Top3 for July 3, 2020

Here are a few things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week. As we head into an Independence Day weekend in the US, are we on the verge of another independence movement? This time instead of freedom from England, it may be freedom from ideas and policies which prevent equality for all persons. And what is the church’s role in all of this?

#1

“in those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail

The church as thermostat not thermometer. Not temperature takers but temperature movers. Rather than being left outside the conversation to be in the middle of them and even hosting the conversations. I feel that the church has a long ways to go to accomplish this, but let us not be dismayed. God is all about second chances and great come-backs.

#2

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

There is a prayer from the Compline in the Book of Common Prayer that says, “let us never forget that our common life depends on each other’s toil.” We talk about togetherness because it is important. We struggle to do togetherness because it is costly and highly inefficient. It demands we sacrifice control. Togetherness takes patience through many starts and stops.

#3

There are big chunks of our population whose innate human capital is basically being squandered because they are not getting an education that enables them to take advantage of their natural talents and gifts. That not only hurts them, that hurts all of us. It hurts our society and our economy.” — 

Neel Kashkari, the Minneapolis Fed president, in an interview with The New York Times

Continuing Reassurance

My devotional times have taken me through the book of Luke this week. I highly encourage us all to read large sections of Scripture in a short numbers of days. This practice has really helped me to see major themes and recurring situations.

What struck me this pass through Luke was that it drips of the Holy Spirit who shows up on nearly every page. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, John, Jesus (of course!) and the list goes on of people in and through which the Spirit worked.

The writer of Luke also wrote Acts which is often referred to not as the Acts of the Apostles but Acts of the Spirit. But I didn’t realize that Luke identified the Spirit’s activity even before Pentecost in such a regular way.

Luke wants to make sure that we know that we are never alone and never have to undertake anything by ourselves. In fact, Luke wants to drive home the point that it is only through the Spirit that Jesus was able to accomplish his ministry. If Jesus was in need of the Holy Spirit, how much more are we?

In John 14: 26-27, Jesus says “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

The Holy Spirit advocates, reminds, convicts, convinces, comforts, equips, empowers and the list goes on. And the end result is peace so that our hearts can be full of love and not fear.

But sometimes we need reassurance don’t we? Those who followed Jesus sure did. Even at the end of Luke, when everything had been settled with Jesus’ resurrection, there were followers who doubted and who were confused (Lk. 24:41). But we do not hear a rebuke from Jesus to them at this point. We see Jesus having a meal with them, giving more promises; and offering more assurance that they would be part of what God wanted to do in the world.

If today you are in need of reassurance that you are not alone please be reminded that you are not. And don’t let anyone convince you (even your own thoughts) that your doubts and need for assurance is a sign of lack of faith or a weakness unbecoming a follower of Christ. For Jesus knew we would need a consistent divine presence in order to navigate life. And through the Holy Spirit, God provided for a need even before we took our first breath. That is the kind reassurance I need today.

Breathe and Pray

Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.

Luke 10:41-42 NRSV

He will be Lord of all or none is how this it expressed in the Wesley Covenant Service.

Trust me solely and I will bless you completely is the promise Jesus gives.

Martha was wearied because she was worried and distracted. And in so doing she cut herself off from the presence of Christ even though he was standing in her home. Please don’t miss that (pun intended!)…Christ was present, Martha was distracted. And because of her state of mind, it was as if Jesus wasn’t even there.

In recent days I have taken up the practice of breath prayers. It is an old and tried practice of keeping your focus. They are short sentences designed to center your mind on Christ throughout the day. The breath prayer I am saying is “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” I begin each morning with a time of meditation using these words to center myself and then throughout the day, I come back to them to wake my soul to the presence of Christ.

If Christ is going to be Lord of all of my life, I realized that I needed an intentional plan for my mind as well as body and spirit. I sure don’t want to miss him because my mind is somewhere else, unproductive, and unaware.

And what I’ve found is that – I have a long ways to go! And I’ve always found that when the words flow from my heart so does God’s peace.

Todd, Todd, you worried and distracted by many things; there is need for only one thing.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.

Not Growing Tired of Doing Good

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.              

Galatians 6:9-10 NLT


Edwin Friedman in his book A Failure of Nerve says that, “Society is the product, not the sum, of human relationships.”  What you and I can do together is far more than the addition of what we can do separately. In other words, working together produces the potential for 1+1 to be greater than 2. We need each other. We are better together.

But how does this work in a day when we may very well be better together, but we are safer apart?

Zoom…Facebook…Vimeo…Calls…Texts…Emails. These are all part of the answer. And what a blessing it has been for these to be available!

But I know that these forms of communication take work. Studies show that they can even become more tiresome than getting together in-person. And then there is that whole technology issue. For many of us technology is just not our skill-set.

Paul tells the church in Galatia that the harvest is coming if they will not give up. The same message applies to us. Do not give up or lose hope. I have a growing conviction that being “together while apart” is a cross for us to bear in this season. These difficulties may be the very thing that God uses to grow endurance, build character, and produce hope…If we don’t grow tired of doing what is good.

So, please don’t walk away from connecting even as difficult as it is or as tired as you may be. Continue to do the good work of using the means available to stay connected to your family of faith. We need each other. We are better together – and that isn’t just a slogan.

Praying for our continued perseverance!

Todd

Emotional Shingles

That is how I’ve been explaining my mood lately. It seems that my emotions remain very close to the surface just waiting for the slightest brush, the smallest offense, the tiniest confusion to flare into a bout, often intense, of resentment, doubt, or anger. The prolonged disconnect from the people and the routines of the past acts like a scalpel peeling back the skin and exposing nerve endings.

For the past three years I have been praying Psalm 139 each morning –

Search me and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me in the path of righteousness. (italics mine)

The last few weeks God has responded to that prayer. Not in the way I would have asked or desired, but an answer nevertheless.

For these weeks have been a testing that has laid bare my insecurities and my anxieties in no uncertain terms. It has shown me where I’ve placed my trust in something other than God. And while not baring too much of my soul here, it surrounds being appreciated, valued, and respected. My testing has led me to see that I have been placing my self-worth on a response to a sermon, or blogpost, or leading, or well, you get the picture. And while all these are part of my gifting and important to the work God has called me, I realize now how much that I tied my well-being to the fruit of the gifts and not the love of the gift Giver. I deeply desired my identity that was built upon the work of ministry and instead of the work of the Gospel. In other words, they have become idols.

I am praying a prayer of thanksgiving for how God is not wasting this season of life. Without it, I may never have wrestled with these anxieties so often or intensely. Please do not hear me saying God is responsible for the trials – but rather please hear me say God is using a trial – beauty from ashes.

Oh, and I have a long ways to go. Identifying is but the beginning of the journey. My prayer is now focused on the end of the Psalm – lead me in the path of righteousness. May God bring about restoration to the brokenness within me.

I write all of this as a reflection mostly and perhaps a helpful encouragement if it sounds all too familiar. If the description of emotional shingles strikes a chord with you – know that it may be revealing something to be considered instead of something to just get through.