July 31, 2013

See What the Lord Has Done

I just spent some time in chapter 6 of The Story.  Here are the things that my brain decided to click on...scattered as they are.

First, how happy would you be if you realized that as God is chastising the people and telling them that anyone over 20 will die before going into the promised land your birthday is next week?  Bonus!

The flip side to that is being the last person to die...everyone is staring at you every day, waiting for you to die so they can go into the promised land.  #thatsabadday

It intrigues me how quickly the Israelites forget everything.  They see God do amazing things through the plagues to get them out of Egypt so they can worship Him, yet they grumble.  They see Pharaoh and his army drowned in the sea, yet they want to go back to Egypt.  God feeds them manna from the heavens, yet they complain and want meat amongst other things.  God leads them with Moses, and yet they say, "we should appoint a new leader to take us back to Egypt."

Does their grumbling ever work out for them?  Not really, if you ask me.  They are shamed every time something bad happens.  Moses corrects them and makes them drink the dust of the golden calf.  God wants to wipe them out and start over with Moses multiple times, yet somehow Moses talks God out of it.  They want meat, so God sends quail to them, up to two cubits deep (that's 3 feet deep) and a day's walk thick in any direction.  That is a lot of quail.  When the people received this blessing, they went hog wild.  Scripture states that each person gathered no less than ten homers.  That's enough quail to fill a 76 cubic foot box--think 75 milk crates full of quail per person.  God gets so frustrated with their gluttony that he strikes them with a plague.

And then there are the 40 years.  God tells the Israelites to go in and take over the promised land.  They send spies, who report how great it is.  Yet, they doubt in their own abilities and don't even think about God's abilities.  Only two, Caleb and Joshua, understand.  As a result, they wander for 40 years until all the doubters and non-remember-ers die off.

We need to remember that with God on our side, we can do all things.  Our faith, if we allow it to be big enough, will put us in places where God HAS to show up.  But do we have that kind of faith?

Moses had that big of a faith.  He wasn't afraid to go toe to toe with God about things.  Though he tried to get out of a lot of things, God always showed faithful when Moses chose to have great faith.  He threw down his staff and God turned it into a snake eating snake.  He stepped into the Red Sea and God parted the waters.  He reminded God time and time again that Israel was His people and God showed them mercy.

Yet, Moses was susceptible to being too full of himself.  He takes credit for bringing water from a rock for the people, rather than giving God the glory.  His parting gift for that event, a trip to see the promised land, but not enter in.

If we think about us, where do we fail?  What do we whine about that we don't have?  How glutenous are we with our lives?  Why has God shown us mercy and not sent a plague?

For me, the big struggle is ministry.  All too often, because this is my job (which I love), I do things rather than engaging with God to do things.  I have a faith in God, yet I rest too much on the faith in myself, especially since I am doing "God's work".  I realize that I am no different than Moses or the Israelites.

What I need is to live by the statement, "See what the Lord has done."  I realize that I am gifted with the chance to be a part of that doing and that is glorious.  Yet, it is not my life I am living, but Christ living through me.  If I dechurchify that statement, its me choosing to live my life differently--not focusing on what I want and need, but putting what God wants as the driving force.

July 20, 2013


As I sit in my office trying to work on the message I am going to give tomorrow at South, I frequently (probably all too frequently) take breaks after some time.  About an hour ago I checked yahoo and saw a headline that read, Showing Prostitutes the Rings of Saturn.  I was drawn in.  Seems like a good idea to people who are hurting and lost and a glimpse of the the beauty and immensity of God's creation.  I clicked through to see the article.  I was not ready for what I was about to see.

The byline of the article talked about a guy, Chris Arnade, who shoots photos of people in NYC.  I clicked through to his Flickr feed and ended up losing the last hour or more.  I was drawn in by the stories of the people he was photographing...hookers, addicts, and people who live in the macrocosm of NYC.  There was depth of hurt in their stories, stories of rape, abuse, and hopelessness.  Many of them knew they were in a bad place and wanted out, yet could not step away from the pull of the addictions they were dealing with.  His images were filled with such heartbreak.

Now my head is swirling filled with empathy for the distant faces in the pictures. As I clicked through image after image and read story after story, I thought of this question: What faces and stories are here close to me in Lansing and in Detroit?

And then I had this thought.  Would you even notice them?  Do you even care?  If you did notice them, what would you do?

Understand where I am at right now...I have been very reflective lately.  Maybe its because I turn 41 in a few weeks.  Maybe its because I feel like I never make and progress on the work that I have to do.  Maybe its me being envious of opportunities that others have gotten I wish I had.  Maybe its this message on the 10 Commandments that I've been chewing on for days and weeks now.  Whatever it is has had me continually asking the question, "What have you really done?"  And, shortly after that question comes, "What could you have done?" and "What should you have done?"

There is a scene at the end of Schindler's List where Oskar Schindler comes to the realization that he could have saved many more lives.  He becomes fully aware that he has been frivolous with his life.  He makes the statement, "This pin...two people.  This car...10 people."  He is overcome with emotion.

This is where I feel I am.  I'm half way through my life.  What have I done?  Have I attained my dreams?  What do I have to show for 41 years of life?  What do I have to show for 13 years of full time ministry?  What do I need to change?  How do I need to change?  What things in my life need to change?  Its a very tiring place to be.

Understand, I'm not looking for a pity party for Wally here.  I'm not looking for you to tell me all the good things I've done.  I know that if I were to compare my life to others, I could be proud of where I am and who I am.  I know that God has used my life in good ways.  Yet, I've gotten in the way all too often of what He has wanted to do.  I've not had the moxie to say things I should have said or to do things I should have done.  I've missed opportunities with life and wasted a lot of time on dumb things.  What time I haven't wasted, I've done ok things, always feeling that I could have done them better.

I have squandered a lot of life.

As I type this blog I realize I am not much different than the people in the pictures...full of hope, yet hopeless.  Yearning for change, yet too afraid to take the first step.  I know what I need to do and I have the power and ability to do it, yet I choose to sit still most of the time.

I don't want to sit still anymore.  There is too much living to be done.  I don't want to waste my life.  It is not my life to waste.

I waited till the end, here, to give you the link to the flickr feed.  Look at your own risk.  The images are painful and the hurt can be seen and read.  Don't just look and move on.  Allow the images to haunt you.  Allow them to challenge your heart and your life.  There are faces like this close to you wherever you are at.  We are called, as the church, to be people who show prostitutes the rings of Saturn and the other wonders of God.

Here is the Flickr Feed.