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Monday, February 19, 2018

Joseph's Dreams are Crazy!

The Genesis passage which details Joseph’s dreams is well known.  I’ve read it, or heard the story told in countless different ways, over and over again, spanning decades of life.  I do not think it was until this morning that I exclaimed, “This is crazy!”

“Hey family!  My wheat is greater than yours…  And the sun, moon, and stars?  They’re (you’re) going to bow down to me!”

No wonder Joseph’s brothers were a little miffed…

If you know the continuing story of Joseph, you also know it takes many twists and turns before it resolves in any kind of redemptive way, but I don’t want to jump ahead… It’s good reading for the coming week…

So, let’s look at just this one part.  Joseph’s dreams are crazy.  Maybe they’re even insulting.  But they’re real, and they’re worth a second thought (which his father Jacob gives them, if silently).

What about our dreams?

Lent is a pretty good time of year to consider the space and silence for which we might need to make room as we discern our next steps in life.  At least, that’s what I was thinking until I opened up to I Corinthians 1:18-19:

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’”

Well, OK then… for today, just the dreams…


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stop Being Sorry

A month ago, just as I took a temporary, unplanned break from blogging, I scribbled down this question: “Must we be sorry forever?”

Psalm 38:20 was part of my reading, that day:

“Those who render me evil for good are my adversaries because I follow after good…” (NRSV).

Friends, this is not a claim that I have it all together.  Have you read me? But in fairness, I do think we need to come to pivotal moments in life when enough is enough.  What do we think redemption is, anyway?

Fast forward to today…

God doesn’t stay angry. 

This seems like a strange thing to say, in more ways than one.  I struggle with the image of an angry God, and I think even our Scriptures paint God in a certain light precisely because of antiquated theology that was appropriate for the cultural context of the time and place in which Scripture was penned.  This doesn’t make it any less true, but it does cause me to pause and seek the point of the words more sincerely than the words, themselves. 

Psalm 30:5 seemed helpful to me, today:

“For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (NRSV).

OK.  I can live with that.  We all can literally live with that.  These words are God breathing fresh life into broken stuff… into broken us.  I don’t really know how angry God gets, but I suppose if there is anyone who has a right to be angry, it’s God.  And I guess I have to think that God does get angry about injustices and suffering and evil in the world that brings pain, but I also have to be careful not to make God into me.  I have to be so careful.

This moment, though, has me considering what it is to accept that God might get angry but to also allow for a scenario in which God’s anger dissipates.  It is most difficult when I think God is angry with me.  It is most difficult when I think God has reason to be angry with me.  It is helpful to know that even if that line of thinking pans out (and I actually don’t know whether or not it does), it’s not permanent. 

Ezekiel 39:28-29 is telling.  After the author details the ways in which God has been angry with Israel… with God’s own people…  After the author details the ways in which God has abandoned God’s people…  We get these words:

“…I will leave none of them behind; I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit…” (NRSV).

This…  Oh, friends… this…

It’s the answer to my question.

Must we be sorry?

Yes—personally, communally, systemically; we must be sorry.

Must we be sorry forever?

Well, maybe still yes, but that doesn’t mean we must be overwhelmed with guilt or shame.  God is done with that!  We, also, need to be done with it.

Today, as people greatly forgiven, may we offer mercy.  May we choose not to hide our faces, but to accept forgiveness and to launch ourselves into the center of the hurting in order to bring healing, not because we need to be continually apologetic but because we have chosen now to follow good… to be the examples of love in our homes, in our communities, and around the globe. 

Let’s stop just being sorry and start being salvific.  This is what confession looks like.


Friday, February 16, 2018

To Whisper Loudly

I can’t remember where I first picked up this quote… probably social media… but I liked it enough that I wrote in on the dry erase board in my office, and then I sort of forgot about it:

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’’ – Mary Anne Radmacher

I think I love this quote so much, because I have had a lot of days that have ended like that.  If I’m honest, there have been a few when I would have rather quit.  Some have even been recent.  I haven’t blogged in a month, because it has been difficult to determine which of my scrawlings have been appropriate for public consumption, and as it turns out I have learned a lot about which feelings to vomit and which ones to swallow.  It’s OK.

So, I started this third day of Lent with the daily office, and it wasn’t earth shattering for me.  I noted some things, particularly in the Philippians passage, and I gave a little bit of extra thought to how verses 8 and 9 might be applied:

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (NRSV).

It’s not a passage for thrill seekers, but I feel confident that it is a passage for peace seekers.  Do the good stuff you can do!  How different would the world be if we all simply exercised that ability?  I guarantee you it would not fix everything, but it would fix some things.  And I want to be clear, this is neither a cop-out for myself nor a statement to let you off the hook, because I totally get that it sounds cliché.  If either you or I have the power or the passion to do huge things that impact the world, we had better be doing them!  But the small stuff, too… all of it… because if you’ve ever been in a crowded place, you know it gets pretty loud if everybody is whispering.