I noticed this week an exceptionally harsh and reactive attitude coming
from several people this week almost out of character, from strangers to
friend, and even myself. Strangely reactive world we live in.
Has anyone been rude to you this week? Have you seen anyone displaying a
worse than usual character? In what shape has your character been this week?
I realize that “the Passion Week” has been a week in history where innocent
people suffer—the OKC bombing in 1995 happened this week and last year the
Boston marathon bombing, in 2007 the worst school shooting—all occurring
this particular week in history.
It was horrible. Innocents died. Those who loved them and everyone, really,
asked, Why?! It’s always horrible when innocents die. But love is born
there. God chose to love through a bad week and it meant an innocent would
Last night I suddenly remembered this week in history that Christ endured
and reflected on how intimately he can relate to any human who has suffered
or is suffering. It is difficult to think of Jesus’ death and not think of
the suffering and death of many innocent people throughout history. I
believe God was in Jesus fully taking on the experience of our sin and the
consequent actions of evil in the world.
Nicole and I read Isaiah 52 and 53 last night. Here is an excerpt pointing
to the relational suffering Jesus would endure.
“Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”
Jesus wasn’t recognised for who he was for the most part and before he
would go take the death penalty every friend would’ve deserted him while
all his accusing enemies showed up. He was silent in the face of their
accusations and strikes and lashes. He prayed for their forgiveness. He
held onto hope while good people looked on in shock. So, I want to be
especially conscious right now not to react to attacks, but to keep silent
and extend forgiveness as Jesus did.
To Stand Up Under the Cross and Pray
What to do when you feel stuck?
When you get marked by life and feel like what’s the use of your hard work,
how do you get back that feeling of yes, it is worth my hard work?
I don’t always feel that, but I notice I often do when I feel my ego needs
to be protected.
But Jesus said that if anyone wants to follow him they should die to their
ego. He himself picked up a wooden cross. Of course, it seems religious
leaders and imperial soldiers forced him to take it up. But the Bible
claims he took it up willingly. He faced his death passionately. He was
determined to make all things new and with joy endured opposition.
If Jesus is the author of my faith, perhaps I won’t escape opposition, but
with his attitude, I’ll face the death of my ego rather than running from
it. And every time I do that in every small way, it seems to make all the
So, when you feel stuck, stop trying to force your way out of it, and just
be willing to look at your stuckness differently. Just stand up with
confidence. You are resilient. You are also in need of improvement that
comes from outside yourself. Ask some of these questions:
Is someone opposing me personally for some reason?
What am I afraid of?
What does my ego have to lose or gain?
How can I respond that would make for a great story later?
Who else can understand what it’s like to be in this difficulty?
*God, I pray for my friends and family who might feel stuck right now. Give
them grace to breathe in your spirit. Give the power to stand in the midst
of difficulty and hold their shoulders up high. Let them expect you to
create something new out of their broken plight that will make the
difficulty worth it. Let us sit with these questions as we open our hearts
to you and as you reveal our own hearts to us and and your heart to us.
Jesus himself is your very heart. Amen in Jesus.*
Life is Lasagna
Life is lasagne. It has layers.
Most people, I think, live their lives in the veneer, the cheesy top, I suppose.
I’m interested in the layers for every human being. What is good universally? What is ultimately true? These questions and wrestling with them, I think, is like considering the rest of the lasagne. And I think it’s delicious.
I decided to buy this car … I decided to stand up for my opinion … I decided to
Something tonight made me recall something I remember reading in a book, something about, “The decision’s not as important as what you do after.”
I mean really how many of my decisions are “important?”
Here are the decisions I think have been important in my life:
To be faithful to God, honest whether people are watching or not.
To be faithful to Nicole, for better or worse.
If I say all the right things to get everyone to like me yet lose my integrity, it doesn’t matter (much) if all the other decisions are “the right ones.”
In Awe Because …
In Awe Because …
… feeling loved and cared for (a thoughtful e-mail)
… being little on a little planet in a little solar system in a sea of
billions of galaxies
… the radiance of the earth, rain and shine, day and night, the
seasons, the harvests
… the gift of the humble King (Jesus is good)
… being known
… when laughter takes over and spreads (unbelievable how much tickling
Noah, my four-year old, can take)
… new creation is possible even out of the pits of despair.
A friend back in Memphis and I used to sit and try to understand each
other. He would often talk about “hungry spirits.” He said, “Hungry spirits
are the spirits of people who did evil all their lives and they haunt
people and try to get them to do more evil because they’re so restless and
miserable and addicted to sex and violence and so on.”
I said, “I’m not superstitious.”
He said, “You believe in that!”
I said, “No, I don’t.”
[He meant all us Westerners. Though we think we’re not superstitious, we
act like we are all the time.]
I said, “No, no one I know believes in hungry spirits.”
Then he said, “Yes, you do. That’s why you have Jack’O’Lanterns. You put
them out to scare away the hungry spirits … everybody believes in
I said, “So that’s why you have pumpkins out in front of your house for
He said, “No! What are you crazy!”
I said, “I thought you said that’s what pumpkins are for.”
He said, “Yes, but I don’t need to scare hungry spirits away. I have no
fear of them.”
I said, “Why?”
He said, “Because I have the Holy Spirit.” Epiphany. He’s a Cambodian who
became a Christian. He perceives us Westerners through a spiritual lens.
The things we reserve for horror movies and entertainment he claims as real
Another Elder Realised
I SAW SOMEONE recently who I admired. He is, informally, an elder to me. It
is not because he has few shortcomings—he probably has many—that he is an
elder to me, but because of his open vulnerability about his own
shortcomings and his consistently genuine acceptance of people. I’m not
only drawn to him, but want to reflect on what I see in him.
Last night, I had the chance to make a late night trip to the grocery store
with this man sent on errand by his wife for a couple items in preparation
for the 21st birthday breakfast of one of their (admirable) daughters. This
was just after he helped to clean up after the party.
While in the car I asked him for more details about what he did for a
living. He tends to the aged. He drives his simple little aged car from one
aged person’s home to the next helping them. He does a lot of listening and
serving. And, although it’s not required in the job description, what he
really enjoys is praying with people. He said they love for him to pray.
And he encourages them to pray as well and some of them require an
investment of his patient encouragement but when they do so they feel
empowered and happy.
Many of the aged that he visits have some dementia or something like that.
Many of them are ready to depart, but are holding on because their family
isn’t ready to let go of them. They are tired in body and soul. My elder
listens to them.
*What is it precisely that I admire in this elder? I admire that he:*
1. *Listens energetically.* I imagine he listens at least as well to his
clients as he does to me without compensation.
2. *Remains calm. *He runs an errand for his wife to no avail (the shop
was closed already) and isn’t (visibly) angered toward her or the store
3. Drives a *simple car*.
4. *Remains humble. *Doesn’t act like he picked himself up out of his
family of origin’s dysfunctions by his own bootstraps.
5. *Values his job with a seemingly growing sense of love and energy,
heart and soul.* He doesn’t consider himself sovereign in it or a
master, but a happy student who has lucked upon the intersection of the
world’s pain, his gifts, and his happenstance by God’s grace.
6. Gathers us for *a simple prayer* before a meal and *a simple
20-second speech* after the birthday song t*o honor his daughte*r among
some of the people who have blessed his daughter’s life by God’s grace.
In SIX words: *HEARS. CALMS. SIMPLIFIES. HUMBLES. SERVES. GATHERS.*
*8 October 2013*