Members of One Another

“Is this one better, or this one?” the eye doctor asks as she flips between lenses.

“I don’t know,” I finally admit.  One lense has clear, crisp lines, but a shadow to each line.  Another lense has no shadows, but fuzzy lines.  The lenses can assist my imperfect eyes to see, but ultimately they cannot fix my eyes.  Aging eyes need different lenses for different situations, reading glasses are good for close work, but miserable for driving.  Glasses help us to see some things, but blur others.

The same is true of culture: we see God through our cultural lenses, and while some things are clearer, some aspects are blurred. If we are not aware of our own culture, we may find ourselves trying to “drive with reading glasses”, so to speak.  Because of our individual culture, some values stand out more.  We give more weight to one ideal, while forgetting or neglecting another ideal.  In other instances, our cultural ideals dress themselves up as Godly and go masquerading into our thoughts as impostors of the truth.  What needs to change is our eyes.

Christians in my culture, the self-made American culture, cherish the idea that “God is all you need.”  I have been wrestling with this “only God” concept, presenting it to my friends on Facebook, and finally resolving to read through the entire scriptures in search of God’s heart.  It has been only a week, and I have made it through the first five books.  My theory, in the beginning, was that the “God only” concept is favored because our culture is so independent by nature.  What I found is that this thinking is borne of something far more universal than the spirit that won the west:

betrayal.

Experience speaks, “God is the only one who will never fail you.”  Of course this is true.  My limited study of Genesis through Deuteronomy agrees.  However, I am greatly alarmed by the foregone conclusion that if God is the only one who will never fail you, then He is the only one you need.  

After fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah, losing his wife to her own regrets and backward longing, Lot concludes he cannot live among people.  He takes his daughters and goes to a cave.  Betrayal drives him to isolation, and he concludes not only to trust in God alone, but to need no one but God.  His daughters determine they need someone else to help them carry on the family line, and seeing their father as the only man left, “lie” with him.  Ew.  Just ew.  (Genesis 19:30-38)

Do you see why I’m alarmed?

In defense of my friends who shared the sentiment “to only trust God is to need only God”, I know from their lives that they have followed God back into life-giving community in the midst of recovering from deep betrayal.  They may speak with their words to need only God, but with their lives, they speak the truth of the Kingdom.

God, in his own perfection and self sufficiency, chooses to bind Himself by covenant to a man and a people, knowing full well they will fail him.

What?

Knowing full well they will fail Him, God binds himself to a man and a people by covenant.  Binds Himself.  By covenant.  To a man who lies, laughs at the promise, and then connives with his wife to fulfill the promise on their terms.  God is still faithful.  God.  Binds Himself.  By covenant.  To a people who will break His heart, as he tells Moses in Deuteronomy, “will rise and whore after the foreign gods” (Deuteronomy 31:16)  Knowing all this He still chose them and bound Himself to them, and through them blessed all the nations of the earth.  Through this people, God shows His power, His love, His glory.  Through this people, God brings the family line of Jesus.

While WE were still far off and hostile to God, he chose US, Jesus died for us.  Betrayal tempts us to forsake community, but the way of the Kingdom is forgiveness and reconciliation.  To trust God is to embrace our need for others, for community, despite their obvious lack, because He is strong in our weaknesses.  God is not only strong in my weakness, but in my neighbor’s weakness.  Like our Lord, we are bound to His people.  We are members of one another.   For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5, ESV) In 1 Cornthians 1, when Paul talks about the Corinthians having no lack, he is talking about the community.  We as a community have everything we need.  To receive the fullness of the gifts God has for us, we must overcome the fear and pain of betrayal, and receive the gift of relationship.

 

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There is hope for the lettuce

A couple weeks ago at church I shared what has become one of my favorite passages from the Bible.  “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease; yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”* I think in context that Job’s point is that he’d rather be a tree, but my point is that we are like that tree. At the scent of water, we will bud and put out branches.

It’s been a while since I made the first-fruits salad for the church picnic, and taking two classes in addition to my two jobs, my gardening (as well as housekeeping) strategy has been to walk by and feel guilty on my way somewhere else. After arguing with it all summer, the lettuce finally shot up flowers and went to seed, the tomatoes died with fruit on the vine, and the chard began to whither. My birthday came and put an end to all this with the tiny potted roses from my co-workers.

The roses started to die, so I set them in the window sill where they contracted tiny yellow bugs. I have a house rule against anything harboring bugs, so I took the blessed little gift and it’s yellow colony to the patio. One thing lead to another and suddenly I was adding the failed compost canister, previously banished for similar infractions, to the now-empty tomato bag-planter. I would post a picture, but my old coffee grounds had turned the color of baby poop (which has to be a good sign, right?) As I rummaged around I discovered that although my carrots had not grown long roots, the tomatoes’ roots extended out the bottom of the bag, coiled beneath their planter and empty neighboring planters, and the three wee chard had filled their interior with nutrient seeking webs.

The fallen lettuce, my greatest source of garden-induced guilt, have hidden from sight the most treasured secret of my winter garden: all manner of sprouting things, including 10 head of lettuce.

My friend Diane always says, “Water it and see what comes up.”

As I poke seeds into the November dirt, I think about how hard it will be to leave the Central Coast for school. Learning to surf and garden, this place has finally gotten into my heart, and it’s possible my roots have grown deeper than I realize. I’m a lot like that fallen lettuce, harboring a host of seedlings, but what and where and how my seedling dreams will grow is still mine to discover. Until then, I will have to see what grows this winter in the Central Coast.

*Job 14:7-9 ESV

Beauty and Ashes

Wednesday morning I woke up with a deep need for a revelation of grace.

I think that we walk around with fear and pain and anger and all sorts of things bound up and hidden in our hearts, even from ourselves.  When the time is right, the waters start churning and those things come to the surface.

So it is with me.  In the past few weeks I have become painfully aware, once again, of my need for a savior.  I do not need to know that I am human and every body makes mistakes.  I need to know, desperately, that I am forgiven…that I am being made new.

I did not remember until later that day that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Lent is the liturgical season where we set aside 40 days to remember Jesus sacrifice for our sins and to repent in the context of His resurrection and grace.  The season is actually 46 days long, because Sundays are not counted.  They are still a celebration of the resurrection.

I believe God is wanting to spend time with me in stillness…so I am setting aside the first hour of every day, and I would like to invite you to join me.  I will be going through the Litany of Penitence, one line a day, reading from scripture, and ending with a symbolic act of forgiveness to remind myself I am forgiven.

This morning I walked to the park and read from John 13:31-15:11, and then I thought about and journaled about the first line from the Litany: “Most holy and merciful Father.”  I asked forgiveness for the times I have been unmerciful (already at the forefront of my mind), forgave others for not being merciful, and then asked Jesus to make me merciful.  As I walked home, I washed my hands in the dew soaked grass as a sign that I am washed clean by Jesus.

Chewing Gum and Stillness

The difference between shame and conviction is that when God convicts you of something, His purpose is change and He always gives you a way out.  I mentioned in my last post feeling convicted about my words.  I would like to share with you some of the practical strategies I have come up with in the last three days.

PRAY…at the start of my day, or entering into another meeting, I ask God to help me hold my tongue and think before I speak.

Chewing gum…okay, this is an old favorite of mine.  Probably not the best, but it works, and saves me from gaining 15 pounds.  I used to eat to keep myself from saying things I should not say.  Shove down those words with a sandwich or a baked potato or a cookie.  Ick.  I learned that some situations call for chewing gum…because either I will eat my weight in caramel popcorn or I will light the figurative match that burns the house down.  It’s not the ONLY reason I chew gum, but it’s a good one.

Heart check…“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  (Matthew 12:34)  Ouch.  I think I’m in a season where stuff I kept hidden from others and even myself is coming to the surface.  Fortunately, God can deal with the ugly junk when it comes to light.  Unfortunately, everyone else has to, too.

Stillness…I think this is my new secret weapon in the war against my tongue.  It’s pretty much my secret weapon in everything.  “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15)  So…slow down…listen louder…wait on God.  I figure if I intentionally set aside time for silence throughout my day, it will help me in the moments I am speaking.  It’s a simple strategy, but one that has always worked before.  Plus, it’ll help with God dealing with the junk stored up inside.