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The Gospel is Weird

Christians, which literally (and I use this word a lot) means “Like Christ”, believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. We don’t believe that Jesus is like God or just a cool, ethical teacher. No. This person is God in the flesh.

Yes, that’s weird to wrap our heads around. But so are other things like space, the tesla, and the Beatles.

Here’s what’s weird (bizarre, strange, other-worldly) about the Gospel to me: we are a planet of screwy people who actually think that if we can get more money, power, and influence, that we can change things (but mostly to get more power, money, and influence and repeat the cycle). I’m not trying to dumb down society in one paragraph but there is something to the fact that we are a screwy people.

And this Gospel message is saying that there’s a Revolution happening, one where Jesus is the leader who, instead of accumulating more power, money, and influence, Jesus is a person of light, peace, healing, and forgiveness. The Gospel message is that Jesus the Revolutionary is telling us to be people of peace. The anti-story is to be violent, forceful, manipulative, and to look out for yourself.

I had someone call me a few months ago because of an issue they were having in a dating relationship. And after I heard all of the dynamics happening, I realized that both people were so afraid of intimacy that they would manipulate one another to get what they wanted.

“What would it look like to shed light on your real fears and let your partner in on it”, I said to the dude. Men cry ladies! It was transparency (light) that became healing, which lead to peace and forgiveness between them.

I don’t fully get the Gospel all the time. I get so lost in my own darkness, anger, and frustrations. And then like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, something reminds me that Jesus and this Gospel message is about living in transparent/vulnerable light, offering peace to my wife-enemy, seeking healing with broken parts of myself.

Shaming, fits of anger, and violently manipulating others will not work. It’s not true change and revolution.

The message of Jesus to be people of light, peace, healing, and forgiveness almost seems bizarre and strange to us in a society that holds its opinions very tight. We are a “I’m right” type of culture that is scared to let others influence us. I wonder if this is why it seems absurd to let a 2000 year old message influence us…

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God’s Delight and Discernment

“God will use all your decisions, changeable and unchangeable, for your ongoing growth and development. There is nothing you can do to prevent God from bringing good out of the raw materials of your choices and the resulting circumstances. God can write straight using crooked lines.”

– Larry Warner

Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus: Christian Discernment as a Way of Life

I had forgotten about God’s endless grace, mercy, and faithfulness. It’s not a “pass/fail” deal, with God looking down and approving/disapproving. God delights in us and can use our limited capacities to work. It gives me more boldness to dream and try a few new things.

We do our best to discern how the Spirit is leading–working through scripture, discerning how God is already at work and joining Him, having community to process with, and lots of prayer.  There are times when I move forward and others when I feel paralyzed.  But God taking delight in us…that’s a game changer.  The stress and pressure are off the shoulders.  The anxiety of “am I doing the right thing” (after we’ve done the discernment work) is lessened when I remember that God specializes in taking the raw material of my life and transforms it for His good purposes (Phil. 1:16, Romans 8:28).   Even if I make a “wrong decision” that didn’t pan out, God will work toward growth and development through the process.

Larry’s last line reminds of the poet J. Cole’s song, Crooked Smile.  He has this line that reminds of God’s redemptive work with our crooked stories and smiles:

They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still

J.Cole, Crooked Smile

We ain’t picture perfect in our decision-making, but we worth the picture.  There’s One who takes Delight in us, period.

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pastoral care, spiritual formation, Uncategorized

Discovering Mission and Call for our Lives

I’m reading a few books on discernment, specifically because I’m at a place in my life and ministry where I’m asking “God, what is your mission and call for my life.”

I’ve turned to two resources:

“Discernment:  Reading the Signs of Daily life” by Henri Nouwen

“Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus:  Christian Discernment as a Way of Life”, by Larry Warner

Henri Nouwen has reminded me again and again about leaning into the heart of God and his love.  These are the most important as we discern.  The questions can get heavy.  The fears or insecurities of searching for answers can wear on us like heavy towels after a spill.  Refreshment comes as we lay the questions at His feet and ask God to help us know His heart and love.

Nouwen says,

What I tell others who ask these questions, and remind myself with surprising conviction, is this: “God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and to let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.” New vocations are full of promise. Something very important is in store for us. There is a hidden treasure to discover.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 99).

It’s that middle line that got me:  “you will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.”  Can I trust that God will reveal it when I need to know it?  That’s my prayer today.

As I think about discernment, call, and knowing the heart of Jesus, two thoughts immediately came to mind.

  1. I’m not someone with all the answers that is present to equip and empower people.  But I hope my words, actions, and life do equip and empower others.
  2. I used to think I needed to have all the answers to people’s questions, mostly so they’d like and admire me.  Now I’m okay to say “I don’t know”.  I have a few answers, but not all.

peace,

chaplain roy

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pastoral care, Uncategorized

Optics of Fear

When I was in high school, I joined the track team and ran the mile and half mile.  I also ran cross country.  In 9th grade, I was the league champ for the frosh/soph category.  I ran a 17:39 5k.  Same year, I was training to run a 4:30 mile.  The closest I got was 5min flat.  The person behind me came in 10 seconds later.

Ask me what happened my sophomore year…

nothing.

I quit.

why?

I was afraid of losing.  I couldn’t bear the thought of coming in second or last.  I was also overwhelmed by the training.  I’ll never forget the feeling of quitting.  It hurt….it hurt bad.

I hate fear.  And the kind of fear I’m talking about is the paralyzing stuff where it causes you to stop dead in your tracks.

John Ortberg describes fear like this:

“…an internal warning cry that danger is nearby and we had better do something about it. It is designed to be what researchers call a “self-correcting mechanism”—to be unpleasant enough to motivate us to take action and remove ourselves from whatever is threatening us. It readies our body to flee, hide, or fight.”

book on amazon

We perceive something as dangerous, unpleasant, or threatening.  Our bodies go into flight, fight, or fright mode.  The word literally means “danger”!

But why is that my classmates Seth, Tim, and Ian weren’t afraid enough to quit?  Why did I quit?  Why did I give in to fear and why did I see it more as a threat than they did?

Somehow my perception of racing felt like danger and a threat to my sense of value and worth.  I equated winning and losing to my self-worth and I was more worried about that than actually racing and having fun.

OPTICS

This is the famous buzz word I’ve heard recently.  It’s about how we frame, perceive, and see things.  A “jacked up” view can cause us to see things through optics of fear.  What someone see’s as an opportunity, others see it as a threat or dangerous to their livelihood.

In the Bible, the number one mandate repeated isn’t about how to love God, others, or to do good (although they’re the most important).  Nope.  The most repeated mandate is “DO NOT BE AFRAID”.

Lost dreams, unfulfilled goals, and lack of trying…are they optics of fear that have paralyzed us?

ENDURE

The Belgian spiritual writer Bieke Vandekerckhove found out she had terminal cancer at age 19.  She writes about three inner feelings she had to work through:  sadness, anger, and fear.  The first two are easier to name, express, and work through.  She says,

“fear paralyzes us, and this paralysis is the very thing which robs us of the strength we would need to combat it…fear can only be suffered.  We have to live with it until it recedes on its own…with fear, sometimes all we can do is endure.”

Ronald Rolheiser has quickly become one of my favorite spiritual writers.  He may be the next “Henri Nouwen”.  In his book, “Wrestling with God”, he says,

“Fear can render us impotent.  But naming it properly, recognizing where that symptom belongs and how powerless it leaves us, can help us to live with it, without sadness and anger.”

book on amazon

We may not be able to fix or cure fear completely out of our lives, but we can learn to name it, endure it, and choose to trust God’s invitation to not be afraid (because God is for us, with us, and towards our purpose and potential).

more to name… 🙂

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