This is cross-posted to www.eastsideexperiment.com – our local community expression that we’re experimenting with. We’ll be discussing it in person on Sunday morning if you’re local and interested!
It’s the season of Advent. A season of expectation and waiting. In the ancient text about Jesus written by Luke, we have two songs of expectation. One from a young woman, and another from an old man, both glorifying God for His goodness, His restoration, His power.
But imagine if you will, the voices of these two people. Mary – a young Jewish woman, found pregnant before marriage. Formerly known for her faithfulness and devotion to the Lord, now she is seen as ruined, tainted. Joseph, her betrothed, most likely was encouraged to set her aside, and he even considers doing so, but refrains because of a message from an angel. What kind of expectations could such a woman have? Scorn, ridicule, pain, or suffering? Yet it says that Mary treasures the announcement and is filled with excitement and expectation for the Goodness of God. How often do we see the Goodness of God in the midst of news that is troubling or disconcerting? How often do we treasure the word of Life that is given to us, even as we know it will bring us struggle and heartache? Mary shines as an example of a young woman who trusts, who lives knowing the Heart of the Father, trusting that His Goodness will triumph over any circumstance.
Contrast that with Zechariah – an old Jewish priest, tasked with serving the Lord, held in honor and esteem, and given even more when his wife becomes pregnant miraculously after decades of waiting without any seeming life. Now, Elizabeth is preparing to give birth. Yet, Zechariah’s response was clouded with doubt. Even with all the trappings of a religious faith to convince him that the angel spoke rightly, he still doubts God’s goodness. He knows that if true, it will create honor and fulfillment for his family – the opposite of what the announcement foreshadows for Mary. Yet, he cannot bring himself to believe that God is FOR him, that God’s GOODNESS will triumph. And so, in consequence, while Mary rejoices and sings with expectation, Zechariah is given nine months of silence to ponder and come to terms with God’s word coming to fulfillment.
As time moves forward, however, expectation grows, and both Mary and Zechariah move deeper into an understanding of God’s Goodness and promise. They see it from unique perspectives, however. Mary’s perspective reflects the oppressed, the suffering, the poor in spirit – the very people her son Jesus will bless in His Beatitudes later in life. She sees the promise in store for these people and foreshadows the coming blessing of God for all people. Zechariah sees the light of tender mercy dawning as well, realizing that God’s perfect Love casts out fear and doubt, allowing him to serve God and be a minister of His Goodness.
Let’s look at two portions of the text:
From Mary – From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him. God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity. The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
From Zechariah – He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live…Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Both Zechariah and Mary know the promises of God and His Goodness for their people, and claim them for the future.
As we enter a season of Advent, we are invited to remember and participate in God’s Goodness, His mercy, His Kindness, His Faithfulness to all generations. Even as God was faithful to Mary and Zechariah in their circumstances, bringing restoration and redemption, God is eager to be faithful to us in this season of our lives. He is eager to be faithful as we are expectant for not only the return of the King, but the restoration and renewal of all things. God desires for us to partner with Him and trust in His Goodness. He longs for us to treasure our promises and allow our expectation to move our spirits to rejoice and proclaim the good things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.
Some questions for reflection:
* What promises have you received from the Lord that remain unfulfilled? Have you held them with expectation or with doubt?
* In what ways have you seen God’s Goodness manifest, even when times are hard – and seeming to get harder?
* How can you partner with God this holiday season to see His Goodness made manifest to other people?
* What would you like to hear from God in this season? Take a moment and journal out some questions that you would like to have answered.
World events in the last few weeks have given me cause to wonder. In both positive and negative ways. I’m naturally a reflective person, so any time events happen, my heart turns to mulling over ideas and trying to understand. It’s been heartbreaking to see the response to attacks of terror, especially from those who label themselves Christ-followers or Christians. The response of fear, hatred, anger and venom have reflected something that is very Anti-Christ. It’s completely against the Good News that we are supposed to carry. So, this morning, I just wanted to take a moment and wonder what would be different if we chose to live in a place of wonder. To wonder and reflect on those things that we need to be challenged by and work on, and to wonder and reflect on those things that are brilliant and stunning and beautiful and filled with love and goodness.Read More
Once again, husband and I are entering a season of transition. It seems to be a regular thing for us, so I wonder whether or not I can even call it “again” – or if I should just call it “still.” We have been with friends here in Seattle, but now that time is drawing to a close, and we are caught in a little bit of limbo. It’s about timing right now. It’s time for us to leave, but then there are others we’re praying about being in community with, but the timing isn’t quite right. There’s also a chance we will wind up in a new place all on our own, but we aren’t sure what the timing is for that either. We are hoping and praying that in this next season, we’ll be led into the right place for our family in this season, in this time – for us and for the little light of our lives that is our daughter. But it’s never just that simple, is it?Read More
This letter is primarily addressed to those of my friends who consider themselves biblical Jesus-followers. So if that’s not you, feel free to read or pass this along, but I’m pretty aware that the laws of proper societal etiquette don’t hold you to these statements. That being said, I think that there are some principles in here that apply across the board – “don’t be a jerk” being one of them. But, however, if you do consider yourselves in that category, can I ask you to get to the end before commenting or ranting or otherwise going a bit elemental here?
As a Christian, I am significantly concerned with the way that the Church (big C, universal) in the United States is handling political dialogue. With the election coming up, more and more Christians are beginning to play the world’s game of political dialogue, which is “If I can yell louder and talk nastier about the political candidates, I might make someone angry enough so that they don’t vote for their guy.”*
I’m going to ask some difficult questions, go through some deep thoughts I’ve had recently about what the New Testament text has to say about authority and the way we are to behave, and offer some practical steps for the church in the coming month.
In general, there are about three times as many mentions of the word “love”(or compassion, gentleness, kindness) as there are mentions of concepts regarding “truth.” We as the Church have become far more concerned with loving to speak the truth than we have been with speaking the truth in love.
The next time you question or argue with someone about their political choices (and in this I’m talking to both sides), I encourage you to ask them afterwards “Do you feel loved right now?”
It should be our absolute checkpoint. Our bottom line.Read More
Many of you probably didn’t even notice, or if you did, didn’t think much of it.
But I’ve been slowly distancing myself from Facebook.
I like to keep up with everyone, but at a certain point, it began to bring a lot of pain and frustration.
There were two main reasons:
1) Shiny, Perfectly Happy Lives
2) Nasty Incendiary Dehumanizing Comments
1) Shiny, Perfectly Happy Lives
I’m incredibly happy for the dozen or so women in my circle of friends who are pregnant right now. I’m excited about their futures, their children, all of it. I love them, so I celebrate with them.
But each post about each stage of their pregnancies – or the pregnancies of their friends, which seem to be shared regularly as well – is quite painful for me. Because we have also been trying, but having no success.
Some of them have done me the courtesy of joining with me in my journey, praying for me, giving me a personal call or message before the glorious announcements on FB. But most of them haven’t.
But what made it worse was some of the comments I received when I shared my hurt with others – “Get over it, be happy for them, it just takes time.” Or “Just because you’re having a hard time doesn’t mean you get to kill their joy.” The general consensus was that if I was hurting, it was because I was selfish and a bad person – that I should just suck it up, and pretend that everything was ok so that the other person wouldn’t feel awkward.
And 85% of the time, I’m content to rejoice with those who rejoice. But what ever happened to the other half of the equation? What happened to mourning with those who mourn?
Why shouldn’t someone feel awkward about making a broad impersonal pregnancy announcement to people, knowing that one in four women has suffered a miscarriage? That’s part of living in a society in which we care for one another, and share in one another’s burdens.
It’s like I’m shamed and guilty because I’m hurting – because it is difficult. Maybe I’m not the most gracious loser, but perhaps there is a space for gracious winners as well.
I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, posting uber-happy reports without considering how others might find it.
But there is also this shame and stigma – especially around the area of infertility & miscarriage – that we don’t talk about and we don’t even have any language to understand or express what the pain is like. And society as a whole would much rather celebrate little babies than sit in the dust with those of us without. So perhaps those of us in pain need to be more honest about what we are experiencing. Perhaps we need to communicate more clearly our struggles and frustrations.
That’s what I’m trying to do a little bit here.
I know that many of my single friends feel the same way about weddings.
I know that people I know without jobs feel the same way about promotions.
I know that people in financial hardship don’t like seeing the posts about new purchases and vacations.
For every cause to celebrate, we have people in our community who are struggling with the opposite.
For every pregnancy, there is barrenness.
For each promotion, there is someone under the stress of a pink slip.
For those in flourishing, there are those in hardship.
But it is much easier on FB to just shine the happy light all the time. I’m pretty guilty of this as well. But perhaps our dialogue needs to remember that there are humans in our midst online. As a guy said in a video I posted earlier today – “insert a little humanity into our corner of the internet.”
I think it’s important to rejoice with those who rejoice – and I do it about 85% of the time. But I think I’d really appreciate it if sometimes people would remember to mourn with those who mourn. Sometimes, I would really love for my friends to come and sit with me in the dust – recognizing that this season isn’t as easy for me. Some of my friends are amazing at this. And I’m grateful for them.
I just ask that perhaps in the future we consider those things as well. Remember the people behind the posts.
2) Nasty Incendiary Dehumanizing
With the election coming up, it’s gotten worse, but it’s already been horrific. With dozens of different causes or protests or campaigns, the primary language of the people is slander. The things coming out of other people’s mouths are horrific and dehumanizing.
The Pro-Life people dehumanize the Planned Parenthood people, and then the rhetoric comes right back and nobody is really being ‘tolerant’ anymore.
The War on Women dehumanizes women, but then we dehumanize the male lawmakers who are perpetrating the injustice.
Democrats dehumanize the Republicans, and nasty tidbits get flung around like excrement.
My faith gets slandered, but it’s ok, because it’s ok to slander my faith these days. My friends justify it by saying “but it’s not *your* faith we’re criticizing” – but it is, because it’s my community, my tradition.
There are people behind these labels.
We go in nasty little circles, and have completely lost any sense of simply honor, dignity and respect for one another. The way that we say things to one another would never fly in person, but we don’t care, because we have to “win” the argument on Facebook.
I just can’t be part of these discussions anymore. It breaks my heart to see Christians crucifying non-believers online, while my liberal ‘tolerant’ friends crucify my faith. It hurts me to see men and women slinging hatred at each other instead of working together to find a solution. It is tragic that people with different economic ideas cannot work together and try to find common ground instead of demonizing those who disagree.
All in all, both reasons boil down to a recent deterioration of humanity online. And as a peace-builder, a peace-maker, someone who loves peace in all its forms and theological depth and complexity, I just cannot participate in it fully anymore.
I hope, if nothing else, that this can inspire you to think a bit more clearly and regularly about the people behind the posts. The men and women who are diverse and lovely. The ones who have rich lives that deserves our honor and respect – even if we disagree with them.Read More
I have dreams about packing.
Suitcases, boxes, again and again and again.
I take things out, I repack them. I make things fit better. I simplify, I clean, I pack, I sort.
Over and over and over again. And I’ve been having these dreams for the past two years. For one of those years, I was settled in a place that I thought would be home for years. I never thought I’d have to leave. And then things began to change. We began to get a sense that God was calling us away from the ‘home’ that we knew. And now, we’ve been on the road since November.
We’ve been practicing Peregrinatio, or holy wandering, to a certain extent. But mainly, we’ve been going through a process of having everything stripped away from us so that we come even closer to the promises that are being whispered so quietly in our wilderness. We are having to leave things behind in order to press even deeper into the mysteries that are being prepared for us.Read More
When I was just out of high school, this play was one of my favorites. It’s dark and dreary and a horrific tale of life and family in the modern age. There’s addiction and suffering and insanity.
All the things I thought I understood – I was convinced that I was living them, after all.
I had friends who smoked! And DRANK! And some who even did unmentionable things in unmentionable places with unmentionable people. I was such a pretentious 18 year old. I can laugh at myself now, recognizing that I was even worse than the guys on Dawson’s Creek who seemed to have everything sorted, yet their lives kept going so horribly, horribly awry. And then something even more amazing happened.
Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer began. And I had a whole new world of dark and dreary and horrific and pretentiousness – and this one written infinitely better. At so many points in time, it seemed as if finally someone understood.
Life wasn’t always sunshine and daffodils and roses and happy joy joy. And it also wasn’t all darkness and depression and insanity. There was this strange symbiosis of life and death and darkness and light.
We’ve been driving across the country. We started in California, stopped in Phoenix and Carlsbad, and arrived in O Fallon, MO. It’s been an incredibly journey. We’ve had heaps to time to spend in reflection and dreaming about the future – the kind of people we want to be, the dreams we want to pursue, the community we want to create and help to thrive. And we’ve met lovely people along the way.