Ministry of Reconciliation
Write 31 Days, day 6
Today’s Prompt: Belong
Today, I wrote a brief reflection on the Trinity, inspired by the 15th century icon The Trinity by Andrei Rublev.
On a clear day, I saw them from a long way off. At first, I could barely make them out. From such a distance, I could not say whether there were three or one as they seemed to blend into one another. As I drew closer, they came into focus, the three seated around a small table. At first glance, I struggled to tell them apart; thankfully they each wore different robes.
Watching them kindled a longing I had never felt before. Intimacy flowed between them. There was no sense of posturing, no one-ups-man-ship. They genuinely delighted in being with one another. So often, with meetings of more than two, cliques begin to form. Two will buddy up tighter than the third. Not so here. They each reveled not only in the others, but even in the connection between the other two. I was seeing love embodied.
As I continued to gaze upon them from my safe distance, tears wet my cheeks. Never before had I witnessed something so beautiful. In that moment I beheld perfection. Oh, to be loved like that! To experience such divine intimacy. It touched upon every desire I had ever felt. Yet I remained outside, hidden.
I intended to sneak away quietly. To interrupt them would be to intrude upon perfection, and I was unwilling to disturb what they had with one another. As I raised up to leave, they looked my way. I expected irritation, but saw delight. I expected disappointment, but they exuded joy.
As one, they beckoned, “Come join us.”
“I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to intrude,” but every part of me resisted my own words.
“We’ve been waiting for you. There is already a place at the table,” they said invitingly.
“But as I have watched you, I have witnessed perfection. I fear that if I join in, I will diminish perfection.”
“Friend, nothing you have ever done, thought, or said can diminish us. Rather, our love will envelop you. You belong. You have always belonged. You were created for no other purpose than to be in fellowship with us.”
And, hoping against hope, I took my seat and felt true love’s welcome.
31 days of writing, day 5
Today’s prompt: Share
Lately, I have been contemplating the church trend of life groups or small groups, which aim to function as spaces for shared life and faith. Like much that happens in the modern church, these groups often feel mechanistic and forced, though considering our frenzied lives, perhaps we believe it to be a necessary pressure.
I don’t remember anyone from my childhood participating in a small group. Instead, I recall people living in close proximity to one another. Their focus was not life groups, but simply life. Neighborhood kids played together until past dark. Men would gather at the Knotty Pine or at Hill Farm, to drink coffee and shoot the bull.
For me, my life group met around my grandmother’s table on Sunday mornings. It was a round wooden table, nearly always cloaked with a white table cloth, for the wood underneath showed the signs of age. There were more chairs situated around the table than its small diameter could reasonably support. First Reformed Church, just one block to the west, released at 10:00 and First Presbyterian Church, directly across the street, a half-hour later. Uncles and aunts, cousins and friends, would trickle in and out over the next couple of hours, bodies stacked two deep around the perimeter of the small dining area.
My grandmother never failed to provide the necessary staples—hot coffee, orange Kool-Aid, saltine crackers, soft butter, and cheese spread. Other delights also regularly found their way to the table–molasses cookies, blond brownies, or summer sausage. But without fail, there was always coffee and conversation. Sometimes, I would go the whole week without seeing these people, but come Sunday morning, we met for our “life group.”
I think we miss something precious when we live life by curriculum. I ache for those times around that table; we talked about nothing in particular, and in so doing, we talked about everything.
What do you remember about your childhood gatherings? Where do you see organic community occurring today?
31 days of writing, day 4
Today’s prompt: Why
Almost from the time we are able to speak, we begin to ask why. Parents of preschoolers can regale us with tales of their children repeatedly asking, “Why? Why? Why?”
Why is the sky blue?
Why are turtles so slow?
Why are sidewalks gray?
Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner?
As we grow older, our questions mature along with us. Presumably. In grade school, we ask, “why do I have to go to bed at 7:30?” In middle school, “why is my best friend ignoring me?” In high school, “why won’t she go out with me?”
Our development is intimately intertwined with attempting to make sense of the world and our place in it. But as we press further into our confusion, clarity often dims. More and more often, our “whys” remain unanswered.
Too often, Christians dismiss why questions. We are supposed to have all of the answers, wrapped up in sparkly paper and finished with a bow. When people bring us their hurts we ask “have you prayed about it?” People muster their courage to share their fears and we respond “the Bible says don’t be afraid” or perhaps even “fearfulness is a sin.” Ugh.
But the biblical narrative reveals that God’s people were not afraid to ask why. Habakkuk asked “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (1:3). Jeremiah asked “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (15:18). Even Jesus, echoing David, pleaded “why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:1).
Premature answers and biblical platitudes often fail to comfort. People need to hear that God is strong enough to bear their pain. They need to understand that asking difficult questions is not a sign of faithlessness.
Maybe, if we live in the world of easy answers, we would do well to ask ourselves, “why?”
What questions are you afraid to bring before God? How do you respond when people share their difficulties with you?
Today is National Poetry Day, which is as good a time as any to share one of my older poems, written in 2015.
Black birds in black trees
wings and branches
stretched heavenward in morning praise
silhouetted against the pastel Southeastern sky
A world awakening
Venus looks down from her heavenly seat
the last nocturne light to retreat
squirrels having a ball
greeting the morning with glee
chattering aloud, “Come see! Come see!”
31 days of writing–day 3
Writing Prompt: Believe
Belief was easy when I had all the answers. My confidence was built upon a pillar of theology texts and an inherent desire to learn. I knew what I believed and why I believed it. I had wrestled with the rational arguments for the faith as well as their counterarguments. I considered myself to be “a winsome ambassador” to use Greg Koukl’s language. As far as I was concerned, Christianity connected all the dots in the universe.
Somewhere along the way, the pillar started wobbling. Life and circumstance had been tearing pages from these texts, one by one–pages that no longer provided adequate explanation for life’s realities. I was discovering that I could not resolve my internal struggles with intellect alone. My shaky confidence could not bear many more torn pages.
Jesus is theology embodied. He is scripture in three dimensions.
In truth, I could memorize the Bible and master every book of theology ever written, and still the pillar would tremble. I needed something solid. John 1:14 tells us “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus is theology embodied. He is scripture in three dimensions.
As much as I love books, they will never sympathize with my weaknesses. Despite my gratitude for the gift of knowledge, knowing things will never comfort my pain. But Jesus, he enters my story. He knows my suffering. He understands my fears. He comforts me in the darkness. He enters my confusion and embraces me in my discomfort.
When has your confidence in something been shaken? How have you been able to process your uncertainty?
31 Days of Writing, day 2
Writing prompt: afraid
I grew up in the prime of action movies–Terminator, Rambo, John McClane. The thematic blueprint worked. A lone gun, unflappable, saving the world from overwhelming circumstances. A cruel dictator and his unquestioning mercenary army versus one man, hardened and invincible. The message was clear: true masculinity meant dialing up the fearlessness and turning down the emotion. Most men, regardless of age, routinely heard that emotions–except anger–are unwelcome partners in the fight against injustice.
How could I measure up? I wanted to be brave, but I was afraid. A lot. Afraid of being chased down by a group of older boys (again), fear of being seen as worthless, fear of losing my family. Despite any desire I had and even owning a survival knife, it was clear I would never be John Rambo. I had too many emotions and too many attachments.
Maybe the truth is that taking on an army single-handedly is a piece of cake compared to owning our emotions and our brokenness.
What were the the messages you received about yourself growing up? What were you afraid of?
Today’s prompt: Story
I read the stories in the good old Book, stories of men and women of faith. They have become embedded in my mind, the struggle of sinners, the difficulty of relationships, the holiness of God.
In these stories, I see the resolution of struggle because I have read through to the end. I don’t know the resolution to my own story; I am only half way through. I still live in the tension and confusion of an unfolding narrative. Who are heroes? Who are the villains? Which one am I?
I remain aware of one truth: my story keeps unfolding, each moment new words; each day new paragraphs, and each year new chapters.
How would you describe your story? Is it an adventure? A comedy? A tragedy?
I’m taking my cues for 31 Days 2018 from Jen Rose Yokel, who explains the writing challenge on her blog.
Here is Jen’s explanation: “Here’s the plan: I’ll be taking my cues from the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes prompts (a challenge within a challenge, as we like to say). Each day, I’ll offer a little reflection on the daily prompt, hopefully not too long winded because 5 minutes isn’t a lot of time to write. And then I’ll close the post with an invitation — whether that’s a prayer, a spiritual practice to try that day, or just permission to be still for a few minutes and write a reflection of your own.”
I wanted to paint something that showed that divinity meets us in our everyday-ness in the Lord’s Supper, the wonder of the incarnation. The miracle of our salvation is remembered in common elements: bread and wine. Jesus said as as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we do it in remembrance of him.