Make a Difference

All I do in life – and how I live my own life – can be understood by 10 Life Practices:

  1. Centering
  2. Awareness
  3. Empathy
  4. Assertiveness
  5. Emotional maturity
  6. Connecting
  7. Story-telling
  8. Reframing
  9. Creative Imagination
  10. Nonviolent engagement

Click on Life Practices above to read more.

 

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Immigration – spiritual and moral crisis

The “zero tolerance policy” of the Trump administration has created a moral and spiritual crisis for our nation. This is certainly not the first time the U.S. has forcibly removed children from their homes, taking them even from their parents’ arms. Think indigenous tribes and people brought to this country as slaves. But most of us thought we had moved beyond our history and that we were becoming a better nation. Most of us believed the poem from the Statute of Liberty represents who we “truly” are:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,”

Most Christians, I think, accept as authoritative the many words of prophets and of Jesus which tell us to not to oppress, in fact to care for, the “foreigner/alien” among us. To care for the poor, the “widows and orphans,” the children who come to us, “the least of these.” To hear our Attorney General quote only Romans 13 about obeying the laws of a government as scriptural authority to do what is being done tears at my heart. Many who are not Christian or who don’t know the Bible and the weight of its testimony against such a narrow interpretation of one passage against the words of Jesus and the prophets are being pushed even farther away from the Church.

For Christians who are committed to our faith and to what our Scriptures say, this is indeed a spiritual and moral crisis for us. I am convinced it is a moral crisis for our nation as well. God, help us.

Just Us = Justice

I think a lot about justice these days. Growing inequality, ripping children from immigrant parents’ arms, abuse of women by men, rampant authoritarianism in the U.S. and around the world – all of this and so much more! Where is justice?

One way to think about justice is “Just Us.” There is no “them.” It’s all “us” together in this world. Whether we’re thinking about the environment (melting ice caps), or the economy (growing poverty), or unapologetic racism and white supremacism, or anything else, justice is possible only when we accept that it’s all “us” living together in one world – the world God has created.

God loves the world. Christians love to say that. Yet Christians have often lived as if we are separate from the world, standing against the world, even hating the world. If we love the world – that is, we love all whom God loves – will we not seek justice for all? Will we exclude anyone from our love and concern? Will we turn our backs on anyone as if they do not matter?

I’m not sure exactly what I can do to help bring about justice for all, but I will do what I can each day. Will you?

What does God desire?

God desires a world where creation cooperates as it did at the beginning, where violence is unknown, where shalom permeates all the world.

The prophet Isaiah saw through a window and described a time when natural enemies would live together in peace, the time of shalom:
The wolf will live with the lamb,
                       the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
                        and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
                        their young will lie down together,
                        and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
                        and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
                       for the earth will be full of the knowledge
                       0f the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
                                    [ Isaiah 11:6-9]

Some people see in these words only a description of what life will be like at the end of time, as perhaps a description of heaven itself or of the time some call the millennium. But this seems to me an open window for us to see into the dream of God. Is this not what God desires for the world? And if it is, is it possible for us to work together toward the time of shalom even in this present world? Is this not our call as Christians?

Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome are at least an echo of Isaiah’s vision: Love does no harm. [Romans 13:10] The key phrase “no harm” unlocks the window to this divine dream. And love unlocks the door to the place where “no harm” becomes our experience. God desires a world where creation cooperates as it did at the beginning, where violence is unknown, where shalom permeates all the world. God desires the world described by Isaiah and will bring it into perfect existence at the end of time.

At the end of the book of Isaiah, we see the same vision described by God’s word through the prophet:
Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
            The former things will not be remembered,
                        Nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
             in what I will create….
The wolf and the lamb will feed together
                        and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
                        but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all
                        my holy mountain, says the Lord.
                                    [Isaiah 65:17-18,25]

Why is Christianity Declining?

David Gushee has a new book out – and this article – which joins the conversation around the decline of the Christian religion in America:

“The number of Christians and cultural strength of Christianity are both declining in the United States. This decline is noticeable and is affecting church life, culture, and politics. It is also deeply disturbing to most Christians, including me….”

  1. Gushee states two opposing reasons given for the decline:
    For example, many conservative evangelicals have for a long time pinned Christian decline on the mainline liberals, stating that if they had held firmly to a more robust and orthodox Christianity, they would have done better.
  2. On the other hand, many mainliners, not to mention disaffected evangelicals and ex-evangelicals, have made quite the opposite claim. For them, Christian decline is due to the excesses and rigidities of conservative religion.

Then he gives eight more possible reasons. Read the full article here.

 

 

What does it mean to repent?

Some thoughts from Luke 15:1-10 – about what it means to be lost and to repent ….

Let’s start at the end of the story and work backward. – This has nothing to do with heaven and hell. It’s about this world, this life – and how we live here and now. To “repent” is to experience a change of mind, perhaps of heart, to gain a sense of new purpose and new direction in life. – If we are lost, we have lost our direction. If we feel “lost” in life, we are not sure why we are here and what we are to do. We need a new clarity of mind and a new deepening of purpose and meaning in our hearts. – That’s what it means to repent – it means to be found.

“Sinners” was a pejorative term used by the self-righteous to describe people they judged as unacceptable because of who they were or how they lived. “Those people” did not follow the rules and regulations set for them, and so they were not welcome in the community of “the righteous.” They did not belong. That community could not accept them or care for them. It was not a community of warmth, compassion, and love.

Jesus came to “find the lost,” to seek out people who needed a change of mind and heart, of purpose and direction – whether they knew it or not. And his love and warmth and acceptance and hospitable spirit – his welcome of “those people” – was resented by people who could not feel that way and could not understand why Jesus did.

Most people are not looking for a church with rules and regulations to follow in order to belong. Most people may not even know they are looking or searching for anything. But when they are “found” – when people encounter real love, welcome, acceptance, authenticity, hospitality, caring – they often have a change of mind and heart and find a new purpose and direction in life.

Perhaps our “searching for the lost” is simply to offer welcome, acceptance, caring, love no matter what – and celebrate when people gather to experience with us the warmth of God’s love.

Love in this political season

Brian McLaren recently published an excellent piece called “Why Love…Why Now?” where he challenges us all to engage in love as followers of Jesus during this political season. I recommend the full article …

“I’m a committed follower of Christ, and Christ taught that the greatest commandment was to love … to love God, self, and neighbor, yes, but to go farther: to love beyond those normal limits … to love the stranger, the alien, the outsider, the outcast, the misunderstood, the misjudged, and the disinherited, even the opponent and the enemy.

The apostle Paul built on what Jesus taught. Without love, we’re nothing, just a bunch of annoying noise, he said. You can have mountain-moving faith – and we might add, creed-affirming doctrines – but without love, he said, it has no meaning or value. Love fulfills the law, he said, and the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.

If Jesus and Paul were right, then love is always in season.

But here in America, every four years we have national elections. …”

http://westandwithlove.org/why-love-why-now/