Wednesday, January 29, 2014

He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

January 28 2014

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 January 29, 2014

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

So yesterday morning I woke up weeping. So very many discouraging…as in sucking the heart out of me…thoughts crowded darkly into my mind. Memories of the previous day loomed in terrible replay mode in my unhappy dreams.  I felt alone, on a huge empty plain, with jagged fissures slicing deeply into hard-packed soil, with nary a single green sprig pushing upward. Alone under the bright cold sky with nary a raincloud on the horizon. And with my squeezed shut eyes I was Alone; me and Elijah in his rocky cave.

And then God let loose the heavens and raindrops of blessing pounded around me, refreshing and renewing. And well, washed the dust from my squinched eyes and well, yes, I was able to notice little green sprigs pushing upward through the caliche in all directions.  This compacted cement-like impermeable layer of life cannot resist the LORD God of heaven and earth Who is at work to both to will and to act for His good pleasure.

He is merciful. In that I can find peace. Amen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I feel less queasy if I fix my eyes on the Horizon

 My brothers, if any of you should wander away from the truth and another should turn him back on to the right path, then the latter may be sure that in turning a man back from his wandering course he has rescued a soul from death, and his loving action will “cover a multitude of sins”. James 5:19-20

So this is my dilemma. Day after day. I understand and believe that there are ways that my beloved brothers and sisters have wandered away from the truth. And this ache in my heart feels very much like proddings from the Holy Spirit. And I am trying to discern whether it is fear that binds my mouth shut, much along the lines of Moses, who fretted because he was a clumsy speaker and his fear of man, or whether it is obedience to being quick to listen and slow to speak. Or perhaps, and this is what wakes me up at night, is it for such a time as this that God has placed me in my spheres of influence? Or am I to continue quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness? Who am I to judge a brother? Back and forth, like a seasick sailor tossed by the winds.

And that should not be.  And if, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

And there you have it, James. May I trust in God, with no reservations, but with heaps of humility and love. May my life prove to be good soil to receive the seed, and may it come up, grow and produce a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Marching around the walls of Jericho

If any of you is in trouble let him pray. If anyone is flourishing let him sing praises to God.

If anyone is ill he should send for the Church elders. They should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. Believing prayer will save the sick man; the Lord will restore him and any sins that he has committed will be forgiven. You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed.

Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer. Do you remember Elijah? He was a man like us but he prayed earnestly that it should not rain. In fact, not a drop fell on the land for three and a half years. Then he prayed again, the heavens gave the rain and the earth sprouted with vegetation as usual. James 5:13-18

The thing is about James is his straightforward practicality. And yet, how so often Christians don’t live by what he says.  So often I don’t live by what he says. We are indeed so quick to turn to Him in prayer when problems hit; the corresponding action is praise during the flourishing moments; All good gifts come from Him, the Father of Lights.

A big gift and unifying thread throughout James is that of Christian community. A place to confess sins, to share troubles, to give praise to God, and to pray for one another. And tremendous power is made available here. Certainly I will always remember Cindy’s, “Have you asked the elders to anoint Heather with oil and prayer,” and she was healed. And the Church is where we come to an end of ourselves. The end of I can do it on my own. Well, me and Jesus. It is home instead to mutual submission, mutual humility, mutual equality, mutual mercy, with no judging and tearing each other apart.

And just now there is a sense of expectancy. Aslan is on the move, and together, We the Church are looking expectantly upward to the heavens; let the rain fall down.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kindly communicate whether the contestant can stay in the bee

For our example of the patient endurance of suffering we can take the prophets who have spoken in the Lord’s name. Remember that it is usually those who have patiently endured to whom we accord the word “blessed!” You have heard of Job’s patient endurance and how God dealt with him in the end, and therefore you have seen that the Lord is merciful and full of understanding pity for us men. James 5:10-11

Certainly the patient endurance of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me puts any perceived suffering into a humbled perspective.  However it is true that the journey is not… painless. And the light on the path sometimes glows dimly. 

But how my heart lifts with the promise of The Lord’s nature, His who He is: is merciful and full of understanding pity for us men. This is our hope and the good news we bring to a broken and bruised world trapped in darkness.

Weston shared a word with me this morning, grappling with soul-rending dream: I want you to understand what I feel when a tiny one dies, when a precious child of mine, yet unborn, is killed. You pray to know My ways— These are My ways. My children must give voice to the voiceless. Stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Fight for the rights of all who are helpless and destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, My children, for your brothers and sisters.

You must share in My sufferings to walk in My ways. You must take up your cross to follow Me. For my creation waits in eager expectation for My children to rise up, cloaked in My justice, wreathed in mercy, wrought with compassion, clothed in humility, and enflamed with courage. My army of lovers will hear My voice. My kids will liberate from bondage the poor and needy; they will rescue the destitute and hopeless ones. They will stand for justice when others silently ignore the sufferings of others.

Once again, James repeats, highlights, and underscores the teaching of Jesus:
Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

In this my heart may take hope and be full of joy, even as it carries a weight of tenderness for the aching world.

And it is a bit befuddling to know how this calling and knowing fits into my quite mundane world of washing dishes and folding clothes and listening to Shakespeare monologues and yes, I am about to pop into the car to be the Spell Master at a local spelling bee full of nervous children clutching long lists of words and even more anxious parents clutching mugs of Starbucks, which is beyond ironic for any who really knows me. 

I so remember that moment of staring totally blankiy at my dad when he explained to me that it did indeed matter how I spelled there, their, and they’re, and that my random rotation of the words throughout my writing just wouldn’t cut it in the real world. People might think I was stupid.

So off I go. With the burden of the world weighing lightly, because He is holding it. And He is merciful and full of understanding pity for us men.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Time to clean out the closets

And now, you plutocrats, is the time for you to weep and moan because of the miseries in store for you! Your richest goods are ruined, your hoard of clothes is moth-eaten, your gold and silver are tarnished. Yes, their very tarnish will be the evidence of your wicked hoarding and you will shrink from them as if they were red-hot. You have made a fine pile in these last days, haven’t you? But look, here is the pay of the reaper you hired and whom you cheated, and it is shouting against you! And the cries of the other labourers you swindled are heard by the Lord of Hosts himself. Yes, you have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full. You have picked out just what you wanted like soldiers looting after battle. You have condemned and ruined innocent men in your career, and they have been powerless to stop you. James 5:1-6

The Lord of Hosts will see that justice is done. Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. He is faithful.

Yet this promise follows His call on how I am to live: and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. I am His arm, I am His ear. May I not be short or dull. And may I not settle for, nay, strive for that which moths will destroy and time will tarnish.

And all that will be left are heaps of rubble as a marker proof of misspent priorities.

I am small and of little account, yet I do not forget your commandments. Your justice is an everlasting justice and your law is the truth. The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting; grant me understanding, that I may live. Psalm 119:142-144

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of His salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of His marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

He gives us grace potent. James 4:5

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

a long obedience in the same direction

Never pull each other to pieces, my brothers. If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticise the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbour’s judge? James 4: 11-12

This Scripture is not saying “Just mind your own business, keep your nose clean and don’t worry about anyone else.” Rather our role in The Life of the Community is to encourage one another to love and good deeds. Without shredding.

I feel the weight of this every day in the classroom–not to get distracted by the huge bombastic (often political–I am open game now that I have confessed to bing a registered Independent) statements made my know-it-all kiddos, but rather to leave the Spirit to shine light on what is True And Of Value.

Right now, sometimes it is the case of maybe-I-should-have-saids, when what I actually said was, “Make sure you have copied this agreed-upon definition of ‘stewardship.’” Leaning into Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. As I learn to step into Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.

And what can I do but once again ask for wisdom, the wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favouritism or hint of hypocrisy. And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves.

A long obedience in the same direction. A pilgrimage. One of my students (from a long time ago) posted on Facebook this morning that she is walking El Camino de Santiago this summer and was wondering what sort of shoes she should wear…and the advise was all the same: Good sturdy, well-broken-in boots: A real down-hill-loose-rock-muddy-knee-and-ankle buster adventure. Bring trekking poles. And a good knife to cut the mud off of the boots in front of the Alberque.

And yesterday Matteo posted a video of his summer pilgrimage, and it was hot and long and it really helped when passers-by squirted refreshing water on the weary travelers. But it was also a journey of joy, of laughter and song and companionship under the overarching beauty of God’s love.

Good images as I head out into the day. To whatever He has for me. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.