We seem more and more divided in the United States of America and in much of the world. We tend to identify as this religion or that religion, as this group or that group, or even as this color or that color. Growing up in rural eastern North Carolina the group I most identified with was Southern. I was proud to be a Southerner. I was proud of our Southern charm and good manners. I loved how we pulled over and stopped the car when a funeral passed us on the road. I loved standing up when a lady entered the room or giving up my chair to a lady when seating was limited. As a young adult I traveled from N.C. to Texas, to Washington state, and Montana. Each place I lived brought new joys of meeting people and seeing their delight at the charm, colloquialisms, and good manners that I had learned in the South. But… I was wrong and did not know it. I was right to be proud of all of those things… don’t get me wrong, but my identity is not in being born a Southerner. My identity was, and is, in Jesus.
Recently the Black Lives Matter movement has thrust into our national conversation issues that we can no longer ignore. It is incumbent upon us in all walks to engage and seek the honest truth whether it pleases us to hear it or not. A couple of months ago I finally realized the proper way to even say “Black Lives Matter”. Our tendency is to allow the national media to tell us what to think and by cherry-picking what we are allowed to see on television it is not a difficult task for them to manipulate the American public. We are led to believe that the emphasis is on the word Black… this is why some well-meaning folks have said, “All lives matter”. It is true that all lives matter and that statement is valid in certain contexts. Imagine 12 people sitting around a table and one person has a plastic bag over their head with their hands tied behind their back… now imagine that person manages
to eek out the words, “I need air!” and the other 11 say, “Yeah, we all need air.” The true emphasis in saying “Black Lives Matter” is on the word Matter. Think of it in short form as “Black Lives Matter Too!” Or “Hey, have we in America forgotten that black lives do matter?”
As necessary as this conversation is, and I would submit that it is crucial, we must also never forget who we truly are. Dr. Jeff McSwain wrote our Generations Ministries Summer Camp curriculum this year and on the T-shirts that were given to the campers is the axiom, “You don’t know who you are until you know whose you are.” You see I am not a Southerner, I am not white, I am not a male, I am not a son, father, husband, or pastor- not in the first instance. In the first instance I am a child of the Father.
I am trying to understand, I am not trying to judge, I am trying to love, I am not trying to exclude, I am trying to empathize, I am not trying to pigeon-hole others into some collective which I can dismiss. We are individuals with personhood and distinction… yes we are all in union with the Father, Son, and Spirit, but we never lose our personhood and distinction. Evil tries to label us and press us into collectivism… it is a trap, it divides, and leads to hatred and fear.
Imagine a world where we all knew that we belonged to the Father, Son, and Spirit and that we are indeed all brothers and sisters because of the finished work of Jesus… what would that look like? Would we mistreat others so readily if we saw them as they truly are… fellow children of the Father?… I think not… I hope not. In Jesus all of humanity is in union with the Triune God of Love! Therefor, it follows that we are all in union with one another. Let us then love fully as the distinct persons in Christ that we are.
I am distinct in the Cosmos, in union with the blessed Trinity and in union with all of you. LOVE!
My wonderful mother introduced me recently to the energy-profiling work of Carol Tuttle, author of The Child Whisperer and It’s Just my Nature! and other books. What separates energy profiling from personality assessment is that it focuses on nature (energy/movement), not personality (behaviour). We are born with our natures and they are fixed, whereas personality develops later and, because of the coping mechanisms we employ, is not always completely indicative of nature.
It’s been extremely beneficial to me to be able to look at all those in my life, and particularly myself, and really understand where we are all coming from. Using Ms Tuttle’s system, I am a Sensitive Type 2 married to a Determined Type 3 – and we have a Fun-Loving Type 1 daughter, Sensitive Type 2 or More Serious Type 4 son (I haven’t quite decided), and a very much Determined Type 3 daughter.
The most important thing I have learned throughout is that when we fight our true natures, we are miserable. When we insist that others change to fit our image of them rather than honouring them for who they are, we deeply wound and confuse them.
Were you ever told in childhood that you were too (insert adjective)? Did you receive cues from society, subtle or otherwise, that it was not okay to be who you were: an assertive female, for example, or a nurturing male?
How many of us have responded to the pressure by trying to change our spots and stripes? Except that, we really can’t change our God-given spots and stripes.
And our spots and stripes are all God-given.
The beauty of it is that we need all energy types. When all four types work together and are permitted to excel according to their own natural strengths, amazing things happen. It’s an incredibly beautiful thing.
Taking it further, I have often heard author and Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr recommend that whenever we encounter another human being, we repeat to ourselves, “Image of God. Image of God. Image of God.”
I’ve experimented, and it is incredible what happens to my “judging mind” (we all have one!) when I remember that the person I am looking at is made in the image of God. That person may not look or sound beautiful in that moment in any way to me, but when I think to myself, “Image of God,” I have felt my eyes lose their sharpness and physically soften. I begin to notice positive things about them that I wouldn’t otherwise. My mind and heart open to the deep sadness and loss that has led this person to their behaviour on this day. I begin to look past their behaviour and catch a glimpse of their true nature and goodness beneath. (And of course, these things are all also true of myself. I do not always behave in a beautiful manner.)
Image of God.
This is true for the addict. For the mother screaming at her kids in the grocery store. For the person on the other side of the political aisle. For the protester outside the abortion clinic and for the person working in it. For the newborn baby and for the elderly person. For the people of every colour, religion, gender and sexual orientation. For your enemy and for your best friend.
Black, white, male, female, fun-loving, serious, sensitive, patient, determined, practical, imaginative, perfectionist, understanding…we are all made in the image of God. We are all, imperfectly and incompletely, images of God.
When we work together, loving and accepting each other and ourselves for who we really are, with God in us, we have a chance at experiencing a sense of peace and wholeness even in this life.
No, it’s not easy.
But what an incredible thing it would be.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. ~ Ephesians 4:4-6, The Message.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
And there is a proper response! It was proclaimed and lived by Jesus Christ as He stepped into the troubling events of this world in His day. And, through His Body, the Church, He continues to proclaim this same message:
“Re-Think-Act and Believe the Good News!” – Mark 1:15 (And for immediate clarity, Mark has already written in Mark 1:1 that the Good News is a Person or, in his words, the “beginning of the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…”
Yes, that is still the message of Jesus and His people to you, and everyone, in our world, right in the middle of our current and troubling events! Jesus is God’s basic and fundamental response to the political lies and insanity, murder of innocent victims, bombings, and human trafficking – God’s response to everything! He is the proper response because He is GOD’s response shared with us in our humanity to all sin, evil and rebellion within creation! It is the response of Him Who created all things and of the One in Whom we all live and move and have our being. The One in, and through, and by, and for Whom all things are created and sustained (as my brother Baxter Kruger likes to say!)
If you’ve already misheard and think this sounds too simple, or too unrealistic, or too cognitive to address problems compared to the “hands-on solutions” needed in our complex world, then you’ve already misheard what’s been stated, so let me make it a little plainer!
How could it be too simple when it has something to do with trusting the Relational God Revealed in Jesus?:
Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.” – Romans 11:33 The Msg.
The Solution is simply stated, yes, but simple, NO! ONLY Jesus could, and can, and is, and will pull off helping you to trust Him that He really is your, OUR, only Good News in the face of all troubles!
How could this response be unrealistic when Jesus tells us that our response of peace and reconciliation with each other has been pulled off by and given to us by HIM, God Himself?! That HE has responded for us and acted in our place and on our behalf, in our fallen humanity, as our Good News????
How could this be too cognitive or something just “up in your head” when it clearly addresses the foremost way in which you receive and process troubling events – tossing, turning and dealing with them in your mind, right?! Isn’t it also addressing the problem behind most poor and evil events – NOT thinking along with Jesus about Who He is, and who He says our neighbors and we are in Him? He says we are all reconciled to Him and, in Him, to each other! Check it out:
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. –Ephesians 2
How could it be too cognitive when Jesus loved His Father, and commands us to do the same, with all of His heart, soul, MIND, and strength? A response from our whole humanity matters and is given to us from our Father, through Jesus and by the Spirit! Responding in Christ’s love to God and our neighbor:
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Luke 10:27
OF COURSE all of this means participating in some kind of real everyday, human action – to RE–THINK–ACT in relationship! RE-THINK-ACTING in the Light of Who Jesus is as our Good News in flesh, which means:
1.) Your first and primary response to today’s troubles is Jesus Himself, Who has responded properly to His Father in word and deed, on humanity’s behalf, in the Spirit, and Who has “overcame the world” (today’s troubles!) as He puts it! Yes, you are reading me right, JESUS HIMSELF is your proper response to trouble, coming to you and to me freely and graciously, as a pure gift! God is with us and for us IN FLESH! Whew! Wow!
It’s the next few things that become more COSTLY to you because Jesus also shares Himself with us as the One Who “became poor that we might become rich” and Who said “whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves, pick up their cross daily, and follow Me”. Starting to see the cost yet??? Haha
Here are other costly things you can participate in with Jesus as a proper response to today’s troubles:
2.) Place your single-minded faith and trust in Jesus Christ, given to you as a gracious gift, and relate with Him in union and fellowship! Ask Him, personally, how you might respond to any given situation! He knows exactly what to do – but be prepared for plenty of mysterious surprises because His variety of responses to people in situations is as varied as there are people and situations to respond to!
The high cost of trusting Jesus is that you can no longer trust anyone or anything else, including yourself, like you trust Him! In the Light of His Lordship, you understand yourself to be a dependent creature whose entire outlook and motives apart from Him are now called into question and found lacking! If you could have responded properly to your troubles then there was no need for Him to come and do it! You can’t trust what things look like, feel like, or sound like – you can trust ONLY Him despite those things or outcomes! You no longer trust in your own ideas of independence and freedom, your own pride, smarts, things, race, nation, guns, policies, votes, gender, economic status, good works or anything else! You trust ONLY IN JESUS and identify ONLY in and with Him!
This means that despite your daily troubles, and even in the middle of them, you can, and should, cast all of your care upon Jesus for He cares for you! It is the reason so many of us pray to Jesus, and read the bible, and congregate together as His Church (believers) regularly – to meet Jesus there and have Him remind us of Who He is, and who we are in Him, and what He has accomplished and made of the word despite our sin, and the kind of good works He does in the middle of everyday troubles in flesh till He returns!
To conclude, this is both encouragement and a warning because, as Karl Barth has rightly stated: “No neutrality with God is possible. We [YOU] must choose between the true God and idolatry.”
And because God has been Revealed in Jesus, what He gives us as a response will look more like God the Trinity in character. More like self-giving than selfishness. More like other-centeredness than self-centeredness. More like self-sacrificing and forgiveness than living at the expense of others. More like being social and relational than being totally closed and hiding from others. As my friend Rodeen Williams wrote recently “Made in their image, genuine freedom is best realized and enjoyed in the consciousness of our union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
As the Holy Spirit encounters you, WILL YOU RESPOND PROPERLY by receiving Jesus and this God Revealed in Him – this God Who has already received you? Will you “Re-Think-Act and Believe the Good News!”? – Mark 1:15
It’s really summertime because I am walking again every morning. My route through our subdivision allows me to admire the bounties of summer – blue skies with puffy clouds, lush green grass on beautifully manicured lawns (not ours), lovely landscaping – and it takes me down streets that I don’t normally drive through. Since I began this practice on a regular basis about three weeks or so ago, I have walked by one home that has a pickup truck parked on the edge of the lawn near the street. Its bed is filled with junk: an old toilet, microwave, gas grill, baseball bat, to name a few items. The truck has been in the same spot for these three weeks, bed filled with junk, and there’s no sign that it will be going anywhere soon.
Three weeks is a long time to look at a truckload of junk and wonder what it means, and in my wondering I thought about the junk at my own house. It’s concealed better, that’s for sure, and I’m fairly certain none of my neighbors knows about it, though they may suspect I need to do some serious cleaning out whenever our garage door is open. Considering junk like my neighbor’s, left out in the open for rain and sun to work on (to no avail), or junk like my own, neatly stowed and stacked (yet still being junk), makes me notice how often we hang on to stuff that we know we don’t want, that doesn’t help us or serve us or enhance our lives in any way.
I also surmise that behind the beautifully manicured and landscaped homes there is junk that should be hauled away. My garage and the pickup truck parked on the other street are not the only ones who hang on to unhelpful, no longer useful things. While these things could be material goods, they could also be attitudes – judgment, discrimination – anything that seeks to make another human being separate or “other.” Despite the laundry list of differences one could come up with, our common humanity and our special, individual status as a beloved child of God unites us. Even as a church, the very body of Christ, judgments about who is right and who is wrong override our common heritage as beloved children of God. We all may be Adam’s descendants to begin with, but ultimately we are brothers and sisters with Jesus. The junk of needing to be better than someone, anyone, sits in our secret places (or sometimes not so secret places), and it takes up the space where we might know the full freedom we’re entitled to as God’s kids, in intimate fellowship with the Father, the Son (our bro), and the Holy Spirit.
What junk are you hanging on to? What’s keeping you from the freedom you have as God’s child, Jesus’s sib, the container of the Spirit?
~by Nan Kuhlman
P.S. Somebody is missing their teeth in our neighborhood, too. Everyone has his/her own set of troubles.
Theological Theme: God is God alone, and He demonstrates His glory by comforting His people and confronting those who oppose Him.
Christ Connection: Jesus Christ is the sovereign King who promises to return, rescue His people, and put an end to all suffering and oppression.
Missional Application: God calls us to war against the principalities and powers of this world that keep people in bondage to sin and suffering.
Ever since I was a little boy I have been in the way.I was always in the way. Even when it did not feel like it, I was in the way. I was in the way even when I didn’t know it. When I was a teenager I never ceased to be in the way. As a husband I’m constantly in the way. As a father, pastor, son, brother, and friend… I’m in the way. When I was an unbeliever I was in the way. As a believing Christian I’m in the way. In fact, I believe that from before the foundations of the world were laid… I have been in the way. I will always, for eternity, be IN the Way! And you too! (John 14:6 & 20, Acts 17:28) ~Bill Winn
A toddler falling into a gorilla habitat. A terrible mass shooting in Orlando. A singer shot dead. A toddler snatched by an alligator from a Disney World beach.
And that’s just recently in America. (And not all of it by any means.)
With the world caught in yet another firestorm, with blame, shame and accusations flying, and social media and the blogosphere swollen with posturing and opinions, what of value remains to be said?
Honestly, I have avoided reading most of what is out there. As an introvert, you can guarantee that if the whole world is talking about something, then I am not talking about it. I need time to think, to contemplate, before I can even begin to comprehend the implications of events like the ones we have all witnessed recently.
The nature of social media and of our fast-paced world is that we are expected to think on our feet without pause and without honest, deep reflection. Politicians and leaders are expected to present immediate answers and solutions.
But so often, the result is red hot-headed reactivity, and problems are never solved that way. They are generally made worse.
And so often, the result is blame and scapegoating.
If the mother had been watching her child. If the father hadn’t allowed his child to wade in the water. If people would just obey the Bible.
None of these things would happen.
The world would make sense again.
And I would be safe.
(Until, incomprehensible tragedy strikes, and I am not.)
One of the saddest social media posts, for me personally, was one where an acquaintance stated ecstatically that she had learned that Christina Grimmie, the singer gunned down this week, was Christian. It’s heaven for this girl now, she crowed.
Sad because this was not said when so many of our GLBQT brothers and sisters were gunned down in a nightclub the very next day. Many of them would not have considered themselves Christians because much of Christianity excludes and disqualifies them. Is it not heaven for them? Is it not heaven for the alleged shooter and for our Muslim brothers and sisters because they do not confess the name of Jesus? And what does it say about God if it isn’t?
Does God exclude and disqualify us based on our actions and beliefs?
Honestly, I don’t know for certain. I can’t know that or many things at all for certain. It’s God we are talking about, and so much of him is unfathomable, mysterious, unknowable.
But the parts of me that I believe were gifted by God — my heart, head and spirit — emphatically say no, God does not exclude us based on our humanity and all that comes with it.
Jesus, the evidence of the substance of the Father. And so, because…God.
In healing our image of God, Jesus frees us of fear of the Father and dislike of ourselves. ~ Brennan Manning
Excluding and disqualifying people is what we humans do, and yet deep down, we feel it when our unloving attitudes toward others abrade our spirits.
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. ~ Matthew 7:1-5, The Message translation.
(I just have to say that I love The Message’s translation of that verse. I need to hang it on my fridge and read it every day.)
All I know is that I myself feel called not to consciously exclude anyone, nor to disqualify them on any basis in my mind. Deep within, I believe that if there is to be the choice of heaven for me, so inordinately privileged and fortunate (and yes, sometimes not so fortunate) to be living in the time and place that I am with the knowledge that I have, then there must also be the true blue, authentic choice of heaven for all people.
Herein lies the secret, I believe, of the inner life of Jesus. Christ’s communion with Abba in the inner sanctuary of His soul transformed His vision of reality, enabling Him to perceive God’s love and care behind the complexities of life. Practicing the presence helps us to discern the providence of God at work especially in those dark hours when the signature of Jesus is being traced in our flesh. ~ Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus.
These are dark hours, as of late, when the signature of Jesus is being traced indeed in our flesh.
As we make contemplation a spiritual practice, we pause, we slow down, and so we begin to make room for the mind of God within our own minds and hearts. We lose the need to make sense of everything and to blame others so that it all make sense. We lose the need to make ourselves appear perfect and with our acts together in the eyes of others. (As Richard Rohr says, people around us clearly see our shadow selves, but we ourselves have a very hard time seeing our own. A contemplative practice can help with that.)
The shadow is that part of the self that we don’t want to see, that we’re always afraid of and don’t want others to see either. The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without calling it evil. ~ Richard Rohr
As a busy homeschooling mother of three, I am just beginning to make time for my own contemplative practice. As a beginner, I am by no means an expert, but I’ll close by sharing with you what a few minutes of contemplation this week has shown me.
At the Pulse nightclub that night, in that split second between life and death, I see Jesus with his hands outstretched to each departing soul.
You are home. You are wanted here. I know who you are. You are my beloved child.
I believe that these are the words that we will all hear in the end. No matter what masks we wear and what false selves we have spent our lives projecting to the world, he sees through them and he knows who we are beneath. To him, we are beautiful, we are precious, and we are good.
In the end, I believe that this is what we must say yes to — to agree with — in order to receive the fullness of eternity and all that that means.
We really are all included.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
Jesus tells to seek the kingdom of God before anything else. That sounds exciting and meaningful. But what does that mean? How do we go about it? Pursuing those questions requires exploring the question: Who is Jesus Christ in relationship to the world and its history? If Jesus Christ is Lord of time and space, and all of history, then out of that center our whole understanding of spirituality and eschatology [last things] is transformed and renewed!
Audio Part 5 Questions and Responses: “https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/4-30-16-spirituality-eschatology-and-the-kingdom-of-god-pt-5-qr-dr-gary-deddo.mp3”
I have a mental list of authors I would love to have lunch with just to talk shop. Maybe you have a list of inspirational people (perhaps not authors) that you would like to have a conversation with just to hear firsthand their stories and the insights they gleaned from their experiences. My list includes nonfiction authors Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking), Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic), Anne Lamott (Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace), and Cheryl Strayed (Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things). I’m a fan of nonfiction writing, and as I read about others’ experiences, I learn from them, and sometimes I see myself in them. Even if their experience is completely different from anything I’ve known, I usually still connect with the emotion that drove their decisions.
Strayed is one author that while I’ve not experienced life as she knew it (losing her mother in her early 20s, becoming a heroin user for a period of time, having an abortion), I still can relate to the emotions that spurred her to make these choices. As a result of her experiences, Strayed offers down-to-earth insights in her nonfiction, and many fans have written her to share their favorite quotes that spoke to their hearts right at the time they needed it. Strayed compiled these “best quotes” into a new book called Brave Enough, and I recently gave this book to our daughter for her high school graduation.
Before I presented it to our daughter, I read about 75 of the 135 pages (I couldn’t help myself!), and I came across this quote from Cheryl Strayed that spoke truth to me: “You must be inclusive in order to feel yourself among the included” (49). It made me think about struggles that organized religion has faced, particularly when wrapped up in legalism. As part of a legalistic group for a number of years, I can attest to the fact that when I was quick to judge others and exclude them based on the lack of religious performance in some area, I often felt I was on the ever-turning hamster wheel of trying to earn my place in the kingdom of God, not to mention making myself worthy of God’s love. As long as I compared others (and myself) to a rigid set of rules in order to discern who was in and who was out of God’s favor, I rarely felt included, accepted, let alone liked by God.
Strayed’s wise quote helps us see that as long as we judge and exclude others, we will never feel included ourselves, and perhaps more importantly, we will never grow to realize that it wasn’t about keeping all the rules perfectly in the first place. By loving others and extending grace, we finally realize that the inclusive sense of belonging we’ve been looking for has always been available, offered freely by the Triune God.
~by Nan Kuhlman
Theological Theme: God is good and just. He sees the suffering of the oppressed and promises redemption.
Christ Connection: God told Moses His name “I AM” as a revelation of His good and righteous character. Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave us an even greater revelation of God’s goodness and righteousness.
Missional Application: God calls us to be conscious of the plight of the oppressed and, in response, to show and share the love of God.
*picture courtesy of zazzle.com