.

The beauty of it is, even as a small object like the moon can eclipse the light of the sun – a small candle can illuminate darkness. How will you shine your light this week? Where can the Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control be humbly lived out as the Fruit of His Spirit? May we be even more geeked out about discovering these opportunities. They are light that will shine well into the coming Kingdom from which they derive their lumens…

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for the love of donuts.

Paul writes in his letter to the early church in Rome, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race” (9:3)  This was mentioned in class today, in example of just how important it was to expand and increase the knowledge of the Love of God in the communities we love.   “I donutsdon’t think I’ve ever loved a church I’ve served that much!”, was said with a smile to many nods in the crowd.  As much as I’ve loved the Church, and the church I’ve served at – I don’t think I would ever elevate them above my love for Jesus.  I don’t think Paul was either, but was rather making an emotional appeal to explain just how passionate he was to see his fellow countrymen knowing the Love of God.

But being in “Church History” lectures all of this week, I can’t help but think about the history of God’s people seeming to put other seemingly good things ahead of the Love of Jesus throughout thousands of years.

Each time I’ve driven between my hotel and seminary, I’ve noticed new things like a kid who is somewhere they’ve never been before.  I’ve driven past a large national cemetery, with it’s rows of white grave markers.  I’ve driven past a large Finnish paper products plant, that I should probably purchase stock in for the sake of my family’s use of paper plates.  But two places I’ve noticed on each drive seem to stand out in their contrast and commonality with one another:  A small local donut shop that closes when they sell out late each morning, and a large commercial bakery with loading docks and trucks lined up to a giant warehouse building.

Both of these endeavors could be labeled “successful”. It would seem silly for someone to approach the small local shop and prod them:  “Don’t you care about sharing donut goodness?”  “Don’t you want the masses to enjoy the same donuts you’ve enjoyed?”  “See the bakery down the street?  Surely they have a truer passion for donuts!”

Yet so often throughout history this same mentality has crept into the church.  We take the “Great Commission” not as a direction to live and love, but as a mandate to succeed at with all the resources and power we can amass.  So we divide and conquer.  We establish.  We claim.  We protect.  All in the name of a Jesus who came to die.  To give away.  To release.  To submit to the will of the Father.

Yes – I love Jesus. Yes, I want the people in the community I love to know the freedom and New Life offered in receiving His Love and Hope by Faith.  It has transformed my life, and continues to even as I don’t deserve it.  I’m sure the giant bakery I drive by is run by great people who truly love their baked goods.  But I suppose what I’m saying is – it’s really good for us to remember our love for Jesus above our love for everything – even the church.  That may lead to heresy.  But it might just lead to some amazing donuts as well…

..and what might happen if, the church continued to be filled with and sending out people of all ages and every background who were passionate in sharing their love of donuts?  We may not even need the trucks. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

safety

A few weeks ago, my wife sent me a picture our daughter had drawn.   A stick figure that seems wrapped in a straight jacket, that my wife (because she rocks, naturally) asked our daughter to tell her more about.daddycross

Let me pause for a moment to remind the reader: We’ve had our daughter home from the DR Congo for a bit over a year now.  She’s learned a lot, and grown in so many ways.  One of the sources of her growth has been involvement in church activities and lessons.  A focus of our children’s’ ministry here at Moundford Free Methodist Church last year was to teach the kids about faithful followers of Jesus.  People who suffered for the cause of spreading the good news of the Love of Jesus – even when there were sometimes large prices to pay.

So when our daughter explained the picture to mommy, she shared “It’s daddy, and the mean people tied him up.”  My wife asked why, and she said “Because he was telling people about Jesus.”

It may have just been a silly moment of imagination.   But it may have actually been something in the back of her mind/heart for months now – wondering if and when daddy might actually be taken away or hurt because of how he spends his time telling others about the Love of Jesus.  We’ve assured her, thankfully, daddy doesn’t have to worry about this.  My job is safe (although maybe it should seem more threatening to the powers that be at times?) to do.

It made me incredibly thankful, when I allowed it to settle. Hanging from my door lately is a leather cross made by Coptic Christians in Egypt, given to me by a friend back in college.  It reminds me each day as I walk into my office – how thankful I can be to have a place where my life and work is not threatened each day simply because of Jesus.  It causes me to pause and pray for those for whom “safety” means something so far away and unknown.

I’m thankful my daughter (now) doesn’t have to worry about daddy being hurt or killed by “the mean people” who don’t know about the Love of God.  But there are children globally who aren’t free from that worry.  May we lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer even now, and live lives that strive to not take for granted the freedom we have to proclaim the love & peace of Jesus in the unique ways we’re given…

Pentecost (a poem)

Dry.

Coughing as I breathe in, chest wheezing, this dusty cloud kicks up when I walk.

When I talk, words fall to the ground without sound.

Cracks invading the pavement, waiting for someone tall to step wrong and fall. Someone saw rain in the distance, just one instance, but that was years ago.

For now, nothing grows. And so, nothing sows. The last leaves turned to ash.  Our of resource, out of cash.  It happened so fast, before we realized we were empty.  The wind blows over another dried up, used to be, has been but isn’t now.

For a split second, seems to bow on purpose, then falls.

Smashing into a million pieces in these parched halls.  The air so dry it’s impossible to sweat – impossible to shed a tear, for fear of losing the last drops of moisture we assume are somewhere deep inside.  We’ve tried to hide.  We’ve lied to hide.  Cause when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Or so we’ve heard.  Not another word.  After all, we’ll get by.  We just need to try.  Try harder.  To really mean it this time.

Sunlight breaks, the cushion shakes and reveals the dust we’ve been breathing.  Our lungs as thirsty as our throats, debris forming coats.  A trembling unsettles our dust.  Frightened, but we must, respond.

The room is shaking, the ground quaking, the clouds fill the sky and darken brightly.

Not a drip.   Not a trickle or a stream. But all in one moment it happens.

Dams break, waves overtake, water makes and snakes its’ way, soaking the day, washing away any traces of ash and dust.  Respond we must, gasping for air and at the same time sinking without a care.

The pipes have burst, rushing like floods from somewhere unseen.  More like a geyser, like the spring from which all springs are sprung – filling our lungs and drowning out all remnants of thirst.

To a land that was cursed – healing and life, New Life. A Spirit poured out, and all creation shouts “Great is the Lamb that was slain!”  “Great is His Name!” The Spirit that came, as God promised it would.

See His blood on the wood…

We receive and are never the same.

Isaiah 44:3

a snapshot of celebration.

Easter week is over.  The dust is beginning to settle on a roller coaster of a month.  There are still large unknowns about what God has in store, but we are incredibly hopeful about how we can not only be used for His Kingdom, but be blessed in the process.  This week in my “Spiritual Formation” class, we focused primarily on the spiritual discipline of “Celebration”.  We read the chapter from Richard Foster in his “Celebration of Discipline“.  I wrote a short response, which included this paragraph:

“How much more powerful is a testimony of someone who clings to and proclaims the goodness of God, in the midst of great struggle – than that of someone who praises the goodness of God, having just escaped the clutches of suffering? It doesn’t take divine empowerment to have joy in the midst of visible blessing. However, it does often require the Holy Spirit to Love someone who has (or continues to) offended you. Foster says the Joy and Celebration he speaks of come after the other disciplines and a life of obedience he’s been writing about in this book all along. ”

Looking back on what I wrote, I could see someone reading it, and missing the important focus.  It is easy to hear culture these days, and be influenced to want blessing and comfort so that we can proclaim “Look, God is good!!”  It’s easy to hear my words above, echoing those of Richard Foster and many other great Christian leaders, and want to seek suffering along with a broken world so that we can proclaim by God’s strength, “Look, God is good!!”

The emphasis, however, should not be on the conditions we’re experiencing.  Which is kinda the point.  We are called to proclaim the goodness of God, simply because God IS Good!  God is not “good” like anything we’ve ever called “good” before, and yet God is the substantial essence of which all other “good” is merely an echo. 

So yes – my brothers and sisters who are enjoying the blessings of a comfortable life this week – I join with you in proclaiming “Look, God is good!!”  To my brothers and sisters suffering and oppressed, I join with you in proclaiming “Look, God is good!!”  To those of us stuck somewhere in between, our voices come together as we proclaim “Look, God is good!!”

Not because we are naive.  Not because we don’t see the immense suffering and brokenness in our world today.  But because we know that God is with us within it, and working to bring redemption even now.  Not only this, but because He has invited us to join Him in bringing freedom to those who are bound, forgiveness, grace, Love, light, Hope, and by this to bring others to faith that New Creation is coming – and has already been launched.  Not as a “someday” future hope that we can escape all of this.  But as a “right now” hope that it is precisely “this” (whatever “this” is for you) that God is interested in bringing redemption and healing through.  Our celebrations.  Our hurt.  Our confusion.  Our joys.

I pray you’re able to declare “God is good.” this week.  May He reveal His goodness to you, and through you…

 

 

Political Climate

As we walk forward, toward the unknown we begin to roam in new altitudes,

and attitudes mixed with platitudes have begun to make it hard to breathe

the hot air just a little too thin, sunlight begins to dim and I realize

I’m in flip flops stopped at the bottom rock looking at the top of a mountain I’m unprepared to climb.

And I’m here today to say, I think that’s okay.

Because this is Mount Political Climate.

You may have noticed a slight decrease in temperature because it’s cold

A system way too old for anyone to question, we’ve steam-rolled the bold ways of discovery

And fell deep into the well of “this is how it’s been done”, and the sun continued to rise

so our decision must be wise. We disguise the misguided attempts at others to deconstruct

Those who might call it corrupt, because they’re simply outsiders, underperformers,

Unprepared misfits who couldn’t handle the climb

But it’s time those of us not clinging to the ledges to look up

And realize what we seek, might just not be the peak

Of Mount Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it.  Walk Around.

Walk Around.

The sounds should astound us at first, like a thirst that’s unquenchable

Things unmentionable aired out for public consumption, because that shows gumption

Whatever that is.

And the fad is growing to start showing your opponents weaknesses before they get a chance

To show you with your pants down.  The town meeting ignores the fact that

you’re running to be a leader,
Because deep down, they’d rather be amused.

A in the negative, Muse meaning to think, we are a people not thinking

While our patterns go on stinking and bringing about change in ways

we never would’ve chosen On purpose

Getting nervous as we’ve only scratched the surface

The fact is, we deserve this type of leadership, because it’s only a megacosm

Of the micro we live every day

As we live to get paid, and sway situations to shine the sun on our day

I wanna get mine and protect it, and keep others out so they can’t infect it, but don’t try to inspect it,

because – like I told you, it’s mine.

My Mountain of Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it. Walk Around.

Walk Around.

And so we’ve found that sounding an alarm might just do some good

And it could shake you and I away from what would, toward what should happen, as we’re mapping new routes

As we refuse to climb the foodholds set before us, though others may ignore us, or abhore us,

Our voices join in one chorus,

That healing won’t come by name calling, health is not built by a wall, and one sure way for us all to fall is to try and stand so tall everyone else seems small.

The ball is in our courts, to call our courts to once again view the human in their being.

To start seeing names instead of numbers, to welcome new comers to the table, and perhaps rising above all political noise, is the silent necessity of, Love.

The hidden wealth of nations is not found in vaults, or in banks.

That Power is not found in muscles, missiles and tanks.

That Happiness not found in tickets to Disney and apple pie.

We must go beyond a simple cry for change, and embody what we hope

Facing the ends of our rope, we come together, tethered to something greater than ourselves

Dusting off the shelves of a room we knew well when we were young

Before we became so high strung, and the songs we sung were a lot more inspiring

Not conspiring for one to rise, but to ignore such lies and seek the good of all.

Because, humanity, united we stand, and divided we will fall.

But it’s a Mountain, this Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb It.  Walk Around.

interrupted..

There once was a church in a place far away

They were proud as they entered the church every day

Every time the doors opened, they’d fill up the pews

And when burning bush talked, they’d remove their shoes.

They shook hands with love, and greeted each other,

When having a meal, invited one another

They’d pray for the people, who never came in

They’d pray for their budgets when wallets seemed thin

This lovely old church found so far from here

Their singing of songs was lovely to hear

Always on tune, and always on key

They were often mistaken for those who sang professionally.

One day in this church, found so far from here

A young man came around, who’s purpose wasn’t quite clear

He sat when they stood, making some of them nervous

Just what was he hiding, beneath the surface?

A task force was formed, to follow the lad

To observe his actions, and judge good or bad

They listened and watched, and saw what they thought

He cussed and he drank, he stole and he fought

This task force reported, next gathering time

Something had to be done, this was crossing the line

A decision was made, to proclaim with some flair

The next time the young man attended for prayer.

The scene was all set, and parishioners waited

As the young man approached , the moment seemed baited

The line had been cast, and the hook was quite clear

But they hadn’t expected just what they might hear.

Their pastor began, “Lord thanks for revealing,

The ignorant ways of those who are stealing,

Those who are drinking, and those who do curse

Are like crumbs at the bottom of a grandmothers’ purse.”

“Thank you that we are not like those without,

without reason to live, so much reason to doubt,

They think they are happy, they think they are fine,

They think they can see, but are completely blind.”

“So God we are thankful, we aren’t like those people

The one’s who have never even been under a steeple

They don’t know the words to each chorus we sing

They don’t know your Word, Lord they don’t know a thing.”

“Thank you for making us so good and wise,

We invite you to look on us with both of your eyes,

To see the incredible things that we’ve done,

To honor your ways, and to worship your son.”

The words had been spoken, and they were assured

By their holy speaking, he’d see Christ as Lord

He’d cry at their altar, and they’d smile when

Eventually he would become just like them.

But we shouldn’t be shocked at this point to find out

It wasn’t their words that turned him about

He wasn’t moved by their spotless approach

And didn’t seem to desire them as coach.

He ran to the altar, that place of their pride

Fell down on the floor, with his arms open wide

They tried to keep singing, as planned from the start

But they couldn’t keep from being warmed by his heart.

He prayed, “Oh God look at me, stumbling along,

In need of your mercy much more than a song,

If you don’t respond, I’m not sure what I’ll do,

But I know that if I’m to make it, I need grace from you.”

With that he bowed, and tears ran like a stream

So much that the altar had started to gleam

The people were taken by such a sight

And felt like maybe they weren’t doing alright

The way this young man, depended on God

The way that his tears at first just seemed odd

Reminded each one of the early days spent

Receiving forgiveness as they would repent.

And so one by one, these people came up

As those who’d been emptied, uplifting their cups

Not for his approval, or seeking his prize

But simply to be seen by the loving Father’s eyes.

Revival had come to that morning at service

Though it came in a way that makes you and I nervous

To let go of all our reasons we stand,

Our trophies, our titles, and empty our hands

To throw ourselves down, at his Mercy seat

Father, Son, Spirit, whom washes our feet

Our tears may flow also, as we receive love

So undeserved, and so free from above…

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