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Monday, January 15, 2018

Humility for Jedi



“This is not going to go the way you think…” –Luke Skywalker

It’s possible that these words are fresh in my mind, because I have now seen “The Last Jedi” three times.  I don’t even love the movie, but we are intergenerationally a Star Wars family for life, so you have to see it with everyone.  That’s just how the force works. 

I feel relatively confident that I am the only one left (in my family… maybe in the world…) who is still holding out hope for the redemption of Kylo Ren.  As it turns out, there are a few things in life that are truly unforgiveable, and apparently killing Han Solo… your father… is one of them.  But this Luke Skywalker line… it’s bothering me…

What does this have to do with the flip flops, glitter, or theology?  Let’s hope I can make a connection, or this post is going to be a bust!

Humility is a funny thing (not humorous, just funny).  I should probably admit, at this point, that it was my intention to write a post about success, today.  I’m now saving it for tomorrow… or next week… or someday… or never… we’ll see.  This change in direction all started with a sermon quote from yesterday’s worship gathering:

“Sometimes the price to be paid for freedom is loneliness…  Change always comes with loss.”[i]

Then I ran across a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., which is at least equally true:

“It’s always the right time to do what is right.”

Dr. King said so many important things, and this is not ordinarily the one I might quote on this day of remembrance and celebration of his life and work, but it somehow seems fitting. 

So, what is right?

Psalm 25 underscores the concepts of loneliness and humility and confession and systemic change, all around.  I have included most of it here, with some parts that stood out to me, specifically, highlighted in red:

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who are they that fear the Lord?
    He will teach them the way that they should choose.
13 They will abide in prosperity,
    and their children shall possess the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart,
    and bring me out of my distress.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
    and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 O guard my life, and deliver me;
    do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
    for I wait for you.

The daily office continued to push me hard, this morning, as I leaned in to Hebrews 4 and considered the tested yet sinless Jesus and my own need to, “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).

Accusing others of guilt is tempting, but as confession so often does; it must begin with me… with you… with those in leadership who have an opportunity to deal gently with others… with those called by God, offering sacrifices first for our own sins: personal, communal, and systemic (see Hebrews 5:3-5).

Well, that’s humiliating.  It’s lonely.  And, it’s not how I thought this was going to go.  Following Jesus rarely does.

L.    


[i] I don’t know who originally said this, but she was right.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Can Anything Good Come?



On Thursday afternoon, I had literally just finished a podcast recording about social justice (which will air tomorrow), relying heavily on the upcoming lectionary Scripture that includes the phrase, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” when I received a message directing me to the latest derogatory comment about immigrants, made by Donald Trump.
As a preview (and a jumping off point for further discussion), these are my opening words for the show:

***

“‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ (John 1:45) 

These are words that were spoken about Jesus, himself, probably based in expectation and prejudice against a geographic location that just didn’t measure up or produce anyone noteworthy.   

In this narrative account, Philip invites Nathanael to ‘Come and see’ (v. 46), and Nathanael does, but it seems that we are often so grounded in and distracted by our own biases that we rarely reach this kind of charitable exploration and beautiful conclusion anymore.  Whole people groups are marginalized, and we miss out on the good that comes from the least likely places.”

***

Of course, I am upset.  In fact, I am upset enough that I have posted and deleted and reworded and reposted to social media (and apparently I am not alone in this effort).  I am upset enough that I recognize I still do not have sufficient words two days later.  I am upset enough that I need to both say and do something, even if it’s small.

So I’m about to say something that will probably make some people angry.  What’s new?  Story of my life…

The potential good that I see coming from this deplorable, offensive, intolerable phrase about “s***hole” countries and their people is that maybe #45 has finally said something strong enough to unite the least likely allies. 

WHAT???

Stay with me… or don’t.  You may also take this moment to unfriend me, if that seems more efficient.

Y’all…  There have been numerous occasions on which I have thought… hoped… wished… maybe even prayed… that a phrase was enough to leave the vast majority of people without a motive to continue to defend this administration (remember, “Grab them by the p***y”?), but where other horrific words have failed; these seem to offend almost everyone in some way.  

It has often been the most conservative, right winged, fundamental evangelicals who have sustained the justification for this kind of leadership.  This is mind blowing to me, but I do recognize the ways in which one issue voting has effected this phenomenon (I don’t agree, but I cognitively understand).  However, many of these same people, groups, denominations, etc. are now forced to reevaluate, because the truth is that they are also people who have reached out in mission, love, and relationship, time and time again, to the wonderful people of Haiti and African nations.  Because of this, I would imagine that there is some internal tension and struggle.  It’s not cut-and-dried.  Let’s be real, it never was, but today this has become more obvious.

So I’m angry.  I am so incredibly angry that anyone in a position that has historically obligated us to show extraordinary respect and honor has severely diminished the Imago Dei in whole marginalized people groups and, consequently, devalued their lives.  And I totally ‘get it’ that this is nothing new.  But for some factions, this is only becoming very real and relatable right now.

I’m angry, but I want to use that to fuel unity and reconciliation.  I want to reach out to those who are just now realizing the vast extent of this dehumanization, not by saying, “I told you so,” but by saying, “What can we do together, now?”

Perhaps this is the remark that will finally allow us to band together and agree that enough is enough.

Also…  I don’t always know what to do to offer immediate, practical solutions, but today I’ve got something… which is better than nothing… 

A friend of mine runs a 501(c)(3) called “Compassion for Africa.”  Because I know him personally, I also know it is true that every penny received (100%, no overhead) goes directly to the projects for which funds are designated.  They are doing some great work in Ghana, particularly in the areas of medicine, clean water, and education and business programs for young girls.  I’m going to link that information here, in case you’d like to be a part of the solution for these people who matter deeply:


May something good come.  May it begin with us.

L.

Monday, January 8, 2018

All the New Beginnings



If you want to read about the beginning… and the beginning… and the beginning…  Go ahead and pick up the daily office, today.  I’m going to throw some vaguely related comments into the mix, based on the Psalm on this first #MinistryMonday of a new year.

Psalm 3:3 stood out to me, specifically, as the engine of my vehicle cut out twice on my six minute drive to work, this morning:

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head” (NRSV). 

It was the part about lifting up my head that really got me…

I’ve spent some time, in the past, writing about the people who have often surrounded me and held up my arms when I couldn’t (and I’m going to return to that a little bit with this post), but there was something significant to me when I also stopped to think about how sometimes God is the only one available to us, and it’s a good thing God is willing to lift our heads… even when we would rather bang them on the steering wheel and give up:

This picture isn’t from today… 
 It’s not even the same vehicle…
But it does give you a look into parts of my life:

So here’s the short story.  I drove the crappy van to work today, because the good van has a broken window.  I kid you not.  You read that right.  The good van is the most broken at this particular moment.  My husband took that one… ya know… to deliver the mail…

I’ve been thinking about how important it is to me to have a reliable form of transportation—and why.  When I was growing up, my dad worked out of town a lot, and my mom didn’t drive much (read this, never over 35mph, so this severely limited the number of roads on which she could safely travel).  Getting places was a real challenge until I secured the coveted driver’s license at age sixteen and a couple of days (I don’t remember how many days, but I was seriously ticked that I didn’t have that license in hand at 12:02am on my birthday)!  I was very blessed to have a new, leased car (Dad worked for Chrysler), and I took off in that Dodge Neon and never looked back.  The freedom to get where you need to go is exhilarating!

I would, however, be remiss if I neglected to mention that there were many people in my life who came alongside me to take me places until I could get there myself.  Parents of my friends would pick me up in all kinds of weird locations (like the Burger King parking lot, since there was a back road through a subdivision that led there) in order to help me (mostly) avoid walking on roads with too much traffic for pedestrians (minus that one time I walked down M-59 to secure my high school course schedule)!  The year when the school district couldn’t afford bus transportation for the first few weeks was a challenge, because I had to depend on neighbors who were older and so much cooler than me, but I survived.  People from church would drive out of their way (by many miles) to get me to worship services and events.  And of course there were grandparents who jumped in whenever they could.  I never forgot any of that and did a fair share of chauffeuring others as something of a “pay it forward,” before that was a thing.

But to this day, transportation issues stress me out!  I want my super reliable vehicle to always work when I need it to.  I do not want to be stalled on the side of the road when it is still dark out.  Is that too much to ask?

Maybe.

Today this has me thinking about what I really need.  Realistically, I got to work with a little bit of patience and engine revving.  I’m safer and more privileged than the majority of the world’s population.  I’ll probably have ‘the good van’ back with a working window before I have to drive a long distance, but if not; I’ll rent something. 
  
John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (NRSV).

Even pre-dawn, my headlights worked…

Still, this underscores how deeply our experiences matter, and so do the experiences of others.

I wonder what resources I currently have that could meet a need that someone else has, even if it’s more of a perceived need than a verifiable one (note to self: humanity survived without vehicles for most of history). 

L.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Water



I’ve probably spewed the facts here before, but up to 60% of an adult body is made of water, and about 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with it.  It is not scarce.  In fact, it is seemingly the first material used in creation, and God used a lot of it—in nature and in us.  In Genesis… at the beginning… God’s Spirit is hovering over the water.  In John, we learn that Jesus… God in human flesh—the Word… was present at creation.  And then Jesus not only allows himself to be drowned in the very thing from which all things came (by his eclectic cousin in his camel hair clothes with his locust lunch), but Jesus insists that this must be so to fulfill all righteousness. 

It’s overwhelming!

It’s overwhelming to me, sure; but more than that, it’s overwhelming to creation to such an extent that as Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens are torn open as the Spirit descends on him and God’s voice proclaims his sonship—his “beloved-ness!”

This is exciting stuff!  It’s a lot to take in!  And God offers us this same seal of identity…

Grace is a funny thing, and I am so thirsty…

L.