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Jesus my redeemer

23 Apr

As I went through the day and thinking of the walk to Calvary and the crucifixion, I noticed something. I noticed that growing up evangelical, so much of my faith as about Good Friday. All the numerous number of worship songs about Jesus and the cross or his blood swam in my head.  It’s so much about how God redeemed us terrible people by Jesus dying on the cross.

And I can already hear my good ol’ not-so-evangelical seminary friends chiming in here saying how that theology is “inadequate” and even “wrong”.  That it leads to this naval-gazing type of Christianity where it’s all about ME and MY sins and how God is freeing ME, redeeming ME and so individualized etc etc.

Hold your horses everyone, I’m not here to fuel the war between liberals and conservatives even more- I think politicians and Christian leaders do a good job of that already. 🙂

The reason why I bring this up can be summed up by a recent This American Life story I heard on NPR.

There was this man who grew up in a small town in Tennessee in a Baptist church. Well, he grew up, went to college and discovered that the world was very big and that there are many view on God and the one he grew up with in his Baptist church was too simplistic. He then went on to study theology at a theological institution that remained unnamed and was looking for the opportunity to return to his small town in Tennessee and prove his family wrong about their views on God and Christianity.

So a few years fly by- and he finds himself in his small town talking to his father. He’s just waiting for dad t say that one thing that will open up an opportunity for him to jump in and prove to his dad why his dad’s theology is wrong.  And he got his chance- he jumped on it and ranted about it for half hour and his dad didn’t even interrupt him. At the end his dad said, “son, I am so proud of you. You are very intelligent and I’m sure you make a great scholar. But when I met Jesus, I was on the verge of a divorce with your mother and contemplating suicide.  And look at where I am today. Son, I admire you for your intellectual ways to explain God, but that does not mean the God I experience isn’t real”

And that was the end of the conversation.

I think that we liberals and we evangelicals (yes, I’m bi-whatever the word is!) have to understand the Jesus’ death on the cross plays a role beyond what we’ve decided our theology tells us it is.

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is a mysterious as it is real.  The role it plays for me in my life is complex but this I know for sure.  That I do believe that I am redeemed by his sacrifice and with that sacrifice that I accept, I am no longer my own. I live to exemplify his life, which was a life of service for the poor and seeking justice for those in bondage.

That is what I meditated on today as I remembered my redeemer being nailed to the cross.

the waiting

21 Apr

This has been a long lentent reflection in the making- mostly, I have to admit because I just haven’t had time to write but also because this has been on my mind for the last week or so.

Last Sunday in church I struggled through the service because I couldn’t get myself to be in the moment and celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem because I knew what was coming. As we walked around the santuary waving our palm leaves that were dry because they were probably imported from Florida or somewhere like that, I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t celebrate right now, I knwo what happens in 5 days!” And through the whole service I struggled with this contradiction that I felt of the great mourning that was to come yet we were celebrating. I found myself waiting for Good Friday, and being defined by Good Friday. 

The truth is we live in a world that feels much like Good Friday without Easter a lot of times.  There is so much death, so much hopelessness and waiting for a better tomorrow without knowing what that is in our world.  But with the knowledge that Good Friday is coming and that death happens, we must be able to celebrate the goodness, the triumph of good over evil, how small or big that may be.

As we walked around our sanctuary for the second time and kept singing  “Come all ye people, come and praise your Maker” I realized that that alone was enough reason to celebrate. Whether Good Friday, with all its deepest sorrows and fears, was coming or not.

Sometimes I can be quite the “Debbie Downer” (as my family members like to remind me) because I see the “Good Friday” side of  life which sometimes overshadows the joyful, triumphant side of life. And I realized, as I walked around the santuary waiving my brittle, dry palm leaf that it’s in the faith, its in the believing that the joyous entry of Jesus will someday triumph over all things that make this world a place of death, fear and sorrow.

We are called a people of faith because of this. We have hope because we have the promise that Palm Sunday happens even if there is going to be a Good Friday, no doubt.

So even as we wait, we wait in hope, not in fear.

Fear

23 Mar

I’m at a training in LA this week (hence the sporadic nature of the posts!) and yesterday as a team building exercise, we played a simulation game and the point of the game was to travel through a desert to a mountain, mine as much gold as possible and come back home. That was the basic idea. The instructor mentioned that 20% of teams who have played this game have died in the desert because  they ran out of food or water.

As soon as we heard that statistic, I think some of us panicked and were determine not to die in the desert and our decisions are driven by this sense of survival- or the fear of death.

The interested thing I observed about our group, hindsight was that we ended up with much more food and water than we needed and not as much gold as we could’ve gotten. And this is all because we were so afraid of dying.

In our debrief we talked about how we might have played the game differently if we had thought about the 80% who lived rather than the 20% that died.

I felt like that was a fairly good indication of my life sometimes. That my decisions are made as a reaction to information and sometimes that reaction is the fear or something.

Today’s lent reflection for me was to think about how to create that space to purposefully live my life that is focused on that 80% of potentially living rather than the 20% of potentially dying.

Jesus did not live the last month of his life out of fear of his upcoming Crucifixion.  And that is an example he has set for me to choose life with a purpose and not be driven by my circumstances.

Remembering.

20 Mar

Today I got to talk to a dear friend of mine from high school who I don’t get to talk to often.  It is amazing that even with technology at our disposal we don’t talk as much. so I got chat with her via skype as the sun was rising behind her through the window in Melbourne and the sun was setting outside my window here in Chicago.

After a wonderful conversation I was able to reflect briefly about what a blessed life I have lived so far living in and meeting so many people from all over the globe! The saying “I am not the same now that I have seen the moon on the other side of the world” is so true.

I see lent as a time to reflect on the experiences that were like seeing the moon on the other side of the world.  I think I get so caught up in the mundane daily routines that I often forget the glimpses of God’s glory I get to see from time to time. OR even miss the glimpse that I could’ve seen that day because I’m focused on the mundane.

Sometimes going about my daily routines and sometimes feeling like I”m in a hamster’s wheel, I forget about my wonderful friendships with people scattered across the globe and forget the vast and unique experiences I have had the blessings to live. A conversation with my friend in Melbourne brought back those memories.

My challenges is to find things in my daily routine that will trigger the memory of my vast and unique experiences with God. It’s not about a spiritual high every day but seeking the faithful God in my life each day.  Sometimes when I do that, I do see how God has brought things to fruition, and I do believe I witness God’s plans to prosper me and not to harm me comes true as promised to us through the prophet Jeremiah.

remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh

19 Mar

I decided to go with a lectionary reading today. I felt like my brain is scattered all over the place and I’m unable to focus even as I keep writing about how lent is a season for me to focus. oh the irony.

So today’s lectionary reading in the Old Testament was Deut 11:18-28. Oh fun, Deuteronomy. But I read them once in a while for kicks, and for other reasons too- like actually be inspired by them. 🙂

The versus I read were talking about remembering God’s commandment. God was serious about these folks really remembering what God was saying to them- instructing them to put the words all over the place- their hearts, mind, souls, bind them on their hands, on the eyelids etc etc. So as I am envisioning binding God’s words on my hands and on my eyelids etc, I began to wonder what these words actually were so I traced back to the beginning of the chapter as well as Chapter 10.

What stuck out to me was not a laundry list of Dos and Don’t (which, by the way, you find LOTS of in Deuteronomy) but in two different places it said to love the Lord your God- although the expansion of “love the Lord your God” various a little bit in the two places, I got the sense that that’s what God was telling the people to lay on their hearts, souls, eyelids etc etc.

It seems so simple. To love the Lord my God. But it really isn’t that simple. And I realized its because I am trying to love God from my heart of stone.   We all start well-meaning. I don’t know how many times I’ve pushed my “spiritual” reset button.  I feel like in some ways that this lent season is another way of pushing that reset button.
But as I was reflecting I remembered a verse in Ezekiel that is so dear to my heart.  This is what God promised; I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Yes, it’s hard to love the Lord my God with all my heart and then to turn around and love my neighbor AND myself if I’m trying to love out of my own limits and my own will because my heart does turn into stone from time to time. But the encouraging word for me today came through the prophet Ezekiel when God promises to give me a new heart, a heart of flesh for my heart of stone.

Thanks be to God that even the ability to love is not from my own strength but from the gift God has placed in me- my heart of flesh.

Dristhi

18 Mar

The reason we need a season to focus on Christ as we observe lent is because we all need a focal point.

We live in a world of constant chaos and everything feels like a moving target.

Today in my cardio and weight training class, we had to do this one exercise where you stand on one leg and do squads. I began waddling as I usually do because I have a very bad sense of balance. But I remembered what I had learned in my yoga class- to find a focal point which helps you balance.  It’s called a Drishti in sanskrit which basically means to gaze. You gaze at a specific point in front on you that is not moving, and it help you balance.

As I found my Drishti in my cardio and weight training class, I realized that was very much the same in my spiritual life too. Sometimes we’re trying to do one legged squads without a focal point and then we wonder why we are falling all over the place!

Today’s lent reflection for me remembering that I’m honing in on my focal point, Jesus Christ throu

Removed from suffering…

15 Mar

Over the last few days as I’ve been thinking about how I can really reflect on what is going on around the word without sounding trite or overly spiritual without any sense of connection.  I guess I have this hesitation and reluctance because of the enormity of the events- the earthquake and Tsunami the Japanese people have endured, the danger and tension that Libyans are experiencing.

There are plenty things in my life I guess I can say is a form of suffering so at some level I resonate. But the truth is, one does not know what it’s like to live to a earthquake and a tsunami that takes our your entire town unless you’ve lived it.  I think we tend to over-react in our emotions or are completely disconnected and I guess I don’t know how to find a healthy medium.

Many theologians and christian leaders have tried to explain or justify suffering.  There are different logics and reasoning people use- and I can follow along in the moment but can’t really retain it since I can’t even seem to give one example right now!

But I think what I keep coming back to is that I’ve witness, experienced and seen so much suffering in this world and yet I believe a Good God. A God who cares and loves this world. And yes, sometimes that might be hard to explain.

As I sit in the comfort of my living room with electricity, heat and yummy dinner, I feel really removed from suffering- whether it’s the millions of children going to bed hungry and/or cold, or people fearing for their lives or grieving the loss of a family member.

In this moment, it’s hard to say that seeing all this suffering is making me think of how grateful I am for my comforts. That just seems wrong to compare my comforts with others’ sufferings.

But I am grateful. Not because compared to others I have more, but despite the fact that I can’t really even figure out how to process all the things going on in this world and have the “perfect” Christian response to it to post of my facebook, I am accepted and I am loved.

As a lent reflection its a hard one to connect because I really don’t want to minimize the suffering of people around the globe today by trying to connect it to my suffering nor do I want to connect this sense of relief which could be interpreted as grace because I am not the one suffering.

So today’s lent reflection is going to have to just hang there in a limbo- as sort of an expression of my struggle to identify with the suffering.

I pray for mercy and grace for all those suffering around the world and that those of us who are privileged in our comfort are able to engage in responsible ways to make a small dent in the world for change. Even though I feel removed from suffering in other parts of the world, I can work hard in the world that I am connected to and try and make a small dent in whatever ways God has allowed me to.

Mother Teresa puts it all in context for us:

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.