Friday, August 31, 2012

Breathe Deep (The Breath of God)

Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes
Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids
Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits
Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peace nicks

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists

Evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slum lords
Dead-beats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics
Housewives, neophytes, pro-choice, pro-life
Misogynists, monogamists, philanthropists, blacks and whites

Police, obese, lawyers, and government
Sex offenders, tax collectors, war vets, rejects
Atheists, Scientists, racists, sadists
Photographers, biographers, artists, pornographers

Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thespians
The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers
Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and juries
Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere!

Who did Christ come to save? Ultimately, as I read, listen, learn, consider, and wrestle with my faith, I can think of only two correct and appropriate answers to that question...all mankind and me.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Matthew 3:16-17

Who did Christ come to save? There are a lot of different people listed in Breath Deep, by the Lost Dogs, many of whom would not be welcome in most churches. I'm still in the middle of that big road trip I was talking about in my last post. Still not reading much, or listening to much music, but this song has been on my mind all day, so I listened when I finally got to my hotel for the night.

This song has been one of my favorites for a long time, but I think I'm hearing it with different ears now. Ears that hear more truth and not just a catchy hook and a reminder to breath the essence of God deep into my being. Over the past few months, I've been sensing that I need a change of heart, a change of position, a change of mind. I'm really sensing the need to start worrying more about what I should be doing right, in terms of my faith, than about what other people might be doing wrong. Trying to live of life of what I'm for instead of what I'm against. A life of reaching out to the wounded instead of condemning them. Tall task, big change. I hope these things are on my mind for a long time to come. Lord knows I've got enough miles of road laid out in front of me to allow it for the next 8 to 10 days.

Abba, I bring my brokenness to you and lay it at your feet. Help me pause and breathe deep Your breath. I pray that You will continue to open my eyes and heart to doing what I can to bring Your Kingdom here until I can get there.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hit the road Jack...

I'm on day 11 of a long road trip. One downside to travel like this is that I just don't end up reading much or listening to music. I left my iPad at home, in favor of my MacBook Air, and reading a book on the computer just doesn't work for me. However, I do find plenty of time, mostly at night, to catch up on Facebook, email, phone calls, texts, etc.

A few days ago, my youngest brother posted a link to an article that caught my attention. It's an editorial piece, by Shane Claiborne, that's almost 3 years old now. The title alone, What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff, was enough to get me to read it. I'm glad I did. I found resonance with Shane's message, especially in light of the questions I've had on my mind lately. I have recently begun to wake up to the idea that my faith should not be about punching my ticket to Heaven...assuring a joyful, blissful, splendiferous afterlife...or, more succinctly, avoiding should be about trying to bring Heaven

"...too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth."

I feel blessed that people like Shane are around to help people like me figure out that maybe our motives for taking on the yoke of Christ need to be more thoroughly examined, and possibly even tossed out. I re-read the article today, mostly because of something that happened near me this morning. I opened the door to my hotel room to take my bags out to my motorcycle, getting ready for another long day of riding, and walked out into the middle of a "domestic disturbance." A woman was chasing a man across the parking lot, yelling at him, and clearly getting ready to do her best Roger Clemons impersonation with the cell phone in her left hand. The hotel manager just happened to be shuffling along, caught between the two of them, and ducked just in time to avoid being beaned by a large smart phone hurtling across the parking lot. This was a situation where the love of Christ was noticeably absent...and my reaction was to play ostrich. I walked over to my motorcycle, as if I was deaf and blind, strapped my bags onto the back seat and then walked back to my room to get the rest of my things. The fella hightailed it out of the parking lot while the manager confronted the woman and did a reasonable job of getting her to calm down before I pulled out and left the scene in my rearview mirror. I've been thinking about it all day, trying to assess if there was something I could have done to help or not. These people were obviously experiencing a bit of Hell here on earth...and all I can wonder is how could I have brought Heaven to them? I haven't come up with a good solution or answer yet.

As I read through the scripture, take in the writings of others who have wrestled with these ideas and questions, and try to figure things out...I have to remind myself that it's a process that might take the rest of my life. I have to remind myself that Paul (the one who wrote significant chunks of the New Testament) didn't go from being blinded to being super-missionary in a took time. Patience is a virtue I struggle with.

Abba, I bring you my brokenness today and lay it at your feet. As you continue to open my eyes to those around me who are in Hell, I ask that you grant me wisdom to be able to bring Heaven to them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Work Harder

"WORK HARDER...millions are depending on you!"

That's the bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of me while I'm sitting at the corner of Airport Road and Boardman Road. I've seen it before...several times just today and I'm pretty sure there are several cars bearing it, or something similar to it, in the parking lot at church each Sunday. I've also seen it posted as a "postcard" on Facebook by many friends, both Christian and not.

I'm looking back and forth between the bumper sticker and the guy standing at the side of the road with a sign that reads, "Help...2 kids to feed. $20 or $30 would really mean a lot." He's not looking at the cars...just standing there, staring at the ground, shuffling his feet, and occasionally glancing to his left, at the highway.

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." - Matthew 25:40

This is what the Lord Almighty said: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other." - Zechariah 7:9-10

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. - Acts 4:32

The list goes on and on and on.'s all about balance...which it doesn't feel like we have these days...and for which I don't have the solution. This feels like a very unbalanced situation to me.

In no way am I endorsing our current welfare systems, the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, communism, socialism, etc., etc. I believe our current government systems, especially those with a focus on social welfare, are far too "corrupt" to be sustainable. We need lots of reform...across the board in the private, public, and government sectors. However, my experience today ignited a fire under the questions that have been brewing in my heart and head about these issues for a long time.

When did "The Church" abdicate social welfare to the government? Why does it feel like those of us screaming the loudest about how unfair things are are the ones who should be bending over backwards to help our fellow man? Can people of faith (all faiths) reclaim this responsibility, prying it out of the government's hands? If we do, will we do it better than the government? Is the job too big for "The Church"? Too big for God?

Meijer was right around the corner...I rolled down my window and told the guy with the sign to hop in. He didn't try to buy booze, he didn't buy cigarettes. We got milk, cereal, bread, fruit, He just moved to Jackson a month ago. He got a job at McDonalds but won't get his first paycheck for another week, not that I expect his first paycheck to do much in terms of being able to buy groceries. The kids are 2 months and 18 months old...Miranda would have been 18 months old yesterday.

Abba, I bring my brokenness to you and lay it at your feet. Soften my heart, open my eyes, give me wisdom.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Because He Lives

I was sitting at the kitchen table, in the Archer home, earlier today and working on a jigsaw puzzle with John and Jason when Jason pulled out his iPhone and started playing a short playlist of some songs from The David Crowder Band's latest project. As the songs spilled out of the small speaker in the bottom of the phone, I found myself singing along to a couple of hymns that many might call "fundamental" to the faith...and Jason and John both joined in. It wasn't exactly worship but it felt right and good and I enjoyed those few minutes a great deal, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20. It was just supposed to be a cookout, right? :)

One song, in particular, touched my heart strings. The classic Because He Lives, written by Bill and Gloria Gaither.

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

The line that really reached out to me is the second one...He came to LOVE, HEAL, and FORGIVE. Those three verbs seem to be central to the story of the Gospel...but, have they been the cornerstones of my faith? Have they been the cornerstones of the faith of all who take on the yoke of Christ? I'm not sure they have, which might explain why so many people who need to experience the healing, forgiveness, and love of Christ instead feel persecuted by those who bear His name. I'm guilty of this...judging the wounded...pointing my finger instead of extending my hand...but I'm trying to change.

These days, I find myself being reminded on a regular basis that Christ reached out to the those who were "not good enough." Not one of the 12 disciples had been found worthy of taking on the yoke of a rabbi...yet Jesus, who was a rabbi, chose them. He made a habit of dining with "sinners" and those who were considered "unworthy" of His attentions.

I'm trying to change, from the inside out. He set the, heal, forgive.

Abba, I bring my brokenness to you and lay it at your feet. Father, please keep my eyes and my heart open to loving the unloved, forgiving those who I need to forgive, and brining those who need healing to you, instead of opening their wounds.