Tuesday, June 30, 2020

seeing beyond the mess

to gaze upon the
beauty of the Lord
~ps. 27:4

you will never reach 
the promised land
if all you can see 
is the shit on your shoes

you must learn to gaze 
beyond the muck
to be captured 
by a greater beauty
to be pulled along 
by a grace far bigger 
than all the mess

Thursday, June 25, 2020

demolition

The Pharisees were consumed with appearances, they were constantly trying to build and climb and jockey for position.  They were constantly trying to convince themselves and their world that they were somebody.  Power and prestige were their primary motivators.  Thus, they were hollow men; men without any depth or substance.  They were hypokrit─ôs, actors on stage, merely playing a role; putting on their costumes each morning before they went out to take their places in the world.  And Jesus wanted so much more for them than that, as well as for us.

So he took a wrecking ball to their finely crafted reputations, and proceeded to smash them to smithereens. (Matthew 23:1-12) And in the process he asks each of us to do the same.  He calls us not to pride and arrogance and pretention and self-sufficiency, but to humility.  For, in the beautiful words of Albert E. Day: “Humility is the demolition of human pride and self-sufficiency.”

But the interesting thing is that Jesus doesn’t take the wrecking ball to our lives himself, he asks us to do that.  “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” he says.  Thus, he asks each of us to demo our own house.  He asks us to tear down all of the pride and pretense, to eliminate all of the jockeying and posturing, to rid ourselves of the climbing and building and achieving.  It is not any easy thing to ask, or to do, especially in a culture that values the very things he is asking us to demolish.  But it must be done.  Because on the other side of the demolition is life and love.  Only when we don’t need the responses and affirmations of others to define us, can we ever really begin to love and serve them.

So let’s get to work.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and start pounding away at all pride and position and pretense and self-promotion.  Let’s abandon our manipulative and self-serving ways and begin to choose what is small and hidden and quiet and lowly.  Let us seek to be invisible, rather than visible.  Let us seek to serve, rather than be served.  Let us be more concerned about the success of others, than we are about our own.  In other words, let us empty ourselves of self, that we might be filled with the life and love of God.  For in lifting him up, we will be lifted up as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

humble yourself


“Humility is not nothingness but fullness, for into the vacuum created by the demolition of human pride and self-sufficiency, pours the fullness of God,” writes Albert E. Day.  Thus, my cup can overflow only when it is totally empty and devoid of self.  Humility is the process by which that emptying takes place.  Through humility, God empties us of self, in order to make room within us to receive his fullness.  That’s why he says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.”

Help us, O Lord, to embrace humility, rather than run from it.  For, by humility, you empty us of self, so that we might become full of you.  Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

the good way

jer. 6:16

you can’t start with go
if you want to reach
God’s chosen destination
you must start with stop

you must pause and consider
you must observe and pay attention
you must see both the conditions 
and possibilities

you must ask
how the ancients
found their way
into the promised land

you must ask
where the good way is
for the way
is as important
as the destination

then and only then
can you walk
the path that appears
before you
guided by the peace
of knowing that 
your entire journey
is in hands far greater
than your own

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

justice and righeousness

In the kingdom of God, justice and righteousness are vitally and intimately connected.  Just look at the Scriptures, you hardly ever see one without the other. Justice (mishpat), at its core, means that all of the principles and standards of the covenant are applied equally and fairly to everyone.  And righteousness (tsedaqah) has to do with right standing and right relationship, first with God and then with one another.  Righteousness means that everyone and everything are living as they were intended to.  Thus, you can’t be righteous without being just, and you can’t be just without being righteous.

And when you put the two together, you get peace (shalom).  And by peace, I do not mean merely a calm and serene feeling inside, but I mean wholeness. Shalom is always about experiencing the creation intent of God.  Shalom is about being exactly who and what we were meant to be.  It is about reversing the effects of the fall whenever and wherever possible and making space for God to usher in the kingdom once again.  For only when we experience true shalom can we ever have any real hope of finding the rest our souls most deeply long for.

The tricky part is that only God can bring about true shalom, but we are all responsible to live justly and act rightly—by his power and his grace.  It is how we seek the peace of the city. (Jer. 29:7) In order to seek shalom for all, we must consider what it means for us as individuals to live in such a way that we do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) We can’t just sit idly by and hope that it will somehow magically come about.  It will take a lot of effort on our part.  It will take a lot of prayer and reflection and confession and conversation and repentance and reconciliation.  It will involve each of us considering what God would have us to do in order to make his shalom a possibility for all.

What does that look like for you?  How will you take the first, or the next, step?  How will you live in such a way, this day, that you are an agent of God’s shalom in the world?  After all, “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others.  It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.  You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” (James 3:17-18, The Message)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

what are you trying to prove?


“What are you trying to prove?  Why do you keep running around wearing yourself down, loading yourself up, and burning yourself out?  Why are you trying so hard to prove to yourself and your world—and even to me—that you are worth loving?  Come to me and I will give you rest.  Come to me and I will show you who you really are; I will show you who I made you to be.  I will show that it is not what you do that makes you valuable, it is who you are.  In fact, it is whose you are.  You are mine.  You belong to me.  I love you fully, passionately, and unconditionally.  Take that “yoke” upon you and you can finally stop running and performing and jockeying.  Take my yoke upon you and you will finally be able to stop and breathe.  You will finally be able to recover the life of your soul.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

free

how many of your words
are born out of need
and not out of love

how many of your actions
are an attempt to achieve
rather than an expression
of who you have become

this life is merely
a response to grace
not the purchase of it

so live freely
and love freely
your value and worth
are not on the line

Thursday, June 4, 2020

free to love

“It’s absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life.  Just make sure you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom.  Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. (Gal. 5:13, The Message)

Where did we ever get the idea that freedom was doing whatever the hell we wanted to do.  It is not!  Freedom is about love and care.  Freedom is about the ability to stop being so self-centered and self-consumed that we are finally able to love and serve those around us, rather than extort love out of them.  We are free men and women when having our own needs met is not the driving force behind all of our relationships and behavior.  For only then are we really free to love.

Lord Jesus, help us to live as free men and women: free to love, rather than demanding to be loved; free to serve, rather than demanding to be served; and free to be others-centered, rather than constantly being self-centered.  In other words, help us to be like you.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

more is not better

If I have learned anything in these last few months of quarantine and pandemic, it’s that more is not better.  It’s just not.  But, unfortunately, we live in a culture that says it is.  We live in a world that is addicted to more.  But my guess is that in the past few months, where more has not been an option, the value of less has kind of snuck up on us, surprised us, and maybe even delighted us.  In fact, in many ways we might have actually discovered that less is more.  Less work means more quality time to be with those who are nearest and dearest to us.  Less activity means more conversation, rest, and reflection.  Less frenzy and chaos and hurry means more peace and joy and contentment.

But what happens when things finally get back to normal?  Do we jump right back in to our “more is better” mentality?  Or do we take the lessons that less has taught us and weave them into the fabric of our lives?  Do we proceed in a different way and at a different pace and with a different perspective, or do we mindlessly plunge back in to the demands and busyness and hurry?

“It is for freedom that Christ has set you free,” Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1. “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  What if the last few months were about bringing freedom?  What if the last few months were an opportunity to experience a different way, so that each of us might choose to proceed differently?  What if God is trying to get our attention, as a people and as a culture, and say, “More is not better. See!  Less is the better, deeper, and more live-giving way.  Choose less.  Don’t allow the desire for more to rule over you.  Don’t allow it to make you its slave once again.  Because the constant pursuit of more will actually make you less; and doing less, will actually help you to become more.  Everything is topsy-turvy in the kingdom of God.”

The only question is, will we choose freedom, or will we choose bondage?  Whether we believe it or not, the choice really is up to us.