"Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen." -BCP

Book, Chapter, Verse

I was listening to a Christian radio station a few moments ago. I turned it on just as a speaker was finishing his talk. Before I knew it they were reading a scripture passage.

As I idly wondered where he was reading from, I caught myself -- I had competely tuned out the reference information when the reader started. It was one of the epistles, but I absolutely couldn't guess which. I hadn't meant to, I'd just...tuned it out.

And it wasn't just this one time. Many years I've spent in church, passing mints down the row, whispering, or smiling at the people behind me as we "settled in" to hear the word. You wouldn't think this was a big deal, after all, those little verse dividers seem a little arbitrary anyway. Shouldn't we just soak in the actual words?

Mmm-No. Ignoring the reference removes the frame of reference for the words. When we know the reference, we can often know the author. If we pay attention to the writers' voice, the time of the writing, and the subject, we can begin to piece together each story we hear into a deep understanding of our faith's heritage. When we know where a passage came from (and more importantly, know where to find it again!), "random" Bible stories can become touchstones of truth in our lives. We get to see the harmony in which the whole of the Bible plays.

While reading the book of Acts recently, summaries of the Old Testament leapt out at me. Really? I can have informative summaries of the complicated Old Testament straight from an apostle's mouth? I don't think I'd ever recognized that before.

The Bible is huge. I know I'm not the only kid who would start Genesis every January only to get terrifically overwhelmed by Leviticus. I didn't even get to enjoy the richness and hope of the New Testament in my personal study until I was an adult, I was so daunted. But we don't need to white-knuckle it through from Genesis onward from the start. If you are feeling like you don't know where to start, pray for clarity of mind, read a short or familiar passage, and hang on God's every revealed word. You will start to make connections, I promise. Actually, God promises.

1My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,And find the knowledge of God. -Proverbs 2

Have this Conversation Now

A conversation we all must have, and if no one will have the courage to talk as these parents talk with this young man, we must have it with ourselves.

Listen and participate, don't just hear this conversation. It is vital to your happiness, which is a result of how you love others.

"I love fish."
"Do you love fish, or do you love yourself when you eat the fish?"

Video created by Hanon Harchol

The Myth of Exception

Someone says to you: "God loves you and desires what is best for you." It may be a teacher, it may be a subtitle of a book, or you may see it hanging on a coffee shop wall.

You frown. "Yeah, but...." You think for even a moment about God's love, and then, swiftly...your thoughts are crowded in by the belief that you're somehow an exception to this rule of God's love.

You think, whoever said that hasn't made the mistakes I've made. They didn't have the bad experience I did with a so-called Christian. They can FEEL God's love, and all I feel is tired.

Guess what. You and I are indeed special because of God's love. We are not, however, so "special" that we are somehow different, somehow more tempted and tried than any other Christian.

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor. 10
This is hard to believe. Not everyone reacts the same way, but everyone is tempted, everyone is given something difficult, not just you. But "God is faithful." Not only does he love you, but he is faithful to extend that love to you even when you are tempted. We may go as far as to say he is faithful to help you accept his love, to give you the strength to overcome your unwillingness! 

It's an incredible truth about us humans that we need help even opening ourselves up to love and forgiveness. Stop beating yourself up. God says he loves you, and that you are made precious by this fact.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matt. 10
This passage in Matthew emphasizes our smallness as humans but also how special we are because of God's care. And none of us are above it or below it. Accept it today!

Positive Image

Do you have a positive image of yourself? Of your faith? Of others, in general?

Most of us struggle with our own self-image and with others' perception of us. It is natural to have doubts, but we don't have to give in to them! We know Christ went through all the temptations we do and that he had an honest and positive image of himself. Yes, he was God, so it sounds "easy" for Him, but he was in human form. In our dusty, critical world. Among dusty, critical earthlings. Christ was mocked, ignored, and even forsaken by his dearest friends. He stood fast to what he knew was true. He still encouraged people to come back to him. He said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." John 6:35

Here are a few thoughts on what the Bible says we are supposed to be. Turns out Matthew 5 is full of them!
I for one think that we can feel GREAT about these things.

Salt and Light
13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

A wonderful image of how those who witness for Jesus are the flavor and light in the world. I think this is a great model for those who are out in the world, but don't want to be "of" it. Who doesn't want to be the flavor in a group? When we stand for something, we can add value to conversations even with those very different from ourselves. It's much more exciting to respectfully disagree than to silently listen and never come to your own conclusion. And "light" doesn't have to mean that we stay in our ivory tower speaking only with those who believe the same as we. Think of the Enlightenment, a movement characterized by reason. By your faith and reason, you can bring light and sound wisdom to those who need it.

The Beatitudes

The teachings in Matthew 5 are incredibly inspiring, to Christians and non-Christians  alike. I will list them separately from their promises. Not sure if it's heretical to do that or not. But I will list the promises a the end, since I want to focus on the character traits.

Some readers of the Bible come away confused with apparent contradictions on how to behave. 
But Matthew 5 is beautifully clear. Jesus himself said that the following people are BLESSED:

The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

In that list we see selflessness, peacemaking, those who fearlessly fight for the good of the underdog.  We live in an age where social justice is one of the highest forms of altruism. If you're involved in social justice, you're a modern-day martyr, a philanthropist.If you're a politician who is gifted with diplomacy, even better. There's no question that Jesus's words transcend time and place, because they fall on eager ears of those who want to help people, even in 2012.

On the other hand, it's not as popular for people to admire--or want to be--selfless in an ordinary setting. Sure, a celebrity is great for adopting a child with HIV, but for me to patiently listen and initiate conversation with a coworker who stutters? That's just awkward. For me to stay silent even though I could "school" someone in class who raised his hand first? That's seen as weak, instead of meek.

We need not to disjoint life on the grand scale and life in our seemingly small scale. Without embodying  the character of the Beatitudes, you will end up burning out in the Peace Corps anyway (or at lease as a clanging cymbal...1. Cor 13).

And now for the promises.

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven (this one is said 2x!)

::they shall be comforted
::they shall inherit the earth
::they shall be filled
::they shall obtain mercy
::they shall see God
::they shall be called sons of God!

So if you're struggling to feel confident in what you are in Christ, focus on his confidence, his teaching of what we are to embody, and his promises!

Live in the Light

Many people's lives are filled with darkness. They work at a job all day with no windows, and drive home through the dark to a lonely house. Others struggle with addiction and illness. They feel alone in their intense pain.

And then others of us feel a mysterious emptiness, and that is our darkness. We don't really have a reason to feel empty, but we haven't quite found one to feel fulfilled, either! This ennui may feel slight, but if not replaced by purpose, it can turn into dark thoughts.

God has given us a light in the darkness. I like to think of it as a white hot beam of light coming down from a high window in a dungeon. That may be a little dramatic, but the Bible talks about in terms of opposites. When God spoke to St. Paul, for the first time, he told him to go and "to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."

Live in the light. Think about a dark room. It might be a perfectly pleasant one, but it looks dingy. How much brighter does it feel to thrust open curtains! Not only does the sun feel good, but you feel "part of things" to be open to the outside world, the day, and you haven't even gone anywhere yet. Jesus's truths are like that. We can see hints of the light under heavy doors and behind drab shades and blinds. And they can find us and wind around corners if we open just a crack in the door.

Don't stay asleep in the light. This is from a Keith Green song that is convicting if you give it a chance. There are many reasons for feeling despair and uselessness in this life, but this song is an encouragement to indulge in the light that we are privileged to know, and a reminder that we are sorely to blame if we shut it out!

Let your light SHINE! Hooray, we got to the fun part! Letting your light shine is something little kids get excited about. It can be exciting to us adults, too! We get to be different. We are privileged to have a 'secret' of eternal life and communion with God and his saints. And we get to SHINE this truth that we know.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Jesus tells us if we believe that our security and identity are in Him, we can go with full confidence in being different, and this alone gives us something to offer. Let's reclaim our identity and proclaim it to all around us.

God-breathed Existence

You're living one. A God-breathed existence, that is. He breathed life into the first humans and every breath you take is one from Him. Are you going to think and do accordingly, or  are you going to ignore this miracle?

Let's see what God has to say about our minds and actions before we create a life that's hard to fit him into. Well, that would be plan A. Most of us are already into plan B, point 1...or 2 or 3. Or maybe we're on Plan C after realizing we were chasing after emptiness.

God has given us a great purpose for living. It is natural to see one's purpose when you're a kid respecting elders or a mom wanting to raise godly children. But...are you no longer a teen? Not yet a parent? Feel far away from your family, physical or spiritual? In a stage of limitless opportunity, we can feel overwhelmed. God gave us limits to frame our experience, and to set off the joy we can have through true freedom.

It is through these limits that we find rest. Little kids want to stay up all night (and party every day. Sorry, couldn't resist). But as adults we find solace in bedtime. We come to love falling into bed after a hard day's work. And if we're out of work, we crave the routine and the satisfaction of it (as well as they paycheck).


Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon us. A YOKE is the very definition of a limit or structure. If we feel like we are floating in life, without an identity to pin us down, we can take on the yolk of God's word. It will pin our lives down with uncomfortable truth but free our souls to be lifted up in rest and praise!

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11

Taking a burden that becomes easy and light sounds like an oxymoron, but that is what Jesus says will happen. We must die to self and come to terms with our sin and stubbornness to come into the ease of walking with Him.