Tag Archives: journey

nard º9

25 Sep

The Teacher and his disciples snuck down from the wilderness town they’d been staying in out of public view back to the town of Bethany, where his closest of friends lived.  It wasn’t long ago that Jesus had come here and brought Lazarus back from the dead–making him undead–performing a miracle so great that when the people saw what Jesus had done, many who had doubted before believed in him.

Lazarus had cheated death, because he knew Jesus.  And Jesus loved him.

The religious leaders had heard about it too, and wanted to get rid of Jesus and his popularity.  They’d even considered killing off Lazarus as well, once and for all, for fear of his resurrection story and the momentum it brought to this belief in Jesus as the Messiah.

Under the mounting pressure of the coming Passover, which would be Jesus’ last, he and his disciples once again entered the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  They all were comfortable here, and they all were welcome.

The air around the table was thick with the mixed emotions of this gathering–fear of the Pharisees and their plots to kill both the Guest and his host, unbridled joy in the company of close friends, anticipation for the coming religious festival, and an immense gratitude that couldn’t be expressed in mere words.

Lazarus was still alive!  Jesus brought him back from beyond the grave!

It was an amazing meal.  Figs, bread, choice wine and lamb, which had been marinated in mixed herbs for over twelve hours.  The small house smelled like a fine restaurant, bathed in a feast of food.

Martha was pleased with her efforts, and had spared no expense in preparation for her hospitality.  She served the guests as her brother, Jesus, and the disciples casually lounged on pillows chatting around the table, propped up with one arm and eating with the other.  But where had Mary slipped away to?  She had a habit of skipping out on the work that needed to be done.  Martha glanced to see if she was once again sitting at the feet of Jesus, staring at him as usual–focusing on his every word and leaving all else for later.
She wasn’t.

Where was she?  Finally, Mary entered quietly from the other room.  Tears were streaming down her face, but she was silent.  She had a small jar clasped in her hands as she approached the Teacher.  Kneeling beside him, she poured the contents of the jar onto his feet, massaging a thick oil into his skin.

It was then that everyone in the room realized what was in the jar.

An intoxicating fragrance filled the room, overpowering any memory of the smell of food.  The Egyptian-imported essential oil’s intense aromatic scent of lavender and flowers and spices caused the room to spin, and everyone stopped eating.  All eyes were on Mary as she poured it all out–a full pound of pure nard oil–onto the feet of Jesus, rubbing it in first with her hands, and then wiping his feet dry with  her hair.

Martha was speechless.  Her dinner ruined, interrupted by her sister’s awkward affection of Jesus, she didn’t know what to say.  But strangely, she wasn’t angry–there was something beautiful about what Mary was doing.  Martha didn’t understand why, but it was innocent…intimate…and…
“EXPENSIVE!!!!  This is RIDICULOUS!” Judas exclaimed.  His head was still woozy from the overpowering fragrance.

“Why would you waste something so valuable?”  He was standing now, indignant as he towered over the kneeling woman whose slick hair was covered in perfume that represented her family’s life savings.  “What’s wrong with you?!  Outside beggars and children and lepers go hungry and you dump out a perfume that could have been sold for what most families make in a year?!  Why wasn’t it sold and given as a gift to the poor if you want to show your appreciation of Jesus?”

“Leave her alone.”  Jesus said, his gentle hand touched the top of Mary’s shoulder as he stood, now eye to eye with the one who would later turn him over to the religious leaders for a small fortune himself.  “Don’t worry, Judas,” he turned and looked at the others, still sitting stunned by this unanticipated interruption of their evening.  “If you’re really, truly concerned about the poor, there will always be ample opportunity for you to help  them.”
He looked tenderly at Mary.

“But you do not always have me with you.  She’s done all she could do; she’s anointed my body beforehand for the coming burial.  She’s given what is considered valuable for that which she considers precious.”

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PED XING.

12 Sep

“Wake up, Azariah,” the Beggar said.  “It’s time to go down to The Pool.”

His name seemed like a mean joke being played on him by Yahweh.  It literally meant, “God…YAHWEH God, has helped.”  Yet it wasn’t God who helped him every morning.  It was the Beggar and his friends.

God never helped him.

The Beggar and his three friends were a mixed bunch, made up of different ages and ailments.  The young one was missing an ear; another was partially blind; the oldest had been caught stealing at a young age and paid the price–his hand.

Each of them had encountered their troubles in life, and therefore spent their days by The Pool of Mercy on its five porches.  It was a prime location for begging.  It was nicely settled near the Sheep Gate–the only northern entrance to the Temple’s outer courts, which meant lots of people walking by.

Lots of guilty people, seeking to appease God.  What better way to get on God’s “good side” then to give money to a beggar?  They were still beggars, but they usually fared alright.

Azariah always made more than the rest.  There were literally hundreds of sick people–the blind, crippled, paralyzed–that gathered here for begging.  Yet Azariah wasn’t here for money.  He, like all those who gathered around The Pool of Mercy, believed that if they waited long enough by The Pool, its waters would mysteriously and miraculously stir; and when they did, the first-one-in would be healed.

That’s why the Beggar and his friends spent each and every morning moving Azariah to “his spot.”  He had the best spot in the area; a great location for begging as it was right near the main road through the gate, and it was also close to the pool.  Azariah was closer than anyone.  He paid the beggars to move him each morning, and it worked out–everyone got what they wanted.  Azariah got his spot, and the beggars got their money.

So Azariah spent his days there, lying on his bedroll, waiting for the water to stir.  The beggars often talked about him, and wondered how he’d ever manage to be the first-one-in when he couldn’t walk.  Azariah would have to be carried by someone else.  They’d tried it a few times, but another was always faster.

But Azariah still had the best spot.  And it was his spot.

He didn’t get the spot because he had the worst ailment, although it could be argued that he did.  Everyone at The Pool knew Azariah couldn’t walk; in fact, he couldn’t move.  He was paralyzed.  But even that wasn’t why he had the spot.

It was his because he’d been there longer than anyone else–he’d been there for thirty-eight years.  Waiting.  Thirty-eight years.  And God never helped him.

But today was different.  Because of the upcoming religious festival, multitudes were in town, heading to the Temple.  It happened each year.  There was a buzz and excitement in the air.  Everyone around The Pool felt it; even Azariah.

One of the many coming through the gate was Jesus.  He’d walked through it before.  Many times.  Every year, in fact.  Since Jesus could remember he walked through the gate with his mother Mary, his father Joseph, his sister Salome and their brothers…and every year they would walk through the line of beggars.

They never had a lot of money; but they always set aside some bread and a little extra money from the woodwork that Joseph had done that year, and gave it to the beggars.  There was one in particular that Jesus was looking for.
Jesus remembered him.  Always in the same spot.  Every single year.  Ever since he  could remember.

But this year–this day–was different.  God was going to help. Jesus walked up to the man on the mat, in his spot; the same spot he always was.

“Do you want to get well?”  The question pierced Azariah’s soul.  Of course he wanted to walk!  But the way Jesus was looking at him, he knew this Rabbi meant meant more than just walking.  Right?  “Do you want to get well?”

“I can’t, sir…whenever the water is stirred, I don’t get in there in time.  By the time I’m in the water, somebody else has already beat me there.”  Jesus knew this was all a smoke screen, an excuse to stay stuck in the life he knew instead of embarking on the adventure of the unknown. “Get up, take your bedroll.  Start walking, and be on your way.”

Azariah shuddered at the thought of putting the hard words into action.  With a gulp, he raised himself with his arms, put weight on his feeble legs and for the first time in thirty-eight years, took his first step.

He left his spot.

Jesus knew it wasn’t just his body that was paralyzed.  Constantly missing out on the first-one-in healing, even the hope to be healed gave way to a blase acceptance of the status quo.  The years of discouragement had paralyzed his will and desire.  So he’d lay there, in his spot, waiting for someone else to assist him.

Then Jesus asked him to do the impossible; to stand on his feet, pick up his bedroll and to go on his way.  He’d been there so long (thirty-eight years!) I doubt he even knew where “his way” was.

what things do you feel stuck in?  what are you waiting for?

what is Jesus asking you to move from?

what is Jesus asking you to move toward?

a faith manifesto.

1 Sep

we are convinced that people want to belong to a community that has a purpose; it’s what we call TRIBE.

TRIBE is a mob of displaced, disconnected, dispassionate, severed, disrespected, unnoticed, unknown and voiceless individuals who inspire movement together as ONE.

as ONE, this mob–this TRIBE–is committed to walking alongside our community, helping each other find and follow Jesus Christ.  as ONE, we will move with transparency.

as a TRIBE, we will celebrate our uniqueness as individuals; as a TRIBE, we will inspire one another; as a TRIBE, we will live with passion and purpose; as a TRIBE, we will find our voice in a hopeless world.

we are convinced that our hope, our identity and our joy is unwrapped in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who from day ONE has known each of us by name.

interdependence Day.

4 Jul

Yet again, I find myself re-posting the work of a friend.  Though I hope to not make a habit of it, I couldn’t help but want to pass this excerpt along.

The following post was written by Shane Claiborne, and can also be viewed here.  Serving the purpose of creating dialogue surrounding loving God and loving others in the Way of Jesus Christ, feel free to add your own ideas on how we can celebrate “interdependence Day” today and everyday.

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”

Patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history. And it can leave us shortsighted if our nationalism prevents us from seeing pain or hope beyond our borders. As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing, but love doesn’t stop at borders. Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships.

We are taught to celebrate independence. But independence and individualism have come at a great price. In the wealthy and industrialized countries we have become the richest people in the world, but we also have some of the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. We are rich, sad, and lonely. We are living into patterns that not only leave much of the world hungry for bread and starved for justice but also leave us longing for the good life and for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves.

The good news is that we are not alone in the world.

This year, let’s celebrate interdependence Day — recognizing the fact that we are part of a global neighborhood. Let’s appreciate all the invisible people in our lives, and let’s lament the fact that the human family is terribly dysfunctional.

It’s not about being anti-American but about being pro-world. It’s a beautiful thing to realize that we need each other and that we are not alone in the world. So, I’ve worked with some friends to brainstorm great ways to celebrate “interdependence Day” this Fourth of July. Here’s what we came up with:

1. Track down old teachers and mentors. Let them know the influence they have had in your life.

2. Babysit for someone for free, especially someone that might really need a night off and not be able to afford a sitter.

3. Try to go a whole week without spending any money. If you have to, barter or beg a little to make it through.

4. Hold a baby goods exchange where parents can bring toys and clothing their kids have outgrown and trade them.

5. Attempt to repair something that is broken. Appreciate the people who repair things for you on a regular basis.

6. Look through your clothes. Learn about one of the countries where they are manufactured. Do some research to discover the working conditions and commit to doing one thing to improve the lives of people who live there.

7. Look for everything you have two of, and give one away.

8. Dig up a bucket of soil and look through it to see the elements and organisms that make our daily meals possible.

9. Spend the Fourth of July baking cookies or bread. Give them away to the person who delivers your mail or picks up your trash the next time you see him or her.

10. Host a rain-barrel party and teach neighbors how to make and use rain-barrels to recycle water.

11. Spend a day hiking in the woods. Consider how God cares for the lilies and sparrows — and you.

12. Gather some neighbors, and plant a tree in your neighborhood together.

13. Hold a knowledge exchange where you gather friends or neighbors to share skills or something they are learning.

14. Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, remember the folks who made it possible for you to it it.

15. Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.

16. Try recycling water from the washer or sink to flush your toilet. Remember the 1.2 billion folks who don’t have clean water.

17. Leave a random tip for someone cleaning the streets or the public restroom.

18. Write one CEO every month this year. Affirm or critique the ethics of their companies. (You may need to do a little research first.) Consider starting with BP.

19. Wash your clothes by hand and dry them on a line. Remember the 1.6 billion people who do not have electricity.

20. Learn to sew. Try making your own clothes for a year.

21. Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week (take a multi-vitamin). And remember the 25,000 people who die of malnutrition and starvation each day.

22. Begin a scholarship fund so that for every one of your own children you send to college, you can create a scholarship for an at-risk youth. Get to know his or her family and learn from each other.

23. Visit a worship service where you will be a minority. Invite someone to dinner at your house, or have dinner with someone there if they invite you.

24. Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask forgiveness.

25. Serve in a homeless shelter. For extra credit, go back to that shelter and eat or sleep there and allow yourself to be served.

26. Go through a local thrift store and drop $1 bills in random pockets of clothing being sold.

27. Experiment in creation-care by going fuel-free for a week — bike, carpool or walk.

28. Go to an elderly home and get a list of folks who don’t get any visitors. Visit them each week and tell stories, read together, or play board games.

29. Laugh at advertisements, especially ones that teach you that you can buy happiness.

30. Go down a line of parked cars and pay for the meters that are expired. Leave a little note of niceness.

31. Connect with a group of migrant workers or farmers who grow your food. Visit their farm. Maybe even pick some veggies with them. Ask what they get paid.

32. Mow your neighbor’s grass.

33. Ask the next person who asks you for change to join you for dinner.

34. Invest money in a micro-lending bank.

35. Start setting aside 10 percent of your income to give away to folks in need.

36. Write paper letters (by hand) for a month. Try writing someone who needs encouragement or whom you should say “I’m sorry” to.

37. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.

38. Go without food for one day to remember the two billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

Add yours to the list.

May we celebrate interdependence Day today and everyday. It is a gift to be part of this inescapable web of mutuality.

questions.

6 Jun

The following post may also be viewed at In A Spacious Place, written by Christopher Page, and is a response from Brian McLaren’s presentation in Victoria, BC.  May it serve the purpose of generating healthy discussion as we seek to follow The Way of Jesus.

As I think about the weekend with Brian McLaren, I am struck by a problem common to many presentations given by visiting experts who fly in from another context and present their insights relating to church or almost any area of human endeavour – it is easier to deconstruct than to construct, to criticize than to create.

Brian offers a brilliant and insightful critique of a style of Christian presentation that is based upon an unwarranted self-confidence. He rejects a tone in Christian evangelism that is arrogant, belligerent, argumentative, and fear-based. He critiques the narrow-minded literalism that declares if you don’t agree with me, you are going to burn in hell.

Instead, Brian pleads for a Christian presentation that is respectful, open, spacious, and rooted in love and compassion. Brian is not primarily interested in a rescue mission focused on securing the promise of heaven for those who sign on to the church’s designated dogmas. He is more interested in inviting all people to share in God’s healing transforming work for all of creation in the present.

The problem of course is that Brian is short on specifics. To be fair, “specifics” are only possible when they emerge from the context in which they need to be embodied. And Brian does not live on the West Coast of Canada, so should not be expected to be able to tell us exactly how to embody the principles he presents. There is a great danger when people or communities take a vision from one time or location and attempt to impose it directly upon their own situation without seriously considering the uniqueness of their own context.

It is the job of those of us who do live here and who find ourselves encouraged by the general direction of Brian’s vision to seek the guidance of God’s Spirit in finding out how we are called to embody this vision in our own time and place.

So here are some of the questions to which I need to listen after hearing Brian McLaren speak:

What are the deep questions of the heart to which people around me are genuinely seeking answers? How can I hear the real questions people have rather than imposing the questions upon them that I think they should be asking?

What makes me defensive in conversation? What do I need to do to deal with my defensiveness so that I might be able to provide a safe listening space for people who might want to enter into real conversation?

How am I being called to serve people outside the church without agenda, without demand, and without conditions?

What keeps me from being honest with people outside the church and allowing them to be as honest with me as they might like to be? How might I be placing barriers in the way of people being really honest with me about their deepest experiences of life?

What might be the differences between argument and dialogue/conversation? If there are differences between argument and dialogue/conversation, which might be the more effective approach to entering into communication with people outside the church? How do I recognize when I have moved from dialogue/conversation to argument?

What might people see in my life that might lead them to conclude that they might become worse people than they already are if they join me in the church?

“Is there a way to have faith without becoming close-minded, bigoted, anti-something?” What might this look like? Do I have to abandon all my passionately held convictions in order to avoid becoming “close-minded, bigoted, anti-something”?

What might the church look like if we put belonging before believing and viewed belonging as the way into faith rather than faith as the prerequisite to membership? How do we communicate that we are interested in making it easier for people to belong without demanding that they sign on the dotted line of every Christian doctrine first?

What behaviour in my church community might make the church an unsafe place for a person to find a sense of belonging?

“What do spiritual seekers need from us?”

How do we crate an open spacious place where people are invited to enter a conversation rather than join an institution that has something to defend and needs volunteers to keep its life going?

What quadrant does my faith community most naturally fit into: Liturgical, Social Action, Evangelical, Charismatic? How might my community be encouraged to draw in a more balanced way on the quadrants that are less instinctively comfortable?

Which of these qualities need to be developed in my community in order for us to be a more hospitable space?

1. it has a sense of humility
2. it is an integrating place
3. there is an openness to and a hunger for change
4. there is a focus on mission and spiritual formation
5. there is serious theological reflection
6. there is a growing sense of crisis, emergence and opportunity

What do I need in order to be able to “hold a high level of identity and yet maintain a high level of welcome”? What would a community look like that is characterized by “a high level of identity and yet maintain a high level of welcome”?

How do clergy as “priests to and for the church,” enable disciples to become “priests from and of the church”? How am I as a disciple called to be a priest “from and of the church” in the world?

What might we be doing in the church that causes people to feel that the gospel we present is aimed at saving them from God, rather than drawing them into a life of compassion and wisdom in which they are empowered to share with God in saving all creation from “the evil inflicted upon it by the world”?

How can the church embody God’s call to share in saving all creation from “the evil inflicted upon it by the world”?

Continue to reexamine our faith by exploring Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith. It is quite possibly the most influential book to come out in a long time, both practically and theologically.

daydreamers.

12 Apr
All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men, that they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.
–T. E. Lawrence 

Our world needs daydreamers daring to dream dangerously.

The table of history is seasoned with men and women who have dared to dream of a world better than this; who have been emboldened by their visions to live life defiantly in the face of the status quo and have courage enough to ask an Almighty God to change His creation through them.  Adding much needed and exquisite God-flavor to their surroundings, they have brought vivid color to a world of dull and dingy black and white and stirred the imaginations of those audacious enough to follow in their footsteps– encouraging those who come afterwards to take a hold of hope and visualize a world better than the one we live in. 

I’m inspired by each of them.  I want to dare to dream dangerously. 

Dreamers, from Walt Disney to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from Rev. Billy Graham to Mother Teresa, have quite literally changed the world by envisioning a state of affairs better than before.  The impression they have left on countless millions–their global emotional and spiritual  footprint, if you will–is immeasurable.  Yet each of them set out not to stroll onto the stage of international superstardom or sainthood, but simply to right what was wrong in the world in which they lived.  We need today such men and women who have not just familiar vision and foresight but that possess a courage, conviction, and passion to engage the injustices of our present society. 

This generation longs for a sense of belonging; it values authenticity, transparency and humility; it emphasises praxis over dogma, it values deeds over creeds; it admires kingdom thinkers rather than empire builders; it finds meaning in the uncertain valleys of ambiguity, paradox, metaphor, mystery, and artistic creativity; it expects and even demands meaningful engagement with those who strive to lead them; it views the Bible as the story of God’s redemptive purpose rather than the repository of propositional truth. 

That’s this generation.  And it’s waiting for you to lead. 

It’s waiting for you to dream.

I’ve committed myself to daring to dream dangerously.  I am convinced that as I do so, not only will my life change, but the lives of those around me will as well. As I influence the relationships in the arena of my existence, I am convinced that we can collectively change the world.  I might be crazy.  I might be idealistic.  I might be a radical.  I might even be a bit of a biblical heretic

But I’m daring to dream dangerously. 

I dream that God can and will move in, through, and around us.  I dream that He can and will reform His Church.  I dream that He can and will redeem all of creation unto Himself. 

I dream of Heaven.  On Earth. 

I dream that a community of WayWard Followers can and will usher in the Kingdom of God by running hard after Jesus Christ.  I dream of a day when those who claim to follow Him are defined not by their religious codes and creeds but by their conduct and love one for each other and Others.  I dream of a day when the chief purpose of our being is to meet the needs of those around us, thus honoring the One who created life.  I dream of a day when the Church has been restored to comfortably and confidently fulfill her role as the Bride of Jesus Christ.  I dream of Christ followers living in a supernatural, divine unity that transcends our human understanding and tendency toward division, that we would be one just as the Father and the Son are One–that in this unity we might be found complete and made whole as Jesus prayed in John 17.  I dream that we may live out the principles of Kingdom Living found in Jesus’s sermon on the mount and in the end of Acts chapter 2

I dream that this will happen in my world. In my day.

In this generation.

I dream that we can and will live out the abundant life Christ has in store for us–to love God and love Others above all else, and that in every decision we make and every action we take; in every conversation we have, this divine love would shine forth.  I dream that we can and will fulfill our calling to bring hope to the afflicted; to mend the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives and liberty to those who are held in chains; to comfort those who are in mourning; to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked; to be a beacon of hope and light in a world afflicted with darkness and despair. 

In the words of a magnificent man who dared to dream dangerously whom I regretfully never had the opportunity to meet, 

We are not here for ourselves alone, but as necessary fragments of divine love, working together to rebuild lives and communities.  I am convinced that we are here to do something, to extend ourselves for the Kingdom.
–J. Andrew Cole, RISE Founder 

Heaven. On Earth. You must think I’m idealistic.  Radical.  Crazy.  A dreamer. 

I’m proudly all of those things.  Many others are as well.  To borrow a few words from a well-known book entitled, The Irresistible Revolution authored by a fellow radically idealistic dreamer, Shane Claiborne: 

I used to think that those of us who hope for things we cannot see and who believe that the world can be different than it is were the crazy ones.  We are usually called that by people who spend their lives trying to convince everyone that the crazy things they do actually make sense.  Now more and more people are starting to imagine that maybe another world is possible and necessary and actually quite imaginable.  I’m starting to wonder if, actually, we have gone sane in a mad world.  In a world of smart bombs and military intelligence, we need more fools, holy fools who insist that the folly of the cross is wiser than any human power.  And the world may call us crazy.

The good humored teacher and street-corner prophet Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, put it this way: “If we are crazy, then it is because we refuse to be crazy in the same way that the world has gone crazy.”  What’s crazy is a matter of perspective.  After all, what’s crazier: one person owning the same amount of money as the combined economies of twenty-three countries, or suggesting that if we shared, there would be enough for everyone?  What is crazier: spending billions of dollars on a defense shield, or suggesting that we share our billions of dollars so that we don’t need a defense shield?  What is crazier: maintaining arms contracts with 154 countries while asking the world to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, or suggesting that we lead the world in disarmament by refusing to deal weapons with over half of the world and by emptying the world’s largest stockpile here at home?  What’s crazy is that the US, less than 6 percent of the world’s population, consumes nearly half of the world’s resources, and that the average American consumes as much as 520 Ethiopians do, while obesity is declared a “national health crisis.”  Someday war and poverty will be crazy, and we will wonder how the world allowed such things to exist.  Some of us have just caught a glimpse of the beauty of the promised land, and it is so dazzling that our eyes are forever fixed on it, never to look back at the ways of the old empire again.

…It seems to me that God could surround us with elders as we bring new energy into an aging body, but it will take tremendous courage from old folks to dream new dreams and allow a new generation to make their own mistakes.  And it will take great humility from the new generation of the church to listen to the wisdom of our elders and know that we can learn from others’ mistakes.

If you have the gift of frustration and the deep sense that the world is a mess, thank God for that; not everyone has that gift of vision.  It also means that you have a responsibility to lead us in new ways.  Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step toward changing the world.  So for those of us who have nearly given up on the church, may we take comfort in the words of St. Augustine: “The Church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”

Maybe we are a little crazy.  After all, we believe in things we don’t see.  The Scriptures say that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).  We believe poverty can end even though it is all around us.  We believe in peace even though we hear only rumors of wars.  And since we are people of expectation, we are so convinced that another world is coming that we start living as if it were already here.  As prominent evangelical activist Jim Wallis says, “We believe despite the evidence…and watch the evidence change.”  So may we begin living as if poverty were over, and we will see it come to pass.  May we begin beating our swords into plowshares now, and the kindgom will begin to be not simply something we hope for when we die but something we see on earth as it is in heaven, the kingdom that is among us and within us.

I pray that we will have the integrity of the early church, which, in the same breath that it denounced their empire in Rome, was able to invite people into the Way–little communities scattered throughout the empire…may we spend our lives making the Jesus way of life accessible to people.  The world is thirsty.  All creation is groaning.  Christianity as it is has not satisfied the souls of those who hunger for another way of life.

One friend was asked by a skeptic, “You are all just a little group of radical idealists.  What makes you actually think you can change the world?”  And she said, “Sir, if you will take a closer look at history you will see…that’s the only way it has ever been done.”

Our world needs daydreamers daring to dream dangerously.

And it’s waiting for you to dream.

being like Christ

1 Jan
Again and again over the last several weeks, I’ve told my story to new friends.  Each of us has a story, and each day a new chapter is penned.  As I’ve shared my journey with those around me, the narrative unfolding before them is focused on my recent change of heart; literally, that a new heart has been placed in me–a heart that desires to follow.

David wrote in the 26th Psalm, “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in integrity…“  The integrity the psalmist writes of is not his sinlessness; rather, it is his sincerity of purpose and single-hearted devotion.  My own heart has been transformed in this way; that the purpose of my life and the desire of my heart is simply to seek after God–to love Him, and to love others in the Way of the Master, Jesus.  It wasn’t always this way–and it isn’t guaranteed to continue; instead, I must continually focus my heart and thoughts on him and be committed to follow, no matter what the cost.

As I tell my story, I find myself continually stressing the fact that my change of heart was not a result of me realizing my need for change in a moment of an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual epiphany; rather, it came out of a position of complete and utter desperation. I had no real other option than to deal with the fact that My Way was leading me to destruction. I had no income, no relationship, no future and no hope. I was lost, unfulfilled, ineffective and insecure. Even my strengths were dwarfed by the hopelessness of my situation and withered in the midst of my wickedness rendering me useless even in my own God-given abilities.

For quite some time I lived in denial of the fact that I was heading down that destructive road, ignoring the warning signs, flashing lights, and huge concrete barriers that God had raised across the highway of my life in an effort to minimize the damage I would cause myself and others.

Disregarding these, I barreled towards a head-on collision with disaster. It was only when I stopped and looked at my life and compared it to what I truly wanted versus where I was that I finally could  come to my senses and begin the journey home. I had to weigh in my heart where I had come from, where I had been, where I was and where I was headed. For the first time the reality of the recklessness and selfishness of my life had my undivided attention; and I came to a decision to return to the arms of the Father.

But what got me to that point was the love of Christ; shown through a Follower of the Way.

This WayWard Follower, possessing all the knowledge of the depth of my depravity and dishonesty, showed me the unconditional and accepting love of Christ.   And from that origin and foundation, along with God’s prompting working in perfect harmony with the desperate state of my affairs, I began to hear His voice. The once deafened whispers of conviction began to illuminate with sound the darkened corridors of my heart. The simplicity of an understanding, kind, generous and loving Follower of the Way opened a floodgate of confession and repentance in my soul, washing away the years of built up resistance to the grace, mercy and love of God. I was humbled by any individual showing me love in that state. Because of this Follower, I realized my need to begin the journey anew. I knew I’d have to make a consorted effort to rid myself of wickedness, pride and arrogance. I had strayed so far from him that the daunting task of returning to a life of following Christ seemed nearly insurmountable.  Yet she gently and simply encouraged me to try.  “Go, and sin no more.”

She was Jesus to me.

For years I would not let God love me. I had run so far and so hard from Him, desperately trying to stay out of His reach, my sin fending off any attempts to breach the barrier of my hardened heart. Yet continually and eventually the words and actions of this Follower of the Way drew me back into the arms of grace. I would often think to myself, “She’s acting like Christ.” And over time, in conjunction with my circumstances and the prompting of God in my heart, I gave up.  I knew I could no longer do things My Way, and needed to follow The Way.

Which begs the question: in this new year, as we–you and I–strive to love God and others in the Way of Jesus, who has been placed within our circle of influence for just that reason?  Are we acting as Christ to others? It just may save their life…it certainly did mine.
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