Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Wisdom in Weeds

While some stuff we call weeds can actually be beneficial for soil development (like clover), what makes a weed so bad is that, given the right conditions, it can easily dominate the grass. I've had a long-time battle with something called wild aster.The weed appears to be totally immune to any and all treatments including just ignoring it. There are times it seems under control, but mostly it's an infernal struggle against this creeping, woody, well-rooted nightmare in my St. Augustine.

Heat, drought, insects, and lack of good soil can stress a lawn and make it susceptible to problems. Like the life of your lawn, the root of bitterness can grow in us, especially when we're stressed. We may stop seeing temptations for what they are: distractions from our main goal of loving God and serving others. We begin to pay so much attention to these, that, like the wild aster of my lawn, most of our energy is consumed with either fighting or feeding them.

Jesus has plenty of stories using weeds.
"As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature." Luke 8:14 Weeds are a fact of lawn health and temptations are a fact of spiritual care. How we choose to care for the soil of our spirit will determine the extent of whatever your dreaded wild aster is.

St. Francis de Sales liked to use insects in many of his illustrations. He likened temptations to little gnats, nothing more, nothing less. We see and notice them. If we want to stop them from disrupting our lives, we must choose to simply swat them away.

Happy swatting!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Love is safe...but are Christians?

Let mutual love continue. Hebrews 13:1

"Lord, save me from your followers!" -bumper sticker

The shoe is on the proverbial other foot. Now Christians are being put in the position of having to say that that Christian leaders of "Pastor" Terry Jones ilk are fringe and out of the ballpark of normative Christian faith and practice.

In addition to how this quagmire endangers our military service personnel and civilians working overseas, one of the questions I haven't heard asked is the effect it all might have on the safety of any and all of our churches. Blinded by hate and fear, Terry Jones apparently has no clue that his behavior threatens other Christians too.

So what's a faithful Christian to do? I'm pretty certain that Jesus and the New Testament is not about killing the opposition, but rather, patient endurance, even in a time of crisis. We simply cannot control the actions of others. So, it means we speak up when we see spiritual abuse, and all the more when it's done in the name of Jesus. Overcoming evil with good requires that we pray, and we pray with all our might that the whole idea of Koran burning is called off once and for all.

And even if this all fades away quietly, there's still a wrong to be righted. Maybe we can start the healing by making room in our lives for even one new person- believing that the presence of the risen Lord is synonymous with hospitality to the stranger, the outsider.

The irony is that difficult times are made more bearable and less violent whenever we really are who we say we are- followers of Jesus. Whenever we are, in Jesus' owns words, we are light. (Matthew 5:14) In Longing for Spring, according to Unchristian, "over 80% of people 16-29 have a negative view of Christianity and church because of, in part, the hypocrisy and self-serving swagger of Christians."

Yes, salvation- peace, safety, restoration- all belong to our God in Jesus. And because of that, we discover safety and shalom, and can share it, in God's grace. Just try not to burn anyone's holy books on the way. Thus, we pray:

Teacher, bring angels to us today, and the wisdom and depth of faith to show them hospitality and friendship. As we do to the least of these, we do to you. Let us freshly hear those words. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Giving from a Full Cup

My Dad’s main instrument was clarinet then followed by sax. As a teenager, dad appeared on the Major Bowes radio broadcast, THE amateur talent show of his generation. While in college at Drake University, Steve Allen was the pianist in his band. When Dad went to law school and become an attorney, he never left his passion; rather, he guided my older brother’s many Big Band and Dixieland groups for about a decade.

Every Sunday, musicians of all generations and hair lengths jammed into our living room, filling our house with every sound from Glenn Miller to Count Basie to the Dukes of Dixieland.

In a weird way, I miss the community, as intrusive as it was, that assembled in my living room those many Sundays. That kind of doing for the simple love of it is very rare. When you share your gift and passion with others, it can make you a better person, you can “fulfill” your mission, and you can improve the world beyond just yourself.

The good news is that there is enough of God’s grace for everyone and everything God created: “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” I Peter 4:10. This isn’t about “volunteering.” It is about fulfilling your baptism in Jesus Christ and not wasting the time and ability God gives you.

Oldies but Goodies