Part of Our Story

May 28th, 2020

Our scars are part of our story, but they are not its conclusion. The past is ours and will always be a part of us, and yet it is not all there is. It’s a process, moving from wounds to scars to grief to showing those scars. It takes time, and maybe therapy, and maybe being vulnerable in community, and maybe working through the twelve steps, and maybe making a lot of mistakes, and maybe experiencing a tiny bit of joy.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 158-159

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 25, 2020.

Your Best Revenge

May 26th, 2020

Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who hurt you power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 211

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

No Stingy God Here!

May 25th, 2020

Strangely, many Christians today limit God’s provident care to humans, and very few of them at that. How different we are from Jesus, who extended the divine generosity to sparrows, lilies, ravens, donkeys, the grasses of the fields (Luke 12:22), and even “the hairs of the head” (Matthew 10:29). No stingy God here! (Although he did neglect the hairs of my head.) But what stinginess on our side made us limit God’s concern — even eternal concern — to just ourselves? And how can we imagine God as caring about us if God does not care about everything else too? If God chooses and doles out his care, we are always insecure and unsure whether we are among the lucky recipients. But once we become aware of the generous, creative Presence that exists in all things natural, we can receive it as the inner Source of all dignity and worthiness. Dignity is not doled out to the worthy. It grounds the inherent worthiness of things in their very nature and existence.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 56-57

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 25, 2020

The Blessing of Work

May 24th, 2020

But the work for which we are fitted — which we feel we are sent into the world to do — what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds.

— L. M. Montgomery, Emily’s Quest, p. 102

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020

Following Jesus’ Model

May 24th, 2020

We have in Jesus the greatest model of compassion and kindness ever to walk the planet, and that needs to count for something. It needs to influence how we as followers of Christ interact with people we disagree with, or we end up simply being clanging cymbals, a loud, loveless noise in the ears of those around us, and feeling justified in doing so. We need to figure out how to live without the bullhorn and to find that quiet place of civility that Jesus finds so many times with so many different people. The idea of universal family or kinship is at the core of the Christian faith too, of all people made in the image of God, all creations of the same Creator, all equally flawed, all equally worthy of compassion. Our story is that every person is the neighbor we are called to love as ourselves.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

Hands and Heart of Love

May 20th, 2020

Throughout the Bible, God calls people to do difficult things. Keeping the Great Commandment to love God fully and to love your neighbor as yourself may be one of the most difficult. While our innate tendencies to self-centered actions and responses are a part of the complexity, another part of our difficulty is found in the remarkable example of love expressed in Jesus’ life that we are called to follow. Jesus shows us the hands and heart of love. When you read the Gospels and picture Jesus as he lived and carried out his ministry, you can see his hands at work. He offers a hand up for the paralyzed man healed by his touch. He puts a hand out to the woman caught in adultery and puts her on her feet with an experience of mercy and new life based on her future decisions rather than her past mistakes. Jesus’ expressive hands move when he shares his wisdom with a crowd about life with God through a parable.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 114

Photo: Wildeshausen, Germany, May 2004

The Scapegoated God

May 19th, 2020

The fact that the lamb is slain since the foundation of the world reveals that this is the way God has always been. He has always been an innocent Lamb who allows Himself to get slain for the sake of others. He is the premier scapegoat of humanity, but as a perfectly innocent scapegoat, it is best to describe Him as a Lamb. As the scapegoated God, Jesus identifies with all scapegoated, sacrificial victims since the foundation of the world. When we kill others in God’s name, Jesus is right there, with the sacrificial victim, being killed alongside the one we condemn, accuse, cast out, expel, dehumanize, and kill, all in the name of God. Through this revelation, we once again see that we can no longer scapegoat others in God’s name, for God is not a God who blames, accuses, and condemns, but is a God who loves, forgives, and accepts. And He calls us to do the same.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 206-207

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 16, 2020

Permanent Joy

May 18th, 2020

Joy is a permanent facet of the character of God who lives in me by His Holy Spirit. The more I believe this, the more it changes me, and the more this change is no flash in the pan but a permanent change of character.

Jesus gives His word that my joy will never be taken away. It inhabits a place in me that nothing and no one else can touch or influence, so long as I’m careful to honor that place. I may surrender my joy, but no person, nor any circumstance, can take it from me. It’s here to stay so long as I trust it. When I keep a wary eye on joy, fearful that she’ll slip away, I cannot fully relax to enjoy her. To the extent that I disbelieve in joy’s permanence, I’ll find her to be a fickle friend — exactly as fickle as my faith.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 168

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 18, 2020

God’s Amazing Love

May 17th, 2020

The story of Jesus told as accompaniment makes clear that there is no master plan in the divine mind to engineer his death in order to garner satisfaction for everyone else’s sins. The cross was in no way necessary. Think about it. Wouldn’t such an idea be blasphemy? It would ascribe to God, gracious and merciful, an evil that was done in the course of human injustice. How contradictory can you get?

Not even remotely did Jesus’ death satisfy divine honor; it dragged that honor into the dust. Nor did Jesus’ crucifixion change God’s attitude from anger to being appeased, as more popular atonement theologies would have it. I dare say that if the will of the living God had been carried out that “good” Friday, Jesus would not have been crucified.

The double solidarity of Jesus with those who suffer and of God with Jesus structures a theology of accompaniment so that it brings the presence of God who saves to the fore. Keep in mind that we are talking here about the same God who sides with slaves against the might of Pharaoh, with exiles against their imperial captors, and now with a crucified prophet against the Roman empire; “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). We are talking about the same gracious God, “your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 49:26), whom Jesus called father, whose compassion flashed out from the picturesque parables Jesus made up, and was tasted in the challenge and joy of his multiple interactions. Toward the end of the New Testament we read the bold statement that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This is a pithy summary of all that has gone down in the history of revelation up to that point. God loves the world and, like any good lover, wants the beloved to flourish.

Given the negativity of the cross, the creative power of the loving God showed itself once again in an unexpected new way by (unimaginably) raising Jesus from the dead. But God neither needed nor wanted the cross. True, this evil was encompassed by providential action, by God writing straight with crooked lines. True, in an antagonistic world suffering borne in the loving struggle for the good of others can bear fruit. But in itself, violent death is not what God desires.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 17, 2020

Connection, not Separation

May 15th, 2020

Jesus seemed to want connection with those around him, not separation. He touched human bodies deemed unclean as if they were themselves holy: dead little girls, lepers, menstruating women. People of his day were disgusted that Jesus’ disciples would eat with unwashed hands, and they tried to shame him for it. But he responded, “It is not what enters the mouth that makes one unclean but what comes out of it that defiles.” He was loyal to the law, just not at the expense of the people.

Jesus kept violating boundaries of decency to get to the people on the other side of that boundary, those who’d been wounded by it, those who were separated from the others: the motherless, the sex workers, the victims, and the victimizers. He cared about real holiness, the connection of things human and divine, the unity of sinners, the coming together of that which was formerly set apart.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 26-27

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