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

the-somme-5-1315328.jpg
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”

What happened to Hospitality?

Perhaps this has always been the case, and I just missed it by years of attending the same church, but I can’t help to feel that the church has all but abandoned the concept of hospitality. In the last couple of years, as I moved to a new city, completed grad-school, and relocated (again), I have had the opportunity to visit many churches.  The most overwhelmingly common characteristic of the seven churches I’ve attended in the last three years? A cold, unwelcome, or insincere feeling.

Continue reading “What happened to Hospitality?”

Questions from NYC ala Brehm Center

You may remember a few months ago I posted some questions for your consideration.  This week, as we went around the group to introduce ourselves to one another, I couldn’t help but really stand on that leg for a moment.  I want to know what the questions are, specifically for people who are in my position, or positions similar to mine.  What are we dealing with?  Struggling with? What have we learned the hard way, and what were we graced to know without having to pay a costly price to learn? Continue reading “Questions from NYC ala Brehm Center”

For less than a dollar a day, you can neglect this child

For the record, minimum wage in Honduras is over a dollar an hour. The rest of Central America is similar. On the off chance you care.”

This was a tweet-response that a classmate of mine wrote today as we hit some final topics in our Theology and Culture class, while the professor talked about Globalization.  And my immediate response was to jokingly say who does care?  Not because that’s what I actually think, but that’s how I think we actually operate.
Continue reading “For less than a dollar a day, you can neglect this child”

Are you Lazy? (confession 4)

Man, sometimes I feel like the laziest person I know.

I live with two other women, and we’re all quite different from one another.  Both of my roommates put me to shame when it comes to focus.  They both always seem to be studying, or getting lots of other things done.  One of my roommates has commented on several occasions that since I’ve moved into the apartment, she feels like she’s been on a nearly non-stop vacation.  She means it as a complement, but I can’t help but feel the indictment in it too.

Let’s add to the equation, that the sermon series for the last few weeks at my church has been Fresh Start (it’s good stuff. listen to it here).  This series among other things, has been challenging us to recognize where we may’ve dropped the ball –perhaps in 2009– and encouraging us to get back on track in 2010.  Hey, there’s no shame in placing a sermon series at the top of the new year that hopefully capitalizes on our desire to start a new year off on the right foot.

All totaled. I feel like a lazy lump.  Over the last few months, my to do lists seem to be less and less crossed off.  I’ll even confess that I may have avoided making a list (literal or metaphorical) on a few occasions, just so I wouldn’t have to face it unfinished at the end of the day. 

But, I keep returning to God on this topic, and we’re working on some things together.

So, do you feel lazy? Are you doing anything about it?

The Paradox of the Mourning Christian

Tomorrow, the Fuller community will gather together to mourn. Over the Christmas break Ruth Vuong,  Dean of Students, suddenly passed away. 

There are many people on campus who knew Dean Vuong personally, and many who did not. Personally, I only had the privilege of meeting her on a couple of occasions.  Yet even to someone who did not really know her personally, her loss is nearly tangible on campus, as the community collectively mourns.  I do not need to have been in personal relationship with her to know how this feels.  We all have experienced loss, haven’t we?

Loss and mourning are strange creatures, especially for Christians. At times, it seems wrong to be sad, to mourn, to feel the pain of loss over another Christian.  After all, no matter the specifics of our theology of Heaven, we all basically understand that death isn’t the end, right? Don’t we know, somehow, that if she goes to heaven, and we go to heaven then that means we’ll be together again? Isn’t that what we believe? And if it is, then why are we sad?  Afterall, haven’t we all heard the saying, “it’s not good bye, it’s see you later”? So why do we still mourn?  Does it betray us, showing what little faith we actually have? Or is it something else?

This gets me to thinking about Lazarus; well more specifically about Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus stood at the tomb, knew what he was about to do, and how did he respond? He wept. Jesus wept knowing he was about to restore Lazarus. 

I don’t think our mourning betrays our faith. We have lost years of opportunity for relationship with Ruth Vuong. Opportunities to create memories, to benefit from her wisdom, to have shared experiences, to get to know her.  It is our loss, and it is right to acknowlege it. We are created for relationship and community, and a measure of it is taken from us when someone dies.  Jesus knew this, and felt the very real pain of that loss before he restored Lazarus.

There is the paradox of the mourning Christian.  We weep over a temporary loss, that in our finite understanding feels so eternal.  But this is, in a sense, good.  If we can mourn, despite our understanding of the afterlife, it reveals the value we have for relationship.  And there, the God of relationship can and does minister to us.

Are you broken?

Because, beloved, we are born into a broken world. And it will not let us pass through without being broken along the way.

So we are left with the decision to take up and bear the cross we are offered, or to let it fall on us and pin us down. We can bear it’s weight; wrap our arms around it and embrace what has been designed by the world to kill us. Funny how the very thing God will work redemption through feels like the only thing we don’t think we can survive. Well, that might be the point. Some part of us–the awful, hurtful, demon- in-training inside of us–isn’t supposed to survive.

So, my dear, have you been broken? Does it hurt like hell? Are you going to hold onto it, stroke it and love it; find your identity in it as it consumes you? Or are you going to let Him heal you? Cause here’s something else to chew on: our cross isn’t our final destination. Our place of brokenness isn’t our final destination. It wasn’t His either. He promised to finish what he started.