Friday, November 30, 2018

Loved and Approved

Do you carry the following idea around like a burden: "I should be loved and approved by almost every person I know and met, and live up to their expectations." Here are some scriptures that speak truth into this paralyzing and incorrect belief (Dr Paul's paraphrase):

Happy you are when shamed, lied about, and made to run away. Gush over with tears of joy and tell your friends the great news! For in the big picture, your paycheck is going to be massive! Just like you, the old-time prophets were run right out of town!          
                                                                               -Jesus, in Matthew 5:11

If the cosmos and even all its inhabitants bully you, hate you, or reject you, learn and know this: it bullied, and hated, and rejected me first. I very specifically picked you, and pulled you out of that false reality. So of course they can't stand that you even exist.
                                                                               -Jesus, in John 15:18-19

I have a choice. I can make it my chief goal and obsession to please, pacify, and accommodate people. Or I can follow scripture and seek to please God. I should not be rude or mean to others, I must love them. But putting God first delivers me from the impossible task of constantly trying to make everyone happy.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Castle

It started in a fairly reasonable way. A village needed help defending itself against a local criminal. A small guard tower would do. I, the castle, sent some men and a few bricks, and the village had peace. Another village had the same problem and the strategy worked again. Then an envoy needed to be sent to a far country with some gems to gift and trade. I missed that decorative wall, but I saw the need. The river flooded year after year. It only made sense to take down the parapet and use the stones for a dam to regulate the water’s flow and bring in an extra crop every season. Before I knew it, my people and my stones were going this way and that, all over the kingdom. I began to wonder what would be left. Would I even be a castle at all? I tried to be more bureaucratic, requiring promissory notes and using the official seal. But every few months, I noticed myself even smaller. It seemed I was in pieces, spread everywhere. Disconnected, not whole. I was with others, in a way, but torn and apart from myself, my identity.
Who could deny that up in the mountains a bridge must be built? So many people and horses were lost, trying to cross the white waters. But who would watch my stones? Who would ever bring them back? Was I to be only a hovel or a livery then? Even now, thieves come in the night to take a stone or two--what with no guards left and no wall.
God says: “Put all of those separated pieces on me, on my account. Those parts that are you and are yet torn from you, whether given or taken, from the largest of stones to the smallest crumbled bit of mortar. Put them all completely and fully in my trust. The reason is this: I care for the castle. I am the builder, and I take special interest. I keep track of every grain of sand that is you. I see you as your glorious whole, though for now you are distributed here and there. Fear not the giving, for thus I have made it for now. I walked that path myself, as nails split me, the whip carved my skin, and the thorns and mocking robe took my dignity. I did this for you as you do for others. Rest in me. Glory in me. Hold up your sticks and your stable as the royal things they are, for I myself have made you my home. It is the King who makes the castle after all, not the stones."

                                             -Paul Bunge, based on I Peter 5:7

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Openness and Closedness

It is not easy to strike a balance between closedness, having a clear identity that fosters growth in certain values and spirituality, and openness to those who do not live with the same values. Isn’t this the challenge of all religions and of all Christian churches? Being too open can dilute quality of that life and stunt growth to maturity and wisdom; being too closed can stifle. It requires the wisdom, maturity, and inner freedom of community members to help the community find the harmony that not only preserves and deepens life and a real sense of belonging but also gives and receives life. Then the community has truly become an environment for becoming human, helping all to openness, freedom, and to commitment to the common good.
                                                                    -Jean Vanier, Becoming Human

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Who cares? Or cares too much?

“You care too much,” people tell you. Things bother you too much. You worry about what is right, what is good, what is best. You see the gap between what should be and what is, and you are frustrated and paralyzed.
It is not that you care too much. Truth is, you don’t care enough. You care, and you get busy organizing: trying to change people and things and systems. You move them about like toys in the nursery. As if these issues were so small and insignificant as to be fixed by mere action on your part. Your work shows that you believe in the world and not in the Lord. You fail to recognize the complete failure of the world, and yourself as part of it.
Even if all the people in the whole world got together and agreed on solutions to these problems, what then? They would still fail. Why? Because we are the problem. It is in us and it is us.
But God says “rejoice in the Lord.”
When you are tempted to fix everything, and especially when that red warning light goes on in your head—the anxiety light—stop! Know that you are running low on batteries and you need to plug into God. Realize that God wants to be your only power source. Your batteries are defective, broken. When you run on batteries, nothing can go right. Find God’s extension cord instead. Think on Him. Read His word. Sing His songs. Focus on good things—these are God’s gifts and messages to you. Those things you are trying to fix? Leave them where they are.        
Take out God’s maintenance form number seven. Write out the problem in detail and put it into His request box. Then wait. God runs a mean and effective machine shop. He has resources and knowledge you cannot even begin to imagine. But he does want those forms filled out completely. He wants to hear about every single thing that is broken. He is not fond of whining, mind you. He will address your problem, so you will want to thank Him in advance. Do not be too quick to tell Him how to do His job.
Just one more reminder: stay out of God’s way. His plan for some damaged and damaging thing, or a system that needs correction, a management issue that needs re-booting, may be to blow something up, fire someone, or reorganize a department. You do not want to be around tinkering with something, duct taping the problem, when that happens. You are like a toddler in a machine shop: you need someone older and wiser around, so you don’t cause damage and get hurt yourself. Your Father, the experienced machinist, has got this. Your job is to hold onto Him and trust Him. In time, He will set you in His lap, hold your hand, and let you help him. He loves to do that.
For God’s part, if you submit the maintenance forms consistently, and especially when the warning light signals you, He promises to stay with you as an armed guard over your inner self. This you will neither see nor understand, but somehow Jesus made it possible. Be in community with His other children. Get along with them. The good things you see them doing, you do them, too. God will give you His peace. He invented it, after all.
                                                                 a paraphrase/adaptation of Phil 4:4-9

Sunday, November 11, 2018


I don't think the words themselves do very much if they're not incarnated in a community.
                                                                        -Eugene Peterson, discussing church community with
                                                                          Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

God's Business

I will not try to run my life or the lives of others; that is God's business.

                             -Eugene Peterson, God's Message for Each Day: Wisdom from the Word of God

Monday, November 5, 2018


There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss; and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind: you must let go of old ways in order to experience the new. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar. 
                                                                                       -Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hearing God

The silence that makes it possible for us to hear God speak also makes it possible for us to hear the world's words for what they really are--tinny and unconvincing lies. 

                                                                    -Eugene Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms
                                                                      that Summon You from Self to Community