Archive for December, 2014

A New Year’s Wish

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

In a recent blog post Seth Godin noted how we respond most readily to “close and now.”  We ignore what is not.

And yet so many of the challenges we face are neither “close” or “now.”  Issues spanning from global warming to damaged relationships, we prefer, sadly to push off with shallow hope to some never arrived at future when we believe we will finally be able to say, “Now I have time.”

But “time” never arrives.  So “attention” never arrives.  So “healing” never arrives.  And we are left with spinning lives no more at peace for all the frantic efforts at distraction.

A simple New Year’s Wish… that we draw our lives, our true lives, our this-is-what-actually-matters-lives, into the “close and now.”  We don’t need to take all that movement in in one bite.  But we can find one small piece, a quiet piece, one “micro-resolution” as a dear friend calls it, and practice there.  Close and now.

Miracles I think … where there is nothing but stone and rock we find a soft pocket, soft soil.  A place where a seed can land.  A place where growth can happen.  Not all at once.  But given a space, it starts.

Blessings on 2015!

 

 

A Thought on Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

I love the story of the shepherds, those families out watching their sheep at night, to whom a heavenly angelic “host” as the story goes appeared, proclaiming joyously to the surprised “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, peace, goodwill to mankind.”  I love the shepherds for so many reason not  the least of which is that I am plain, not a wise man, not a man given to visions or personal visits by angels.  Not a John the Baptist filled with zealous wrath.  Or a quiet guardian like Joseph.  Just plain.  Just me.

And God can speak there too.  The gift.   The gift all received.  The gift of movement.  The gift in the form of a call spoken into even the most ordinary of us and into the most wise of us.

I imagine the shepherds, families in tow, rushing to see this baby.  Joyously rushing.  Anticipation.  Not with the expectations of grandeur most of us hold to but with the humble joy of beholding power in the beauty of the powerless, a Kingdom not of this world but completely of this world born anew in infancy.  A claiming of the “dual citizenship in the now and the not yet.

Picking up that infant, allowing that infant to look at us, to see us, to offer us that soft assurance that God is over us and under us, undergirds us, supports us, loves us, and needs us.

Merry Christmas!

Prayers for Pakistan

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

We awoke this morning to devastating news of Taliban militants attacking school children at the Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar.  Casualty figures this morning are around 125 dead, mostly children age 12-16.

These events are beyond enraging.  Beyond comprehending.  And they are the world in which we live.  A world at times incredibly blessed and at times  breathtakenly broken as we witness senseless acts of horrific violence inflicted on the defenseless.

So we pray. And we cry.  And maybe something in us stirs to do.

This story is not outside the Christmas narrative.  2,000 years ago, feeling threatened by the birth of the new king in the form of infant Jesus, King Herod, to eliminate potential threats to his despotic reign, ordered the slaughter of  Jewish infants under his jurisdiction.  Titled “The Slaughter of Innocents” it is a little known tragedy tucked away in the Christmas story.  And God’s heart broke as well, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”

Events like the the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan are one of the painful reminders that the work we do, the world we advocate for, is not a small thing or a little thing or a conveniently happy little church thing.  It is no less than revolutionary in a still and quiet and non-violent way.  Joined by countless millions from many denominations.  An authentic alternative.  Beginning in our own broken hearts and reaching out into a broken world.

So we pray for Pakistan and we pray for the world.

Sydney, Souderton, and Damaging the Sky

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Such sad news today.  A terrorist attack claims 3 lives in Australia.  A still unresolved killing spree in Montgomery Country claims 5 lives.

So little to write that in any way changes the devastating impact of violence on our culture, an impact rippling out far beyond numbers.   In a recent interview, a Yemeni peace activist spoke of the impact of drone strikes on their culture.  His words chilling … drone strikes “damage our relationship with the sky.” Violence does much the same.  Damages relationship.  One to another.  Culture to culture. Damaging our relationship with the Sky.

The temptation – either a massive over-reaction to quell all threats or a shy desire to run away, someplace different, somewhere different. The call though – to stand with the victims. To mourn.  To speak of the better angels of our nature.   To live, somehow, differently.

Peace – never or as noteworthy as violence.  And peace is our soul, our heart, our hoped for destiny.

 

Road Construction Ahead

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Churches evolve like roads.  A plan.  A small road.  Joined by intersections, on ramps and off ramps.  A road that hopefully grows.  And serves more. And helps more.

We live though in times when the whole field of Christianity feels painfully like a collapse narrative.  Congregations smaller, older.  Youth more averse. Culture more at odds.

And that might be true, or not.

As new roads are quite quietly built the old roads, the well traveled paths, do not serve in the same way.  Not that those older roads are “bad” or highways to nowhere.  They serve.  And we need new roads to go in new directions in a new time.

That does not mean roads are out of style.  It just means there are new roads.  There are new roads, intersections, off ramps, and on ramps.  And that seems to be God’s plan.

Two Roads by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It is all what we do

Friday, December 5th, 2014

It is all what do.  Not what we do out of worry, or fear, or angst.  Not what we do out of compulsion, or impulse.  But what we do out of conviction, out of a loving intention.  Even truth, even doctrine bows to that blessing.

“Life constitutes the Church, not doctrine; except in the measure that it becomes applicable to life.” (Secrets of Heaven 8152)

And yet we make church what it isn’t.  So often.  So easily.  And what church could be is a beautiful thing … a wonderful cultivation, celebration and application of that loving intent we know to be true, that gift of God that is God with us.  Immanuel.

Christianity: A Humble Not Knowing

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Yesterday broke my heart.  Our oldest son called with news.  A paramedic, he had just returned from a call.  An Amish buggy hit head on by car.  A family shattered. We cried together on the phone.

Those are moments of unknowing.  Those are the  moments where the ringing, small theological debates so much of religion unfortunately concerns itself with became transparently the hollow “clanging gong”  Paul wrote of thousands of years ago and we shift to the real.  Where all that remains is a crucified God, God in pain, God suffering with us.   A presence even though we don’t see the plan.   A humble not knowing.

The good story of Christ … gospel, good news … did not happen in a good story.  It happened in a hard story.