Wednesday

what I learned today

You learn something new every day. And today I heard this story of two Moravian missionaries to the West Indies. Here's a neat youtube video of someone preaching the story:



Now, I'm a missionary. We get patted on the back and thanked for what we do. And I'm ok with that because...what else am I going to do, slap people's hands away? We get put on a silly pedestal both in the US and in Guatemala because missionaries are...I don't even know. I guess people think we're special.

Well, we're not.

Those two young men who sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery, they are special. They are radical. They are the real deal. Jenny and I always say that if we didn't have kids (or at least little kids) that we would want to go somewhere the gospel is not. You know, out to the boonies where they speak in clicks. But what kind of faith is that? Really? I know that we have a responsibility to our family. I get that. I embrace that. I even fight for it. And we're not leaving Guatemala anytime soon because the Lord called us here and we have work to do. And that work is valuable - it's making disciples and serving the Body of Christ to help her be more healthy. I also understand that not everyone is called to that kind of sacrifice, to that kind of mission. I don't expect everyone to jump on a boat and sail to the outer reaches to preach the gospel where there are no roads or lights or Coca Colas. But shouldn't we expect a little more of one another?

Anyone who knows me very well knows I struggle with ups and downs. I struggle with doing too much or too little. I struggle with self-discipline. I get easily distracted. [squirrel!] and get off track, off task and out of whack. To think that these two men went to an island so that people who were truly slaves could know the Jesus who gives a freedom that none can take away makes me evaluate my life and ask myself, "What entangles me? What is of value? Am I really giving my life to Christ or just pretending?"

Paul tells us in Ephesians to be careful how we walk, not as unwise men (and women) but as wise. We are to redeem (or make the most of) our time because the days are evil. Do I really believe that? Because if I believe it, I ought live my life in a way that reflects that reality.

That story of the Moravians just makes me want to ask the Lord, "What else do you want me to do and how can I do what I'm doing better?" If to live is Christ and to die is gain, what does that actually look like? Does that mean I get to do whatever I want? No. Does it mean I get to live an amazing life in these few short years I walk by faith? Yes.

I fear for the future in the Americas. Not just in the US, but here in Guatemala. When Christianity becomes a product we analyze and sell and market and tweak instead of a reality we live we lose the whole point. When church becomes something we maintain instead of a community who loves a person and is chomping at the bit to tell the whole world about his love and how to walk with him we stop being disciples and just play church.

Whew. What a mind blowing day. Ok...I'm off to apply what I've learned before another squirrel derails me.

Thursday

Oh, goodness

We get an ABC feed out of L.A.  On September 11 we were able to sit with our kids and watch and listen and answer their questions.  Ten years is a lot of process time so we viewed those events through a decade of rumination. Our oldest is 5 and was the source of every inquiry as we watched planes crash and buildings fall and leaders lead and people serve.

We watched President Obama read Psalm 46. It's pretty cool when the president reads any Psalm, but Psalm 46 is particularly marvelous. It begins:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and 
Though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea."

That's a lot to hold onto. Say what you will about President Obama, he is a very important man and he read a text far more important than he. The Psalm ends like this:

"The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold"

That's huge. You can say God all day long, but you say the God of Jacob and you narrow things down dramatically. There's only one of those: the God of Jacob. And he is with us. That's huge.

While watching the coverage I saw a speech that then President Bush had made shortly after 9/11 where he said this:

"Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it…good will prevail."

Say what you will about Bush, that's a pretty good line in a speech and it resonated deeply in the heart of Americans. But it brings up a question that is immensely important:

Who defines good and evil? If there is a good vs. evil they have to be different. A house divided cannot stand, right? 

I have had this conversation with numerous folks: What is good/truth/right/wrong? Some things seem (at least to most people) universally wrong: killing children, corporate theft, abuse of the weak. Other things are less clear to folks: sexual promiscuity, abortion, lying. You could add or subtract any number of things from either list. And that seems to be the issue: how do you determine what is "good" and what is "evil"?

We throw the word "good" around quite a bit. "He's a good person." I've heard many people say, after a person behaves heinously, "I don't understand. She's such a good person."

Hmmm.

I have been influenced greatly by A.W. Tozer. His book Knowledge of the Holy is...anointed. The Lord used that man to put some amazing things into words and onto pages. He says this in a chapter titled, "The Justice of God":

"Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so."

That clears things up. Doesn't it? 

What goes through your head when you read that? Does it seem fair? Unfair? How do you define "good"? If I let God define the standard, then the pressure is off of me. I just point to him and say, "He's good. Anyone that doesn't act like him is not behaving 'good'." Bad grammar, same point. He is the standard. He's God - we're not. When we blur that line everything gets fuzzy. To fully explain to us how God acts, he sends Jesus as the incarnate diety: God with skin on. He's the revelation of all that we need to know in order to understand that which is good.

Our culture tends to shun judgment until we see something clearly evil. Then we cry out, "Justice!" and want something done. We have defined good to suit our comfort instead of placing ourselves under the God who IS good and then when we need clarification going to the Bible (his revelation of himself to us) to clear things up. If a man took a kitten and cut her up into little pieces while she was still alive (a truly horrid thought) we would rightly cry out. We would be vehement! We would cry out not merely for justice but for vengeance.

You see where I’m going, of course. Where is the outcry against abortion? Infidelity? Lying? Our world has made goodness a matter of convenience and deflection. They have to be good, but I don’t. We like to point fingers and judge intentions and try to cover up the grace we so desperately want for ourselves.

It is not easy too look to God and say, “What you say goes.” Doing so requires the rarest of attitudes: humility. The rare occasions where I am humble come from the collision of my sin and God’s goodness. I see myself in light of his majesty, holiness and grace and can but bow my head and plead, “mercy” to the God who is good and does good. And I find him always merciful. Always gracious. Always good. Most pointedly when I am not.

When I need to know what is good (or evil) I have only to look to God and I have my answer. He has given it to us not in search engines or periodicals or think tanks but in the strangest of forms: a person named Jesus. He is the goodness to which we are all compared and we are good or evil to the degree in which we conform to his nature.

Whew. I am deeply thankful that I am still in that process and that God has not given up on me. He certainly has his work cut out for him. 


Saturday

cartoons and spirituality

And this is the Ramble Zone so, here's some Ramble.

Saturday Morning.

I guess that has a different ring for different people. My formative years were the 1980's.  While that decade gave us Twisted Sister and zippered jackets it also produced some darn good cartoons.

Which we watched on Saturday Morning.

I didn't have cable until I moved to Guatemala. Strange, but that's how it worked. Saturday meant no school. No getting up early for school. No homework. It meant my mom got to sleep in. I woke up, got cereal (typically one of the 9 varieties of Chex or new-comer CrisPix; Lucky Charms and other such sugary breakfasts were a rare indulgence) and turned on one of the networks.

Looney Toons reruns. Thundercats. He-Man. G.I. Joe. The one season of M.A.S.K. Oh, how I loved these shows. Part of the wonder was the limited availability. Limited things always hold more wonder. It's a tenet of human nature that marketing gurus have manipulated for profit time and again. And we still fall for it because we're silly. Really, we are.

I have heard that as video killed the radio star, cable killed Saturday morning cartoons. Cable took the mind-mushing Toons that I could only get from 6-10am one day a week and gave it a Network. Kids could watch cartoons for hours. Every day. So when Saturday came along, why wake up early and cram snap crackle and pops into your face before dawn? And so died the wonder.

We only let our kids watch cartoons on Saturday Morning. We probably shouldn't let them watch at all, but we do. And while they watch them in Spanish, the wonder still exists. They are excited about it because they are forced to delay gratification.

Delayed Gratification. Oh, that we as a people would practice this more. And we are sorely out of practice. I want that TV now. I want a new car now. Give me a balanced budget now. I want a new iPad or Tablet or...now.

Give me the bliss of wedded love now (before we're married). Give me my dream house. My wardrobe. Give me my buffed and polished and perfect masses - in church. Give me a 25 minute sermon that makes me feel just bad enough to feel good about myself because surely I'm not as bad as that other guy. Give me music that I like to listen to but which never moves me to participate in actual worship because sometimes worship takes awhile and I want to feel good now. Give me spiritual maturity. Now.

Somehow we have let the network mentality invade our churches. We have become consumers manipulated by marketeers and sacrificed our Christlikeness on the altar of Now. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self Control. Against such things there is no Now.

We say we want to bear fruit but refuse time in the garden. Time with the gardener (submission) Time for pruning (cutting off). Time for root building (little show). The spiritual life cannot be grown on credit. It's a cash only, give what little you have system. Give your mustard seed, your loaves and fish, your 2 copper coins and watch God grow an orchard, feed a football stadium and return your investment in a way that would make a day trader blush.

It's Saturday Morning.

What have you been waiting for?