Sola Scriptura

“…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:15-17

Getting back to my faith roots.

Scripture was my first love.  In the concrete walled halls of a small Baptist church school I fell in love with story.  Bible was the first class of the day. Memory verses were important, but it was the flannel graph figures whose lives resurrected against a velvet gray each day who captivated my imagination: from the great patriarchs of the Hebrews to the socially disenfranchised who found both mercy and healing in Y’shua‘s words and touch.  Some heard the stories and came away angry or confused at the cruel, punishing deity on one side of the book and the Utopian idealism of the ragged rabbi of Galilee depicted in the other.  Not me.  I heard the epic in a different way.

Always being smaller, slower, and socially awkward John the Evangelist dialed straight into this introvert’s frequency.

What will we play?  My words dismissed by the group as if unspoken.

When the Alpha would speak, play began.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. – Luke 7:32

Say again, John, all after “He was in the world…but the world did not know Him.”

He came to His own…but His own… did not accept him. –John 1:11

The jealous protective fiery response of the deeply loving, ever rejected God begins with a deep wound which could not be reconciled; a bustling playground vacated at the sound of the approaching happy-excited running-steps.

 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: “Where are you?”    –Genesis 3:8-9

So my mind was attuned to the God of the Bible who gives in grandiose ways and protects by exaggerated means, just to convey affection to those who seem unreachable and unresponsive.  And yet I remain keenly aware of the unresponsive ones who likewise find God unreachable and non-responsive; repulsed by the over-the-top gestures which seem to erupt out of nowhere with little to no context.

No one understands the Autistic God of the Bible quite as I have.

So I did not find the extravagant act of God: being found in appearance as a man, self-humbled, self-limited, becoming obedient to the point of suffering humiliation, even death, on a cross, such a difficult thing to grasp.  The words of the cross echoing the same confused cry spoken through creation and prophet since the world began: Love me!

The God-breathed text of the old covenant whispers the same audacious promise God speaks from the cross. It is as much a promise for us as it is a promise God made to Himself: that one day God will no longer be rejected- no longer alone.

Loved, and Loving, in eternal reciprocity.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4

Courage

courage1

An attribute of good character is Courage.

It is the stuff respect is made of.

Heart like this is not bravado

Real bravado is heart like this: risk takers and justice seekers who win over the mind of others because they conquered themselves first.

 

Today we practice courage:

 

When we are afraid, still we will act.

Fear and courage are brothers.

 

We will follow our heart.

To dare is to lose your footing for a moment. To not dare is to lose yourself.

 

We will continue on in spite of adversity.

Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but the hero was braver five minutes longer.”

 

We will stand for what is right.

From caring comes courage.

 

We will go farther and see more

No one ever sees new oceans without the courage to no longer see the shore.

 

We face everything with dignity.

There is no need to be ashamed of tears. Tears are courage packaged in suffering.

 

Today, we will practice courage.

Let the exercises begin.

And be stronger because of them.

 

Amen.

 

 

Adapted from the article:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage

Broken

Mary arrived early at the tomb to clean up the broken body;

wrap it with soft cloth and spice.

Jesus forbad it.

       Hands off.        Don’t touch.

Broken punctured twisted bloodied naked shredded skin

A glorified body

presented to God in all its brokenness

visible to friends: see my hands, my feet, my side

Don’t hold on to me, Mary.

The world must see me just like this.

You cannot clean him up, Mary.

Let’s all stop trying to wash away the blood

and spice up the body broken.

Lest we all start believing the lie that people are basically good…

That the arc of human nature bends toward justice…

It is the disfigured figure of innocence savagedly razed to life

that testifies against the human race: a depraved race.

Holy Love embodied walks on calloused heels searching out the concentration camps of the soul:

unblinded eyes see the self-haters forgiven who embrace the leprosy-free as they dance with the lame-no-more.

Only one punishment to fit this crime against humanity:

Crucify Him.

No, Mary, you cannot clean him up.

      We must see Him as he is

as we made him

         or we will never believe it is true –

                        in denial

that we are the darkness we fear

               disguised as angels of light.

BrokenBody

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.*

*Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity Library (online)

Source: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=87

The Year Goes To Its Rest

As the sun sets each day, so the year also disappears across the horizon of its winter.

And though the setting sun says a lot about closure and things that are final;

though the end of the day cries for things

neglected, undone, and forgotten that can not be recovered;

The disappearing sun also brings permission to rest and to reflect, not on this day,

but the day to come;

a charge to prepare for the new day sun.

So it is with the setting year.

It is here we find the promise of renewed goals and brand new dreams.

It is with the end of the year we get to imagine what the next will be;

what we will make it; what will be finished and what we will begin.

awake-the-dawn07sm

The new year is a great big box of brand new days.

What a wondrous world has been provided. The year past has brought the glory of spring, the warmth of summer, and again the cycle of autumn, and winter.

All nature responds to the rhythm of life.

Teach us to value our days as gifts. Teach us how to receive the day.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

May the favor of our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us;

give us purpose and let us become competent.

May this coming year be a joy to us; let blessings fall like the hard, spring rains on us all.

Teach us to dance in their puddles and not to fear the dark skies.

Amen.

Combustion

bustle

Gracious and giving God,

We are busy and when we get busy we get bold: acting decisively, deciding quickly, quickly moving, to move the day’s business forward.

So guard our activity with wisdom and fill it with compassion.

If You give us only one gift this holiday season, let it be this: grant to us the blessing of stillness; some quiet, soul searching time. Let us have time to move slower, choose with consideration, and question what we do.

Give us rest.

May all the ways You are beyond us bring us comfort: You are able in all the ways we are unable.

May all the ways You are near us bring us hope. You understand us and love us: calling us by name and looking into our eyes even in this moment.

endofwick

In this season where Peace and Hope are anticipated, allow Your virtue which is both beyond us and near us to inspire us: like a candle at the end of its wick let malice, intolerance, hatred, bigotry and exclusion burn itself out to a sputtering, flickering end.

Instead, let us find within us love, acceptance, and peace.

Amen

.burning out

Autumn Falls

A prayer poem inspired by a weekly prayer of the Columban Fathers

 

All mighty and enduring God,

We arrive at autumn’s door with spirits and hearts filled like Halloween candy bags with gratitude.

The vibrant colors remind us of eternal rest; our memories turn to happy times where peace and joy sat with us over coffee in warm kitchens with frosted windows.

Giving thanks means we think often of those who are denied comfort and rest.

We commit ourselves to bring their suffering into sacred places.

When our arms cannot reach them, let our thoughts and prayers empower those close by to serve all needs.

Dignify your creation, O God, with good care and true compassion.

Above all, may we see the setting autumn sun not as the doom saying prophet of winter to come,

but as a celebration calling all that is eternal and good and noble to the family table.

In falling leaves we see blessings fall;

beautiful things once far away now gather in piles at our feet.

We will gather them up into big piles just to jump in and disappear under the colors of Thanksgiving.

Amen.
falling leaves

House Guest

a prayer inspired by a prayer of the Columban Fathers

 

Our Father who is above us:

We are magnetized to mercy and love; attracted toward a friendship with the divine.

Distractions and abstractions often get in the way of knowing you more fully.

But you are faithful to sit alone when we have stood you up.

You are loyal to your love for us even while we doubt your motives and question whether or not you’ll be there for us.

 

You reside in the house of my absence; your summer home is the villa of my ignorance.

Why do you keep my place so tidy when I won’t even offer you a drink?

 

Momentary events bring us doubt, but time reveals the quiet work you are ever up to.

You share your life for all and invite us to share our lives with you;

to tell you bluntly of pain and loss, to seek enlightenment when confusion strikes, to sing with you over every little thing that brings us joy.

family gather

Your welcome is like an open door where the family gathers for a holiday

and the long, suffering patience you possess gives room for the skeptic, confidence to the believer

and a passion to spread the good news in fewer words and with greater compassion.

In this way you save us: holding back the closing doors of a narrow mind and broadening the channels of our hearts.

 

Amen.

 

Like the Lion…

Morning_Lionlion_morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

A morning prayer inspired by the Jewish tradition

Like the lion of the plains, may we also greet this morning with

Strength, Focus, and Purpose.

With gratitude, we thank You, Living and Eternal One

for returning our souls within us, with compassion.

 

Your faithfulness is limitless.

 

Our God is a God of Happiness and Joy

who cleanses our mind, our body, and our soul

with instruction, holy habits, and ethic.

 

Thank You for shaping us in this holy image

so that good is found continually.

Purify our thoughts.

Purify our motives.

Purify our hands.

Sanctify all we do so that blessing and joy will visit our neighbor.

 

Amen.

 

Dangerous Love

Image

A Hebrew Bible in dust at rest in a library of a Christian University somewhere in the Midwest teased me with these words in its foreword. A Jewish work by Jewish scholars for a Jewish readership, the editor conveyed the exhaustive research which informed the translation. Illusory of the effort was a brief statement about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Some primitive manuscripts relayed a slightly different tale than the one which came later; the one traditionally given. In its original telling, Isaac dies but then is resurrected by God and given back to Abraham.

I cannot un-remember it. Not because I am Christian and this telling is a remarkable archetype, helpful to my own belief. But because of how it is unhelpful. Because the first question I am often asked about this dangerous patriarchal myth is, “Did God really expect Abraham to kill Isaac?” Like a newly discovered crime scene, rabbis, pastors, scholars and skeptics race to the scene with apologetic musings and condemning commentary. Let’s not make their mistake. Let’s not be in a hurry to rush in on this scene only to presuppose answers to questions only Abraham, Isaac and God can tell.

There is a harsh, uncomfortable reality in this tale that will be lost on the majority of soft thinking, spongy-worded spiritual people among us. Those who find it hard to comprehend how it is that conflict is essential to peace,or that love emerges through judgment and disciple, and not the absence of it, are among those who may be fated to forever view this patriarchal myth as if through the wide eyes of the ingenue archaeologist looking for the first time at strange hieroglyphs.

When I was a soldier we may have all said, “We’re all the same color here. We’re all green.” Actuality was that a caste system of competence separated us. Clearly defined lines. Support personnel were one caste. Another is combat support. Combat Arms was a little higher up the food chain, but don’t think that being an Infantry soldier made you elite. Among the Eleven Bravo (11B) military specialty is a class system. Each one rising only to one’s own level of incompetence. Above infantry were Rangers and Paratroop types who wore wings. Hybrids enjoyed special status: Airborne Ranger. Green Berets were more elite but it was an exceptional class of soldier who became the Special Forces soldier. Yes, we’re all green here, but no one casually compared the supply clerk or the mess sergeant to the class of elite soldier.

These soldiers were given something special, only to have it taken away.

These soldiers were tested more often, more severely, because more was riding on their success.

The nation entrusted more to them. The military has just cause to demand more.

On a mission, they would often be alone or small in number so their loyalty and resolve, confidence and competence had to be beyond proven.

So as you read this tale of incomprehensible demands on God’s first prophet, ask this also:

Is Abraham given the fierce, horrific task as a test because God has risked everything on this one man? Do we super focus on the trial? Is it better, perhaps, to simply salute the elite soldier; regard him as one we might aspire to be?

Carefully read the narrative. Study its words. It will rough you up a bit.

Maybe it is a story better handled by callouses than soft hands; better carried by spiritually war-torn veterans than academics.

Neither God nor Abraham nor Isaac are defined by this trial. Yet all are proven by it.

In Abraham’s mental, spiritual, and physical resolve we see a special forces elite who can remain present in each excruciating moment. He is not seduced by yesterday’s promise. He is not distracted by an imagined future.

Here I am, my son.”

Here I am, [my Lord].”

It is only in this moment the providence of God will be seen.

In fear and fire, it is only the moment we can manage.

The Love of God is dangerous; exhilarating; inviting us- driving us- to higher eschalons of trust.

Abraham is still teaching us what it means to walk together with God into a dangerous love relationship.

John 15:13 1 John 4: 18 Romans 5:8

To Kiss the Face of God

To be loved is one thing.

To be certain of love is something else.

Words,

Gestures:

Impotent.

Useless.

unless —

linked to a

  Truth.sunrising_holdinghands

Actuality.

Something so reliable it goes without saying:

like, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.”

 

Can I know that God loves me?

More –

Can I know that God loves me now?

God Gives me daily bread. Essentials provided.

Nice. But easily placed under the column heading: moral obligation

What about gifts?  God’s favor and blessing!

Sweet. But if it comes from the surplus of your power, resources, time…

it is only a hand-me-down of the forgotten, easily discarded at the outskirts of

your heart

your passion

your self

Well, what do you want from me?

Something that doesn’t part from you easily

Something that costs you something

Puts you at risk

Awkward

Endangered

A statement that I or they are worth the counter-intuitive, reckless, self denying

action

How do I know God loves me?

That God loves me even now?

Communion.  The  Lord’s Supper.  

True food.  True drink.

A broken body.

A life laid down.

Bleeding.

Broken.

Humiliated – publicly.

The sacrificial

act

of God’s unrelenting love for you

God loves  you.  Loves you now.

In this moment

this same crisis, failure, unlovable-worthless-wreck-of-a-life moment.

 

Don’t think too much on it:
this gesture that embodies the act

Just close your eyes

and receive it…

By receiving communion, we lean into the One who is already leaning in toward us.

God kisses.

We are kissed

with a sacrament that speaks louder than words.

 

communion