Tag Archives: hope

Merry Christmas and Happy Everything

Yes, I love King and Country’s version of Little Drummer Boy… and I thought nothing in life or death could make me like that song. ha!

Let us all pray: God of the Universe, God of rocks and flowers and hearts and love, help us bring our best selves, our bright angels, to 2020 to partake in the healing of the world. There are so many things in need of healing; help us find where our great joy meets the world’s great sorrow and help us get cracking (adapting Frederick Buechner’s lovely words ). Help us to know that any act of kindness is healing. Help us to know that sometimes silence or gentleness is what is necessary. And likewise, sometimes, even if it isn’t “ladylike” or “nice”, sometimes injustice must be met with clear pure anger and a righteous determination to foster change and hope.

Holy God of the Universe, in the midst of all this, protect all those I love and all who love them and all who love those who love them and so on, forever.

Amen.

Matthew 1:18-25 and incarnation

This year I am completely amazed by the incarnation. The same God who created the universe – and filled the oceans with swarming things and the sky below the dome with fowls and had the land put forth vegetation and wild animals and cattle and creeping things. Everything. And humans, in the image of God, male and female. Everything was good and as a whole, very good. That same God out of love, hoping to heal the world from the brokenness it was in, put Himself inside the world. God could make new sons of Abraham out of the very stones, instead of bothering to heal this broken world, but instead He came to us. And not in a better-shape-up-Father’s-home kind of way. The Son came here to heal. To make the blind see and the lame walk and the deaf to hear. To try to lead people away from violence by submitting to it. God knew what he was getting into. Pretty sure. For a time God had hands and breathed the air and walked the ground and ate with us. And ate with sinners. Which is all of us.

To do that — some holy mystery there. Some limits to power accepted, some needs, such as water, accepted. Bodies are needy. Bodies can hurt. How can this even work? A mystery. And yet He came. He filled Mary, and then he filled a manager in Bethlehem and then he filled anyone who turned from their old life to the hope of something new: something healing and whole and peaceful and loving, oh how loving.

The Bible says an Angel came to Joseph in a dream: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as a your wife, for the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

Godself filling Mary with Godself.

Until Mary’s arms held a fragile infant, her body curving around her baby, protective and loving. Joseph, I like to envision, was kneeling next to Mary and the baby, murmuring “Jesus, his name is Jesus” over and over, the words like a prayer. He was readying to protect them both, shining love down on both of them. The mystery of the Universe born as fragile and dependent on Mary and Joseph as any newborn. And they rose to the challenge of love.

Even so, Lord, quickly come.

Interrupted by music and more thoughts on prayer

Here’s an amazing song by Lauren Daigle “Rescue“. Sort of that reassurance you need — I need — when God seems so far away and the world seems all too hard and awful.

Of course even if things never get better, “God is with us in the storm”.

As the holiday season starts to gear up, always good to remember that God isn’t Santa. We can’t help but ask God for health, love, hope, meaningful work, etc. etc., for ourselves and for others. And in fact I think intercessory prayer is good and it has been of great comfort to me.

How to pray beyond “Santa” prayers?

There’s “contemplative prayer” — trying to rest in God’s loving presence. Which is much harder than it sounds! Like mediation, you can focus on your breath, and try to let your thoughts float away and not loop. Unlike mediation you are also trying to be so still that you can listen.

I personally am struggling to find something in the middle. Some sort of intercessory and praise prayer, with thanksgiving, that swoops through the noise of mere words. Prayers that ask for us to change and have eyes to see and ears to hear. Prayers that go past need and into Shalom.

Here’s Sarah Bessey’s prayer for the broken-hearted at Christmas. She can pray!

1 Timothy 6:11 – 12

This is just a snip of tomorrow’s gospel reading at my church, for which I’m the lay reader. I’ve fallen deep into chapter 6, verses 6 – 19. There is so much here.

But right now let’s look at just part of two of these jammed verses: “But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight fo the faith…”

The word right after “Gentleness” is “Fight.”

Isn’t that odd? And since this whole passage is crafted so carefully and with so much poetry (at least to me), my gut thinks this is a deliberate contrast.

Those people, those people of the faith, they won’t fight. They will just turn the other cheek.”

Or

“Those people, so determined to live as if money doesn’t matter, they won’t fight — you can just take from them.”

Fighting, pursuing, hoarding — the constant treadmill of work and worry — is what the love of riches will bring. Fighting free of that would be a fight well worth the trouble.

So Paul is writing — be fierce in gentleness. Fight for your pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, as much as those who pursue riches would fight to obtain that. How in the world do you fight for gentleness? How do you fight for internal qualities like righteousness and godliness?

Perhaps “love” and “endurance” are in the list for a reason?

Perhaps also that is why immediately Paul goes into an amazing testimony and impassioned praise of Christ Jesus. If we stay true to this amazing love from God, if we realized how amazing it is, perhaps that is the way that gentleness can fight.

These words are from bible teacher Beth Moore: “The greatest wonder is not something God performs for you. It’s that God, who dwells in unapproachable light, whose voice is like thunder, can be known by you. Tenderly, Unendingly. Because of Jesus. This is the miracle.”

We may have different words and our roads may be different, but those of us who want life to be more than “how much can I get myself” are free to see and act and live in different ways, and in a way that can knit us together. May righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness bring us all to life that really is life.

eta: And then real life happened — this wasn’t the lectionary reading chosen to be read after all! It was a perfect “easy” parable about prayer and the Jesus prayer specifically. However, I really enjoyed reading this and starting to learn this. I think God had a “word” for me via this mistake (which was all mine).

Life for a Biblical Storyteller — you just never know what is going to happen.

Peace

In one way of looking at things, the US has been at war in the Middle East for about 18 years now, right? That is like something out of medieval history. I used to read about the 30 year war or the 100 year war and think, “Make peace already.”

It turns out we’ve always been at war, pretty much.

It turns out I don’t know what to call this war in the middle east — like it seems other wars had names: WW2 or the Vietnam War. Can we not stop being at war if we don’t even have a name for it?

I tried to google — like when did it start 2001 or 2002? Well that was complex! I know less now than when I started. And it might have ended in one sense in 2014? but we’ve been in emergencies since then?

I do know this: Peace is better than war.

I bet soldiers would agree. I bet pretty much everyone would agree!

“Foreign policy” is obviously not something I know much about (nor is war and battles clearly), so why have I brought this up? (And I realize, shame on me, I should understand more, but apparently the older I get the less I actually know. And I used to be so sure.)

Because Tyler, Texas, a place I had never heard of before, has an Art of Peace celebration in September. Starting September 14, you can check out the poetry anthology here. If you are in Tyler, Texas, they have all sorts of activities from a Peace Pole, to a Peace Meal, to an Open Mic, and likely more.

I wonder what it would look like, feel like, if other communities everywhere celebrated Peace with Art? If we talked about Peace? If we could visualize Peace the way we can visualize a super-hero movie? I wonder what Jesus would do?

FTGOG

Justice

So I wrote last time about the beauty of Christ/God/the holy in everything, based on Father Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ. And I am not nearly done with reading the book, or with the glow and excitement of these thoughts. But I have these little thoughts about justice. Because no matter how much Christ-is-with-us, no matter how much Christ-is-in-everything, at the end of the day the world is full of injustice and terrible things. If you do a terrible thing, can your victim just forgive you? Can God just forgive you, yet the victim is suffering? Some loss is permanent. Some loss is heart-rending. It can be beyond our hearts and minds to envision restorative justice sometimes.

I think this is what is meant by not going down the road of “cheap grace”.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We may not be literally cursed by “Adam and Eve” to live in a broken world; but live in a broken world we do. (That myth/story may actually have stuff to teach us, but that’s for another day.)

And our broken world is also a beautiful world that is full of joy and hope also. At the same time, often, but to different people.

It is so hard to understand.

It isn’t quite enough to think that God that knows all and sees all and understands all will in the end forgive all. Because somethings are not forgivable like wiping a slate clean — right? Or perhaps one day I’ll fully say “that’s the point of the cross, that is the good news. Even the most terrible things are forgiven because of Jesus.” Because there is no doubt, God has a different — bigger, wiser, more loving — viewpoint than mine.

But God is also a God of justice.

So whatever “justice” is — not the opposite of love and forgiveness surely — we need justice right there with them.

Richard Rohr and Jen Hatmaker are saving my life this week

Buckle in and listen, especially when they talk about Richard Rohr’s latest book the Universal Christ. (I still have a skeptical eyebrow at the “enneagram” thing, which will give you a chuckle if you listen to that part.) I randomly picked it up at the library.

For the Love Podcast by Jen Hatmaker

http://jenhatmaker.com/faith-groundbreakers-episode-05-richard-rohr

Mind blown.

Soul swept clean.

Hope back. At least, a little.

Remember a few weeks ago, how I was shattered by the news? Honestly it has gotten worse: the environment burning, the POTUS telling people to break the law and he’ll pardon them (what??), so much. It is impossible to list everything bad. Fear grows and regrows in my heart every time I press on “God’s got this” — maybe God doesn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong, even listening to Father Rohr and reading his book albeit slowly, I still have doubts about mosquitoes and I still find it hard and mysterious to think that God loves everyone. Seeing the Image of God in everyone is very hard and I’m no saint! But pressing on that notion, that humankind isn’t saved from “sin and hell” by God requiring Jesus to die (and that simplistic a construct has never worked for me); but rather in Christ, through self-giving love and grace, humankind is shown the depth and height and glory of God’s love, that God wants a relationship with us, but also a relationship with the whole word, and because of the generative and creative power of love. And the whole world can be healed and whole. I am saved when we are saved.

Sure, it is quite possible that I’m misinterpreting something or going too far: if so God forgive me.

I’m clinging to the love and joy I feel right now!

And the fact that I was and am so deeply horrified (again, more) by the depths of evil that I was struggling in my faith and hope and love and joy and by chance — or by God’s care of me? — I found this book, this podcast? God loves me. God loves you too. God loves us. And so let us love each other.

For the Love indeed! Thank you Jen Hatmaker and Father Rohr!

FTGOG

Interrupted by the real world

Things really seem bad out there: the environment, for example; the heartlessness of locking up people asking for asylum and taking away their children; the racism and hate, the stuff I have finally understood about gerrymandering and denying votes to people; the unspeakable vile stuff I read regarding a court case that I wish I could vanish from my brain. How could someone treat girls like that? How can the world be like this?

While I do more than biblical storytelling in my life, in my blog-life my intention is to keep it to bible stuff, storytelling, that sort of thing. Because it is heart-wrenching and heart-searing enough to realize how far from the mark you and I fall from the point of view of God who wants us to love each other and deal with each other with mercy and justice and compassion and hope (what love looks like with clothes on). I figure I don’t need to weigh in on the world, plenty of other bloggers do that.

Just for today….

When I read the newspaper or other journalism then my heart feels like a stone.

Is the world so terrible that you need to sleep with a gun right next to you? Crime is, they tell me, lower than it has been in 20 years or more. People really are not normally busting into people’s houses. Right?

I used to think that basically most people are mostly fine. Maybe Suzy isn’t your cup of tea or maybe Joe is quirky about Harry Potter collectibles but who doesn’t have “stuff”, right?

Lately I have to wonder, reluctantly, if I’m just being blind. If I have been blind most of my life to not just racism and misogyny but to actual harmful, predatory people? It is a chilling and scary feeling. Now I am trying to balance Seeing what Is — witnessing harm — with not living a life in fear.

Trusting in God, indeed knowing somehow or having faith that indeed “God’s got this”, means being wise but not being afraid. Seeing the world for what it is; but also not exaggerating how far from heaven on earth it falls.

Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s be kind to the stranger. Let’s be kind to the earth. Let’s live lives of hope, and let’s breath into the hope, and let’s do what we can to embody hope.

FTGOG

Genesis 1 in other places

Take a look at Proverbs 8:22-31 — Here we are back in Genesis, back at the world being created, here in Proverbs. Lady Wisdom was there “at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” The world was created to be delightful, to be full of rejoicing (verses 30-31). God is so much more than us: wisdom and justice and love and delight and creativity and peace.

In this retelling, the details are so full of joy. Lady Wisdom was there before the depths, before springs of water, before the mountains had been shaped, before earth and fields and soil, before all. Before the beginning God was full and rich and whole and yet so full that creation must create: “he drew a circle on the face of the deep/he made firm the skies above… he assigned to the sea its limit/like a master worker.” This is an image of God using “hands” and taking matter and creating a world, a universe, like we might create from clay.

And verse 31: “… rejoicing in his inhabited world/and delighting in the human race.”

As horrible as it sometimes seems that humankind is, there is hope. Because the bones, the foundation, the breath of life, were shaped and given with love, by love, for love.

Genesis 1, and blessings

So I had my first audience the other day to try out Genesis 1 (and a bit) with an audience, my mom, my son, and my brother. Now this is not the gentle audience you might be imaging. It was more like, “fine, if you have to inflict the bible on us, do it and get it over with.” Cuz they love me!

I did okay. I could tell that the beautiful ancient rhythm of “And that was evening and that was morning, the first day” was pulling them through the story. (“Only two more days, thank God.”) And everyone loves that God made creeping things that creep along the ground. And there’s always a surprise at the end, that the bible doesn’t take as long as you expect.

When I got back to my bible later, however, I realized that I had left out — completely and utterly forgotten — that the life that swarms in the waters and the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, the creeping things, and even us, humankind, were all blessed.

“God blessed them, saying ‘Be fruitful and multiply ….’ “

God is so full of abundance, full to overflowing, rich and ripe and God showers that down on us, shares it all with us. He gives us everything, a whole world of beauty and light and variety and everything needed. Diving so deeply into Genesis, I’ve felt such amazing thankfulness.

And such profound sorrow.

I think I completely forgot the blessings verses because we humans have been too fruitful, and too thoughtless, and we have so completely failed to care for the rest of the world. My heart just breaks. Truly I tell you, with God, nothing is impossible. But it isn’t looking good.

Yet the blessing is there in scripture, so it needs to be there when I tell the story. And this week as I recommit to practice, to just getting all these words into my heart, I commit to getting those words in my heart too. “Be fruitful and multiply”… in love, in hope, in peace, in beauty, in sorrow, in life.

Be blessed.

FTGOG