Easter, Windex, and gym memberships

So we end the story, God’s story, and his story of interaction with us, with a meal, an arrest, a cross, and a tomb. But it’s no cosmic secret that there is a Sunday. Christians for thousands of years have reflected on this, if at no other time, once a year, on a Friday in the spring we call “good.” Jesus has the most recognizable name on earth and most everyone knows the story. Although no one has a picture of him, no one living has met him, not everyone believes in who he claimed to be, speak his name in any country on earth, and anyone will know exactly whom you are talking about. Yet as Friday turns to Sunday, on this previously mentioned weekend in the spring, people around the world who do believe in who this Jesus said he was, celebrate Sunday, the Sunday, Easter Sunday. I have celebrated a number of Easters. My family would always do egg hunts, and Easter baskets, and big meals, and Easter bunnies. And as we are on the back end of yet another Easter, a question I have been asking and perhaps one worthwhile to give thought to is this, “so what now?” What do we do now? I get that that happened. But what is supposed to happen now? And that question makes me think of gym memberships.

I don’t spend an overwhelming amount of time in the gym. Honestly, even that is an understatement. I barely spend any amount of time at the gym. I don’t do protein shakes and I am not one of those guys walking around carrying a gallon of water. When I do go to the gym many times I am in awe of how in shape people actually are. That is not me. They are in a level of shape that I was unaware was possible. Why I bring this up is that I actually have a gym membership, even though I rarely attend. You sign up to get fit, you don’t get fit so then you can sign up. Its not a club for the fit, it’s a club for those who want to get fit, be fit, live a fit lifestyle. Imagine you go to the gym and you decide you want to be a member (this is likely after a shortsighted and ambitious New Years resolution). Imagine the employee welcomes you into his office and sits you at his desk. Now imagine if he said, “I am sorry, you are not in shape enough to be part of our gym. I am betting you don’t run enough miles a week, you don’t lift weights, and it doesn’t look like you drink any protein shakes. I don’t see you carrying a gallon of water. Get in shape then come and talk to me.” You would likely be a little floored. That is because gyms are there to help you get into shape. The perquisite is not that you have to be in shape, it’s that you want to get in shape. The requirement is not that you have transformed your body, it’s that you want your body transformed.

This is the problem with many people’s perspectives of God, it’s that God want’s you healthy before he wants you. We make God into some new years resolution that we never follow through on. There is always next year. Actuality the inverse is true, he wants you so you can be in healthy. He want’s to be in relationship with you so you can start the process of transformation He wants to start now. The more in you think you have it all together without him, the likelihood that you need him all the more.

Think of it this way. You have a glass of water and it is your only possible means of getting anything to drink. Imagine I came by an added a few drops of Windex to it, how would you get the Windex out? You could pour out as much of the water as you wanted, but not matter what you do, you can never be sure if you go it all out. You can’t get it all out. You might die of poising, or die of thirst from not drinking it. You can’t filter out the Windex. You need a new glass of water.

And so the story ends on Friday. It ends because it had to end. Before Friday, we all sit with a glass with chemicals in it. Some have more than others, but it doesn’t really matter, the water is contaminated, we need different water. We walk around with these things that poison us every day. We harbor the guilt and the shame and the pain and the fear left over from the way we have poisoned others, or the way we have poisoned ourselves. This is sin. Sin is the way we separate ourselves from God. It’s the way we poison ourselves. You don’t need to believe in God to have sinned. Sin poisons the life that we were given weather you believe in God or not; A life that was supposed to be pure and right and healthy.

No reasonable person would look at a glass with chemicals in it and say, “oh its not a big deal, maybe they aren’t that bad to drink, its not that bad.” Even if you didn’t know the chemicals were there, it doesn’t mean they magically won’t poison you all the same. They are bad to drink, they might even kill you, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We try to purify, try to clean, try to do our best, but it isn’t enough.

That is the beauty of Sunday. God ends his story on Friday, so he can begin a new story on Sunday. God absorbed all that we could not, he took on the sin of the world and emptied himself, so that we might experience life. Death on Friday, leads to life on Sunday. He took our cup, he took our poison, he took it all. And so we are left with an empty cup. No more poison, but no more water… until Sunday.

In the final book of the Bible, the author has a vision of a holy encounter with Jesus. As the author looked up he heard Jesus say, “I am making everything new.” He didn’t say, I am tuning things up. Or I am dusting things off. I am making everything new. It starts with Jesus, on Sunday. Rose to new life, so that he might raise us to new life as well. He is making everything new. This is what Sunday is all about.

What do we do with that? What we do is start. I am often asked how it all works, what can this do, what is this God thing all about. I respond by saying that God wants to transform all things about us, he wants to make everything new and right. He wants to give us a new, pure cup of water. But we have to begin somewhere. Transformation doesn’t happen instantaneously most of the time. Transformation happens when you acknowledge there is a starting point and you see where you want to go. We can’t be transformed if we don’t want to be transformed. We can’t be transformed outside of God. Try as we might, we could empty our cup till the last drop of water and in that last drop of water will be a last drop of Windex.

God doesn’t look to you and say, go get your act together then come and see me. He looks to you and says, “It’s Sunday, and I am making all things new. If you want to be made new, it’s not going to happen out there. It is going to happen with me.”

 

 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

Revelation 21:5

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Shallow waters and bacteria get people sick

When I met my wife, one of the biggest changes that I made was that I became a boater. I call myself a boater by association because, while I enjoy boating and wake boarding and being out on the water, my wife and her family live for it. Every summer for the last 8 has been consumed by boating. No joke, if you are looking for my wife’s family and I on a nice day, the likelihood that w would be out on the boat is near 100%. We boat on a stretch of the Fox River that flows from the boarder of Wisconsin down to Algonquin, IL. It is to my understanding one of the most crowded inland waterways for boaters, as well as one of the most polluted. They have done a great deal to clean it but all growing up I always swore, as we drove over the bridge that joined East and West Algonquin over the river, that I would never go in the Fox. Low and behold, the last eight years has seen me in that river countless times.

This summer however has been different however. It started well, being one of the hottest Junes in history. But the hottest June quickly turned into the driest June. The river depth continuously lowered and more and more boats were bottoming out proving to be costly for boaters and making it only possible to only boat in certain sections of the river. Those sections only proved useful for a short time however. As the rains held off, not only did the water level remain low but also the water flow was weakened and slowed. This provided an optimal habitat for dangerous bacteria, which began to get people sick when they ingested it inadvertently from being in the water.

Its crazy, what started as such optimal boating conditions turned into the same reasons we were prevented from going into the water.

One of my favorite stories from the Bible also has some epic boating scenes. It is the story of Jonah. We don’t get the backstory, we don’t get the surrounding details, and we simply get God getting down to business. His word comes to Jonah, who we find out to be a prophet. Not only was Jonah supposed to be someone who proclaimed to follow God, he was supposed to be sort of a model for those who would follow God. Being a prophet meant that he was someone God was going to use specifically to speak through. So already by the end of verse one, if you were to guess what this story would be about, you might assume it has a lot to do with this guy Jonah following whatever God told him to do.

By verse two however you realize how had the task is going to be for Jonah. He is instructed to go speak against Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, because their wickedness had come up against God. He was not the only one who had experienced their wickedness. Jonah would have known the Assyrians all too well. They were ruthless warriors and killers. Historical accounts of the Assyrians discuss how they beheaded their foes bodies and hung the heads from trees outside their cities. Other accounts discuss how they would kill women and children at leisure. Still others discuss how they would burry their opponents bodies in the sand and put a stake through their tongue into the ground and let them die slowly.

So wait, why should Jonah go speak to them? It doesn’t mater. We read that Jonah ran. He bailed. He is supposed to be this guy who others are supposed to look to as a model for following God and instead he boards a boat for a city literally in the opposite direction of where he is supposed to go. And what transpires in the next scene is perhaps one of the best-known biblical stories. The boat Jonah jumped on finds itself in the midst of a violent storm. The sailors all do what they can to bring the vessel through, including praying to their gods, but we read that Jonah was fast asleep below deck. The one that was the cause of the impending destruction just wanted a nap! When Jonah comes back up he requests to be thrown overboard and killed before asking God to save the boat, a prayer he likely knows would have led him back towards Nineveh and his task at hand. The sailors do as he asks and Jonah, instead of meeting his demise, is swallowed by what Scripture says was a large fish.

Within the fish, Jonah has a bit of a change of heart, asking God to save him and low and behold. God answers Jonah. He shortly after finds himself in Nineveh proclaiming that God will soon destroy the city should they not repent of their evil ways and turn toward God. They were probably the most unlikely candidates to respond to such a message. In every military campaign they were accustomed to victory after victory, how could they even comprehend that this God might destroy one of the world’s superpowers? And yet they did respond. We read that the ruler of Nineveh encouraged his people to turn towards God, and in turn, God spared the city of over one hundred thousand.

Jonah, after his proclamation duties were completed headed to a hill to watch and see what God would do. Remember asking, why would God want Jonah to go speak to Nineveh? It wasn’t so God could gloat before their destruction; it was because God wanted to remind them that the doors of salvation were still open.

It is often assumed that Jonah didn’t not want to go to Nineveh out of fear; perhaps. But given what we read toward the end of the book, Jonah’s anger was not because God made him go, it was because God saved his enemies. Jonah wanted God to destroy the city. He didn’t want them to hear of God, he didn’t care if they repented. This was a people who had slaughtered thousands and Jonah wanted them to get what was coming. They were not worthy of his God. And as he watched with frustration, God relented from the city of once unbelievers.

It’s a dangerous thing when we start to stake claims of God, what he cares about, and whom he cares for. John, one of Jesus’ followers, and author of some of the New Testament wrote of Jesus described his presence in a person’s life as water. “Who ever believed in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them,” (John 7:38).  Two things start happening when we begin to stake claims over God. First, our faith begins to shallow. What may have once been great depth of love and compassion becomes a small puddle of concern. What was once deep pursuit of God becomes a fleeting thought of spiritual growth. Second, bacteria begin to grow that isn’t only harmful for you but to those you come in contact with. It actually gets people sick.

What we see in the story of Jonah is the trite but true reality that something is either growing or dying. It is perhaps best represented within our faith. Here is a man who God had called upon who would rather journey across country, risk shipwreck, prefer drowning, and spend three days inside the gut of a large water dwelling creature than follow where God was calling him. He would rather gloat in the destruction of a people than contribute to their salvation.

Spiritual vitality is dependent upon our outpouring of who God is unto the world. Another prophet reflected that the thoughts of God are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. I have heard so many times from the students I have worked with that they don’t want to invite certain people because this church is their church. I remind them that the church is the only place that exists for its non-members. Are we more concerned about what we want, or what God might be willing to do in the lives around us?

When we choose to pursue his thoughts and his ways we pour deep clean waters into a hurting world. When we pursue our ways, we get people sick. We poison ourselves and the world around us. All too often we don’t even know it. Before we would think of putting the boat back on the river this summer we would want to know the depth is sufficient, and certainly we would want to know that the water is safe. I pray that those are our thoughts as we seek to pour out the love of God upon the world. They need to be reminded that God is still open to them, still calling to them. They don’t need to be getting sick.

 

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Tradition in Traditionless Culture

I grew up in a family that was, by all accounts of the term, gluttonous for traditions. By that I don’t mean that we were necessarily “traditional” but instead that we had a series of practices and events that as a family we would routinely partake in year in and year out. We would do specific things Thanksgiving morning, we would have the same foods at the meal that afternoon, we would go out and cut down a live tree on the Friday following the big feast, and so on. We would have things that began 2 weeks before Christmas, we would decorate the house a certain way, we would receive certain gifts and we would give certain gifts a certain way, we would eat specific things for breakfast and dinner on Christmas. On Easter we would have a jelly bean hunt throughout the entire house (not the most sanitary of affairs), we would have our Easter baskets hidden somewhere in our house, etc. My Childhood was saturated by tons of wonderful traditions.

2 years separated from my immediately family however, as I have begun my own family with my wife and now son, I realize how strange some of my families traditions have seemed to my wife, and visa-versa. Some may seem weird, some may seem inconsequential, others just pointless. Less than a few have escaped passed the reaches of my familial heritage and into our home. Although I had to mourn some of my traditions as a kid that did not transition into my adult life, it has caused me to realize that traditions are not just about activity, they are about identity. The traditions we keep, the ones that we truly value and rigorously practice are actually less about the action, and more about the meaning – they communicate something deep about the people who practice them.

As much as we all likely have traditions we had surrounding holidays with our family, culture today seems starkly absent of tradition and perhaps not ironically, it seems equally devoid of identity.  At least in my interaction with young people, it seems like a common plaguing question that resounds within individual lives yet pervades entire generations is: “Who am I.” Now I wouldn’t claim that this is not historically timeless question however I would argue that we are perhaps the most traditionless culture that has ever existed. And with traditionlessness comes a certain lack of understanding of what tradition is. Perception has often been that stripping the tradition of our parents or of our conservative school or of our organized religion, etc., was an act of actually establishing ones own individualistic identity. In actuality however, true longstanding traditions those that have existed for generations in those very same institutions do the inverse of stripping ones identity for the sake of monotony, they remind us of our identity.

We can change our identity on Facebook with a few quick snapshots and a catchy new name, we can change out identity at school with the purchase of a few new items of clothing, the joining of a new sport, or the piking up of a bottle of alcohol. We can change out identity in the workplace as we decide who we will befriend, if we will sacrifice our family for our work, etc. We live in a world of rapid identity consumption, satisfied only with the who we are until a better who comes along.

But is that a good thing? As marvelously easy as it has become to recreate oneself, instead of finding freedom I think ultimately all we find is confusion. There is a deeper identity that we all possess, it is one that cuts deeper than the title of a job, the ink of a needle, or the association with other people. In the search for our true identity we are encouraged to consume what might give us purpose only to ultimately be left unsatisfied and searching.

From the instance we encounter Jesus in the synoptic Gospels, we see that in his humanity he shares the human quest for identity. As questions swirl about who this man is, purportedly born of a miraculous birth about thirty years previous, Jesus enters into the pursuit of establishing ones own identity.  When we first encounter this man named Jesus we have heard only brief accounts of his life after his birth. We know by now that he is proclaimed to be God’s son, born of a virgin. We know that the political leaders of the day tried to eliminate him even before his birth. We know his parents are not from wealthy decent, and a handful of other facts that are compelling but only tell us more of the surrounding circumstances of his existence more than telling us his true identity. It would be as if I was telling my life story and I described my parents, the anticipation they had about their third child, the state of the nation in 1986, my home, my brothers and sisters names, and that’s about it. Although it provides some nice background, if any biography ended with only that info I doubt it would ever make it to publishing.

But the story of Jesus’ adult life begins with a cuirous start. The writers tell us that he “came to be baptized.” This is the first major action taken by Jesus that was of note to write down. Really? God himself baptized? We don’t hear of the line of work he went into, the school he chose to attend or the style of flip flops he chose to don. We have no idea if he got along with his parents or if he had any superpower like skills as a kid. I have a feeling he would have made show and tell fairly boring, as some poor kid brings in his favorite first century toy, here comes kid Jesus with a pool of water which he then steps out onto and walks on top of it.

I have long wondered why Jesus needed to be Baptized. I mean really, you are the Son of God, surely if anyone is exempt it would be you. I think the closest I have come to in answering that question is that it has nothing to do with the why but everything to do with the who. Jesus was proclaiming his identity in God, we read in scripture that the Father actually proclaimed, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Gospel writers wanted to tell us, hey “this is who Jesus is!” and it starts with his Baptism. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized so he could mark of a box on his spiritual checklist; he needed to be proclaimed as God’s Son. He wanted to leave no question that he wasn’t only some magician, or some really good person, or just some important leader or religious figure. He began the most radical movement in the history of the human race by proclaiming who he really is. He is no longer just the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, he is God’s Son who is going to radically change the world.

One of the few traditions today’s church has maintained is that of Baptism. All to often however the act of Baptism is miscommunicated. I remember my hesitancies before I was Baptized. I had become a Christian a long time before and felt it was fairly monotonous to awkwardly stand in a lake in front a group of people. Today we have separated the “becoming” from the “baptizing,” but in scripture when e read of Baptism it is only one action, “they confessed and were Baptized.” There was not a division between a person’s commitment to God and their decision to be baptized, deciding to devote ones life to God was simultaneously the commitment to be baptized; it was the enactment of that decision. Again I am convinced this is not to check a box off of our checklist but instead it is the new beginning for us all. As we proclaim that we want to follow Jesus with our life, we first follow him into the waters of baptism. And as we stand proclaiming the new life, no longer as the person we once were, God proclaims to us that we are his children in whom he is well pleased, not because of what we have done, but because of our new identity, because of who we are.

What a silly thing. In the 21st century, why would perfectly reasonable people take time out of their already busy schedule to stand in a lake surrounded by their peers? It is not because of what they are doing but it is because of who they have become. Real tradition reminds us of a deeper identity than can be put into a 140-character statement. Tradition is a physical active reminder of internal truth. That is why it is so powerful and meaningful, not because of what is done but what it says about the person doing it. The tradition of Baptism is to help us remember in a world of traditionlessness and rapid identity that as we proclaim our desire to see God, he looks down on us and proclaims his delight in us because of the who we have realized we always were and will always be in the eyes of our Father.

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Church Pt III: Rules and U-5 soccer

I have played soccer for about twenty years now so the rules come fairly naturally to me, but when I started on the Purple People Eaters U-5 rec team it was a different story. Five year olds were running everywhere, no one knew how to play a position, and the referee was constantly blowing the whistle. It took a great deal of time to be able to play the game without having to think about the rules, but now, if I were to try to go play a game of soccer with that same group of five year olds, it would be miserable. The rules go from being binding to being the very thing that help maintain the freedom and fun of the game.

If there were overarching themes t the vast majority of the Sermons I preach to middle and high schoolers, one would certainly be that the Christian life is not about rules, it is about a way of life. I have long believed that, and yet recently I have come to question whether that is true. I want it to be true, because no one likes rules. They are un-attractive, especially to those who want nothing to do with following Jesus in the first place. We naturally crave freedom, not bondage.

I have come to this conclusion: Christianity is not about rules… but sometimes it is. Senseless rules only serve to confine, but I believe that the rules Jesus set forth actually serve to refine. There is a great void between the moment of Regeneration (a moment of rebirth or acceptance into a Christian way of life) and the completion of Sanctification (the process of being made holy). All too often we confuse a moment or commitment to follow Jesus with the refining of the rough parts about us. Likely, when Christians seem abrasive, its not for lack of genuine commitment to following Christ, it’s a lack of realization that they are in a continued process of being made a new. The process of being made holy requires both joining with a community that is in the same process and engaging with the practices that remind us how we are to live.

There has been a building downtown near where I live that has been half built for a few years now. It had a very promising start. Deals were made, plans were drawn and the construction got underway. There was do be luxury condominiums, possibly even a Starbucks on the ground level. Then the economy took a turn for the worst. The construction company apparently was hit by hard times and so they abandoned the project. At one of the busiet corners in the area stood a building half finished.

We could all see the potential; we knew what it was supposed to be. And yet, standing in its unfinished state, with no visible progress for year, I watched, as it appeared to rot. I heard that the insulation was poorly protected and would be no good. It actually came to be nicknamed the birdhouse, because it never had any windows put in. The feelings as I passed by turned form anticipation of its completion to the tiresome wait for its demolition. What began with a beautiful promise sat disappointingly unfinished.

Recently, another contractor has taken on the task of finishing the building. It was indeed not demolished however the current construction crew not only had to continue the work, they had to repair the damage that had taken place from the years of neglect.

Most everyone begins a journey of faith with a beautiful promise. We relish in the joy of something new and exciting. The momentum of a new task, a new pursuit, and a new challenge typically carried us for a while. But all to often, for whatever reason, perhaps an economic disaster, perhaps a relational failure, perhaps simply being tired of moving toward a finished project, circumstances lead us to sit disappointingly unfinished.

But we are promised more. We are promised that we will be mad into a new creation (Revelation 21:5). We are promised that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).  The initial jolt is great but it will only take us so far. We are all sitting in an unfinished state, and there is work that needs to be done.

I think this is where the Church, rules, you, and I, intersect. All too often I have been overly apologetic about the notion of Christianity having rules. And yet, in any setting whether it is organizational, athletic, academic, or otherwise, the rules in place are meant for the benefit not the detriment of the participant.  This is where we get confused; we believe that our confession of Jesus must be in the form or the rebuke of the world when in actuality our confession of Jesus must be in the redemption of the world. The church is to be the restored and redeemed community that the world is to become. The Church is the embodiment of those who acknowledge that the parameters of life have gone haywire. It is a community that exists not to judge externally, but slowly be repaired internally so that we can be of use to the world.

A friend of mine recently told me about a difficult conversation she had with another person at her Church. A coworker stated to her that she never thought that she would encounter such broken people when she came to work at a church. My friend beautifully responded, “If we are doing our jobs right, this place should be filled with broken people.” It is so true, the Church is and should be be a made of filled with broken people. It stands as a guide; it upholds the parameters that keep us moving toward being made new.

As we join together and engage in practices that serve to remind us that the world is to be made holy, we also are reminded that we are to be made holy, with the implication that we are not there yet. We will one day be free to engage with creation and the parameters that we have been given for the best life possible will come naturally to us, having been built into and refined for us overtime, But for now we can only seek to continue to practice, to continue to follow the rules. They can initially seem confining, but we will never truly appreciate the game as it is meant to be played if we can’t first understand how to play.

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Church Pt. II: the Sacred vs. Secular Myth.

I remember sitting in a Historical Christianity class when I was working on my undergrad degree when my professor asked a question, “what is the difference between Christian and secular music?” Although it seemed an initially obvious answer, the more we thought about it as a class, the more we realized we weren’t to sure. Was it that a Christian song had to mention Jesus or God? There are son’s that in the past at least I would have considered Christian that don’t mention either (the book of Ruth would also have a bunch of problems if that were a prerequisite to being considered Christian). Perhaps it has to have an uplifting message. But aren’t there songs that have an uplifting message that the writer and band would not consider specifically Christian?

This is a dilemma that is not unique to the sphere of music. We live in a world where the divide between Secular and Sacred is constantly and adamantly being drawn by Christians and non-Christians alike. We are frequently labeling things “Christian” that I suppose we fear otherwise might be confused for something else. We have Christian schools, Christian groups, Christian movies, Christian books, Christian bands, etc.  If not for our creative labeling system, how else would the world discern that we have departed from secular culture? And yet, is it not a problem that what is Christian so often has to be labeled as such? If our music, our school, our group, our book, our actions do not point those around us to Jesus, and do not serve to redeem a broken world, then regardless of our crafty labeling scheme, are they not indeed unchristian? 

St. Francis of Assisi is quoted famously as saying, “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words.” Perhaps he just wasn’t into labeling.

I look back to a question that I posed about a week ago, “Why does the church exist?” Arguably, most any reason we commonly give for the churches existence can be accomplished by other means. Is it for community? Can we not find that at the local bar with a group of our former high school friends? Is it for instruction? Why go all the way to church when you can read a book, take a class, or watch a sermon from the comfort of your bed instead of from a pew in your Sunday’s best. We have so separated the sacred from the secular and yet, just as in the case of Christian music, I am not sure any of the things I named above cannot be considered Church. We have such a strong divide but why? And what are we using to make that divide?

As I have found more and more people who find Church participation irrelevant, I find myself agreeing with them. Why do we bother?

Now hold on a second. I wouldn’t at all argue that the Church is a lost cause, but I do wonder if the cause for which we gather, as the Church, has been lost.

Stanley Hauerwas in an epic collection of Essay’s simply titled The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics sets forth a remarkable idea. What if everything we did as the church served to remind us of who we are to be in the world? The Church is the place where as we gather together with fellow believers remembering that we are not only united with our neighbor from across the street but our fellow believers from around the world. When we offer a passing of the peace or a simple handshake across the aisle we enact the reconciliation between ourselves and the broken world around us, the broken people around us, those we have fought for and fought against, those who we have sinned against and have sinned against us.

What if everything we did actually had significance? Novel idea right? But in all seriousness, so often we forget that Church isn’t a show, but we area actually called to participate. In every action we engage in, we both consciously and subconsciously acknowledge and live out various ways that we are called to follow Christ. This is why I question if the cause for which we meet as a church has been lost. When Church is a show, then we can leave in our car complain about the car that just cut us off in the parking lot. We can step over the homeless man who is sleeping one hundred feet from our church’s door. We can get home to gossip about the couple that used to be in our small group. Church as a show makes for an ugly Christianity.

Transformation, not only in the community, but in the world begins not with observation but participation. Those we consider Jesus’ disciples as we read through Scripture were not the ones who simply listened the went back home, but the disciple was someone who practiced in the teachings of Jesus. We participate in Church, the gathering and ritual of believers through history and around the world to remind us that there is no sacred/secular divide. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, he didn’t say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in heaven, so just leave earth the way it is.” But instead we are to participate in the process of God’s kingdom. That’s what happens when we gather together for Church, we are participating in that truth.

Why I earlier questioned if we have lost the cause to hold church is not to suggest that is or should be made irrelevant, but instead that we have began to perceive it at such. How many times have you encountered someone who only attended a Chruch on Christmas and Easter, or Stopped attending all together because they don’t see a point. And they are all too often right, often we don’t give them a point. We have lost our cause for church. We have made it entertainment, or another mode of consumption, or simply a box we check off our spiritual check list to ensure we remain “right with God.” And so we ask, “do we really need to participate? Is it necessary that we go? Its so nice out, can’t we just skip it this week?

I confess, I all too often forget that something actually happens when the Church meets. But it does. We create actual reconciliation, we call the world to actually remember that God is real and alive, we actually repair relationships, we actually proclaim truth, and we actually represent what it is and furthermore will be as the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer is enacted. We participate in those things.

Jesus spent the majority of his ministry blurring the lines between secular and sacred, embodying a statement that the division the ritualistic religion of the day had crested a false division. All things are God’s, all things are in fact sacred.  He was criticized for almost everything he did because he acted as if things such as the purity and impurity, pious and impious, Jew and Gentile, powerful and weak, rich and poor did not exist as the world saw them.  Paul preached this as he proclaimed in Romans there is no division, but “all are one in Christ Jesus.” But slowly but surely Christians has methodically served to re-define those lines. We have needed a way to classify who is in or out. We wanted to be able to sit at the table with drunkards and tax collectors and sinners, as long as we knew who was who.

The Church has all to often become a place that represents the authoritarian divide between those who are in and those who are out, between the sacred Church and the secular culture. I don’t think we have any actual need for a church such as that. But in fact when the Church is embodying the ministry of Christ, it calls its members to participate in the setting right of the world, it reminds us who we are to be in our daily lives. The church transitions from irrelevant to paramount when we cease to see it as a building or group or time that serves our consumption, or entertainment, or fills a quota of sorts, but when it becomes the catalyst that enables those who follow Jesus to in fact take up their own cross and follow him.

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Church Pt I: Should we even bother?

I have taken to greeting and parting with people by using liturgical phrases I remember from going to Catholic church as a kid (some of them took refreshing as I didn’t fully remember them all). Why I do this is pretty much beyond me. When I do this my wife frequently looks at me with that look only a wife can give, the one when she seemingly says to herself, “I love a very strange man.” I rightfully deserve that look a lot. I will throw out a, “we lift up our hearts…” or a, “let us give thanks…” most people have no idea how to respond and likely think a simple hello or goodbye would have sufficed. My friend Tommy has taken to sarcastically create long theological prose in response, most of which is long enough that he eventually trails off, none of which makes any sense.

The whole idea of church, not only the liturgy, the call and response, or the standing and sitting, but then entire purpose long confused me as I think it did and does many people. What is the purpose of our weekly or for some, biweekly for others, or semiannually for others still?

Growing up our family frequently attended a Catholic Mass, the same one which I remember the liturgical call and response. I remember hating it. I don’t know why exactly, I am sure the call of my Legos or video games at home had something to do with it. But my aversion to church did not subside with maturity. I remember in middle school after we transitioned to a compelling non-denominational church with an outstanding youth program, I would still ask my dad weekly if I could stay home. Even still through high school and into college, I knew church was important, but I didn’t know why. A bit ago I was forced to recon with this question. Ironically I now work at a church and am there daily. I teach sermons weekly and have led in worship. Why on earth should I spend my life doing this if I am not even sure why people should come?

Many of us of us find ourselves with this sentiment. Whether it is a graduating highschooler who is among the 7 out of 10 young people to leave the church as the enter the college years or a family that is simply tired of the weekly monotony, we should ask: is church all that important? Why do we go? What purpose does it serve?

It’s interesting how the terminology of church has evolved over the centuries. The Biblical word “church” (ecclesia GK.) doesn’t refer to a place but a people. When Church is discussed in the New Testament it is used not only to reference a static group of haphazardly assembled people, but a identifiable group that did something. This “church” was something other than a building. And yet now we ask questions like, “where do you go to church?” or, “are they building a new church?” when perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “where do you participate in church?” (Yeah I get it, that would be an awkward question, but the point is that we need to reevaluate how much we let how we talk about church define what we think it is)

My senior year of college I encountered the work of a theologian named Stanley Hauerwas; his work has radically shaped my perspective and yet finally seemed to clarify clarified the “why” question. Hauerwas suggests that the Church is what exists to remind humanity what we are called to be. Everything we do when we gather together from singing songs to reciting prayers, from shaking hands to listening to sermons, everything that takes place is to be an enactment of who and what we are to be as those who follow Christ. These practices also serve as an invitation to those who have not yet made a decision to follow him; they introduce the context our faith is to be lived in.

When I speak of Church in this way I have to admit that I am speaking somewhat from a perspective of what the Church should be and not necessarily what it always is. However, I like to think that it is often closer to the mark than miles away. I also am not speaking of one specific church nor denomination but as for now the term “church” is really meant to address the where and when this “enactment” need is met. That could be in a cathedral or a basement, a field, or even online. The focus is primarily on overcoming the confusion over what church is as well as why it is. In the next couple weeks I want to explore this further but perhaps a good question for now is, what do you consider church and why is it important to participate in it?” Is it how you grew up? Are we called to go somehow? Why should we go? What purpose does it serve? Is it for instruction because then can’t I just read a book? Is it for community because can’t I find that on a soccer team or at the bar? Either the church should serve an easy to articulate fundamental purpose in our faith or we should stop doing it all together.

 

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13 Extra Cell Phones

Perhaps the most beautiful place on earth is Cape Town South Africa. Understandably I have not traveled to every place and my judgment is only a reflection of my own perspective, but I will never forget the first time I saw the city from 20,000 feet up. The team I was with had traveled for about twenty-four hours before our arrival and everyone was eager to have the plane touch ground but the beauty I got to see as the plane crested over the mountain range out into the blue ocean, giving the passengers a glimpse of the city tucked beneath Table Mountain was remarkable.

In equal and opposite contrast, I will never forget immediately leaving the airport, in our van bound for the dormitories we were to stay in for the duration of our trip. Immediately upon exiting what appeared to be paradise, I was struck once again by what I saw but in a very different way. We saw what seemed to be seas, in equal size to the beautiful blue we had just flown over, of township houses. One room shacks made from scraps of plastic or metal, with dirt floors and no running water or electricity formed towns that stretched on for what seemed like miles and in many cases literally stretched farther still.

Although it is a shock when you travel from a heavenly paradise to an impoverished countryside, the coexistence and stark contrast of those two ways of existence seems a fitting yet sadly real metaphor for the world in which we live. We live in a world where those of us who live in paradise don’t recognize it and those whole live in poverty are recognized lesser still. I find this an interesting intersection between the theological and the atheological. It is a compelling argument to make that God cannot possibly exist if such poverty does. Rightfully so, and not living in such poverty myself I would not want to undermine such hardships. I wonder though, if we can recognize God as a partner and not a dictator. A dictator controls and reforms, all action and agent of change must come through him. And that God does not in fact exist. A partner however lends all that they are to the partnership, all the while insisting that those who are partnered with pull their own weight.

I suppose the point is this: God has no interest in us acting like small children, folding our arms, pouting and exclaiming that we don’t want to participate. He doesn’t have time for that. He is in the business of seeking, empowering, and equipping those who will work in representation of love, who are willing to risk their own pursuits for the greater pursuit. As I read though Scripture, I don’t too often see God intersecting and wrecking the whole show, rearranging the players as he sees fit. Instead, we witness in the story of God, an astoundingly loving God employing his own creation to work on his behalf. He calls us to be part of the restoration of the world.  We can sit idly by in protest, mumbling that we don’t know how the mess got there in the first place so it isn’t our responsibility to clean up. Or we can respond to his call, transcending the pettiness of our complaint, and participate as the world is once again set right.

How are we being called to participate?

Called to Remember

In Deuteronomy 24 we meet mid narrative with a group of people who have just been brought out of and impoverished existence. God has chosen them to be the prototype for how the world should work and so he offers some guidelines for how society will run best. Five different times throughout the composition we are reminded of a chorus, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.” (Deut. 24:22) The final refrain concludes a section regarding how the citizens of this new way should be mindful of the poor among them.

My son is only 3 months old, however I sponsor a thirteen-year-old boy named Reyis from Ethiopia. I was prompted to investigate some basic differences between the lives they have. I found out that while Patrick (my son) lives in country where the life expectancy is 77, Reyis’ is 30 years less at 46. The mortality rate for Children under five in the US is 8 compared to Reyis’ homeland of 169.  In Patrick’s context 100% of the population uses clean drinking water, only 22% have access to clean water in Reyis’ homeland. Where Reyis lives there is 1 telephone set per every 100 people to where in the US there are 113 telephone sets to every 100 people (yes we have 13 extra per 100 people).  Why does Reyis live in one place and Patrick in another? Did I get a say in the matter? Did Reyis choose to be born where he was? Geography is not a result of privileged standing.

What is the point? We are called to remember that the world is not section off between “us” and “them”. It is simply us. We are to remember that even if we have not ever lived in poverty, this story is bigger than simply ourselves. This is a story about us, and we are called to care for us.

We are called to React.

All too often we hear these things or see these things as feelings of compassion flood our heart, they disperse just as quickly. In the book of Leviticus, God is giving more instruction to the same group of people as before. In a way of answering, “why should we live this way? Why should we do this?” We hear, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Lev. 19:2). We are called to react in the world because the one who created us calls us to. We are called to love those across the world, because He loves them.  To be truly human is to embody true compassion for the suffering of others. It is the way we were created.

We are called to Respond

God calls us to do something. That’s about how brief the answer is. What should we do? Anything.  There are literally a million options from going on trips to offering money to buying clothes to collecting used or unused goods. With such a plethora of responses the point isn’t to do any one thing, the point is to do at least one thing. Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission once offered an interesting insight into how this partnership between God and us may work. “What’s God’s plan for the world?” Haugen asked, “Turns out that we are his plan. And God doesn’t have a backup plan.”

The world is a place of both beauty and pain. Shall we be remembered as those who turned our back on pain, or who were ambassadors of beauty?

 

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Does God Call Us Anymore?

When I was working on my graduate degree, my classes were comprised half by students who intended to pursue Ph.D. degrees in theology or history or philosophy, and half of whom who would pursue other things, some of which ministry, upon matriculation. On more than one occasion I remember professors offering council with I am sure the best intention, “Graduate study is difficult work, and it isn’t for everyone, but if it doesn’t work out there are plenty of ministries that need pastors.”

I remember being surprised by that “advice” every time it was offered. As if those of us who are incapable of study can fall back on a far easier profession. I’m not sure this was their intent but at the same time I cannot imagine how else this counsel could have been taken. It just served to broaden the great cloud of mystery that surrounds this notion of calling. It is far to often said and misunderstood with the same frequency.

Does God actually call us to do anything?

This is a question I have struggled with in recent months. I remember my first true conviction that I should become a pastor. I didn’t listen. I remember the conversations with mentors and friends who encouraged me to go into ministry; I didn’t listen. After a few years, I finally got the message. It’s a hard thing to describe, but there is a certain peace you feel when you know that what you are doing with written within, as if you have just a part in the story where you finally understand the character’s motivation, or you now know how the rest of the book will play out.

 Truth is, God doesn’t force us into our calling. He allows us to follow or remain, he lets us play the role we want, but he wants us to know that there are options, and there is a best option. I have heard the church so often misuse the idea of calling. We hear of someone being called away from our church and we wonder, why does God not care about our church? We hear of someone called to leave the ministry field to work in the public sector and with that we wonder why that public sector job is more important than the ministry job. And lets face it, we secretly wonder what the real reason was for the departure. Was it problems on the staff team? Was it a crisis of faith? We hear this word calling and we just don’t trust it.

God doesn’t hold a gun to our heads. He doesn’t force our hand nor push us through any doors. It wouldn’t be very loving if he did. Instead he has a way of affirming or denying options in our life. We hear “calling” and we think, “how does this most benefit the person?” but in actuality when God offers a new calling he says, “are you ready to be part of the next chapter in this story?” And as God calls one of us, he calls all of us. I have recently felt confirmation from God towards a transition from the current ministry role I am in. There are a whole lot of factors at play however at the end of the day it is clear that God affirms that calling. Likewise, I truly believe he is calling the ministry I have led over the last two years to new things as well. As he has confirmed my call he has simultaneously confirmed the call of others to step up, of students to claim ownership, of the ministry to reshape its identity and so on.

At the same time you have to deal with doubters. Typically those who have not found the same sense of peace or calling in their own work or mission. Now this is a very different thing than those around you offering wise counsel that may be contrary to what you feel is your calling. These are the people who cannot fathom how one would give up money, or comfort, or notoriety, or any other essential social currency that the majority of the world pursues. The reality is that these doubts are understandable but misinformed. Although things like money or comfort are nice, they are irrelevant to the story God is writing.

 We are all too often our biggest doubter. We want comfort, we want money, we want fame. We wonder if God will ever give us these things, we also wonder if he ants to deny us of them as well. In the end however, we can do no more than remember that God loves us more than we can ever know and his plan for us is better than we can ever imagine. The truth is, money doesn’t care about us, comfort can freely come and go; our pursuit of things results in nothing more than a perpetual pursuit of things. God however wants to journey with us, he wants to work through us, and he wants to continue to invite us into the next stage of his story.

There is a typical model those who are called in the Bible follow. (1) They have an authentic moment of realization to what God desires them to do. (2) They try everything in their power to offer excuses as to why they are wrong for the job, Moses couldn’t speak well, among other things, Saul wasn’t the right kind of person, Jeremiah was too young, etc. (3) They eventually agree. And in that we don’t watch these people as they grow towards riches and fame. We don’t remember them because of all they amassed on earth.  We instead look to them as people who relentlessly pursued God, and we se how God was faithful in their pursuit.

 Are we called today?

It is interesting that in all the major biblical accounts of direct calls form God are initially met with resistance by the one who is called. In the time I have worked and studied in a ministry context I have seen people called to a variety of things, sometimes within, sometimes outside the church. One thing that has been made evident is that when there is no internal resistance, no seed of doubt, no moment of pause, it is seldom God calling us to it. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t call us to things we are excited about, but rather, I don’t think God wastes his time calling us to things that don’t require faith in him. Why would he? His plan requires us to rely on him; the story he has authored requires the author to continue to pen the next chapter.

I think God is relentlessly pursuing us, constantly calling us to be part of his story, to continue to flip to the next page even though we have grown comfortable with the characters and settings on this one. It isn’t in his plan to end the story half way through, and it’s not in our plan either. If you have ever read or written a story, or seen a movie or a play, you would know that no one ever creates a character who serves no purpose. Why waste the time? Anyone who is part of the story is important to the story. And at the same time, it is not our role to determine our importance; it is our role to follow the story. We are not living a story about money or fame, or comfort. Our story is about love. His story is about love.

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God is in the business of reminding

In my first Chapel at Judson University during my undergrad work the University’s president issued a challenge. It was simple: memorize the Sermon on the Mount. For those of you not familiar with the Sermon, it is found in Matthew Chapters 5 – 7. Three chapters! It is one hundred and eleven verses. Immediately I decided that would be a challenge I would not be taking. That was five years ago.

If you were to ask my wife, she would probably tell you that I have trouble remembering anything. (Wives are often the most reliable source of information when it comes to husbands)

“Hey can you grab me a glass of water when you come back upstairs?” I reply, “Yes,“ however return with no water.

“Could you please change the laundry in thirty minutes?” I reply, “of course babe,” and a day later we are rewashing the same clothes because they sat in a moist washing machine for over twenty-four hours.

My wife knows this about me, and although I imagine it could be more than a point of frustration, she shows me a great amount of grace and love despite my forgetfulness.

I am not however terrible at remembering things, I am just terrible at memorizing meaningful things. While I had trouble with test taking because I couldn’t remember what I studied, I could still recite to you the song I learned at fourteen that names all of the helping verbs. I have trouble remembering what my wife may ask me to do, or important vocabulary for my job, or a specific schedule, but I can recite to you thousands of song lyrics and movie lines. When my wife’s family first downloaded iTunes, they had a bunch of music that they did not know the name or band to. We went through song after song to where I could name the band and song often within the first few bars.

As human beings, it is in our nature to either remember or forget. Although I have just stated what we have all known to be obvious, I mean this as more than forgetting an item at the grocery store or remembering an anniversary. I am talking about remembering the very truth of who we are, or instead, all to often, forgetting it.

If you have ever read through any portion of the Old Testament following the second chapter, we see this theme over and over again. As humans we forget. We forget the begging of our story, we forget who we are, we don’t remember how we were created and more importantly, who created us. The first story we read of highlights two people who forget the one rule they are supposed to follow. The initial group of people God identifies as his people continuously forgets him in pursuit of other “gods” of the day. God frees a nation from slavery in Egypt, ending the brilliant saga with the splitting of a sea and the drowning of there Israelites enemies. How ridiculously impressive! It isn’t more than a few sentences later that we read of how the Israelites have forgotten God, they have forgotten how miserable they were in slavery, and they even muse at going back to their wrenched bondage.

It is not that God can’t stand us forgetting him simply because he feels like some neglected five-year old child needed to be recognized. God would be just fine on his own. He however, cannot stand that when we forget who he is, we become less of who we are. By forgetting God we become less human. To truly be human is to embrace all of who we were created to be and who created us to be that. Do we not fully appreciate art only when we look all the way from the picture to the inspiration to the artist? When we sever ourselves from the memory of who created us, we remove a part of who we truly are from our existence. There is no motivation for inception, no inspiration for creation. We are just as we are yet we were created to be more than we are.

What is our difficulty with remembering? I think it is simply that life is filled with distractions. Everyday is suffocated by thousands of different avenues all leading towards something we see meaningful at the time, but all the while leading away from where we can find true meaning. The pursuit of money, the pursuit of fun, the pursuit of sex, the pursuit of respect, power, popularity, success, comfort, etc, are all roads that lead from the God who promises us more than just fun, or just comfort, or just success. None of these are bad individually, but they can only be understood in the context of who created all of them. Success is fruitless unless we realize who has given it to us. Sex can be damaging unless experienced within the context in which it was intended. Power can be dangerous if we forget the one who has power over all things. We remember meaningless things, we make smaller gods into bigger Gods and so we get hurt and we forget.

And yet the God of the universe, who has every right to just throw in the towel and leave us to our own devices knows us so well because he created us that time after time in the narrative of scripture we see that God is in the business of reminding.

He reminds who we truly are. He calls us back to him. God knows that we forget, and so he reminds us.

That’s what love is isn’t it? That despite forgetting time and time again, he has not given up on us. Instead of conceding that we are too broken to remember a God who has given us all things, he refuses to relent from calling us to remember.

Our history chronicles thousands or people who engage in trying to remember God, it is the very process of becoming more of a child of God. Or perhaps if you are uncomfortable with that language we could simply say that the process of remembering God and hearing the reminding of God is the process of being made more human.

And it’s with that reflection that I have decided to pursue hearing God’s reminding in greater clarity. I am half way through memorizing Matthew 5-7, 111 verses. My goal is to complete this by Easter, the greatest opportunity we have each year to pause and remember God, who his is, and just how much he loves us and wants to remind us of who we truly are.

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Mourning the Perfect Family Part II

If we are to ever break free from the hurts and disappointments that can and are common to every family, we must mourn the idea of the perfect family.  I am suggesting the term mourn because I don’t want to pretend we can simply just accept that the world is imperfect so we just need to deal with it. That sort of thinking is only denial. Lets admit it, we wish it was perfect. We pretend it is perfect. We re always comparing our lives to a “perfect  life.” We want the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect kids. You ever notice how no one has those things? And it is if no one has those things that I wonder if the actually exist.

We can’t just abandon our pursuit of perfect. Instead I think we need to struggle with the realization that God has greater purposes for you than simply create for you the perfect family. That perfect family doesn’t exist. Lets accept that it isn’t possible. Only then can we move from comparing what we have to what doesn’t exist and look toward how God is moving and working in the context we are in right now. We need to wrestle and process the anger that accompanies that realization. It is ok to be angry that there is pain in your life, it is ok to be angry about what has happened as a result of your broken family. It’s a healthy thing to process that. Instead of harboring that pain and frustration or manifesting it in other areas of our life, what if we too tie to come to terms that we were are not perfect, therefore nothing we do will be perfect.

We need to look toward the truth that God is good, he has created us as part of his story, his great story, and although his purpose is not to just give us a simple pleasant a perfect life, his purpose is great, and powerful, and unique.  God offers some astounding promises in his word, but I challenge you to find one that promises an easy perfect life. Sure Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” but its still a yoke and its still a burden. And that is OK.

When we think the world is perfect, we see no need for our brokenness, as if it is a waste. It is a malfunctioning of an otherwise perfect system. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t seek healthy relationships in and out of our family, but in that we need to be prepared of the reality that is an imperfect world. Our brokenness isn’t a malfunction of  perfect system, it is a product ofa world that is not fully restored, and a humanity that, when given the freedom to pursue other gods, often does.

But what if we encounter the world as God see’s it, the creation broken since the beginning of time. Inhabited by imperfect people from imperfect families, our we can begin to shift our disposition of asking, “why has God not made this better? To, “how is God calling me to use this?” It is not simply something that began with your family. You are not the first person to experience brokenness in your life. You join in solidarity with ancestors throughout history who have hit the strak realization that the world is not as it should be and who have experienced that first hand. It is a continual story we are part of as we read in the pages of scripture from the begging of time. I don’t know much but I do know these two things to be true: Human beings hurt people and are hurt by people. Although that may be obvious, it doesn’t remove the harsh reality and the even harsher sting of that hurt.

The Apostle Paul likely knew what it was like to have brokenness in his life. Growing up a devout Jew who all of the sudden abandoned his life’s work to perpetuate the Christian movement, I have a feeling Paul knew well what it was to have pain from a family. Yet in his letter to the Romans, he reminds his readers, of the truth of family.

When we open to Romans 8, we are struck with an understanding of family so countercultural to our society today, we have a tendency to brush over it as a trite Christian nicety, not a profound promise of God.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[h] And by him we cry, “Abba,[i] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We must look toward what God does in fact have in store for us, how is God calling us out of our brokenness, our broken family, to help redeem a world that is in fact broken.

When we accept our adoption into the perfect family, we participate with the loving Father God in being Co-heirs of the Kingdom. What we must remember, what we can’t skip over from that verse is the final statement, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  That is not a contingency, to participate in his sufferings. When we continue to question how we can avoid the pain, how we can avoid the suffering, how we can avoid the brokenness, we remain setup to be letdown. But what if instead we ask how can I be redeemed from this brokenness?

I want to conclude by saying that I know nothing I have said or could say could take away from broken relationships or pain you have had from your family, but I do want to say this. You are loved and cherished and valued by God. The very God who created the universe wants to meet you in that brokenness into his eternal family. He wants to call you out of it. And he wants to use your transformation to transform a broken world.  What I have found so freeing in my story is not that everything has been patched up but that when I let go of the brokenness that has taken place in my life and embrace the God who calls me into adoption, I am no longer bound by those chains. My brokenness becomes a means to make myself and other whole. It is typically in times of pain and areas of brokenness that we see God clearly. When we are confident that our life is going well we see little use for a God to fix what we don’t see as broken. It is when we feel powerless over our weakness however that he shows himself to be the God of all things. Life is no longer dictated by the hurt one may have been caused but instead is dictated by the redemption one has received.

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