April 18, 2017
The Urban Dictionary defines Jesus Freak as:
n. Someone who displays an unusual or embarrasing amount of enthusiasm for Jesus.
I hope this is the way that others view me. I am not embarrassed by my love for and faith in Jesus. I would add that even though I talk a lot about Jesus, for me it is always in the context of the Triune, Father, Son and Spirit.
I know the moment I fell in love with Jesus. Funny how our memories work, I remember the moment but I am not sure how old I was. My best guess is I was four or five-years old. I was attending Mass at Holy Family Church in Seattle (White Center). I loved the church of my youth in that whenever I was there I felt the awe of the Creator. Maybe it was the architecture and design of the church or maybe it was the Spirit of God that captured my heart but all I know is this: When I would look at the cross above the altar and saw Jesus on it, I somehow knew in a non-cognitive knowing that He did that for me.
This is not the best photo but it is the only one I could find online.
You see my reality was this. There were many, many violent episodes in my home while growing up. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details in this post but suffice to say there was abuse in all forms running rampant in our house. When I would go to Mass I would feel safe. I went to 12-years of Catholic School. I spent a lot of time in Mass. I made my first communion while in 2nd grade, was confirmed in 8th-grade and spent four years at Kennedy High School where my favorite classes were religion classes. I wrestled with what I was learning in my religion classes. I was fascinated by the gospel accounts of the life of Christ. I was intrigued by the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. They included riots, beatings, shipwrecks, preaching, conversions, miracles and complete devotion to the good news that the God of the Universe crossed the cosmic divide to come to earth as a vulnerable and defenseless baby in the person of Jesus.
Jesus’ s life was one of loving the outcast, the sinner, the other. He crossed racial divides when he loved the Samaritans and the Gentiles. He treated women with scandalous respect and dignity within the Greco-Roman culture that oozed of patriarchy and misogyny. He touched the ‘untouchables’ in the lepers, the woman with the issue of blood and so many others that were exiled from community. He touched them, he loved them and he rescued them from their lives in exile. He surely brought heaven to earth when he demonstrated power over sickness, disease, nature and the demonic! He practiced life in the Kingdom of God when he turned water into wine, fed the crowds miraculously multiplying food and by cleansing the Temple of the money changers that turned His house into a ‘den of thieves’ and on and on. He turned the religious world of his time upside down! And, it got him killed. By his birth, life and death, Jesus used His power, the power beyond any weapon of mass destruction humans can engineer through death on a cross to conquer evil with love. And that is not the end of the Story.
But as it was foretold by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus himself death did not hold him, because the same beyond-nuclear power that was demonstrated in his death took hold of death and raised him out of the grave to be the first of the throngs that will be raised to new life at some point in time. We don’t know the year, the day or the hour, but the Hope of the follower of Jesus is just that. Evil, Death, Curse – does not have the last word – Love, Life, Freedom wins!
This is my hope and where I put my faith. In the Roman Catholic tradition I remember the priest would recite ‘The Mystery of Faith, with these Latin words, Mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, et tuam resurrectiónem confitémur, donec vénias translated, Your death we proclaim, Lord, and your resurrection we confess, until you come. Or in other liturgies, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
In a few weeks we will celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. That is for another post.
Today I sit in my office the day after my 60th Easter celebration listening to this song.
April 13, 2012
I love this quote by Wendell Berry, “The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.” So true, and I would say they betray New Creation. We’ve just celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, an embodied reality that God is with us and is inviting each one of us to participate in New Creation. Participating in new creation simply means in the midst of a still very broken world, I will choose to not cave to despair. When the circumstances of life seem to invite, no, invite is too kind of word…when the circumstances of poverty, sickness, selfishness, greed and any kind of evil invade my life I pray for mercy. Mercy that the new creation in Jesus will intervene and grace me to participate with peace, love, healing, justice and truth.
And the flip side of that coin, “the pointless work of pride” that wallows in self-contempt or grandiosity in order to prove myself I will beg for mercy and grace to walk in forgiveness, humility, strength and light.
As this present evil age wages war on all that is holy and good, I will practice longing for, looking at the evidence and stepping into the new world that Jesus brought. A world that is emerging in the midst of the brokenness. A world that is full of compassion, peace, and kindness. A world that bursts with the colors of faith, hope and love.
The shoddy work of despair and the pointless work of pride, betrayals and wastes of life – yes, I would say very much so.
March 31, 2012
Tomorrow we begin Holy Week. We follow Jesus beginning with his entry into Jerusalem. We read about the crowds in reverence throwing down palm branches, shouting hosannas. Then comes the cleansing of the Temple, the Passover, betrayal, arrest a contrived trial, betrayal, death by crucifixion and burial.
Back in Luke 9:51 it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
I find it interesting that Luke frames Jesus’ death in Jesus’ ascension. The way to redemption, to new life is through the road of suffering and death. My friend David Ruis penned lyrics in a song that captured my heart years ago: “The way of suffering takes me to the least, down the road of suffering to the wedding feast.”
Turning our face toward suffering is counterintuitive, especially in America. We have every drug available and at our disposal to avoid pain and suffering:
Food – my current drug of choice
Over the counter drugs
We use processes, people and substances to alleviate our pain and suffering
The list above is by no means complete and most of the items on the list are not bad in and of themselves. It’s when we begin to use anything in excess or in order to avoid pain.
I find I am caught in a terrible bind these days. I use food to stop the immense feeling of powerlessness and pain I feel for the people I love. Watching my heroic stepson battle life-threatening cancer with all his strength. His wife, and the rest of our family praying and believing that God can intervene and commute this sentence. Every one of us along with friends here and around the world who are holding onto to hope beyond hope that a miracle will come any moment.
I wish I were strong and courageous enough to not use something to medicate this pain. But the truth is I’m not. So today, I will practice what my practice has been through this entire Lenten journey, surrender, relinquishment, letting go of my ability to stop pain, suffering and the road that leads eventually to the wedding feast. I will practice relinquishing self-contempt because I eased the pain with chocolate or pasta or whatever drug fills that aching place in my soul. Today I will pray for grace as I take the hand of Jesus and turn my face toward Jerusalem.
March 26, 2012
More thoughts on the wilderness journey. In the past two weeks the wilderness has felt more like an emotional white water rapids trip. The risks involved in white water rafting are caused by both environmental dangers and improper behaviors. Environmental dangers such as fallen trees, dams, rocks, and waterfalls. Improper behaviors such as inexperience and not using a guide, rafting while intoxicated and panic in dangerous situations.
There are so many environmental dangers both in the wilderness and in the white water. Finding safety as I continue this journey means training, trusting experienced guides and not panicking when thrown out of the raft. In fact when out of the raft, swimming to a calm spot behind a rock is protocol.
Last week I had a dream. In my dream I was in a large house with small children. I could see a storm, a whirlwind or tornado coming. I knew that I could not out run it. As it approached I realized the only safe place was to step into the eye of the storm, that there I would find calm and not be hurt. It was counterintuitive, I wanted to run with the children from the danger. I knew without a doubt if I stayed outside of the center the outer edges of the storm would destroy everything in its path, including me and the children. I was so afraid but as it approached I grabbed the kids and stepped into the center of the storm. It was instantly calm as the whirlwind carried us and then set us down. We were safe. Dream ends.
I have no control over the elemental dangers that come. The truth is, in this lenten season I have learned how little control I have over much at all.
In a Jan Richardson’s book, “Sacred Journeys” I read a meditation on anger and tenderness. Here is part of the reflection I sit with as the white water of anger rages in my soul:
“Anger is a woman who has learned
is not the way to peacefulness,
is not the way to strength.”
Swimming to the Rock, stepping into the Center of the storm, relinquishing control over and over, that what this Lenten journey is teaching me.
March 15, 2012
Lent, the season of relinquishment. Relinquishment, letting go, surrender all verbs, something we do. Time in the wilderness definitely calls forth action but the action I find being called forth during this season in many ways is what Jesus might have meant when he said if we wanted to follow Him we would have to pick up our cross daily. Some of the relinquishment I am being invited to:
• Giving up any sense that I can control things that are absolutely out of my control, not even sure that makes sense.
• Letting go of expectations that at one time seemed legit.
• Surrendering to the paradox of surrendering my will to God’s will but even that is not in my own power but by God’s grace.
• Abandonment of all illusions that we don’t live in a war zone
• Surrender to a dependence on and a desperation for the Spirit of God
• Letting go of people in graciousness that I really don’t “have” to be present to
• Giving up on pretenses
• Releasing my pride to accept kindness and goodness in all the ways in which they come to me
• Letting go of willfulness and embracing willingness (Thank you Richard Rohr)
• Desisting from self-contempt
• Surrender to the powerlessness of meeting other’s expectations of me
My time in this wilderness is definitely a painful call to action…
March 7, 2012
“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.”
This last week the wild animals of fear, sadness, loss, anger, frustration, powerlessness and emotions that cannot be articulated became constant companions. Both while I was awake and even more so in my sleep. At the same time angels appeared all around me. Ministering angels that brought courage, peace, joy, strength, wisdom, faith, hope and love to me in the most unexpected and in the most obvious of places.
Somehow the care of angels brought me the ability to make peace with the wild animals. The prophetic picture of the lion lying down with the lamb comes to mind. Something in the tension of holding so many conflicting life experiences that are my reality in the here and now becomes bearable as I meditate on the biblical themes of wilderness.
I’m not sure how I will feel tomorrow, but for today, I am grateful for the care of angels…
February 28, 2012
As I continue to reflect on the Lenten journey today I found myself reflecting on Jesus’ forty days in the desert, the wilderness. The Judean wilderness was largely uninhabitable and full of dangers for anyone traveling through let alone staying for forty days. Dangers from the scorching sun by day and the extreme cold at night. Dangers from the wild animals and scorpions, the lack of food and scarcity of water. Today in my reflection on the journey through the wilderness this is what came up for me:
Dangerous animals – right now the most dangerous animal threatening to devour is “cancer.”
Scorpions – the poisonous sting from people’s unkind words, their projections, their unresolved pettiness and lack of relational integrity. One of the most vile scorpion bites – passive agressive behavior
Scorching sun – anxiety surrounding provision for those I care deeply about
Extreme cold – Biting fear, fear of the future, fear of harm to those I love, fear of rivers of sadness as you watch those you love in pain.
The wilderness journey for Israel, Moses, Elijah and Jesus end with renewal, faith, hope and vision. I will hold that posture…justice comes. As my friend David sings, “#LTKC!”