Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New every morning.

Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Psalm 90:14

 Do not be conformed to the thinking of this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Christians need one another. God's Word – the good news of forgiveness, reconciliation, and new creation in Jesus Christ – does not spring naturally from the human heart or intellect. It can only be communicated through the witness in word and deed of faithful believers listening attentively to one another, actively helping one another, and bearing one another. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, through such practical yet essential ministry, Christians are able to become proclaimers of God’s Word for and to one another. In a multiplicity of ways, the ministry or service Christians offer is that of meeting one another as bringers of the message of salvation. Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Well, even after all of last night’s Blood Red Super Eclipse hoopla, it is still there. Silently still. A full moon low over the western horizon greeting the new day of pinky golden wisps in the east. A new day. Every day. And sometimes the night whispers dark sad thoughts to me, and I wake up unrefreshed and weary, weighted down by the cares of the day before it even begins.

And Sunday was a beautiful reminder of the unexpected. Because He is like that. I woke up raspy throated and sneezy and tired before I even started up Sentential Peak as usual. And I managed to talk myself out of the weekly discipline, and turned around after only a mile, convinced of its hopelessness and settled on a quick vuelta around Reid Park.

But at the corner I bumped into one of those bicycle clumps. Twenty people hunched over their road bikes that cost more than their cars and their feet neatly clipped into their pedals. And I asked if I could join, and they asked if I were a safe rider, and I didn’t know how to answer that, so I asked where we were going. To Sahuaro National Park East. Like a 44-mile loop. And btw this is a training group for El Tour of Tucson with no dropping.

Sort of like those Yogi Berra quotes. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

And I did it.

And how beautiful those rolling hills are in the bright morning light.

Reverend Susan talked about courage yesterday too. And opening different doors.

And maybe this new day thing is a reminder that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. To be reminded what a fresh start is like because we need it every single morning as we head out into the world of people proclaiming the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation.

To a proclaimer of God’s Word because it is written all over who I am. In word and deed.

And last night the Monday night group talked about loving my brother. As in if you say you love God and do not love your brother, you lie.

God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the Creator. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction. God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather in his very freedom from me God made this person in His image. I can never know beforehand how God's image should appear in others. That image always manifests a completely new and unique form that comes solely from God's free and sovereign creation. To me the sight may seem strange, even ungodly. But God creates every man in the likeness of His Son, the Crucified. After all, even that image certainly looked strange and ungodly to me before I grasped it. Bonheoffer, Life Together

And a helpful thing is that each and every one of my kiddos has stitched across his or her chest in bright colors, “Image of God.”

May He give me eyes to see.

Friday, September 25, 2015

An extra serving of beans with a sprinkle of cotija.

Again He said, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God with? It is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was all leavened all through.’ Luke 13:20–21

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

A discipline of patience reveals itself not only in the way we pray but in the way we act. Our actions, like our prayers, must be a manifestation of God’s compassionate presence in the midst of our world. Patient actions are actions through which the healing, consoling, comforting, reconciling, and unifying love of God can touch the heart of humanity. They are actions through which the fullness of time can show itself and God’s justice and peace can guide our world. They are actions by which good news is brought to the poor, liberty to the prisoners, new sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and God’s year of favor is proclaimed. Henri Nouwen, Compassion

Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly; and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

One last question Matteo asked was if I was making lots of my bread. One would figure with five guys in the house that I would be making loaves and loaves of bread. But it is more of a beans and tortillas and store-bought white bread sort of household these days, and lots of that and not so much of the fresh-out-of-the-oven, in the metal pans from King Arthur’s Bakery pierced with holes, sprinkled with sesame seeds sort.

But I do know about yeast.

So what is this kingdom of God? This tiny mustard seed revolution, from its humble beginnings in an obscure Galilean village?   The good news passes from transformed heart to transformed heart, changing from within, bubbling throughout the entire mass. Slowly, steadily, the sweet scent of hope and grace fills the place. And brings nourishment, sustenance to all.

Just like that ol’ mustard seed which becomes a mighty tree, where birds perch and make nests in its branches.  

And yesterday was Panchita Day, and if anyone knows her, her presence permeates the house. Beyond the scent of bleach and Pine Sol and drying laundry. And yesterday, surprise, I was pretty beat-up weary so she made dinner for the boys, one of the twelve different rice dishes for which she is famous, with chopped up celery and carrots and onions and garlic, and smooshed-up pinto beans and corn tortillas heated to a edged with black crispiness, and man, it was delicious.

It might be a bit of a stretch to compare Panchita to the Kingdom of God but she does work in mysterious ways. One can never tell which direction she is headed. And she certainly uncovers dark spaces that need to be brought to light.

And that ol’ Panchita can talk. I rescued a few young men who had stumbled into her web. But on the way home, I listened to how God’s word had come alive. And all those books Mary Anne always used to give her every Christmas and she didn’t get them and was kinda frustrated with such a useless gift, but everything is changed. And now God’s word brings clarity and peace to her heart. And those books make sense now and are almost all finished. And I said that was the Holy Spirit who helps us understand. And Panchita lit up and told me how His presence was working His way through her life.

Just like yeast.

And yesterday I took one of my groups of Enrichment kids over to the bus stop to interview people with some extra time on their hands. And we are trying to figure out what this writing moment is going to be, whether it will be a newspaper or an arts magazine or a yearbook or just writing things to submit to contests, but they all wanted their first topic to be their favorite famous person because that gave them plenteous excuse to watch YouTubes on classroom time.

And the survey we put together asked about fame, and whom these hanger-arounders would like to eat dinner with. And they all pretty much agreed on Pope Francis. And again and again my kiddos heard from people on the streets that when it was all said and done, and fame and fortune and talent and power are all taken into consideration, humility was the trait that mattered.

And may my actions be God’s compassionate presence in the midst of our world.

And a discipline of patience. Yep. I better bind that as a sign on my hand, and as frontlets between my eyes. I sure lost it yesterday as a cadre of seventh graders stomped all over my clever lesson plans. I felt like me that they were stomping all over me instead. And I wept during our at-the-end-of-the-day gratitude moment. I was not feeling very grateful.

But we are all being transformed. Them. Me. All of us. As the kingdom works among and in us.

And today may I be about my Father’s business, quietly, humbly living out His word in patient actions through which the healing, consoling, comforting, reconciling, and unifying love of God can touch the heart of humanity. To hold fast to that which shall endure, things heavenly and of His kingdom.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fingerprints all over the place.

You are my God, and I will thank you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Psalm 118:28

So another thing Matteo and I talked about yesterday was maybe we needed to write a book trying to figure out why this journey is so hard, every single day. Every single day we need manna; we can’t store it up. Every single day we ask for our daily bread. Every single day we need to wash off our dusty feet. I mean, Jesus himself had to pray in solitude before each pushing, shoving single day.

Lest we even pretend for even a moment that we are not clinging to His hand.

But He is faithful. And His mercies are new every day.  Even in the early evening when I walk out of Fry’s after a long hard school day with some soggy paper bags that rip open and spill out eggs and pears all over the pavement. And I whisper or perhaps mutter, Dear God I need some gladness, and from my kneeling down position I glance upward, and there He is, written all over the Tucson sky.
photo by Carlos Azarte

And the day before a whole carton of eggs fell out of the refrigerator door. So we ate bacon and roasted tomato and basil omelets.

With toast.

And I will thank you. You are my God. I will exalt you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On the portals He’s waiting and watching.

Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things. Psalm 98:1

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:11

In Western Christianity, September 21 is the feast of St. Matthew. Jesus’ calling of Matthew, a publican and tax collector, scandalized the Pharisees and left the Church lasting proof of His saving compassion.

As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.’ Matthew 9:9-13

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

So yesterday I got a surprise Skype from Matteo. Well, Skype wasn’t working so we googled whatever. And I think the purpose of the phone call was to simply say, “God makes beautiful things. He is making me new.”

He has done, and is doing marvelous things.

And Matteo said an odd thing yesterday, “ I could die now.” But upon consideration, he is exactly right. If he died now, it would be a pretty seamless transition into heaven. He lives in a Christian community, nestled in the top
floor of an ancient something or other overlooking the two towers in Bologna. And I got a brief tour of the room, of the small chapel set up for worship, of the skylight that glows over where he practices his violin, of the small bed tidy in the corner. And they do the Acts Two thing, cooking and cleaning and sharing. Matteo’s job is to maintain the organic compost pile.  The streets outside are filled with music and food and stories and then there is this little nest when he needs to curl up under His Father’s wing and be still. And this is what we were created for, relationship. Relationship with God. With each other. And with our self.

And before he hung up, Matteo asked if he could pray for me. And he prayed over me the very verses that I had just read moments before: Sing to the Lord a new song. And may our loving God fill my heart with a new song. And later, in morning chapel, Imago Dei read together Psalm 51 yet one more time, repeating in community: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. And Sunday, when I went to City Vineyard to hear Mary Anne teach on Haggai and God’s call to build His temple, we sang You make beautiful things out of the dust, and when Cameron Hood sings that song, I weep for joy.

And that is what Jesus is all about, seeking to save that which was lost.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

And Mary Anne’s teaching was all about this call word too.

How did the LORD help His people overcome the enemy and get them out of their rut?
He was patient with them.
He lovingly disciplined them
He sent His world through the prophets: what they were doing wrong, and how to change it.

He calls us to prepare our hearts: We must forgive in order to be forgiven.
He calls us to be filled with His Spirit.
He calls us to know our spiritual gifts and use them.
He calls us to build His house together so He might more fully dwell among us

And now, thanks to google.com which now permeates every aspect of my life, I have a clear image of what my heart, His home, might look like. The room with a view looking outwards.