Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our challenge is to find the light through shadows of violence and oppression, pain and loss. Psalm 108:1-4,

My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
   I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:1-4

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon.  I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Ruth 4:10

During my free moments, I am reading In the Land of the Blue Burqas, written by a Christian woman who left her nice settled quiet life in the United States to start an NGO to serve the suffering women of Afghanistan. And she shares gently told stories of Jesus in a harsh and unforgiving land to people who have lived the headlines that we read from the comfort of our own homes and have lived more painful injustice than we can possibly imagine. And again and again she connects the Holy books that come from Allah: the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Holy Quran. The chapter titles read like this: “How do we respond when evil is done to us?” “How do we respond to insult?” and Who can judge?”

Yeah, and pretty much the accepted cultural norms, the way things are done, are a continuous stream. Continuous that is until Jesus steps into history and smashes them all to bits. Again and again she recounts the peace and the joy and the love He offers to a broken world.

The anonymous author was not always a Christian; in fact she was a thoughtful, basically existentialist agnostic. But she took up an exasperated gauntlet challenge to read the Bible for herself. And she started in Genesis and waded through it. It took several months for me to read the book, but the results were cataclysmic in my life. In the pages of the Old Testament, I met the god of the universe and found Him beautiful. I was astonished, first, by how honest the Old Testament is about the nature of people. We’re always running off in the wrong directions. I suppose I expected the Bible to make all those Jewish heroes look perfect, but it didn’t. Every one of them seemed to put his foot down in his own throat, and that was a thing I recognized. What really captivated my attention was God’s unremitting love, His patience and willingness to continuously forgive and restore.

And today I am packing up all of my stuff into cooler boxes pulled out of the recycle bin behind Big 5 Sporting Goods on my way home from dropping my bicycle at Cameron’s and dropping by an extra bicycle seat at Anglie’s to take to Dustin next week when they all land in Naples and dropping by Costco to pick up a year’s worth of contact lenses and dropping by yet another super big black trash bag of clothes at the Salvation Army. Then I sorted through the pile on my bed yesterday, and picked out just enough clothing to easily fit into that black backpack, along with my hammock and an international electrical plug and my passport, with a few extra modest things I slid into the Erbil suitcase of Wali’s gifts for refugees. I threw away my two favorite pairs of shoes, my brown Birkenstocks and my black Keens that have made it through the last three summer adventures, because really, they both had deep holes worn all the way through the soles.

And tomorrow Zach is coming over to help me haul it all into the storage shed.

It sure was a long slow drop-my-nets-and-follow-Him process, but may the LORD God fill me with a steadfast heart. A steadfast that will give thanks, a steadfast heart that will sing songs of praise, all day long.