All posts tagged: worship

Mary of Bethany: Broken, Flagrant Faith

Every day since Lazarus walked, alive and whole, out of that tomb seemed like a new gift to unwrap. Everyone speaks of second chances, but when you really get one, the air around you is electric with possibility and hope. I learned something on that awful, wonderful day when Jesus came walking up our lane and we knew we’d have to tell him he was too late: Lazarus had succumbed to the sickness that had wasted his body. We’d washed his spare, slack limbs and rubbed the oils into his skin, wound the cloth around him and set him to rest in the family tomb. I’d fallen at Jesus’ feet, just crumpled with despair. I had so many questions but I just blurted out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus. So lost I was. What would Martha and I do now? What were we supposed to even believe? And Jesus’ tears matched my own and his shoulders shook from the sobbing and …

The Story That Kept Me From Leaving Church For Good

Even after 40 years, I still have more questions than answers when it comes to church. I have a lot of hurt, too, that’s come from the hands of church leadership. Sometimes, like some of you, like Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) I might find reasons (quite easily, in fact) to not attend church very much. But my Ethiopian friend, Werku Gole, told a story that forever has kept me in church, not stuck there, but choosing to participate, to show up and carry my rock. When the communist regime was trying to flex their muscle in Ethiopia, many terrible things happened to Christians. First, all of the foreign missionaries were forced to leave the country – and take their Bibles with them. The Ethiopian believers had truly become dependent on the missionaries for all manner of instruction. Now, they had few Bibles in their own dialects (Amharic is the official language, but there are many tribal/regional languages) and a deficiency of leadership. Second, all Ethiopian Christians were supposed to denounce their silly …

The Advent Fulfilled: The Unbelieving Priest and the Promised Prophet

Sometimes I imagine what characters of the Bible may have been feeling, taking in with their senses and experiencing behind the narrative in the scriptures. I do this to understand, to find sight where the details are few, to stretch within the miracle of scripture and find the human-divine connections. I do this to better understand. Every Christmas, I think about old Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and his unbelief and the unique discipline of silence exacted upon his by Gabriel. In my Christmas devotions today, I write from Zechariah’s voice, or thoughts, not to pretend that I know what he’s thinking, but to search for the deeper story of God’s faithfulness to us, even when we grow older and jaded and overly-familiar with God. He can make life spring up in the barren places (Isaiah 35) and give us joy and delight (Luke 1:14) where there had only been despair and sadness. God is always good on his word. And God is always good, as Zechariah learns here: Long ago, many years ago …

The Advent Fulfilled: Harried Herod and the Pilgrims We Call Magi

“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler  who will be the shepherd of my people.” {Matthew 2:6} The Magi arrived in Jerusalem and lifted a corner of the veneer carefully laid by the political schemes of Herod the Great. They had questions. The kind of questions that locals would never ask. Local Jewish leadership groups, the Sadducees and Pharisees, were too entrenched in the Herodian subterfuge, too invested in the grandness of their beautifully constructed Temple to speak up. Local Palestinian Jews were too afraid. The working poor bore the financial burden of Herod’s construction projects including the Jewish Temple, another temple to Ceasar, and an amphitheater. Herod ruled as if he were a Roman henchman. To say the average Jew in Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth was oppressed is sadly, a gross understatement.

In Which I am Lost and Found Again {rediscovering purpose}

I sat before the computer for long, silent minutes. Fingers hovered, stiff yet from the night’s sleep, but ready and waiting, waiting for a message. My mind, my heart: there lie the problems in the wordlessness of this morning. The busy, flurried constant movement of life makes me lack focus, holds my fingers still and my voice mute but my mind and heart and the person within me that seeks to be skips about in the constant movement trying to gain purchase. I am squinting in an attempt to focus but I lose it amidst the fray. I can’t even define what IT is this morning.