Courage

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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

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Dangerous Love

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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

The Horrible, Impossible, God-given Task

To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church.                                                                                                 Ephesians 3:20

To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

Numbers 11 recalls how the Israelites suffered from God’s gracious gifts.  They suffered from a condition called Freedom.  It relates how wretched it was to be fed miraculously, enough for 600,000 men and their families and livestock, in a desert place where little grows.

It’s easy to be facetious.

Their grumblings are just words on paper; easily mocked from our arm-chair critique.

Maybe their complaints were just.

Hard labor never hurt anyone.

There are perks to slavery: access to civilization, culture, the spoils of prosperity. If you can be content with no sense of self, no heritage and no legacy, slavery can be quite enjoyable.

Here in the desert no one is cracking a whip, sure, but the Sun is more exhausting than the hardest task master.  Mile upon slow moving mile, can any footwear drive away the heat or the rocky punishment of the ground?

In slavery there were daily goals.  Objectives.  A sense of mission accomplished.  A reason to get up in the morning.  Grumbling about oppression and voicelessness seemed more palatable over well-seasoned fish, salad and fruit.

In Egypt, being slaves, we are united by our shared suffering.

In the Wilderness, being free, we are divided by a suffering we own and cannot blame on another.

Personal responsibility is the hardest task master of all.

Being unable to imagine freedom, we stop asking for it.  To suddenly have personal freedom thrust upon us– that is a type of suffering we rarely consider.  Even with start-up capital and sustenance graciously supplied in abundance, the life adjustment is a wild-fire before an earthquake followed by a flood.

There is a reason it is immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.

I’m not prepared to accept it; not equipped to receive it.

It’s just too much.

Overwhelmed.

Maybe their complaints were just.

Dying of dehydration they grumble against those with running water only to wake up drowning.  

…according to His power which is at work within us…

Enter Moses.

Pitiable lifeguard at the public swimming pool of personal responsibility for the Israelites.

I can’t feed all these people.

I can’t be personally responsible for them all!

This is the horrible, impossible, God-given task.

Moses has some serious situational depression going on.

He can’t make everyone happy.

Convinced that God thinks he’s a failure,

his resignation is vocally penned with acid in the acrid words:

put me to death right now — if I have found favor in your eyes — and do not let me face my own ruin.

Then

Right there

in the middle of the pool

as the life guard, Moses,

is being taken under by a drowning man’s survival grip

an amazing thing happens.

Leaders emerge.

70 elders

They gather at the tent of meeting where Moses speaks with God.

Experiencing God as Moses does, they see what Moses sees, know what Moses knows.

Oh, that?

That’s not the amazing thing.

Help is always around us.  New leadership is developing as these words scroll past.  Veteran leadership waits in the wings for an ear willing to hear.

Leadership hinders us, daily, like heavy traffic — if you care to notice.

Oh.  You didn’t notice?  Too busy trying to get to that place or do that thing or leave somewhere never to return again?

Veterans of the highway are all around you.  Fellow sojourners. Vehicle masters. Communication experts. Entertainment program directors.  Everything you need for a long journey into a promised land surrounds you every second.

The amazing thing is the less obvious thing.

The Spirit of God was placed on each of 70 leaders.

This was not a new, divine anointing from some ethereal container but a portion of the Spirit that was already with Moses.

The Spirit of God with Moses was sufficient in measure  to inspire 70 other men.  

Is the Lord’s arm too short?

The people around you– the church– the congregation of God’s people– help carry the burden of our responsibility for one another.

The power of God already present and sufficient to bring us into a promised land.

Moses said, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!”

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…there will be deliverance…  –Joel 2:28-32

…to Him be glory in the church. Amen.