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Ask people what we need more of in this world and many will say “love” or “hope” or “justice.” All of these are good answers. Especially as we reflect on the 10 years since the tragedy of 9/11/2001. But today I was challenged by some comments in the editor’s introduction to the Weavings Journal for Sept/Oct 2000. Founding Editor John Mogabgab writes,
“…The real explanation for the force shaping the course of things is gathered up in one radiant word: mercy. Creation in its entirety is a work of God’s love and though it is fractured by every sort of strife, it cannot escape the gravity of mercy. God’s mercy fills the earth (Ps. 33:5), an outpouring of costly care that is not merely one among several of God’s dispositions toward misery and need.
Mercy is the deepest quality of God’s love, the most encompassing movement of God’s heart, the most stunningly unexpected evidence of God’s generosity, the most enduring commitment of God’s sovereignty…Flexible and strong, mercy is capable of bearing sorrow’s weight and of supporting every honest effort to build new life.”
I was taken aback by the richness of these thoughts and the depth of God’s compassion — to all who have experienced grief and loss and pain and despair. We need mercy. Leaders need it, politicians need it, teachers need it, pastors need it, and God knows I really need it.
So, this week, perhaps a thought about mercy. Mogabgab observes, “In the paradoxical economy of God’s realm, what is freely given away often returns greatly multiplied (Mk. 6:30-44).”
Mercy is exactly what you need. So go ahead — give some away.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Mt. 5:7)
You and I believe a lie. Recovery Groups are for really sick people. But here’s the truth – we all need recovery because we are all sick. Recovery is not a place or a program or a kind of group – it is a way of life, a process where we “recover” from the effects of the Fall. We are all wounded emotionally and damaged spiritually. Emotional health and spiritual growth are mutually dependent. This has implications for how we build community in the Church.
Here’s a few things to consider as you build groups and guide leaders.
1) Emotional health is a pre-requisite for long-term spiritual vitality.
2) Leaders and Pastors need healing just like the rest of us.
3) The “really sick” people in our churches and communities are not just the “addicts” or the “abused” or the “formerly incarcerated.” We all need a doctor.
4) Group life flourishes when churches become safe places.
Becoming a “Hospital Church”
If you talk with James Reeves, the first and only Pastor of the 25-year old, 1500 member Celebration Fellowship in Ft. Worth, TX you will hear this mantra: “The Church has to be a safe place and the Church has to have a safe process.” The first funeral he did, at age 18 was his own 41-year-old alcoholic father. Alcoholism impacted his entire life, yet Reeves dislikes using terms like addiction and recovery because, “It sets up barriers between us and them; between the so-called healthy and the sick people. But we are all sick.”
Known as the Hospital Church, a place where everyone is “in recovery” from the effects of sin, the ministry has about 35 Home Groups for basic support and community. But people need a focused Support Group for deeper personal work, to confess secrets that destroy the soul, and to find tools to overcome destructive lifestyles. These groups must be safe, healing, provide real process for change and must foster the recovery of genuine intimacy with God and others. And they must be seen as “normal” – not special groups for “those kinds of people.”
The church’s emphasis through Reeves’ teaching is learning the “ABC’s of Life Change” which creates the environment for spiritual and emotional growth. Leaders are required to participate in two 14-week cycles in a Support Group, then another cycle as an apprentice leader before leading a group of their own. The biblically-rooted 12-step process is foundational to the experience.
Reeves observes that “The Church has historically said, ‘just love Jesus more’ but often people do not know how to be intimate with God or others, because of emotional wounds.” Those wounds create blocks to intimacy in both directions. These holistic groups and the process used help people remove the blockage and find freedom.
And we need a lot more of that — I know I do.
I am aware of some things today that are essential to functioning as a leader who tends to his soul. And I think every leader would do well to attend to them. However imperfectly I engage these, I am committed to working at them
1 Face Reality about Your Sin and Weakness: Always the first job of a leader, naming reality — about self and the organization — is of prime importance. I do not like this part, but it means honest reflection, humble confession and then a commitment to “let it go” and move ahead.
2 Declare Your Personal Dignity: Almost in contrast to the above, remind yourself that you are gifted, called, blessed, loved, forgiven, protected, significant, and loved (did I say that already??!!) in the eyes of God. This is your true identity in your relationship with Christ. Declare this daily!
3 Live a Shared Life in Community: Relational integrity stems directly from authentic communal engagement. You are, at some level, the product of your community. Living with others, as Jean Vanier says, reveals our pride and ego, and yet gives opportunities to be “for” others and share their lives. this practice keeps every leader from thinking to highly of himself/herself, and from self-absorption
4 Take Responsibility for Your Own Growth: It is up to me and you to read the book, have the conversation with a mentor, reflect on the Bible, expose the mind to new ideas, network with fresh thinkers and engage in serious debate and discussion. It is job one!
5 Pursue a Life of Simplicity: Rid yourself of the things that tangle up your leadership — unnecessary meetings, committees and teams; stuff that clamors for attention; people who are draining and never desire to change; varying from your core mission. You must ruthlessly shed these distractions so that you can give maximum energy to “this one thing I do” in the moments such focus is required.
What would you add to this list?
It was my first trip to Amsterdam speaking for the WCA and I wanted to see some of the best the city had to offer. I was quickly caught up with its European splendor and beauty. Outdoor café’s and coffee shops, fabulous architecture, a vast array of shops and dazzling flowers along the canals and waterways, enclosed by Holland’s famous dikes.
I had asked the person who arranged my trip whether there was anything special I should see if time is limited. Two recommendations were offered. “You will want to see Anne Frank’s house, the hiding place where she and her family had been hidden from the terror of Nazi’s seeking to exterminate all Jews.”
“Oh, and if you like art, make sure you see the Rijksmuseum.”
I asked, “Is there any special work of art I should look for?”
“Don’t worry, you will know it when you see it,” was the reply.
I have seen 3 incredible works of art that literally took my breath away and left me simply frozen in awe. One is “Miracle at Pentecost,” the 124-foot-long painting of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts (unfortunately now destroyed by a fire that devastated the Biblical Arts Center in Dallas). Another is “The David” by Michelangelo in Florence (the original in the Academy Gallery, not the replica in the piazza).
In the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam I saw the third.
I cannot describe the rush of thoughts and feelings—words are inadequate. There it hung on the wall and all I could do was stare with disbelief and wonder. You know what I mean—something so beautiful and inspiring that you can’t get take your eyes off it, you can’t get it out of your mind.
I turned the corner, and entered a room. There before me was The Night Watch by Rembrandt. You might think, “No big deal. Just a painting from the 17th century.” Maybe you’re right – maybe it is just beautiful to me—like staring into the hospital nursery after your first child is born thinking, “WOW – look at my child! She makes everyone else’s kid look so pitifully ugly.”
The Night Watch produced a similar reaction because it dwarfs the rest of the artwork — in scope, grandeur and depth.
But the artwork has a story beyond the surface beauty.
Though beautiful, it was later feared the work would be further damaged by the effects of the elements. In order to protect its beauty, it was covered with a dark varnish. As a result, people thought is was a night scene and hence it’s name was changed. Actually it is a scene in broad daylight, and was originally named after the main character in the work. You can read the story if you have time.
The painting is famous for a few reasons – one, it is a dramatic example of the use of light and shadow. Second, it’s story — a masterpiece covered in thick darkness later revealed in the light of restoration.
Granted, the subject matter in this portrait does not hold the mystery and power of Rembrandt’s other biblically-based works (like Return of the Prodigal Son). Maybe that is what I like about it. The redemptive power is more subtle. It requires meditation to understand.
Another reason it catches your attention is that it does not simply hang on the wall–it virtually covers it. The painting was 13′ x 16′ in it’s original dimensions (still very close after some restoration). Its sheer size and scope causes even the casual observer to pause. You might stroll past other paintings in the gallery and hardly notice some of them. Not this one. Here you stand and stare in wonder.
I sat pondering for an hour, as I did with The David and The Miracle at Pentecost, wondering, “How can someone create something so captivating, so beautiful, so stunning, so filled with wonder?” I felt like an hour of staring at it did not do it justice — like only reading the first sentence of War and Peace.
It is hard to imagine but that is how we will look at God one day. Staring in awe and wonder. And in that moment we will discover that he has been staring at us long before we ever knew he existed. Like Rembrandt, he envisioned a masterpiece, and then painstakingly applied his brush to our canvas. The results were… Perfect.
But later, after some rough handling, the corruption of the “elements” and layers of “protective varnish” to hide our true selves, our portrait sat covered in darkness. And then we were wrongly named — by what others saw on the outside.
But God, in his grace through Christ and with the power of his Spirit, broke through to the original and made us new, removing the thick darkness and exposing our Christ-like beauty. He gave us a new name; one that reflects the light. And someday, after all the work of restoration is complete, the unveling will come.
And we shall be like him. Priceless. We will not casually stroll past by any portraits in this eternal gallery. We will stare in awe at the work of the Artist. And all the beauty in the Rijksmuseum will pale in comparison.
Lord, remove the darkness that covers me, and let your light shine for all to see.
Personal pronoun. Third person plural. They. THEY are the problem. It’s about them. Let’s blame them. They did it…they said it…they promised…they want us to believe…they are the culprits…they are the ones to be feared, hated, attacked, confronted, voted out, labeled and demonized.
It’s so much easier when it’s about them. When THEY are to blame, I have no responsibility, no accountability, no culpability. I can relinquish my personal authority and avoid my civic responsibility. Why work so hard to be part of the process when all I have to do is expose “THEM” to the world? That way I can “tell it like it is” and not worry about working to make it “like it should be.”
Then we can all get angry at THEM, lament the affect “THEY” have on us, and go about doing our lives without changing. BUT WHAT IF…
What if I replaced THEM (they) with that awesome small group — me, myself and I? What could the 3 of ”us” do if “we” put our head, hands and heart into it? Oh my…we may never know. It’s so much easier to crack open a coke or a brew, hit the remote and shout, “Tell me like it is!”
Sure. Just let the media distill the truth down to a soundbite that fits the agenda of Rush, Keith, Glenn, Sean, Rachel, Ed, and the whole conglomerate ABC-CBS-NBC-FOX-MSNBC-CNN info-machine. After all, they are watching out for me, covering my back, setting me straight, representing my point of view (which, under no circumstances should ever be challenged!).
OR…I could actually DO SOMETHING.
Like read real news, search real websites and data, talk to real people, really look at my own heart and soul and actions. Or I could serve on a school board or volunteer at the shelter or call my Congress person or attend some meetings or write an op-ed or take my local rep to lunch or actually read the report for myself.
OR…OR…OR…oh my… I am getting tired….all that effort…
That sounds like so much work. I’m so busy….Where’s my remote? Oh, good. There it is.
Click…AHHH…Now, that feels better. Where’s my mug? Slurp. Ahh…Yes…phew!
Go ahead…I’m all ears. Tell me like it is.
Don’t Do It! – Never. Just Don’t. It’s not worth it.
When you do you will be crushed, wounded, saddened, disappointed, frustrated, filled with regret and gripped with remorse. Fear Not!
That’s the message of Christmas…DO NOT BE AFRAID!
And if you FEAR NOT you WILL…..
Not be Afraid
Not Let Your Heart be Troubled
Not Wear Yourself out to Get Rich
Not Return Evil for Evil
Not Withhold Discipline from Your Children
Not Let Your Heart Envy the Wicked
Not Speak to a Fool
Not Boast About Tomorrow
Not Exalt Yourself
When I am captivated by fear, I will do all of this. But..WHEN I FEAR NOT, I WILL NOT. So I rest, trust and I will make every effort to put away fear.
Have a Wonderf-filled, Fear-free Christmas!
Was thinking today about the mad rush for stuff, for sales for early shopping. No doubt there are some great deals out there and if you have a specific purchase in mind and you can save a few hundred, go for it. I am already writing this way past the store openings. But I did have some thoughts.
On Good Friday darkness covered the land.
On Black Friday excess covers the land.
On Good Friday He paid our debts.
On Black Friday We make our debts.
On Black Friday the prices are very low.
On Good Friday the price was very high.
On Black Friday the stores move into the black.
On Good Friday He stepped into the black.
Before Black Friday shoppers stay up all night to make a deal.
Before Good Friday He was up all night to settle a score.
What happens on Black Friday is barely remembered.
What happened on Good Friday is never forgotten.
Only some get a bargain today, Black Friday.
But we all got a deal on Good Friday. Hard to pass that one up.
Televangelists, Political Candidates, Talk Show Hosts, Pastors — gives us a break! Manipulating the Bible to fit your agenda is Biblical Malpractice…and using it to shame, guilt, demean, judge, condemn, and bludgeon people is offensive, immoral, destructive and hypocritical — You are committing TEXTUAL ABUSE!
I got an earful of Scripture-twisting over the past week and had to blurt this out. I watched 2 preachers twist the text to justify their blatant pursuit of wealth for personal gain; I listened to a talk show host tell us that the Bible does not promote social justice (which I understand to mean bringing God’s justice into the social order).
Then I watched a Politician describe his Christian beliefs as good system to manage his life as he yanked a few texts at random from the Word; I heard an evangelist respond to his public statements about the evil religion of Islam and yet how he loved Muslims; I listed to a Pastor use the Bible to threaten people with God’s judgement and heard 2 other “Family” Christian radio programs manipulate the text to “make sure women understand their roles.”
Enough! The Bible is not a coaching “playbook”, a troubleshooting guide, a “road to prosperity” handbook, a proof text for a political ideology, a weapon to bash people of other faiths, a toolbox of handy gadgets to fix every little leaky faucet and squeaking door hinge in our spiritual house, nor a master plan for fulfilling all my dreams.
No. It is the pure, simple, powerful, unparalleled, unadulterated, raw, unvarnished, loving, earth-shattering, heaven-jolting, Kingdom-advancing, Christ-revealing, living, active, transforming Word of the living God!
It requires my obedience, demands my perfection, recovers my true identity, glorifies our Father, reveals His truth, exalts His Son, releases His Spirit, and guides our sanctification. It is our bread, our sword, our mirror, our light, our path, and our way. It reminds us we are free, gives us hope, renews our soul and eradicates our sins. It builds, creates, empowers, sustains, emboldens, stretches, exhorts…it turns our hearts, shapes our minds, equips our hands and refreshes our souls.
So read it, chew on it, revel in it, share it, study it, debate it, preach it, teach it, reflect on it, obey it, weep over it, rush into danger with it, guard your heart with it, resist evil with it, promote justice with it, examine yourself with it, pray through it, be mastered by it, align your mission with it and place your confidence in it.
BUT NEVER — NEVER…EVER — ABUSE IT — OR USE IT TO ABUSE OTHERS!
NO WAY — NO HOW — UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!
And if you ever stand in the presence of someone who intentionally does…Let ‘em have an earful of the life-changing gospel of Jesus! Defend the Word and the reputation of the One who died to bring it to us — free of charge.
There — I said it. Glad I got that off my chest! Now, where was I? Oh yeah, back to work.
Good morning staff. This week we are promoting our new Venti Lite-Roast Double-Whip Sanctifier. People have loved it so far. It’s fast becoming one of our most popular drinks. For you newer staff, let me explain how we make it.
By the way, we recommend pushing the Venti size because it has the greatest effect with the least amount of cost. The impact only lasts a day, of course. But what a day!
We brew it with our special bean – the Zallaboutme bean — it lies in shallow soil, just below the surface. People are very attracted to it, because the aroma interacts with each person’s unique body chemistry, making them feel like it was made just for their particular taste. Soon they will recognize the aroma of the bean every time they drink one; they’ll take a whiff and find themselves saying, “It’s Zallaboutme!”
To put a little edge to it — just a little edge, not too much — we add a rare spice, Rigor. But be careful. Too much Rigor can ruin the effect of Zallaboutme. People soon find the drink too strong and even tiring. So we go light on the Rigor. We want them to have the impression that it is robust and bold, but never too demanding.
That’s where the Double-Whip topping comes in. If there’s any chance that the drink is too strong, the topping will act as a buffer. Unlike most drinks out there, the topping on the Lite-Sanctifier takes up about 80% of the drink’s volume. After all, it’s what on the surface that matters to the customer.
So always use the Double-Whip. Makes it feel like you are getting so much more for your money. It’s lite, tasty, and won’t fill them up for more than an hour or so. So they’ll keep coming back multiple times a day. And that’s cash to the bottom line.
So remember,with just a little bit of Rigor, and a lot of Double-Whip, the Lite-Roast Sanctifier will give the customer what they long for…
energy without effort…
fumes without fuel…
stimulation without sanctification.
Yeah..that other spice there…Obey…do we ever add that to the Sanctifier.
We used to put Obey in the drink when we first created it — instead of the Double-Whip. But the combination of Rigor and Obey was just too much for some folks. People stopped coming back. Seemed like they could go weeks without another shot. And we were losing money.
Though we’ve lost some of those former customers the change has been worth it. Since removing the Obey we have more than doubled our new customer base– they love the Lite-Roast Double-Whip Sanctifier!
So are we all OK? Great!
This promotion is good through the end of next month. Then, for the holidays, we’ll be doing something for the snack section — Candy-Coated Faithdrops. Small, hollow little goodies with lots of flavor but almost no filling. More on that later.
Americans are not very familiar with Scotch and Irish traditions beyond the whimsical humor, lively limericks and raucous bar songs the Celts have provided over the years. Some of my college friends would only be acquainted with corny Irish jokes or a glass of their favorite Scotch whiskey. Along those lines, here’s some humorous wisdom from across the pond.
May those who love us, love us.
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.
Now there’s a practical prayer that may come in handy some day!
Apart from hearing bagpipes at funerals or drinking green beer on Saint Patty’s Day, our culture has little experience with Celtic life, especially the spiritual and communal traditions. Some of our Catholic friends might have greater experience, but we all could benefit from greater exposure to the Celtic legacy.
Celtic traditions have long produced prayers and blessings for the people of God. And many in the tradition understand the communal impact of a heart seized by the captivating love and righteousness of God. Here is a Scottish blessing connecting the individual with the communal.
If there is righteousness in the heart
If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be
Redemptive community begins in the heart of God and erupts into the hearts of those who follow His way. Healing, grace, blessing and righteousness flow from the heart. Proverbs 15 says a happy heart makes the face cheerful, a discerning heart seeks knowledge, a cheerful heart has a continual feast, the righteous heart weighs its answers before speaking and a cheerful look brings joy to the heart.
It starts with a heart—and it can change a world. Not with grandiose, unattainable visions, epic fundraising efforts, piles of brick and mortar, threats of impending cataclysmic judgment or political upheaval. It starts very small.
Deep within the human heart lies the potential to change the world.
Dear God, captivate, control and change my heart today.
Beannachd Dia dhuit (blessings of God be with you – ScotsGaelic)