The Rules

My son and daughter-in-law are avid hikers. They put a dog sized back pack on their dear mongrel and go. But as we were with them the other day my daughter-in-law was telling me that there are rules that hikers know and are supposed to follow, don’t leave trash, clean up after your dog, and this one: people ascending have the right of way on the path.

It was Memorial Day weekend, a sunny, hot, rare day in Washington State when we decided to climb Rattlesnake Ledge Trail, we and an enormous part (it seemed) of humanity. We heard languages from across the world, Spanish, French, German, Romanian (I think), Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, all out to huff and puff their way up to the ledge with a glorious view. All these people, they did not know the rules of hiking. Many were completely unprepared for the struggle up. (As it happened, we, too were a little unprepared with one forgotten backpack with the extra water bottles! But that’s a different tale.)

These others, the foreign ones and the ones who never hiked and were trying it for the first time, they did not know the rules, especially this one: people ascending have the right of way on the path. Whether it was momentum or thoughtlessness people coming down skittered on pebbles making us step out of the way for them, even as we ascenders were breathing heavy to keep going

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Rules can exist for very good reasons (although some are just dumb). These were good rules, helpful. But suddenly a vast group of humanity who does not know the rules is pressing to see the wonderful thing, the view, and is willing to plod and struggle to see it. This struggle to the wonderful thing is far more important than every beneficial rule. It gets messy and tries the patience of those who know these rules, yet, YET we are all heading to the top of the mountain.

How very confusing it must have been for the first ‘churchers,’ when first Samaritans, those incongruous half breeds, and then the Greeks and Romans began flooding the ranks, hearts called to the Wonderful Thing, the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Messiah. They were not following the rules, more, did not even know the rules to follow, they just pressed in because they were invited “further up and further in.” I thought about those first ‘churchers’ as I stood out of the way of those coming down, my breathing trying to catch up with my effort. This was what it was like when those well-intentioned, Torah loving Jews tried to hold back the flood of converts by preaching to them the Rules. What alarm they felt, “no, no, no, no, no! They must be instructed, they must be changed first. Someone’s got to tell them!” But the Gospel had blasted through Torah’s door, the culmination of God’s Word in Jesus. ‘All who are thirsty, all who are hungry, all who are weak, come buy without money,’ was the Word that went out. And they came and overran the synagogues and swallowed up the original faithful. How must that have felt? Perhaps a little like knowing the rules on a mountain hike when hundreds of others do not. One had to step out of the way or risk being trampled.

If you know the book of Acts at all, you’ll know that the first church fathers responded to the flood of rule breakers with simple instructions suggested by Peter based on the promise of God in Amos 9:11-12. You can find the whole controversy in Acts 15. Peter says this, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”

“We should not make it difficult.” But we do. We can put layer on layer of nicety and even beneficial rules in front of those struggling to come to Christ. It can be as simple as “act this way and you’ll be accepted.” But it isn’t that way at all. “Come!” says Jesus and the masses come. The masses come with hate and hurt, dreads and piercings, hijab and robe, jeans and flannel and guns, bad grammar and poor education, prison sentences and welfare, motherless, fatherless, country-less, sad, addicted, depressed, Republican, Democrat, Green Party, anarchist.

“Let the little ones come to Me and forbid them not.”

“We should not make it difficult.”

The minimal instruction that came to the new believers only came after the Gospel of Jesus had flooded into their lives. There is no clean up committee prior to conversion. Preach the Gospel. The masses are coming. They may overwhelm us like a flood. May it be so. May the joy of it carry us away.

At last we stood on top of that ledge and looked around on green Washington. In that one spot we heard languages from the world over and happy faces of every color. People smiled and good cheer was everywhere. We had all made it. The trail up had made us one.FullSizeRender.jpg

Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28-29

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Borrowing Baskets

Borrowing Baskets

I don’t like knowing about all the terrible things in the world. I’m not sure we were meant to know all of them. But technology, unless I climb into some Luddite hole, won’t let me escape the unwelcome knowledge. Feeling as though with knowledge comes some sort of responsibility I, frankly, can be overwhelmed. What do I have, what do I do? I’m good with words and I have a ‘little’ courage. Small help in a horrid world.

I teach Sunday School. I opened my curriculum, that I’ve taught for years, to the Feeding of the 5000, tomorrow’s lesson. This line stopped me and sent me into a introspective spiral: “If the Lord tells you to do something, He will make a way.”

In this time of my life, a little past middle age, I feel as though I’m waiting to know what it is He wants me to do now. I paint, I write stories and stuff like this, I grandmother, mother and wife, (and teach Sunday School) but the slate still looks rather clean. I really do see others doing heroic things, fostering, missionary-ing, fighting injustice on a grand scale, riding into war zones to meet incredible need, or preaching to unwilling hearers. These are heroes. I’m not a hero. I’m good with words and I have a ‘little’ courage.

I prayed, “I owe You so much.” Then I remembered, “I can never repay it.” I thought, “I’m not meant to repay grace.” The verse that says, “Owe no man anything but to love…” and  I remembered the woman who Jesus said “loved much.” I cannot repay the Lord but I owe Him love. “If you love me you will keep my commands…” This is that introspective spiral my mind took this morning. Sorry.

I want to offer Him something not for merit but out of love. Something of my own.

I went back to this: I’m good with words and I have a ‘little’ courage. And immediately I thought, “but what are they among so many…” Suddenly I was right back at my lesson. There I was, Andrew, with his little borrowed basket. I felt the irony.

So like Andrew, I’ll offer what I have. I’m good with words and I have a ‘little’ courage and that will be enough should the Lord choose to bless it. In the mean time I’ll be borrowing baskets, those things the Lord has loaned to me. 🙂

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” …Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” Luke 7:44

 “If you love me, keep my commands… Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14

“My Kingdom is Not of this World”

“My Kingdom is Not of this World”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight…”

Guest Post!

This is my friend, Brad. I asked permission to put this on my blog. It’s beautiful and true and we need to submit to our Jesus, Lord, Messiah. Oh, and that’s my title, not his. I had to write something!

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These days we are living in, I can’t help but think of the zealot and a tax collector who were both invited by the same man to be a part of an inner circle of brothers. This man wanted both of them, equally and distinctly, to join with him on his mission. How could it be then, that these two men, along with ten others, each with their own agendas, political position, and opposing personal allegiance could be brought together to form such a potent commitment to one another and the mission they were given to accomplish? Was it as simple as being unified out of human effort or persuasion? Or just being able to understand better the other’s values and viewpoint? By no means! Anyone can see, simply by watching our current day’s situation, where pride and arrogance, selfishness, misunderstanding or even hatred can impede and derail. No, a match as unlikely and radical as this could only be unified by a purpose more radical and revolutionary. A purpose whose keys to unlock it were held only by the man who called the two men, wanted them to be with him, in the first place.

This man, Jesus, lived by different rules, spoke of a different Kingdom where up was down and down, up. He didn’t play the same petty games as the men he called. Didn’t bow down or fawn and weep over another whose very flesh and bones were just dust. He didn’t vie for approval or influence. No man held sway over him. But HE, he carried at his very core, the way to life and unity. His words carried the pungency to both unsettle and bring peace all at once. And it was only he who was given the power and the authority to both crumble AND rebuild the hearts of men so blinded by their own sinful toxicity. The power to change lives was his and his alone because he himself, for the sake of the two, and the ten others, and the millions after, he himself was crushed, bruised, beaten, humiliated. He himself lowered himself, chose not to stick up for himself, not to protect his own rights so that those given over to the world might be given the way to new rights. New rights not found in the world but in the new Kingdom of which He, Jesus, is King.

This King carries the entry to a new citizenship, a unified allegiance. A citizenship that bids each who are called by name to no longer resemble that which they once held fast, but rather, like the one who holds the keys, to come and die. To be crumbled and rebuilt just as he was crushed and resurrected. It was this way, the hard and afflicted way that brought two called ones, who began so very opposite from one another, to be restored as brothers. It was not by their own might but rather by the power of the One who made himself nothing, becoming a servant for all mankind, never once caring for his own self-preservation or promotion, but rather always walking in humble submission to the One who sent him to earth.

You see, the way to healing, of mending, and of the greatest unifying will never be man made. It can never be rooted in efforts born out of our hurt or offense. It never comes from actions that draw attention or self-praise. The way to a whole and beautiful humanity as it was intended is simply, Jesus. Jesus as King, Jesus as Savior. Jesus as Rescuer. Jesus as Healer. Jesus as Judge. Jesus as Advocate. Jesus as Servant. Jesus as Friend and Brother. Jesus as Sustainer. Just. Jesus.

And so while I consider the two disciples, one a tax collector working for Rome and one a zealot working to destroy it, I am drawn to wonder. Wonder what it was like for them. Wonder how painful it was at first for them, how difficult to give up so much of themselves for what seemed so risky. And yet I wonder what it was like for them when they began to be changed. When they began to see how truly fulfilling it was to cast their own rights aside, their own dreams and desires and mission to join with the only one that matters in eternity. The one that has the greatest ripple effect known to man. The mission of Jesus. The mission of bent knees, bowed heads, washed feet, bloodied brows, and resurrected life. That is our mission. That is our way to healing. That is our way to unity. It is Jesus. He alone. He is the Way.

Brad Klaver

Facebook post January 21 at 9:49pm


Thank you Brad.

Prayers in the Middle of the Night

Better a broken heart than a broken life.

“What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?”

It really is the middle of the night. 3:33. I’ve been awake for an hour or more than I had to be. Sometimes that happens when I’m about to leave on a trip, such as this morning.

But as I lay there, in that strange time where small things can seem huge and big things even greater, as my concerns and worries float like bark and leaves on the river of my mind lodging, sticking on the corners, as truth gets tangled up with my imagination, I pray.

Like a rosary that I’ve made of people, I slide from person to person, prayers vastly inadequate to their situation but praying none the less. Such a pitiful bead of service to offer them. I remember those needing comfort, those in pain, those alone, those whose lives are full of burdens, those I love. Then there will be those who make me stop. I try and push away the grief. “Please God. What can I do? What should I do?”

I have watched some of you go through wretched life shaking realities and I see you bloom, like the rose in the desert. caring for the child broken. Some of you have chosen to love profoundly unlovable people and your joy has not faded.

Then some, who have all the advantages given to them seem to be on the brink of some perilous void, sliding slowly backward, like Lewis’s villain in That Hideous Strength, small choices to accommodate eroding the future. These I pray for with panic and wonder if in the middle of the night I can even think straight, if I see it right.

So as all of you parade through my heart and I see the banners flying over your heads this thought strikes me:

Better a broken heart than a broken life.

Cherished Always

 

I was a precocious 4 year old with a late fall birthday. Kindergarten went just fine except when I got caught getting up from my rug during nap time. But my teacher loved me and my very long blond curls. So when first grade rolled around and all the testing I had been given told my parents I was ready to read and capable, I was put into the accelerated learners class.

Things started to go wrong. I remember I could not keep up. I remember the teacher always being displeased with me. I remember being hurried, hurried, hurried. I remember a spanking when I wfullsizerenderasn’t done coloring my rooster before recess and I loved to color.

My mother noticed that everyday I was coming home less and less happy and then the stomach aches started. She saw I wasn’t learning to read as the others were and that I was very unhappy. These days we would say that I was suffering from anxiety. I couldn’t perform at the speed the accelerated teacher wanted me to perform. Or as my mom says, “she didn’t want to have to teach you to read.”

My dear mom did something that just wasn’t done in our small town. She insisted on moving me from that classroom. This was a little community and there were really only two classes per grade for many years. I have wondered since whether the teacher’s lounge was a bit tense or perhaps my first teacher was glad to be rid of me. Whatever the case, I remember feeling like a 6 year old failure being placed in the ‘slower’ class. But a most wonderful thing happened. This other teacher taught me to read.

Her name was Geraldine Christensen. We attended the same church. Her daughter and I were in the same Sunday school class. Mom knew her and knew she would love me because she did what Christian women do. She was in her early 40’s when she became my teacher. Ever after I always had a warm spot for her in my heart. But here is the very strangest thing: although I remember the anxiety and panic from the accelerated teacher in the first semester of 1965 I cannot remember a single day in Mrs. Christensen’s class. I don’t remember her being my teacher. Isn’t that strange?

But this is how I’ve come to understand it. I was removed from the daily anxiety of failure and placed in an atmosphere of peace and kindness, steady unconditional peace and kindness. Nothing to fear. Everything to hope. I was finally adequate and accepted. And in the peaceful atmosphere of Mrs. Christensen’s class I learned to read and because of her, in a sense, she gave me the world. My world of words.

I’m very glad that in the last few years we could reminisce, well, she could, and I could listen, about her teaching me. I’m glad I could share with her how I eventually became a literature teacher. I’ve been glad to tell her children of the value she was to me.

Sometimes good deeds and work are not remembered. I can’t remember what she did for me. But I am the grateful benefactor of that work of hers spring semester of 1966.

Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

Geraldine Christensen April 20, 1921 – October 19, 2016. Cherished always.

Feel Free to Ignore This

I’ve done a lot of thinking (stewing?) over the last few tumultuous days about the

symbolic gesture.

By this I mean: “You are a woman, you must vote for____” or “A smart Christian won’t vote for ______or_________” or “You have to vote this way for me to take you seriously.”  I think it is being offered as proof that one cares about something, that one’s emotions are quickened by a phenomenon so there is a demonstration of  solidarity by words and protests or votes. They are sort of like bumper stickers only much louder and bigger and not on cars. But it is no proof at all.

The other thing about the symbolic gesture is that people judge you if you don’t join in, and often in the most self-righteous way. This insistence on feeling the same way “I do” is required or you are ________________ (name your pejorative). Dissent certainly isn’t allowed. Ranks must be closed. You need to say more radical and more divisive things to get into the hallowed Inner Circle.  It’s the whole, “you are either with me or against me.” Some of us will end up very lonely and talking to ourselves.

As I see the use of the symbolic gesture for those seeking admittance to the Inner Circle, The Cool, My People, the symbolic gesture is used to first salve one’s conscience. “I will prove to you how sincere I am, I will (burn a flag or display a Confederate flag, paint my Facebook rainbow colors or quote Rush Limbaugh) to prove I understand, I get you, (please) accept me.”

The problem is when the symbolic gesture enters the conversation as a requirement for admittance to the conversation

there really isn’t any conversation.

Instead there is the insistence that I need to toe up to someone else’s norms, desire, pet peeve, view point, before any talk can happen. It is never discussion. It is only ever talk. “Those who compare themselves with themselves…”

Second, I think insistence on the symbolic gesture is used to exert power or control over others. However, I’ve decided to be free because I am. Where I sense some symbolic gesture needs to be made to make someone happy I’m not going to do it.

I AM NOT GOING TO DO IT.

You do not need to do it for me either. You, too, are free.

YOU, TOO, ARE FREE.

I don’t want to be a part of the club. Nope. I want my actions to be mine and sincere as I can make them. Yes. I am a little angry today but you don’t have to be angry with me. I will, by Jesus’s grace still love you, hopefully in reality and not with just the symbolic gesture.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Whew. Rant over.img_1933

Confessions of a Really Good Pharisee Come August

My church gives me the summer off from teaching Sunday school. It’s very good for me to step back and take a rest. But come August I sense something happening inside. I seem dislocated and spiritually ambivalent. This has happened year after year. I think I’ve discovered a bit of its source.

I teach on the life of Jesus in two year segments, two school years. This means I have the privilege of interacting with the life of Christ every week while teaching fourth and fifth grade students. I cannot begin to tell you how profoundly this constant attention to Him has changed me.

But when I have a summer away from this attention, though I may be reading and studying other parts of the Bible, I begin to develop an apathy, a callous, and along with that vague dread of the future. So examining this phenomenon in myself, its consistency year after year, I’ve determined that without the constant interaction with the life of Jesus I lose my spiritual focus. I begin to rely on my own resources and abilities. So it should be no surprise that I begin to feel just a little hopeless.

It’s time to get back to that classroom, you poor little Pharisee.

What does this mean about who I am and my nature? Rather than some sweet and glorified identity (one He has bought for me and I did not create), I find I cannot maintain a practical and decent walk without my eyes being weekly forced to focus on Jesus. This weakness comes at the point of one of my dearest gifts, my teaching. I need Jesus’s life to constantly shatter illusions of my competency. But being broken up by Him is the most liberating and enlightening thing that I experience. Oh, my Lord, Lord, Lord, how do I ever think I am all right without you? As a friend said last night, “I’m right with Him in the morning but by evening where did I go wrong?”

As someone who has had the privilege to internalize integrity and righteous knowledge from a child, my sins have usually ceased being obvious to myself and to others (well– EXCEPT my husband). I am a Pharisee. But when I start teaching Him and His life this September, well, that complacency will be plowed up. Friends, we can’t endure, persevere, obey from right motivations without looking at that Perfect Man. He most lovingly puts us in our place, a really tiny and small place. That’s where I need to be.

I’m not manufacturing a posture of humility here! What I’m saying is reading and studying the Gospels, “fixing my eyes on Jesus,” does it. His life makes me laugh with an ironic shame. It’s incredible the subtle conceit that can creep in! But He blows it away, August dandelion fluff, trims and stakes me up for the winter or I’d invariably flop over.

Read the Gospels, fix your eyes on That Perfect Man. Do it, my soul, do it now.

IMG_2286Hebrews 12:1-3. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.