Monday, April 25, 2011

A Friend's Faith

A journey of faith through the valleys and mountains of a husband's stroke. Every day, signs of hope, and then signs of setback, too.

What has touched me so deeply is her easy integration of faith and church into the ordeal. Faith soars and plummets, like a swift in flight. Church and prayers and friends and concerts hold her soul together, and often bring tears. There's a level of comfort here that speaks of a mature faith nurtured over the years, with good theology and Bible and steady patterns of worship.

She's what some would call a "mainline" Christian.

As I write and think about her faith, I reflect upon something that has bothered me for years - the need of so many "evangelicals" to prove the "power" of their god and the "miracle-working wonders" of their faith. Frankly, it's all talk, and mutual hype - a lot of fury to keep the illusions going.

No wonder evangelicals are up tight. It's tough to maintain a false front of hope and victory and courage and smiles and Jesus talk. Anyone who raises a question is shouted down. Those who express doubt are labeled "backsliders." Writers and preachers who question the standard lines of thought are treated as "heretics."

How much better when nothing needs proving, because of Christ Jesus.

The cross and the tomb, his wisdom and his love, and the mystery of the resurrection - what else is there to prove?

Why must Christians always be proving their faith? Is this some kind of competitive one-upsmanship? What's the point?

For my friend, the journey through these demanding days is as natural as breathing - in and out, up and down, good and bad, fear and faith, hope and sorrow, friends and family and church and sacred concerts and hymns and sermons.

I'm grateful to share a bit in my friend's journey, through her postings, and the musings of her children. They hope for the best; fear for the worst. They're flesh and blood, as we all are. And mortal, too. Dadgum it all!

Faith, if it's faith at all, is not some cosmetic heavily layered on to hide wrinkles and blemishes. Faith is something deep within, something that understands and welcomes the foibles and failings of mortal flesh, even as we rejoice in the wonder and glory of God's love for us.

We have nothing to prove to the world, because God has already done that, and continues to prove to the world through sunrise and sunset and pot luck dinners and preachers struggling to proclaim the word and little old ladies with blue hair and children and grandchildren singing hymns and organs and pianos and love divine and folks who strive for justice and folks who dream big dreams for a better world.

Nothing to prove, so that we can be at peace with who we are and the way life is.

Nothing to prove, so that we can live amidst the hopes and tears of real life.

Nothing to prove, so that we can love fiercely and deeply and powerfully, and cry, as well, when the darker moments come to us.

Nothing to prove.

And everything to live.

And to God be the glory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Resurrection Ahead ...

Dear Friends and Members of Calvary Presbyterian Church,

Because Christ is Risen from the dead, we are, too.

There are many dimensions to resurrection:

  1. A personal dimension. In Christ, we have courage to face the many trials that come our way; we have patience in dealing with difficult situations; we extend grace to others who are troubled and sad; we are quick to forgive, even when others can’t apologize; we are quick to offer apologies when we’re wrong; we’re humble about our achievements, because everything is a gift of God, and whatever we have is only for God’s glory and the blessing of others. Our life, here and now, is held in the arms of the everlasting God, and it’s God who tells us to keep our eyes upon Christ and keeps our feet moving in the right direction. Because of Christ, we do not give up!
  2. A missional dimension. We reach out with the gospel, and we invite others to look to Christ and join with us in God’s effort to redeem all of creation and lift people out of despair. We join with others of good will and peace all around the world. In God’s wisdom, a world of many languages is the best of all possible world. We send out missionaries to tell others of Christ, and in the telling, we dig water wells, we build hospitals, we help nations fight AIDS, we promote peace and we build bridges of understanding. We cannot and will not look upon others in a way other than seeing everyone as a child of God, whatever their persuasion or faith or color or creed might be. When we look for good will we find it; when we seek peace, we see it; when we offer forgiveness, we are forgiven, when we build up, we are built up, too.
  3. A citizenship dimension. In Christ, we are people of peace and reconciliation. We are not impressed with military might or corporate power. We are sensitive to God’s creation, and all God’s creatures, great and small, and we work for a healthier planet. In the Risen Christ, we see God’s love for all the world and for all the nations, and we are careful about over-exuberant flag-waving and sword rattling. In Christ, we are wise about the sins of our own nation, even as we’re humbled by our personal sins. Furthermore, we are citizens of this land and this place, and as Jeremiah counseled the people to seek the welfare of the land in which they were living, so we seek our nation’s welfare, too. Not at the expense of others, but in concert with all of God’s creation. We pay our taxes, serve on juries, pray for our elected and appointed officials, spread good cheer and practice hope.
  4. A fellowship dimension. In the triumphant love of Christ, the Holy Spirit builds bridges of love all over the place. We look upon one another through the eyes of Christ, and through our eyes, Christ looks out upon the world. As Paul says, We no longer regard one another from a human point of view … as just so much flesh and blood and bone, but we see one another as God’s precious people, each created in God’s image and endowed with fine gifts. We are pained by the ways religion and society can exclude people. In Christ, our arms are open to all, and all are welcomed at the Table of the LORD. On the local level, right here at Calvary on the Boulevard, we live out the fullness of God’s love by loving one another: we open our homes and hearts to one another, we give and receive our talents, we hold hands in prayer, we hold one another up in sorrow, we walk arm-in-arm in the great work of Jesus Christ.
  5. A worship dimension. Our worship is joyful and hopeful. Because God is at work in all things for good. We gather for worship to celebrate the love of God and the world that’s coming our way. It’s a good world, and every prayer we utter, every good deed we offer, every kind word and every positive thought makes a lasting difference. And we’re serious, as well, because sin and oppression are real, and we take these seriously. We do not ignore the dark materials that flow around us and inside of us. We weep with those who weep, and we rejoice with those who rejoice. We confess our sin and the sins of the world and embrace the power of forgiveness.
  6. An eternal dimension. Death doesn’t have the last word! Yes, we all must die, because we’re mortal, and “dust to dust” is still the truth about life. But God loves the dust; indeed, God loves all of creation, and God promises a new heaven and a new earth. The end of all things is Christ. A Cosmic Christ, the Creator Christ, the Word of God, in whom all things are being reconciled – when there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more separation and no more hurt. Only light and peace and goodness and joy. This is where it’s all headed, and by the grace of God, no one is left behind!
 To God be the glory! Christ is risen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tina Fey's Prayer.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Bea...uty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short - a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day - And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


-An excerpt from Tina Fey's new book -Bossypants, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Holy Week Blessing

May you have,

Eyes to see the sun that shines upon your pathway, 
Ears to hear the voices of your friends and neighbors,  
A voice to say with hope and fortitude, "Jesus my Lord", 
Hands ready to help, and 
Feet eager to follow Jesus.