Thursday, December 17, 2009

Short - Listed Ethics and Paradoxes

Since wrestling with ethics is one of my passions, a blog on ethics recently attracted my attention. However I soon discovered that the blog was not written by a Christian, but by someone who conveniently used biblical terms in contemplations of right and wrongs of specific situations. I began to do some contemplating myself. Just how do you make ethical decisions without a solid unshakeable standard for making those decisions?

As a believer I can short list many layers of possibility because of clear biblical principles and explicit instructions. What a privilege to be able to confidently short list many decisions. However, real life exposes us to a wide variety of decisions that require ethical decisions that cannot be answered with a quick Scripture quip. And if we gathered a crowd of theologians from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds to discuss right and wrong on a hot topic we would likely see butting head discussion with individuals each preaching the biblical basis for their decisions. Who’s right? Now that’s the key question.

Our theological camp could adamantly defend our position based on our personal study and understanding of Scripture and still be wrong because we haven’t seriously considered another perspective based on their study or understanding. We are faced with an amazing aspect of Christianity – biblically based paradoxes rooted in God’s character and ways. Serious discussion of ethics requires us to closely examine the extremes God presents to us. Unconditional love and justice. Mercy and justice. Sermon on the Mount meekness and prophetic name calling (white-washed sepulcher!)

Paradoxes foment energetic debates between best friends, challenge the most vigorous academics to write lengthy tomes to express their understanding, and create extreme theological camps whose leaders charismatically pull adherents after them. However I would like to suggest that biblical paradoxes should serve a vital role for all Christians. Each biblical paradox expresses an important revelation of God’s character that serves to soften the hard edges of human character and behavior.

Some are tempted to hide unkind bigotry or selfish ethnocentricity behind “defending righteousness.” A hearty look at God’s kindness, long suffering, and compassion could challenge our bigotry. Others have been wooed into embracing “tolerance” as an expression of God’s love without being challenged by God’s hatred and judgment on destructive sin. Remaining in any extreme camp without regular forays into genuine dialogue with those outside of our camp leaves us in danger of missing hearing others’ glimpses of another side of God’s character and its impact on decision making.

Paradoxes implanted within the Bible should provide a moderating impact on each of us. After all God acts consistently out of his character. By observing his actions through out the Bible and history we see all facets of his character presented. Sometimes his love is most obvious, sometimes his anger is prominent, and other times his justice is the outstanding feature. However, God never has the luxury of choosing one characteristic over the other! His responses to humans must be at once consistent with all of his character. As humans we do not have the right to define God by one side of his character while ignoring other parts. Therein lies the tension when we make ethical decisions. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing which end of the biblical paradoxes we will align with. No matter how uncomfortable, we must be willing to be moderated by the other end of the paradox.

I was raised within a major theological camp. I was confident in all of my views and could appropriately defend each of them until I entered into significant dialogue with someone of another theological camp. That person’s gentle presentation of his views and life practice moderated my view and gradually moved me closer to his theological stance. In a later work situation I became a meek ambassador of my theological camp to others resting securely in their camp. I believe my presence and conversation moderated my coworkers in a healthy way that delighted God.

So, biblical paradoxes are part of reality and actually vital to healthy ethical decisions. On that basis I need to be willing to move outside of my comfort zone and quick biblical quips to genuinely engage others in meaningful conversation. And not just others in my camp, but others who have contrasting perspectives to share with me. But more than that, I desire to allow others’ perspectives to contribute to broader understanding of biblical paradoxes and to help inform my own ethical decision making. And yes, be willing to gently share with those outside my camp in a way that they can hear and appreciate my glimpses of God’s ways. Together we may just get a better handle on God’s amazing paradoxes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Party Coping Strategies

I am not really a party person. I love one to one conversation in a quiet setting. My idea of ambience does not include a large group of noisy people all trying to chat at once and talking about topics I either know nothing about or don’t care to know more about! An invitation to a party throws me into a dilemma. I know I need to be sociable and I have a sense of responsibility to others, but I really don’t want to go. Most often I say “yes” and drag myself rather reluctantly down the road and hesitantly into a room crowded with way too many people for my taste. I’m sure there are others like me, but I don’t usually find them because they also attend the parties half-heartedly and valiantly attempt to fit into the incessant noise and chatter.

Well I attended such a party recently and realized that I have developed some personal party coping strategies. In the past I have chosen to sit on the edge of the crowd and become a basic observer. But this time I plopped myself right in the middle of the fray and prayed for one or two people to sit by me with whom I could have a deeper one on one conversation. Now that sounds cozy, but let me tell you, it’s not easy to carry on an intimate conversation of a personal nature in the middle of chatter that competes with a rock band! Imagine asking someone to speak up (try shout) when she is telling you about the recent death of her husband or her strained relationship with her kids. But all in all, the tidbits I picked up and the relationships I built with those brief encounters far outweigh surface conversations with a myriad of individuals regarding weather, traffic, or Christmas ventures.

Another strategy is to arm myself with a determined focus on enjoying other peoples’ joy that bubbles up at such events. Yes, there are far more party lovers who load up their USB heart drives with heaps of fun, laughter, jokes, and conversation. Parties are for them. Watch their faces light up with each person they hug and enjoy the sight of animated discussion flooding each table. Join in the applause as names are called out and people honored (and rejoice that its not you!)

And lastly, I work on being a “you” person, focusing on others and their needs and not on my own needs. I find that if I go in with the goal of being a listener, an encourager, and an affirmer I can forget about my own need for security, quiet, or recognition. I’m on the hunt for those who need a ready ear, an empathetic response, a pat on the back, or a cheery “go for it.” And it works. I left my last party without thoughts of regret for the quiet night I missed at home with a good book, and I left with some quality relationships strengthened. I did more than “endure” the noise and chatter. I actually enjoyed others’ exuberant fun. And I think that is just what God wanted.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sabbath Monitors or Lord of the Sabbath

Anybody old enough to remember “hall monitors” in school? They were appointed to monitor student activities in the hallways of our schools. The positive thing was that they were appointed by school authorities to keep the peace and protect (who, I don’t know). But I remember some rather arrogant hall monitors who abused their power to belittle freshmen peons and others who showed favoritism to those in their clique. I can’t really recall their protection or peacemaking skills.

Well I stumbled upon some Sabbath Monitors in my Bible reading today. The Pharisees were patrolling for Sabbath offenders and came upon the shocking crime of Jesus’ disciples picking grain from a field on the Sabbath. As it was their duty to patrol for non-Sabbath behavior they stopped Jesus and his entourage to question them. “Hey what do you think you are doing on the Sabbath?”

I love how Jesus handled these Sabbath Monitors. Jesus gave clear explanations of why he and his disciples had the right to eat on the Sabbath and then challenged these Sabbath Monitors for being ignorant of what God actually desired of them – mercy! And finally, Jesus told them, “Hey I’m the appointed Sabbath Monitor.” Your Bible probably reads “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

When I read this, I was convicted. I can think of frequent occasions when I appointed myself as “Driving Monitor” and corrected my husband’s driving! In fact, I can easily get into the “monitor mode” and begin judging any one and everything. I’ve been “Dress-Code Monitor,” “Leadership Monitor,” and “Parenting Monitor.” So I’m thinking, “Who made you the hall monitor, Jane?”

I can also think of specific situations in which as appointed “hall monitor” (read “leader monitor, “teacher monitor”) to keep the peace and protect, I have misused my power to criticize or condemn. Granted, the Pharisees were appointed religious leaders entrusted with the Law, but they were known to carry out their appointment with harshness and criticism.

How could the Pharisees have responded when they thought some prominent Jews were publicly breaking the Sabbath Law? How about a friendly respectful chat? “Hey, Jesus, I see that you’re followers have been picking ears of corn on the Sabbath. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that?” Jesus had some very valid reasons for their eating decisions and had an interesting take on integrating the Sabbath Law and God’s instructions about mercy over sacrifice. I’m not sure that the Pharisees really benefited from his insight at this point. They were too busy defending the Sabbath and their right as Sabbath Monitors. I realize that I often miss hearing other people’s valid perceptions and interpretations when I quickly make condemnations as a monitor or I am in defensive mode to protect my monitor role.

As I reflect on these issues I realize that the real issue is my heart attitude. Yes, there are many times that I am appointed to responsibilities that require making judgments and evaluations. But God really wants me to carry out my monitor role with love, compassion, and generosity just as Jesus did. I can learn from his humility and gentleness. Jesus was appointed “Sabbath Monitor” or Lord of the Sabbath, and I feel loved and protected as he patrols the halls of my heart.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Life Worthy of Those I Influence

Not that Tiger Woods needs any more pressure or criticism, but I want to take a moment of reflection. There’s something I think I can learn from this rather disappointing glimpse of a darker side of Tiger’s life. And that’s where I want to start. One of my heroes has fallen. I took a bit of pride in the fact that Tiger was such an accomplished golfer and a consistently upright citizen who displayed gentlemanly self-control. I have to say I have experienced a rather dampening disappointment. Not Tiger! If Tiger has fallen then who can possibly stand?

So this brings me to the lesson I can learn. The higher I go in success and leadership the more weight of responsibility I have for my personal life and integrity! It is not just about my choices for me, but my success leads me to a level of influence that makes me responsible to many others for my choices, even in my private life. No, they may not be paying my salary. No, they won’t vote me on or off of a board. But they have entrusted me with the power to influence how they live their lives! I can lead them onto a higher standard of self-control and kindness through my lifestyle, conversations, and consistency; or I can lead them down a road of skepticism, self-centeredness, or compromise through my own private choices. I do have a choice to utilize my freedoms, no question. But at a higher level my choices have to take into consideration those I influence, those who have come to honor and respect me.

While Tiger attempted to keep his private life and choices secret, his darker side was exposed in the end. There really is no separation of private and public at any level. I write rather soberly as I consider the weight of responsibility I have in my daily choices. May I live a life worthy of my Father and a life worthy of those I influence.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Challenge of Structural Change

Frank stepped out of bed one morning into pools of water. To his amazement his house was flooded by a broken supply pipe to his toilet. He diligently vacuumed up the water and rewaxed his floor, but found days later that the brief flood had done its deep damage. His house needed major renovation! So for two months work crews swamped his house, tearing up flooring and removing cupboards, doors and even fixtures. He attempted to live out of his torn up house, moving from room to room as necessary. He even resorted to “bucket baths” as the plumbing was totally reworked. Well, several months later, thousands of dollars later, many bucket baths later, and many fast food meals later Frank invited us over for a look at the transformation. He had a “new” house! The new wood flooring throughout the house glowed! The bathroom was completely remodeled with modern fixtures and tiled floor and walls. And every closet and cupboard had glossy new louver doors. What a transformation and what a cost!

His story reminded me about the true costs of radical change and transformation. Jesus truly advocated for radical change in his listeners. Not just a change in life style, although that was clear, but a change in heart perspectives and motivations. He was calling on people to tear up old flooring and damaged fixtures. That to me is the most demanding change anyone could ask. It’s not demanding because I don’t want to change, because I really do. But its demanding first because I don’t quite know how to change those deep things like my inbred way of looking at things and the driving engines of my life that have been evolving and fine tuned over the years. Jesus’ truth shines dazzling light on my faulty perspectives and motives in such a way that I am convinced something must change. But, how? How do I change something that has taken decades (yes really) to formulate and solidify? In a house it is fairly easy – rip it up and replace it. How do you do that with faulty motives?

Secondly, changing heart perspectives and motivations is daunting because when I do change them I am shifting and moving foundations and structures supporting many of my patterns of thinking and behavior. Jesus is really asking me to dismantle part of my house while I’m living in it! And who knows what will be affected and what “treasures” have to be removed and tossed. I’m sure Frank would never have chosen to have his life turned up side down for several months, but in the end it was worth it. Jesus challenges me to invite the chaos that facilitates transformational change!

And lastly, making such deep dramatic changes is challenging because of the potential impact it can have on others, especially those close to me. They may actually be praying for change but might be alarmed at the change outcomes! On the other hand, they may have adapted to relating to me just the way I am and any changes I make will throw them into a chaos of confusion, “I thought I knew how to relate to this person. She’s not the same as before!” And they may actually rejoice in the new me that God creates as I am transformed like we rejoiced with Frank and his “new” house!

I am convinced that Jesus knew the inherent difficulties of change when he stood before the crowds and flung out his challenges. He is convinced of the end product of change and lovingly invites us to open up our house to major renovation. He promises to supervise the process and guarantees the outcome. I don’t know about you, but I’m signing up for radical renovation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Luminous Lights or Birthday Candles?

You are the light of the world – or are you? Jesus indicated we are meant to be luminous through our lives– casting brilliance for those around us to see. We’re meant to be that glowing light that guides others in their darkness. So what kind of life does that require? I’d like to suggest that our lives should exude hope no matter where we walk and no matter what hopelessness and despair we bump into. Our unceasing hope, based on our eternal ever-present and ever-active God, should shine hope into broken relationships, wounded families, impossible work situations, floundering communities, and nations devastated by ungodliness. That Lamp in us should inspire others to believe God for change, transformation, and yes, improvement. Our conversation should express hope and brightly light the way down the path of God’s answers.

Have you ever heard of darkness shutting down light? It doesn’t happen in God’s world, and yet I have experienced someone else’s depression dousing my flame of hope! A brief exchange about current news can have an extinguishing effect on me. But the question I must ask myself is how strong my light was before sitting with those in need of brilliant luminescence!

So, we are to be lights set on a hill, and our flame of hope is about as bright as a birthday candle that can be extinguished by a two year old! What can we do? May I suggest that my light of hope is brightened by spending time in the presence of our God. There I am reminded that he is eternal and nothing is “finished” in my lifetime because God is still on the throne! In his presence I am reminded of the unending extent of his power that explodes all impossibilities into possibilities and his creativity that adores creating solutions to man’s impossibilities. And in his presence I am reminded of the bright radiance of his love that seeks to enlighten the most discouraged, abandoned, or rebellious person. Yes, definitely, I need more of his light. I’m coming, Lord. I’m due for a recharge so I’ll be a bright light set on a hill just as you intended.

picture from

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Penchant for Change

I woke up one morning last week with a passion for change. I had reached saturation point with the comfortable routine of being home and working on projects. This is so typical of me. Just when I have finely tuned the rhythm of a day’s work and evening rest of Sudoku and worship, I want to race off to something new. It’s almost like I crave a certain amount of chaos in my life and chafe at sameness like a wild horse chafes at restraining fences. But I also know that by the end of a six week road trip visiting a variety of locations and engaging a multitude of individuals personally or corporately, I long for the sameness of being in my own house, setting my own time schedule, and cooking my own food. But it doesn’t take very long for that sameness to become “boredom” and I wake up again longing to dash off somewhere – any where!

My guess is that if I were to do a survey I would find that there are some others like me, but there are also many who revel in routine and chafe irritably at anything that would threaten the safety of their well established safe world. And there probably are a few who could not even tolerate a month at home with a comfortable rhythm of work and rest. And God has created all of us in his image!

Maybe the question becomes how to effectively harness the internal drive for sameness or change in the way God intends so that it accomplishes what he desires in our world. The drive for sameness can provide stability and safety, especially when it is expressed through loving attitudes and godly principles. The drive for change is vital in producing growth and molding a person, family, organization or community to closer alignment to God’s truth. I propose that without the drive for change or passion for sameness we will not be the salt God intended us to be in our world.

However, as is normal, the difference in our internal drives towards sameness or change, can produce interpersonal tension and conflict. For example my passion to dash off anywhere for a change clashes with my husband’s internal drive to create stability and safety while we are home. And my drive to make modifications in current ministry can be a downright menace to fellow workers who are devoted to creating lasting solutions. My desire for change can threaten to rock their world.

May I suggest that this ongoing tension between stability and change is part of God’s built in plan to keep us growing and effective in our world. Sin by nature creates chaos. Well established laws and well executed biblical guidelines provide the means of calming the chaotic storm and restoring families and communities to safety and security of loving relationships based on his Word. But it takes individuals driven by passion for change to head into the storm and advocate for change in the face of opposition and criticism.

We are made in God’s image to accomplish God’s purposes in His world. Whether we have a penchant for change or a passion for stability, God has a role for each of us to play. Yielded in his hand and making room for each other, we should together press on to see His Kingdom come in the places he’s put us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fear of God – Yielding in the Face of Suffering

Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death and was heard because of His godly fear.” Heb 5:7

I find it so easy to teach about the fear of God and to passionately cry out for the fear of God and so difficult to live the fear of God. Especially when it is so directly related to submission as it is in this passage.

The fear of God is not simply words that Christians blithely use to evidence their faith. Neither is it merely a reverent attitude evidenced by moderate clothing, avoiding raising one’s voice in church, or rigid church attendance and quiet times. While all these may be evidence of the fear of God, the most strenuous test of the fear of God is that of obedience in the face of suffering.

Many of us readily obey the simple commands of Scripture when we can comfortably comply without paying a heinous price and especially when obeying suits our needs and strokes our egos. Such obedience screams against the fear of God because it is based solely upon a respect for our own comforts and needs! In contrast, Jesus demonstrated reverent submission that went against any conceivable form of human comfort and evidenced submission based solely upon respect for God’s eternal purposes for mankind and God’s ways. Now that is godly fear.

So our challenge is to look this example in the face and admit our own shallowness in fearing God. But that’s not enough. We are challenged to willingly yield to adhering to God’s ways in the face of difficulty or suffering. This godly fear of God starts on our knees, but will surely bear fruit under the constraints of injustice or perplexing suffering just as it did for Jesus.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weight of Teaching – Transformational Teaching

I love learning and I love teaching. One of my teaching maxims is “learning should be fun.” However, I was caught short today as I finished off my examination of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ summary was all about the long term results if his audience listened to and applied his teaching. In his characteristic style he used a vivid word picture to illustrate. While I had a fresh appreciation for his stunning word picture, what caught me short was the weight he attributed to his words and their application! Those applying his words would be wise and stand firm in the wildest of storms. Those ignoring his words would be foolish and in danger of great collapse.

Do I hear the impending raging winds and battering rain while I am teaching? Am I aware of the weight of responsibility that rests on me as a teacher of God’s Word as I deliver his life-saving instructions? And do I communicate so faithfully that the listeners know and understand that they have now received teaching that has the potential of bulwarking their lives and families against the storms that are surely coming?

As a teacher, its not just about preparing teaching that is fun or unique, but about preparing responsibly so that listeners hear the teaching, go away talking about it, are challenged to respond in some way to the teaching, and begin to make some changes in the way they are building their life-house for the future. Now that is transformational teaching!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Does God Know about the “Peter Principle”?

Doesn’t God know about the “Peter principle?” He promotes someone and they just don’t handle it all that well. What went wrong? Were they promoted beyond their level of competence, and was God ultimately responsible for their failure because he put his hand on the wrong guy?

I don’t think so. Here’s my take. I think God selects someone to give a responsibility to and makes available to that person all he needs to carry that responsibility! That sounds like God. The catch is…will the newly appointed leader recognize his greater need and take appropriate action to access greater resources?

What would that look like? First of all, greater responsibility would require greater prayer cover! Just as a promoted political leader gets a body guard, so we better get prayer guards in place as we tread into more risky spheres of influence. Secondly, greater need requires more intentional spiritual disciplines including time spent alone with the Father, time of worship and prayer, and serious Bible study focused on new responsibilities.

Thirdly, greater responsibility demands an even greater level of humility! This leader needs to be more teachable, not less! He needs to be correctable by God and by coworkers, leaders, and followers. After all bigger leaders have the potential of making bigger mistakes! They need people to help keep them on track and God provides that ready help through others’ correction and even criticism! Fourthly, new responsibilities thrust him into higher faith challenges. His comfortable level of faith is too small and he has to stretch his confidence in God’s enabling, provision, and work in new ways.

So, if God has put his hand on you and entrusted you with new responsibilities, recognize your greater need and intentionally act to access the rich resources God has put at your disposal. God does know about the “Peter principle” but he’s not worried about it. He knowingly chooses weak vessels because he has all they need to be great!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Living on the Edge of Chaos

Randy and I have been “wandering” with our suitcases and backpacks since 13 October. We have “camped” out in Senegal and Mali, several homes in the States, a home and a room in South Africa, and two rooms in Zambia. The only stability is my husband and my coffee plunger! While wandering, rather intentionally, I have attempted at least to maintain a routine of having a morning cup of coffee with my Bible and prayer.

In a blog I’ve been following, called Cross-Cultural Moments (, Elizabeth Abbot wrote, “Living on the edge of chaos is a ‘paradoxical state of unresolvable contradictory forces’ and the tension between these forces ‘elicits creativity and innovation.’” Well, I’ve been living on the edge of chaos for quite some months and have found myself scrambling to establish some form of normalcy so I can think rationally!

However, Elizabeth’s thoughts give me pause. God certainly allowed our present state of affairs, if not actually launching this nomadic journey. So He must have something in mind other than just teaching me how to bring some order into our lives. I wonder what creativity and innovation God would like to produce in the midst of this rather disordered life style? And if I haven’t seen it yet, I can expect some marvelous outcomes in and through our lives.

So, here I am. I’m looking for the precious surprises God has in mind. I want to see him take what has been an emotional drain and transform it into his creative purposes for his glory. Yes, I still want my morning cup of coffee and prayer – but I welcome whatever else he has around the corner.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Symphony of Bird Songs

One of the things I have so enjoyed about staying in the home where we are house sitting is hearing the symphony of birds in the early hours of morning before the first light actually drifts through the curtains. These birds are just so cheerful! What a lovely wake up sound! It reminds me of a song we learned years ago on outreach in El Salvador: In the morning the birds are singing the praises of Jesus Christ our living Lord, and you my friend, why are you not singing the praises of Jesus Christ our Savior?

So, these pleasant bird songs remind me to be just as cheerful for those that awake to my sounds! I wonder? Am I filled with praises every morning? Surely I have more to sing about than them! I have a wonderful husband who loves me and carefully attends to the details of our present nomadic life. I have a wealth of friends who write encouraging notes to accompany us on our path of service in Africa. I have a wonderful son who honors and respects us as parents and a delightful daughter-in-law and granddaughter who have brought special joy to us. I work with leaders who have not only been friends, but have been consistent in showing appreciation and care as we slog away with some rather difficult issues. We work alongside some amazing missionaries who continue to sacrifice their careers and comforts on a daily basis to ensure that people hear and see the Good News. And most of all, God continues to ensure that his mercies are new every morning and consistently demonstrates that in such sweet personal ways that still surprise and delight me!

So, yes, I have more reason to sing each morning than the birds do, and I pray that I may as consistently delight others as they waken to the first glimpses of morning light and rouse themselves to face another day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Substitute for an Expert

I’m finally online! I bought this sweet little computer several weeks ago – works like a charm and slides into my purse nicely for travel. Only problem was that it could not connect to the internet using our USB modem. We have transported this little beauty back and forth across town to our internet service provider for the last week. Three charming computer techs had a go at it in various turns. We swapped for an upgraded SIM card (for a price). And finally were advised to downgrade my up-to-the-minute computer to Service Pack 2 that would be more compatible with the USB modem! With this dubious advice, we sped our way to a nearby computer store that had previously helped us exterminate a worm from our computer. After explaining our problem we reluctantly handed over our new baby to the computer tech complete with passwords and their promise to return it to us by the next day.

Within one hour we had a call back that we could come to pick up our computer! It’s true! He had made several minor changes in internet settings that allowed my new computer to connect to the internet like it was created to do. My computer savvy husband was embarrassed that he had missed it. Three friendly smart computer techs had also failed to spot the problem! As we drove home I was reminded of two things. First, how important it is to go to the right person with the right knowledge and expertise. A friendly smile, a good listening ear, or even a title or position are not necessarily the qualifications that make someone an “expert,” but they sure do help ease the pain of the irritation.

Secondly, no problem is unsolvable if the right person is involved! My computer problem loomed as an impossible situation, at least a frustratingly hopeless situation; and we seriously considered compromising for the sake of finding a solution. Yet, just around the corner was an expert waiting to be invited to apply his knowledge.

I was reminded of a Scripture I had been meditating on for the last week, “He [God] will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure” (Isa 33:6 NIV). So many times in ministry I have reached the boiling point of frustration and sense of hopelessness. But this Scripture reminds me that for sure God is the expert in every area within my imagination and is just around the corner waiting for me to come for his help. And he does it with a smile and a listening ear and experienced expertise!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Keeping on Track and out of the Ruts

OK we’re three weeks into the new year. Time to take inventory of those lovely New Year’s resolutions I decisively jotted in my journal. How am I doing so far? Now where were those things I wrote out? In fact, what were they again? Vaguely it’s coming back…

Maybe you’re like me. New Year’s resolutions are great to help identify changes I want to make in my life. Commendably, I’ve suspended frantic activities long enough to recognize the need to change and paused long enough to want to do something about it. But if my insight and desire surface only on that one day at the beginning of the new year I’ll sadly join the ranks of petrified characters who dutifully mount their soap boxes again at the end of 2009 with regret and recycled resolutions.

So here I am in danger of getting off track with my well intentioned and Spirit-prompted changes! I’m pouring into my work with fresh vigor and passion. The pressing emails, phone calls, reports, planning, and errands are taking over my waking hours. Oh, did I tell you about my increasing interest in the finer points of writing? Oh, yes, did I tell you about joining Facebook that consumes valuable minutes during my coffee breaks?

Enough. What can I do to sharpen the focus and possibility of the success of my proposed changes for 2009? First of all, find them. Get them out and put them some place where they’ll stare me in the face each day. For me that’s my Power Point prayer list. For others it’s their refrigerator or desktop.

Secondly, make them a matter of prayer. How obviously simple and yet so easily forgotten. Prayer provides a daily reminder and is the given means of involving God in the process of my change. Through prayer I invite his grace, strength and Spirit’s promptings as I begin the daunting task of disrupting well established routines and habits that have made up my previous behaviors and responses.

And thirdly, involve someone else in accountability, someone who is willing to risk challenging me to keep on the progress track and willing to call me out when I run straight back into hobbling in the old ruts of habits that I vehemently deplored last December. For me that’s my husband. I give him the right to challenge, badger, question, and encourage me to keep on track and to stand beside me on 31 December with a banner of victory and a fresh list of resolutions for the next year. How about you?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

They’ll Know You Are My Disciples

How refreshing, challenging, and disturbing. MukomaWa Ngugi wrote his appraisal of lessons learned and not learned from the Kenya election fiasco of 2008 in the Jan-Mar 09 edition of BBC Focus on Africa.

Refreshing because Ngugi profiles the National Council of Churches of Kenya as responding in an honorable role during this hiatus of Kenya politics. Not because the churches remained exempt from participation in the violence, but rather because they publicly acknowledged their partisan response to the post election violence and apologized for not taking a united stand for justice. Such a humble public admission of wrong stands out as a stark example in a time when many governments and leaders flounder to make reasonable and honorable excuses for their own failures that have crippled nations and cost great loss of lives.

Challenging because Ngugi showcases the church’s apology on the international field, setting a standard for the Church worldwide to be as courageous in admitting their failures to be the source of solving problems rather than being embroiled in the problems along with the public. Challenging because the watching world knows how the Church should respond! Challenging because they know the Church should be different.

Disturbing because Ngugi has highlighted the Council of Church’s acknowledgement and apology in such a way that leaves us as believers with a serious reminder to follow their example in our very basic everyday existence. While it feels quite safe for us to honestly confess our sins privately to God, it is another thing to transparently acknowledge those same sins and failures in the presence of our most beloved critics, our family members and peers. In an era of political mud slinging and dodging expertise, the National Council of Churches of Kenya has clearly modeled the radical humility that God calls for in those of us who would call ourselves Christians.

So refreshing, challenging, and disturbing. The eyes of the world have observed and recognized a higher standard. And they shall know you are my disciples by your…humility and confession of wrong. Now that is disturbing.