A Lament in Haiku

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They will know us by
our love, he said. But we are
known by who we hate.

Go and do likewise,
he said. But we have gone and
done the opposite.

You are the light of
the world, he said. But we spread
darkness and judgment.

Love your neighbor, he
said, and your enemies too.
But we say, Not them!

And Jesus weeps for
what we have done and not done.
May his kingdom come.

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Does the God You Follow Look Suspiciously Like Santa?

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Have you ever thought about all the images of God you carry around in your head and heart without even realizing it? From time to time, I reflect on whether any false or lesser images of God have crept into my psyche. During one of these reflections a while back, I discovered that my image of God looked more like Santa Claus than I would have believed. It seems ridiculous, I know, but let me show you what I mean.

Santa relates to the children of the world based upon their behavior—whether I’m good or bad determines his view of me. If I’m good, I’m placed on the “nice list” and I get good things. If I’m bad, I’m placed on the “naughty list” and I get a lump of coal as a sign of my depravity. And, by the way, the standards about who makes the nice list and who makes the naughty list are not public so none of us even know how to qualify. It’s all pretty arbitrary. We don’t know for sure until we open our eyes on Christmas morning and see what he brought. So, if you’ve done some bad things here and there (and I’ll just speak for myself, when I say I have), you’re on pins and needles for the whole month of December. Plus, Santa only comes around once a year. He’s not involved in the day-to-day matters of life. He’s more absent than present. When you send him a letter, he doesn’t write back and you’re never sure whether he gets your mail. Finally, Santa has no power other than to fly with reindeer, mobilize magical elves to make toys, and squeeze his body into chimneys. This is all sweet, but once you’re about 15, or if your life isn’t picture-perfect, it seems a bit irrelevant. His power doesn’t heal sickness and he doesn’t provide long-term hope.

This analysis led me to ask myself these questions: Are you unsure where you stand with God? Are you hoping that at the end of the day, your good outweighs the bad? Do you find yourself “good binging” to make up for the bad you’ve done hoping to even out the scales? Do you pray not knowing whether anyone actually receives your pleas or is interested enough to listen? Is God more absent than present? Do you believe God is unable to empower you and supply you the courage, wisdom, and grace you need to live a full life?

If my answer to any of these questions is yes, then I have replaced the actual living God with someone who looks a lot like Santa. And God is not at all like Santa. With God, in Christ, I know exactly where I stand—blameless, saved, secure. I have no work to do; no good-binging is required to restore me to His good graces. God receives every prayer, whether I utter it or not. He knows the deepest parts of my heart. God is actually within me—more present to me than any other person or thing in all of creation. And nothing can separate me from His love.

What false or lesser images of God do you carry around with you without even realizing it?

Come to Me

Come to Me

Come to me.
Here I am.
Here is my burdened heart.
Here are my weary hands.

I will give you rest.
Carry me.
Breathe my breath.
Relieve this weight.

Take my yoke upon you.
Attach me to you.
Make my steps your steps.

Learn from me.
Open my eyes.
Show me how.

I am gentle and humble in heart.
Soften my edges.
Break down these walls.
Loosen my grip.

You will find rest for your soul.
Ease the anxiety.
Banish my fear.
Cover these wounds.
Unleash your love.

Out Wandering

Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
(John 1:3-5, MSG)

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk to get my body moving and clear my head. I’d spent five or six hours writing and needed to be outside in the air. I would never want to waste a moment, though, and so I scrolled through available podcasts to find a 30-minute talk. This way I could learn something along the way. Thirty minutes would amount to four laps around the neighborhood pond at a good pace.

About three minutes into my walk I did something I’d never done. I veered off the paved path into the damp grace and down to the reeds lining the water. From a distance, the pond seemed choked by dull browns and harbingers of winter—my least favorite season. But as I got closer, I discovered movement and breath and life. My eyes could not hold it all in a single glance. Every little detail demanded my attention—cottony puffs sprouted out of large seed pockets, tiny flowers peaked from seemingly dead stalks, golden grasses bent in the wind, a pocked beetle tiptoed across a tree stump, and wispy snowflake blossoms bathed in sunlight.

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I couldn’t help but touch these fall textures and as I kneeled to run my fingers along a prickly shoot, a grasshopper leaped across my hand, startling me to laughter. In that moment I realized how long it had been since I’d been out wandering, without a plan or stopwatch. I’d forgotten to be a stroller, or as the French would say, a flâneur—someone who wanders to notice the small and hidden wonders. Instead, I’d been walking on the path, trying not to get my shoes muddy. I’d been on a schedule, accomplishing things. I started to consider what else I might have missed, in my daughter’s eyes, a friend’s voice, or within my soul.

Oh, may we not forget to go out wandering to delight in the small and hidden wonders. Not one of them came into being apart from the divine hand. And may we not fail to notice His whispers within and between us for all the big things we are accomplishing.

Opened

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No one ever walks around in my neighborhood. Especially when it’s raining. We have cars to get us where we need to go, you see. Until the day I read Jesus’ words about the good Samaritan and decided to take his command to “go and do likewise” seriously. Then suddenly, I see that there is at least one person, a woman, who walks to work, carrying a heavy bag and sheltering herself from the cold rain with a flowered umbrella. When she gets in my car, God’s presence rushes in with her, stronger than the stormy breeze outside and she says she speak only a little English. I feel like I’ve known her, Maria, all my life and when I drop her off at the home where she works, I feel a loss. Tears trace the corners of my smiling mouth, the fullness of God there in that breath of a moment. Oh, what the eyes see and the soul experiences when they are opened.

Saul, David, Life of Christ, and the Holy Land

I have paused my blog writing for the month of February so I wanted to give you a quick update. I am simply taking some time to study and spend time in Scripture to learn what God is speaking to me.  I have been studying 1 Samuel, one of my favorite books of the Bible whose primary characters are the prophet Samuel, the Israelites’ first king, Saul, and David, and have learned so much in just the first 20 chapters.  Here are a few things I’ve learned or about which I’ve been reminded:

  • Sometimes God will give us what we cry out for even if it’s not in our best interest in order to demonstrate his glory and sovereignty.

  • Do not be wise in your own eyes.

  • Serve God faithfully and always consider the great things he has done for you.

  • Seek first the Lord.

  • Sin is a barrier between us and God.

  • Obedience is better than sacrifice.

  • The Lord looks not at the outside, but at the heart of a person.

The other thing I’ve been doing of late is studying the four gospels as part of a seminary course called The Gospels: Life of Christ.  To list out every detail of what has happened in my soul and mind as I’ve studied the gospels would take too long, but I can say for sure I love Jesus more and more each day.

Today I leave for a one-week trip to the Middle East and will walk in many of the places Jesus walked and touch the earth that Jesus’ body touched.  My heart is open and my mind is ready to engage in a week of learning what it means to be one who seeks peace.  I would love your prayers!

“Seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14