Bible

A Woman I Know

A woman I’ve recently met lost her husband last year. I didn’t know her then, I never met him. She began coming to a small group after her tragedy, as a broken-hearted widow trying to hold on to God, to other people, to meaning, to today, to life. She sometimes looked tired, sometimes like she had just finished weeping (which she probably had), yet she always shows up.

I stay quiet, muted in my Zoom box, watching and listening, fully present to her suffering. You know, in the book of Lamentations, the author wails “Look! See!”, simply seeking a witness to this searing pain. The crushing hurt of loss and abandonment has overtaken her, “Look at this affliction!” In Lamentations, the God she knows has “broken my teeth with gravel; He has trampled me in the dust.”

This woman I know understands Lamentations, I bet, only too well. She said last week, “I don’t trust God so much right now.” I don’t know how she felt about saying it. Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in what we are “supposed to” say, “supposed to” do, who we “should” be, that we ignore who we are. And from behind that facade, we ignore who God is.

When I was in seminary, studying the Bible and writing research paper after research paper, more than any particular story or verse, I was surprised at what I was finding over and over. The overwhelming theme was God’s desire for honesty. Even as He was commanding rites and rituals, He was reminding us that the rites and rituals meant nothing at all without heart. If they were just sacrifices, just songs sung and hands raised in church, just plastered smiles and rote prayers, they were nothing more than hypocritical performance. The Scripture tells of a God who wants us, who we are, how we are, right here, right now, instead of our hollow dog and pony shows.

This woman I know sees the value in showing up in her weary brokenness. Which looks exactly like grace, His grace as well as her own. I think when she says, “I don’t trust God so much right now,” He probably smiles, because in her courageous authenticity, she is displaying that she does. She trusts Him enough to tell Him the truth, confident He won’t leave her, that He’ll keep His arms around her. And if she doesn’t feel it this second, she will.

And she has chosen to trust us. We have been this woman’s witnesses. We almost never get the answers we think we want, but we do get hands to hold. We get people to love us and hold us up when we just can’t do it ourselves anymore.

This is an online Bridge post, but it’s also a love letter to her (that she may never read). I want to thank her. I want to tell her how much she’s meant to me, how she’s inspired me, how she’s given me courage and strength by simply being a warrior everyday and letting me watch. I guess that’s why we were given The Church. Showing up and taking one more step is nothing to do alone, our gift is that we get to take those steps and live these lives as a community. And if we keep showing up, keep opening our eyes, hearts and hands to each other, we get to experience these moments of immeasurable beauty and love up close.

Into The Light

Sunday we discussed marriage, single-ness (if that is even a word…it doesn’t feel like it is), and sex. The Apostle Paul writes about these subjects often, they’re found in many other spaces in the Bible, yet every time a sermon in church is based around sex, it’s met with a certain level of surprise and/or uncomfortability. This unease increases even more when the topic becomes sex between married couples. I suppose I know why, but it’s points to an early breakdown that has led us all down many different, unhealthy paths having little to do with sex at all.

The cracks begin with a bizarre learned aversion to conversation, especially about the most important topics. This aversion leads to a pathetic lack of communication that gives rise to the lie that sex is dirty and obscene and should be kept out of view. Obviously, this secrecy (like all secrecy) is the doorway into any number of dark rooms that are steal our dignity and are dishonoring to our hearts, souls, bodies & spirits.

When we build entire structures around the notion that some things need to be hidden in the darkest places, guilt and shame grow like mushrooms. Shame isolates us, and we stay sick with imaginary diseases. Sex isn’t shameful, isn’t dirty or obscene. It can be, but just because something can be misused doesn’t mean the thing is defective.

I can’t say the first talk I gave on sex didn’t give me deep pangs of anxiety, but I can absolutely tell you that it doesn’t now (any more than anything else. I still get butterflies of excitement every single Sunday, and I hope they never stop.)

The more we talk openly & respectfully about anything, the less power it has over us, the less fear-inducing it is. The more we can drag into the light, the less mold can spread. The 30th difficult boundary conversation is much less threatening than the first, and as it loses power, we can much more treat ourselves and each other with kindness instead of control. That need for control is rooted in fear. And control and love simply cannot coexist, so the more we can remove that fear, the more love we can display, the more love we can freely give.

If I don’t need you to see everything my way, vote for my candidate, behave the way I want you to, I can then allow you to be you, listen, actually listen, and maybe exercise some empathy (in some cases long dormant) and find the common ground that is always there. Common ground and understanding are nearly impossible to discover from behind thick walls of fear.

If we can talk honestly about marital sex and it’s many gifts (intimacy, connection, affection, I could go on and on), then maybe it won’t be a monster in the corners of the church. The Church has long been afraid of human sexuality, maybe she should be more concerned with secrecy and isolation. But again, just because the Church & religion have been misused, doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Quite the opposite. They are perhaps more valuable, more important, now than ever. But we can’t ever get to reclaiming the actual divine picture of The Church if we’re too proud or too frightened to mention Her and/or address the ways She’s been defaced. Think about the violence done in the name of Jesus, and imagine the horror and hopelessness if we threw Him away because of the offenses done in His lovely Name.

So we’ll keep talking about the beautiful purity of sex and the way it’s been dragged through muddy alleys. We’ll keep screaming about the immeasurable joy of marriage and mourning the damage too often done in the context of a lesser view. We’ll keep having these discussions with hands open in love, reclaiming these life-giving words and concepts, and we’ll do this all together.

Resolutions

We’re nearly 2 weeks into the new year and the vast majority of New Years resolutions have fallen by the wayside. The new faces at the gym have disappeared, new diets have crashed, we are hopelessly behind on our devotional plans. That’s not unusual, resolutions historically aren’t so resolute.

However, the interesting thing to me is the question behind them. We are responding to a prompt or a call, a desire to address a problem area, or a pull forward into needed growth. The catalyst that leads to the resolution remains long after the resolution is forgotten. It’s vital that we not forget the catalyst, too.

The focus word we discussed is different from a resolution because there’s no failure, perceived or otherwise, involved. If we’ve not decided on a word, we can do it now. If we have one, and haven’t moved towards it, towards making it a part of our lives, we don’t have to wait for next January, we can pay attention tonight, right now. We’ve been prompted, called, given a desire, whether we act on it doesn’t change the fact that the Spirit moved in us.

I’ll often begin long discussions with myself to talk myself out of this reality. Maybe it was just me, a delusion, vanity, maybe I was following a trend, heard somebody say something on a podcast, or a Sunday sermon, maybe it was indigestion. But it probably wasn’t God, right?

Why do I do that? Maybe you do, too, and maybe our answers are very very different, as different as we are, but I’m thinking that instinct is, and has always been, misguided, grounded in a misunderstanding of our value.

The prophet Samuel had to be called several times before he could acknowledge that it was actually the God of the Universe saying his name. I wonder how many fishermen and tax collectors Jesus had to ask to “follow me,” before the 12 came to grips that He wanted them, was asking them on purpose.

Sometimes we don’t continue on this path because we don’t think we’re worth the time and energy and care to give to our own growth. We are what we are, and we’ll always be. I used to think that way, but it’s strange, the more time I spend in the Scriptures, the more I’m convinced of His love for me. And for you, no matter who I am or who you are. The seeming conflict in that – that we are all loved so extravagantly, like we are His very favorite – makes us big and small. It fills us with confidence and humility. We understand that the refrigerator is His and our picture is on it. Mine, yours, everyone’s, picture is on it. He’d die for us, why is it so hard to believe He’d want to spend time or call us into the life He promises, the life He created us to live?

So, maybe your devotional calendar says January 3, skip ahead to the today, 13, and start again. Then start again when you get behind. Go back to the gym, make dinner a good one, reach out, connect, go to bed early, turn your phone off, whatever is sticking in your heart. Listen to that, listen to Him. You are loved beyond reason or limit. And maybe you did make it up, maybe it was dehydration, and that’s ok, too. Start anyway. As Paul writes in Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And remember, we’re worth it, and I know because He says we are.

The Last Post of the Year

This will be the last post of the year, and I’m thinking back on the year, while looking forward. I totally recognize that everything I write at this time of year shares a common thread. This is no surprise, here or anywhere (I am by no means unique in this – every post anywhere shares this common thread.) It’s a natural transition.

Often times, circumstances coerce us to move, our situations force us to turn. Something has to, we only change when that pain becomes larger and hurts more than the pain of staying the same. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, it’s mostly a necessary, positive step and will usually leave us better than we were before. The big problem with this sort of transformation is that it’s an individual, lonely journey. Yes, if we’ve been blessed and intentional with that blessing, we have a community to hold us up, but they cannot know where we are in the deepest parts of us. That’s why the first step is so frightening and intimidating, it is one that feels as if we take it alone. (We aren’t, of course, but it certainly seems like it’s totally in the dark.)

This time of year is abnormal because we all stand in the same dark space with the same invitation in our hands. Who were we, who are we, and who will we become?

It’s an invitation that confronts our beliefs about what is possible.

Even the characters in the Big Story we tell around Christmastime were given the same invitation. I wonder if there were others that said “no” or “I can’t,” or “what if You’re wrong,” before Zechariah and Elizabeth received their angelic visit. We know Abram’s father, Terah, had the opportunity to “GO,” which he refused, before Abram was given his call. They were all faced with the same choice we are, will this be a space where we say “Yes?” The five we read about (Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Himself) all answered; this was the life they said yes to.

Can we say the same? Is this the life we said yes to? Is it the one we will continue to say yes to? Or is it simply the one we have?

As Patricia beautifully phrased in Saturday’s retreat, “We are invited to giving birth to all that can be.” We spend so much time at the Bridge (because the Bible spends so much time) discussing the vital role imagination plays in faith, hope and love (“but the greatest of these is love”;) Will we have the courage to be so vulnerable to dream of something different, something new? Faith is the assurance of things we can’t see – that takes God-breathed imagination. So, will we? Or is it just what it is, what it has always been? Is this just the way I am, and will always be? What keeps us from answering that invitation to give birth to all that can be?

Yes, we’re scared to fail, to fall, but you understand by now, we’re also terrified to shine & fly. I don’t know what the Bridge can be, I don’t know what I can be, but I do know I’m beginning to get more and more comfortable to the idea of finding out. I’m absolutely convinced we all have a divine call that is our own (in addition to the command to Love God & each other, and The Great Commission.) Maybe this year we would hear it. Maybe we already have, we’re just been full of reasons why we might have been mistaken in what we heard. Who knows? I just know we’re in this together, “let’s take this one step at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine,” so this year, let’s agree to be open to the possibility. After all, this Christmas story begins with a baby (!!!) and ends with an empty tomb (!!!!!!!!!!!), so maybe our wildest dreams aren’t big and amazing enough for this kind of God.

So, my brothers & sisters, have a truly joyful New Year.

Great Things

Christmas Day is this Sunday. Everyone you see asks, “are you ready?” and the answer is nearly always, “I guess we’ll have to be.” If Christmas was in February, or June, we wouldn’t be ready then, either. There’s so much to do, so much to buy, so many extended family members we don’t see throughout the year to schedule, avalanches of year end duties we work a little later to complete.

We’re finished, but finished or not, every year, on the morning of Christmas Eve, I go out shopping by myself for 1 more thing for my boys. I sort of like the energy of the deadline. The message for Saturday evening is done, as well, but I continue to work on it in the same fashion, with that bass note of nervous energy in the background. It’s very exciting, and as far as my work, it’s reserved for 3 weeks during the year; Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, and Father’s Day. Those 3 are the days that so clearly illustrate Who God is, who I am, and they remind me from where I’ve come, where I was when He rescued me and loved me back to life.

Yesterday, I prayed, thought, meditated, wrestled and wrote for hours for Saturday night, many of those words typed through tears on this iPad that has seen and been through so much with me.

Next week is New Years and that’s only slightly less charged for me. I love to look forward, dreaming of who I will become, who we will become, what we will experience, how we will grow, listening for the guidance of the Spirit in me.

But yesterday, as the emotions swirled and swelled, it was as I thought of who I was and who I am now. It was in pictures of those who walk with me. It was of the God Who was the same last year and will be the same this year and the next, the same 2,000 years ago and 2,000 years from now – faithful, loving and awesome.

Next week is for what will be, this week is for what is. It is a week, a season to, as written in 1 Sam 12:24, “…consider what great things He has done for you.”

So, my question in this relatively unusual post is: What great things has He done for you?

And as you probably already know, the real ask behind that question is: Are our eyes open to the great things He has done for us? Are we awake to the sacred in our midst? Are the blessings acknowledged as divine blessings or simply ‘things that happen?’

It is a week for reflecting on great things.

I know full well that this year has included more than it’s fair share (as every year does) of not-so-great things. There are newly empty chairs. Brand new fears and anxieties. Illnesses, wounds, scars. Suffering floating in floods of tears. Heartbreak. Disappointment. Unanswered questions and prayers. Sadness. Depression. Isolation. I know. We all know, more intimately than we’d expected or probably would admit.

I think the verse asks us to “consider” the great things because the not-so-great sometimes sit so closely to the surface. It takes intention and effort to consider the great things.

That’s the invite here. Take a moment out of the mad scramble of the days before Christmas morning to consider. Consider the people who held your hand while you wept, the people who asked how you were and listened, actually listened, when you told them. Consider the once empty chairs that aren’t empty anymore, filled with new family members.

Maybe the great things will be stuff or promotions or pay raises, but for me, as I consider, almost every one of the great things in my life are people. You are The Great Things. The ones who showed up and stayed. The ones who prayed for me and held me up when I couldn’t get up on my own, who celebrated with me when I could.

I now truly understand why God didn’t answer Elijah’s questions in that cave, but instead, told him that there were people nearby who would love him, even as he broke down.

We will worship The Baby That Changed Everything, we will praise Him with all we have. And we will do that together, because That Baby became a Man Who gave us The Church when He left. You are not ‘things that happen,’ you are divine gifts sent from a spectacularly loving God. And when I sit down to thank Him, I will thank Him for you.

Plumb Lines

As we race towards the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, it is my practice to reflect on where I’ve come from and look to where I’m going. I pick a focus word or 2 and make a plan to move forward (in pencil). There have been times when what is in front of me is intimidating in its scope, like staring at a smooth, slick wall stretching up into the clouds. Where do I even start?

If you’ve ever watched the show Hoarders, as the houses fall into such a state of disrepair, the people fall into a state of apathy. The work is so vast, it’s hard to see any way out. They have no idea how to clean what used to be their home but is now just a storage space for dirty dishes, trash, and junk. There is no end in sight, no light at the end of a massive tunnel.

A life can feel exactly the same. I remember many times, for seasons or years, where my soul was one of those houses. There were behaviors that didn’t serve me well, destructive habits, the worst tape loops playing in my head, self-sabotage, all buried under an avalanche of unhealthy perspectives. The task, cleaning me up, creating new pathways, was so enormous, I ended the next year with, at best, the same work ahead as the previous.

What I so clearly see now is that the answer is the same, put a few dishes in the sink today. Then a few more tomorrow. In the Bible, the exiled Jewish people return home and work begins to rebuild the temple. The old temple that had been razed was so grand, fantastically ornate and glorious, how could they ever possibly rebuild that one? The prophet Zechariah wrote, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (Zech. 4:10)

There is a Japanese concept called kaisen, where continuous small, almost imperceptible changes compound, leaving the company, or process, drastically transformed.

I think this is what Zechariah is talking about, kaisen, or small beginnings. Set a plumb line – in this case, set our eyes on God and His vision for the temple, or our lives, families, communities, nations. This plumb line stays static, not swaying to meet the popular, convenient, or comfortable, and we begin to build with that as our guide. One block at a time. One dish. One moment. One lie in the tape loops that screamed in my ears. Just one. One step. We don’t need to know when the tunnel ends, or even where it will lead. We have a plumb line, and that plumb line is trustworthy and certain.

I know one step seems insignificant. We want to lose 100lbs by working out for 7 hours a day every day, but the next time that works will be the first, and we end up doing nothing. If we eat a bag of Oreos every day, maybe instead of eating none, we eat a bag minus one today. Or we do 1 pushup. Or read 1 verse.

We set the plumb line, don’t despise the small beginnings, and know that Our God, Our Creator rejoices to see the work begin. Then, the next year, we look back and barely recognize the person who began the work. We are increasingly new. We can see our bed and sleep in it without risk of suffocating under all of the ways we harm ourselves.

There is an old adage, an answer to the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. Maybe this year, we start taking bites.

Depth

Nahum was a prophet tasked with warning of coming judgment on the city of Ninevah in the ancient empire Assyria. If that sounds to you exactly like the call of Jonah, you’re right, it IS exactly like the call of Jonah. The only difference is the when – Jonah wrote his book in 785-760 BC and Nahum wrote his in 663-612 BC, roughly 100 years later than Jonah. When Jonah went, the people of Ninevah listened, mourned, repented, and changed their lives…for a little while. Obviously, that’s a little (a lot) convicting when I start to think of how many times I make a nice change until I don’t.

Anyway. Verse 6 in chapter 1 reads, “Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.” That isn’t a very feel-good passage, right? But verse 7 sounds different, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

The note in my Bible says, “For those who refuse to believe, God’s punishment is like an angry fire. But to those who love Him, His mercy is a refuge.”

An awful lot of the Scriptures, maybe all of it (from a perspective), details the choice we all have: whether we will or will not enter into a relationship with this God. Will we believe, follow, fall in love, and if we do, what does that actually mean? These verses seem to say, this relationship is up to us. The kind of relationship we have with God depends on our engagement. I think that’s true, God extends His loving hands to all of us, the question is if we will hold it or not. God gives us all the coat, we decide if we’ll put it on. There’s a place already reserved for us at the table, will we sit down with Him? What kind of relationship do we want, what kind will we choose?

It’s a big question, maybe the biggest.

But what I’m thinking about now is, in our daily lives, how much is left to our engagement, or lack thereof. Is the level of meaning we find in our lives closely linked to our level of participation? Does the depth of our relationships correlate to the depth of our immersion in those relationships?

Some very good friends of mine once criticized a church I belonged to as “clique-y” and “closed to anyone new.” Maybe it was. But would it have been so closed if they had shown up more often? Do we consider groups to be cliques if we are on the inside, and if showing up is the only requisite to our entrance?

(I recognize there are actual closed groups where the walls are made of steel, immovable, impenetrable, and awfully nasty. But are these the much more rare exemptions, as in ascribing psychopathic behavior to the general population? OR, now that I’m farther into this, is this simply another example of the importance of perspective, the idea that we get what we’re looking for? I find notably less locked doors now that I operate as if all doors are wide open. Is that true?)

What I know to be true is that showing up to our lives, awake and accepting of possibility, while not leading to a perfect life (and what is that anyway????), certainly leads to beauty, significance, and weight. We won’t ever experience the exhilaration of the ocean if we only dip our toes and run from the tide. Maybe the only question left is, (in our relationship with God, our spouses, friends, neighbors, strangers, enemies, our world, ourselves), how deep are we willing to go?

Sex

I think it’s hilarious to title this post “Sex,” and wonder what you’re thinking/expecting when it comes across your email or Facebook feed.

On Sunday, we discussed a passage in 1 Corinthians that referenced “sexual immorality,” and it was my assumption (not an entirely incorrect assumption, I don’t think) that, historically, most church leaders’ perspective was that all sexuality was sexual immorality, and therefore, not to be discussed on a Sunday morning – there were (gasp) CHILDREN there! – outside of a strict warning of the dirty inappropriateness of it all. But it’s absolutely not dirty or inappropriate, God created it, blessed it, called it holy.

[Of course it has been twisted and dragged through some great rivers of mud, but that doesn’t make it twisted and muddy any more than all music turns into brain dead misogyny simply because a band called Limp Bizkit existed in the ‘90’s.]

So, I knew what I was going to talk about, and then I saw 2 young(er) girls sitting in front of me, and faced a moment of hesitation. Is this the sort of thing that will offend? Their parents are some of my very favorite people, will I get nasty phone calls questioning my judgment? What had I prepared exactly, was it in any way blue? Would it warrant a higher age rating on Netflix? Would I deserve those phone calls, if they came?

As it turns out, I didn’t pull back and I didn’t apologize. Maybe that was the way to go, and maybe it wasn’t. (I haven’t yet gotten any angry messages.) But the way I figure, the church has to have a voice in reclaiming words and concepts that have been hi-jacked and lost. These girls have, no doubt, heard much much worse in school hallways and on TikTok. Sex has been inexplicably referred to as “casual” more often than I can count even though we all know it’s not. A church that sees physical intimacy as completely taboo is doing us a huge disservice and creating a vacuum that (like all vacuums) will be filled, in porn sites if not in sermons.

But ultimately, the reason I talk about sex as often and as openly as I do (and it’s actually not that often, it only seems that way), to the horror of my boys, is because the Bible talks about sex openly, honestly, and very often. It’s there, in most of the books, whether we acknowledge it or not. It’s really important that we don’t just ignore the parts that make us uncomfortable. We’ve done that for too long and that pretending has allowed the beauty and truth of the Scriptures to become either irrelevant or a hammer used to hit others to prove our own tightly held opinions.

I hope nobody was scarred, I didn’t talk one second about the biology of sex (which is more than I can say about Song of Songs, a book with lots and lots of biology). But the way I see it, if it begins a conversation on respect, selfless giving & receiving, commitment, holy intimacy, and fidelity, then we will begin the long process of taking our sexuality back and returning it to where it belongs, back where the rest of us belong as well: in the arms of a loving God.

Chapter 2

I don’t know if you know this, if this has ever been your experience, but sometimes a Bible passage is difficult. Sometimes we don’t like it. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us. And other times, the passage simply leaves us unmoved. Last Sunday, I gave a message on one of these last kinds that felt a little aimless in my head.

(Maybe I shouldn’t say this, maybe I should have all the answers and be very certain about everything and never give voice to any doubt or anything less than wild enthusiasm. Sigh. If that’s what I’m ‘supposed’ to do, I guess I’m not what I’m ‘supposed’ to be. Or maybe this is exactly who I’m ‘supposed’ to be and what I’m ‘supposed’ to do. What I know is that it’s true and I’m way too old to spend time trying to pretend anymore. I did more than enough of that.)

So. When we get into a passage of Scripture that is difficult, for any reason, what do we do?

This reminds me of a close friend of mine who recently recounted a sermon she had heard in a church service that she did not like at all. She disagreed with most of it, and the other parts were just ok, and her reaction was super fun to watch as her passion boiled over. What was she to do with this? Obviously, a sermon isn’t the Bible, but is the process similar?

The first option is to skip it and move on. This was not available to me. The chapter (1 Corinthians 2) seemed to me redundant and unnecessary, but we go verse-by-verse at the Bridge. I know when passages are tricky or quite unpopular well in advance, ones like this are a bit surprising, but the result is the same. We have to address it. But in our personal lives, we can jump to chapter 3 and move forward.

The second, the one I chose, is to dive in, read, reread, reread again, reread 100 times, follow cross references, read commentaries, articles, pray, meditate, spend time with blank screens, take notes, delete the notes, discover contextual details, ask, seek, and knock. In Sunday’s case, after all of this, I still couldn’t find the hook.

Now, either one of these is a good option. The 3rd is the only one that isn’t, to close our Bibles and disengage. We figure the Bible is old and outdated, we don’t understand it, it’s hopeless, whatever.

As my friend and I talked about the sermon, the only path we would not take is to ignore it. In the Scriptures, if we get angry or vehemently disagree, why? There’s always a reason the text pricks us in a sensitive spot. Why is that? Why did that message affect her in that way? Why did that book, movie, person, interpretation, affect us in that way? Maybe that ‘why’ is exactly the point. That ‘why’ will end up asking more questions, often these soft spots are the places that invite us into the greatest growth.

If we don’t understand, why? Maybe we don’t understand because we need more information, discussion, time, prayer, or maybe we just don’t understand it now. Once I couldn’t swim, but later I could. I’m glad I didn’t get out of the water forever.

We must not quit and walk away. I tried to read the book A Clockwork Orange several times. It’s a hard read, with the language, the vocabulary, the subject matter. Twice I threw the book across the room, promising to NEVER again try to read such a piece of garbage. Then I’d pick it up again and stop early again. Then I finished it and it wasn’t at all garbage, it was brilliant, deep and important, and I am now an avowed Clockwork Orange evangelist.

So, about Sunday. 1. I think the natural vs spiritual is something we’ll come back to again and again. 2. The revelation of the Holy Spirit, the getting out of the way and allowing the Spirit to lead, is very important. Even as that is true, today I’m still missing the usual spark I feel about chapter 2. Maybe it’s just me, now, in this space, and the obstacle is wholly personal. I have no idea, but what I do know is that I can assure you that Sunday, and writing this today, aren’t the end of my wrestling with it. I’m finding this is what faith-ing is, a life walking with. It sure isn’t always firecrackers and mountain tops, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Waking Up

I touched on something Sunday in a Biblical/theological context, but I’m thinking more and more that it has wide reaching, wildly impactful applications if we only take it out into the streets and grocery stores and schools.

Speaking of schools, the first day for our local school district was yesterday. Last week, we circled the middle & high school while a group of us prayed over/for the students, staff, administration, and parents. I struggled with a big nagging question: what is my responsibility in all of this? First, what do I mean by “all of this?” The school district is no different from the rest of culture (and, to draw some parallels, the Corinthian church) in that they (we) are angry, frustrated, and all of the other adjectives that erupt from the root condition: divided. How do I (we) bring unity to a deeply fractured community? How do I help to heal, to replace insecurity with belonging, replace inadequacy with kindness and love? This is probably something we’ll explore here in the next few weeks, months, & years.

BUT today…

Familiarity with something breeds a certain unfamiliarity, neglect, and apathy. We take for granted the most extraordinary ideas and concepts. The BIG illustration Sunday was that “the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead” is inside each of us. How can that not change everything about the way we see everything? Easy, because we’ve heard it so many times, it’s become simply a collection of letters in an old book instead of the same power that raised Jesus Christ is inside of us. John 3:16, the Church, Communion, and on and on. There is no shortage of examples in the Scriptures.

Now think of our lives through these lenses. Of course there are a million conveniences that are modern miracles (including the mind-blowing one we are communicating on/through right now), but consider spouses, children, and friends, too.

If we begin to see all as gifts, do you think that could seismically shift the way we hold them?

I think we usually choose to view our days, possessions, and people through a paradigm of entitlement, through the twisted picture of what “I” deserve.

Maybe a change in perspective could eliminate the negativity, and the army of should’s. We can get anything we want from any area of the world at our grocery store, we can mostly afford the things we need, we can drive there at any time of the day or night, and be out quickly and easily. Instead, we complain that the prices are increasing, the cart wheels squeal, the others inside are too slow, it should be easier/cheaper/more convenient for me. Our desire for more obscures the very real wonder of what is.

My wife is gorgeous, capable, independent, funny, brilliant, and caring. (If you know her, you know I could continue this list, but I do have to stop at some point.) She’s well out of my league, but we’ve been together for over 20 years so I can focus on how she eats pretzels or on the music she listens to. I can drift from gratitude into the tragic distraction of how she should be doing the smallest, most trivial thing. Obviously, she should always be doing the thing the way I want her to, right?

If you look at any social media, you’ll see an avalanche of this exact mindset. The school should be doing (anything) like this. My neighbor should be parking, cutting his grass, voting the way I want. My kids should ______. The President/government/authorities should whatever. And this leads to a perpetual discontent.

I started this little diatribe with “Familiarity with something breeds a certain unfamiliarity, neglect, and apathy. We take for granted the most extraordinary.” I think what I’m really saying is that maybe that’s not the best thing for us, and maybe it’s costing us more than we can imagine. Jacob wakes up and says, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I was unaware.” I don’t want to be unaware anymore. If I could only open my eyes to the world around me, I bet I would see colors and textures and beauty that would leave me speechless. Maybe the only spiritual journey is one of waking up; to Jesus, faith, the Bible, ourselves, each other, love, peace, and the items on the grocery store shelves.