Joy at the Center

July 14th, 2019

Often we get sidetracked and let insignificant matters eclipse what is most important. Forgetting that the kingdom of God is fundamentally about peace and joy, we act as if it’s really about work, doing our duty, making enough money, building the church, organizing prayer meetings, or keeping other Christians in line. Why do we find it so hard to believe that joy is at the center, not at the periphery, of the spiritual life? Joy is what gives the spark to everything else. With joy we can accomplish much work; without joy we can work and work and get nowhere.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 144

Photo: Rhododendron Park, Bremen, Germany, May 16, 2004

Kinship

July 13th, 2019

In the end, though, the measure of our compassion with what Martin Luther King calls “the last, the least, and the lost” lies less in our service of those on the margins, and more in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. It speaks of a kinship so mutually rich that even the dividing line of service provider/service recipient is erased. We are sent to the margins NOT to make a difference but so that the folks on the margins will make us different.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 165

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 13, 2013

Righteous Anger

July 12th, 2019

The real issue, though, is how to understand divine anger in the context of overwhelming graciousness and mercy. The danger is that within a patriarchal, punitive setting, speaking of a wrathful God has been used to justify holy wars and torture, hostility to outsiders, and debilitating guilt in sensitive consciences. But righteous anger is a different breed of cat. It is profoundly ethical. It waxes hot in moral outrage because something good is being violated. Arising from love, it awakens energy to act to change the situation. Editing a powerful book of photographs of African American women, Barbara Summers was struck by the creative power of anger of even the most accomplished of these women: “A truly beautifying discovery for me was to find so much love in anger. It was a fist-up, death-defying love that challenged the unfair conditions of life and muscled in on injustice as it nursed both sides of a nation.” This is not anger with the spirit of murder in it, but fury that is creative of life. Much feminist in-depth analysis, such as Beverly Harrison’s influential essay “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love,” makes clear that far from being the opposite of love, righteous anger is a vivid, moral form of caring that empowers transformation.

In the context of God’s graciousness and mercy, divine anger functions for justice. It bespeaks a mode of caring response in the face of what harms beloved human beings or the created world itself. “The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor; to God it is a disaster,” writes Abraham Heschel. Divine wrath is a worthy response. True, it lasts but a moment; true, it is instrumental, aimed at change and conversion. But it stands as an antidote to sentimentality.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 39-40

Photo: Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia, July 3, 2017

Grievance Stories Turned Positive

July 11th, 2019

In any grievance story, someone does not get what he or she wants. Unacknowledged is that behind each painful situation is a positive intention. Once found and reclaimed, the positive intention alters the grievance story. The story is no longer just about the person and or situation that caused pain but about the goal that was not quite reached. Suddenly, instead of just recycling pain, the grievance story becomes a vehicle for learning how to change to attain that goal. The grievance story becomes a part of the positive intention story.

The person or event that hurt us is important insofar as we can learn from the situation. In no way, though do we allow our grievance to distract us from our goal. If we continue to pursue our goal, we exact the greatest revenge on someone who has hurt us. We move on. We find peace.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 143

Photo: Torrey Pines State Reserve, California, July 10, 2015

God’s Business

July 7th, 2019

Are you, in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa’s take: “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.” This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle. God intends it to be, I think. For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burden than they can bear, all bets seem to be off. Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you. Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day. If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God’s business. I find it hard enough to just be faithful.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 167-168

Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Who Is In?

July 6th, 2019

The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget — that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out but who it lets in.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 186

Photo: Prague, July 16, 2004

Err on the Side of Loving People

July 5th, 2019

I learned a long time ago that the most God-honoring, most Jesus-reflecting act is to err on the side of loving people. When you simply accept those around you in whatever condition they come to you, the table naturally expands and relationship happens and God does stuff that you couldn’t predict or control.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 43

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Finding the Coin

July 4th, 2019

The coin was not found because the coin followed a law or a commandment. It was not found because it realized its own state of ‘lost-ness’ and began looking for its owner. It was not found because of some ‘good works’ it had managed to achieve. The coin was found only because the woman looked for it. What could a coin contribute to its being found? The answer, of course, is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And is this not the point of using a coin as the imagery? There is absolutely no possibility of being misinterpreted. A coin cannot contribute to being found in any way. A sheep could possibly have made a sound or even walked toward the shepherd. Even though Jesus does not say any of this happened, it is possible to misinterpret Him and think the sheep did something. The point I am attempting to make is that the religious people in Jesus’ audience, who were so convinced that they contributed to their salvation, could find a way to distort the obvious meaning of the story and conclude that the sheep did do something. And so the lost sheep story is followed by the story of a lost coin, and now there is no way to be misinterpreted. A coin cannot do anything to contribute to its being found. The coin was found because the woman went looking for it — no other reason can possibly be asserted. And what’s more, the woman went looking until she found her coin. Again, Jesus chooses to use this word until. ‘Until it is found’ carries no possibility of failure. It can mean only one thing: that all who are lost shall be found.

— Peter Gray, Until They Are Found, p. 27-28

Photo: Rhine River, Germany, August 2000

We Come in Love

July 2nd, 2019

We come in love. I would submit that the teaching of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor is at the core and the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And we must be people who reclaim Christianity from its popular modality, from the way it is often perceived and presented, to a way of Christianity that looks something like Jesus. And Jesus said, Love God and love your neighbor, so we come in love.

That is the core of our faith. That is the heart of it. And we come, because we are Christian and the way of love calls for us to be humanitarian. It calls for us to care for those who have no one to care for them.

— Michael Curry, The Power of Love, p. 60-61

Photo: Above Spittal an der Drau, Austria, July 29, 1998

Libraries

June 28th, 2019

We have an obligation to read for pleasure. If others see us reading, we show that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries, to protest the closure of libraries.

If you do not value libraries you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

— Neil Gaiman, Art Matters, “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming”