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The Gospel of Life: Believe

John 20: 24-31 – Let God Show Me

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A disciple, Thomas, states what it takes for him to believe. Jesus waits a week, then appears to Thomas even though all the other disciples told Thomas that they saw the Lord.

I don’t know if Thomas did not want to be left out or if he just could not wrap his mind around the resurrection. What I do know is Thomas did doubt. What I also know is Jesus quells doubt willingly and wants our faith.

Faith/belief is so essential to Jesus and so important to John in his gospel, that John paused before the concluding scene of his version of the story that he writes in verses 30-31 his intention for the book.

He writes, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” I love what John sneaks into that sentence: by believing you will have life.

John cannot separate belief in Christ from life itself. And neither should we. Our lives and its quality, as it pertains to the value ascribed by Heaven, is indicative of how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit.

And how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit should cause us to value life. Our relationship with God works itself out by how we love others and what moves us to give that love.

What should give us pause, when thinking of life and love is what else we value, or perhaps, what we value most.

See Thomas could have asked for any other evidence, but He asked to see and handle Jesus. And though he asks with doubt, I believe he is asking for the right thing.

So often we ask, first, for the wrong things: more safety, more money, our neighbors green card, the right to harm ourselves others and the unborn, a change in our gender identification, free tuition.

Are they wrong, if they are asked for in a different order or just always wrong?

My answer: I have an opinion and with some of them I’m confident in what I believe, but moreover, I know who to ask. Ask God and ask to have revelation of the love and life of Christ.

Ask everyday!

Read Scripture. Read it and listen to it more than the news. Be willing to drastically conform your opinion not just through Scriptural text but also Scriptural context. Then pray with it and pray through difficult questions. Then practice to see if it works, see if your renewed mind is filling you with life and purpose and compassion.

Or don’t.

Be a troll on social media. Obsess with giving off the best impression of the moments in our lives through pictures and short video clips. Don’t ever give people who disagree with you the benefit of the doubt. Instead of lifting a finger to help the hurting, point the finger, and lecture them and the people trying to help them about why they don’t deserve it or why they don’t do enough. Buy tons of crap that goes out of style or stops working in 2 years. Extol people of terrible character because they “look good” and stay in the public eye.

Or…

Write blogs and watch cat videos at work. Search for autographed copies of books for the cheapest price possible. Read about wrestling rumors. Follow your crushes Instagram too eagerly while saying you don’t care. Worry about if you can afford to pay your bills 6 months from now. Sell useless things on Ebay, while buying $35 worth of lapel pins to display on your sun visor in your car. Forget your friends birthdays but remember the birthday of your favorite celebrity cat…etc…etc

What is the point of this post again?

Ask to see Jesus…

everyday, don’t get distracted.

And you’ll find life, real overflowing life as you follow Him.

I know it’s worth it, which is why I keep trying, asking, knocking.

 

Also…

Happy 7th Birthday Lil Bub!

 

The Appearing Gospel: Look Who Showed Up

John 20: 1-23 – Stay in Awe

When was the last time you stood in awe or wonder of something?

When was the last time something left you dazed and confused?

IMAG1053In the Gospel of John chapter 20, individuals are still living in the shock and shadow of the death of Jesus. Early, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus, finds it empty, and ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, presumably John himself.

Mary relays to them an incorrect story. She thinks someone took Jesus’ body and now does not know where it is. The disciples run to the tomb and notice strips of linen and a cloth that covered Jesus’ head. Surely no one would take a corpse and unwrap it first.

This line of thinking brings John to write that in that moment he believed. The disciples go home but Mary stays by the tomb.

At the tomb Mary weeps, bent over near the tomb until she sees two angels. Mary has a conversation with the angels still supposing Jesus had been taken away by the “they”. Who know’s who the “they” were? Who knows if Mary was rational in this moment?

She neglects the clues.

Then, Jesus shows up, and she doesn’t realize. Perhaps, she is too overcome by emotion in this moment to look at her surroundings. Maybe she finds it hard to see through her tears.

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Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, and she says something that I don’t quite understand why it makes my eyes water while I write this at work. She says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And Jesus says back, “Mary.”

At the sound of her name coming from her Lord and friend, her disposition and perception changes instantly.

Have you ever so misinterpreted a situation that it muddled your outlook on life to the point where truth became very difficult to comprehend?

For Mary, the death, the empty tomb, the angels were for her, all reminders that Jesus was not there. Yet in the mind and heart of God, these were all to serve to remind that Jesus has always been there. To the end, his love was present and powerful.

And it wasn’t until Mary heard her name from Jesus that this came into view. Hindsight flooded her, and Jesus sends her to deliver a very good message: “I have seen the Lord!”

I like to imagine Mary frantically out of breath recounting this story. “I went and saw the tomb empty and talked to people dressed in white and then I saw the Lord. I thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus. He said my name. I knew as soon as he said my name. He is really alive.”

I imagine in that moment Mary felt alive too, more alive than ever before.

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Later, that same night, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are hiding from the Jewish leaders. He reveals himself and they are overjoyed. He breathes on them while giving them instruction to receive the Holy Spirit and to forgive.

This chapter moves from surprise to surprise, but the surprise doesn’t at this point lead to unction. Jesus tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure they do in this moment. That’s not to say they don’t, but later he will tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

In moments of awe, we are to embrace the surprise and wait for instruction. If something awes us, it should change us even if only slightly. Moments of awe make way for the eventual unction to move.

And when we move, we likewise, appear.

The Finishing Gospel: Death of the Saves Man

John 19:16-42 – Are We Living or Dying?

Yesterday, I taught my second to last class on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). We discussed the crucifixion and the resurrection.

What is interesting to me about John’s gospel is the things he notes about Jesus during the crucifixion. Jesus is deeply concerned for his mother. Jesus also pronounces “It is finished.” That phrase in the Greek denotes that a transaction took place.

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The transaction was one that paid the debt of sin, through the exchange of a perfect life for the lives of imperfect humanity. The other Gospels draw out Jesus’ death; whereas, John shows the ways Jesus fulfilled OT Scriptures in his death. John also shifts the tone in his writing. Normally his Gospel is laden with emotion, but for this series of verses, John is presenting facts.

In V. 35 John even writes, “The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” John is using this tone shift to say, “this is reality, and I’m using this reality to lead to an even greater reality that is harder to believe.” (We will look at that next time)

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John wants us to take in the reality of Jesus’ death while we contemplate the implications. And while we contemplate he writes about the two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who prepare his body for burial.

Death Thoughts

Without being morbid or long-winded, I want to say a word about death because in about 2 months I will be entering a vocation where I am expecting  to become more familiar and perhaps more comfortable with it. I believe the only way to be comfortable with death is to take away its sting.

I think that is done through restitution, eager expectation of eternity with Jesus, and gratitude. I also think living life not afraid of death or rejection is liberating.

My prayer is to be a person that shows others that death does not have the last word, rather our life in Christ echoes after a last breath.

Laid There

Chapter 19 concludes with Jesus’ body being laid in a tomb. It is written with a sense of rest in order to prepare us for the final two chapters which recount resurrection life. The suffering and death Jesus endured made room for life.

Now we live it until we’ve finished.

Trading the 2nd Amendment for the 2nd Commandment

John 18:11, Matthew 26:52-54, Luke 22:49-51

Our Swords are Our Guns and It’s Time to Put Them Away

I’m not writing specifically about the 2nd amendment. And my intention here is not to lobby for change in the political arena. I don’t like loud yelling, whistle blowing or things that divide people unless it is over Jesus.

So I’ll talk about Jesus going to his death. In the gospels, one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, takes a sword and aims for someone’s head. This happens as another disciple asks Jesus, “Shall we strike with our swords?” Before the inquiring disciple can finish the question, Peter is quick to pull the trigger and cuts off a dudes ear.

After the incident Jesus says, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

Why have a sword you would never use?

The 2nd Amendment exists as a clause that we’d hope we would never have to use. It does not exist for our pleasure or for our enjoyment. It existed in the case of an emergency not as a pathway to more frequent emergencies. We would hope we would never need a gun to protect us from our government, and we would hope our government would protect us from one another. More specifically, to protect us from an enemy or the violent among us.

Why have the sword at all?

After Jesus makes the statement about living and dying by the sword, Jesus heals the mans ear who Peter had cut off with the sword. Then he says this in the gospel of Matthew 26:53 “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Jesus makes an obvious statement to His followers. Being one with God implies He has access to an army but chooses to relinquish that power in the face of death. Why? Because he is fearless and faithful.

But more than any of that, Jesus is humble, self-sacrificing and willing to lay down his life in love. He was willing to lay aside his power to become a servant.

He laid aside power.

Why relinquish our perception of power?

Look, I get it, I’ve worked in construction on an off for the last 6 years. I shared an office with a guy who hoarded ammunition and had it delivered every day to our work. I understand lots of men and women like to shoot guns because it gives them an adrenaline rush or rather the false sense of feeling powerful.

I understand the normalization of guns and the perception that they can be operated safely and frequently by responsible individuals.

But what I don’t understand is the American Evangelical Christian fascination with guns and (about to a make a really unpopular statement) the military.

We idolize what we perceive protects us.

And it is our faith in thinking guns protect and faith in the military as exclusively altruistic that fuel a fascination with violence and the glorification war. As a country America has found a way to consistently make violence profitable. We’ve done the same with sex, and instead of considering the cost, we normalize.

We begin to recite a story that suggests the rights we’ve “always” had are being infringed upon and it is oppressing our freedom.  And we begin to use the word freedom as an excuse to fight, conquer, and finance violence disguised as virtue

But that insistence is the sign of how bound we’ve become. We’ve become bound to our guns like being bound to an idol.

Anyone in our culture who would rather have a semi-automatic weapon or hand-gun to maintain their own sense of security at the expense of not being permitted to have one for the potential safety of the masses is looking to a conceal a pretty ugly idol.

How to Put Them Away

The disposition I advocate for among Christians is this: “I am willing to lay down my right to bear arms in hopes that others would also lay down that right, to live in a society where no child dies in a classroom from a firearm.” The 2nd Amendment says nothing  about laying aside our rights as a demonstration of love, but Jesus’ 2nd greatest commandment does. He advocates being inconvenienced for the love of your neighbor.

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Jesus advocates for this to the point where He asks His followers to lay down their lives. Despite this, it does not seem  we are  even at a place where Christians are willing to lay down their guns. That must change.

I believe only a radical movement of surrender will change culture, not lobbyists or legislation.

And I believe the solution is rather simple: “Put your guns away.”

– Stop considering them toys.

– Don’t resist stricter gun laws. In fact, don’t ignore the statistics, look around at the rest of the world and be willing to admit that maybe the events point to requiring America to have the strictest gun laws of any nation.

– Relegate that sense of power and adrenaline rush to highly secure shooting ranges.

– Regulate hunting rifles to be used or visible only during designated times of the year, the rest of the year those weapons are to be stored at a weapons bank.

– If we desire to hold to that 2nd Amendment piece about a “well-regulated” militia, have a militia bank/shooting range combo. If the goal is to be well-regulated, that’s the place you go to pick up your guns if the poop hits the fan and we have to wage war on the government.

I’m a pacifist, who has never shot a gun who has some great ideas.

Why it is definitely time

It’s time because we’ve lost our sense of urgency. This most recent shooting was forgotten quickly by the media because there was a Royal Wedding to watch. It also could be that a lot of people in Texas own guns and pushing  stricter gun policies would rub the majority the wrong way (which is what has to happen).

I admit I liked the Royal Wedding, but what I don’t like is the feeling I now have when I hear about mass shootings.

When Columbine happened, there was weight attached to it, real fear because it was unprecedented and admittedly no one knew what to do because nothing like it had happened. We had an excuse at that time for being frozen in fear.

Bowling for Columbine, produced and written by Michael Moore, actually made me think. Even if you fall on the side that it was a decent propaganda piece, it also explored what perpetuating an ideology centered around fear creates. That movie was made in 2002 about a shooting that happened that in 1999, almost 20 years ago. I’m fairly convinced that in 20 years the climate has gotten worse.

20 years later we have no excuse for being frozen in indifference or in the fantasy that my gun makes me feel more secure.

Fear creates a demand for entitlement until the mind gives way to the assumption that this was always mine. Once you’ve arrived, you cling tightly because the alternative is to live without hope or lose the impression of power.

The alternative that will overcome is the one that casts out fear with love. Love finds solutions and finds a way often at the expense or as a cost to the one who is loving. We lay down our weapons so our enemies ears might be healed. Or if you prefer you lay down your weapons so Jesus heals our ears.

Why it’s worth it

By now, anyone who would disagree and has continued to read could be thinking, “I’ve heard you; I’m empathetic or sympathetic, but even if I did lay down my gun, what if it doesn’t work? What if the solution is more about treating mental illness or arming more people and teachers?”

Teachers have bad days, the last thing I want when I have kids is to worry about them in school with a teacher they have consistently irritated who also has a firearm. It’s not that I don’t trust teachers, but why unnecessarily require people to be armed who already have pretty stressful jobs with my future annoying, hilarious kids.

As far as treating mental illness, this is a much wider discussion and one that is essential, but we know far less about the human mind, then we know about guns. The mind of an individual by in large is something that we still cannot comprehend. Even with heavily medicating, a missed dose, the wrong dose can change things pretty quickly and often without much explanation.

Guns are the object we as people can control. It’s the object in the equation we can discard. It is the idol. We can’t discard people, but I fear that’s what we do with every cry we ignore.

It’s worth it because laying down your right to bear arms is a practical demonstration of love that goes beyond words. How often do we actually see events or decisions like that anymore? It’s a movement more powerful than a Royal Wedding. And it’s worth it for the Church to finally lead the charge in something worth writing about or covering by the media, rather than being lambasted for indifference or hypocrisy.

It’s worth it because through it, we can in part, fulfill the 2nd great commandment to love our neighbor.

 

The Gospel of Go: Home is Who you Come Back To

John 14: The Many Rooms We Come To

14:3 “ And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

You know the way to the place where I am going.”

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Jesus the carpenter’s son, tells his disciples that he is preparing a place for them in His Father’s house. Because of this our hearts should not be troubled and can find courage that a place of rest and home awaits us.

After this, bad wrap Thomas, asks about the way to go and who the Father is. Jesus in a round about way tells Thomas that He is the way and is One with the Father. He also says in v.13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Non-genie Jesus states this in regards to our position not according to our preferences. Jesus is not saying I’m granting you wishes, He’s saying I’m refining your will. Asking is in accordance with the actions of Jesus and the activity of Heaven not according to the economy of the world.

Jesus reiterates the desire of the Holy Spirit to reform our wills by discussing what love looks like by obeying His teaching and leading. This activity creates within us, a union with God. Obedience leads us in renewed desires as we mimic the love of God the Father. Thus, what we end up asking for, happens to be the precise desire of God in a given moment. Our ask is no different from God’s will.

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But what does that really have to do with Going Somewhere and Home?

For one, none of us would know what “home” is, if we had not left it. Secondly, Jesus spends a lot of time in this chapter and the next and the next one after that, giving illustrations regarding the sense of home as being deeply intertwined with the God and the people you love.

He says this in His statement, “I am the Way to the Father.” Notice, Jesus doesn’t describe Heaven or what this home looks like. Instead, he discusses union and love for one another for the next 4 chapters in the Gospel of John.

And what does that have to do with Going Somewhere?

Jesus can leave this world and give us the Holy Spirit because He knows love and service in the Kingdom is not tied to location. He also knows the Kingdom itself at this moment is not tied to a location. This is meant to give comfort and courage for the commission. The disciples will also be able to go when He sends them after His resurrection.

Which is why I’m preparing to go. This weekend I take another step towards moving and following God. I’m going to look for an apartment so that in about 3 months time I can begin a new journey in full-time ministry. And as I take each step my fears are falling to the ground, as I try to stay convinced that like Jesus I might do, “exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Which brings me to my last words, my faith requires me to fight through fears in order to follow. It requires remembering the call of God and trusting His direction of my steps.

When I go with God, I’m always going home.

 

The Betrayal and Denial Gospel: When you “Can’t” Control Yourself

John 13:18-38: Shared Bread

Psalm 41:9

 Even my close friend,
    someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
    has turned (lifted up their heel) against me.

The thing about betrayal, the thing about denial that allows both of them to deal damage is intimacy. Truth be told, I give as much credence to  ridicule or rejection from someone I don’t like or know as I give consideration to the amount of toilet paper I use after the second time I flush. If I have to flush twice, I care about being clean not about how much shit there was. If I am to be betrayed or denied “……^”

“That’s crude,” you say.

I say, “True and perhaps unnecessary, but I am far more willing to tolerate crude than cruel.”

To be crude is to have disregard toward or to jest about the outward appearance of things, whereas to be cruel is to have disregard for or the intent to harm the internal disposition of things.

Cruelty, whether intentional or not targets identity through apathy or vindictiveness. To be crude only considers the surface. It is intentionally unaware of depth. Cruelty either disregards depth selfishly or digs deeper than it needs to without care.

Now we can discuss betrayal and denial.

In John 13:18-30 Jesus announces that a disciple will betray him. And in this room full of men, John gives us insight into some of their personalities.

Scripture tells us in v. 21 that Jesus was troubled in his spirit and says, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” He is telling them this to strengthen their faith so they would believe in who Jesus says he is, but Jesus is still troubled by this.

John, who was reclining comfortably leans again Jesus to ask him, “Lord, who is it?” John does this because Simon Peter gives John a nod and says, “Yo, find out who.”

In this scenario, I kind of imagine John having a little too much wine. He was just looking to have a good time at the party. He’s chilling out and then Peter disrupts his chill and then he leans back and asks seemingly to appease Peter’s nervous curiosity.

Or is Peter not nervous, but rather seeking to prevent the betrayal by roughing up the betrayer?

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Jesus then gives a piece of bread dipped in wine to his betrayer Judas. V. 27 reads, “as soon as Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him” and v. 30, “he went out.”

Jesus also told him after he gave the bread, “What you do, do it quickly.”

What he says makes sense for a man to say. I say man because in my experience, if a person is going to betray me or reject me I’d rather you get to the point rather than drag your feet with the deal.

Being strung along just to be hung out is like taking your dog for a walk before killing it with a shovel and refusing to bury it.  What’s the alternative? Just take your dog for a walk or don’t betray someone. Be a quality person.

The Difference between Betrayal and Denial

I’m going to get to denial in a minute. But I want to define betrayal just so we are clear with the terms. Because someone can reject you or even go so far as to kill you without betraying you. For example, random woman I meet on the street finds out I’m awesome, kills me for no reason after greeting one another. She didn’t betray me, she certainly surprised me but nothing she did indicates a betrayal, unless we are strictly talking on an existential plain in which she betrayed mine and her own humanity for deciding at randomly to kill me.

This is me defining in long-hand that betrayal assumes a certain kind or level of intimacy and the greater the bond of intimacy the deeper the betrayal goes. For example, a marriage vow followed by adultery > (greater betrayal than) making a blood pact in 5th grade with your friend who stopped talking to you in middle school.

The action of betrayal is the willing handing of someone over or selling someone out, or intentionally tripping them up along their path. It is the moment while walking alongside someone with certain expectations, they hinder you from where you intended to go. Betrayal happens when one agrees to the parameters of the journey and then tries to hinder another from the journeys intended goal.

The Sting Without War

 

breaking_bread-2017Now for denial. Denial is sometimes the passive more weaselly of the two actions but typically without as severe a consequence. Denial is not stringing the noose, but it is watching someone be hung.

In v. 31, Judas had left, and now Jesus talks about His glory to come, his exit (death) and gives the disciples a command to love one another. He makes a statement that if true contains unimaginable power. V. 35 reads “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Rather than pausing and thinking about the implications of that statement, Peter is more concerned with where Jesus is going. And because Peter is weak and lacks understanding He misses what Jesus is getting at. Rather than going where Peter wants to go, Jesus wants Peter to be faithful to where He wants Peter to go.

Peter wants to die before he fully lives as Christ. In order for Peter to die like Christ, Jesus has a massive internal work to do first in Peter’s life. He asks this sincere question, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

…..

..

.

You know how it ends, Jesus predicts Peter’s inevitable denial. Sometimes we “can’t” (or just don’t) follow through on our best laid schemes. But here we actually are not looking at Peter’s denial just yet. That happens 5 chapters later.

This is Jesus’ denial. Jesus denies Peter’s ability to fulfill an empty promise without the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus’ denial has been immersed in prayer and preceded by demonstrations of genuine love. Jesus knows Peter’s end which is why He denies his intentions in the now.

Jesus says, “you will follow later.” The denial does not presume permanence, but it expects obedience. In other words, Jesus is telling Peter to “let it play out.”

It won’t be easy nor fun, but it will lead to perfecting and refining and new joy. But Peter is not that deep yet. Eager but not deep and unaware of what is required of him.

He is a fisherman, not a fighter and that is fortunate because the kingdom of God is not won in the way he is expecting.

Jesus cleans Peter a few verses prior and that cleansing functions as a reminder for what’s about to hit the fan in spite of his future denial.

 

 

 

 

Imagination Love

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The romance you require is rote

it is more stable than whimsical

perhaps more ideal and less physical

mine does not need to emote

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I confuse necessity with reality

whats real to me isn’t necessarily

ideal. These dreams proceed warily

the exact and fact don’t appeal to me

 

I’ve held onto every fiber of strain

telling those feeling parts to drop you

to find someone else to pursue

activities formerly absent of pain

 

I suppose my devotion to be a farce

or do I misplace hope like my keys?

should I be knocking in my knees?

or is the beloved just that scarce?

 

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This becomes an admission of icognisance

as I search your path for the obscure

leave me, a love relic and your lore

to be sent off from among the congregants

 

for my mistake might lie in tarrying

while my gaze is affixed to your bright

then your gaze locked in to my sight

found something within worth marrying

 

Are my mind tales better left earthen?

grounded under the dust of your feet

just stay and let your roots rest on me

while I’m willing to shoulder our burden

 

An observer may recognize my error

such affection need not be so weighty

what strong love bore for Lord and Lady

caused me to wait for one, none fairer

 

You entertain my vain imagining

until the intensity, then disallows

if only, if only we’d be held by vows

to prevent endings from happening

The Cleansing Gospel: My Favorite

Sufficiency

This currency of mine

it will lift you

like a house hung from a balloon

or a wife off her feet by her husband

This urgency of time

let it pass you

like the drive in a car to vacation

like angst before returning home

This destination is a comma

in the adventure

where nothing is left behind

as moments move us toward what’s whole

The past may have scratched

skipped the favorite part of your song

though it’s been pardoned in your present

buffered into tomorrow

and now your flawless to me

you’ve become my lens of love

as I’ve become your trade

My ambition is to be spent for you

My ambition is to be sent by you

to the store for groceries

to your room to fetch you something

to aid the family

to the earth until its end or my own

My yearning is to be mercy in your hand

My yearning is to glow in your eyes

to be a trust in generosity

to be evocative of Love

to be an advocate of you.

I give you my breath and my beat and my me

and I hope its enough.

I’m enough.

John 13:1-17: Love Cleans Up

The phrasing in verse 1 always moves me.

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Then, Jesus shocks the system. The Divine touches the lowest part of our existence, to wash off wherever the disciples feet have tread. It’s absurd, yet Jesus insists. In the middle of dinner, he stops to clean the dirty:

No holiday, no meal, no moment in my life compares to the gravity of this moment with Jesus and his disciples. Furthermore, in this moment, Jesus washes the feet of someone who already decided to betray Him and what’s more, He knew about it.

Jesus took his hands just prior to being pierced and washed the feet of the man who sold Him out. He washed the feet also of Peter who debated with Him about whether Jesus should wash His feet.

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In verse 7 and 8 are more game changing verses.

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

I could write a book on verse 7 alone, but I’ll settle for a paragraph or two for now.

How many times have you wondered what God is doing and why you don’t understand?

There have been times and seasons when I did not realize what was going on then and have often pleaded with God for understanding. Because I didn’t understand, sometimes, to my detriment I have said to God, “do not touch me,” which was another way of saying “I don’t trust you to fix this.” A wounded dog fears greater pain.

But Jesus’ response in verse 8 puts the emphasis on His actions, not Peter’s understanding. To take part in this love, Jesus says, “allow me to do this.” Jesus is cleansing where they have been and even where they are going, which makes the thought of Judas’ betrayal so heart wrenching.

I’m cleansing your feet yet where your feet are about to take you will carry us both to our death. For Jesus there was a resurrection.

After washing their feet Jesus closes in verses 14-17 saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet… Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus often likes to end things with good promises. He likes us to be #blessed.

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But what makes us blessed is the way in which we share ourselves. You will be blessed if you wash one another’s feet, you will be blessed if you give your time and intimacy to God and if you share love with others. You will be blessed if you offer the gospel to your enemy. I hope I find my blessing in being able to relinquish my self-serving for the sake of Jesus Christ my Savior.

This is my endeavor and this is why I can’t shake taking a step of faith in this season of life. Jesus cleansing and the grace he gives, makes me enough. It is my reminder in my next footstep.

 

Whirlwind Emprise

I usually like to pick a word for myself that I hope will describe each new year.

My 2017 word was gentleness.

I picked this word because I knew my goal for the year was to cease from striving, to stop grasping, to accept my smallness in the world and to be considerably less frustrated about circumstances. As a result, I knew I would need patience as hope would be deferred and answers to questions would not come.

I found some of the best ways to discover if you are in fact gentle is to consistently not get what you want or expect and then see if you are able to remind yourself with frequency that in this world you are entitled to nothing. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Part of the gain is the evidence of gentleness.

While my word was gentleness and I can recognize many situations in which I exercised it, gentleness is still my endeavor because The Rolling Stones remind me that getting what I want is not always going to be the case…

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…Unless you change what you want.

Wait… huh? (This will take a turn, you probably didn’t expect).

Scripture tells me that where my treasure is there my heart will be also and what I know to be true is: if my want is wholly fixed on desiring the love of Jesus above all else, I can have that. I can have unconditional love despite circumstance. I can obey God if I want to, and I can say no to competing desires.

Which is why in August of 2017, I started asking myself some new questions. I also began giving up certain expectations. I decided to cast my net wider because I felt like I was becoming too comfortable, while being less content.

So I applied for chaplaincy positions on college campuses. I connected with a new young adult community. I planned my first vacation alone. I began the process of coming to an internal acceptance that if need be I would remain single forever. I was even willing to accept that my calling to ministry was less than what I imagined and resolved that I could continue working in construction, quietly, even if I felt strongly otherwise.

It led me to October where I confronted myself with the help of a friend. I addressed some things I didn’t necessarily like about life in general at that point. And I gave God my opinion. I gave my evaluation of my love for Jesus, and it seemed to me to be found wanting. This feeling saddened me.

I did not feel unloved by God. I felt incapable of reciprocating. Though, I was reminded that love was a choice, I felt tempted to choose to not love. And this potential decision provoked me to look around and recognize the faithfulness and love of others. I discovered one of the ways we reignite our love (and fear) of God is to observe others who are loving God faithfully. Choosing faithfulness despite uncertainty and suffering is an awesome display of love.

And something began, and I hope will be brought to a mature completion inside me. I remembered that love requires me to give while trusting that the risks of faith I take are guided by God. I was also reminded that it is not possible for me to love even a little bit without God.

For me, love starts with listening. Love happens when we hear the needs of others and meet them, but love finds its energy in the word of God. I started to hear when I listened.

God is the only one who knows me in my depths and the only one who knows me better than myself, which makes making decisions much easier when I’m hearing from the one writing my story.

Fast forward to the middle of December. I began the process of applying for hospital chaplaincy programs. I wrote 12 pages worth of essays (5 about my life history, 1 about my work history, 3 regarding my spiritual development, 2 about navigating a crisis, 1 about why I want to be chaplain).

I had my good friend Victor read and edit all of them. He is finishing up his PhD in counseling and was amazing enough to edit my essays in his free time. He’s a quality human being. I submitted all the materials and references for these programs around Christmas and was leaving for India on New Year’s Eve.

My assumption, based on how things usually work, was I would hopefully hear back sometime after I returned from India because 3 weeks is a normal amount of time to review 12 pages worth of essays and additional materials in an application packet.

Apparently, in the hospital chaplaincy world in specific parts of the country a suitable response time is a few hours and 2 days respectively. Whereas, here in the northeast where I submitted an application packet, a month has gone by with no response from 3 different individuals at the same hospital who I submitted my application to.

So with very quick responses, during the peak of the holiday season, while I was preparing to leave for India for 2 weeks, I found myself scheduling interviews within a week or so of my return.

India was a blast and a rather busy 2 weeks. I tried to take some time to process 2018 and potential new seasons of life and these opportunities. I suppose the little time I had to think about it was enough. While I wanted to process it more, time and energy did not seem to allow it.

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Between jet lag, jumping back into work, and trying to prepare for the interviews themselves, I did not think about the implications of an offer. My interviews were on the 17th and the 22nd respectively, and I felt optimistic after both of them. Again I assumed I would hear something after a couple of weeks.

 

Not the case, I received an offer of admission to a residency position within 24 hours of my interview on the 22nd.

**Full disclosure, I heard from God several times in September about a timetable for my next step in following the Spirit to whatever my ministry direction would be so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Something similar happened 7 years ago when I interviewed for my first ministry position.

I still didn’t and don’t really feel like I’ve had time to adequately process, but my experience thus far has seemed to indicate that God is not too interested in me swirling it all around in my head for hours on end. Because what I am prone to do is to make up fears or potential excuses.

God, the Father, did extend the offer allowing me to list all my initial fears as a “counting the cost” type of measure to which He promised to give answers to. We hashed that out at Qdoba. I left a little teary eyed after finishing my burrito.

I accepted the offer Monday, mailed my documents today and now wait and pray through a hopefully slow transition. I hope its slow because I’m aware of something else God is doing.

God is interested in doing a deeper work in my heart, one that I am getting the impression is more important than processing through the external details of the location and timing of my next season. That is what I must slow down for while the externals continue to be caught up in the whirlwind.

By the way, just for your information, my word for 2018 is one I learned while in India and that I gave away in the title of this blog. It is Emprise – an adventurous, daring, or chivalric enterprise.