Posted in Different Learning, Different Thoughts

shortages

As we were living in Hungary, one thing we could not miss when watching international news coverage, was the fascination and humor most of the world watched with as the United States somehow panicked for the last remaining rolls of toilet paper. It was mind-boggling to us, as we’d never seen such a scramble for the white rolls of bathroom tissue. Surely it was just being over-dramatized, we thought. Perhaps this is just happening in the large cities. But as we talked with friends, and checked online, we saw that the strange phenomenon was happening widespread, even as most people confessed to being mystified by it themselves. Even as it was happening, memes popped up and late night talk show hosts made fun of…well….Americans who seemed to find comfort when facing the unknows of a pandemic with the dependable reality of knowing we could at least “take care of business” through it all.

Since returning to the US, it does seem like “Shortages” continue to pop up in the news. It doesn’t even take someone with a conspiratorial eye, to begin to wonder if many of these are simply well-placed advertising campaign strategies. But some legitimate shortages (most recently, Maple Syrup in Canada or Cream Cheese in the US) are still causing people and companies to think strategically, or to alter plans for consumption altogether.

Some might say that the reason Western Culture seems to notice “shortages” in ways that seem newsworthy, is that many of us have grown up or become accustomed to knowing that pretty much every “commonly-used” product we could imagine was readily available somewhere within a drive or an online order. It hasn’t taken long for this to impact our kids as they grow – with Christmas lists that often show no known limitations or boundaries. There are aspects of this we can be proud of – whimsical notions of “anything is possible” that we believe is healthy for our children as they grow. But it can also create a false sense of reality that most of the world still does not experience. Most places in the world continue to live with limitations, (and we do, if we’re honest enough to confess it), and that does not always mean a negative thing.

Now toilet paper is in a very unique category of “things I really hope we don’t have to learn how to do without.” But there is a sense in which limitations, and shortages, should be embraced a bit more readily as a positive path to spiritual growth as they come.

We live in a giant world with changing seasons, shifting climates, varying cultural backgrounds, many geographic features, and challenges as we tend to sowing and harvesting products in ways that justly care and provide for all of those involved. With so many variables, we should have limitations. We should have some foods that are only available in certain seasons. We should be thankful for what we can attain easily, and have a bit of wonder about what they have in other areas.

One of the beautiful aspects of Advent, is that we not only imagine what it was like to anticipate Jesus arriving for the first time, we imagine what it will be like when Jesus arrives fully. When Christ is revealed finally to be Lord over all things, and the Love of God swallows up all the cosmos, bringing together Heaven and Earth like never before – all things are made New. In those days (yet to come), there will be a growing shortage of shortages – as the full provision of God and His Good creation are revealed as enough (and also our hungers and consumption are brought into full alignment with His good and pleasurable ways).

In response to remembering this, we can celebrate in many ways. I would highlight two today:

  1. When possible, we can order/purchase something simple that doesn’t seem like it should be available to us because of season or location. Enjoy it on purpose, and share it with a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or child – imagining with them the coming age when all necessary things will be available and provided by Lord Jesus right on time.
  2. Purposefully choose to limit yourself of something. Sure, it may be at the store – but it’s not technically in season, or you’re not sure of the just working conditions/pay for those who labored. Choose something that you purposefully will “go without” this year. If it impacts the lives of others, don’t get all preachy – but if it involves kids – explain to them why you’re choosing to go without. Talk about being purposeful in our anticipation of the day when all that we need will always be provided – and not only us, but those brothers and sisters all over the globe.

No matter how we respond to Advent in particular, may we Christ-followers be leaders of the Way when it comes to responding to product shortages with peaceful confessions of our limited resources. We should not be surprised, and should be among those who generously seek community-beneficial adaptations when such shortages impact those around us.

May the peace of God who has already begun providing everything we truly need, fill and dwell in our hearts – and arrive through us as we share life together in community…both this Advent, and into the new year…

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33

Posted in Spoken Word, Uncategorized

salt & light

Recently I was invited to write a spoken word for a church, in response to the “Beatitudes” from Matthew chapter 5. These are the words I wrote, spoken…

To mouths untasting and eyes that may seem blind:
Here we pause to find – living Words of Salt and Light to help us do more than understand
Living in a land, bland and shadowed
We hear the call to Kingdom Living
Giving that which we could never create, as fate finds itself defeated
By the One who interceded – Christ speaks still today
Through those standing in the fray, living in the Spirit empowered Way
He has revealed
Both those who have been healed, and those desperate still for healing
We find Kingdom revealing in these – more than simply platitudes
We call them the beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who’ve come near it but never quite arrived
Or thrived the way this world pretends.
Their desire transcends the offers of this realm, yearning for Jesus on the Throne
His Kingdom is their own.
Blessed are those who moan, and mourn,
Suffering – born of living against the norm, and weathering the storms too fierce to be calmed
Theirs is the balm of Gilead, with Jeremiah we seek
As we continue to hear Jesus speak
We hear him whisper – “Blessed are the meek.”
Those who quiet their own voice enough to hear, when Jesus himself is near,
It becomes clear the noises of this world are often simply distracting,
Acting is if they could offer new birth, but theirs is not the earth,
it is passed down from Father to child – to those He reconciled.
Blessed are those with a Divinely wild
hunger and thirst – Those for whom a burst
of spiritual enthusiasm could never pass
They will not only amass what is sought and could never be bought by religion,
but be filled overflowing by His provision.
Blessed are those who show mercy and compassion
Beyond the trends and fashion – to sacrificial loving, extra mile and going aboving
For they will receive the same – in the Name of Jesus
The one who frees us to be Blessed as those pure in heart,
Those who would depart and turn from old ways, offering their days as a sacrifice of praise
To break through this world’s facade – for they will see the face of God.
Blessed are those who not only cause violence to cease, or slow its’ increase,
But actively seek to create new peace
For they will not only hear applause begin – they will be called His kin
Children of the most high, those responding to the cry of oppression
Those who question the injustice of a system so broken
Not just a token representation, but as a citizen of a nation known as New Creation
But know the world will not always embrace, any member of the human race
that presents a case
For repentance.
Still – blessed are those who struggle for what is right, for yours is the light of the Kingdom.
As you bring them all I’ve inspired, you may still find some wired
to view my invitation to reconcile as something vile or offending
Rejoice – for I’ll never stop sending
my love for them, Just as I have for you.
So many have come before, as I continue to restore my grand redemption
There is no exemption.
Only places and moments in need
Oppressed who continue to bleed
Hungry mouths to feed
Systems built on greed
Wheat overgrown with weed

But through You – I intercede.

Posted in Different Scriptures

an experiment in prayer.

Take a deep breath for a moment, and prepare yourself to read the next few paragraphs slowly. As far as you are able, silence the noises and distractions in your environment. Acknowledge the noises you cannot silence, and set them aside mentally for now. Be sure you’re sitting comfortably in your chair.

Relax your body as far as you are able to, while still being able to read these words. Take another deep breath, but slower this time. Notice the breath entering your lungs, and become aware of the way God has created your brain to respond to increased levels of oxygen in your bloodstream from such a deep breath. It helps you to relax. Slow, deep breathing helps offer you a time and space where you step out of the routine for this moment. You step out of the pace of what needs to be accomplished, and what is depending on you, and allow yourself simply to “be” here and now.

I want you to imagine a leaf, which is easy to do right now because it is Autumn. Imagine all the colors you’ve seen recently, or look out the window for a moment to see what colors are visible there. Remember the warmth of summer, when all was green. Then the trees begin to change slowly, so that some of them are deep brown even now. Maybe you have seen, or can see even now – bright oranges, yellows, deep reds, and all hues and shades in between. Imagine what the trees will look like in the middle of winter – bare, branches blowing in the cold wind. They will be seemingly lifeless, as the flow of life within has slowed in order to survive until the higher temperatures return.

I want you to take another deep breath, and all yourself to examine your response to the question: What is the flow of spiritual life within you these days? Slow down for a moment. You are the only one who can guide yourself forward at a pace that offers this moment to God.

Maybe you feel vibrant and green.

You have experienced the shining of the sun, and the warmth of relationship both with God and others that have contributed to feeling like life is flowing into all the areas of who you are.

But possibly, there are parts of you…and possibly even the whole, that has begun to slow down internally.

The harsh conditions you have experienced in the world have made you feel cold. The flow of life seems to have slowed down. Some of it seems natural, and you can see the beauty in the changes of color as you experience the ebbs and flows of life, experiencing the natural seasons of living in a broken world. But it’s also possible the flow seems to have stopped to the point where it’s hard to find the beauty even in the leaves that remain, because they appear to be dried and falling already.

It happens so slowly, you may not even notice until this moment – taking time to examine the life and Spirit within you.

Even as you assess and allow yourself to be vulnerable to….yourself, the false statements begin to surface. Accusations to make you feel guilty or a sense of shame. “You haven’t done enough.” “You didn’t have such life within you to begin with.” “Such an experience isn’t possible, or is only for others.”

These are lies from the accuser. They have no place here. Imagine unplugging that speaker, or crumpling up the paper such words are written on, and tossing them in the garbage.

Instead, hear these words: (continue to read slowly – your tendency here will be to scan quickly through these words…but read them slowly, as if directly from God for you in this moment, with His intent to bring refreshment & healing to your soul)

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev. 3:20) “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:5, 7-11)

Know that metaphors are limited, and you are not a tree. Smile at how silly that sounds, and yet how important it is in this moment. Because it means you do not have to wait until a better external season for life to return. You do not have to wait until conditions are less harsh, to invite the life of the Holy Spirit that is available to you right now, to flow within you – bearing fruit that offers healing.

Not by any special effort, although it may make you want to respond in particular ways. But it begins simply by allowing yourself to be Loved by a God who has reconciled you to Himself already, and forgiven everything that could have separated you previously.

Spend a moment being thankful for such Love.

Come back as often as needed, and especially when you forget such a need exists.

Amen.