Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent Blog #7

Clearly I'm not very good at this blog a day thing... but Christ, in his mercy, forgives.

One thing that I really appreciate about the Catholic faith is looking at the lives of saints, and at what they've written.  This Lorica, which is accredited to Saint Patrick, is beautiful, and means a lot to me.

A lorica is essentially a prayer recited for protection during medieval times.  Pray these words and lean on the Lord today in the Lenten season.

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude. 

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry, 
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. 
Christ shield me today 
Against poison, against burning, 
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What did Jesus do?

Lent blog #6

Yesterday was crazy, and I realize that I forgot to write.  My apologies...

As I said before, lately I've been thinking about grace.  I've been thinking about what that means for my life, and what that means of what Christ did for me.  I've been thinking about how God's reflection of love, by giving me grace when I am in no such position to deserve it, is a reflection as to how I should extend grace to those around me.

I've also been thinking about betrayal.  That's a big word.  Or maybe it's a small, slightly overused word that only really has meaning to it when we feel it ourselves.  When we feel it, we are hurt by the people we put our time and our energy into.  We feel a loss of trust and a loss of friendship.

On my run this morning, I started to think about it.  All of a sudden I remembered that Jesus was betrayed.  I also thought it was weird that I forgot this.  If you're like me, while I may often quickly turn to prayer when I'm upset, I often don't think about the life of Jesus.  And then when I do, I more often question what would Jesus do?  Not, what about what DID Jesus do?

Jesus was betrayed many times.  What stands out to me the most is how Jesus was most often betrayed by those close to him-- his disciples.  Jesus betrayed him with one of the most intimate of actions-- a kiss.  Peter denied him three times, as Jesus himself predicted.  All the disciples deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane after not being able to stay awake and keep watch: "Then everyone deserted him and fled," Mark 14:50.

So what does betrayal have to do with grace?

Perhaps Jesus' reactions to his betrayal and being deserted were filled with it.  And by perhaps, I mean that they were.  While Jesus first revealed himself to the women, they were told to tell the disciples that he was risen.  It was important to Jesus that the disciples knew of his resurrection.

Even in the midst of being betrayed, Jesus still gave his life for those who hurt him.  Jesus still forgave them.  Jesus still loved them.

So what does this mean for me?  My circumstances are far different than those of Jesus obviously... but I can't help but feel like grace is where God is calling me towards.  To treat those who hurt me with love and mercy even though they have hurt me.

Trying to follow Jesus is hard.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Expect More Grace

Lent Blog #5

Lately I've been thinking a lot about grace and forgiveness.  I think we forget how linked together the concepts in the Bible (love, grace, peace, hope, forgiveness, etc.) really are.

What does it mean for me to forgive others?  What does that actively look like in my life?

And yet, what does grace look like?

So often we take these super radical statements in the Bible, but don't think of them that way:

"For it is by grace you have been saved"-- Ephesians 2:8
The way that I remember grace is by defining it as an undeserved gift-- something that I don't deserve but get anyway.  This is Christ sacrificing himself on the cross for ME... dying for MY sin... taking on MY burdens... and being beaten and killed.  That is something that I don't deserve.  But he did it anyway.

And it is by that very grace that I can believe in him in the first place.  My sin separates me from God, but grace allows for me to enter into relationship with him.

"Bear with each other and forgive one another as I forgave you"-- Colossians 3:13
Forgiving people that hurt us is hard.  It's something that I struggle with, and God has really been working with me with over the past few years.

Because Jesus died for my sins, though, he forgave me.  And I don't deserve that forgiveness at all.  I have done horrible things to myself, to others, and against God himself.  No one of us is worthy of his love and forgiveness, but he gives it anyway.

And because he gives it to me, and I have been renewed by it many times in my life, I know that I am to forgive... no matter the struggle.

I've been thinking a lot about these things, and I feel like God has been wanting me to be thinking about grace especially-- it's the subject of the book I randomly picked up to read for fun, it's a huge part of Ephesians that I had to read for class tomorrow, and we talked about it today in my Covenant (small) group at Truett.

Be expecting more grace.
Feel free to give some out too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent post #4

I forgot to write today, sorry!  But it's 12am and I'm still awake, so I'll count this.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching"-- Hebrew 10: 19-25

I have a lot of things circulating in my brain right now... but right now this passage is my prayer tonight.  

No matter what disagreements we have or whatever may come, may we spur each other on in ministry and love.  Unity in Christ.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Talk About Astonishing

Lent Blog #3

I order a lot of used books from Amazon.  This summer I bought The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning after hearing great things about it and there being a reading club for it at my church.  I never got around to reading it though.

Last week I picked it up off my shelf.

Today, as I was preparing to read some and to start considering what to write for today's entry, I stumbled upon this letter written in the back of the book.  One of the advantages of used books is that they have been used, and more often than not, loved.

Thankful this book had been loved.
and thankful that they took the time to write this.

                                         "June 2006

I asked you to describe your faith in 
five words.  That's a tough thing to do considering 
how vast God is and yet, how personal he is.  
So we have an intimate relationship with the 
creator of not only the Earth, but the 
universe -- and the creator of Heaven.  
Everything flows from God!  He has time 
for us.  He likes us.  He loves us.  He yearns for us.

                           Talk about astonishing.

Talk about        

Equally astonishing.  Well, not the word itself.  
And maybe not equally astonishing as God himself.  
But it is grace that allows us to know HIM.  
So, for us, grace is everything.

          Experience it.
                     Experience him.

Thanks, N.W.D.
I'm gonna try!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Excuse Me While My Thoughts are Scattered

Lent blog #2

Excuse me while my thoughts are scattered.  Doing a blog a day means that I don't have as much time to mull over issues and write and rewrite until things are fully comprehended.

This semester I've been taking an Urban Missions Issues class.  I have been learning a lot about a wide variety of topics ranging from how churches interact with their communities, how they engage the communities in which they are located, how they embrace the theology of mission, and how they deal with issues such as trafficking, mental illness, and disaster to name a few.  This has helped me to start thinking about a wider range of issues than what churches normally just think about.  It has also helped me to start thinking about how we as Christians, as churches, and as ministries approach different people, different issues, and the things that Jesus preached in the Gospels.

I think one of the reasons why I haven't written much this semester is because I have been trying to wrap my head around my experiences in this class, in my research for my graduate assistantship about international social work as mission, as well as my experience on a mission trip to New York over this past spring break.  Often when we think about mission we think of it being international and far off.  This semester God has been putting it close by.  He has been challenging me in many ways, many of which I don't understand.  He's going to do something with this I'm certain.  I just don't understand it or know what yet.

And that's something that is bothering me.  Here I am at a great school, creating great relationships, networking, putting things on my resume, and following what I feel God is calling me to... but I feel like I'm not doing anything.  I feel like I can talk all I want about the church having a mission focus, what that mission focus should be, how we should embrace God's creation, work with poverty, and love and serve others... but if I'm not living out what I'm saying, what good is that?

I feel like I'm sitting here waiting for the next three years to go by so I can have these two new degrees in my hand that say "Master of Divinity" and "Master of Social Work", and then I can go.

I know this is silly, because I know that God is going to use me.  And I know that he is using me.  I know that he has positioned me so that I can be in a place to learn and develop a skill set.  This semester has been a hard one and a struggle at times, but I don't doubt that it's true.  I think that sometimes when God is using me I don't even realize it.  I am just doing what I feel God wants me to.  I know I need to be better at listing to his call for my life.

God, grant me discernment, passion, and drive.