GOL: Philemon

Dearest Philemon,

I think of you often and am really happy when I do. People tell me about how you get Jesus’s message, you are internalizing it, and living it out. It makes me really proud. Because of this, I don’t want to force you to do something. Rather let me tell you and you can decide on your own. I tell you this because I love you. Onesimus your former slave ran away and has become a part of the family. It’s awesome how much more useful he is as a brother than a slave. I’m sending him back to you even though it feels like I am ripping out my heart. I would like to keep him, but I feel like it wouldn’t be honest. Maybe the divine reason he ran away was so that he could become a son to me and brother to you.

If you still think the same of me, welcome Onesimus as a brother. If you have accounts to settle with him, write me back. I have some to settle with you. LOL. I know you got my message and will do more than welcome him as a brother.

Prep a room, I’m coming over semi-unannounced.

The clique says hi,

Paul

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Brokenness & Idolatry

When I get lost, I lose myself. It is not that I have wandered and need to return, I feel more like the prodigal son who has forgotten he was someone’s child and completely gone rebellious. I don’t know if this is for everyone, but when sin takes over my life, I just don’t feel like me anymore. Well, at the very least, I don’t feel like the me, I was intended to be or have been for a while.

I am lost. Last year, I spent time generating themes for my life. There were four and they were cyclical: chaos/erosion, creation, brokenness, restoration. Chaos or Erosion is external. It is the process of my life in some fashion being completely dissembled. It can be through displacement or job loss or broken relationships or switch churches. Sometimes, it is erosion simply because it’s a natural progression or wearing away. Creation is the process of something being generated out of disorder, finding my current job, developing a personal sense of authenticity, finally getting counseling. Brokenness is my least favorite. Brokenness is internal; it points at my sin and depravity and does the most damage. Brokenness has been the most haunting of my seasons. Broken is how I came to Christ. Broken is how he finds me time after time. Brokenness frustrates me. It preys on every wicked desire for self-sufficiency that I have. Brokenness points a hard finger to God demanding that He back off and let me do this myself. Extended periods of brokenness lead to numbness. I am numb, and it’s my fault. I don’t state this condemningly. I did this to myself. I’m in bad need of a spirit defibrillation. I know, I am made alive in Christ, but sometimes, it feels like I am barely hanging on. Restoration, God is a good God. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast compassion. Restoration is entirely the working of God. I wish, I could jumpstart it, but I know that He will come.

I am in between brokenness and restoration. It is in this limbo, I have felt God nudging at me. Reminding me of who I am, “You’re a worshipper”. It’s my primary identity. I was created for worship. My open hands moved towards an idol that I worshipped wholeheartedly. It’s only in repentance, I find restoration. It is my hope that it comes soon. Brokenness is completely unideal. I feel like if we as humans were more honest, it is not that our success that drives us. It is not our desires, but the brokenness that drives us to idolatry, but no idol can fix it. No job, no relationship, no item, no person can set our wayward heart set straight. My only hope. Our only hope is in someone completely external. Oh, Lord let it be you.

Before, my idolatrous season began, I wrote a song named Idolatry. As I look back on the lyrics, I had idolatry more right than wrong. May it not overtake me once again.

Idolatry, you pull me straight down to my knees

I worship you, hoping you’ll make me complete

Your siren sound, echo my unanswered prayers

Those hollow words, I’m helpless you leave me so scared

I’m paralyzed; you’re draining the life out of me

I cannot move, silently suffocating

Another drink, pour it up watch it go down

Your praise begins, prostrate I lay on the ground

I will return, for you are my stale daily bread

You’re killing me, but you also keep me well fed.

God,

I always need You, but I need you especially in this place, where I feel fragile and fragmented. Mind me of the work of Your blood. Help me to understand it, trust it, and live in it, not just for today, but especially for tomorrow and the days after.

In Christ,

Amen

Day 8: Most Persistent Thoughts

I didn’t write this because, my thoughts are often inconsistent, but I will tell you what has been on my mind this evening. In Galatians, there is a call to “bear one another’s burdens”. When I have heard this phrase used, it was an admonition to share in the carrying of other’s burdens. The same way that Christ undertook the burden of sin from us.

However, my struggle is allowing people to carry it for me. I would let something crush me completely before, I called for someone to carry it for me. Carrying other people’s loads feels instinctual. Allowing someone to carry mine feels sick-inducing. I don’t know how to let people in because I don’t. Everyone is held by a tether where I slowly and incrementally draw them close, never knowing what minor mistake or mishap will release all the slack.

My most persistent thoughts are questions?

  • Why am I so resistant to letting people in?
  • How does someone allow others to share in their burden?
  • Is this the cause of my loneliness?

Imperfect Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I have reflected on this verse often over the course of the past six months. I hear its refrain as I ponder on those whom I love and those who love me. I know imperfect love. It looms. I know it’s imperfect. It is fear-inducing and creates unnecessary risk. Fear-inducing love is not loving at all. Imperfect love is an oxymoron as it does not exist; love can only exist in complete perfection.

I got a glimpse of perfect love today. I saw it over breakfast and a coffee two hours afternoon. It was not a fear-inducing love, but one that feels freeing. One that assists in letting go. I pray for more of that love.

I pray I find it in the Lord.

I pray I find it in friends.

I pray it is found in me.

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #7: Good in the World

God’s goodness has always been displayed most in the people involved in my life. For many seasons, my life was filled with dinners, coffee dates, ice creams and such. In this current season, there are few people. I welcome it. The depth of these relationships is significant. I have never been more challenged by people. While also remaining well-loved. The goodness of God, displayed through people, is frightening. I have come to expect badness in most things, but it’s the goodness that leaves me unprepared. It is the goodness that frightens me. It is the goodness that I have no idea how to respond to. I don’t know what I am doing but the goodness continues to come. I am glad for people who are good to me. You are also good for me.

Father, 

There are evils in this world. I have come to expect them. I am prepared for them. Your goodness catches me off guard. Thank you for the good people in my life. Thank you for being the source of all goodness. My friends are Your Voice whispering, “It is very good”. I hear You, through their wisdom. I see Your Grace, through their patience. I feel Your Heart, through their love. I know Your Goodness, through theirs. Bless them. Bless them wildly. 

Through the Good Name of Christ, by the Way of the Holy Spirit, 

Amen

The Confusing and Frustrating State of the Evangelical Vote

Before you read this, these are some observations I have made of the Bible and evangelicals. If you end up being offended, thoughtfully pray about it, lament to me, and handle your business like an adult.

The first five books of the Bible highlight the foundation of Israel. In the two books focused on the Law (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) God gives clear instruction about practices to keep Israel both morally and ceremonially pure. He also gives instruction on how Israel is meant to be radically different from other nations. No child sacrifices. No pagan sex worship. No oppression of people, especially women, children, and foreigners. In fact God tells Israel since you were oppressed (in Egypt) care for women and children and foreigners as a testimony of how God cares for them. This is a repeated instruction in both the Old Testament and New Testament.

When God gives Israel the Law, He tells them practices to serve those who have little.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do no go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:9-10

In this repeated instruction, Christians learn how to care for the disenfranchised in a manner that does not rob them of their imago dei dignity. This is what matters most to me: poverty and immigrants. I care about those in need not having the resources to succeed and being placed in systems (created by people) where it only helps the symptoms.

I wrote this first portion (the part above this one) about two weeks ago post election. I didn’t vote for Trump. So, I was not enthused about his victory. Greater than my lack of support for President-elect Trump was my growing anger at the evangelical voting population. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how they could support someone so vile. Someone who just screams anti-Christ values in the manner he speaks of humans. I mean even the Old Testament speaks of Gentile leaders who ruled over Israel with greater levels of compassion (Cyrus and Artaxerxes in Ezra).

What I have come to understand in the past two weeks is this: what matters to me as a Christian is not the same thing that matters to other Christians. And that’s okay(ish). Some Christians don’t care about poverty and immigrants. However, I don’t care about being pro-life and America’s relationship with Israel as much as I probably should. (Personally, I am pro-contraceptives. Free condoms and birth control and Plan B for everybody)! I just don’t have the capacity to care about all the things I need to care about.

I guess what frustrates me ultimately, is not knowing, what should we value the most? Because, the poor matter a lot to the Lord, as do immigrants. However, God was not pleased with the slaughtering of children in Canaan, which led to their demise. What would God’s stance on education be and gun laws?

I dunno? I dunno? I don’t think I am bringing any new content about this stuff to the table. If anything, I believe this election just points to a problem with the Church. We rely too heavily on the government to do what we have been asked to do. Would it be great to have a government that sided with us on everything: totally! However, if we choose to impose our values as believers from a place of dominance and control, then we completely lose sight of the Biblical story of humility, sacrifice, and people’s right to choose. God’s raising of Israel and Abraham was to show all the nations that there was a better way. A way where we take care of those who suffer and not oppress them. A way where we care about children and immigrants and the impoverished.

The church is called to nationalism, but the nation we represent is a kingdom. Our King is Christ; we are simply ambassadors charged with the task of living by kingdom principles in a broken world.

I end with this small note to Christians:

My Brothers and Sisters,

We failed. We all have opinions and beliefs about what matters most. However, we should be mindful about the lengths of support we offer a candidate. Pastors it is not your place to endorse candidates to your congregation, either passively or aggressively. Teach them how to be attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Believers, it is not own place to hungrily pursue positions of authority over all people. Choose humility; it’s always the best option. Finally, it is not a sign of disrespect to support a policy and question the man or woman behind it. It is wisdom and discernment. I will do my best to respect President-elect Trump. However, my potential, future support of any of his potential, future policies don’t indicate my support of him. Neither my faith as a Christian nor my nationalism as an American will allow it. My prayers go first to the church and then the nation as we enter into this season.