Monthly Archives: January 2014

We’re Only Human After All

Ever used the excuse “I’m only human after all?” Or been on the receiving end of such a claim? It captures the fallible nature of human beings. Our ability to do wrong, to choose wrongly, to be wrong. And it’s real. No doubt about it.

But it also suggests that we cannot do anything about it. Hurting others. Failing to take responsibility. Certainly we make mistakes. Sometimes we are ignorant or blind to truth. Sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we are lazy. Sometimes we go against our better nature and choose the worse.M. Scott Peck captures this thought perfectly in reflecting on the claim of bad behavior being “natural:”

“Calling it natural does not mean it is essential or beneficial or unchangeable behavior. It is also natural to defecate in our pants and never brush our teeth. Yet we teach ourselves to do the unnatural until the unnatural itself becomes second nature. Indeed, all self-discipline might be defined as teaching ourselves to do the unnatural.”

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (Touchstone, 1998)

Human beings are made by God to reflect that better nature. To do what seems unnatural but is really at the heart of our human nature as intended by our Creator.

David writes about the wonder of being human in Psalm 8 —

     [W]hat are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings
that you pay attention to them?
You’ve made them only slightly less than divine,
crowning them with glory and grandeur. (Psalm 8:4-5 CEB)

We have been made for something glorious, something awe-inspiring, something grand. We are not “only” human – we are gloriously, marvelously, grandly human. What we fail to do is claim the heritage of our birth and the possibility of reclaiming it by the power and the grace of God.

Today I hope you will be only human… what more could we be?

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Half a Spirit

Working my way through Watson’s and Abraham’s Key United Methodist Beliefs in preaching this month and next. I made it to chapter three over the weekend – the Holy Spirit. By far the most challenging of the chapters so far. I tend to pay little attention to the work and person of the Holy Spirit in my faith and life. And therefore probably in my ministry as well. I tend to conflate the Spirit with the Father and the Son in ways that limit my growth in spiritual things. My service too.

What struck me while reading was that I want half of the Holy Spirit. I want the Holy Spirit who is with us always (John 14:16). I lean on the Spirit’s comfort and healing. When I have doubts, I want the Spirit’s answers. When I am confused I seek the Spirit’s direction. When I am lonely I long for the Spirit’s abiding presence.

What I do not want is for the Spirit to teach me truth — “The Companion,  the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.” (John 14:26 CEB). I ignore the Spirit revealed in the book of Acts who provides power and direction for the mission of making disciples of all the world. The Spirit that breaks down barriers between human and human and human and God. The Spirit who pushes forward into mission and service that is anything but comforting or comfortable.

I wonder if I – if we – do not experience the fullness of the Spirit because of this very thing. We want to be comforted… we want our needs met… we want to know the answers to the questions we have asked. But the Spirit’s work is a whole, a package, of things that include what I want inextricably linked with what I don’t.

It’s past time in my journey of discipleship to grow into a deeper understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit. All of the Spirit.

 

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The Secret Lies with Charlotte…

I heard her before I saw her.  Actually I had seen her standing in the middle of the restaurant but didn’t know it was the same woman. I could hear her speaking to people behind me and her voice was moving closer. When she was directly behind me I heard her ‘Can you give me a ride back to my house? I live two blocks away and my knees hurt too bad to walk that far.”

Oh no. Please, please let the person behind me say “yes.” Or someone from the restaurant stop her before she came to me. My introvert inner-self was screaming on the inside. My outer self was trying to keep reading on my Kindle and finish my lunch. But I was failing because I couldn’t ignore her now that she was so close to me.

Then she was standing next to me. And she asked me the same question. I swiveled to look at her and it was the woman I had seen a few minutes ago telling the restaurant worker that she couldn’t get into the restroom. It would be difficult to relate the flurry of thoughts and emotions that went through my mind. What came out of my mouth was “Ok, Sit down for a minute until I finish.”

The restaurant worker came about that moment and told her to stop bothering me and the other customer. Too late to rescue me. The woman replied that I had said I would give her a ride. I nodded my assent and told her to sit down.

Why did I say “yes?” I really don’t know… honestly I didn’t want to say it. I had hoped she would pass by or go away. But she didn’t.  So out to the car we went together and I asked her how to get to her home. She gave me directions and we started on our way.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Charlotte” “I’m Randy.”

As we drove down the street, we passed a plain-looking building and she said that was where she walked to get her medicine. And it was much farther than two blocks. I would guess an hour or more walk based on her painful knees and gait.

When we made it to her house, I pulled up in front of what I assume was a group home of some sort. She told me then about reading her Bible every day and praying all night for her knees to be better enough. When she woke that morning she got up, got out, and walked the hour or more to get her medicine and then the additional half-hour or more to the restaurant where I met her.

“I don’t have any money to pay you” she said as we sat in the driveway. “That’s ok – God has given me plenty and gave me a chance to give you a ride today” I said before she could say more.

“Can I give you a kiss?” she said.   Like that moment in the restaurant I had an incredibly long internal struggle inside that was still in full force when my mouth said almost without my willing it “Sure.”

She leaned over the console and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She waved as she got out and made her way slowly up the walk to the house.

I don’t know even now a few days later what to think about all this. It raises so many questions and issues in my mind. And I almost acted against my will — certainly against my introverted nature. I am uncomfortable even telling the story.

All that keeps going through my mind are the words of the king in Matthew 25 – ” I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40 CEB)

Maybe her name was really Jesus….

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New Years 2014… A Voice from 1945

One of my heroes and someone to whom I still return for inspiration is the theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In January 1945 he was in a Gestapo prison in Berlin. The city was being bombed by Allied bombers. Unbeknownst to him, the New Year also would be the year of his martyrdom.

His words are worth pondering as 2014 dawns today:

New Year 1945

With every power for good to stay and guide me,
comforted and inspired beyond all fear,
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me,
and pass, with you, into the coming year.

While all the powers of Good aid and attend us,
boldly we’ll face the future, be it what may.
At even, and at morn, God will befriend us,
and oh, most surely on each new year’s day

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening:
the long days of our sorrow still endure.
Father, grant to the soul thou hast been chastening
that Thou hast promised—the healing and the cure.

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving
even to the dregs of pain, at thy command,
we will not falter, thankfully receiving
all that is given by thy loving hand.

But, should it be thy will once more to release us
to life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine,
that we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us
and all our life be dedicate as thine.

To-day, let candles shed their radiant greeting:
lo, on our darkness are they not thy light,
leading us haply to our longed-for meeting?
Thou canst illumine e’en our darkest night.

When now the silence deepens for our harkening,
grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise
from all the unseen world around us darkening
their universal paean, in thy praise.

While all the powers of Good aid and attend us,
boldy we’ll face the future, be it what way.
At even, and at morn, God will befriend us,
And oh, most surely on each new year’s day!

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