Archive for the ‘Hope’ Tag

How good it is to center down   1 comment

I have not written for while mostly because the relentless cacophony of opinions and perspectives that assault us on every subject under the sun has been somewhat overwhelming.

I have been reading ” Mobilizing Hope – Faith Inspired Activism for a Post Civil Rights Generation” by Adam Taylor* and I came across this wonderful devotion from Howard Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart” that I thought I would share with you:

 

How good it is to center down!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment

    and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense

    of order in our living;

A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion

    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –

    the kinds of people we are.

The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –

    what are the motives that order our days?

What is the end of our doings?

Where are we trying to go?

Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?

For what end do we make sacrifices?

Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?

What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,

   there is a sound of another kind –

A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,

Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!

Howard Thurman

*( By the way this book has one of the best chapters on Racial Reconciliation and Racial Justice I have read)

 

These books!   2 comments

As I began the series on The Paradox of Suffering last Sunday I mentioned that I might share here some of the books I have been reading in preparation for the series. That idea seemed to be greeted with enthusiasm so here it is! Needless to say, I have not read all of each of these books in the last few weeks but all have, over the years contributed to my thinking on this subject. (Please do add any others that have been helpful to you in the comment section and then share so others can benefit)

If God is Good- Faith in the midst of suffering and evil by Randy Alcorn https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002OK2OPS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C1N951O/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Embodied Hope- a theological meditation on pain and suffering by Kelley M Kapic https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073H5JY6T/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Observed-C-S-Lewis-ebook/dp/B002BXH5WU

Is God to Blame? -beyond pat answers to the problem of suffering by Gregory a Boyd https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001HL0EXE/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Rewriting Your Broken Story- the power of an eternal perspective by Kenneth Boa 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D8W4IKY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Shaped by Suffering- how temporary hardships prepare us for our eternal home by Kenneth Boa https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07V4T9FFC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Surprised by Suffering by RC Sproul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0038OMK9Y/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001E96QOU/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Joni -an unforgettable story by Joni Eareckson Tada

https://bit.ly/2VNjbA3

Disappointment with God- Three questions no one asks aloud by Philip Yancey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UF72CMC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Where is God when it Hurts by Philip Yancey 

https://bit.ly/2VJ7Gto

Christianity and Suffering- African perspectives Rodney L Reed general editor https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079GVPFJX/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie https://www.amazon.com/Hearing-Jesus-Speak-into-Sorrow/dp/1414325487

A Grace Disguised-how the soul grows through loss by Gerald L Sittser https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UFMUE8/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

When God Weeps -why our suffering matters to the Almighty by Joni Erickson Todda and Steven Estes https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003OYIA3I/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy – discovering the grace of lament by Mark Vroegop https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JDDSSW9/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Tracks of a Fellow Struggler -Living and Growing through Grief by John R. Claypool https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00295R60G/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

The Gift of Hard Things- finding grace in unexpected places by Mark Yaconelli https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D8W6IZW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Hope Heals – A True story of Overwhelming Loss and overcoming Love by Katherine Wolf

https://amzn.to/2XX0gWg

What Does The Bible Say about Suffering -Brian Han Gregg

https://amzn.to/2VtBefv

(If you consider purchasing any of these for yourself and you live in Pacifica, remember that Florey’s Books is a local store that very much needs our support at this time)

Posted April 21, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Heroes!   1 comment

I saw a striking post on face book posing the question if our professional sports stars are not essential why are they our heroes and why do they get paid so much? Interesting thought, but surely a more interesting one is about those largely unknown people who have suddenly become our heroes. The grocery clerks, healthcare aids, teacher/Moms and so many others. These people and many others like them have been plummeted into the front line where there is real danger and the need to work harder than ever.

One of our church family posted this wonderful prayer for these unsung heroes and in case you missed it I wanted to share it with you. The question is how can we make sure that these people each of whom has a name, who were serving us faithfully before this crisis are not taken for granted in the future?

 

Bless the merciful
A Sunday Blessing

By: Sarah Bessey
March 29, 2020

Oh, God. Bless the merciful. Bless them.

Bless the hospital chaplains who are crying and praying in trauma rooms with the scared and the hurting. Bless the doctors and the nurses, the janitors and the lunch ladies, the front-line workers and behind the scenes faithful ones during this terrible time. Bless the ones in the nursing homes with lonely seniors, putting themselves at risk to keep caring for the vulnerable. Bless the families on the other side of the window glass with phones, smiling and waving and holding up signs of love to their elders. Bless the vulnerable and at-risk and those who open their doors to them even in the midst of a pandemic. Bless the scared kids and the adults who notice them.

Bless the ones who cry too much and feel too much. Bless the wounded healers.

Bless the kind ones, who speak words of life and gentleness. Bless the benefit-of-the-doubt givers, the one-more-chance lavishers. Bless the comforters and the kleenex-passers. Bless the walkers-in-another’s-shoes. Bless the wheelchair pushers. Bless the ones there waiting after the chips fall, and the edifice crumbles, and the truth comes out. Bless them for their grace for both the flyers and the thud-ers, for the fury and the glory. Bless the ones baking bread and leaving it on doorsteps for the parents they can’t risk seeing. Bless the ones who serve without fanfare or book deals or media attention. Bless the ones who love vulnerable children, day after day after day. Bless the ones who are lonely and alone, who are isolated and vulnerable, who are struggling to breathe.

Bless the ones who lavish grace and bandage wounds and figure out how to make ventilators in factories. Bless the ones who intubate and the ones who are crying in the stairwell, overwhelmed by caring. Bless them for they give dignity to the rest of us. Bless them because they see us and they love us anyway.

Bless them for standing in our thin places between too-much and not-enough, the places where our hearts are breaking and our fears are manifesting and we are so scared and so alone. Bless them for being the ones that show up in the fault lines to hold our hands and pray and weep with those who weep.

Bless them for their patience, for their uncanny ability to just keep going, for their ability to be present instead of checking out for something less demanding. Bless them for long days on their feet in uncomfortable PPE gear, sweaty and exhausted and filled with mercy for us anyway. Bless them for their determination in the face of suffering, for the patience in the teeth of our it’s-going-to-get-worse predictions, and their faith in our story.

Bless them for their heart to ease the suffering, to smooth the edges, widen the roads. Bless them for their cups of cold water, and their plates of food, for their prison visiting, for their preemie-baby hat knitting, for the signs in the windows saying “thank you, essential workers!” decorated with stickers and glitter. Bless them for the healing work of their gifts. Bless them when they smell of salt tears and someone else’s sh** and our unwashed bodies. Bless the funeral workers and the priests who have run out of words. Bless the journalists and politicians who are wise and merciful, the public health officials and the sign language interpreters. Bless the site preppers and the cleaners. Bless the merciful because they are so often the only glimpse of goodness.

Bless the merciful as they carry our own burdens with us; we cannot know how low they are bowed with the grief of the whole world groaning for healing and hope even as they keep moving forward. Bless them in their anger. Bless them in their frustrations. Bless them in their fears. Bless them in their exhaustion. Bless them when they are overwhelmed and want to quit. Bless their sleep and their rising.

Bless the ones who care for the ageing and the dying, for those making the way a bit smoother for the families left behind. Bless the ones who hold the hands of the poor and broken and you and me. Bless the ones running right towards the hurting with their hands outstretched.

At the end of all this may we bless them with rest and gratitude, with compassionate and generous policies and pay, with just systems and actions. At the end of all this, may they know they were our heroes not in spite of their weakness and humanity and moments of breaking but because of them. At the end of this, may we value love and mercy.

Bless them because it takes more courage and strength to be merciful, compassionate, and kind than we could have ever imagined. May they find love and strength, courage and compassion at their rock bottom.

Essential?   Leave a comment

In our Zoom hang out after church on Sunday we were sharing how hard it is for some of us to stay at home and feel like we are doing nothing while some are having to work harder than ever. They’re having to encounter real danger as part of their daily routine. This would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago let alone when they filled out their application. In the course of the conversation it was pointed out that the reality is, staying at home is, in itself, making a real contribution to stemming the tide of this virus.

As I thought about this later in the day it reminded me of the command God, through Moses, gave to the Israelites as they left Egypt. Confronted with the Red Sea in front of them and an advancing Egyptian army behind them God says “Don’t be afraid, just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” Exodus 14:13. In the Psalms, we are urged to “Be still and know that I am God.” The truth is, it’s the “being still” and “standing still” that is so difficult and make us feel that we are not contributing.

Could it be that being and staying still is one of the lessons that we are able to learn by experience as we stay at home? The interesting thing is that I often overlook the rest of Psalm 46:10. It goes on to say “ I will be honored in every nation.” Surely the implication is that if we are not still, we run the risk of getting in the way of His being “honored among the nations.” If the Israelites had decided to take action they would certainly have obstructed the plans that God had for their deliverance. And it was the news of that deliverance that spread among the nations and brought Him honor and glory.

Those of us who play our part by staying at home have the opportunity to understand the “being still” is a crucial part of “knowing He is God” It is just an opportunity to observe. It is by being still when we are told to do so, that we are actively allowing Him to run the universe. Sometimes He asks us to participate, on other occasions he simply asks us to stay out of the way. So to those who are currently staying out of the way, thank you for doing your essential job so well!

Taking NO for an answer   1 comment

I have always been told that when we pray we can expect one of three answers, Yes No or wait. Now “yes” is always acceptable, “wait” is just about tolerable but “no”… !! As a consequence when I read (1Sam 7) the account of David and his plans to build a temple I always wonder what it felt like when God said “no” to him?

The king was in one of the most successful phases of his reign almost everything was going well. He had united the nation and defeated the Philistines who had been the bane of the nation’s life for years. He had established Jerusalem as his capital city and King Hiram of Tyre had sent laborers and materials to build him a palace.

At last, there was peace for the nation and as the king relaxes in his palace, he realizes that The Ark of the Covenant that God had given them as a focus for worship was in a tent. Immediately he resolves to rectify the situation and build a temple ( 1Sam 7:2). Wisely David consults his prophetic adviser Nathan who encourages him ( 1Sam 7:3). But then God speaks to Nathan “Whoa not so fast! Did you ask Me before telling David to go ahead; I have other plans for who will build the temple.” So God instructs the prophet to go back to David and tell him that contrary to what he said earlier he was not to build the temple that job was assigned to his son, Solomon.

I often wonder how that must have felt? “Hey, God, I wanted to do something good for you, look at my life so far I have been obedient, I have been patient I’ve done it all right surely its ok to do this. In fact, I am not sure why I asked Nathan in the first place after all its a no brainer, build a temple I will just go do it!”

But no, David does something I think is really remarkable (2 Sm 7:18) he goes and sits before the Lord and prays. He humbly accepts the plans that God has for the temple and gives thanks God for all the promises He made. And more than that, the king actively sets aside abundant resources for Solomon to use when he does build the temple.

So when you pray do you contemplate that God’s answer may be no? Do you realize that when the answer is no it is not because God does not want to bless you? When God answers no He has something better in mind, HIs plan is so much bigger than ours. Are we willing to sit quietly before God as David did? And as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, will you surrender to the answer your Father gives?

Posted January 4, 2020 by jolm15 in Christian Living

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Outrage and Hope   1 comment

Recently I was scrolling through Facebook (often dangerous) and came upon an article that shocked me to the core. Actually I was so outraged that I had to at least try to investigate if the information was  an example of the notorious”fake news”. So for reasons that I trust will become apparent I am resisting the urge to provide you with a link to the article so you can be outraged as well. Suffice it to say that article recounted how one of our news stations broadcast an investigative report on how Iceland has succeeded in almost completely eliminating Downs Syndrome from their population.On the face of it an interesting story until as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that the report is celebrates and praises an achievement that has been brought about by aborting any pregnancies that have the slightest chance of being Down Syndrome children.

Now I confess that to a limited extent this is personal to me. I have friends who have Downs Syndrome children and without exception they are wonderful human beings and the world would unquestionably be poorer without them. While making unique and productive contributions to their communities, they spread  joy and love in ways few others are able to parallel. However as I thought about this further I became dissatisfied with the idea that I could merely join the chorus of protest and outrage. As a follower of Jesus I have so often regretted that all we seem able to do is join the chorus when, if we really believe that Jesus is the hope for the world we should be able to find away to proclaim hope with an equally loud and passionate voice.

By God’s grace in this particular situation I believe I found a way to do just that. One of the most compelling podcasts I listen to comes from an organization simply named Q*  Its founder, Gabe Lyons, and his wife Rebekah have a Downs syndrome child themselves, and in a recent edition interviewed an wonderful lady, Heather Avis. Heather has adopted two of these amazing children. She tells a story of joy and hope that provides a powerful repost to anyone who considers  the elimination of such people is anything to be celebrated. So I enthusiastically provide links both to this conversation and to her book ” The Lucky Ones.”

One final thought, I am wondering if the sharing of hope should not be a priority in my thinking whenever I consider responding to the vast range of tragedies and outrages that litter our news media from home and abroad. If, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the answer and that He is enough then it is that hope which is the unique and powerful contribution we can offer, in humility, to these conversations. Otherwise we simply join the rhetoric that fuels the anger that so often brings yet more tragedy… What do you think?

*Q is an organization that facilitates wide-ranging conversations about the most challenging issues of our day. It is probably the most stimulating podcast I listen to and is guaranteed to challenge you to think differently!

Gloating   2 comments

One of the things that has been bothering me as I observe or increasingly divided communities is the way that every action and every comment seems to require a slew of equal and opposite reactions. The tragedy, as I see it, is this seems to be leaking (may be pouring) into the way in which we as followers of Jesus respond to things. The net result is a frightening outpouring of self-righteousness and , yes, I am sure that I am as guilty of this as anyone. I am increasingly challenged by the need to ask myself before I speak, tweet, message or communicate in any way does what I am about to say and how I am about to say it reflect the character of Christ? Is this the way Jesus would have spoken? Jesus was both relentlessly clear and relentlessly compassionate. Every word he said was crafted with His Father (John 12:49)

I am using Tim Kellers book ” The Songs of Jesus in my daily devotions this year and this mornings reading just underlined what I have been think so I though i would share it with you

Psalm 35: 19– 28. 19 Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. 20 They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land. 21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.” 22 LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. 23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me. 25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.” 26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness, your praises all day long.

GLOATING. One of the great spiritual dangers of persecution is that it can make you self-righteous. You feel noble and superior because of your unjust victimization. Here David asks God to prevent his enemies from gloating over him, yet he does not gloat in return. To be happy over bad things that happen to others is called schadenfreude. David commits himself to rejoicing in God’s justice and greatness (verse 28) rather than his own moral superiority. While many bemoan the incivility that technology has made easy and anonymous, the cause is really the human heart that wants to fire back a defensive attack. Don’t try to pay back but leave it to God, who alone knows what people deserve (verses 23– 24.) Let God be your vindicator; one day all will be known.

Keller, Timothy; Keller, Kathy (2015-11-10). The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (p. 69). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Its over…well almost!   Leave a comment

The Chicago Cubs have won the world series, the British , or at least the English, have decided to leave the European Union and by the time you read this the United Staes will have a new president (or almost have one!). Each of these events was preceded by endless  analysis, discussion, prediction and persuasive rhetoric. In some cases the conversation was excited and enthusiastic, and in others harsh and vitriolic, but in every case the current state of technology rendered the quantity unprecedented. In each case the results were unknown until those last few decisive hours and in some cases the result totally unexpected, but they are over!

Almost everywhere except perhaps Chicago, the sporting event that was billed as “changing the face of baseball” is long gone and we are lost in the customary deluge of current sporting analysis. The UK is slowly but surely working out the way forward and out of Europe without destroying any more relationships than necessary and The US will learn to deal with a new president, who ever receives the requisite number of votes. The world both locally and nationally will move on and learn to live with the consequences large and small.

At New Life we have been ” Imagining Heaven” together for the past few weeks and it struck me how different a reality this presents us with as followers of Jesus. The plan of God is still the same and has never changed . We know the result! Revelation 21 excites me more every time I read it . The choice is clear and everyone of us gets to make that choice for ourselves. We do not need to decide whose opinion or analysis is the most persuasive, or wait for the declaration of the majority decision . Our part in God’s unchanging plan is crucial, eternally crucial, simply to decide if we will choose to love and follow our Creator and then take every opportunity He gives to encourage everyone we know to understand what is at stake, make their own choice.

When God declares the plan concluded, our choices will become eternal. We will not simply learn to live with a result, we will either experience the unspeakable joy of love, light and  life in the world God created in the way He intended or experience what it really means to choose a life without God.  I have never felt the urgency of finding ways to share the certainty of that”result” more than I do now. How about you?

When you must choose!   1 comment

A while ago someone I respect asked me if, given my emphatically stated position on keeping politics out of the church,  I thought  a pastor had any responsibility  in advising their congregations on their involvement in the political process. This caused me to think very carefully over recent months and to read fairly widely on the subject of Christians in culture and the public square. The current electoral season has generated a rash of blogs, articles and podcasts on the subject and as a consequence I have reached the conclusion that I should share four principles  I believe are firmly based in scripture and that people might find helpful:

1 God is still in charge! Presidents, Prime Ministers, politicians, pastors and the rest of us come and go but God remains entirely and eternally in control. His plan remains unchanged, as it has through the ages, and nothing can deviate Him from its fulfillment.

2 The phrase ” lesser of two evils” is not found or implied anywhere in scripture (to my knowledge). The Bible is clear that all forms of evil come from the forces of darkness and are to be resisted Ephesians 6:10-12. James 4:7

3. The scripture is full of applicable principles and I trust you will search them prayerfully as you ponder these things. In this context I want to share just one:

Know, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,

and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

4. The fact that someone comes to a different conclusion than you about the application of these, and other biblical principles, does not mean they are bad people neither does it call their relationship with Jesus into question. By God’s grace you will share heaven with many of them, and remember, when the time comes, we will stand before almighty God alone!

I am aware I have on many occasions expressed my relief at not having to make political choices since I am not s citizen. However I have no wish to use this as an excuse not to think and pray for each of you as you think and pray about the choices you must make. To finish I return to where I started, remember, in politics, as in every other aspect of life, God is still in charge and He always will be!

Posted May 11, 2016 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Doubt   1 comment

When responding to the recent tragedies in Paris the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was asked if incidents like this caused him to doubt God. He replied ‘ Of course!” Shock! Horror! the most senior clergyman (pastor) in the Church of England admits to doubting God, how can this be? Well, guess what, Justin Welby along with every other bishop, church leader, pastor, or whatever term you prefer, is a human being just like every member of the churches they serve. The simple fact that, however strong our faith, we cannot prove the existence of The Almighty. His own word tells us thatmy [God] thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”  Isaiah 55:8-9  This leaves us in a place where there is so much we do not and cannot know. However we are naturally and inexorably dragged into the place where we grapple for proof, understanding and logical explanations when they simply are not there. Is it surprising therefore that we are drawn to ask if God really does exist? Is that somehow wrong, especially for those who profess faith? Do those doubts and the painful wrestling with things that God does render us unbelievers?

I think not. One of the first books of the bible to be written was about a guy called Job who was on the receiving end of a series of events that would have caused anyone to doubt the existence of any God, let alone one who cared about him. To add insult to injury, he had friends who sensitively shared that really it was all his fault! Through all his battle and doubt about God’s behavior, Job refused to conclude that He did not exist. In the end God does not commend him for those doubts but with understanding and grace simply points out that He is indeed God and so by very definition will not be comprehensible to mere humans. However Jobs dogged refusal to surrender results in Gods blessing,  and the admonition of those friends that sought to undermine His faith. I have no doubt the the archbishop, while having the courage to share that he too has doubts at times, will similarly hang on tho his faith in an incomprehensible but truly amazing God.   And I trust that he has friends who, rather than discouraging him from faith, will stand beside him and encourage him. I pray that each of us also will have those who will walk through the dark times with us and build us up rather that cast us down.

Posted December 8, 2015 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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