Thursday, March 28, 2013

Upside Down

Lisa T. Bergren has a book out entitled Upside-Down Prayers for Parents. Her premise is that we typically pray for “no harm” for our children but that this prayer may lead our children not to trust in God. Trust in God comes through challenges, hurts, failures and obstacles. Life is filled with these forces. They are unavoidable and, perhaps, needed for a healthy faith walk. They cannot be avoided completely and, maybe, they should not. A person develops both faith and character through adversity. Here are some upside down prayers.

• I pray you’ll get caught doing things wrong—and experience the power of confession.
• I pray your prayers will go unanswered—and you’ll find a deeper trust in Him.
• I pray you’ll fail in things that don’t matter—and learn what matters to God.

• I pray you’ll encounter battles—and discover that God is your greatest ally.

Are your prayers for everything to be easy? If so, are they the best prayers? Do your prayers take you closer to God (utterly dependent on God’s love) or farther (removing life’s challenges so faith is not needed -  God being more of a cosmic butler?)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access  to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Poles

I notice that there are two poles. Not North and South. Nor the poles of a magnet. I am thinking of these two poles: Law and Grace. I agree that we don’t use these words much. To put them another way, there is a camp of folks that believes people are basically flawed and we best have ways to keep them in line. There is another camp that thinks people are basically good and we should do everything in the world to let them be free to flourish. The former are afraid of freedom breaking out. The latter fear boundaries. Both poles live in neat, streamline worlds. Both poles have loud, angry-to-the-point-of-self-righteousness spokespersons. People send them lots of money. They are darlings of the media. 

Either/Or – pick one!

Then, there are those in the middle. Those who often feel bad that they do not have the “backbone” to occupy one of the poles. Those who precariously straddle these two poles.  Those who embrace a hopeless mish-mash of freedom and boundaries. Those who aren’t sure. Those who believe life is found in a messy tension of law and grace, freedom and boundaries. Those who have a devil of a time defending their feelings against a pole sitter. Those who react to good by giving too much freedom and react to bad by pressing down too hard. Those who change their mind a lot (Am I going crazy,) moving from pole to pole, even at the same instant. Those who “just don’t know.” Those who feel that they should be more focused, more sure.

I think God sits in this third category. I am sure this is heresy to say that God hasn’t got it all figured out. But that’s where I am. God seems to embrace both poles as she/he (can I buy a pronoun, Vanna?) deals with the people of Holy Scripture. On one page, God cries out, “Shape up or else!” On the next, “Okay, one MORE chance.” God is ALMIGHTY on one page and frail flesh on the next.  The Kingdom is now but not yet. God forgives forever and maintains high expectations. 


Life is messy and so are people. Three cheers for ambiguity! Go out and get mad about it and then embrace it. It’s the Godly thing to do.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mountain

Maroon Bells - My view when I stayed at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, CO

I have a reoccurring dream where I need to take a path up and through a mountain and back down to where I started. Sometimes, I have to take the e way up and the gradual way down. Other times, I have to take the journey in the opposite direction. No one else is ever present. I have no task to do once I get to the top. My task is to take the trip. Nothing special awaits me on top either. Somehow, the trip made me different and it was important even though I have no idea as to the details. I needed to make the trip.

Mountains play a central place in Scripture. Moses gets the 10 Commandments (twice!) on the mountain.  Jesus goes there to pray. Peter, James and John (Jesus’ best friends) experience God there. Mountains are holy and scary where unexplainable things take place. In the end, one thing is for sure. No one takes on a mountain without being changed.

A mountain awaits each of us. A few of us take God’s challenge on quickly and (almost) completely.  Most of us stand at the bottom of the challenge, the mountain, God places before us awaiting more instructions, more clarity, and more promises that everything will be okay. They will not come.

People of faith take risks for God that pay off while having no guarantees. Die to live. Turn the other cheek.  Forgive without limits. We cannot domesticate (like a dog) the mountain God has placed before us. We cannot turn the climb into an effortless slide.

Do not spend your life at the foot of your mountain waiting for safety. The real risky behavior is to stay there at the foot. Life waits in risks taken for God.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Then Ornan said to David, “Take it; and let my lord the king do what seems good to him; see, I    present the oxen for burnt offerings, and the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for a grain offering. I give it all.” But King David said to Ornan, “No; I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David paid Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the site. 1 Chronicles 21:23-25 (NRSV)


The property in question the Ornan wanted to give outright to King David became the land upon which Solomon, David’s son, built the Jewish Temple. This was a very important piece of property. You might say priceless. David, however, could not bear to give God something in which he had no investment, no skin in the game. No leftovers.


Ask yourself this. Do you give God leftovers? Time, things, and energy that are leftover from the “real” pursuits of life? God gets what is left at the bottom of the barrel, when all other options are dried up?


I find it pretty easy to think of God last, when all I have is leftovers.


God, gave his best, his only Son for us.