Archive for the ‘god’ Category

I called my dad today. He’s 91 and doing well. He still works; he moves furniture at the retirement campus where he lives.

I caught him up on my life.

I’m crazy busy with transitional activities — selling a home, moving, completely remodeling another home, supporting my two daughters as they transition into adulthood, helping plan and support a succession process at my work.

I always try to get my dad to tell me what he’s been thinking about. He’s a thinker, a very spiritual person, philosophical, a reader, idea-centric.

I thought I’d get nothing this time but then out it popped. He’s been thinking about the “quietness of God’s presence.”

I asked him what that means.

He said, “I can’t sleep at night. I wake up. I don’t know what to do so I just enter the quietness of his presence. I don’t say anything. I don’t pray. I just worship. I’m dumb before him.”

I like it. I told my dad I like it; I do. I can’t imagine why I’d like this right now, but “hmmm.”

He finished up by saying, “In the quietness of his presence the answers will come. When I don’t know what to do, I just wait. The answers will come.”

I’m so busy, and so not quiet. I’ve been so anxious of late, slammed with the tyranny of the processes I am currently caught up in. I’m so in need of the quietness of The Presence.

What a fresh-breath idea from my old, quiet papa!

I hung up the phone, with our mutual “bye, bye’s” and a good sense of what to do next.

Ever tried to do something, and it didn’t work?

I recently got some nice portabella mushrooms out of the frig to grill and had to throw them away.  

The mushrooms had grown hair!

It’s weird, but I prefer my mushrooms, like my babies — bald.

This week I drove to a meeting only to find it had just been cancelled —  by text —  but I hadn’t looked at my phone for a half-hour and didn’t know that. You don’t check this  (hold up mobile phone) every 15 minutes — you’re history.

Then last week my daughter and I went to our backyard to clean it up and we got so frightened we had to run inside and call the fire department.

I often experience “failure of purpose.” 

And this … has led me to a startling and unexpected conclusion: 

I’m not God! 

Wow! How disappointing.

 And you aren’t either.  

But here is the truth.

Isaiah 46:9-10, God speaking says:

I am God, and there is no other;

    I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,

    from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say, ‘My purpose will stand,

    and I will do all that I please.’

God is so different from me. He can do all he pleases!

He can clean up the backyard.

Isaiah 46 is called the book of comfort. It is Isaiah’s words addressed to the Jewish exiles returning home from Babylon. 

After sending his precious ones into exile for their idolatry, God is bringing them home again to Jerusalem.  

Why were they exiled? They had looked to Bel and Nebo, Mesopotamian and Canaanite gods of fertility and wisdom for help, not the one true God.  

And so God said to them, “No, I alone am God. There is no other. Only my purpose stands.”

In other words, God was telling them, I am sovereign.

To say God is sovereign is to say he is in control and that his purpose will be fulfilled.

And what is God’s purpose?

His purpose is clearly stated at the end of Isaiah 46, in verse 13. 

I am bringing my righteousness near,

    it is not far away;

    and my salvation will not be delayed.

God’s purpose is bring us home, from exile, to return us to himself, and make us righteous. 

I spent a good deal of time during July painting the inside of a house. 

I hate paint!

Paint won’t mind. Paint loves to migrate. 

Pry up a paint lid and the paint will literally jump out, and fly onto your hands, up your elbows, onto your face and into your hair. 

Paint reminds us that … we are not sovereign. 

Paint is sovereign! 

No, God is.  

Rev 21:4-6 confirms what we read in Isaiah 46. 

“I am making everything new!” …says God in Christ. “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true … It is done. 

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

God, is in control of newness, of cosmic paint, of the end product, even when we mess up. 

And, like Israel, we do mess up. 

We bow to the modern, mini-gods of success, image, health, money and work. 

But  God alone … can save. 

He can paint justice where there was oppression, and righteousness where there was sin.

God is sovereign …  and … He is good.

Why add good? 

Why add, “He is good.”

 Because his power can make him seem scary, and some theologians have taken sovereignty too far, and have claimed that God even wills and ordains evil. 

They extend his sovereignty to everything.

But, this not correct. 

Evil is something we do, not God, with our free wills. 

And here is where sovereignty gets quite mysterious.

What is God responsible for and what our we? 

Scripture tells us God is sovereign and yet it also clearly indicates God has given us free will.

This is not a sermon on free will, but when Paul writes in Romans 14:12 that “each of us will [have to] give an account of ourselves to God”  This clearly indicates we have agency, and will be held responsible for our actions.  

It’s quite a complex mess really … and when we add in nature’s role (earthquakes, viruses, dangerous beasts) the whole sovereign thing gets even stickier. 

Last week — as I mentioned earlier — my daughter Rosalind and I were working in our backyard picking up old baseboards we took out of the house. 

Some of the wood was under a roll of carpet we had thrown out, so she asked me to move the heavy carpet. 

I picked it up and underneath, right at my feet was — a diamondback rattle snake!

I went airborne.

 In one-half a nano second Rosalind and I were back inside the house. 

And the equally terrified snake was … back under “his” carpet. 

Life is out control!

Three phone calls later, the fire department came, and they calmly caught the snake with their pincher stick, and put it in a bucket and took it away. 

 I love firemen!

They told me. “Yeah, the snakes are good. They control the rodent population.”

Sheesh!  I’d rather have furry little mice and Ratatouilles.

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes!”

And the terrified snake is now saying, “Humans, why did it have to be humans with a pincher stick, and a bucket!”

Why?

 Because our sovereign God decided on snakes as part of a healthy natural ecosystem, and then he let them go … where they please!

God is sovereign, but he is also wild, and he made a wild, free world. 

And that wild world is not safe, yikes!

I am learning something else I don’t want to learn. 

God is in ultimate control, but that doesn’t mean he that he micromanages life to be easy or perfectly safe or just what I want.

I think the hardest part of sovereignty is when things don’t go my way.

I want no snakes!

I want no problems!

But the world God made is empowered, wild and free — fires, bacteria, poison beasts, poison people.

And so from a wild, beautiful, snaky, diseased, idolatrous, sin-sick world we cry out Papa, help!

“Oh great God, come save us within this dangerous-beautiful world!

And here is where we can gain hope.

As Isaiah recorded, God saves, he restores, and he brings us home.

And it is in Christ that God works out his ultimate sovereignty and his salvific purpose.

Colossians 1:17-18

 He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The salvation promised in Isaiah 46, and confirmed in Rev. 21,  is completed in Christ. 

Jesus is the supremacy and sovereignty of God and by his death for our sin, he has cleaned up our back yard and he will remove the snake!

Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in us — and we are best when we look to him, no matter how out of control life seems. 

My brother Steve has cancer. Many in our church pray for him. 

I asked Steve recently, “How do you pray for yourself. 

Steve wrote back his answer on Friday night:

“How do I pray and live?

 I don’t ask for the cancer to leave. 

I don’t even ask for a mitigated, lighter response.

I ask for God to help me not be a grump, to be thankful and kind to Joyce [his wife], to keep my mouth shut or think and pause a bit before I speak because I am in such an agitated state [because of the chemo, Benadryl,  and steroids].

I am asking God to help me live into the values or ways God calls me to live, Thy kingdom come not mine. 

I’d like to be healthy and not have bruises up and down my left arm & hand from doing yard work.

 I’d like not to be up right now, in the middle of the night. 

I’d like to carry the idol called health and image, the one most bowed to here in Southern California, but it ain’t happening.

[But, he finishes] I do believe God will bring good to me during this season.”

Steve is rejecting the lesser-California gods of health and image. 

And he is rejecting the false notion that he is god, and can control his life. 

 Steve is looking to Christ to fulfill God’s purpose in his life.

 Bruised and battered, Steve is living Romans 8:28, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Using our free wills wisely, we can align with God’s purpose, and pray to be loving — no matter what is happening — and choose to whine less. 

Do this: Choose no other god than God.

And do this. Believe that God is sovereign.

He is sovereign over mushrooms, meetings, paint, snakes, California culture, our bodies, our souls —  over everything.  

God, has got it! 

God, has got us! 

God alone will save us and brings us home from our exiles.  

It is a great mystery, but we, his people, through God’s sovereignty, will be okay. 

I am God, [says the Lord] and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9

“Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a manic-depressive with limitless capital.

Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking on the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; thought nothing is lost, all is spent.”

Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My brother Steve is making friends with randomness — kind of.

This morning he mentioned to me that during his hospitalization for his stem cell transplant — four years ago — a butterfly came to the window of his hospital room everyday.

It was a snatch of beauty, experienced in a tough season, and it helped carry him through. The bright, fluttering wings —  it was mobile brightness and beauty much needed in a shadowy moment.

Was it providential?

Was it random?

He and I both think the fly flies somewhere in the cracks of the flyway.

God isn’t up there — or somewhere — pulling the puppet stings for every small event in the universe, sending out insects, calling in winds, pronouncing sneezes.  Surely God isn’t sending butterflies to sick people, but not all of them. Not everyone gets one.

I am sure God can do what he wants, intervene when he wants, intrude if he wills — and he does —  but I really can’t imagine God as a universal micromanager. He couldn’t possibly be that bored, that controlling or that tyrannical. He may know every sparrow that drops, but he doesn’t map all their paths, fly them into windows — which they are prone to do — or continuously fly them past all invalids, and the valids too, in need of a sign.

First off, and perhaps last too, God already has sent stuff our way simply by making us and making so freakin’ much of it —  of stuff.  God is Annie’s “manic-depressive with limitless capital.” He made extra, he has gone overboard. He’s a virtual sybarite! He’s a holy, unrestrained debauchee. That much is fairly obvious. Look for yourself.

God made millions or even billions of everything — grass blades, flies, bacteria, spores, mushrooms, rabbits, ideas, daisies. They multiply and die like crazy, the flora, the fauna, butterflies, Madonnas.

Why? Why so much of everything? Well, in this way we an keep running into stuff, randomly, or not, the natural wonder at the right moment, the white tailed deer along the road, the fish jumping in the lake as the sun sets over the shy lovers.

God made enough of everything for the coincidental, for the happenstancial, for the random, for the vigorous and voracious vagaries to just keep showing up. He made so much it just keeps flooding the stage.

God planned plenty for us, from the beginning —  but the plan included not controlling everything. Don’t we have a will? Hasn’t he given us freedom? Is there no instinct? Can’t we make horrible choices? Don’t some things happen by chance? Can’t we reject him?

God seems to be into letting stuff choose, letting something choose, free will, instinct, volition, agency, even chance  — especially once the show was launched. I’m sure of this because anything less on his part would lack confidence, skill, humor, power and foresight.

“Nature is profligate” because God is profligate. God was, is and always will be recklessly extravagant.  It comes from being so resourced.

It means stuff happens.

When it does, is it for you?

Of course it is.

We love stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Lord of the Ring, the Cat in the Hat, but what is the greatest story of all? 

That story is the story of God. That is the story that absorbs and explains all other stories.

Charles Williams, the third member of the Christian literary group the Inklings — which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — was fascinated by how God’s story involves a comprehensive connection to all of life.

To get at this, Williams coined the term co-inherence. Coinherence, describes how things exist in an essential and innate relationship with other things.

This is Christian. All humans exist within God’s existence. In Acts 17:28, Paul gives clear expression of coinherence when he writes: For in him [God] we live and move and have our being. 

In God we co-inhere, we symbiotically enmesh. In God we get sticky, and stick together. 

We don’t live The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of one great hero. We live the Epic of Togetherness.  Ecc. 4:9-12, “Two are better than one,”  writes the wise one.

Ever eat a sticky bun? You start from the outside and work your way in to the last bite, which is the most sugary and buttery of all. Imagine it, the cinnamon, the sugar, it sticks on your fingers, you finish by licking them.

Welcome to sticky bun theology! Life is a sticky bun, and God is the sugary goo that holds us all together.  It’s true. We live within a sticky, inter-connected spiritual eco-system, held together by the Godhead. 

God in his three persons — Father, Son and Spirit — are equal, and they work as one; they honor and serve each other and they stick together. And this sticky-trinity of goodness is the model and source of all human stickiness, all love and all co-operation.

The greatest story ever told is the story of God’s gummy, adhesive, connectedness to us. 

Do you want in on this? Want coinherence, want connectedness? The how to get this is clearly stated in Galatians 2:20 where Paul writes, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

By accepting Christ’s death on the cross for ourselves, we come to participate in that death — we die to the old sinful self — and we enter into God’s interconnected, mutualistic, resurrected life. 

It is God’s sacrifice, his humility, his support, that brings all life into harmony. And here is the deal: God’s story  — a story of harmony through sacrifice — has huge ramification for our understanding of the family.

Good families adhere, come together, work well when they act like the God acts, like Jesus acts, and like the Holy Spirit acts. When families humbly serve each other, sacrifice for each other and empower each other just like the Trinity does, then they thrive!

Last week I put in some landscape irrigation pipe. To do so I had to water drill under two sidewalks. It was a muddy mess. I was up to my elbows in mud, to grow something.

Same with God. He got down in the mud for us. And when we do the same, when we get low, when we get down in the mud with him and with our family, we please God.

Paul commands this attitude in  Philippians 2:5-7.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.

Note Jesus’s example here. 

He didn’t hold on to power, but in the great kenosis, the emptying of Christ, God in Christ gave power up to bring us into close relationship with himself.

Therefore, to create unified families, we must follow Christ’s model and help and empower each other, not control and dominate each other.  

This is why Paul tells husbands to sacrifice for wives, just as Christ sacrificed for the church. God does not command males to dominate, as they have been so sinfully and addictively prone to do. He commands them to sacrifice. And Paul tells wives to respect their husbands too. The truth is that everybody is to sacrifice and to show respect to everybody in the family. Paul is telling us, in the family, act like the members of the Trinity act! Be mutually supportive.   

To be super clear, Paul instructs both husbands and wives, Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is sticky-bun theology. This makes for a sticky family. We are brought into harmony by mutually submitting.

This undermines any idea that families should be based on the old Roman code of fixed dominant and submissive roles. When family members insist on dominant roles, when one person dominates and controls, and when the family members compete for power and control, then those families depart from the epic, people-uniting story of God. 

The Trinity that makes up God, shows us the way to connectedness. Harmony in the family is through sacrifice — not dominance. Authoritarianism in the family isn’t Biblical; it is worldly!

This is particularly shown by authoritarianism’s dark side    psychological abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. These behaviors ruin families. They don’t align with God’s story. 

To any of us who over-control in the family, who lord it over others. I would remind of Luke 18:14, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” 

To find the good model of the good family we must remember the grand, epic story of the Bible.  God’s intent from the beginning was for things to exist in an essential, innate, nurturing, supportive and loving relationship all other things.

Think of traffic. Traffic is competition, right? The goal is to get there first. Not. 

We leave the house in the morning around the same time as our neighbors. We mix together on the streets. We travel in one big connected, jockeying, competing mess. We are connected, hopefully, not too much — or bam!

But actually, to make traffic work, we must not compete; we must defer to each other and wait for each other.

Driving side-by-side, we stay in our lanes, we signal when we turn, we stop at lights — well some of us stop.

The only ticket I ever got was for a California stop — a rolling stop —  an I’m-in-this-for-me stop. But traffic —  at it’s best  — is stopping for each other; it is watching out for each other, not using hand-gestures when people make mistakes. Good traffic is team work. The goal is for everyone to get there safely!

Welcome to a picture of the good family, the theologically sticky family, the co-inhered family, the collaborative family. In the collaborative families, we travel safely to the destination together. 

Each family member signals when they want to turn, waits for others to go first, stops when another says stop, obeys the concept that we do what is best for the team.  

In good families children obey. So do husbands. So do the cats. What about the need for good leaders in the family? Good families are made up of good leaders, and leaders are best when they are servants and helpers. They take turns leading. 

Good families: 

Allow for conflict and dialogue.

Make decisions through agreements. 

Empower all the members.  

Cooperate for the common good. 

Leave no one behind. 

My wife and I have recently been trying to pick out some new hardwood flooring for our house. 

I got really sold on one color of wood.  My wife pointed out that that wasn’t the color we originally agreed would fit best. But I was stuck on what I wanted. So I went to Lowes and ordered it. No, I didn’t. 

I had to pause myself. I had to think. My wife and I have decided never to make decisions of consequence without agreeing. We believe in treating each other as equals, showing mutual respect.

So I said, “Okay, I’ll drop that color idea. You’re right, we should choose something we both agree on.” 

And so we have!

We are traveling together, within the safety of mutual submission. 

The story of God — which is the best story in the Bible —  should inform and dictate our everyday behavior.

 It is the gummy and adhesive story of co-inherence.

Therefore, we do best to model our families after the systemic, sticky, collaborative example that flows to us out of the Trinity, a model of mutual respect, sacrifice, servanthood and love. 

Sticky bun theology — it makes for good, sticky families. 

“I haven’t heard from him much lately,” that’s what I would say if I was asked.

But saying that — like that — I feel guilty about it, like it’s my fault, and I feel less than the the great ones.

We haven’t talked on the phone — we don’t do that, but of course nobody does that even though some act like they do — and we haven’t sat down and just had it out. I mean, we have sat down, every day, but he hasn’t been that forthcoming. With me he never is. He is never very obvious, never blunt, never commanding.

Some people are like, “God told me this, or God told me that.” Some people are like “I felt like God wanted me to do this, or I felt like God wanted me to do that.”

I’m more like, we pretty much hang out most of the time, and I really want to do the right things — make good choices, puzzle out what to do, please him, ask others what they think —  so I just assume that I am always hearing, always being led, always pretty much in step, except when I know I’m not because I do something so selfish it’s obvious it’s wrong.

For me it’s kind of like, “I haven’t heard from him lately, because I have been hearing from him constantly lately,” if that makes any sense at all. It’s like the voice is so constant that it is never absent so it is not that obvious! It may seem arrogant to say that it is like that for me, but it is really a very humble and ordinary thing. Wisdom shouts, constantly,  to all of us, from every corner. Isn’t that what the Bible says? Tozer says it this way, “God is continuously articulate.”

On Saturday, I took an unlikely moment to ask someone how they were doing, listened a lot, affirmed their perspectives and prayed with them in a parking lot. It was ordinary in the sense that it was normal for me, just what I do, but perhaps it was more than that too.

Was it led? Did it come from God? I’ll leave that to the super-spiritual to determine, but I don’t need to decide that to make it spiritual or special or to claim that I’m special.  Like you, like all of us, I live and move and have my being within the divine ambit, the supernatural circle and the profound ambience of God.

My read on this is that it’s all led — except when it isn’t, and we mostly know when it isn’t. The rest — it is pure God.

I’m good with that. We are not hearing that much because we are always hearing.

The everyday good, the common care, the normal love — it’s all spiritual.

My mom has dementia.

This is very hard for my dad, my brothers, me, all the family.

Last week my brother was with her. They sat together on the porch in front of the home where she lives with her constant nursing companions.

My mom was quiet so my brother asked, “Mom what are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about God,” she replied.

More pause.

“What do you think about God?” he plied her.

She paused again and said, “That he’s watching over me.”

Mom doesn’t know much these days, but she knows this. In her disabled, confused and very vulnerable state, she knows that God is watching over her.

Perhaps as we age, we become more and more like we are and retain and exhibit more and more of who we have become. Mom has always known this — that God is near — and at this very challenging time in her life, she still does.

That isn’t her dementia; that is her reality.

This week I noted that in the news there was the usual hustle, activity and commotion around the country  — a new electric car on the market, some political wrangling, the usual celebrity gossip, the leaks about a new high-end smart phone, an incredible dinosaur discovery and some news about the latest self-appointed church apostles. There was also the Dow at a new high and the numbers concerning the cash raked in by the new block-buster movies.

The people get bored, and so there is the new stuff, in the news.

Sometime I guess we all want to live “the life” — or at least to hear about the life  —   the fast, fun, cutting edge, shocking, resourced, healed, powerful, cool life. We seem to have a ubiquitous interest in the best boost, the latest break, the newest go-to gadget, Gidget or gaggle. We seemed to be manic for the latest mission, mansion, murder, miracle or marketing “Wow!”

From business to government to church it sometimes seems as if the most common ambition is to get the next great thing, get the next good deal, aim for the next nearest star, to get rich or powerful — spirit-slain or financially insane in our own jet plane.

We seem to want to power up and move on out — a lot. We Americans are a fairly ambitious sort.

But a few days ago, digging around in my Bible for personal sanity, I ran across this line, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Hmm, “ambition,” to “lead a quiet life”?

Don’t usually put those two together.

I think I like it, and need it, because I also get bored and I too fall into wanting more, or else or other-better-bigger-digger-jigger.

But it helped me, this idea, this admonition to go for quietness. And so this week I worked on taking pleasure and quiet satisfaction in the small, simple things that I needed to do.

I helped an older disabled woman pay her rent. Interesting, driving her to the bank, giving her the money, talking to her about her limited budget, working with her on getting more affordable housing. Simple, quiet, good.

I also took someone who I wanted to to keep in a leadership loop out to lunch. She is super-special to me. We’ve made quiet history together, empowering women in the church. She was the first female elder I had the privilege to appoint and work with. Cool!

This week I also helped an NA group get established in a new location. Very mundane perhaps —  a new room — but very good for a whole group of people trying to recover.  Good for them!

Quiet things.

There were more, some very humble activities.

I took a person with special needs out to coffee; she had asked for some special attention. I took some time to drive her to Starbucks, to sit and talk to her, to ask questions and listen. She left smiling. I knew that was time well-spent.

At home, more of the mundane. I washed my cat, I paid my bills, I made dinner two nights, I washed dishes. One evening, I had a nice quiet dinner with just my wife. Then we watched some favorite TV together.  After that, I drove out and picked up my daughter and a disable friend from a late evening event.

I must say, upon reflection, that I like doing these kind of quiet things. Today, alone in my office,  I laid out a schedule at work for the things that we will deal with and talk about at church for the rest of the year, including Christmas. I like thinking ahead about Christmas. Looking ahead, thinking ahead, alone, in a peaceful room — for the good of some other people —  hmm, nice.

What is a quiet life? What does it mean to be ambitious for a quiet life?

It is this: it is simply being wiling and open and even eager to be doing what needs to be done, what is next, what is needed, what is helpful, what is gentle, what is loving, what others need. It means doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

I don’t mean to demean progress or vision or big dreams or big successes or stages or lights or healings or awards or news.  I’ve dreamed. I’ve surged forward. I’ve gone for more. I’ve had public successes, good moments on the stage of life. It was fun. Some of it was good.

And yet, and yet, and yet-by-yet, what deep peace, what excellent feelings of integrity, what quiet satisfaction lies in small, silent, simple everyday, unselfish things.

I think about it. I breathe this in. Today, after a simple, quiet week, I  breathe as if breathing a great, deep, calming silence.

Yeah, go for it when you can — if you must —  but the scripture does say to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

I think that this is in part, because God loves us so much, and because he wants us to love each other so much, and because God himself is deep and quiet and simply good — and because he wants us to experience great satisfaction.

Katy Perry cut her hair short. She is trying to find the person underneath the persona. She said so herself. I heard her say it. She’s looking for her authentic self. She wonders if she will be loved for who she really is. I get it.

Last night I went to my room about 9 am to watch the most recent episode of “Dr. Blake” on Netflix. He found out how his mother died, and he got on the bus with Jean, she leaned against him, he held her hand.

This morning when I came downstairs, I brewed a couple of strong shots of espresso,  then I petted my cat Megan until she purred, then I held my wife’s hand.

“Would you cry for me, would you spend your life with me? Tell me honestly, if I couldn’t be strong would you still love me the same?” We all wonder this, along every other creature on the planet, and I wonder this, along with Adam Levine, singing “Locked Away,” on my iPad.

We want to be loved as we are, for who we are, weak and strong, right and wrong. The thing is, this is a moving target. Who we are keeps changing, what we look like keeps changing, where we are keeps changing, what we do keeps changing and so we keep being a bit insecure which leads to the question, “If I got locked away, and we lost it all today, tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?”

Okay Adam, okay iTunes, okay iPad, okay listening audience, this is the constant state of we-fragile, we-insecure, we-ever-fluctuating human beings.

But, and yet … God … nonstop

God  …

                    is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

One lump of insecurity mixed with one lump of certainty.

“Yes, I am telling you, yes! Yes, you fragile God seekers — Katie, Adam, all of you — yes, I am telling you honestly — lost, locked away, found or abandoned, or not, yet again and again  — you will still certainly, yes, be loved the same, by God, yes, he will get on the bus with you that is going nowhere that you know for sure and hold your hand too, yes   — and with gentle effect.”

I have a simple request for you, God, this morning.

I’m asking for the good.

It isn’t because I am so much good as that I ache for good, but I do ache for more good, and less evil.

God will you encourage, protect, prosper and generally and in every possible known way to heaven empower anyone on earth who is doing good today?

Leaders, teachers, pastors, therapists, nurses, homemakers, business people, entertainers, sports figures, doctors, parents, grandparents, siblings — will you please greatly encourage and help anyone who is in a role where they are doing good?

Being gentle,

Being moral,

Being loving,

Being kind,

Bringing justice.

Giving to others,

Protecting the innocent.

Not shaming,

Not blaming,

Not being greedy,

Not oppressing,

Not being violent,

Not being sexually inappropriate,

Protecting little ones,

Protecting powerless ones.

 

God, we beg you, will you live super- duper-powerfully today in those who are making our world better?

We ask you to defeat evil and prosper good in and by and for those who are …

Buiding something good,

Restoring something good,

Adding value,

Inspiring hope.

Loving love.

 

This is our simple.

Immediate.

Appropriate.

Request.

Today.

He jostled and flowed within a large crowd. Among them, he was ramped up and impassioned — yes — and even more he was sonant, syllabic and bold-voiced  about the divine excitement. Urgency was on him and he began to speak to the crowd about the ultimate intention, to bring all living things that will into unity with each another.

The crowd grew. He spoke from within it; they moved as one and he advocated the gorgeous, healing, superb vision of unification. They ran after him. He spoke from the heart of a beautiful future where all living things will be respected and loved — he was absolutely sure this would happen. He said that the desire  was that all living things become one.

The separatists were present, and as he concluded his impassioned appeal, they basked naked around him, proud and unashamed in their idealized, politicalized,  spiritual exclusivity — and they smugly opposed what he said.  The pressing crowd, the critical religious elite, him alone and yet among them, there was a kind of dream-like vision stupor present — around Jesus.

I woke this morning to the news that Britian has withdrawn from the European Union and to the continuing news that America is strongly divided on the issue of immigration. A group of Brits, and Americans, want the “strangers” out. There is a growing, angry voice in our nation and our world advocating a new nationalism and a renewed political and social isolationism. This arises from a growing fear of the other, and with it comes the ubiquitous readvocacy of separation on the basis of nationality, belief, race and religion.

In my understanding of God, and Jesus, this trend is not Biblical, and it’s not Christian; it is political and it is worldly. God told Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” From the beginning, God has had an inclusive vision. Paul unabashedly taught the church in Ephesians 1, that God’s will is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Jesus was so open to including people outside his racial and religious circle that he was vehemently criticized, and yet he remained firm that his vision was to gather everyone he could at the banquet, to bring everyone under his wing, to save everyone he could. As a results, and getting this as they did, the early church was multi-ethnic and meta-national to the max because they followed Christ’s command to take the gospel to all nations. The early church overcame their own Jewish exclusivity and took the gospel world-wide. Thank God! In this way, they included us.

So why is there a strong, angry, anti-immigrant voice in America today? It is becuase the modern middle-class is shrinking, and it is fearful of losing its place, and it is mad. Things have changed, people have traveled, there are terrorists among us, we are afraid. We live in a not-brave new world, we live in the era of the  the stanger. To many the world seems and is more dangerous.

I somewhat understand this, but what  I don’t understand is how  Christians, God’s own people, those who have been included by God, lose our vision for what God is all about and join in separatist thinking. God is about salvation, God is about compassion — God is love. God is all about — he always has been — healing and saving anyone who would let him, and this isn’t limited to a particular class, to a certain race, to people of one religion or one nation. God cares for the alien, the stranger, the refugee, the citizen — all. Read the Bible. It says this.

If the people of the world come to our doorstep, if we mingle with the crowd, isn’t this an opportunity to love people who were once far off? Isn’t this an opportunity to fulfill the Great Comission? Have we forgotten Christ’s goal, his purpose and his passion to save, not condemn, the world? Yes, we need to be wise, yes we need to be careful, yes we need to protect the innocent, but yes too, we need to love all people as God does.

Our Chritianity needs to supersede our nationalism. Our mission needs to go beyond our politics and our love needs to quiet our anger and our fears. The Christian calling is to move among the crowd, to connect with people from all backgrounds and to join God’s gorgeous, excited passion to unite all things possible in Christ.  Our Christain dream, our Christian vision — it is for unification, not separation.