Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Restoration takes longer, is much harder, and costs more than demolition

August 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Cover all other virtues with love, which is the uniting principle that results in completeness.
Let the peace of Christ be the ruling principle in your hearts. Col. 3:14-15

It is very difficult to meet the anger, rage, slander, abusive language, and lies that permeate our culture with mercy, goodwill, kindness, unpretentiousness, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.

It seems as if the Architect has handed us the tools for restoration rather than demolition. Restoration is a more painstaking and tedious process than tearing down and rebuilding. Sanding off layers of ugliness to uncover beauty creates a bond that swinging a hammer and discarding the rubble does not. In our culture right now many people, and understandably so, have grown impatient and annoyed with the pace of “progress,” however they define or envision “progress.” If the only goal is to move the needle for change, it doesn’t matter what kind of strategies are employed, what motives or agendas drive the people who lead, or who is destroyed in the process. If the goal is restoration then how we encourage and achieve change matters very much. In Colossians 3 Paul calls out destructive attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:8) and calls for restorative attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:1-13). God loves everyone we disagree with, everyone who has ever hurt us, everyone who wants to destroy us, everyone who is yet to experience His love and grace. When we focus on destroying what we hate rather than restoring what we love, people God loves end up on the rubbish heap with the ideologies and practices we rightly need to discard.

Lord, help me to express Your beautiful restorative love and grace in what I stand for and how I stand there.

Random thoughts about nine out of ten lepers

August 4th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Just outside a village ten men with skin disease were standing around. They weren’t allowed in the village because people were afraid they would catch their disease. They saw Jesus and knew his reputation as a healer.
“Master, have pity on us!”
“Go show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus told them.
They headed for the synagogue and were healed on the way.
One of them came running back praising God in a loud voice to say thanks.
This guy was a Samaritan and threw himself in front of Jesus “thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Are you the only one who came back?” Jesus asked.
Jesus helped the man up off the ground and told him, “Get up and go, your faith has made you whole.*” Luke 17:11-19

Jesus did them all a big solid and thanking Him seems like basic manners. One guy comes back to say thanks and Jesus likes that, but, as far as we know the leprosy didn’t come back on the other nine just because they didn’t return. Consider that their healing happened on their home turf. Since leprosy meant being separated from the community, there were probably people that they couldn’t wait to be with and talk with after the priests declared them “clean.” It’s likely they were known to the priests that Jesus sent them to show. Obviously gratitude is the point of this story and Jesus definitely makes an observation about thankfulness in it, but it is faith, not thankfulness, that Jesus tells the guy made his healing possible. All ten lepers believed Jesus could heal them or they wouldn’t have asked and it wouldn’t have happened. If getting what we want from God involves saying certain things, assuming certain prayer positions, quoting from scripture, repetition, crowd sourcing, an appropriate level of drama, etc. etc. we can use this story to include “thanks” as one of the mechanisms of prayer or healing. Prayer and healing isn’t about “doing it right” and neither is faith. Nine guys did it wrong. They didn’t come back to say thanks yet they were still healed and forever impacted by what Jesus did for them. I’m not sure it’s fair to judge these guys as “ungrateful” anyway because we only are told this little part of their story. What if, after the excitement wore off a little bit, some of those guys realized they owed Jesus a thanks. They may have sought him out or sent Him a note. I’m sure He was cool about it. When telling someone else’s story, the details we choose to include and where and how we choose to end their story matters.

Lord, from a grateful heart, not because I’m scared you’ll take it all away or not give me more…Thanks!

*This is that Greek word “sōzō” that can mean a lot of things. In this case it’s most often translated “well” or “whole” but also can mean “safe and sound, saved, made whole, rescued, preserved from danger.”

Jesus knows physics. Jesus knows fishing. Jesus knows you.

July 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

There was big crowd milling around waiting to hear Jesus speak on the shores of Lake Gennesaret. Four fishermen were cleaning their nets nearby where their two boats were docked. Jesus asked one of them, Peter, to take him out a little ways so he could address the crowd. He stood in the boat and gave His talk.
Jesus knew His physics. Sound travels well on water. Sound  bounces upward as it hits the warmer air on shore. So the people standing in the back where the shore inclines can hear just as well as the people in front. Speaking from the boat creates a natural amphitheater. So, if Jesus wants to give a Ted Talk, it’s a great venue.
But why stop with a talk; Jesus goes full theater.
He turns to Peter, “Put the nets out into deep water and get ready for a catch.”
This is awkward for Peter, the professional fisherman. Jesus is a great teacher, no doubt, but Peter knows fishing. He doesn’t want to embarrass Jesus in front his audience so Peter answers softly, “Uhhh, Jesus, We’ve fished all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so…”
A little bit later the nets were so full they were in danger of breaking. Peter had to call his partners in the other boat out to help with the catch.
It dawns on Peter that Jesus is more than a great teacher and he falls to his knees in awe.
“Chill, Peter, don’t be afraid,” says Jesus, “from now on you’ll be fishing for men.”
Jesus gave his audience a short drama, a live-action parable, to punctuate a message:
Just because you put all your effort and knowledge into a goal doesn’t mean it is going to succeed. But if Jesus inspires you to do things a different way or to take an unknown path, even if you have serious doubts, you can trust Him for abundant results. Jesus is an expert at everything.
After that the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, took another leap of faith, closed their business, left everything behind, and followed Jesus. Luke 5:1-11

Lord, I trust You with my journey. Help me to recognize and respond to Your voice, especially when the unexpected or the unorthodox seems like the way to go.

Illustration from All Church Sound.

5 ways to Burst Bubbles

July 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Pray that I manifest the good news as I should. Walk wisely among those outside;* redeeming** the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt. Know how you must answer each person. Col. 4:4-5

So how do we engage with those who have not yet acknowledged Christ’s good news and those who consider themselves “outside” our faith?

1. Live outside the bubble. When we only talk with and hang with people who share our ideas and interests we create cultural bubbles. Sadly, our culture seems to be be moving toward an “us and them” mentality steeped in animosity and suspicion of everyone perceived to be “outside” our particular bubbles. Imagine the impact of living openly and freely, defying categorization or definition. Jesus.
2. Listen. Listening communicates that you value the speaker. Listening communicates motives of love and grace. Don’t think about how you are going to respond or counter. Just listen to know them. Ask questions to understand how they got where they are in their lives and their thinking.
3. Live respectfully with the tension of disagreement. Many “outside” the Christian faith have formed opinions about the mission and motives of Christ and of Christians based on unwise and graceless efforts of well-meaning Christians. Silence and “I don’t know” are perfectly acceptable responses. “I was wrong about that” can be golden.
4. Trust God with the time. Rushing in frantically and forcefully, determined to get agreement to your message, is no way to redeem the time. You are there to build a relationship not to sell a product.
5. Give the Holy Spirit room. Trust that God’s desire to be known is greater than your desire for that person to know Him. Recognize that a person’s awareness or acknowledgement of God does not necessarily reflect the extent of God’s involvement in their lives. Don’t expect another person’s experience to look like yours.

Lord, help me to manifest the good, gracious, free, and loving nature of Your message in all my relationships.

*exō means “outside”
**exagorazō means “redeeming, in the context of the time, redeeming slaves to freedom”

Christ first. Christ synistēmi.

June 5th, 2017 by Maureen

Christ came pro tr. before (means both in front of and earlier than) everything else and in Him everything else synistēmi tr. holds together (also means consists, brings together, unites parts into a whole, compares and contrasts as a teaching method). Col. 1:17

If Christ has preeminence and unifies everything else in Himself, then we have every reason to adopt an optimistic attitude. But we humans tend to prefer “compare and contrast” to “uniting parts into a whole.” We tend to focus on differences, to notice inconsistencies with our views, to try and fix those inconsistencies, to establish “us and them” contexts, and to adopt adversarial narratives. Using these perspectives to see the world and to see ourselves in it can create rather negative attitudes toward everything that is not perceived as “us.” Christ’s prayer to the Father in John 17 “make them one as we are one,” is not Jesus’ desperate plea or wishful thinking, but confident confirmation of His synistēmi and an expression of His desire that humans be awareness of it. This loving unity is the joyful context in which Christ reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). What would happen if we could approach all our interactions, with other humans, with nature, and with social, political, and economic structures fully aware that Christ is before everything in all senses of the word, and that we all exist together in His synistēmi?

Help me put my attitudes in the synistēmi context of Your loving whole.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy

May 31st, 2017 by Maureen

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! Ps. 103:5

The beginning of summer vacation always makes me feel like a kid again. The young are gifted with the ability to live in the moment and enjoy the present. Summer invites us into simplicity, stillness, and serendipity. It’s time for unstructured play, unfocused thought, and random discovery. It’s time to be instead of do. Even those who have to work can choose to have a summer attitude and experience unreserved delight and child-like wonder. Go play.

Lord, I surrender my concerns and embrace the good things You’ve laid out for me this summer.

Peace out

May 13th, 2017 by Maureen
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I give to you not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
 
There is plenty to trouble our hearts, in the world, in our country, in our city, in our communities, in our lives, among our friends and loved ones. The world gives us tools to try to explain how and why, to control the damage, and to protect what makes us feel secure. The peace that Christ leaves is centered in believing that He loves us, believing that we can trust Him, and releasing all we have to His care without fear. We can choose to let our hearts be troubled. We can choose to let Christ’s perspective drive our responses to troubling things. This is not as easy as it looks on paper, but His peace is a gift that we can choose to embrace.
 
Lord, in all the troubling things in life, keep turning me toward the peace You give.
 

Awareness of God formed and woven in

May 7th, 2017 by Maureen

You formed my inmost being and wove me in my mother’s womb. Ps. 139:13-14

Perhaps we all experienced God in our first moments of awareness as connections fired in our developing brains and we experienced our senses without being able to assign meaning yet to what we were experiencing. Perhaps our need to love and be loved is rooted in vague memory of our First Friend’s deep love and tenderness for us. Perhaps our desire to create and contribute come from an unfocused awareness of our worth and significance to Him. This is all speculative, of course, but consider the possibility that our awareness of God in all that is around, God with us, God in us, and God for us has the potential to permeate and inform everything we experience all the time.

Lord, thank you for being with me always.

Authentication necessary

May 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NAS)

Ever see one of those movie scenes where the thief replaces the item of real value with a good fake? It’s easy to miss the switch and accept a life less than Christ came to give. Jesus wants to make our lives big, audacious, purposeful, joyful, and satisfying. The thief comes to shrink our lives by holding up the mundane, the profane, and the inane, and calling it abundance.

Lord, please authenticate my treasure. I want to settle for no less than authentic abundance.

Awe-filled but not awful

April 28th, 2017 by Maureen

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Eph. 3:12

Certainly we should approach God with awe because He is, after all, God. At the same time He is a Friend and a Father who infused His own image into His human creation. He made us eternal souls and reconciles us to Himself is so that we can experience a confident, familiar relationship with Him. Jesus used the word “in” as well as the word “with” to describe this relationship with the Father.

Father, thank you for this awe-filled relationship I experience and enjoy in You and with You.

What is now and ever shall be

April 14th, 2017 by Maureen

Now is the judgment; now will the ruler of this world be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself. Jn. 12:30-31

The death and resurrection of Christ was the most powerful and unique event in all the history of God’s creation. At that moment Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave and change the present and future effects those ideas have on us. The power of sin is broken. For Jesus’ disciples, His crucifixion made it look like evil had won. We have the benefit of an Easter perspective. Yes, evil still has some temporary influence on this earth, but, we can trust Christ’s Easter victory with everything in our lives and the lives of the ones we love.

Lord, what You’ve already done informs the hope I have in what is now and ever shall be.

Newness

April 13th, 2017 by Maureen

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Eph 2:4-5

Spiritual death and resurrection is disorienting and transforming. Jesus died to save us from spiritual death and to transformation and newness of life. He rose to free us from spiritual tombs yet so many of us walk around spiritually alive but still somewhat wrapped in the familiar grave clothes of past wounds, dead sins, and past perceptions. Jesus wasn’t always recognized after His resurrection and we might not always recognize ourselves in our shiny new Easter skin either, but this transformed, resurrected self is who we really are now.

Lord, You are risen and because of You, so am I. Hallelujah!

Entering the cave of wonders

March 21st, 2017 by Maureen

I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself… Ps. 131:1b-2a

It’s more likely that we are too bogged down in the mundane to enter God’s great and awesome cave of wonders. It’s actually good to be curious, to ask questions, and to have a healthy sense of wonder. God invites us into matters greater and more awesome than we’ve ever thought to explore. We can, however, make our desire to understand, to explain, or to control completely distract and disturb us to the point of obsession. It’s not that pursuing great and awesome ideas is going to automatically create turmoil, it’s that the vast height, width, length, and depth of God’s love is the wonder that informs how we process all the other wonders.

Lord, help me to process all wonders in the joyful context of Your calming love.

And now, a few words from St. Paddy

March 17th, 2017 by Maureen

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

It really is okay

March 5th, 2017 by Maureen

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt. 9:36

Processing and responding to all the things in life that confuse us and make us feel helpless might be too much to handle not because we’re weak or incompetent, but because we aren’t designed to handle things all on our own. God is God and we aren’t. We can trust Him and put our confidence in Him even if we still feel confused and helpless about the circumstances. He always has the big picture and always operates for our good.

Lord, I can’t even pretend to understand or have any control but I trust you to make it okay even if it doesn’t look very okay.

Pondering still water

February 22nd, 2017 by Maureen


He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Ps. 23:2b-3a

Every day I get out of my car and see this pond. I see the seasons reflected in its waters. I see it teeming with the life and life cycles God created. We pass God’s still waters every day, and when we notice, that’s an opportunity to stop and reflect and experience restoration. Sometimes we feel like we are waiting around for God to restore when He’s right there. Sometimes our waiting has more to do with not looking up and not recognizing still water when we see it. It’s nice when it looks like this, but sometimes still water is less obvious.

God thank you for this obvious beauty. Help me to notice when you lead me beside the less obvious still water.

Argument rewind

February 16th, 2017 by Maureen

I’ve posted this before but in the current climate, it think it bears repeating:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. I Cor.13:12

Disagreements should be approached with humility. Most of our debates could use a preamble. Something like: “having considered all the information available within all possible contexts and nuances, having applied responsible processes of scholarship and reason, accounting for my personal agendas and prejudices, recognizing that reasonable minds and sincere hearts might disagree, and looking at those I speak to and speak about through the lens of Christ’s love and grace, here is what I think.”

Lord, help me to be humble and gracious in disagreements. And help those who speak in conversation, in social networks, in public settings, and in the media; those who speak for themselves and as representatives of others, do the same.

Trust

February 8th, 2017 by Maureen

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. Col. 3:16

The  message of Christ is redemption, transformation, grace, joy, and freedom. Trust is involved in receiving and experiencing that message. We choose whether to receive from a perspective of belief in Christ. We can choose to believe we are loved, that God is benevolent, that He is good, that He can be trusted with everything, even the things we can’t understand, control, or change. Or we can choose to receive our experiences from a perspective of fear, doubt, or resentment.Relationship with God is not always based on how we feel. Sometimes it’s based on what we believe. Sometimes it’s both. Sometimes it’s neither. Our perspectives can change. We can’t always trust our perspective. God’s love remains. We can always trust Him.

Thanks this day when my heart is full of gratitude and trust. Thanks for sticking with me when every song gets stuck in my throat.

Choosing grace or guilt

February 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Eph.4:2

As long as we live on this earth somebody is going to mess up in a way that hurts us; And at some point we will mess up in a way that hurts others. We can choose to participate in grace’s restoration or in guilt’s condemnation through our responses to our own mistakes and to the mistakes of others.Grace lets us forgive ourselves. Guilt requires some self-flagellation. Grace lets us extend mercy as a free gift, just as Christ without demanding the usual payback and grovelling guilt demands. Our small, daily choices for restoration over retribution gives us insight and experience into Christ’s magnanimous redemptive gift of grace.

Lord, help me to live continually in Your redemptive grace.

Stop paddling and float

February 5th, 2017 by Maureen

You show me the way of life, in Your presence is fullness of joy, and at you right hand are pleasures forever. Ps. 16:11

Awareness of God’s love and grace is more like something we float in than something we master. We make relationship with the Father harder than it has to be. Awareness of Him is not meant to bring us shame, suffering, fear or obligation. It’s not meant to incite a flurry of rules following or self-improvement activities. He wants us to experience pleasure and joy in Him, with Him, for Him, because of Him in our real lives that we are living right. Eternity is now too.

Lord, keep showing me the way of awareness and abundance.