6. Be Stubborn

28 03 2017

Chapter 5: The Museum’s Other Section: Rectangle B

“Affliction” by Edith Schaeffer, 1978.

(Part 6 of 13 posts)

Usually writing comes easy for me. When I feel compelled to write about something, the words are there. This chapter, however, stumped me. I started to write and stopped writing more than six times with long gaps in between. The words weren’t there. Last night I told my daughter Alecia (who is reading this book also) that I just couldn’t seem to tackle chapter 5 and I didn’t know why. This morning I opened my Bible to Luke 18:1 and smiled at the gift God gave me in the very first verse: “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up…” This, dear friends, is the theme of today’s blog.

Jesus is with His disciples with a very specific lesson He wants them to learn, something that would be vitally important for the future. Crucial. We already know the point of the parable before He tells it, that’s how clear He wants to be. There is no wondering when it comes to this story: the lesson is DON’T GIVE UP PRAYING. Wondering: if I have prayed about something for quite a long time, and I don’t see a change in circumstances, should I give up? Luke 18:1, totally clear, DON’T GIVE UP PRAYING.

Jesus tells a story, because stories stick.

The story is about a woman, a widow, with a legal problem. I think it is important to pause here, because in that day a woman was seen as weak and inconsequential. A widow without family? Invisible.  Both of these things did not put this individual in a place of power or influence. She was a person who could be easily swept aside. A woman. A widow. She had a small voice. She was alone. She was without advocates. If she had family, her son or son-in-law would have been the one at court. but no one was there supporting to help her in her time of need.

The widow had a conflict with someone who was actively going against her. Can you imagine how helpless she must have felt? I am not sure I can even identify with how terrified she may have been. I wonder how much anxiety she was experiencing. I wonder how many people had said no to her when she tried to find help? She was in trouble and she knew it.

She had two choices:

  1. She could let her adversary have his way and accept the consequences
  2. She could make a scene.

I have an easy time picturing this woman, because I think my mom was that kind of gal. She was normally a very quiet person, but if she was in a corner of some kind and knew it wasn’t right — she could get very stubborn for justice. Mostly, she got very stubborn with prayer.

I love the widow’s line in the NIV “Grant me justice against my adversary!” What a battle cry! I will write that on my wall as a reminder of a great line to pray, especially since our actual adversary is not another human being, it’s the Enemy, Satan. It’s so clear and so strong!!

The judge can hear her in the background and mostly ignores her, but she is tenacious! She just won’t go away. She stubbornly won’t let the issue die. She means it! “Grant me justice against my adversary!”

At first the judge waves her off but she is there Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Sabbath. She is outside his house on Sunday and back at the office Monday again with the same demand: “Grant me justice against my adversary!” She keeps the issue alive!

The judge’s secretary is getting stressed out by now, “That lady is here again.”

The judge growls, “Do you think I don’t have ears?”

The secretary is like, “How long can she keep doing this?”

It is a sobering question. The judge quietly considers the potential of this woman never, ever, ever going away. She will be there in the morning when he arrives, and she will be there when he goes home. She will show up at his dinner parties. She will be on the corner when he goes for a walk. She is going to shadow him and she is not going to shut up, EVER.

He shudders. What are his options? He couldn’t care less about her or her problem, but he does care about himself and his problems. His quality of life matters to him and so he does what it takes, and gives her what she wants and not because it is the right thing to do! He just wants some peace and quiet.

She wins. One way or the other, she wins.

Jesus acknowledges the man was not a good judge. He even says he was unjust — which he was because he wouldn’t look into her case. The law and what was right did not really matter to him at all. Even so, in the end this guy inadvertently doles out actual justice and the woman gets what she was after.

Now, stop everything and think.

If that shabby judge did something decent, how much more will a fully loving, fully engaged, completely concerned, deeply caring, totally good, present and active and righteous and holy God do for us? Read Scripture. We do not have the kind of God you have to plead with, cajole, trick or appease. He is already FOR us!

Jesus says,

“Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice and quickly…” (Luke 18:6-8)

There is more to that verse but I will stop there for now.

We can get hung up on how prayer works and even come to the place where we think there is no use in praying (“If God is all knowing…what’s the point?”). Schaeffer writes that this is “a turning away from what God has commanded — just because we lack an infinite understanding. We are meant to obey His commands and admonitions to ‘ask’ as much as we obey His other commands” (103).

Jesus invites our prayers, He doesn’t say “Make your best presentation and then leave it with me.” He knows we have so much inside of us, bursting in fact!  We have a desire to COMMUNICATE and He has a desire to COMMUNICATE, so much so that “communication with God was important enough for Jesus to die to make it possible” (103).

When the Bible says you don’t have because you don’t ask it is

“meant to prod us into moment by moment communication in the areas of spiritual and intellectual needs, psychological and emotional needs, physical needs, the need for help in our work of creativity, the need for guidance, the need for planting and tending a crop and harvesting it — in our local gardens and farms, as well as in the realm of teaching or answering questions in the ‘gardens which consist of people’. We are meant to be asking for strength to go on, not just once in a while but throughout all our days.” (104)

Do all of our prayers get answered quickly? Luke 18 uses that word. It depends what you think an answer ought to look like? I know what I think it ought to look like: R-E-L-I-E-F.

I would prefer to not suffer. I don’t mind doing hard if I don’t have to do hard for too long. I like rounding that corner in short order, resolution within the week, relief fast. But if you look me in the eye and tell me I my prayers will not change anything noticeably and I am going to be dealing with some really hard thing for a year, the colour will drain from my face. If you tell me I will keep praying but I will still be in a fairly painful place for five years, I will have to sit down. If you tell me that I might not even see relief and resolution in my lifetime, I will tilt. Tilt, by the way, has a great definition in the (questionable resource called) The Urban Dictionary:

Tilt: Usually a term in video games (though it can really be used in any activity or hobby), tilt is an emotional state when doing the exact same thing activity over and over produces negative results. It’s an emotional breakdown and frustration of your hard work not resulting in the success that you crave so desperately. When you or someone is in a tilt state of mind, the best thing to do is take a break from that activity and try not to think about it as much.

I have taken breaks like that. I have sat around stunned, not saying or hearing anything because that’s what you do when you are tilting. Usually there is anger that comes along, and judgement and fear. How could God allow this? And in that place, the activity of prayer when it is not resulting “in the success I crave so desperately” becomes harder and harder to engage in.

What is going on with all those prayers we pray when we are waiting for God to save the day? What happens when we don’t see any visible change to our circumstances? Is anybody out there?

Edith writes,

“There is no promise that all our requests are to be answered by a change in the circumstances, because the Bible so very fairly gives us a balanced understanding that the faith which asks and receives the answer of ‘sufficient grace’ to go on without a change is no greater than the faith which asks and receives an answer whereby mountains are removed and cast into the sea. There are to be answers to prayer which demonstrate that a child of the Living God…has real access to God the Father and to His power to do all things.” (92)

Isn’t this the hardest lesson to learn (or is it just me that feels that way)? Am I OK with that “sufficient grace” while God does His work in the background? What if none of it makes sense to me?

I liked these lines from “The Shack” by William P. Young. He says it so well. This is the character who represents God in the book:

“…you really don’t understand yet. You try to make sense of the world in which you live based on a very small and incomplete version of reality. It is like looking at a parade through the tiny knothole of hurt, pain, self-centeredness, and power, and believing you are on your own and insignificant. All of those are powerful lies… [you see] God as the ultimate betrayer, or perhaps at least fundamentally untrustworthy. You dictate the terms and judge My actions and find Me guilty. The real underlying flaw is that you don’t think I am good. If you knew I was good, and that everything-the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives-is all covered by My goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust Me. But you don’t.” (“The Shack” by William P. Young)

How true that is.

From some vantage points, God’s Great Plan looks and sounds amazing. But when God’s Great Plan is viewed from a place of personal suffering it is harder to be excited about; pain is painful, after all. Rejoicing in the Lord ALWAYS (Philippians 4:4) can feel like work.

I am thinking right now of John the Baptist, when he was in prison and sent word to Jesus, “Are you the one or should we wait for another?” What a lot of weariness and discouragement is in that question. I am sure he never imagined that being involved with Jesus would involve incarceration and ultimately death. John was doing so well, and the next thing you know, he was in prison. I am sure John had a hard time believing this was a part of God’s Great Plan. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to come and SAVE people? John’s birth was a miracle, he had an incredible calling on his life, he was a powerful voice in a world-changing movement…but then he ended up in isolation in a smelly, dark jail.

I wonder, did it help John to know he was in the middle of a larger thing? I have been asking myself this too. When I am suffering, does it help to know that suffering is not in vain and, in hands of God it will actually serve a purpose? Does it help me to know that even if my prayers aren’t providing immediate relief to me in the way I want them to, God is giving me what I need to continue on while he answers those prayers keeping His entire good plan in mind?

It’s all a lot to consider, how John or any of us fit into the larger plan of things. In prison, I am sure John couldn’t wrap his mind around how all of this would look in the bigger historical scheme and when it all came down to it, all things would work together for good (as the Bible says in Romans 8:28). Good doesn’t always feel good.

Jesus’ response is so very thought provoking: “Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me.” This is not a scholarly and studied commentary on that line, but when I hear that line I hear something that Jesus might say to me today.

“In your suffering, in your confusion, in your questions…don’t give up on me. I know you don’t understand all of this, will you trust me to know more than you, see more than you, do more than you could ask or imagine?”

The fact is, dear Christian, we can’t pretend we didn’t know suffering was coming. The Bible hides nothing. The Bible is explicit in telling the stories of those who have suffered — just look at Jeremiah for example –– and in pointing to the absolute fact that we WILL suffer along with the suffering, broken world. Jeremiah described his suffering so explicitly in Lamentations 3:1-20 with every bit of pain and confusion and complaint one could have. And then…he stares the reader straight in the eyes and says this to everyone who would come after him:

21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (KJV)

Those are pretty amazing “last words.”

We have never been promised a pain free life. But no matter the road, Schaeffer reminds us that God has promised we will be given what we need to travel it. Is it enough for us for now to hear God say “Is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:26-27) and to keep walking with Him, and talking to him, not knowing exactly where it will all go?

What if we would step back from our “knothole of hurt and pain” and trust that where we are is OK because God is with us, and helping us minute by minute so that….so that we can persist in prayer and NOT GIVE UP. Schaeffer writes,

“We each need to be given the help of the Lord to recognize the sufficient grace and to not complain against him or compare our lot with others. We also need to turn away from that peculiar form of bitterness and unbelief which is mingled with the “Whats the use of praying?” kind of attitude. We will be tempted by Satan in his particular type of accusation which can take two forms…

  1. Attempt to cause us to complain against God or curse him and turn away from him because of our deluge of affliction
  2. Tempt us to take an academic view of prayer, excusing ourselves, by hiding behind God’s sovereignty, from ever asking anything in the wide areas God has specifically told us to ask — with faith as a grain of mustard seed and expecting changes in history as titanic as the removal of mountains. Both attacks are against the victory of Christ’s sacrificial death — attempts by Satan to spoil, mar, devastate and vandalize the perfection of Christ’s victory. And marvel of all marvels — without understanding it could be — we matter it in the battle..” (109)

Back to the widow. We, like her, are small and vulnerable in this world. But we have not been forsaken or forgotten. We matter to our heavenly Father. He tells us that we are part of a plot is so much deeper and wider and greater than we ever imagined and by “great” I mean large. Our immediate circumstances are significant in the history of our universe and in God’s plan of redemption and

“…a part of what He paid for was a moment-by-moment access for us to the Infinite God. Each of us has been given another portion in the fabric of history which our individual thread is meant to weave…” (101)

Jesus said we could and should ask for “anything” for this very reason and Schaeffer responds,

“I do believe that there will be a literal fulfillment of the ‘anything’ in the total collection of all the answered prayers in all space and time. It will be demonstrated that, in the total collection of incidents throughout all the aeons of history’s centuries in all of our lives (we who are the people of God and who have looked to Him, feeble and imperfectly, but with a measure of faith and trust and love) Satan will be defeated by some life at every place where his devices have been attempted….” (93)

The story I wrote about at the beginning of this blog applies to us. We cannot give up on prayer ever and “He asks us to remember that He is God and to act on that fact practically, not just in theological discussion” (109). When we are suffering, we need to be more stubborn than ever. Something is going on in the world, and our Father invites us into an even more intimate conversation with Himself during these times because we know

“…we affect history in the geographic spot where we are meant to be in God’s plan, and to have victory in the heavenly battle as we trust God in the midst of affliction and persecution right up to martyrdom, but we are to be having results two feet away from us in prayer — and also two thousand miles away…In what realm can one expect answers to prayer? In all realms.” (102)

And, as we walk and live out our faith — which holds us up in a way it hasn’t been challenged to in calmer times — we get even more persistent before God and…before others too. Psalm 78:4-5 says

We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.  For he established a testimony in Jacob…”

I would change that last line to say, “For he established a testimony in ___(insert your name here___” because that is exactly what He wants to do in your story and mine.

Again, read the Bible with eyes to see and ears to hear. In all these stories there are guideposts and mentors!  I love this verse about Abraham in Romans 4:20-21 (KJV)

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God…”

I love the language here, the more I read it, the more I want to be like Abraham!

“Put out your hand and grab hold. We aren’t going to drown! Instance by instance there is eternal purpose, and whatever is going on counts and matters in a perspective beyond ours…” (110)

There is so much more I could write about this chapter, but it is an overview and I can’t really do it justice. So I will end with where I started in Luke 18 and finish verse 8:

“God’s people cry out to him day and night. Won’t he make things right for them?…I tell you, God will see that things are made right for them…But when the Son of Man comes will he find people on earth who have faith?” 

There is the call friends, will Jesus find people here who have faith? The point of persistence with a GOOD GOD is not to convince Him but to keep us convinced in His power. We persist and keep battling against the attrition of the enemy and the temptation to believe we are all we have. We keep persisting because we are part of a collective of prayer on this planet. We keep persisting because we have no idea the broader effect of those prayers but one day will.

So…will Jesus find people on earth who have faith?

Let it be you and I.

Be as stubborn as you can.

— Teresa Klassen





Pseudo-Friends

3 04 2012

I was reading Luke 23 today, and while this is certainly not central to the story by any means, verse 12 caught my eye:

And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

I know. It is a strange little verse, but it got me thinking.

Friendship is a pretty happy word. When I say someone is my friend, there are some givens: there is a story of how we met, it is assumed we like each other, and (among other things) we must have something in common. People will often define friendship as one of the things that makes their life rich and fulfilling and I have certainly found that it is; I love my assortment of friends; each one brings something different into my life (and hopefully I contribute to theirs as well). When I look at who I would call friends, it is kind of a hodge-podge of people and I like it that way.

So here we have Herod and Pilate. What brought them together? Here is the story: A corrupt crowd brings forward an innocent man (Jesus) before Pilate; they proceed to badger him and then Herod (whom Pilate refers the case to) into pronouncing a death sentence upon Him. It’s complicated. In any case, it is this dispute that brings the two together. The clincher, the thing that seems to have cemented their friendship was something Herod did. Maybe he was bored, but after trying to squeeze information out of Jesus, he proceeds to try to humiliate Him by dressing Him up foolishly and sending him back to Pilate. Pilate is amused. Perhaps it made him laugh.  It seems this is all it took to spark a friendship between Herod and Pilate.

The whole thing is pretty warped and that is what made me think. Sometimes friendships have “bad” starts, not good starts. Sometimes people rally around things that are evil, and that is what they have in common. Friendships start over another friendship breaking up; people can like one another simply because they both don’t like someone else. Sometimes people find unity around unrighteous causes or destructive habits and because “misery loves company” they become pseudo-friends.

Pilate and Herod became “friends” one day finding each other with their own broken moral compasses. They had some values in common: Power trumped compassion; personal gratification trumped responsibility;  crowed approval trumped conscience; it was a match made in…well, you know. I wonder, what if Pilate had spent more time with his wife who was warning him to not have anything to do with the case against Jesus, rather than Herod who made light of it all? Who was the better friend in this case?

Friendship is tricky. Everyone wants a certain amount of company, yet bad company corrupts whatever good character one might possess. So is it worth it to take whatever we can get? We want friends, so we call people who are hanging out with or hanging on to us “friends” when they are probably anything but that. People who aren’t looking out for us, who aren’t challenging us appropriately, who aren’t loyal, kind, honest, faithful aren’t really friends are they?

“Friend” is a bit of a loose word, I guess; a dog has been called “man’s best friend” which doesn’t say a  whole lot about man, or friendship for that matter.

— Teresa Klassen





Image Deficit

18 08 2010

I was listening to the news last night; updated reports on the flood in Pakistan and an interview with an artist who is writing a song to draw attention to the disaster there.  The commentator said that Pakistan has not received equal media attention, nor an outpouring of aid like, say, Haiti, did. An article I read also refers to this issue and calls it an “image deficit.” Denoja Kankesan writes,

“We often note an image deficit with regards to Pakistan among Western public opinion,” said Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman at the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The idea of having an image deficit interested me.

In the big world, and in our small ones, image makes some people insiders and makes others outsiders. Image rewards one and oppresses another, gives to one and takes from another. Even though “image” is incredibly subjective, we give it the power to define acceptable and unacceptable, in and out, and (this should make us shudder) lovable and unlovable.

In our small worlds, one child loves school because they are popular, another one hates it because they can’t make a single friend. Is the contest so different on the larger scale? Are our governing bodies more inclusive than the kids in the schoolyard? Image, apparently, means that one person receives aid, and another will languish without it.

Right now British Columbia is dealing with a boat-load of Tamil migrants from Sri Lanka; we have not put out the welcome mat, let’s just say; we are suspicious of them. We think terrorists are hiding in the mix; maybe the whole lot of them are bad. And what will we do with them? You’d think we were tight on space here in BC. That’s laughable. It must be hard to be Tamil. You might be a father with a wife and a child who just wants a job, but first you have a mountain to climb because you have a serious image deficit.What if our first reaction was empathy and our second was discernment? What if we asked how these people might bless our province instead of assuming they will curse it?

What is commanding my heart in all of this is that the Person I am modeling my life after vehemently protested anything that hinted of image deficit. He made a point of dining with people who had massive image deficits; He looked for them; He loved spending time with them and chatting it up with them. There was no touchable and not-touchable to Him. There was no desirable and not-desirable to Him There was no lovable and not- lovable to Him.

Jesus spent his life bringing good news to the poor. He proclaimed freedom for prisoners. His message was about recovering our sight, and He did so, literally for those who were physically blind, and He did so internally for those of us who were blind inside. Jesus was about releasing people from the oppression of image deficit and to declare God’s favor for everyone; everyone! (see Luke 4:14-28)

The thing that should be outstanding about me is this kind of acceptance. God never placed the burden to judge others upon me.  He never asked me to fix everyone’s behavior. What He asked is that I would share the news about the freedom He offers, with love and respect for all. He asked me to hold up His Image to remind us who we were fashioned after.

That isn’t to say He never called me to discern right from wrong when it comes to my own life; He did.  I am to conduct my life in a way that honors God’s boundaries, set in place for me with the desire to protect me and guide me along a right path. In relationship, in community, we are also to try to rescue each other from our destructive tendencies,  in a way that is bathed in love; absolutely drenched in God’s Spirit which desires that none would be lost.

Can we love like that? God, can I? Can you remove that pin that keeps jamming my ability to just see people as You do, without any image deficit? Your Word calls me to, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy…” (Psalm 82:3-4).

When we gather as Christ-followers, can this “church” be free from image deficit? Can we eliminate the “cool and the uncool” from our gathering. No one was created with a deficit; all are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) so the church should be a place where, more than any other, opposites attract. The church should be a mixed marriage where people, somewhat incredulously, ask, “How did you meet?”

— Teresa Klassen





Consider: The Outcome

13 08 2010

Part 10 of “Consider This”

Guilty pleasure: in summer I run out to Value Village (love Value Village) and buy old, used magazines to read; we’re talking “People,” “Vogue,” “O,” “Us;” anything that doesn’t require something like a brain to get through. Then, floating on the lake on an air-mattress or lounging around at the beach, I read all about what sources are saying about what other sources are saying about celebrities; fascinating! Plus I get to see what they are wearing and who wore it best because I will never actually own any of these clothes; important!

What’s interesting about reading these slightly out-of-date magazines is that I get to celebrate who is together and, a few magazines away, feel bad about how they broke up all in one sitting.  I get to read about an exciting new film some actress is in and then just an hour later, hear how badly she behaved on set, fought with fellow actors the whole way through and bombed at the box office! Best friends become worst friends, romance ends up in scandal, and million dollar dresses are on one magazine’s best-dressed list and in another’s worst. It’s a mad world we live in.

I am not exactly looking for life-lessons in these gossip magazines; it’s pretty hard to when you don’t know what is actually real; but I guess the outcomes speak for themselves. When you are looking at someone who is married 5 times, or is in rehab “again,” or is at the bottom when at one time they were “the most sought after,” there is a window into what must be true: disappointment, disillusionment, embarrassment, loneliness, confusion. One can assume.

Outcomes; that’s really what I am thinking about today. With the thousands of years that humans have occupied the earth, with quite a lot written down about the comings and goings of them, you would think we would be less likely to do really stupid things; but we aren’t. What we do, has been done before (nothing new under the sun, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, and he wrote this eons ago) so why, oh why, do we not take the lessons to heart?

It isn’t just the immediate consequences that we ought to consider but the aftershock, the thing that generations after us will feel; how about that?

Let me turn this around a little. Hebrews 13:7 calls us to, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” There is so much pain to be avoided, so many mistakes we can bypass, so many good things we can have going on in our lives (and blessings to hand to the next generation) if only we would intentionally consider the outcomes of those who, in some way, are leading the way.

I have leaders in my life I watch. Some of them have official positions of leadership; others are leading and probably don’t even know it. Some people are leaders in “categories” that interest me (like acceptance, compassion, conviction, creativity, relationships, parenting, resourcefulness, youthful-optimism/curiosity); they are people who seem to have a grasp on a single thing that I am trying to understand; I watch them; I try to imitate so as to understand and own what I see. I have seen an outcome that I admire and I want that.

Right now, I am really challenged by someone in my life who has this really pure outlook about people. While I might jump to assess and categorize, this person is just curious about them and is so free of judgment. The things I notice, they don’t really spend any time on; I am convicted.  Why are they like that? I want that.

I am also challenged by someone who has been a leader in the faith for well over 30 years now and isn’t moaning, curled up in a ball. Quite the opposite. He still has vision and passion and conviction; he still “sees it” and is still living it and moving through it. What has given him such staying power? I want that.

I want a certain outcome; as much as some people’s lives stand out as a warning, I am turning to see those whose lives point to a better way.  I am going to make lots of mistakes, even as I have a desired outcome, I just don’t want to wreck the whole thing by mindless living.

To consider something is to think about it, with the intention of taking some action. When we consider the lives of those who are leading, when we think of qualities we want to imitate and grow in, it means watching and then it means taking initiative; we don’t wait for someone to do it for us or plan a program around it. We become like the persistent neighbor in Scripture, going after the outcome we want and not giving up right away:

“Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’ The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’ But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.” (from The Message, a paraphrase of Luke 11:5-9)

— Teresa Klassen





Consider: The Ravens

2 08 2010

Part 6 of “Consider This”

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

Victor Hugo

Yesterday morning I sat on my lawn-chair and a Robin hopped by on the grass with a lime-green worm as big as my finger in its beak. I don’t even know how that Robin managed to hold on to it because the worm was flipping around, protesting its capture something fierce! But the bird puffed out its crimson chest, oblivious to the worm’s displeasure, thrilled that it had found the mother-load. The bird flew off with its catch and would have a fine feast of it somewhere with its family (though undoubtedly some chick would beak off, “Not green worm again, I don’t like green worm” and the dad would say, “You’ll eat it and you’ll like it!”).

The Bible calls us to

“consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap…” (Luke 12:24 NIV)

Humans don’t do nearly as well as the birds, living on a wing and a prayer. To be like that Robin, without cupboards, would stress most of us out.

Is it possible that we can forget what freedom tastes like and come to fear it, rather than long for it?  Can we come to actually treat open spaces with suspicion, preferring the cage over the sky?  I wonder if we build “bird-houses” because it makes us uncomfortable that they don’t? Is having a floor and four walls so important to us, that the thought of gliding over the treetops fills us with dread rather than amazement?

What words do we assign to our present experiences? Are they descriptive of trust or apprehension?

Remember the children of Israel in the desert?  Just now it occurred to me that the word we use for their experience is “wandering.” But if you were in the mix, knowing that someone was taking care of your every need, wouldn’t “holidaying” be a better description? The whole thing started with a campfire experience, with just the right amount of getting-there stories to recount later, good weather every day and, better than better, not once did they have to run into town for food or drink; they were fed morning and night by God himself. God wasn’t even subtle: cloud by day, pillar of fire by night; it wasn’t like God went away and they were wondering if He would come back.

So why were they so stressed out?

The Israelites in the desert didn’t see any beauty in it. They weren’t pinching themselves saying, “Can you believe it?” Instead, they sat by their tents at night worrying, “My life is going nowhere.”

  • Where is “there” and “nowhere?”
  • Where is where we ought to be not where we could be?
  • What is stable and unstable?
  • What does predictable give you that unpredictable doesn’t give you more of?
  • Is having something in your hand so much better than seeing how it gets there?

Consider the birds, they do not sow or reap; they have no storehouse or barn; yet God feeds them. And Jesus says, “you are so much more valuable than birds” (Luke 12:24). Is Jesus saying quit everything; just check out? No, He follows up His statement with: Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

So yes, quit something: quit worrying.

God is calling me to not only be OK with “not knowing” everything, but to actually relish it. Consider the birds that swoop and glide and occasionally seem suspended in mid-air, caught in some sort of up-draft; they sing for no reason, bathe in whatever puddle they can find and only create enough of a nest to rest in.  Consider this.

Like us, they have a beginning of a story and an end of a story, but the whole middle is being written as we live. The whole middle is all about where we find ourselves, and who can say where that will be? Birds venture out. We need to consider venturing out…

Venture

1 : to expose to risk
2 : to face the risks and dangers of
3 : to go ahead in spite of danger

Yes, like the birds, God wants to add “venture” to our vocabulary and our experience (adventure, you see?) and quit making up dangers as an excuse to stay indoors. Quit worrying; God is with us and as P.D. James said, “God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.”

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: I could have taken this blog in 10 different directions because birds are amazing! There are 10,000 (plus) species of birds in our world.  Picture God’s imagination run wild and you have: birds. Take an hour and Google, “pictures of birds;” I don’t even know how to describe the experience. If a picture paints a thousand words, here are a 5,000 words in 5 pictures (5 out of 10,000 pictures…imagine!):





I Am A Carrier

15 07 2010

Do you see anything different?

Look close…anything?

It’s just that Proverbs 13:9 says that the, “light of the righteous shines brightly.” And I wondered…

This Proverb seems so simple but I have really wrestled with it. I think it is these two words “righteous” and “the light” that have me sitting here thinking.

The Bible says, that no one is righteous, not even one person (Romans 3:10), so what is the point of this Proverb? No-one’s righteous.

Any earning if righteousness we think we are capable of, well, we should just know right now we can stop trying; that would be one less thing on our to-do list.  If I was good today, “Way to go,” I can tell myself, but should quickly add, “just so you know, you are about to screw up.” You and I just can’t get it right. For every person who declares themselves, “good,” there are two others snickering in the background because they know just how bad we can be.

We should sigh deeply at this point because it is a distressing truth. The “world” will say, “You’re fine. Why all the angst?” It is because we  aren’t  fooled by the “eat, drink and be merry” message; it’s not that merry. We know something is broken and can’t be mended. No one is righteous. Not even one. “Woe is me,” the prophet Isaiah said as he thought about this, “I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Thank God, the Bible goes on to say, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:24)!

This idea of being “freed” is something known as “redemption.” Redemption, in case you were wondering, is my favorite word.

  • Redemption, the idea that something otherwise discardable can be made new and usable, when applied to people, is a magnetic message.
  • Redemption, the idea that something can be changed for the better means that I have  something to live for.
  • Redemption, the idea that something is gained because something else was cashed in, both crushes me and motivates me when I realize what I gained because Jesus cashed His own life in for me.

This whole thing, by the way, is called the “Good News.” What else would you call it?

I just had to start with that, because understanding who is righteous and why is really important. We shouldn’t be all high on ourselves thinking we are better than anyone else. We can put all our self-righteousness away now, because our righteousness is the Good News of Jesus declaring, “got you covered.”

So, Jesus gave us the ability to be called righteous, which is awesome, and because it is truly “awesome” we don’t just go on as if nothing happened. As the saying goes, “to those who have been given much, much is required” (Luke 12:47-49). I have been given something (that’s the Good News) and that makes me a carrier.

So I am a carrier of a light and must move into all the dark shadows and bless the world because of how I have been blessed: “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:10)

I think we need to ask some questions about that. People who don’t follow Christ can “shine.” Good deeds stand out in a mostly selfish world no matter who does them; letting “your light” shine is not a concept reserved for Christ followers.  There are lots of people who do nice things, altruistic things! So, do Christians just have to be nicer still? Kind of a one-up idea?

I think being clear about “the light of the righteous” is pretty crucial:

  • “…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” (Matthew 4:16)
  • “So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:28-32)
  • Jesus said, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark .”(Luke 12:46)

The thing that is shining brightly is not “shiny-us.” It isn’t our goody-goodness. The light is Jesus and He saved our necks. Jesus’ Good News isn’t a “good perspective” message; it is upsetting! It means I have to acknowledge my sin; it means I have to follow a wildly upside-down message that will throw my whole life in another direction. But this light is fiercely loving, unafraid and undaunted, sacred,  supernatural, unquenchable, unstoppable. That kind of light has heat.

I am writing those words as I am sitting near a mirror, looking at myself and thinking about what big ideas those are for such a little person as I to carry; I am not really the Olympic Torch Bearer type. How can I do justice to a Light like that?

Bright is attractive, which means I better not be unapproachable or unrelatable or untranslatable. I better not be prudish or judgmental or spout off about stuff. I better not be driven by an agenda or abuse my relationships as if I am some network-marketer-for Jesus.

What had I better be?

I better be living in the light, for heaven’s sake. Sometimes I am just so catatonic and that is pretty lame, considering.

The only thing I carry, the only thing I have to offer anyone that is of any value is Jesus. But I can’t go out and just go on and on about Him; I have to go out and be a living example of Him living in me.

A pretty good description of  “how-to” is found in Galatians 5:22 (another book and verse in the Bible):

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control…those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another (5:22)

It can’t be faked.We can’t treat Galatians with a checklist and good acting. Notice how the verse says, “The Holy Spirit produces in us…” Similar to Jesus declaring us righteous. It is mostly Him and mostly not us.  Our part is one word: submission.

What ought to shine in me is my continual surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life (and in case you think I have this “continual surrender” thing down, I don’t). None of us are “shiny” in and of ourselves. It is what the Holy Spirit produces that shines and sometimes it is just astounding the tiny little things that end up being the brightest, because He makes it so.

I love this definition of light: that which makes seeing possible.

Hm. Someone else’s light helped me see The Light. Now I am a carrier and must do the same. See how that works?

— Teresa Klassen