Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Leadership of Children

I just came from the funeral of a 13 year old, Down's Syndrome boy named Nich. He was the best. He taught me what pure, innocent love looks like. In many ways, he could lead all of us in what it looks like to love in the way of Jesus.

I have determined that if I were to follow Nich's leadership and be more like him, j would actually be doing a pretty good job of also following the leadership of Jesus.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Embracing the Presence

As I was reading in the Gospels this morning, I was struck by the simple, yet extraordinary power of the presence of God.

Zechariah wonders how he and Elizabeth will have a son and Gabriel's answer is, "I stand in the presence of God...!"

Mary wonders how she can become pregnant, and the answer is, "the presence of God will come over you."

Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and the very presence of God in Mary causes John to leap within Elizabeth's womb.

Do I allow the presence of God to change everything around me? Do I recognize that as a follower of Christ and one who has been filled with the Spirit, that the very transforming, earth-shattering, life-altering presence of God is in me? Do I walk and talk differently because I realize that everywhere I set my foot, I am carrying the presence of God with me, and my words are spoken in that presence and often on behalf of that presence?

May I remain mindful today of the Presence!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Literally or Figuratively?

I have been doing a lot of reading recently from the ancient fathers and mothers of the faith. My new favorite commentary series is a set of volumes (I only have Matt., Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Isaiah if anyone is looking for gift ideas!) titled, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

When I read these giants of the faith who were so much closer to the time Jesus, and were in great part, founders and formers of the early church and much of what we believe today, I am struck by two things:

1 - They tend to interpret scripture very literally;

2 - They tend to interpret scripture very figuratively.

Initially, these may seem in conflict with one another. It's not possible to view the scriptures from both a literal and a figurative point of view. But the Ancients seem to move back and forth between the two concepts with great ease - at times finding great imagery and allegory in the passages of the Word, and at other times, taking things very literally. Two examples will suffice.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. I am, as a preacher of the Word, teaching from the Triumphal Entry. As I read the words of the Ancients this week in preparation for teaching, I was struck at how much imagery they place on every component of this story. The cloaks represent this...the palms represent that...the donkey represents this.... Every layer of the story is unpacked and given at least one, if not more, layers of meaning!

I also recently read this quote from Gregory of Nazianzus in a book I am reading for Lent. "To say something greater still, let us sacrifice ourselves to God; further let us go on every day offering ourselves and all our activities. Let us accept everything literally, let us imitate the passion by our sufferings, let us reverence the blood by our blood, let us be eager to climb the cross." Powerful, literal words in light of the advent of Holy Week.

This morning one of the texts I read was from Romans 12:1-8. As I read it, mostly due to the fast God has called me and what he has been teaching me about what I put into my body, I saw this text in a very new light. What if God is asking us to offer our bodies, literally and figuratively? What if one of the ways I am called to live this out is to literally pay attention to what I am putting into my body - because it really does matter?! And what if I am also called to offer my body figuratively, as a symbol of my devotion to Christ - because it really does matter?!

I think our tendency (or at least the tendency of a large portion of American Christianity) is to think there is one specific way to interpret the Scriptures. There is one exact meaning for every passage and if you believe anything other than that one meaning, your wrong! Perhaps we could take some cues from those giants of the faith who have gone ahead of us. Perhaps we could follow their lead and determine that we are going to use the Scriptures to form and shape us in whatever way the Holy Spirit desires. Certainly I am not advocating for interpreting Scripture in whatever way it suits our fancy, or helps us find a way to support our position! But what if we believed, like the Ancients did, that the Scriptures, under the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit, have way more power to form and shape us than we often give them credit?

What if the answer to the question, literally or figuratively, is YES?!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pharisee Tendencies

I lean toward being a Pharisee - and that's not fair-you-see!!

My tendency is to believe that I am worthy of God's love and acceptance by what I do or don't do, or by how good or bad of a man I am for Him.

This manifests itself in a number of ways in my life. When I feel like I have done something well - helped someone in need, or provided wise counsel to someone - then I am more loved by God because I have done a good job. Of course, that also means the opposite is true for me too - if I mess up or make a choice that I know is not honoring to God - I am in jeopardy of losing His love.

I recently finished the book, Love Wins, by Rob Bell. This book asks lots of questions about heaven and hell, and many of those questions are very profound. But the most powerful part of the book for me was the chapter on the Prodigal Son (The Good News Is Better Than That). In a nutshell, Rob talks about how there are actually three stories at work here: the story of the prodigal who believes he is not worthy of his father's love because of the poor choices he has made; the story of the older son, who believes he deserves his father's love because of what he has done; and the story of the father, who freely offers his love to both sons, regardless of either of their choices.

Sometimes I gravitate toward the younger son - beating myself up for poor choices, for not living up to the standards of the father. Sometimes I am the older son - proud of myself for all the good I have done and ready to receive the accolades I deserve.

Either way, I am a pharisee.

My prayer for Lent (and beyond!) is that I would be willing to truly trust and believe my Father's version of the story!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I have been thinking this morning about influence. Because of the way I have been wired and created, I tend to view things from a pretty large perspective. I think about the big pictures of life, and all of the ways the world around me needs to be changed. I want to make a huge impact for the Kingdom. The problem is, I am a pretty small rock. I have not been given a very large platform from which to function. Some of that has to do with my personality, but much of it simply has to do with the circumstances of life into which I have been delivered.

All of this means I have a choice to make. Am I going to focus and worry and agonize over all of those larger issues I see that need to be changed, fixed, modified, stopped?! Or am I going to make a decision to do what I can, where I can, with every ounce of energy I have? Am I willing to take the small rock that I am, and make the biggest splash I can, in the arena into which I have been placed, and then let my small influence ripple out as far as it possibly can go?

Will I be faithful with what I have been given right in front of me - no matter how big or small it may be?

As the writers of Scripture would say....


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Incurvitas in se

Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been almost a year since my last post.....

Incurvitas in se - this is a new phrase I learned this past week. It is a phrase which may have been coined by Augustine, but about which Martin Luther wrote much. The full phrase he actually used was, "homo incurvitas in se ipsem," which means, "man turning in on himself." One of the things I heard about this phrase when I was first learning it was the idea of a curled wood shaving that is turned in on itself, but in the center is actually a hole.

This is what life is like when we function from a perspective of incurvitas in se. Our tendency is to focus so much on ourselves that we actually can miss everything that is happening around us. And when we do that, we end up just being centered around emptiness.

Yesterday I was heading to the office to try and get some concentrated work done in a very limited amount of time. I had high hopes for that time.

On my way, I received a message there was someone at the office who was in need of assistance. Really?! I don't have time for this!

I arrived, listened to the story, offered some assistance, and about 15 minutes later headed back to the church. As I was driving up the street toward the church, there was an elderly woman standing in the street next to a bike, all of her stuff (which may have been all of her possessions) laying on the street next to her. It looked as if she was trying to work on her bike. I had to move to the left in order to avoid her, and the story of the good Samaritan flashed through my mind. Really Lord!?!? Again?

I stopped. We eventually untangled the bungee cord that was wrapped around her axel, and we were both off. Another 10 minutes gone.

I was suffering from incurvitas in se!

By the time I got back to the office, I had effectively lost half an hour. I sat down to make the most of the time I had left, but didn't get finished before I had to leave for the next assignment. I figured I would just have to stay up late that night to get everything done, since the rest of my day was booked until 9 PM. Oh well.

Incurvitas in se!

Much to my surprise, my afternoon appointment that was supposed to go from 1-5, actually ended at 3! Seriously, Lord!?!?!

As I once again headed back to the office with the gift of 2 more hours before my next appointment, God seemed to whisper to me, "Thanks for listening earlier, even if you did it with a poor attitude. Your willingness to work with me in the moment, made a huge difference for those people, and now you get to see that I am still taking care of you too."

While my actions earlier that day had not been inwardly focused, my attitude certainly had been incurvitas in se! And now the Lord was showing me that perhaps the next time I could seek His help and allow my actions and my attitude to line up. And that just might make it possible for me to see those people as people, not a bother to my schedule.

Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I suffer from incurvitas in se!