Thursday, January 31, 2013

composition 10

When you've got nothing left
it hurts
When the proud have won
and your face is dirt

That's when the stones cry out

Oh, the time will come
when we'll rise and see
In the meantime, there is love

When you're too sad to speak...

That's when the stones cry out  


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the God of both outsiders and insiders

For many years I've used the NIV translation of Scripture, but lately I've been reading The Message.  I like it because it helps me understand a lot of passages in a fresh way.  Here's Romans 3:27-31.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear the world of sin.  Having faith in him sets us in the clear.  God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured.  This is not only clear, but it's now—this is current history!  God sets things right.  He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims?  Canceled?  Yes, canceled.  What we've learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does.  We've finally figured it out.  Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God?  Also canceled.  God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews.  How could it be otherwise since there is only one God?  God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.
But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don't we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded?   Not at all.  What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

thoughts about the Sabbath: everyone's a hypocrite

I reflect on the ten commandments from time to time.  Lately I've been thinking about this one as reads in the Old Testament in Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Most Christians believe this commandment is not obligatory now, but there are certain denominations that dictate the kind and amount of activities to be done on the Sabbath day.  Some even excommunicate people who don't behave accordingly which I think is unloving and tragic.  You can read my thoughts about excommunication here.

I believe resting on the Sabbath during Old Testament times was a sign of the covenant God had with Israel.  It was a small taste of the salvation in Christ that would be coming.  Then through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the law was cancelled.  The old covenant transformed into a new one for everybody in the world.
... God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:14

I think the Biblical law serves to remind us we're sinful.  It also helps us steer clear of danger, pain, and uselessness.  But I don't need to worry about measuring up to it seeing as though Jesus has taken it off my shoulders.

So when I look at this particular commandment, remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, I reflect on what holiness means and where it comes from.  Holiness is not about my external observance such as wearing my best clothes or avoiding shopping.  Instead, it is about my heart.  Refraining from doing laundry or going to a restaurant on a Sunday does nothing to sanctify me (though I'm free to behave that way if I want).

Well then, what makes me holy?  Being occupied with God's Word.  I believe reading and hearing Scripture is delightful to God and more beneficial than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.  Let's face it, some observances simply cannot ever be kept without sin.  I've noticed that the people who fuss about how terrible it is to go to a restaurant on a Sunday are the very same ones who have no qualms about watching a live news broadcast or preparing a meal and doing dishes (it requires work, does it not?).

I think a day dedicated to rules rather than a celebration of life—of Christ—becomes a hollow day, restrictive and void of joy.  That's depressing.  I'd rather spend the day in love and freedom with my faith community, rejoicing in the Word, especially when I know I have a weakness for turning morality into an idol.

When I notice church getting burdensome or depressing, I know it's time for me to examine myself to see if I might be taking on a yoke of slavery (whether it be a slavery to other people or tradition or whatever).  This is what I keep returning to: Jesus, who is my Sabbath.  I can rest in him whenever I want and I pray that, more and more, I experience the joy of freedom from the trappings of this world.

You are, of course, free to desist from work or restaurants or shopping on Sundays.  I don't think it makes you any worse than I am.  But please don't judge me or treat me like I'm less of a person if all I want to do is rest in Jesus and be joyful in community.  I'd rather do that on a Sunday—or any day—rather than stress about a bunch of rules that aren't going to save me anyway and only serve to make me more of a hypocrite than I already am.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

look up

My daughter, Tamara, age six, recently endured a hospital experience.  The first step, of course, was admitting something was wrong.  She complained of sore throat, neck, and eyes.  I try to avoid walk-in clinics if I can so, in the evening, I said, "We'll need to go to the hospital."
Tamara wasn't keen on the idea and it's understandable considering she doesn't attend any hospital on a regular basis.  It was clear to me that fears crept in rather quickly at the mention of it, so I said something like, "If we don't see a doctor, you're gonna get worse and worse.  You're special to me and I care about your body, so let's get going, okay?"

She agreed very reluctantly.

She became feverish in the hospital's waiting area and, thankfully, we were finally escorted into a room (it was similar to the one in which I had once enjoyed a picnic with my son, Trevor).

Under the Doctor's supervision, she underwent a barrage of vitals checks and a chest x-ray.  The blood test was particularly distressing for her.  It wasn't the test itself that was bad, it was her apprehension leading up to it.  Through tears, she said, "I don't want a blood test!"

I like the lobby in the Abbotsford hospital.

However, she calmed down considerably when I prayed with her.  It turned out the nurse had access to magic numbing cream that would make the poke less hurtful.  We both shed tears of relief and thanksgiving when we found out.

Around midnight, the doctor ordered for her to have an IV.  Getting jabbed in the hand with the intravenous needle was the most painful for Tamara.  Even with the numbing cream, it hurt terribly.  Sometimes receiving medicine means experiencing pain, but if you want to become better you have to suck it up and consent, trusting it's going to help you in the long run.

A nice man, who called himself the porter, wheeled the sleepy girl into an elevator and through the hall to the pediatric wing.  While they rolled along, I walked beside and briefly imagined it was me on the bed, flying through the air.

Anyway, Tamara stayed two nights in the hospital with an IV and now she's home, back to her usual cheery, whiny, active self. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lion in Between

Pamela and Ashley sat on tall stools at Divas' Bar and Grill wearing pastel hoop dresses.  In between them Pamela's pet lion sat on his hind legs with his front paws resting on the counter.

"I want you to be real with me," said Ashley.

"I am being real with you.  Brett Layburn is so hot.  Just look at this photo!"  She pulled a magazine clipping from her purse.

"His hat is funny," said Ashley.

The lion sat politely.

"Well, the hat doesn't matter.  Look at his hair!" Pamela said.  "That's more like who I wanna date.  Not Rodney.  Rodney's not sexy enough."

The lion licked her arm.

Pamela continued.  "But he's nice so I'm gonna keep hanging out with him and see what happens."

A waitress approached.  "Here's your Chocolate Delight," she said to Ashley.

Pamela leaned over and tried to see past the lion's paws.  "Mmmm."

"Anyway," said Ashley, "As I was saying, I think it's important for you to be honest about the crap in your life.  I mean, you gotta let it all out."

The lion shook his mane and made a loud yawning noise.  Pam laughed nervously.

"I've been logging all my own crap in my notebook and sharing it with whoever," said Ashley, "and I feel so much better because of that.  You don't have to do the same, of course.  You could choose one trustworthy friend and tell her your dark secrets.  Even then, you wouldn't have to tell it all at once.  You could just tell little bits at a time."

"But if I did that it would change the friendship," said Pam.  "I don't want my friendships to change."

The lion licked Pamela's arm again.

Ashley laughed.  "Are you kidding me?  Friendships should always be changing!  That's what makes life interesting and enjoyable, and that's how we become better people—within dynamic relationships."

The bartender approached.  "You know," he said to Pamela.  "I could sell you an elixir that would tone down his wild mane."

"No thanks, I use scissors," Pam said.

"It's not working," Ashley and the bartender said in unison.

Pamela smiled pretty.  "No, no, no.  I know what you're thinking.  Don't offer me any drinks for him and definitely not that... What was that Boca Loca drink you got for me before?"

"Rhyme and Reason," said Ashley.

"Oh yeah.  And none of that Rhyme and Reason either, thank-you.  See you later."  She stood up and left, taking her lion with her.