Archive for February 2008

Rock bottom

February 29, 2008
(Lamentations 3: 19-30, The Message)

 19-21I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

22-24God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.

28-30When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.

I am unsure to tell you whether I am glad that you are not at rock bottom or to tell you I hope you get there soon.  What a perplexing thing for a colleague and friend to say.  “Do you really wish for me to be at rock bottom, why?”

I’ve been there folks, more times and places than I’d care to tell and far more recently than anyone would guess.  One thing that is true about reaching rock bottom, as Jeremiah reminds us in his lament; at the point of rock bottom we remember one thing, God’s loyal love has not run out or dried up.  And, my friend, if you are not at that point this very moment, of realizing the utter love that God has for you, for me and for the others, I hope you get there soon.

I have a young friend who does not know Jesus.  My friend is involved in a relationship that is not entirely rewarding.  There is a feeling of disappointment and almost dread associated with this.  As I had the opportunity to share with her recently, I happened to have a list of actions that a man or woman is called to do in times of lostness, ashes or poison, the times at rock bottom.  The list came directly from Jeremiah’s lament found above.

Wait

Seek

Hope

Stick it out

Go off by yourself

Enter the silence

Bow in prayer

Don’t ask questions

Wait

Don’t run from trouble

Take it full face

Without understanding God’s faithfulness and merciful love, I suppose that list of actions won’t make much sense.  I tried to help her see.

We do understand, though, don’t we?  We do know, don’t we?  We do trust don’t we? 

So…

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All In

February 22, 2008

Luke 9 is a remarkable chapter. I see it as a three act play, with seven scenes. Each scene is scripted to have an exchange between Jesus and his disciples. Each act has a different focus. Act One deals with Calling. Apprentices to Jesus are called, equipped and commissioned to serve needs in this world. Our own self is our best equipment. While we often believe that we don’t have enough, when we partner with Jesus, we find that we do.

 

Act Two deals with recognition. We all recognize Jesus to varying degrees, and yet we start with an understanding of Jesus on our own terms. Only through His own grace and agency are we able to grasp a fuller picture of who Christ is and a more complete picture of the Kingdom of the Heavens interlaced with the physical reality we typically see.

 

Act Three deals with commitment. We learn here that Jesus is “all in” and expects us to be too. Indeed, to carry the poker analogy one step further, we learn that this is a very high stakes game and that there is time but the present to play it.

 

I encourage you to read Luke 9 soon and reflect on its meaning. I have pulled out several key quote of Jesus (from the Message) found in Act 3 of this incredible drama. Are you listening?

 

“You become great by accepting, not asserting.”

“Are you ready to rough it? …Follow me.”

“First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

I ask myself, “Are you all in?”

Shaping a Genesis Week

February 15, 2008

God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.

(Psalm 51: 10-11, The Message)

So, what if I was serious about having God shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life?  What’s up with that?  The Message describes the state of things at the beginning of the creation week as, “…a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness”.  Really now?  Am I ready to admit to God, to me, to you; that in asking for a fresh start I recognize that my life is a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness and an inky blackness? 

I don’t know if I want to go that far.  Maybe even “chaos” is too harsh a word, or at least too harsh of a recognition for me to share.  Let’s listen to the voice of reason, here.

“For goodness sake, man.  You have a Ph.D.  You have a satisfying job.  You’re a good teacher.  You serve well in your local congregation.  Your children love you.  You have a wonderful wife.  You are a cancer survivor.  Your friends respect you and you can make people laugh.  Your life is not chaos, life is good!”

Yet, listen to the heart of one crying out to God.

“God, make a fresh start in me, today!  Take my pain, my pride, my doubts.  Take my disobedience and fear.  Take my mistrust and confusion, my arrogance and prejudices. Take my past and future, my hopes and dreams, my consolations and desolations.  Shape my chaos, my nothingness, my blackness through your Genesis-week experience.  Don’t give up on me, my God.  Help me walk close to you.  Help me hear your voice.  I want to continually recognize your presence.  Shape a Genesis-week from what I am.”

What would it be like to have God do that?  Go back to the beginning of the book.  Read it again and pay attention to those powerful images, deep and true.  The Genesis week means life and free will and sentience, choices and work and play.  With it come companionship and purpose and order and beauty.  Creativity and power and love! Community: You and me and she and we and us!

Oh God, shape a Genesis week from my life today!  And God, search the hearts of my friends, seek out those that ask it too and do the same in them.