Saturday, December 25, 2010

The God Who Fell From Heaven

~ By John Shea

If you had stayed
tightfisted in the sky
and watched us thrash
with all the patience of a pipe smoker,
I would pray like a golden bullet
aimed at your heart.
But the story says you cried
and so heavy was the tear
you fell with it to earth
where like a baritone in a bar
it is never time to go home.
So you move among us
twisting every straight line into Picasso,
stealing kisses from pinched lips,
holding our hand in the dark.
So now when I pray
I sit and turn my mind like a television knob
till you are there with your large, open hands
spreading my life before me
like a Sunday tablecloth
and pulling up a chair for yourself
for by now
the secret is out.
You are home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Living Loved

Sometimes I wake up earlier than I need to and instead of falling back asleep I think and pray. This happened the other night. I've been pondering the idea of "living loved" recently and I was asking God what that means for me. I've been trying to figure out how to do that -- how to live loved -- but I'm at a loss sometimes. Over the past 5 years I've gone through some drastic changes, all good. But somewhere deep inside my heart I don't believe I'm fully loved just the way I am.

Many years ago in college I wrestled with the same stuff, and experienced a bit of healing when (of all things!) I saw a bumper sticker that said: "God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way". That helped, but as I lay there in the dark, I realized there's still a hurt place in my heart, like an old splinter or shard of glass caught in a wound, that says "You need to be better before you can be loved".

I had finished telling God what I wanted help with and was trying to drift back to sleep, but a song started running through my head. It was a challenge to make it go away so I could fall back asleep. Then it dawned on me, as I lay there connecting with The Eternal One: I realized The Music Maker was trying to speak to my heart through that song if I would just listen! Wow -- it was like prayer really was a conversation, and not just me talking and never hearing a response! I've had similar experiences while running, and while riding my motorcycle, which I blogged about here. This time it was different though, because I was in bed, safe and warm and it was still very dark outside, and the house was very quiet. This meant that, in contrast to the other times, my senses were not being fully stimulated, so I could concentrate more fully on what was being said to my soul. I realize the lyrics below are incomplete, and not in the exact order Billy Joel wrote them, but this is what I heard in my heart, over and over until I realized it was from God, for me:
I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
I've never let you down before,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew,
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.
Wow. I did finally drift back to sleep, and experienced a real peace. I guess "living loved" is not something I have to "try" and "do" as much as something I need to receive and allow.

Writing this brings tears back to my eyes as I ponder how richly I am loved by God. And the idea of having to be different before I can be loved made me remember a post I did here on the profound truth God spoke to me through a simple story about a velveteen rabbit:
I don't have to be real to be loved.
I have to be loved to be real.
That post was from early 2006, but reminded me that this journey I've been on goes back to late 2003 -- that is when God first began nudging my heart in the direction I am still pointed. Only it took me until just this moment to connect all the dots and see how His hand has been on me this entire time. His love for me shines through the fact that He has brought me full circle in some ways -- this journey has not been just a bunch of random moves here and there (theologically, ecclesiastically, and geographically). It is all part of the same thing in my heart as He loves me into realness.

I guess Paul knew what he was talking about when he told the folks in Philippi that it was God who was at work in them -- both to give them the desires and to give them the abilities to walk out the life He'd called them to. And that same God is doing the same thing in me.

Living loved is easier and harder than I've ever thought, but that's OK. It's a good thing!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Bend in the Road

The journey God has had us on since moving to Oregon a little over three years ago has been mostly exciting, and also very mysterious at times. In the past six months or so God's Spirit has been communicating to us and guiding us in wonderfully loving ways and we’re writing this post to share some of that with you. The big news is this: We believe God has been leading us to voluntarily withdraw our official affiliation with The Vineyard, and no longer be considered a Vineyard Church Plant.

We've been part of the Vineyard Movement for 20+ years. It has been our home, so this has not been an easy decision. Since before moving to Oregon, we have felt welcomed and loved by all Vineyard pastors in the Northwest with whom we've interacted. Therefore, we want to be very clear our decision to de-affiliate with the Vineyard is in no way a reflection of any bad feelings or conflicts. Instead it is a willful laying down of our lives to follow Jesus the best we know how in this season. While this is a bittersweet decision, it also brings with it a sense of relief and rightness. As we've discussed this with local and regional Vineyard leadership in early September, we received their understanding and affirmation of our decision.

Over the last 9 months, it has become clear what we are doing and who we are becoming is further outside the Vineyard’s current scope and model of church-planting than we or anyone in Vineyard originally expected when we began discussions and then were ultimately released as an official Vineyard church plant. In retrospect, if any label applies, we see ourselves more as missionaries and we are still in the process of getting to know the culture of this area. Therefore we need not be dismayed that “nothing has happened yet” and neither do we sense any urgency from God for us to “make something happen”.

We’ve been asking God what He is up to with us, and have been blessed by some silence and solitude where we’ve begun hearing Him speak some clarity to us. He has been tying things together; showing us a pattern we had not been able to see before. It has been sobering, yet at the same time has been exciting and hope-producing -- we are eager to discover more about the plans He has here in Salem!

Perhaps the best way to communicate the highlights of our journey over the past few months as we've prayed and pondered; dreamt and talked is to share a couple stories, and some word-pictures God has painted for us. This post will be somewhat lengthy since we value being able to share our story in some detail, to fully communicate from our hearts.

The First story has to do with our connection to the other pastors in the local Vineyard Pastor's group. Our work schedules and paucity of vacation time have made it difficult for us to regularly attend these meetings. Despite this, the leaders of the group and the other pastors have been very warm and inviting, and we’ve felt truly blessed. Since before our official release as a church plant, we’ve felt included and truly welcomed and encouraged by everyone. It has been wonderful and we’ve loved getting to know everyone better! But around the end of 2009, we noticed feeling somewhat disconnected from the group. This has not been a change in anyone else, but instead an awareness God has been bringing us that the topics of informal discussions often revolve around issues we do not deal with:
  • One pastor is struggling because of losing the lease on his building -- but we don’t ever plan to have a building.
  • Another is wrestling with needing to find a new full-time Worship Pastor -- but we don’t foresee ever having any paid staff.
  • Someone has great plans for a Youth Conference -- but we don’t know that we will ever have a “Youth Ministry” per se.
We’ve been in church leadership long enough to empathize with these things, and yet they have become foreign to us at this point in our process. The first word picture God gave us was this:
It is as if we are in a room full of round pegs who fit very well into the round holes God has for them, but we are square pegs, fitting well into the square holes He has for us -- so we find ourselves no longer fitting in.
When most other pastors in the area ask us about the priorities and practices in which we are engaging, the disconnect is just as clearly apparent there. Questions asked and discussions which follow indicate they don’t really know what to do with us, or how to understand the model of ministry and kingdom life we’re trying to embody. We explain and share our vision, but still don’t feel heard or understood. As just a couple examples:
  • We had a 20 minute conversation where the other pastor couldn’t seem to understand why, as a church plant, we would not be interested in receiving a full copy of their children’s ministry curriculum. We tried to explain that we don’t now have, nor would we probably ever have anything as formal as a “Children’s Ministry” and the disconnect was further evidenced when he asked “But couldn’t you use it in a VBS setting?”
  • Someone else asked “So when you meet together, who does worship?” We replied by clarifying that we all “do worship”, but if he was asking who played an instrument and facilitated singing, we were not doing that at our meetings, at least not yet. When asked why, we explained that the folks we were meeting with are at such a pre-Christian place that doing worship songs would be so culturally outside their paradigm as to actually build walls, rather than draw us all closer. The response was sort of a head-tilt and an eyebrow lift and he said “But how can you have a meeting and not do worship!??!?”.
This led us to the second word-picture from God:
It is as if we are player-coaches on a small rugby team, and we are hanging out with player-coaches from a large football league. The ball we all use is similar enough, and there is a process of keeping score, but the football player-coaches don’t seem to understand why we don’t wear helmets, why we aren’t trying to score any touchdowns...and what the heck is a ‘scrum’ anyway?
As we spent time with God these last few months, pondering and praying about all these things, He brought us back time & again to two particular pieces of our original call:
  1. Cathy’s earliest sense was that, while God was certainly calling us to “plant a church”, there was something deeper. He gave her a word picture: it was more like He was calling us to the Northwest to plant ourselves, and we’d see over time what He would grow. At the time I interpreted this simply as us being two saplings God was “transplanting” to Salem to start The Orchard.
  2. When we began conversations with our pastor in California about God’s calling for us, back in early 2005, he asked us two insightful questions:
    • Is God calling you to start something new, and to do that you need to move away? -- or -- is God calling you to move away, and since you are doing that you might as well start something new?
    • Is God calling you to plant a Vineyard, and you’d sort of like to do it in this organic simple-church-network way? -- or -- Is God calling you to start an organic simple-church-network and you hope it can be a Vineyard, but if it can’t for some reason, you’re still going to go do this thing God is calling you to do?
    We had not thought of either question, but as soon as he asked we knew the answer to both: God was calling us to start something new, and to do that we needed to move away, and God was calling us to start an organic simple-church-network, and we knew we had to do it whether or not it fit within a Vineyard framework.
Given the recent things God has been showing us, we’ve re-asked ourselves those original questions, and were not surprised to find we still feel just as clear and passionate in our calling as ever before -- this much has not changed. But as we’ve revisited Cathy’s early word-picture about us being planted as opposed to us doing the planting, I’ve realized that my original interpretation of two saplings being transplanted was not quite accurate. He has been speaking to us recently that the deeper truth behind his word to Cathy was this:
We are two seeds which He has planted and the lack of obvious growth
is not an indication anything is ‘wrong’ it is just part of His plan for us
since He’s already told us what must happen
to planted seeds before real growth appears:
First the seeds must die (John 12:24-25).
I wrote about this paradigm shift here.

As we’ve prayed through the things God has been saying to us it seems clear He is not calling us to “pull the plug” or stop what we are doing in any way. Rather, it seems He is calling us to continue trusting Him to build the house He has planned (Ps 127:1), and we’re excited about building with Him. While we realize and value the need for intentionality, we feel no call from God to go and “gather people” to ourselves. Rather, He is calling us to watch & listen to see what The Father is doing, and then intentionally partner with Him as He draws people to Himself; sharing that journey with them.

All of the above then led us to a third word picture:
a small potted tree which is currently fruitless. It has become root-bound in its current pot. At best it is surviving, but at worst it is actually withering -- it is in need of being removed from the pot so that it can be planted in the earth and allowed to grow without the current restraints.

The topsy-turvy nature of the Kingdom sure can be unsettling at times. We lose our lives to save them, give up families to gain new ones -- and, of course, Jesus says we must die in order to really live. Our decision to withdraw our affiliation with Vineyard was a difficult one, but we know that as He holds us in the hollow of His hand and takes us through whatever deaths are yet to come, there will be tremendous life breaking forth and so we have great hope.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two Autumnal Poems

I love seasonal changes. Especially the switch from Summer into Autumn, then into Winter. The emotional range is part of what makes these changes so endearing to me. These two poems help express that range.

Autumn Movement
by Carl Sandburg

I CRIED over beautiful things
knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is
a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman,
the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is
torn full of holes, new beautiful things come
in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind,
and the old things go, not one lasts.

Autumn Song
by Katherine Mansfield

Now's the time when children's noses
All become as red as roses
And the colour of their faces
Makes me think of orchard places
Where the juicy apples grow,
And tomatoes in a row.

And to-day the hardened sinner
Never could be late for dinner,
But will jump up to the table
Just as soon as he is able,
Ask for three times hot roast mutton--
Oh! the shocking little glutton.

Come then, find your ball and racket,
Pop into your winter jacket,
With the lovely bear-skin lining.
While the sun is brightly shining,
Let us run and play together
And just love the autumn weather.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dying to Live

I'm reading Henri Nouwen's book Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring. One of his main points speaks to learning how to die well. We all will face death one day, and we get only one shot at it. What does it mean to die well? Nouwen says that one part of this is to become like children; have a second childhood. He clarifies by explaining this has nothing to do with weakness or immaturity, but with a newfound freedom and strength.
     This is not the voice of a small, timid child. This is the voice of a spiritually mature person who knows he is in the presence of God and for whom complete dependence on God has become the source of strength, the basis of courage, and the secret of true inner freedom.

     Recently, a friend told me a story about twins talking to each other in the womb. The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth." Her brother protested vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us." The little girl insisted, "There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move." Still, she could not convince her twin brother.
     After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I'm afraid you won't believe that, either, but I think there is a mother." Her brother became furious. "A mother!" he shouted. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let's be content."
     The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother's response and for awhile didn't dare say anything more. But she couldn't let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, "Don't you feel these squeezes every once in awhile? They're quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful." "Yes," he answered. "What's special about that?" "Well," the sister said, "I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this. where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don't you think that's exciting?"
     The brother didn't answer. He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.

     This story may help us think about death in a new way. We can live as if this life were all we had, as if death were absurd and we had better not talk about it; or we can choose to claim our divine childhood and trust that death is the painful but blessed passage that will bring us face-to-face with our God.
This made me think about our life at present here in The Orchard. I've posted a couple of times about putting roots down like bamboo (here and here), and I do still believe that, while we appear somewhat dormant right now, there will come a season of growth and flowering. But before that, I wonder -- is it really just root-putting-down that is happening?

In this blog's very first post, I said Cathy & I were not really thinking of ourselves as planting a church -- instead we were planting ourselves and seeing what God would grow.

In light of Nouwen's words, I'm wondering if, instead of saplings being transplanted we're more like seeds being planted. And we all know what it takes for seeds to grow...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bamboo Songs

In Autumn of 2007, I posted here about us being more like bamboo than ferns. In that post I referenced that it might be 18 months or more until we had any official meetings. It is now Summer 2010 and, while we've had a couple brief seasons of meeting with a few folks, at this writing we have no "official meetings". This past weekend I had some time to ponder and pray about things and was comforted by some perspective I gained.

As I ran and then later as I rode my motorcycle two songs kept running through my head. The first was Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News:
The Power of love is a curious thing
Make'a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white Dove
More than a feelin'
That's the Power of Love

You'll be glad baby when you've found
that's the power makes the world go 'round
These lyrics were freeing to me, remembering that The Spirit of The Master is in charge of what we are doing here, and there are no results we can work up, or hype. Instead, everything rests on God's promises of love.

And as I reflected on this, that's when lyrics from Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Fleetwood Mac came to my mind, as if God were encouraging me to relax, enjoy myself in the now, and quit worrying about stuff that I don't need to hang onto -- that I can just look forward, and trust The Love that empowers and directs us:
All I want is to see you smile,
If it takes just a little while,
Open your eyes and look at the day,
You'll see things in a different way.

Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don't stop, it'll soon be here,
It'll be, better than before,
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.
This was all very encouraging to me as I pondered the "not yet-ness" of what we are doing. You see, it is sometimes tempting to think "nothing is happening -- we've got to do something!" but the truth is, there is phenomenal work going is just not visible work.

And as I re-read the above referenced post while writing this one, I was even further encouraged by reading on Wikipedia that bamboo grows in 3-7 year cycles of harvesting, so in our analogue, it is OK that now, at the 2-3 year point, there is nothing viable which is visible to anyone else.
So, there is no rush for us. We do not have to make anything happen. We couldn't if we tried, and wouldn't want to even if we could...

It is very stabilizing to remember that one of the founding ideas of what we are doing here in the first place is that we don't believe our calling has anything to do with trying to make anything happen.

So here we are, continuing to rest and cultivate roots.

~ Keith

Friday, April 30, 2010

Variable Seasons, Variable Weather

It's springtime in Oregon. March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. April has been it's usual erratic-weather self, with sun, hail, rain and wind -- back-to-back all in one day.

I'm in St. Louis, MO this morning as I type this. My uncle died and went to be with Jesus on Saturday. The weather here has been warm and breezy; feels like almost-summer. The forecast for tonight and over the weekend is for thunderstorms. I'm excited for a good Missouri thunder & lightning show.

Being with family as we mourn our loss together, and seeing the difference in weather patterns helped me realize: Seasons in life don't necessarily follow seasons in weather. It is highly variable depending on "where you are at", and the net realization I've had this week is this:
We're OK
Why wouldn't we be OK? To answer that you need a little back-story.

We uprooted ourselves from California and planted ourselves in Oregon in August 2007, about a month before my father died. The Orchard Community was sprouted (on paper anyway) in December 2008 when we became an "official" Vineyard Church Plant. According to our two-year plan there are goals to meet by the end of this year -- goals that center around numbers of people. Our official agreed-upon goal was to gather 36 people, in approx 3 separate house-church groups, by December 2010. It's almost May 2010 and currently we have Cathy & me, and one other person who's personal life's schedule just created a conflict so we have not been able to meet together for around a month.

Many eyes have been on us as this idea of a Vineyard House-Church Plant is sort of an R&D experiment for the Vineyard. We've had a warm welcome, encouraging support, and have felt loved and cared-for in many ways. But we've also felt somewhat awkward; misfits in the literal sense of the word.

The Vineyard pastors in our state with whom we relate all face very different challenges than we do. They speak of hiring new staff or needing to lay people off; of adding Sunday morning services or paring back. They send their youth groups to conferences and sponsor short-term trips to other countries to do humanitarian work and share God's love with people in other cultures. They relate the challenges of running ministry teams and managing the financial responsibilities of owning or renting (or losing a lease on) a building. Coming from the church culture we left behind in California, we know these challenges and joys very well. We understand them and can laugh and cry along with these other pastors. But there's one thing we no longer seem to be able to do: relate to them. Yes we still have relationship and are very thankful for that. But the challenges and joys they face are difficult for us to relate to since they are very different from our own and, for the most part, it will always be that way since we have no plans to ever have a building or a staff or ministry teams or Sunday morning meetings, etc.

It's like they are round pegs, neatly fitting their round holes. They have their niche, and we're glad for them. But we feel like we're pegs of an undetermined shape, trying to figure out what-shaped hole we fit. We catch glimpses of it now and again, and while we think we know the shape to be sort-of squarish, all we are very sure of is that the shape is simply "not round". There's a tension just from that -- from the still-not-knowing. But there's an added tension which comes from an extended time of hanging out with round pegs, hearing about the round-holed joys and challenges, and knowing more and more "That's not us."

So here we are 7 months away from our 36-people, 3-group, December 2010 deadline...with no real deep understanding of what our ultimate plan will look like or how we'll fit in with the greater group of round peg/round hole folks -- or even if we'll fit.

That's why we sometimes don't feel OK.

But to repeat what I wrote above, being with my Seckel family as we mourn our loss together, and seeing the differences in the weather patterns of mid-Spring Missouri compared to mid-Spring Oregon helped me realize that the seasons in our life don't necessarily follow seasons in the year and the expected weather patterns. It is all highly variable depending on "where you are at", and so the net realization I've had this week is this:
We're OK
I don't know what December will hold for us, but I'm comforted in the assurance that the love and welcome and encouragement will continue from the pastors here in Oregon. I'm also comforted to know that the growth we experience, both internal and external, is not our responsibility. Yes, there are efforts we are called to make, but the ultimate responsibility does not rest on our shoulders. We do not have to somehow make ourselves figure out who we're supposed to be, and we're certainly not responsible for making ourselves into something we're not!

Rather, like plants growing in season, we can rest in the love The Orchard Master has for us; in the dreams He has had for us all along: the dreams He has had not just for us, but for the world around us, through us -- and the plans He has in us through the world around us.

We're very much like the farmer Jesus spoke of, as recorded by His follower named Mark:
"The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”
We plant seeds in the soil around us. We allow seeds to be planted within us in the soil of our hearts. Watering happens as a collaborative effort. But the growth? That's His work, His labor of love, His dreams for the world coming true in and through us.

We're walking through The Orchard together with The Orchard Master; our hand in His. And although the weather up ahead looks like we might be in for a storm or two, we're OK.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Baked Ham in Paradise

Today is Easter. I like to think of this as "Christian New Year" -- the first Easter, when the first followers first discovered Jesus' tomb was empty was the first day in a new chapter in a bigger story than any of us can imagine; a story worth living in.

For many people, Jesus-Followers or not, it is also a wonderful feast day, filled with chocolate and other candy, eggs and treats of all sorts; and families gathering to share a meal. Winn Griffin shared this today and I thought it was worth passing along:

"There are eight meal scenes in the story of Luke. The seventh one was what we traditionally call the Last Supper. The eighth one was on the day of resurrection with the husband and wife that Jesus met on the Road to Emmaus.

Think of the first meal in the Garden. The moment is heavy with significance. “The woman took some of the fruit, and ate it, she gave it to her husband, and he ate it; then the eyes of the both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Gen 3.6-7). This first meal of the new creation was celebrated with a male and female. One shouldn’t pass to quickly by in the reading of the Luke 24 text without noticing the echoes of the first meal in the Garden. Describing the first meal of the new creation, Luke says, “He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, then the eyes of them both were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24.31).

The first couple’s eyes were opened and they saw themselves naked. At the beginning of the new creation, this couple’s eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. They recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

If you have an opportunity to receive communion as you celebrate the Resurrection, the beginning of the new creation in this present evil age, do so and let your eyes be opened to all the new creation in Jesus offers. It’s a story worth living in."

A story worth living in, indeed.

And I wonder, in the final chapter, what that first meal will be like in the New Orchard when we all gather with eternally-opened eyes and share together in the celebration feast? I'm hungry!

Happy Easter everyone...may all your best hungers be satisfied today and in this new year.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Donkey was a Comma

Today is "Palm Sunday" -- the Sunday before Easter when Christians traditionally celebrate Jesus' "Triumphal entry" into Jerusalem -- the "City of Peace".

His entry is called "triumphal" because the crowds lay their cloaks and palm branches at his feet, or rather the feet of the donkey he rode. In the culture of that day this gesture was a sign that they were recognizing him as king. They were shouting "Hosanna!" which means "Save us!" and yet in this context it was more like "Hurray! You're here to save us!!!". They were also shouting about Jesus being "Son of David" (their last great military king) and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Essentially they were saying "You da man!!!! You're the ambassador -- the personal representative -- of God himself, and you're here to take over the place and then YOU will rule over us instead of us being ruled by these oppressive Romans or all the other people groups that have kept us down! Thank you! You rock!"

But they missed something. Just. Didn't. See it.

 It's like punctuation. There's a big difference between:
"How are you my friend?"
"How are you, my friend?"
That one little comma makes a huge difference in the meaning of the phrase being communicated.

The donkey was a comma, and the people missed it. That one little crucial detail turned the whole thing around. And they Just. Didn't. See it.

Because they didn't want to. The donkey was a symbol of lowliness, humility. A triumphant king entering a city he had just conquered would have ridden the biggest strongest most impressive stallion in his stables.

Jesus rode a borrowed donkey.

Jesus wasn't conquering anything with military might or power. He was coming in peace, riding a symbol of humility. He let the people say what they were saying because it was right and true -- they just didn't see the whole picture -- didn't understand the sense of timing.

Less than a week later that same crowd would be angry -- likely feeling like the victims of some great cosmic bait & switch. The same crowds that shouted "Hosanna!" would be shouting "CRUCIFY HIM!!!" I wonder if the ones who were really gung-ho about staging a military coup (they called themselves "Zealots") went out and killed the donkey?

Today is Palm Sunday. Jesus is still riding a borrowed donkey as he enters my town of Salem, OR (a city called Peace). Will I let myself see the donkey?

I wonder how much I miss today when I look at Jesus riding into my life? What do I not see because I don't want to see it? What are my expectations on him? What do I shout when I first see him? What do I shout later this week when my expectations aren't realized, and I'm left to face the truth that he was on a donkey the whole time?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Feasting and Fasting

This is from the Friday morning eucharistic ceremony @  Mount Calvary (courtesy of our good friend Fran -- blessings on your head!)
Lenten Feasting and Fasting:
Lent is more than a time of fasting;
it can also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things,
and to feast on others.

Fast from judging others
Feast on the Christ dwelling in them
Fast from emphasis on differences
Feast on the unity of life
Fast from apparent darkness
Feast on the reality of light

Fast from thoughts of illness
Feast on the healing power of God
Fast from words that pollute
Feast on words of purity
Fast from discontent
Feast on gratitude

Fast from anger
Feast on patience
Fast from pessimism
Feast on optimism
Fast from worry
Feast on Divine Providence

Fast from complaining
Feast on appreciation
Fast from negatives
Feast on affirmatives
Fast from unrelenting pressures
Feast on unceasing prayer

Fast from hostility
Feast on peace
Fast from bitterness
Feast on forgiveness
Fast from self-concern
Feast on compassion for others

Fast from personal anxiety
Feast on trust
Fast from discouragement
Feast on hope
Fast from acts that tear down
Feast on acts which build up

Fast from thoughts that weaken
Feast on promises that inspire
Fast from idle gossip
Feast on purposeful silence
Fast from problems which overwhelm
Feast on prayer that undergirds