Friday, September 11, 2015

Love is a Tree in Winter

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Love is a tree that shimmers verdant light on those who rest in its green shade. It is safety and rest. Love is the home we always long for, even when we sit in our living rooms, feet propped up on the coffee table.

Sometimes, love finds us. We open our closet doors one morning to discover Narnia in the spring. We nestle our toes into the cool grass and lean our heads back against the rough of bark. Like the fabled Mary, we doze beside sweet Afton’s bank -- fearless. Until we wake up in the waste land, alone and haunted by taunting memories.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Donald Miller and Living a Good Story

If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn't cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn't tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you'd seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you'd feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won't make life meaningful either. ~ Donald Miller

I have a large stack of books that I planned to read this summer. As I finished up my spring-quarter finals in early June, I anticipated warm, humid, lazy afternoons spent sprawled on the couch reading books of my own choosing. I rationalized several unplanned purchases from Amazon, including Making Room, Notes from a Blue Bike, and Glittering Vices. I even developed a reading plan to actually finish The New Testament and the People of God, which I had hoped to read last year. But as always, my plans and what happens are two very different realities.

Between my server job and, well, my server job, I've really only made progress on one of my summer reads: Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. While I wish I had time to read more from my summer-book-stack, I don't regret making time for Miller. His blunt and down-to-earth reflections always bring me back to reality, to the real world where God's love and our lives intersect. The subtitle of A Million Miles is "How I Learned to Live a Better Story," and as a 30-year-old still suffering from a quarter-life-crisis hangover, Miller's encouragement toward meaning couldn't have come at a better time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mission USA

The rough attic room hovered close around us as we gathered in near darkness. It was cold above the machine shop, so we kept our coats zipped and hats on. We bowed our heads in prayer, remembering those who met in hiding out of necessity. We did it out of choice, leaving the comfort of our warm, well-lit college campus facilities to remember the Christians who meet in hiding. We talked about sending help and being sent as help. They need us.

Some weeks we focused on traditional mission fields of Africa, Asia and South America. We talked about poverty, hunger and oppression. We discussed lack of education, ignorance and crime. Perhaps we could send food and other resources? Maybe we could become overseas teachers? They need us.

Occasionally, we would acknowledge the needs of the Western world. We talked about the growing secularization of Europe and Oceania. How sad, we thought, that so many ancient cathedrals sit empty, that fewer and fewer attend church. We spoke about possible missionary trips to England or France. They need us.

These were natural activities for a college missions club in the United States. We had always been told that the world needed us. Those without democracy need our freedom and style of government. Those in ignorance need our educational system. Those who are hungry need our agricultural knowledge. Those who are poor need to be taught our conception of free enterprise. The sick need our medicine. Even those who believe need to be instructed by our theological expertise. They need us.

And we Americans have been willing to share our wealth of property, knowledge and spiritual tradition. Of the 400,000 international Christian missionaries in 2010, 1 in 3 were sent from the U.S.

Thinking back to my college days, it is ironic that we spent so little time discussing the country that receives more international missionaries than any other. In 2010, there were 32,400 missionaries to the U.S., surpassing any other country by 12,000.

Read more at Boundless.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bonhoeffer and the Under-Estimated Human Example

Earlier this week, I reached mentally for the source of a passage I’d recently read on the importance of example. I could not remember where the bit of writing came from, but tonight I stumbled across it in a seminary class forum. Of course, the passage came from Bonhoeffer.

The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating [as in the past], but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others. In particular, our own church will have to take the field against hubris, power-worship, envy, and humbug, as the roots of all evil. It will have to speak of moderation, purity, trust, loyalty, constancy, patience, discipline, humility, contentment, and modesty.* It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origins in the humility of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teachings); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power. (I hope to take up later this subject of ‘example’ and its place in the New Testament; it is something that we have almost entirely forgotten.) Further… revision of Christian apologetics; reform of the training for the ministry and the pattern of clerical life. (Letters and Papers from Prison, 382-3)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

N.T. Wright on the Vocation of Prayer

In his Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright lists prayer as one of the ways Christians are called to anticipate the Kingdom:

Prayer: In Romans 8 Paul indicates that prayer is a key, central anticipation of the eventual redeemed world order. In that world, redeemed humanity will take its rightful place, worshiping the Creator and set in stewardship over the world, sharing God's sovereign rule (Romans 5:17; Revelation 5:10). The new life of the Spirit, to which Christians are called in the present age, is not a matter of sitting back and enjoying spiritual comforts in a private, relaxed, easygoing spirituality, but consists rather of the unending struggle in the mystery of prayer, the struggle to bring God's wise, healing order into the world now, in implementation of the victory of the cross and anticipation of the final redemption. In prayer we are invited -- summoned -- to become more truly human, to worship the God in whose image we are made and so to find ourselves interceding for the world he loves. the start of God's address to the world, following the death and resurrection of his Son, is the creation and vocation by the Spirit of a people, drawn from every family, who will live consciously out of tune with the world as it presently is and in tune with the way God intends it to be (Romans 12:1-2: "Do not be conformed to this present age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds" -- a statement that might serve as a title for this chapter), and who by bearing that tension in themselves and turning it into prayer, become agents of that new world beginning to break into the present one in healing and hope. Prayer thus lies at the heart of the task of God's people, their glorious, strange, puzzling and ennobling vocation. (Kindle ed., Ch. 4)