I Go To A Church That Gives Away Bicycles

I go to a church that gives away bicycles. Here’s a little background on that—a few lines from our recent Vision Day message at NWLife…

God is FOR THE PEOPLE

The cross means life FOR THE PEOPLE

And God wants his church to always be FOR THE PEOPLE

Look, we have too much work waiting to be done—we don’t have time to waste being all political or afraid or selfish. What I’m talking about here is doing stuff: Real stuff. Hands dirty, hearts breaking, brows sweating… behaving like we give a damn—because we follow Jesus who was, is, and will always be FOR THE PEOPLE.

This thing called church is not for profits, it’s not for power, it’s not for popularity…

What’s it about then?

It’s about… Read More

The Light That Sweeps Over The Garden

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color. —Isaiah 35.1-2

A sound behind her stirs

A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.

She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,

Or recognize the Gardener standing there.

She hardly hears his gentle question, “Why,

Why are you weeping?” or sees the play of light

That brightens as she chokes out her reply,

“They took my love away, my day is night.”

And then she hears her name, she hears Love say

The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

—Malcolm Guite, from his book Sounding the Seasons

 

I wanna testify

Scream in the holy light

You bring me back to life

And it’s all in the name of love

—Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha, In the Name of Love

 

His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it. —John 1.5

We crucified Love.

But Easter tells us… Read More

Lent Day 40… The Old Guard

The old guard… that’s the group that always uses fear to keep themselves employed or in power.

They make change out to be the big bad wolf (or antichrist or whatever). This is actually who was most threatened by Jesus, and this is who killed him. It wasn’t anarchists or the liberals or the foreigners or the outsiders.

Fear can never… Read More

Lent Day 39… Death Machines And Darkness

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land. —Mark 15.33

I have always struggled to understand why today is called Good Friday. What I think would be more appropriate: switch names with Black Friday (the big day of shopping on Friday after Thanksgiving). Call the shopping day Good Friday, and the day of Jesus’ torture and death Black Friday.

But nobody consulted me, so today is Good Friday… the day violence won and the Prince of Peace was slaughtered. Irony seems to ride shotgun with violence these days (or maybe it always has). The biggest non-nuclear bomb our country has goes by the nickname “Mother Of All Bombs,” MOAB. Motherhood and death machines?

And then you have newscasters calling missile attacks beautiful. Brian Williams recently said, “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean… I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

The most recent bombing inspired this eager statement from Geraldo Rivera, “Well one of my favorite things in the 16 years I’ve been here at Fox News is watching bombs drop…”

That statement almost sounds like a slight lyrical revision to the old classic Sound of Music tune in the voice of Julie Andrews …

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Bombs leveling destruction and missiles as they scream
These are a few of my favorite things

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so gleeful. Maybe bombs aren’t good—just like this Friday isn’t really good.

I know that my own death machines (usually destructive words and attitudes—but sometimes actual violence against people or things) don’t bring me joy.

They don’t make my life bright and full of color and sound. Instead, they cloak my world in a heavy, dark fog. They do not inspire joyful sounding songs. Instead, they shroud me in shame.

When Christ was hung on the cross, a darkness covered the land for some three hours. I imagine there wasn’t the sound of celebratory songs during this great smog. Perhaps it was quiet… enough silence and heavy darkness to strike fear in the depths of everyone’s soul. What have we done?

If you have Netflix, I’m sure you’ve seen their original series The Crown about… Read More

Lent Day 38… To See Them Like Children

Normally I have been posting each morning for this Lent series – but it is Spring Break and we are in Portland. Anyway, the internet was down at the Airbnb place we rented, so it’s only now that I’ve been able to get online.

Today is Maundy Thursday. If you look that up on Wikipedia, it’ll say something like:

Scholars agree that the English word maundy (referring to Maundy Thursday) is derived from the Latin mandatum (also the origin of the English word mandate).

It is the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, so you also must love one another.) This statement by Jesus (John 13:34) comes as he explained to the Apostles the significance of his washing their feet.

So today is about this mandate. This new command to love one another—as Jesus has loved us.

About two months ago, just before Valentine’s Day, I was giving a short leadership lesson on the theme of love. I acknowledged that Valentine’s Day was coming up… which meant that many of us would be thinking about romance and chocolate and flowers and stuff. This was my segue into sharing this next segment from an interview on NPR with author Alain de Botton…

I think that one of the most—one of the kindest things that we can do with our lover is to see them as children. Not to treat them like infants, but… Read More

Lent Day 37… There Is No Beauty Without Some Strangeness

There is no beauty without some strangeness. —Edgar Allen Poe

We’ve been in Portland for Spring break… It’s quirky, strange, beautiful, and 100% Northwest. There are bridges everywhere because, of course, there is water everywhere. We’re surrounded by green growing things and concrete and bricks and graffiti. It’s like a study in contrasts.

Today we visited Multnomah Falls. It’s 30 minutes or so outside the city, and it has that nature-is-in-charge-here kind of feel. Mist and moss, cliffs with water spilling over…

It’s just beautiful.

I took plenty of pictures. And I looked for new angles, perspectives—hoping to capture something less typical.

Later in the afternoon, we went back into the city. Somehow we ended up wandering around at the Hippo Hardware & Trading Company. It’s mostly a salvage warehouse of lights and knobs and bathroom fixtures. Some wild-haired older guy with a loud voice and stories to tell was working there.

Anyway, as I was wandering through the store, I saw… Read More

Lent Day 36… The Little Tyrant Inside

You need power only when you want to do something harmful. Otherwise, love is enough to get everything done. —Charlie Chaplin

Jean Vanier, in his book Community and Growth, wrote…

We are so inclined to want authority for the honor, prestige and admiration that comes with it. Inside each of us is a little tyrant who wants power and the associated prestige, who wants to dominate, to be superior and to control. We feel we are the only ones to see the truth… Christians can sometimes hide these tendencies behind a mask of virtue, doing what they do for “good” reasons. There is nothing more terrible than a tyrant using religion as his or her cover.

The little tyrant inside. Sheesh. How I wish this wasn’t true, but… Read More

Lent Day 35… Listening To God Is Far More Important Than Giving Him Our Ideas

Why is it that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic? —Lily Tomlin

I’ll admit it: whenever someone begins a sentence with, “God told me…” alarm bells go off in my head. It’s not that I don’t believe God speaks to people. I do believe. It’s just that I also know how easily we twist, manipulate, and hear only what we want to hear.

And yet, I wonder why we think of prayer as this one-way exchange where we give God our lists and then say “Amen,” as if to finalize the whole thing. Maybe we should be listening. Maybe we should be waiting.

The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says “Amen” and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him our ideas. —Frank Laubach

 

Lent Day 34… Maybe You Weren’t Made For Greatness

Question: does a palm tree have to be “great” in order for it to be valuable, useful, beautiful, or special? Does it matter if it is the tallest or fastest or largest? Do we need palm tree competitions and palm tree awards to validate their existence?

God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important. —Mother Teresa

I’ve joked before about how I think we shouldn’t tell our kids they are going to be world-changers and champions or princesses and kings. The gist of what I’m saying is that these kinds of well-intentioned statements heap on loads of unrealistic expectations. Maybe we should lower the bar. Why not be content with our kids even if they are *shudder* average?

There’s something unhealthy about the world-changer champion princess narrative in my opinion. It stirs up a… Read More

Lent Day 33… If I Cannot Find The Face Of Jesus

Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command to love our enemies is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and civilization, love even for enemies. —Martin Luther King Jr. (sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 17, 1957)

Jim Forest, in his book Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment says…

If I cannot find the face of Jesus in… Read More