Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Us and Them

As I was praying through my daily Psalms this morning the Spirit prompted me to pause and ponder on, “Redeem us because of Your faithful love you” (Psalm 44:26). This numinous call urged me to put aside the cares and concerns of the approaching day for a little while longer so that I might sit with the Word. The gracious Holy Spirit helped me lay everything down, even the Psalter in my hands, as I knelt at the foot of the cross meditating on God’s love. 

Repeating this verse slowly, silently within my heart the spirit began unpacking some of the truths in the seven words. The faithfulness of God filled me as I recalled a few of the times he had walked with me in ‘the valley of the shadow of darkness’. How his love calls to me even as I wandered far from him. He redeemed me from the debt I owed, from the penalty of my sins.

Seeing that he had my attention this morning the spirit got around to the meat of our conversation. It seems he wanted to speak to me about ‘us’. Who is this us that God redeemed? Is it just me and mine? Those I love and care for? The ones in my circle of family and friends? Or is it a broader ‘us’?

Here in my country origin we can easily began to think the ‘us’ God is referring to is US, as in the U.S.  Listening to the news pundits and Facebook wags we might get to believing that America is now God’s chosen nation. That we should somehow be exempt from the trials and tribulations of living in our ever shrinking planet.

But when we make ourselves into an ‘us’ that is chosen, blessed, exclusive that creates a ‘them’ — the different, the other, the not-chosen, the not-blessed. And anytime there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ there will be a conflict, often violent conflict.

If we’re not careful this us and them thinking can quickly lead us to proudly stand with the Pharisee praying, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people…”.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Widening Rings

I live my life in widening rings.
The last ring, in spite of my trying, I doubt –
as it wanders across and over things —
if I shall ever complete.
       -The Book of Hours by Rainier Maria Rilke

Reading these lines of Rilke this rainy spring Saturday afternoon brings to mind the annual growth rings of a tree. Some thin, indicative of lean years when my life was hard. Drought.  Lack of nutrients.  Perhaps a wildfire out of control scorching back the tender branches of growth. Others thick, revealing seasons of plenty. Rain in season and in proportion to need. Sunshine and warmth to fuel photosynthesis. Years of blessing and growth.

As with all trees my life shall also have a final, incomplete ring. Whether it is this year’s, or the next, or decades away, I’m blessed to not know. But I do know that the purpose of my life is to embrace more and more of God and to invite more and more people into these ever widening rings. Rilke continues,
For in this ring I encircle God.
The aged tower—millennia long;
and I need to know: am I falcon, or storm,
or song, an immense song?

This brings to mind one of my favorite lines from the Psalms,
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.  
               -Psalm 119:54

God’s statutes are my song, my immense song, as a sojourn in this world seeking those outside the circle of God’s love, seeking those who do not have his statutes, seeking those who do not know his love.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Give Me Ears to Hear

I believe
         my life is touched by you,
                  that you want something for me,
                            and of me.
Give me ears
         to hear you,
         to see the tracing of your finger,
and a heart
         quickened by the motions
                   of your Spirit.

By Ted Loder from Guerrillas of Grace