Sunday, July 31, 2011

Broken Heart

Watching the news reports and seeing the pictures is heartbreaking. When the faces of the soon-to-die are seen on the television, my first reaction is to change the channel. There is a part of me that does not want to watch. Yet, I know that removing the faces from the screen will not take away the images which have been placed in my mind and heart. I know of nothing to compare to the suffering and despair seen on the faces of these Somalian refugees who have fled from drought and oppression only to huddle with hopelessness in Kenya's overrun refugee camps.
Sometimes I think an even greater tragedy than their suffering is the indifference of so many to their plight. For days and weeks we have been possessed with watching politicians play their power games. We have breathed a collective sigh of relief that a professional football strike has been averted so that the millionaires can become multi millionaries and we can continue to be entertained on Sunday afternoons. The frontpage news is about such trivial stuff compared to the small columns on page four tellling about the life and death struggle going on in East Africa.
Jesus was a part of a refugee family. As an infant, he was taken from the land of his birth to Eqypt as they fled oppressive rule. As He sees the long line of refugees stretching across the dry earthen landscape, He surely remembers and suffers with them. If the heart of the Divine can be broken, such tragedies among the poorest must surely break His heart. And, if it is not broken by their suffering, most assuredly it is by the indifference of the affluent.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Change in Scenery

It is a devotional word which has been read for several years, but this year it seemed to linger around long after the pages had been turned to other readings. It is something attributed to Gandhi and it speaks of the sacred nature of common things.
If when we plunge our hand into a bowl of water, Or stir up the fire with the bellows Or tabulate interminable columns of figures on our book-keeping table, Or, burnt by the sun, we are plunged in the mud of rice-field, Or standing by the smelter's furnace we do not fulfill the same religious life as if in prayer in a monastery, the world will never be saved.
It brings to mind Brother Lawrence in his kitchen. But, it also serves to bring into focus the truth that if God is not experienced in the present moment midst the ordinary, it is doubtful we have truly encountered Him midst the sacred surroundings of sanctuary. It is never one or the other. Such we know in our head, yet, a change of context, or a change of scenery, can drive it home with such power that it truly sounds like a Word from the Spirit.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Unusual Place

As I stood in line, I saw it up ahead. It was a cross. Actually, it was a tattoo. Inked on her back just below the place where neck meets shoulders, it seemed like such an unlikely place to see a cross. It immediately made me think of Parker, one of Flannery O'Connor's characters in the short story, Parker's Back. I remembered why Parker had his tattoo of the head of Christ on his back. I wondered why this woman wanted a cross on her back. Was it a way to witness to those behind her? Was it her way of identifying herself as a cross bearing Christian, or was it a whim? Why would someone permanently put a cross on their body in a place which they could not see? I could have asked, but somehow, it did not seem like appropriate conversation with a total stranger.
So, I just wondered. Still do. And, I wonder, too, why we wear the cross in the way we do. While I never wore any "cross jewelry," many folks do. However, when I wear a clergy robe, I sometimes wear a stole adorned with a cross. As I reflect, I am made aware that we often wear the cross without really thinking about what it means and why we wear it. Like a cross necklace, maybe it was just about my "Sunday outfit." I know the cross is on the robe and on the stole, but I really do not give much thought to it.
O'Connor's character put the tattoo on his back because of a burning bush kind of experience. Maybe the woman had the cross inked on her back for the same reason. However, too many likely wear or see the cross without giving it any real thought. One thing is certain when we read the Scripture. God gave it a great deal of thought.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tomorrow's Grace

Devotional words sometimes last for longer than a single day. I find myself still reflecting over something Oswald Chambers wrote for the June 26 entry in My Utmost for His Highest. It is not a new idea. Neither did it represent some moment of epiphany. Instead, it is just a simple word which has stuck around long after the calendar took me to other readings. The devotional begins with the words, "The grace you had yesterday will not do for today. Grace is the overflowing favour of God; you can always reckon it is there to draw upon."
We are accustomed to such being true in our life. When we finish the day, we do not put water in jugs for tomorrow because we are sure it will be there tomorrow to draw upon. And besides its availability, strange things happen to water when it just sits around day after day. Neither is the grace of God something to be hoarded for tomorrow. There is no need. It will be there tomorrow.
What Chambers pushes us toward us is daily intimacy with God. Of course, God's grace is not dependent upon our response to Him, but we do know that without a daily walk with God we are likely to miss out on the blessings of grace being poured out in our lives. The Word keeps telling us over and over that we need not worry about having today what we need for tomorrow. Therefore, tomorrow's grace surely abounds for all of us who have hearts open to receive it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Life Shaping Words

I have remembered the words for over 45 years. I spoke them again last Sunday at a gathering at the Rocky Ford Church. Joe Bridges, a District Superintendent, said them while preaching a Quarterly Conference worship service at the Alamo Church. I was not quite 18 years of age. "If you see a need, know you can do something about that need, and do nothing, you may be neglecting the call of God on your life." By the time I got through processing those words on that particular evening, I knew I was hearing a call to preach. To be honest is to confess I did not like what I was sensing in my heart even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I was hearing.
Most all of us can remember some life shaping words spoken over our life at some unexpected moment. They may not have sent us into the ministry, or to a mission field, but they, nonetheless, had shaping and defining power. Sometimes our life is shaped by our acceptance of the words and sometimes, it is shaped by our refusal to acknowledge that a word is indeed from God. When heard, these life shaping words can be a crossroad kind of moment where there are two roads to be taken.
I wonder what words you remember in such a way. What are the words which have had power over your past as it was being turned into your future? If remembering stirs some regret, it is good to know God may still be waiting with patience for us to acknowledge that He has spoken a Word over us which still requires some action of obedience.