The Fearless Power Of For

“Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart, but make it whole, with light in every part.” ~George MacDonald

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True power belongs to those who are for.

For love, for light, for life.

Beauty from ashes, the triumph of truth, goodness turning the tide–this is the plan set in motion from the dawn of human history. The Creator is for his creation.

Are you?

Don’t listen to the lie–that all is lost, that child-like trust in God is for cowards, that brute and crude power will prevail. Boastful hubris is as old as the Fall, the discordant rant of small-hearted fear. Those who choose to be against, choose blindness, choose to create hell right where they are.

Some of us have lingered in the dark doorway for too long, lulled by the bitter, beguiling wailing within. The drumbeat beckons, the dissonance croons, “be against, be angry, trust no one but your own kind. Blame them, hate them, bomb them, fear them, send them all away.”

Repent! The only voice worth heeding has already spoken. “Forgive, forget offenses, forbear the failure and limitations of others, and of yourselves. Forgo self-interest, embrace the forlorn. For I will never forsake you, I am with you.” *

The momentum of history is always forward. God brings us through the frightening present, and never circles back to placate our dim-eyed nostalgia. “Behold I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5) is not wishful thinking, but daily signposts to the future even now unfolding.

The Power of For or the Power of Fear?

The news is forbidding, the odds seem impossible. You are sickened and dismayed by the poison you’ve inhaled. Throw open the windows! Breath in the fresh air of the Real!  Be for what God is for.

Reject

  • rigid ideology
  • political polarity
  • religious pretension
  • and cynical despair,

before you lose the only thing that, in the end, will matter.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, ” Jesus warns us in Matthew 10:28.

Do you understand what he is saying? The only One with ultimate and complete power over you is the God who sent his Son to die for you.  The cross demonstrates God’s unfathomable, unfailing determination to rescue us from the only thing he has set himself against–the already-defeated, hell-bound usurper we mimic when we refuse God’s “compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9).

The redemptive power of Jesus or that ancient anti-everything deceiver–in this fear-mongered, formidable hour, which will you choose to resemble?

Embrace the fearless power of for, before it is too late.

 

*See, for instance, Matthew 6:14, 16:24-25, 28:20; 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 12, Galatians 5: 19-26

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

Unfollow The Lie

“Here is something that the psychologists have so far neglected: the love of ugliness for its own sake.”~ H.L. Mencken

lie

The lie has made us ugly.

But still we inhale, scrolling through the wireless marketplace where once ideas flourished. Now bullies hang about, kicking over common sense, sending kindness crashing, leaving decency in shards.

What is the lie? First, answer this:

Since when is the vulture our national bird? The predators cheered, the broken hearts jeered–what Kool-Aid has made this okay?

To identify the lie, I’ve peered in the darkness, a virtual entomologist lifting every rock. I’ve squinted through the screen at the trolls, the truth-less, the paranoid, resentful self-pitiers before me. And in me.

I think I know its name,  the flattering and infuriating falsehood in the room.

The Lie:

You are superior, you are worthless. You are a god, but you don’t matter. The others must defer to your offended opinion, while you grovel for crumbs of esteem.

What a sea-sickening pendulum of un-grace we swing on. May I offer a humbling cure?

You are little and you are loved. You are limited yet you are empowered. Your life was given to be given away. When you open your heart, you will find what you’re missing. When you humble yourself, your way will be clear.

But first, unfollow the lie.

“Self-love or pride is a sin when, instead of leading you to share with others the self you love, it leads you to keep your life in perpetual safe-deposit. You not only don’t accrue any interest that way but become less and less interesting every day.” ~Frederick Buechner

“And Jesus said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Have you been sickened lately by the lie?

 

The Peril of Perfection

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…

~Anne Lamott

I awake from a dream about color, vivid slathers of oily orange resting beside cerulean blue. In my sleep, my brush is masterful, my palette true, I paint with exquisite perfection the tropical  hues, the radiant mix only the Creator could compose.

Rubbing my eyes, I wander into the kitchen to the smell of fragrant coffee. I’m itching to begin, my dream a hopeful omen for this stunning, sultry day.

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I lay out my paint supplies on the lanai and respectfully fasten my 6×8 to the easel.  Deeply inspired by the sun-lit scene before me, I take a breath and begin.

I fail… in slow motion. As the distant waters purple and the sand-warmed shallows turn to green, as the sun-kissed patio below me dazzles with cadmium, ochre, and magenta, my brush-stokes pile with clumsy, muddied confusion.

The Peril Of Perfection

In moments like these I’m tempted to quit, to believe the goal of art, of life, of existence, is to be extraordinary, to surpass all previous attempts. I compare my worst with another’s fine-tuned best, I contrast my flawed attempts with photo-shopped perfection, and lose courage.

Perhaps you do too.

Has our battered self-image ever been so ruthlessly under review? Have we always been required to justify our existence, to prove our value before the stone-eyed gaze of a virtual crowd?  Public humiliation follows one viral posting, personal rejection from one withheld “like”. Social media provides an ongoing beauty pageant, a hall of fame or shame, depending on the whim of your followers.

Yet, the struggle with perfectionism grows from ancient roots. Our anguish and often anger at a world we cannot mend, the burden of our simultaneously high and humble calling, is not new. To be human is to bear astounding potential within a leaky vessel, to find ourselves able to soar near the sun the same moment our wings begin to melt.

We Participate In Another’s Perfection

The same God who designed Hawaii also created me. I sense him at my shoulder, pleased when I notice the light in the shadows, the way the waves tease the shore, but whispering, “well done,” when I mix on my palate his compassion and kindness for the people I’d rather ignore.

Do you know this? As a human being you are designed not for perfection, but for participation in a perfection you can’t achieve on your own.

His perfect love to redeem every hate-filled act.

His perfect truth to counter every person-demeaning lie.

His perfect beauty to remind you, no matter how badly your life has been muddied, the divine Artist has not finished his masterpiece yet.

 

Do you struggle with perfectionism? 

 

Be Careful With Your Words, Be Careful With Your Anger

Humility must always be doing its work like a bee making its honey in the hive: without humility all will be lost.” Teresa of Avila

_Bee on flower

Be careful, my child. Gather with care from the wind-borne moment what sustenance you may find.

Keep searching for truth, the sweet amidst the bitter. Be diligent, be sincere, be curious and undaunted.

But be humble. You are only one small laborer in a very large garden. There is so much more than what you see. There is so much less of you than you pretend.

Be careful, my troubled one. Learn to wait, to hover, to rise above the gusty winds of rash and shallow discourse. Tune your ear to listen for reason beneath reaction, for hunger beneath a smug and self-satisfied sigh.

Look deeper. It is not your quick retort, your flush of confusion, your clenched fist, or  your fleeting joy that will sustain you. It is not your solitary or collective understanding that will carry you home.

There is something more substantial beneath your feet, the pulsing life you did not fashion, the steady hum of being not of your own doing. The black-sharpie underline, the emphatic, unfathomable but rock-rooted foundation beneath you–what is it?

Love. Love that never fails, that will not be shaken. God’s glad and unswerving intention that all creation be healed, redeemed, and wondrously restored.

Be careful, then, with your words, for words can’t be unsaid. Be cautious with anger, keep it aimed at its only true target.

Be wary of superior and disdainful certainty. Reject the viral snark, the emotional and simplistic answers of this age. Be humble, be little, refusing to make your viewpoint and half-formed assumptions the interpretive key for all time.

Above all, be stern with your own sin,  your hidden complicity with evil. With joy, receive God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness, and let it spill over and ever upon your neighbor.

Where have you learned to be careful?

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

The Introvert’s Dilemma

“Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.”~ Adam S. McHugh

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It was my choice to come, but I’m not comfortable, here on the surface with you.

I’m uneasy with shifting currents, with bluster and gusting demands for attention, as voices dive and swirl overhead. If I try to speak, my words toss on the waves, or spray away with the wind–a salty rebuke, a briny betrayal of convictions too early exposed.

Why does it feel like conversation is a competition and I’ve left my weapons on the shore?

I don’t know why you glance away at my remark. I can’t detect the meaning behind your unfiltered words, your sudden distraction, your frustrated sigh. You probably don’t understand my frowning intensity, or my stammered, stymied replies. I can’t fathom your serial  selfies, you are amazed at my turtled retreat. You say a thing, and mean another, I say a thing and wish I hadn’t, because there was something so much better to be said.

But I won’t know it until you’re out of earshot. Until, in the quiet of dawn, my heart belatedly speaks.

The Introvert’s Invitation

The wild and windblown shallows are not my home–they are where I must come to find you.  But I wish you would know my Introvert world, how deep beneath the chit and the chat there is airy calm, the slow, weighted drift of ideas and wonder. There, where words can linger, one finds acceptance and patience for unfashionable questions, for half-shaped answers, for unspoken, subtle delight. In a quiet corner of this sub-marine cavern is a table set only for two.

Some have been willing to join me there. Will you?

A Postscript

I would laminate the words above and hang them around my neck if I thought it would make a difference. In the company of others I feel the need to explain myself, though no one has ever asked. Do you Introverts resonate? Can you Extroverts understand? I recently thumbed through a thesaurus and found this.

Extrovert: outgoing, unselfish, sociable, people-oriented, friendly, amicable, congenial.

Introvert: self-observer, self-absorbed, brooder, muser, shy, bashful, timid, wallflower.

I wonder which type wrote the book…

 

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

Z Is For Zoe: Live The End Of The Story

“I don’t think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for. ~Norman Mailer

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No greater tragedy can befall us than our own refusal to live.

A dear friend, a wise counselor, used to ask, “How old were you when you died?” At what age, because of what distressing event, or mistaken conclusion, did you shutter your dreams and forget why God made you? When did you choose death?

The Bible uses three Greek words for life:

  • bios–what you have, your age, size, net worth, accomplishments, possessions.
  • psuche–what you are, your personality, choices, ambitions, dreams, what you do with what you have.
  • zoe–what you can be.  The eternal, abundant, joy-filled, ever-renewed life of God we lost when we were D is for Deceived.

“I have come that they may have zoe…” Jesus claimed, and nothing delights him more than one person trusting him enough to live freely, love boldly and follow him eagerly no matter the cost.

We’ve come to the close of our Alphabet Adagio. The last book of the Bible plays the stunning finale of the biblical story, a lingering glimpse of a future with its fingerprints  all over the present. Someday, every broken life will be mended, all injustice upended, evil forgotten, darkness dispelled, creation lovingly made new. No sorrow, no pain, no death, no lies, no loneliness will haunt us. Earth and heaven will embrace forever, as God makes his home among us.

Someday.

But, if we are in Christ, the future is laughing within us. We live the happily ever, even while battered by the now.

How?

This is the power of the resurrected Christ. Indwelled by the zoe of God, we are bridges from the now to the will be. As healers of the broken, as conduits of his joy, as light in dark places, as bearers of compassion, as truth-tellers in the face of lies, we plant hope where nothing else grows.

Unless we forget how to live.

Are you living the end of the story? Say “yes” to Jesus and you will.

 

Thank you for joining me in this long, winding Alphabet Adagio. When you need reminding of how to live what matters, just start all over at A.

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

 

 

 

Y Is For: You Is A Plural Word

Some believe it is only GREAT POWER that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small every day deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love. ~ Gandalf

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The world is a mess, and you are the answer, but you are not the answer alone. English translations obscure this truth: the “you” of the Bible is plural.

God knows, one person, pious and gentle, will not make the world gasp in wonder. But together we become a blazing light, where every glimmer matters.

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world,” Teresa of Avila claimed.

But “yours” means “ours” in a way many of us find uncomfortable.

You implies a new identity

I am an American, white female, introvert, scholar, wife, parent, grandparent. I have political preferences and inherited biases, but in Christ, I die to them all. My new identity trumps every other, and at the same time redeems each one.

God knows, our nation needs more citizens  who are Christ-followers first, who bow to no party but his. God knows, we need more open-armed mothers, able to hug all children close. God knows, this broken world will be mended when his church abandons its rights, and takes up the cross–the self-forgetting, other-embracing, joy-filled way of Christ.

Not only on our own, but together.

Matthew 5:13-15;  Philippians 2:15; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Peter 2:9

Where have you been Christ’s hands and feet, together?

 

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. Next week: Z Is For Zoe: Live The End Of The Story.

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

X Is For Xenophobia

Xenophobia: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.

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Come see him, this stranger, in a  manger. Draw near to the infant, a king dressed in humble swaddle, our savior, yawning in the night.

Life is no lullaby.  In Jesus, God will receive first-hand the angry xenophobia of the crowd.

Hunted by Herod, a political refugee in Egypt, harassed by the religious powers that be–did we welcome our guest? Did we rejoice, with eyes overflowing, as the lame, the broken, the dreamers, and the desperate found their home in him?

Or did we wonder at the company he kept?

Who Is This Xmas Baby?

Whatever you think of Jesus, whatever you may have heard, however he is reinvented by the smug  voices around you, please hold on to this: Jesus, on the cross, his arms open wide, making a breathless plea, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

Isn’t this the true spirit of Christmas, to fling our arms open to those around us, including the troubled and troubling souls who can’t yet return our kindness, who don’t know how to be better?

The early Christ-followers must have been stunned by the unprecedented ethnic and sociological diversity of their gatherings. Fear and revulsion of the stranger was deeply inbred. The Apostle Paul urged, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

“For the glory of God”–so God will be shown for who he is. As humans, we jealously guard our homogeneity (“these are my people”), but God delights in diversity.

Think of it–we live on a planet where over 400,000 different species of flowering plants bloom at the Creator’s bidding, where 10,000 new animal species are discovered each year! As for  people–you will never find two who are truly identical. Nobody is like you, and they were never meant to be. The differences that divide and disgust us do not deter God. He calls us to unity without uniformity, an open-armed invitation to all.

Xenophobia Cure

The end to xenophobia winds through the heart of God. It is his love, his understanding we borrow, for no person is alien or repulsive to him.

It’s not too late to have a xenophobia-free Xmas. Chances are good you will encounter strangers today, if only in a news report, or beside you at a traffic light. Will you notice the frazzled look, the discouraged shuffle, the defensive gaze of the forgotten, the lonely with nowhere to be?

Christmas is the day to fling our arms wide, and join in the loveliest of cries, “You are welcome.”

Merry Christmas, my friends. You are so loved.

 

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. We are almost to the end! Forgive me for the long pauses–my writing time has been taken up by academic papers. I have only two more classes and hope to graduate in June with my Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. I hope you experience the open arms of Jesus this Christmas. 

W Is For The Way

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
~Ernest Hemingway

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I want a plan, I want I map, a clear idea of what’s around each bend. Instead, I’m given a person.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

The New Testament isn’t a blueprint for religion, but the hope of a new way to live, the shape of a new way to be, our raison d’être turned thrillingly, unpredictably, right-side-up. The early followers of Jesus referred to themselves simply as “The Way.”

From the perspective of the earth-bound and uncurious, these disciples lost everything the world calls important.

From the perspective of eternity, they gained the only thing anyone really needs.

Life!

I offer you a metaphor for this Way, written by an unknown poet:

The Road Of Life

At first, I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable…It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.

And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I’m learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says…”Pedal.”

~Author Unknown. From Holy Sweat by Tim Hansel

I close with a link to a video, a visceral, visual experience of how thrilling those bike secrets can be.

Are you learning to let go of control?

In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail at the bottom of this website so you don’t have to miss a letter.

Photograph by Melanie Hunt

For A Minute, Small Things Matter

Life is short, and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”

~ Henri Frédéric Amiel

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“Beautiful Dreamer” by Janet Hanson

Whether a poet, a painter or a pipe-fitter, we all have the same 1440 minutes given to us each day. How will you spend yours? What broken piece of this world will you mend today? Who will smile because you bent their way? Do you believe even small, unnoticed efforts matter?

Consider this poem by Jeff Reed.

For A Minute

It is enough if my poem

fills only one minute of your life;

if it packs it brim-full, packs it quickly

with a thick vigor in it,

with a vital punch, for just one minute.

.

And then let it be forgotten,

its sweet residue dissipating in the

rush of the next minute’s press.

It will have achieved its noblesse oblige.

Its raison d’etre seized: to have dressed

one minute with the elegance

for which all minutes were meant.

.

And come another million years,

come the extinction of memory

and all memorials—that for one

minute it thrived in one place

and one time, though it not survive,

it can never for a minute be erased.

.

You can find more of Jeff Reed’s poetry at Wind in the Reeds.