Agnes and the Big Void

  It occurred to me a few years ago that as our faith deepens, so can our capacity for melancholy–it seems the two can be quite attached. I remember reading that Mother Theresa had struggled more with her faith in the last few years of her life than ever before.  At the time, the idea occurred to me that the longer we press into God, the more we discover Him, the more we discover how much we don’t know and can’t understand about him.  And, truth be told, we simply don’t like that.  The more we invest in God, the more we learn about him, the closer we want to be to having a handle on who and what He is.  We really do want him to be small enough to understand, to comprehend, and perhaps even, to control. It’s unsettling when we discover that that doesn’t happen.  We just get more and more capable of understanding how infinitely big God is, and more and more aware of how incapable we are of understanding him.   Our concept of Big gets even bigger. And sometimes that realization is depressing.  Perhaps we need to accept that a hallmark of a maturing faith, is that the sunshine and lollypops of the Santa-God who grants three wishes dissappears.  Replaced by a mysterious and wild God whom we can neither predict nor control.
And all the while, God can hold onto us, even when he seems so alien to us, we don’t even know where to hold on to him.
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Enter the Slave Garden

photo by Tulay Palaz
photo by Tulay Palaz

Living Hope Community Church meets at Ironwood Elementary School, and to enter, you must pass through a small gated courtyard before you reach the doors to the worship space.
Every Sunday we are able to come to our church space, pass through the gates, enter through the door, and participate in the worship service. There are no requirements, no check points, no guards at the door who require you to prove your worthiness to enter. You are not restricted by your age, your gender, your education, your finances or your past. You aren’t stopped because of who your parents are or were. You don’t have to present papers, or pay to enter. You are welcomed in freely.
But what if that weren’t the case? What if you showed up and there were chains on the gate? What if, suddenly, you were made to enter though a side door, and wait for the chance that you might (or might not) be allowed to enter? What if someone or something owned you, and you weren’t free to worship how or where or when you wanted, because the one who owned you had forbidden it?

Continue reading “Enter the Slave Garden”

The battle lines have been drawn

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photo by Matt Cockbain

Do you feel that you are a woman of strength? Are you powerful? Strong? Equipped? Do you feel prepared to face the battles that may come your way? Are you angry? Hurt? Burdened? At war?

Do you know what “Victory in Christ” is?  I wonder if any of us truly do, because it seems clear that very few of us are living victoriously. The saving work of Jesus and his Gospel is an ongoing event in your life.  It predates the moment when you accepted Christ and submitted to him—because he was working toward this goal before you knew it—and continues every day after.  Salvation in Christ is MORE than simply acknowledging him as God and your Savior.  The work that Jesus does in the life of every believer is a continual process that includes saving, healing, equipping, instructing, and sanctification. Continue reading “The battle lines have been drawn”

Letting Go of Holding On

I’ve been all but paralyzed all day. There is plenty to do, and I’ve been so stuck that by this time I am not confident that I can pull off the few pressing things that really need to be done right away.

The thing is, that I’ve been putting more hope than I’ve realized into things that are beyond my control.

No, not quite faith exactly.  Just that I suddenly realize that I have been counting on assumptions that I’ve made, and that others have made around me and my family.  And those assumptions have been boiling to the surface lately to bite us.   Continue reading “Letting Go of Holding On”

Dublin and proper

The trip is off to a wonderful start. After our first full day in Ireland, we got to sit down to a proper Irish supper, complete with cabbage and Guinness for those who wanted it. The next morning it was off to the city Of Dublin to see the Book of Kells and St Patrick’s cathedral. Liam was rarin’ to go, and almost climbed the fence to get in. And, at the same time, one of our professors, sculptor Chris Slatoff, can be seen giving one of his nearly continuous talks. He has us wrapped around his finger. When we are in public, we tend to gain a few extra members to our group, as tourists find his thoughts as enthralling as we do.

Tonight we will begin Praying the Hours, which is an ancient monastic tradition. While I normally would not relish the idea of getting up several times in the night, I am looking forward to it–and I believe that my classmates are as well. Tomorrow we are on the road again. It is my hope that at some point during the trip I will have a chance to post more for you, in the meantime, I will make a point to continue offering you glimpses.

Have a blessed day!

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Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Today’s Monday Inspiration comes in honor of the country I arrived in this morning. This is an Irish blessing attributed to St. Patrick. (It may look long, but its a quick read)Be blessed today!

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession in the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with 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 the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarch,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Though 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 host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose 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 witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
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 lay down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me,

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Ireland or Bust

I interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to share with you a new summer adventure:  In a couple of days I will board my first-ever trans-atlantic flight and fly to Ireland.  With the exception of the occasional jaunt into Mexico (and, really who counts the occasional jaunt into Mexico?) I have never really been out of the country.  This is in spite of the fact that I am considered one of the jet-setters of my family.

As a result I will be taking Faith Unscripted off the rails between now and when I return, the first week of July. Expect anything but our regular conversations while I am away.  I do not know how much time I will have to write, or when I might have access to the internet.  But when I do, I will probably be posting thought, pictures, and whatever else I can during the trip (maybe even a video?).  Also keep an eye on my twitter feed (see the feed to the right of your screen on most browsers, or follow me at twitter @nickybarger). We’ll return to Monday Inspirations and “thoughtful thursdays” as they normally appear in early July.  For now, this trip is sure to be both inspirational and thoughtful.

Why Ireland? Well, for one thing, why not Ireland?  Simply speaking, the Brehm Center offered two courses there this summer, and I was determined to go.  The more complicated answer is this: this is what I came here for.  I recently sat in an office with an advisor trying to work out my schedule for the rest of my time at Fuller.  Though my time with her was productive, and her services helpful,  it seemed apparent to me that she thought that my choice to go to Ireland was a waste of time and money.  “You have no more electives, you realize these won’t count, don’t you?”

Bless her, it was her job to point that out to me.  But frankly, in that moment, all I could see was someone who just didn’t get it.  You see, I am not on an specific pre-planned/known-to-me career-path that required me to get and MAT in order to advance professionally.  But, let’s be clear, my degree is more than mere “personal enrichment”.  I am confident of my call to Fuller, and despite my ignorance of God’s plan, I have no doubt a plan exists.  I am in the rare but not unique position where I have to pick and choose the education I get, because on one hand I need to fulfill the requirements set before me to graduate.  But I also need to get in the classes that resonate with that cord God plucked in me that made it clear God was moving me to Fuller for a reason. Without a doubt, the courses I am required to take have value, and I do learn from them.  But, just the same, I have to keep an eye open for those classes that I suspect have more to do with God’s plan for my life, than the Registrar’s plan.

So, then.  Ireland.

For now, my parting gift to you is this recent satellite image of IRE, where the entire island was briefly exposed with no cloud cover whatsoever.  This is a rare shot of the Emerald Island.  Enjoy. 

How Do You Count?

I am not a woman who is capable of finishing everything I attempt to start; nor do I finish things with perfection.  I make reading plans so I won’t fall behind in class, and then fail to use them.  I plan ahead so that I won’t be frantically finishing an assignment the same hour I have to go to class–and still end up printing and sprinting. Even this blog is something that I have attempted to bathe in self-discipline, only to fail.  Daily we are all asked to take on things that we are capable of doing — many of them things that we could do well.  We get a lot of them done, but not all.

But is it failure?

Continue reading “How Do You Count?”

A Life of Quiet Desperation

It is already week two of the new quarter and I find myself feeling terribly behind in both homework and other sundry life-things.  Circumstances being what they are, last week was horribly busy for me, and did not really allow any time for school work to be done.  This is not a complaint, however, because I made thoughtful choices about several of the things that took my time, and felt that they were the more important ones.  Not one of those choices stand out to me at the moment as one I would go back and change. But, as the case often is, there are consequences for our choices, and the consequences I face at the moment is a flurry of activity as I try to make up lost ground before things get too far; before I resign myself to simply being behind and mildly disappointed with myself (as those two things are usually linked for me.) Continue reading “A Life of Quiet Desperation”