Monthly Archives: September 2011

Unknowingly Snared

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you…You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen…are crying out against you. The cries…have reached the ears of the LORD Almighty. You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” James 5:1-5 (Read passage)

This morning in my quiet time I hit this passage and got hit between the eyes. I don’t remember ever reading it before. I know I have, several times, but I guess I never really saw it. I suppose I didn’t see it because I never connected it to myself. I never considered myself rich. I certainly never saw myself as an oppressor.

I see the world differently now.

I’ve seen the world.

I’ve held small children abandoned with aids.

I’ve met young women selling their bodies to feed their children.

I’ve learned that almost half the world is living at a level of poverty, and that one child dies of related causes every three seconds.

I’ve learned that there are more slaves today than there were in the whole 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

I’ve learned that many of those slaves are laboring to produce clothing and other merchandise that I unknowingly buy.

I’ve learned that I am rich, and that I play a part in a widespread slavery system.

And I’ve learned that God cares about that part of my life.

Why have I never seen this passage? Why have I never heard a sermon on it? Why in all our church talks on finances and giving do we live in ignorance of this? I think we fear that the problem’s too big. I think we’re afraid of admitting that we fall short of God’s standard. I think we don’t know what to do. Does God?

“My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

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My Garden

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I tend a little garden

That is full of planted dreams

Each one’s a fragile flower

But as yet only a seed

 

I water my small garden

Pull out weeds from the warm earth

I’m watching for the seedlings

Just to see which sprouts up first

 

I do not know which flowers

Will flourish in this soil

Their sunshine is my hope

Their nourishment my toil

 

There’s risk that not a single dream

Will grow beyond the sod

Still in faith I tend my garden

And leave the rest to God


The Spiritual Discipline of . . . Drinking Coffee??

I had a conversation recently about idealism and how I cope with a life not lining up with everything I pictured. It boiled down to two words–recognizing goodness. In the middle of stress, in the midst of disappointments or simply “differences” (ways my life doesn’t look like I imagined it would), the most helpful strategy I have is to dwell on all that is truly good in my life.

Recognizing the good, and being thankful to the One who gave it, is the crux of “true spirituality” according to respected apologist, pastor and author Francis Schaeffer. A posture of thankfulness is the starting place from which our walk with God can deepen and thrive. In a similar vein, well-known theologian and author Dallas Willard speaks of celebration as a spiritual discipline. He writes that in celebration, “we concentrate on our life and world as God’s work and as God’s gift to us.” We recognize the good and respond in thankfulness.

Another writer, Andi Ashworth, reflects on this idea in her book Real Love for For Real Life:

“Celebration, in fact, is a spiritual discipline because it is a means of God’s grace to strengthen and transform us. Celebrations, along with the other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, solitude, worship, and confession, put us in the path to receive from our Lord. Joy is cultivated as we turn from our daily struggles to remember and appreciate the good things in our life, which come from the hand of God.”

In my experience, joy is a fruit of the Spirit that takes a beating from prolonged disappointment and discouragement. Recognizing God’s continued goodness is the best way to fight back. So take some time to enjoy your life. Sometimes something as seemingly small and insignificant as a cup of good coffee is a spiritual discipline.


When Waiting is Work

“Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.” Luke 12:35-36

I work at a small drive-up coffee shop. It’s often feast or famine—everyone coming at once or no one coming at all. That being the case, daily I have moments to sit, sip chai and contemplate life, just waiting. I’m waiting for someone to come to my window, waiting to spring back into action. At that moment watching and waiting is my work.

Waiting is definitely not doing nothing. You should see me scurry at the first lull in the shop—mopping up spills, cleaning out blenders, refilling syrups, brewing shot after shot for chilled espresso. I need these down-times to get ready to go again. Without them the shop would become a complete disaster and I would run out of supplies. There’s no sitting until I’m set to immediately go again. It’s all part of the job, part of active waiting.

Active waiting is a major theme in the gospels. Jesus told stories of servants awaiting the unknown arrival time of their master, about virgins sitting up with their lamps waiting for the bridegroom to come and start the party, about a widow who persistently cried out to an unjust judge, waiting for him to uphold her case. Waiting is a normal part of reality; even God waits—he waits to deal with the weeds among his crop until the harvest, he delays in his return because he is “patient…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Waiting, even waiting on God, is part of daily life. But it’s hard. Waiting is work. And Jesus knew it. His closest disciples failed at the waiting game; they fell asleep when Jesus’ only request was that they watch and pray. Jesus knew waiting could be our downfall, and so he ended one of his waiting parables with this poignant question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Waiting is major work in my life right now. I go through each day figuratively waiting for someone to come to my window. I attempt to wait actively, knocking on doors, praying, researching, honing skills, living and loving well now. I try to keep myself ready to respond at a moment’s notice for when the command finally comes, all the while wondering if it ever will. I am like one of the ten virgins in Jesus’ wedding story, waiting with my lamp and oil for the bridegroom to show up, doing my best not to fall asleep. “Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning.” A difficult command. My calling right now. Would you watch and wait with me? It’s so much easier to stay awake when you’re not doing it alone.

 “As the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.” Psalm 123:2