Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not In Vain

What you do in the present matters. It’s hard for Protestants to hear that without thinking, "Oh, dear, this is good works again." That’s a scare tactic. Sometimes, it’s a political scare tactic—to stop Christians from actively working to change the way the world is, confronting justice, and building communities of peace and hope instead of ones of violence and hatred. The verse which says it all for me is the last verse in 1 Corinthians. Okay, you’ve got this great chapter on resurrection. What is Paul going to say after writing a whole chapter on resurrection? Is he going to say, "Since there is a resurrection, look up and wait for this glorious future?" No, he says, "Therefore my beloved ones be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." Your work is "not in vain." Why not? Because everything you do in the present, in the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, everything that flows out of love and hope and grace and goodness somehow will be part of God’s eventual Kingdom. That is the message of the resurrection. The resurrection is your new body in which you will be gloriously, truly wonderfully you. The resurrection means everything you’ve done in the present through your body—works of justice and mercy and love and hope—somehow in ways we don’t understand will be part of God’s new creation. We are not building the Kingdom of God in that old social Gospel sense. We are building for the Kingdom of God.

read the rest of the interview with N.T.Wright on honoring God in everyday life and work here

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So blessed

Packing for Florida.  I love this picture.

I wonder if God created beaches just for little feet to run through.  

Once in every 5000 pictures we get one of everybody smiling.  
Thought I'd post this one because it may never happen again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Me Too

I'm sorry to keep going on and on about one tiny little verse- half of a verse!  But I ran across this and I want to share . . . 
In 1 Cor 9 Paul writes that "to the Jews I became like a Jew," and then "to those under the law I became like one under the law," and then "to those not having the law I became like one not having law," and then he concludes with "to the weak I became weak."

There's a glaring absence in his list.  The opposite of being "under the law" is "not being under the law."  The opposite of weak is . . . Paul doesn't mention it.

After the "to the weak I became weak" part should have said "and to the strong I am strong."

But he doesn't say that.

He doesn't say he's become strong to those who are strong.

He only says he's become weak to the weak.

If you've ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you know what this is like.  An AA meeting is a room full of people who are done pretending.  There are no facades.  There is no acting.  And it's overwhelmingly powerful.  Everybody in that room is in recovery from addiction, and they all know each other's games, masks, and manipulations.  A whole world of posturing and pretending is simply absent.  You're there because you have hit bottom, at least most of the time, and you need others who knows how it feels.

Write Anne Lamott says that the most powerful sermon in the world is two words:  "Me too."

Me too.

When you're struggling,

when you are hurting,

wounded, limping, doubting,

questioning, barely hanging on,

moments away from another relapse,

and somebody can identify with you-

someone knows the temptations that are at your door,

somebody has felt the pain that you are feeling,

when someone can look you in the eyes and say, "Me too,"

and they actually mean it-

it can save you.

When you aren't judged,

or lectured,

or looked down upon,

but somebody demonstrates that they get it,

that they know what it's like,

that you aren't alone,

that's "me too."

Paul does not say, "To the strong I become strong."

He only says, "To the weak I am weak."

-Rob Bell
Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thawing Out

I'm in Florida!  

Not quite lay on the beach all day Florida.  I'm still wearing the same hoodie that I wear every single day in Ohio.  But I'm not wearing forty coats over it and racing my kids from the car to the house before the White Witch turns us all into ice.  It took me two days after we got here to stop shivering.

The girls and I are staying with my parents, doing pretty much the same kid chasing and no-sleep routine we do at home, but with Nana and Papa and Abundant! Sunshine!, it's sooooo much more fun.  I'm pretty sure we could get used to this . . . we being me and the girls, not so sure my parents would chime in on that one!  And poor Jim is home working in the Arctic.

My version of vacation includes three things:  Starbucks, Target, and CNN.  (No, I don't live in a third world country.  Just a very small town).  And I'm hoping for a full day of thrifting!

And I am oh-so thrilled that my little CNN getaway happens to fall over Inauguration Day!  I have been glued to the television every day, I just cannot get enough!  The history!  The ceremony!  The anticipation!  The clothes!  I admit that I am a news junkie anytime, but I live for these big events, and this is the biggest!  I am so curious about everything . . . I wonder who's behind it all, planning who goes where and how they get there and what they should be wearing . . . and, like, who's in charge of packing up the white house and when the Obama's get home tonight will their stuff be unpacked for them and how will the find anything?  If Laura accidently left her shampoo in the bathtub will Michele try to get it back to her or can she just use it?  And I want to know what the Obama's talked about at breakfast this morning . . . like, just because he's about to be President, does he still make the coffee or does Michele have to and does that make her mad and does she think, he doesn't do anything around here to help me . ..?

If I could be anyone in the world right now I would want to be Ann or Katie or Campbell.  Ah I should have gone into journalism . . . instead I'll be chasing kids and wiping noses and cutting up bananas . . . and playing dolls that we named Sasha and Malia and telling my girls that we have a new President and that they can't understand yet all that this day means but one day their dad and I will tell them . . . and the words will be trapped in my heart and I'll think about how much hurt is in the world and yet the good that can triumph over evil and I will only tell them that these three remain: faith, hope, and love (give your life to these!  I'll say). But the greatest of these is love. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

still weak

So I'm still stuck on the verse about becoming weak . . . two quick thoughts:

first, I always thought of this verse as Paul choosing to be weak- kinda like saying "hey there, o Weak One look I can be weak too" . . . wink wink- we all know he really ISN'T of course, he's just PRETENDING . . . which is what we do, right?  When we put on our spiritual humility mask and condescendingly "bless" an unworthy soul with our benevolent "ministry" to them.

I don't think Paul did that.

I think that approach would make Paul sick.

I think that Paul really was weak.

Because, in the preceding verses he lists all of the things that he "became" to reach people . . . a Jew, under the law, without law . . . he really was a Jew, really a Pharisee, and really did live without law . . . so it seems plausible that he really was weak, as well.

But we try never to be weak.  Or, when confronted with our own weaknesses, we bury them rather than allowing them to make us humble.

I think that true humility is what Paul was after. 

There have been enough humiliating weaknesses in my life to make me all-too familiar with the deep deep sense of loss, the anguish of guilt, or the hopeless feeling that I will never change.  

These are the things that ought to draw us, irresistibly, to the weak.  

The remembrance of our weakness so that we can identify with the weakness in others; we cannot help but have compassion, give mercy, offer hope.  

Secondly, if you have no idea what I am talking about, cannot imagine being weak, have no memory of weakness . . . then read a book.

This is one of the reasons I feel compelled to read fiction.  

I puts me in someone else's shoes.  Identifies me with their problems, hurts, choices, mistakes.  It makes me understand the basic humanity in every person, and the truth that, given the same circumstances, I could find myself in exactly the same place.

It is so easy to judge when we don't know the person we're judging.  It is so simple to label a problem when we have never examined it's complexity.

Becoming weak isn't a choice.  The choice is to accept that we still are.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

J.J. bites

My brother is going to kill me for this, but I have come up with the perfect way to describe my Scripture plan for this year . . .  

When I published that "I'm not going to study the Bible" post yesterday, the Youth Group Girl in me immediately felt guilty.  I'm not going to study my Bible?  Isn't that like saying I'm not going to love God or I'm not going to vote Republican?  But I kept thinking about it and I think, yes, I really am going to stop studying it . . . at least the way that I have most often approached studying my Bible.  For this year.  Or until I feel like I need to change things up again.

We seem to forget that when Paul wrote his letters to the churches, that the people were already believers before they received these letters.  That most were illiterate.  That there weren't copies of the letters.  So they were passed around, bit by bit, memorized, and put into practice.

I have often felt this pressure that I should be able to read through my Bible in a year.  At least several chapters a day.  And so, from the time I was in, like, junior high, I would try really really hard to wake up early, and I'd fumble for my Bible and turn the light on and sit there, propped against my pillows, half awake, dozing in and out, reading my chapters for the day.  And I'd close my Bible, pray, fall asleep while praying, and rush off without really remembering what I had read, and doing nothing with it.  Most days.

I'm going to call this approach,  J.J. bites.

Because my brother, Jordan, is known in our family for taking bites that are too big when he eats.  He always has.  Food is not something to be enjoyed, for him it is something to get done.  And so he would sit at dinner and shovel in these huge mouthfuls of food, not really paying attention to what he was eating, and my entire life my mother has tried to get him to slow down.  Breathe.  Talk to us.  Enjoy your meal.  His wife Holly says she finds herself, without realizing it, racing to keep up with him.

And my daughter Sami is three and starting to have this problem, and we tell her, "don't take J.J. bites".  

Because when she does she chokes, or it spills out and is impolite, or she eats too fast and gets a bellyache.

I think we tend to approach Scripture this way.  A plate of food that is necessary, but not always enjoyable.  Something to get done rather than something to become.  A book to be read rather than beauty to behold.  We take J.J. bites.  And there are J.J.'s all around us and before we know it we are speeding up to keep up with them, to finish the meal, rather than tasting every bite.

Which is why I am not studying my Bible that way this year.  I am not going to stuff my mouth too full that I cannot swallow, I can't taste what I'm eating.  This year I'm taking it slow, bite by bite. 

becoming weak

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak:  I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  
1 Cor.9:22
Today was my first morning of the bite-by-bite approach I am taking to my daily time in Scripture.  I have been in the church epistles a lot lately, so I started where I had been, in 1 Corinthians chapter 9.  I think that I will meander slowly through this section of the New Testament, cross referencing when I have time, and because I enjoy it, but will focus mainly on the literal instructions that Paul gives the believers on living out the redeemed life, and then spend time examining myself for things I need to change, and ways I can put it into practice. 

The first part of verse 22 caught my attention, so this is where I stopped for today.

I thought about what it means to be weak . . . who is weak . . . when am I weak . . . how can I become weak to reach the weak?

My first thought was of how much I avoid appearing weak, how little tolerance I have for weakness in others. 

Then I tried to think of an example of a person who I would describe as weak, and my first thought was of my children.  I thought about how much I LOVE them . . . and how carefully I try to teach them; how patiently I wait for them to grow before I expect them to understand; how tenderly I try to lead them; how gently I admonish them.  How little I expect of them because they are, of course, so "weak."  I thought of how I get on my knees to be at their level when I speak to them, and eagerly I try to see the world through their eyes; how I try to be careful to observe their unique make-up, to begin even now to understand their strengths and weaknesses so I can encourage them and help them; how deeply I care about their little souls and how much I long to see them grow to love Jesus. 

 And I felt myself immediately convicted, for I do not demonstrate this depth of compassion for my brothers and sisters who are still babes in the church. 

Nor do I spend so much effort diligently cultivating relationships with "weak" people.  People with issues.  People who are scary or offensive.  People who are annoying or lazy.  Do I become weak so that I can see the world through their eyes?  Do I take the time . . . endless amounts of time . . . to understand their weakness?  Why they are the way they are?  Do I ever even find myself in the neighborhoods of the weak?  

And if I were to be weak, what would it look like?  How would my church family perceive me?

Where would I have to go to become weak, that I might reach the weak?

How can I begin living a life that is compassionately, determinedly, patiently . . . weak?

I wonder if I could spend the entire year just attempting to live out this one verse?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Favorite blog post of 2008

Who is Happiest from A Holy Experience

I'm going to stop studying the Bible this year

 and start trying to live it.

No more Read through The Bible in a Year programs
That I'll start
and fail
I don't need more guilt
Or spiritual smugness

I don't have time
God knows I don't

But I do have time for a verse or two or maybe just a phrase
that I can memorize
and write
and chew on
and digest       slowly       throughout the day
and pray over
and consider how I can put into practice

This year,
I'm going to savour it
bite by spiritual bite
notice the flavor
the texture
the aroma
until it is in me
and changes me
my flesh
my sick and weak self

Rather than consuming great quantities of words
This year, I'm asking the Word to consume me

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's so dark.

I awake and it's dark and I roll over.  
I get up and turn on lights and all day long I cannot turn enough lights on.
Later, before the table has even been set, or toys put away,
it's dark.

Come Lord Jesus.

Busy.  Life.  There's never enough time and it's always too busy
To think.  I just need some time to think.  
Five minutes.  
Oh what I would do for five minutes of silence. 
I get up earlier and so does another.
I stay up late and somebody can't sleep.
I barter for a half-hour but it's shared with Barney blaring and I just can't think.  
I've set off the smoke alarms three ok four times this week cooking dinner.
I can't seem to finish a chapter an email a sentence a cup of coffee
or a prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me

Christmas is put away too early because I can't bear to walk around it any longer.
Not just the tree, Christmas . . . 
The hopes and fears of all the years . . .
so Christmas is gone and we're still here and it's dark and now what?

Come Lord Jesus

People I love
are hurting  
out of work
marriages crumbling
Come Lord!

We are still sore and avoid each other

Come, here, Lord

Drifting to sleep I'm thinking about 
how sure I was once
for I know the plans I have for you . . .
and I wonder
what went wrong?

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me

looking back
near sleep it's so clear now
my own 
what a joke I was
it is
will I ever understand what He wants from me?

O God O God O God O God

Dark morning 
a single light and
I reach for the Words of life
my soul so thirsty
But she's awake again already
five a.m.
I groan and mutter and shuffle to get her before she wakes her sister
FIVE minutes is that so much to ask? 
warm milk and I prop her beside me

Come, Lord

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

She's restless and wanders
fussing, I pick her up
one armed I try and fail to work
She squirms
I set her down
but she wants up
and all morning long we do this
I sigh
Please God please Annie I need five minutes
and I wonder who I'm praying to
one armed again I try 

Can a woman forget her sucking child

No Lord, oh no I cannot

yea, she may forget
but I will not



and I look down at my wild one
finally peaceful
asleep on my chest

right here,
is all you ask of me?

Yes this . . .

only rest 

against me

And it occurs to me
in all of Scripture
God does his work one-armed
only when he's holding us
does he have use for two

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I didn't intend to take a blogging break.  But I guess somehow I did.

Our Christmas was sweet.

I am so very thankful.

But feeling a little like this right now . . . 

I don't know why.

It must be January.

Be back soon . . .
Like, tonight.  
If all goes as planned.