Monday, March 31, 2014

For Jonah, spewing meant a new beginning

‘These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation: I know what you have done, and that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were either cold or hot! but since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I intend to spit you out of my mouth! While you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need’, you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is purified in the furnace so that you may be rich, and white garments to wear so that you may hide the shame of your nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes to make you see. All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent. Revelation 3:14-20

So for some reason Fred is bringing down his middle school kids on a field trip to Heather and Dustin’s house and have them explain what it means to minister to the poor.  And although Heather and Dustin live across from the Primavera homeless outreach and just down the block from Without Borders, it’s really not about passing out donuts and gospels of John at the neighborhood park. And it’s not about inviting people to church to hear a sermon and go forward for prayer, although these are not bad things. They are just not the thing. These are activities for a to do list. So then we can move onto the next item on the list, like write some thank you notes to those amazing family members in California or I really need to clean out the cupboard next to the ironing board. Which are also not bad things.

And oh yes, I am rich and have nothing that I need. I mean, I ate brunch at the Pebble Beach Golf Course Beach House yesterday. Pretty spiffy.  And next week I am going to be on a team of clever dedicated educators accrediting an amazing school surrounded by snow-capped Rocky Mountains. And the next week I am going to be sleeping in the dirt with 800 happy teenagers and playing “Pato, Pato, Pavo” with cute neighborhood kids and sipping coconuts under a palm tree. Pretty easy to slide into complacency.

And because I am pretty tired and late for school… I am going to cheat and share from Heather, because these are the words that I am going to take into my day, my very full day.

God is SO much bigger than these trite little phrases and cute little boxes. God is so much more REAL.  I think as Dustin and I searched and explored, we began to realize that there is no divide between the sacred and the secular, between “Christian” life and just plain everyday life. Because the Holy Spirit is in us, every activity is sacred and a spiritual act of worship. I don’t want to sound wishy-washy...because actually, living out church every day, day-in, day-out requires careful listening to where the Holy Spirit is requires faithful responsiveness and attentiveness to His voice. But with that, small interactions become meaningful.  

For example...Dustin was hanging out with little mighty mouse the other day when he noticed that our neighbor to the south of us was back in town after being gone for a month or so.  He felt a little micro nudging in her direction and so he just went over and knocked on her door.  As it turns out, her son had just passed away from cancer.  She lives alone here in Tucson and didn’t really have anyone to talk to.  Dustin meant to just stop by and say, “welcome back,” but instead it turned into an hour and a half visit where he could just be present with her and hear her story- helping her to feel known and loved.  

Isn’t that the gospel?  The good news.  That God knows us and loves.  I think as Christians, our number one job is to extend out that love towards others.  One of Dustin and my life-verses is John 13:34- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. We don’t particularly have all the answers, we are still desperately wrestling with “What does it mean to live a life pursuing Christ,” but I do think that over and over Jesus reminds us that it really boils down to love.  By loving well, people like Sloane experience Jesus.  

Repent. See with fresh eyes. Smear your salve, Lord Jesus, with whatever it takes. Amen.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

the restorative mist rolls in every dawn

Then all the Churches will know that I am the one who searches men’s hearts and minds, and that I will reward each one of you according to your deeds. Revelation 2:23

I have been thinking about by your fruits you shall know them all weekend from Carmel-by-the-Sea where I have been dropped smackdab into the middle of oh-so-many-of-Alan-childhood stories,

And the six cousins and their wives and their children and sundry tag-a-longs such as myself all gathered in a sprawling mansion at the very top of the hillside overlooking the shimmering sea to celebrate the eighty-fifth birthday of Uncle Bob.

The candles glowed brightly, the horseradish-smeared prime rib and bacon-drizzled roasted potatoes were yummy, and every conversation had both depth and heft. And as Uncle Bob rose up to welcome the accolades it was clear what his fruit was, what would remain: the roomful of bold, creative, kindly, generous and very tall souls. And the stories are not always neat and tidy and certainly there was a fair amount of pruning parts, but that is how are hearts are made tender for fresh growth. And the seeds were sown deeply in fertile soil, often the path less traveled.

And the beach slopes are covered with flowering succulents that take one’s breath away with their unique beauty, each and every one.

And there will come a time when all of the empty words and hollow vows will burn away, And we will know the One who searches hearts and minds.

And until that day, may I abide, remain.

I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresser. He removes any of my branches which are not bearing fruit and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield. Now, you have already been pruned by my words. You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for the firewood. But if you live your life in me, and my words live in your hearts, you can ask for whatever you like and it will come true for you. This is how my Father will be glorified—in your becoming fruitful and being my disciples. John 15

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Faithful one hundred percent

I know your powers of endurance—how you have suffered for the sake of my name and have not grown weary. But I hold this against you, that you do not love as you did at first. Remember then how far you have fallen. Repent and live as you lived at first. Revelation 2:3-4

I am not called to be Horton the Elephant.

So Horton kept sitting there, day after day.
And soon it was Autumn.  The leaves blew away.
And then came the Winter…the snow and the sleet!
And icicles hung
From his trunk and his feet.
But Horton kept sitting, and said with a sneeze,
“I’ll stay on this egg and I won’t let it freeze.
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant…
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!”

And while I just read that we are called to faithful endurance, it’s not an endurance just for sake of the endurance. I can be looking down the feet and counting footsteps rather than looking upward and catching a glimpse of He who goes ahead, the flash of white, a turned head, the look.

And as I read and reread this passage, the church at Ephesus is not being commended for not tolerating wickedness and “putting to the test self-styled ‘apostles.’” Really what He whose face was ablaze like the sun at its height said was, “Yes, I know who you are, that you work, work, work and are ever so strict about doctrine and behavior, and it is absolutely worthless.” All of this suffering and holiness is nothing. His call to Ephesus is to repent or to lose their lampstand. And how have they turned to the own path? They have lost their first love. Somehow their faith had turned into a to do list chiseled into stone, and a them against us fight.

So in class yesterday, as we were starting to read Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which books burn, we read this quote: A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.  And I asked the kids to think about what book was a loaded gun in their life? That blew to bits the same old, same old? Think about when you read it...What words stuck… the setting when you read it… who you were at the time… And they had great answers. Wow. That made me so grateful for books.

And my mind was swirling with books…Little BearThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or everything else by Lewis, The Idiot by Dostoevsky …I could list books all day. But one that pierced my heart over and over with its bullets was The Bronze Bow.

“Daniel, he said. I would have you follow me.

Master! I will fight for you to the end!

My loyal friend, he said, I would ask something much harder than that. Would you love for me to the end?

I don't understand, he said again. You tell people about the kingdom. Are we not to fight for it?

The kingdom is only bought at a great price, Jesus said. There was one who came just yesterday and wanted to follow me. He was very rich, and when I asked him to give up his wealth, he went away.

I will give you everything I have!

Riches are not keeping you from the kingdom, he said. You must give up your hate.” 

And because I had lots of time on the plane to Carmel-by-the-Sea, I read and reread the John letters and the Jesus to His disciple passages in the Epistle of John. John does talk a lot in his letters about not sinning, about not be of the world. But the big thing is to bear fruit–fruit that will last– and to love one another. Once again I am reminded of what is true and good and of eternal value. So be it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Not all those who wander are lost.

I, John, who am your brother and your companion in the distress, the kingdom and the faithful endurance to which Jesus calls us. Revelation 1:9

Yep. The Kingdom is now. But it comes in the midst of distress and endurance. And Brandon and I were talking last night at family dinner about how for every single swim practice, we stand at the edge of pool and hesitate before the long expanse in front of us.  Every single day. A huge pause before the plunge.

And yep, Peterson sort of nailed it, with his Long obedience in the same direction idea.

And I am grateful for my brothers and companions in the distress. And last night we gathered under the dark, dark blue starlit sky in the bouncy metal patio chairs around Tim-cooked kabobs and brown rice and mom’s bread dipped in great olive oil and salsa almost too hot for Dustin and little Everette galloping around in the dust, so very aware of the goodness in the warm presence of the fellowship of the unashamed.

And my head is crammed full of Subvert the Norm lesson plans that I am getting excited about for Fahrenheit 451 and me, te, se, lo, la direct objects and energy production and tents and coolers and posterboards of song lyrics and early morning conversations about very big things with people I love so much and snatched phrases humming in the background and go go go. But pause before the plunge.

Jesus calls us.

And thank you for the brothers and companions. And thank you for the kingdom in the midst of the distress and endurance.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.