And it is an interesting choice.
I have read critics say he chose her only to gain female voters. Those same critics are already tearing up his decision on the basis of her lack of experience. That doesn't make sense to me. Are his critics upset with his decision or happy with it? I'm not sure.
I am thrilled to see a female candidate. Could not be happier about that. From what I can tell, she is smart, likable, and not afraid to stand up for her beliefs. Maybe that is what we need to unite our country and bring about lasting change in Washington.
There will be plenty of others in the administration who can pick up with the practical experience she lacks.
I am not sure I know enough to say whether I think it is a good decision or a bad one. Like Obama, McCain must have really believed in his choice though because there were other possibilities who would have naturally carried more votes with them right out of the gate.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Today, as cancer was confirmed and she had her thyroid removed, things really really hit me hard. This is real and it's not good. Even though we rest comfortably in God's arms and even though we find great hope in what the doctors say, this is not good. It's not where we wanted to be right now.
But, you know, life is that way sometimes. And God is here just as He always has been. He loves us and He will be with us.
I know that, for me, there are lessons to be learned from this. Life is precious. My family is precious. Other things need to take more of a back seat more often.
Yes, we go forward knowing that Lisa's health is more fragile and always will be that way. There are things to be learned now and things to watch out for in the future. But God will always hold us ... and hopefully we will have learned more how to live fully in His blessings, His mercy, and His hope.
Thank you all again.
He gives a good speech. But so would any of several million people. It's not really that hard to read off of a teleprompter a speech that has been worked on for several weeks. Not to sound rude, but I think even I could do it without butchering it too badly.
There was hope in his speech and he touched on all the pertinent points. Typical political speech in that he promised many things, gave few details, and leaves the critical thinker wondering how in the heck he would ever be able to pay for all of these things. Of course, he knows deep down that anything from his campaign promises that he does not accomplish in office can always be blamed on the national debt built up over the past few years. That's always an easy, politically un-challengeable response to failure.
I had not idea that some hospitals still limited visitors to actual spouses. Do they?
And, if anyone can explain to me what in the world Hebrews 10:23 has to do with hope in America's future, well, have at it.
That's all I got. Good speech. Typical politican crap. But have no fear -- we'll hear more of it next week as well.
Anyway, I like coffee in the morning. I do not get a big caffeine rush from it. Well, at least I don't think I do. If I do, then I have to say I'd be really tired without the coffee. It's more just that coffee is part of my routine. I enjoy its smell and even its taste.
Usually I make my own coffee at home but yesterday I had left my coffee cup at work at the end of the day so I couldn't make my own today, necessitating the trip to McDonalds. Yes, we usually have coffee at my office but, with all apologies to my co-workers, they all make really crappy coffee. Except for Tom. But he's in a different building than me. (Yes, even Tim, my co-worker who drinks coffee by the pickle bucket-full, makes crappy coffee.)
Oh well, maybe it's the beans.
Anyway, big line at McDonalds this morning. I got in it anyway. I needed my coffee.
I get up to the little order screen and place my order for a medium black coffee. Here's how that conversation played out:
"I'm sorry, we don't have any coffee today."
No explanation that all the world coffee beans are infected with e coli. No explanation that Juan Valdez fell into a pit of vipers. No explanation that they would have coffee in five minutes, five hours, five days, or even five years.
Just a simple "I'm sorry, we don't have any coffee today."
My response was "You don't have any coffee?" I am thinking maybe this is some sort of a twisted early morning joke. Or maybe I am on Candid Camera.
But her response came back, "That's correct."
Hmmmm. Long pause on my part. Perhaps the rapture had come, I had missed it, and somehow gotten left behind with really odd people who don't understand the value of a cup of morning coffee.
I was at a loss for words. I didn't know what to say or do.
Well, here's the rest of the story. I actually had ordered a Cinnamon Melt as well. I was feeling very guilty about ordering that but I had done so on the basis that I had only had a small cup of yogurt for breakfast at home and I had to tape a couple of television shows later in the morning and there's nothing worse than wearing a lapel microphone and having your stomach start growling. So, I figured I needed something more in my tummy.
I was faced with a choice -- give in to my ever-increasing guilt and get the Cinnamon Melt without the coffee ... or just skip the whole thing.
I decided to skip the whole thing, get out of line, and go to work. I'll make coffee in my office today.
One question you may be wondering is how will this be used? First of all, it will be something that all leaders will be expected to covenant to. They will be asked to sign it and turn it in to whoever leads their ministry team and they will eventually turn it into staff. But who “keeps” it isn’t important … the important part is that each of us commit to it.
But, here’s the problem … some of us, certainly myself included, will look at the Covenant and feel pretty overwhelmed … I look at it and think “Well, yeah, I got that point pretty well covered … I asked Jesus to be my savior … and here’s one over here that I’m not too bad on this one but, whoa! I have some work to do in a few of these other areas. I mean, do I really exhibit all the fruits of the spirit all the time? Even when I’m driving in heavy traffic or when my kid isn’t behaving like the ten-year-old mature adult I think he should be?”
Well, let’s talk about this a bit. Ever hear the saying that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. I don’t know about you but sometimes I really, really like to stand under that saying.
There’s comfort in it, isn’t there? Perhaps even a wee bit of smugness.
But it bothers me. To me, this saying indicates an acceptance of our imperfection. Even a sense of giving up. Sort of a “I am who I am but God loves me anyway” mentality. And that’s true, He pursues us and loves us with great determination but yet, for me, I don’t see hope in the statement that I’m not perfect but I am forgiven. I see acceptance and resignation – almost a willingness to live where I’m at because, well, I’m forgiven.
To me, that limits our vision and if we limit our vision, we limit our ability to fulfill God’s vision for us. Just simply saying that we’re not perfect but God loves us anyway and forgives us, even though it’s very true, doesn’t have the encouragement and hope that we’re always growing into what God wants us to be.
As we look at our leadership covenant, there are a couple of ways we can think about it. We can look at it as sort of a statement … sort of a “Well, I’m a ministry leader at my church and, as such, these are the things I embody.” Almost like saying “I’ve arrived … this is me … and if I fall short at some time, well, I’m not perfect but I am forgiven.”
That’s one way to look at it but I know that for me personally, I need to look at it differently. I mean, as we review the points on the Leadership Covenant, you will see a few things which are cut and dry but there are other things that take work … that require stretching and growing. I personally can’t look at those things and say “Well, if I mess up, I’m forgiven” but instead I need to look at these things, study the scripture behind each element of the covenant and realize that I haven’t arrived. That I need to keep working.
I need to look at these things and know that, in order to allow my personal ministry to be as effective as possible, I need to keep trying my best to live into these things. I need go deeper into God and the Holy Spirit, and always strive for more because I believe that ultimately God’s vision for the impact that each of us can have on building His Kingdom is huge.
So, let’s not look at the Leadership Covenant as stating that we have arrived – that we have it altogether – but rather use it as a compass or a guiding light for what we’re always trying to grow into.
Following is the text from the Leadership Covenant.
The purpose of this Covenant is to set forth the goals, expectations, and commitments of Spiritual Leadership. Those involved in the Leadership Community covenant to live out the following:
I have trusted in Christ alone for my salvation and I realize that my standing with Christ and my value as a believer are based not on my performance but on God’s grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I will live my life in a way that exhibits God’s best as living testimony to His love, grace, and redemptive power.
“For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace-loving, and not one who loves money. He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him.” (I Timothy 3:2-4)
I will endeavor to exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit at all times as the natural manifestation of a life renewed in Christ.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-24)
Knowing that I am on a faith journey, I will be teachable and seek to be a fully devoted follower of Christ by spending consistent time with God in prayer and study, both in private and in Christian community.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever!” (II Peter 3:18)
I will seek out fertile soil and invest my life in others so that they might grow in their own faith journeys. I will understand and share the stories that God has woven into my life, knowing that they have been given to me for the purpose of reaching others.
“Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” (II Corinthians 9:6)
I realize and will strive to embody servant leadership. Additionally, I will enlist and equip others to serve God according to their gifts.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10)
SMALL GROUP COMMUNITY
I will participate in a small group community, encourage the same in others and, as I am called, I will lead groups into biblical community (prayer, Scripture, care and service), serving with a leadership team including a leader, apprentice, and host. I will lead my group to actively participate in appropriate visioning, planning, and training.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 4:42-47)
Realizing that all I have is not truly mine, I will cheerfully, generously, and regularly give to God through the local church. The biblical starting point for financial stewardship is a tithe (10 percent) to the local church. I will also seek to be a good steward of any money used by my ministry group.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10)
I recognize that growth happens in my life as I surrender all of me to God as my way of worshipping. I covenant to surrender my agenda, my time, my purposes, my thoughts, and my body to God’s Kingdom Values.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1)
I did something neat yesterday though. For the first time I can remember in many many years, I did no work related to my job yesterday. Nothing. Well, I read my email but I didn't answer any of them ... I don't think. And I didn't check voice mail or work on any projects. It was pretty incredible when I got to thinking about it. I could get used to that.
Of course, I was up at 3:30 a.m. yesterday and I did end up going into the office in order to prepare for our monthly Leadership Community gathering at church. But I do enjoy those meetings greatly and that was good.
Enough of my pity party.
This is our big week for Lisa. Her surgery is on Friday. The outpouring of love, prayers, support and encouragement has been huge. Still, sometimes it's hard on both of us. Several times I have found myself tearing up just thinking that, even though the prognosis is incredibly good, we really are up against the big C. It's pretty intense.
Anyway, we spent a little time at the lake today. Lisa and I pulled a 25' tree with about an 18 - 20" base out of the lake that was causing some problems for us. Not bad for a fat old guy and someone waiting for major surgery. Now it's got to be cut up ... after it dries out.
And, tomorrow, it's back to work ... and trying to keep up if not hopefully catch up at least a little.
School starts this week for Evan on Wednesday. Lisa's been very busy with her job as well. Thanks, everyone, for your prayers.
Simple Spirituality by Christ Heuertz is a small book but it packs a huge punch. Chris, as International Director of Word Made Flesh, has devoted his life to serving the world's poor including folks who are enslaved. As he guides his readers though five steps of being able to see the world as God sees it, your heart will break and you're going to feel pretty crummy for being born American. The whole camel passing through the eye of a needle thing will ring in your ears as he leads you to a place of having your heart broken for the "least of these". It's a dangerous book but I highly recommend it. You will be wracked with questions afterward. Why? What? How?
In this book, Bishop Wright has wanted to reveal to us God’s passion to put the world to rights, and there cannot be a “right” until the church understands its role and responsibility in the creation story.
In our earliest cries, we’ve protested, “It’s not fair!” – “It” being anything from a small injustice to a tsunami or an IED. We read that Jesus resurrection “has won” victory over evil – “has” being past tense, we then say so why isn’t this working. Look around! You will see plenty of evidence that the people have fallen away. We still build our own Tower of Babel – monuments to self, but that echo we have heard urges us to set the world to rights.
We, as a people of God and His Church, reach out for the path, the connection. Wright emphasizes four deep yearnings: 1) beauty, 2) relationship, 3) spirituality, and 4) justice.
What can you know of justice, relationship, beauty and spirituality when your belly is empty and so is your soul. When you look out on life framed by broken glass, cracked concrete, and gunshots. Nothing is ever beautiful or just. Every human knows that it is not right – it is not fair. Yet, people are still willing to give their lives to setting the world right – moving the story forward to that point where heaven and earth intersect.
When I am in those, “My God, My God, WHY . .” moments – urgent, but temporal – I’m amazed how frequently beauty brings me back to reality. The frog is not necessarily beautiful, but when I walk along the pond and startle him, I do not see him, only hear his croak and a splash as he seeks the safety of the water. Little frog, you make me smile. In the perfect order of God’s world, you know it is the water that saves. Water so symbolic – it washes, refreshes, cleanses, redeems, provides. There is so much beauty in our world if we are looking for it. Even in the ice storms when the world is made of crystal.
We know we belong in relationship, but we can’t seem to quite get it right. So often we let anger dictate the terms of engagement, but Jesus’ parables and teachings emphasized how kindness can make so much difference. We think much more of power than of kindness, yet a few times in recent history, we have seen how kindness and the soft word can lead a nation into relationship as in India and So. Africa.
Spirituality we long for. Sin is not simply breaking the law, but missing an opportunity.
Growing up – grasping something better. To grow past the idea of bribing God or placating Him – He who came to serve – and we think we are to “serve” him and we reject that idea. What a human view – an Old Testament view. Christianity is something people do together – to experience the intimate presence of God. To know him as “Abba” – Father. God intends that we study the Bible to know how to be agents of change and creation and move the story forward. To find the places where heaven and earth intersect. We pray for God to reveal himself to us, but are we listening – watching, seeing – or only waiting for our expectations to be accommodated.
Then there’s justice. Christian faith endorses the passion for justice that every human knows. We know it matters, but somehow it slips through our fingers. The Jesus story is about putting the world to rights. His death and resurrection has set the stage. We are just so impatient and yearn to know when, Lord, when. Jesus answered that question by telling us it is not for us to know the times which the Father has set by his own authority.
We need to put the world to rights by belonging to a group small enough to know and care for each other and to pray in meaningful depth for one another. To know the appeal of forgiveness, the answering thankful love.
Steps that will be helpful in achieving new depths of Christianity are:
1) We tell the faith stories
2) We act out the rituals of our faith
3) We create beauty
4) We work for community
5) We think out our beliefs
6) We worship and pray
Quite simply, what it means to be Christian is to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us. All we can say is “Thank You.”
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: Give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reaching out. . . .
But maybe we need more people who are a little bit crazy. Martin Luther had “fire in the belly” … he had that internal burning and spirit to do what he believed was right and what he felt called to do … and he kept that fire in his belly for life. Today, new believers seem to get that fire in the belly and it lasts a few weeks or maybe a couple of years but, for most of us, it sort of dies away over time.
Yeah, we may get involved in some ministry work but it becomes something we do “on the side” … you know, Wednesday nights or Thursday nights or something. And, yeah, we go to church on Sunday and get our “feeding” from a sermon … but that unfortunately doesn’t even last as long as the exorbitantly expensive Sunday lunch we then go eat at some restaurant with our family. Most of us (I include myself) then return to our already-too-full and too-burdened lives … lives that are ultimately full of “self” … until next Sunday morning.
You know what I think? I think we need another Martin Luther. Someone to open our eyes, clear away cobwebs and logs, and force us to re-examine how we, now in 2008, do church. Who knows, maybe God is raising up someone right now to be our next Martin Luther, 500 years after Luther’s “95 Theses” was posted on the Wittenberg Door. Except I am not sure that we as victims of our media-sabotaged culture could handle 95 points them. We better pull it back to three or so soundbites.
Don’t get me wrong – there are many churches out there doing great Kingdom building things. They are teaching, leading, inspiring, dreaming, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and even welcoming those who don’t look like themselves or live the same lifestyle. But those churches are few and far between. Usually only a handful per large metropolitan area along with a few others scattered in between. There are so few of them, in fact, that there could be a natural tendency for them to become arrogant and not strive for unity of the Body … or to rest on their laurels and stop dreaming. Neither of those is good.
After living a ministry of granting grace and reminding his followers to trust their Father and not be so full of themselves, Jesus left two major lessons for us. One was his admonition to Peter – “If you love me, feed my sheep” and the other was His command to love one another. These are both Kingdom-building things. In essence, He was saying “Hey, I won’t be physically walking with you for awhile now BUT here are the keys to building my Father’s Kingdom while I am gone. This is what it’s all been about folks. It’s not about your selves. It’s not about worrying about accumulating the “stuff” of this world as you know it. It’s about loving and serving others and bringing them into Kingdom living. Come … love each other … teach each other … feed my sheep.”
Today’s church – and when I say that – I mean all Christ-following denominations – needs to be about those things. Somehow, things need to be shaken up. We need a Martin Luther to stand us on our heads. We need to join together to accomplish the things Jesus left us to do. We need to build the Kingdom. We need to change the world.
But it’s a big world out there. Big and often scary. Jesus’ disciples and early followers went out in pairs. No individual person or congregation or denomination can change the world. Oh, we can have an impact and we can change small parts of the world and we can apply band-aids here and there. But a true world-changing, Kingdom-building spiritual movement? We’ve got to join together and use the power that He has given us.
Going to church on Sundays, listening to a sermon, staying in our own cliques, not crossing denominational lines, creating protectionist fortresses … none of that is cutting it. And it is not what Jesus called us to do. Sure, those things all have a place and a time and a purpose but at some point we need to release ourselves. We need to get beyond the things of our increasingly onerous culture and GO.
I wrote awhile back about a dream I have of a ministry which simply inspires people to cut across lines, to chase dreams, to follow God, to join together, to forge ahead, to leave behind, to be bold, to be inclusive, to be grace-filled, to be teachers and lovers … to change the world. Does anyone else have that dream?
We need a Martin Luther. We need to be a little bit crazy. We need everlasting fire in our belly.
"Think Outside The Box. Pre-Plan Your Funeral."
Funny thing is how ten and eleven-year-old boys jockey in position and beg for what they see as the "best" piece of birthday cake. The only thing that made it difficult was the boy who repeatedly begged for a "corner piece" as he watched Lisa cut the cake. Only one small problem with that -- it was a round cake!
1) No connection to CRC but a Catholic Church is now doing something similar in Dayton.
2) From my perspective, they've done a great job of keeping things fresh and lively at CRC.
3) One CRC attendee (previously unchurched) listed CRC as her home church when she was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago, leading to some great relationships, sharing, and Kingdom building.
4) Back when I was going, it was great watching certain folks from our main church work the crowd and mingle at CRC. I want to be able to do that.
and one more thing ...
the Letters to the Editor of the local paper continue. Some positive and encouraging ones and a few not so positive and encouraging. I have been quite proud of myself, though, as I have stayed out of the fracas.
But I have to share one thing ...
there was a letter in today's paper from someone who has written previously but, this time, if I understand her correctly, she is implying that (in her words) God is going to "lay the smack down" on those who have started CRC. At least I think that is what she was saying.
In any event, I am not quite sure what that means but this is all I could think of when I read that:
I recently read a very interesting story about Pfister Faucets (aka Pfister Pfaucets). Pfister is the number three player in sink faucets, behind Delta and Moen. In recent years, they have gained some awareness by poking a little fun at their own name, which is pronounced "Fister".
Anyway, Pfister has two major manufacturing facilities in North America. One is in Des Moines, Iowa and the other is in Monterrey, Mexico. Both plants make largely the same products and both plants sell and ship a great deal of product to Lowes stores, Pfister's largest retail customer.
Well, this happened back in mid June but Lowes stores across the country reported that the shipments they were receiving from Pfister were infested with ants when they would open the boxes. Initially, Pfister figured that the infestation had to be starting either in Monterrey or Des Moines but, upon further investigation, they found that, simultaneously, shipments arriving at Lowes stores across the United States from both Pfister plants were infested with ants.
They have since taken care of the issue but it still has Pfister executives scratching their heads over how it could have happened that, simultaneously, both plants had ant problems that reached their customers. They had never before had anything like this happen at even one of their plants let alone at both plants at the same time.
What will this incident go down in history as, you may ask?
Why, "The Pfisterhood of the Traveling Ants," of course!
(I am so sorry. This is entirely made up.)
The Book God Breathed
“It’s a big book, full of big stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not least about themselves) and make big mistakes. It’s about God and greed and grace; about life, lust, laughter and loneliness. It’s about birth, beginnings and betrayal; about siblings, squabbles and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion. And that’s only Genesis.”
The Bible is central to Christianity. Unfortunately, there are about as many fights among believers over what the Bible is as there are fights recorded in its pages. Our Bible is composed of Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and the stories of Jesus and the early church (the New Testament). Over the years Christians have developed words to describe the Bible or how to read it that sometimes develop a life of their own. New and old believers are often left with confusion over how to read the book. That’s unfortunate, because it is so essential to helping us in our faith journey.
Wright tries to take the emotion out of the arguments and boil things down to the essentials. Quoting from 2nd Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” The Greek work for inspired is literally “God-breathed.” The Bible isn’t just an accurate reference for people who want to looks things up. It’s there to equip God’s people to carry forward his purposes of new covenant and new creation.
The Story and the Task
The Bible is so important to Christian life, that Wright devotes two chapters to it. The first chapter described it and looked at what inspiration means. In the second chapter he addresses two other hotly debated topics and again tries to move us beyond debate into understanding.
Christians like to say that the Bible is “authoritative.” But just what does that mean? Wright suggests we look at what Jesus said about authority. Pagan rulers, he said, lord it over their subjects, but it mustn’t be like that with you. Anyone who wants to be first must be the servant of all, because the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Wright concludes that the Bible becomes an “authoritative instrument of what God accomplished through Jesus—particularly through his death and resurrection.”
It’s not simply a description of an event. It is part of God’s saving plan itself. It is a means through which we can see what God wants for us. Therefore, we must read the Bible in order to hear God addressing us—each one of us—here and now.
Another trap that Christians can fall into is arguing over whether the Bible should be interpreted “literally” or “metaphorically.” I cannot repeat Wright’s entire discussion here,
but I can say boldly that he confidently says, “Both.” What should be avoided is getting into arguments and missing the point of the Bible in the first place. “The only sure rule is to remember that the Bible is indeed God’s gift to the church, to equip that church for its work in the world, and that serious study of it can and should become one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth interlock and God’s future purposes arrive in the present.”
I have studied and taught the Bible for about 30 years. I still learn something new every time I open the covers.
How often do you study the Bible?
Can you start a discipline of beginning every day listening to God talk to you through His word? Even if it means getting up a half-hour earlier every morning?
But this idea of "mastery," I am convinced, is not limited to athletes. It is something that we can all aspire to in other parts of our lives. It is a focus and a determination on being the best we can be.
Of course, by his own admission, Phelps' entire life is dedicated to swimming. I heard him in an interview talk about his daily regimen of practice and workouts and he also said that he must focus on swimming constantly. That is a something that few of us can do -- take one aspect of our life and focus solely on it.
But, still, as we watch this amazing athlete and amazing person, there are lessons to be learned I think. We see others attempt mastery with hobbies (I am thinking HeyJules and her photosgraphy), their career, their family, their ministry ... and, provided their overall life balance is good ... what could be greater than saying you tackled one thing ... one gift ... one ability ... and sought to master it ... to be the best you can be at it.
Number of Chinese estimated to be below poverty level: 100 - 300 million
Annual income at poverty level: $94
Amount spent on 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremy: $300 million
Amount spent on 2004 Summer Olympics Opening: $40 million
It really hit me hard where God has been trying to convict me recently with lots of thoughts on fear and anxiety, how I deal with those things ... and one very scary parable he keeps reminding me of ... the parable of the rich young ruler.
And then check out this post on thinkchristian.net
Don't tell me that during these tough and uncertain economic times which are affecting everyone, God isn't striving to call us all to greater attention to the ones Jesus focused on during his time on earth ... the poor, the orphans, the sick and destitute, the widows, the weak of spirit, body or mind, the oppressed. That is definitely where He is calling our attention ... don't tell me that you don't feel it too.
We, the human race, struggle to have meaningful conversations. How many meetings have you set through with the central topic of how to communicate? How many times have you been challenged to improve your communication skills? Communication is our greatest opportunity.
Some of the questions that float through my sub consciousness, and consciousness are:
What if I say the wrong thing?
What if I neglect something of significance?
What if I cannot engage the audience?
Prayer between Heaven and Earth
Discovering Help in Prayer
More Pathway’s into Prayer
Questions to ponder on and discuss:
The prayer Jesus taught us to pray remarkably leaves out the word I and in the translations that I have read the words what if aren’t part of the prayer at all.
His prayer: Matthew 6: 9-13, NIV
9"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us today our daily bread. 12Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.[
“...It’s a prayer about God’s honor and glory. It’s a prayer about God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven—which...pretty much sums up what a lot of Christianity is all about.” (pg.160)
Prayer between Heaven and Earth
“We are called to live at the overlap both of heaven and earth—the earth has yet to be fully redeemed as one day it will be—and of God’s future and this world’s present.” (pg 163) How could we possibly know how to pray? Paul writes in Romans 8:26 that God’s Spirit intercedes for us. I found this section to be intriguing. There is a statement that lingers, I don’t have words to elaborate or explain, but here it is. “...the Spirit, God himself is groaning from within the heart of the world, because God himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate with the pain of the world.” (pg 162) Sit with those words a minute.
Discovering Help in Prayer
Wright points out that “...discovering that there are ways of being helped in prayer by using words and forms written and shaped by others comes as good news...”. (pg 167) God has met me in the word authentic, there’s a part of me that wants to be right. I don’t want to be fake or futile. Humility... coming to the realization that I do not have to recreate the wheel, God has provided me, us, with many holy examples of prayer.
More Pathway’s into Prayer
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (pg 168) In the simplicity of these words there is an invitation “...a way of coming into focus, of going trdown deep and out wide, of concentrating on the God we know in Jesus as the one we can trust in all circumstances, and of holding before his mercy all that we want to pray about...” (pg 168)
Remove yourself, your stuff, all that you think you ought to be and hear the words of this prayer Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. What stirs inside of you? There are many such prayers that God has provided to minister to us through our spiritual journey, as you pray them listen for God’s response.
Pastors, mentors, spiritual directors, friends, and books are all guides that God has provided to help us, to encourage us. Use them.
As God reveals more of himself to us through prayer, our will become his will. We will find our passions become his passions, our prayers a response to his groaning through the Spirit in us.
“But for all of us, Christian prayer is God’s gift. “Through the Messiah we have access, by faith, to this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2). We are welcomed into God’s very presence. Like John in Revelation 4 and 5, we see through prayer a door standing in heaven, and we are ushered into the throne room.
But we are no longer there as mere observers. We are there as beloved children. Let Jesus himself have the last word: “If you, then, evil as you are, know how to five good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Jesus Loves You,
"And what might that be?" said Mother, seeing the obvious excitement in her eldest daughter's eyes.
"Well," replied the daughter, with a proud but sheepish grin, "I'm getting married!"
The other daughters squealed with surprise as Mother Potato exclaimed, "Married! That's wonderful! And who are you marrying, Eldest daughter?"
"I'm marrying a Russet!"
"A Russet!" replied Mother Potato with pride.
"Oh, a Russet is a fine tater, a fine tater indeed!"
As the family shared in the eldest daughter's joy, the middle daughter spoke up. "Mother? I, too, have an announcement."
"And what might that be?" encouraged Mother Potato.
Not knowing quite how to begin, the middle daughter paused, then said with conviction, "I, too, am getting married!"
"You, too!" Mother Potato said with joy. "That's wonderful! Twice the good news in one evening! And who are you marrying, Middle Daughter?"
"I'm marrying an Idaho!" beamed the middle daughter.
"An Idaho!" said Mother Potato with joy. "Oh, an Idaho is a fine tater, a fine tater indeed!"
Once again, the room came alive with laughter and excited plan for the future, when the youngest Potato daughter interrupted. "Mother? Mother Potato? Um, I, too, have an announcement to make."
"Yes?" said Mother Potato with great anticipation.
"Well," began the youngest Potato daughter with the same sheepish grin as her eldest sister before her, "I hope this doesn't come as a shock to you, but I am getting married, as well!"
"Really?" said Mother Potato with sincere excitement. "All of my lovely daughters married! What wonderful news! And who, pray tell, are you marrying, Youngest Daughter?"
"I'm marrying Tom Brokaw!"
"Tom Brokaw?!" Mother Potato scowled suddenly. "But he's just a common tater!"
Even as a believer, I wonder how much I have been blinded by the god(s) of this age ...
The chapter goes on to talk about how those who are carrying God's word into the world are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down ... precisely the things which can easily drive me to the "gods of this age" as I seek comfort, solace, and the familiar.
As much as I romanticize about living in the desert someday, and as much as I think it would be good for my sinuses and my old aching body, I am not sure I could handle it.
We had not seen rain -- real rain -- around our house in several weeks. Now, I know that it has not been nearly as dry as it got to be last summer but, still, I like rain and, when it doesn't come along, I miss it.
Starting late last night, though, our prayers were answered. It started raining and it is still raining. Unfortunately, the rain has come along with a few violent storms ... but that's okay ... at least we have had rain.
I was pretty excited when it started raining last night. In fact, I stepped outside the front door and just stood in the rain for several minutes. I held my face to the dark sky and allowed the rain to wash over it, down my neck, covering my body in cool, refreshing water. It was an incredible feeling after such a long dry spell.
(Okay, I stretched the truth just a wee bit there. I actually dashed out the front door for about 30 seconds, allowing our dog just enough time to "do her thing" before I dashed back inside. But I did get some droplets on my head and shirt and it did feel good.)
This refreshing rain has reminded me of the devotional that a close friend of mine gave at a church meeting we had last evening. I am sure that I do not remember everything he said because his devotional was packed pretty full but I do remember what really hit home with me. He talked about finding our personal areas -- our bandwidths if you will -- of effectiveness. But on top of that he stressed that God needs to be at the middle of that -- that if we're trying to do things out of our own power, our success will be limited and the road will be rocky.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, NIV)
His devotion convicted me of just how short, rushed, and shallow my prayers have become in recent months. I have kept up fairly well with my Bible and book study but my prayer life has been really really bad. And that is what happens to me during times of busy-ness and stress. The times that I need God the most are the times that, quite unfortunately, I turn to Him the least.
Just like the cool rain restored the earth last night, refueling it for the rest of the summer, my time spent with God in prayer can refresh and renew -- restore -- me ... if I give it the time He deserves.
Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar Genesis 22:9
Bound – According to Jewish tradition, Isaac was a young man of marriageable age (approximately 36) when his father Abraham took him to be sacrificed. Erase the idea of Isaac as the innocent and helpless child. At age thirty-six, Isaac could have easily overpowered his one-hundred year-old father. He did not do so. He consented to be bound. He obeyed in spite of the fact that his death was clearly imminent. In this story we have a foreshadowing of the great sacrifice of Yeshua who also consented to the will of His Father and was bound to the cross for our sins.
But there is even more here than this great foretelling of God’s ultimate gift. You see, the word for bound is akod. It describes wrapping in order to secure. The Jewish rabbinical scholar Rashi says that this word refers to the ring-like marks that are left behind as an indication of the binding. In other words, even after the ropes have been removed, the signs of akod still remain. The forensic evidence of submission leaves its impression.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Yeshua retained the marks of His submission even in His resurrected body? Why was that necessary? If the resurrected body is the perfectly redeemed expression of the true nature of the human being, why weren’t those terrible reminders of the agony of the cross removed? Why wasn’t the body of the resurrected Messiah perfectly new? The answer, of course, is that these marks of akod are the eternal badges of His fulfilled mission. When you and I see Him, we will see the marks. They are reminders that He had to be bound in order for us to be freed.
Now this raises a question for us. What are your akod marks? What have you allowed the Father to bind so that you could be obedient to Him? I suspect that we each have these identifying badges of consent. They are uniquely ours. There is something that God pressed us about, some element of our human will that had to respond, “Not my will but yours be done.” My guess is that this act of obedience left a scar. Do not expect that scar to go away. It is the eternal reminder that you belong to the ones who consented to be sacrificed. This is not a scar that you got on the way to conversion. Those painful reminders of past sins will be washed into the forgiving sea. These new markings are the evidence of your post-conversion obedience. They will not be washed away.
That does not mean that they were not painful. It just means that they were worth it.
A follower of Yeshua who does not bear any marks of akod is either too weak to allow God’s gracious suffering or too foolish to see what suffering really is all about.
But let me throw this out there anyway to see if you have any input ...
I am not sure if it would look like a website or a church or para-church broadcasting over the internet or perhaps just like an old fat bald guy tilting at windmills but what if there were some sort of international organization solely devoted as a resource for folks who want to make the world a better place ... folks who want to fight for justice ... folks who are compassionate, caring and loving ... folks who see it as their resposibility to build God's Kingdom and live a life of resurrection now.. It is a calling that all Christians have I believe (and certainly many pre-Christians have a passion for it) ... and they can live it out in what the world perceives as big or small ways ... but what if they had a group ... a resource ... that encouraged and inspired ... that built relationships and made connections ... that provided training and even funding for their world-changing dreams ... in a way that is bigger than anything we currently know ... what could that look like?
The church service we attend does communion by intinction. We all file to the front of the sanctuary where we go to one of four stations attended by a couple of other church members. We tear off a piece of bread from a loaf held by one of them and then dip it into the cup held by the other. The cup has grape juice because we're Methodists for Pete's Sake! :-)
It is, for me, a more meaningful and special way of doing communion than passing out the elements through the pews. Now, all that said, probably the most meaningful times I have ever celebrated the eucharist were in small groups when we passed the elements one person to the next.
After what happened a couple of weeks ago, though, I may have a new most special communion memory.
After our team returned from Mexico, we were asked to serve communion at church. It was the first time I'd ever done it. Frankly, it won't hurt my feelings at all if it is the last time (in fact, I rather hope it is) but even that does not take away from how special I will remember this occasion as being.
Let me first address why I did not like it. I felt like I was on an assembly line. I wanted it to be meaningful and special for each recipient and I hope it was but I still felt like I was on an assembly line. People were pushing through as quickly as possible. Fact is, I usually go through line pretty quickly but, after being on the serving end, I want to go more slowly. As a server, the more time a person took, the more special it was for me, too.
But now let me explain why this communion celebration will forever stand out in my mind as being so special.
The first person to our station was a young lady I did not know. It's very possible that she's been there many times before and our paths never crossed but I sure did not recognize her.
She stopped at my co-server and took a chunk of bread. As she approached me, she put the bread in her mouth. This left her with nothing to dip in the cup. She reached to take the cup from me in order to drink from it. At first, out of surprise and some confusion, I resisted. My inclination was to loudly say "Look, that's not how we do things here!" and then wrestle her to the floor for the cup if I needed to. God smiled on me, though, and I did not do that.
Instead, I gave in to her tug on the cup and I watched as she drank slowly and longingly from it. The blood of our Savior filled her mouth and then she swallowed. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. She was seeking the resurrection life and she received it through His broken body.
For our church, what she did was not the norm. But it was beautiful and I hope she received what she was seeking, despite the confused man who fought her a bit for the cup.
The rest of the service, I was a bit off kilter because of the surprise of all of this. After the service, I was chuckling about what would have happened if I really had wrestled her to the floor for the cup, grape juice spewing everywhere.
But now I have had a few weeks to reflect on it ... and to see the beauty, and the simplicity of what she did. The apostles did not dip into a cup nor did they each have their own little plastic disposable cup. I guess I am not certain they drank from a communal cup but I like to think that they did. Christ's blood is not poured out for us in little bursts but instead it is continually there for all of us ... all of us who want to drink deep and with longing, celebrating the one who came to save us, His resurrection and the resurrection life that is ours. That is the way He wanted it to be.
Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright packs a considerable punch and really should be a must-read for anyone who really wonders exactly how Jesus wanted us to live our lives after His death and resurrection.
N.T. spends the majority of the book building his case for what he believes and then, in the last few chapters pulls it all together and really hits you between the eyes with what he believes. It would not be an all bad idea to read the last few chapters first so you know what he is building to and then go back to the start of the book in order to read his support material.
In the end, he supports his idea that, as Christians, we're not to just be waiting around for the "second coming". He shows how Jesus' death and resurrection was not just some magical gimmick to draw attention but instead really was the ushering in of God's Kingdom, a new way of working through His people, and that it represented not the eventual resurrection of our own earthly bodies but instead our ability to live a resurrected life at the time of our baptism or public acceptance of Christ.
Again, start at the back of the book if you wish because doing so will bring greater depth and meaning to this book as you wade through the first many chapters which can seem pretty tedious (at least for someone of my low brain to body mass ratio) but do give this book a try. But being willing to shake apart your notions of how we really are to live in this world and also of exactly what this thing called "heaven" is all about.
I enjoyed trying to remember what all I have read over the years. It was not as easy as you would think though. I concentrate on things I have read since I was maybe a teenager or so and I did not include all of the childrens' books I read to Evan though that would have been fun as well. I also did not include text books.
I am up to something around 150 books which really isn't that many when you think about it. A person needs to be better read than that. I am guessing that there are another 100 or so books I have not remembered yet.
Virtual Booksheld also allows you to rate and review books if you wish.
This is easier said than done though. If we have been truly wronged by someone ... perhaps it was emotionally or physically or in a business deal or, heaven forbid, through some church activity (imagine that, will ya?)... how do we work beyond our hurt?
I think it only comes when we realize where our freedom comes from. When we realize the sacrifice made for sinners such as we and our calling to make that same sacrifice of forgiveness and even of laying our lives down for others in order that we, too, may enjoy resurrection life.
I believe it starts with prayer. Praying for our own heart through the pain and disappointment ... and also praying for the other individual.
Sometimes thinking in the Episcopal Church is too sophisticated. Sometimes, we tend to miss simple truths, stated plainly and simply. How many of us would feel comfortable in a congregation where the people express a form of the old time religion? One such church developed a kind of chant that expressed a simple truth. The preacher would shout, “God is good.” The congregation would enthusiastically reply, “All the time.” It was their way of affirming truths about the power of God to provide for God’s people.
Is this a fundamental truth of the Christian Gospel? Today we learn anew from today’s Gospel that God is God—that God will provide what we need. We re-learn, in the midst of the Body of Christ, that God will lift up among us resources to accomplish holy and life-giving purposes.
In today’s Gospel we encounter hungry people being met by a suggestion from the disciples that Jesus send them away to get something to eat. But Jesus had something else in mind. Maybe it was his way of saying, “God is good.” But the disciples didn’t know to reply, “All the time.” So Jesus told them not to send the hungry people away but to give them something to eat themselves. He was saying, “You don’t think there is enough for these hungry seekers, but the truth is—there is enough because God will provide.”
The miracle of feeding the 5,000 reveals how God can raise up in the midst of the people of God what they need because God is good: All the time.
This miracle can give us hope and direction if we can see that everything is possible with God. If we can see that looking to love, the love that comes from God, can be the key to meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters.
Sometimes we are too sophisticated to believe in miracles—to believe that God really is good—all the time; that the power of God can, in every instance, provide more than we can imagine. Sometimes we know so much we can’t see the truth when Jesus faces us down with the familiar, “You—give them something to eat.” And yet, the goodness of God calls us always to know that God’s love, moving in and overflowing from us, can provide what God’s people need: because God is good: All the time.
In every situation in life, God’s power works toward lifting up whatever promotes love in that situation. Wherever there is injustice or pain or grief or hardship or hunger, God is there, for God is good: All the time.
As Paul says so majestically in today’s Epistle, “In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul reminds us that in all things God’s abundance will, in the final analysis, become sufficient to meet our needs. Right here. Right now. In the midst of who and what we are, God will provide. Because God is good: All the time.
This does not mean, of course, that people of faith will have no problems or misery. But it does mean that God will give us the grace and aid to bear the load as we overcome and move through whatever may befall us.
Ours is not a faith of easy answers and unrealistic solutions. Jesus entered life and died on the cross for us, showing us that in whatever we experience, in whatever may trouble us, in whatever distress or threat we feel, we need not fear because God is in it with us. God will lift up in our midst what we need to make it through, because God is good: All the time.
God is not far away and aloof from us. Jesus shows us that God does not stand outside of life, but is right here with us, beside us in our broken and troubled and suffering world. St. Paul reminds us that nothing in existence can ever separate us from the love of God, revealed in Christ.
In whatever crisis or issue we face in life, in whatever trouble may come our way, the power of God’s love will provide what we need. From the midst of the Body of Christ, God will lift up the resources to accomplish his loving purposes, because God is good: All the time.