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Showing posts from May, 2011

Earthy Spirituality

Jean-Fran├žois Millet, TheGleaners (1857)

"The book of Ruth introduces us to an 'earthy spirituality' - earthy in that it deals with ordinary people coping with everyday life, and spirituality in that the characters of the story are alive to God. Life is messy, making theology untidy at times. This is especially true when it seems as if the Almighty has dealt bitterly with us (Ruth 1:20-21). Recall the words of Jesus: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). The story of Ruth shows us that God is able to undertake and make the necessary provisions to help those in 'trouble' overcome their circumstances. In fact, the story of Ruth is one of a series of biblical sequels to the lesson Abraham and Isaac learned on Mt. Moriah - God is Jehovah Jireh, 'the Lord will provide" (Gen. 22:14). This is why Jesus is able to assure his followers that the heavenly Father is ever ready to provide for u…

Fidelity

They sat eagerly engaged,
this young man and his soon to be
wife,
smiling upon me as they surely smiled
for all the world to see.
Full of the giddiness that comes when
idealism and love
interlock hands and gaze.

I asked them where they would like to be
twenty-five years from now.
He said in their home, with children, working,
going about life.
She the same.
And I hope that for them, too:
a stable, nurturing place
no longer driven by idealism,
but the patient, long-suffering love
that can sustain a life together
as husband and wife.

He sat in the chair as though
a stranger to himself,
looking for that one to cling to
who was no more,
for whom his heart ached.

72 years of life together
had impressed itself upon him;
he knew not how to make time pass
without her presence.

I asked him what he remembered
from twenty-five years ago
from fifty, from seventy-two.
And with the tears pooling,
he told me of his bride to be
sitting in his '36 Ford,
and about dressing her up last Satur…

Luther's Prayer

Yesterday, we came to the end of Paul's passionately persistent letter to the Christians in Galatia. In my own reading for the class, I stumbled upon this prayer from Martin Luther, which is well worth repeating - especially since it is my own prayer for us as a church:

"May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Justifier and Savior, who has granted me the grace and ability to expound this epistle and has granted you the grace and ability to hear it, preserve and confirm both you and me. From the heart I pray that we may grow more and more in the knowledge of grace and of faith in Him, so that we may be blameless and beyond reproach until the day of our redemption. To Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen. Amen." - Luther's Lectures on Galatians, 1535

Life is Rich and Thick

One of my mentors in ministry is Rex McDaniel who pastors a congregation in South Pasadena. I served under Rex for a few years while completing my seminary education. Once a week, I would ride my bike away from the pleasant confines of the academic life, and I would go sit in a chair in Rex's office. It was there I learned much about what pastoral work was really like, and Rex was a great teacher - helping me understand how to love and pray for and be with a people as life handed out hard knocks and small moments of joy.

Rex had an expression he often shared with me to capture the ups and downs of life. "Wes-man ... life is rich and thick." Another time he went on to explain a bit further his choice of words. Life, so Rex explained to me, is like a milkshake, a good "thick" milkshake. It is full of good and much to enjoy, but it often seems that the goodness of it comes only after the "thickness" of it all, those rough patches when …

For God So Loved the World

"Out ofcharity let us pray
for the great ones of politics
and war, the intellectuals,
scientists, and advisors,
the golden industrialists,
the CEOs, that they to
may wake to a day without hope
that in their smallness they
may know the greatness of Earth
and Heaven by which they so far
live, that they may see
themselves in their enemies,
and from their great wants fallen
know the small immortal
joys of beasts and birds.”-Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems 2007, III

Every few days or so, someone says it to me. They throw it out there as a matter of fact. Usually it comes after the conversation has turned towards world politics, the price of gasoline, or something else that seems really complicated, messy, and daunting. Several weeks ago someone said it after we had been discussing the general turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and the news that Mubarak had stepped down from his seat of power in Egypt.

"I think it’s just further evidence that the world is going to end,” he said, which le…

A Bit of Mystery

"They say Aslan is on the move - perhaps has already landed,' said Mr. Beaver.

"And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning - either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside."

- From C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

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The magic and mystery of the world has all but drained out these days as the world has becoming frighteningl…