Waiting for Spring

This is the past post in the series Jesus is Coming What Difference Does it Make. It is provided by Matthew Young who is the pastor of Elysburg Presbyterian Church, PA .  Matt is a graduate of Princeton and was on staff with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for several years in Seattle.  He is married to Jill Aylard  Young and they have one adorable daughter Grace.


Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring

Drip. Drip. Drip. So goes the water down the spout.  Snow melts, again.  Spring tries to come.  But it sure takes a while.

Here we sit a few days into the new season, and the mid-range forecast into April is for colder than normal temperatures.  Ugh.  I imagine all of us feel ready for a change, ready for that warm sun and the daffodils poking up.

But it’s not here yet.

Neither are we.

In our Lenten disciplines, we size ourselves up spiritually and face the harsh realities of our own internal landscapes.  We lament where our lives do not express the kingdom’s arrival in Jesus Christ.

We long for more of Him.  Yet we resist Him, too.  We ache for freedom, but in so many ways we choose bondage.  Overwhelmed by resistance from the inside and the outside, we become discouraged.  Maybe we settle for “half-way” into spring.  But even as we settle, God’s Spirit makes us unsettled and cries out within us.  Through the Spirit, our souls cry for more.   We want it to be spring.

Holy Scripture is full of human experience that longs for a certain springtime.  The psalmist cries out:  O Lord, how long will you look on?  Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions… Awake, rise to my defense! (Ps 35:17, 23)  Or, from the prophet Habakkuk:  How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? (Hab 1:2)    The psalmist and the prophet long for God’s sunshine of liberation, freedom, and good news.

When we feel this way, we can know we have company within Holy Scripture itself.

I wonder where winter is taking its time to recede in your life.  I wonder where you have cried out for God to bring a springtime that can’t come soon enough.

Maybe there is a relationship that hasn’t thawed yet.  It’s still frozen in time after that dispute.

Perhaps a dream you held has become muddied over, covered in gunk from life’s monsoons and floods.

Maybe it’s some personal sin struggle you have – that recurring issue that just won’t go away, no matter how hard you seem to try.

Holy Scripture has good news for us, in these places.  Not only do we find the Bible the voice of our longings.  We also find promises we can claim, as we wait.

The prophet Isaiah rings clear:  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

No matter how cold it gets, or how disappointing life can be, God still shines on us.  Even on dreary, cloudy, muddy March days, his promise still stands: those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

So, really, no matter how it feels inside of us or how it looks out there, God’s faithfulness isalways blooming.  That is the promise.  That is what we stand on.  That is the soil we plant our lives.

And what good soil it is!  By the Holy Spirit, faith sprouts new life even in advance of winter’s thaw.  Prayers and worship flower up.  Acts of kindness and  tenacious grace bloom radiant.  As God pours his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), a quiet, steady spring comes even in the darkness.

The fact is, winter is no match for God’s faithfulness.  The truth is, there is no such thing as permafrost in God’s ecology.

Our life together is, in fact, life in God’s spiritual greenhouse.  No matter what time of year, something is always growing, just by God’s presence with us.

May it be so for you!



Thin Space – A Lenten reflection by John Leech

Today’s post is contributed by John Leech, rector at St Albans Episcopal church in Edmonds WA.  John blogs at Sermon Oats


Celtic Eucharist

A Thin Place

A long time ago driving down the California coast I found myself looking at a long stretch of sand, rocks, waves, and mountains. And I said: I could look at this all day. A year later I was doing just that – a mile up the hill, at a monastic retreat house. It was an opportunity for rest and renewal, for silence, solitude, and contemplation.

It was there I found a ‘thin place’ – a place where the membrane was perceptibly permeable between the world of sensory input and the world of the Spirit. You could say, I was in a place where I was able to become aware of that thin veil.

The thin place I found there is before an altar – with a great skylight above it pouring down illumination on us as we gathered for Eucharist. And as we sat in meditation, the silence was vibrant

The air was filtered with light. We could stay there as long as we liked.

At night the space was silent and dark, lit only by an altar lamp and a candle burning by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

You could sing good-night to her, after Compline. Follow the monks as they singled out, and sing.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve we rang in the new year with the rosary. I built a fire in my cell, in the big patent stove. As the flames roared, old journals seemed ready to burn, old memories ready to become incense.

Something stirred there that was becoming, coming into being more fully, with each moment of prayer.

I go back to that thin place periodically, on retreat. I like to stop on the way and touch bases at other places that speak to me – an old general store with a pot-bellied stove, a rocky outreach into the ocean, and a place of pines and quiet.

But of course we cannot always go back – we never really do go back – but we can visit the sacred again in new places, or old.

One of the most prominent and convenient places to visit the sacred is in the Eucharist. Eucharist is a thin place we make for each other in the intention and the quiet, the prayer and the movement and the stillness, as we come together to hear the Word and remember the gift – and share it, and be still, and know our God is present.

This is the blessing – God is here. God is here.

And we go forth transformed – from thin place and Eucharist. Gradually we learn – the thin place is everywhere. Everywhere the heart is open and God can come. And he will dwell in us; and we in him.

Be peaceful. Be at home. Find the place in your heart where Spirit can breathe, Word can speak, and Creator make new.

Be blessed in the bread and in the stillness. Carry that peace with you – know it is always there, waiting for you. If only behind a veil, God is here.



Following Jesus: What Difference Does It Make? – Posts So Far

The current Lenten series: Following Jesus What Difference Does it Make is the most inspiring and diverse that I have hosted.  We have contributors from Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, the Us and Canada.   Check them out:

Melanie Clark Pullen – Rest For the Soul

James Prescott What Difference Does It Make – Surrender and Control

Prayer Knocks, Fasting Obtains, Mercy Receives – A Meditation From St Peter Chrysologus

Christine Sine A Season For Grief and Sorrow

Tracy Dickerson Icon

Christine Sine – Learning to Live Without Plastics

Jarred McKenna Jesus In Japan (Libyia & Bahrain) I Was Hungry & Thirsty… & You Fought Rob Bell on Twitter

Coe Hutchison Following Jesus What Difference Has It Made

John Mitchell  Followers of the Way

Christine Sine I Have and Always Will Belong to God

Ryan Harrison It Doesn’t But It Should

Christine Sine Don’t Try and Escape the Desert

Alex Tang  Following Jesus

Theresa Ip Froehlich Thank God For Lent

Christine Sine  A prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent

Eugene Cho – Giving Up Coffee or My Life

Tim Dalton – Following Jesus What Difference Does it Make

Paula Mitchell – The Grace to Trust

Jeff Johnson – Christ Has Walked this Path A Lenten video

Christine Sine – Where is God in the Midst of Disaster?

Keith Giles – Nobody Follows Jesus So Why Should You?

Ron Cole – Leaving to Find Church

Jon Stevens – You Do Not Need To Go To Seminary to Follow Jesus

Christine Sine – Earthquake In Japan How Do We Pray?

John Van de Laar – Into The Desert

Lynne Baab – Freedom From Fear of Death

A Lenten Prayer by Ignatius Loyola

Another Ash Wednesday Prayer

Ash Wednesday Prayer 2011

Rest for the Soul – A Lenten Reflection by Melanie Clark Pullen

Today’s guest post comes from Melanie Clark Pullen.   Melanie lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. She has worked as an actor for over ten years in television and theatre in the UK and Ireland. She also wrote and directed the award winning Irish language short film Marion agus an Banphrionsa (Marion and the Princess). She is part of the online arts/faith/culture community Dreamers of the Day (www.dreamtoday.org) and is also in training to be a local preacher in the Methodist Church. She contributes to The Master’s Artist, featuring writers from many different Christian traditions musing on writing and faith, every other Friday.


Where do you find rest for your soul?

Rest for the soul.

I’m working on a short film this week and I love getting to be with other actors and spend time on a film set. You could say I was as happy as a kid in muck.

Inevitably, when actors get together we end up talking about work we have done, experiences we’ve had with other directors. It struck me this time round that both myself and the other actor on the shoot were carefully creating a narrative of our creative lives in an effort to present ourselves in the best possible light. It’s important to get the mix right. Too much emphasis on the highlights and you give the impression that you’re proud and full of yourself. On the other hand, if you only complain about the disappointments, you may make the other person question the validity of calling yourself an actor in the first place.

I am so very tired of fashioning a positive spin out of my years as an actor and writer. We spend so much energy building identities for ourselves. It’s something to cling to when we meet other people. It’s almost like acting in real life, building a persona to hide behind, secreting our true selves away to some darkened corner of our psyche.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If we are burdened by the constant pressure to maintain a persona that is pleasing to the world, following Jesus means emptying ourselves so that he can fill us with the abundance of himself. When we are full of God, what else can we be but a blessing to those around us? When we are ignited by the Spirit, released to be who God created us to be then we are freed from the oppressive tyranny of Other People’s Opinions.

Then our work, be it writing, painting, acting or music comes from a place of peace, a place of service, a place of worship. Following Jesus transforms us not into vacant clones with plastic smiles with all the right boxes ticked but beautiful, unique and free spirits whose art is a blessing to the world.


Learning to Live without Plastics

living without plastic

Lent is meant to be a time of giving up, and one of the things that I try to give up at least for part of Lent, is plastic.  It may not seem very spiritual but I think that it is.  There is growing evidence that plastic is not only bad for our planet, it is bad for our health as well.  Now I realize that it is impossible to live a totally plastic free life but it is at least possible to try.  And I find that in all things, trying makes me more aware of the extent of the problem and how critical it is for us to do whatever we can to overcome it.

Taking reusable bags to the store is one easy way to cut back.  I try to keep some in my purse and others in the car – small zippered bags that open out into a large shopping bag.  We also buy in bulk which cuts back on plastic packaging (see below for why this is important), and we usually cook from scratch, which cuts out even more packaging.  Prepackaged meals tend to use a huge amount of packaging – why not make a big pot of something and freeze it in containers… hmm how do we avoid plastic there?

Anyhow here are some great tips from Organic Gardening on how to at least attempt to go plastic free.

#1: Expect failure!!
As the team of bloggers over at Growing a Greener World put it, this is one challenge in which failure is almost certain—and that’s OK. As we said from the beginning, completely eliminating all plastic from your life is impossible. Even the stuff you try to avoid will sometimes creep past your defenses, so rather than stress about a mistake or moment of weakness, just accept it and keep trying.

#2: Prioritize.
Deciding to go (mostly) plastic-free can easily leave you feeling overwhelmed. Each of us experienced that sensation, and many of you wrote or commented about that too. So it’s a good idea to start by IDing some of the bigger plastic inputs in your life, and work on those. Once you’ve established a plastic-free habit, you can move on to the next one on your list. Here are some good starting points:

  • Focus on food. Following the lead of Beth Terry’s blog MyPlasticFreeLife.com, we each surveyed a week’s worth of trash to see how we generated most of our plastic garbage. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find that food packaging is your number one source of plastic waste. Along with sheer volume, there are other reasons that food-related plastic is a good place to focus your efforts. Chemicals from plastic packaging and containers leach into the stuff we eat and drink, and therefore have the biggest potential impact on our immediate health. In addition to avoiding overpackaged foods at the supermarket, swap out plasticfood-storage containers and cooking utensils and replace them with glass, ceramic, wood, or other materials. And never heating up food in any kind of plastic is a pretty easy rule to follow.
  • Ban those bags. If you forget your reusable bags at the grocery store, carry your items out by hand. After doing that a few times, you’ll probably NEVER forget your bags again! If you do find yourself with more items than you can carry, why not use a cart to get them to the car without bags? At the very least, use as few shopping bags as possible (and don’t bag items that already come in bags, like those oranges or potatoes). Bring the plastic bags to back to the supermarket for recycling (along with any other stray plastic bags that find their way into your hands). Make it easier on yourself to remember your reusable bags for your next trip by stashing them with your shopper’s club cards, or in your car’s trunk or glove compartment.
  • Stop using stupid plastic. Some plastic is just pointless. A straw? Would it kill you to let your lip touch the glass? A plastic bag just to hold the greeting card you bought? Carry it in your hand! Plastic fork? It’ll probably break! Wash your hands and eat with your fingers. Plastic Halloween decorations? Use real bone

#3: Reuse, recycle, recreate.
Have a backup plan for the plastic that gets into your life. Find other uses for it if you can, or find out how to recycle it when you’re done. Take plastic bags to the supermarket, know what your curbside program will accept, and know how to recycle your electronics when it’s time to get rid of them. If all else fails, call up a local nonprofit and see if it can be donated. When you’re shopping, buy products packaged in recycled plastic if there isn’t a nonplastic alternative, or even look for used versions of whatever it is you need.

Or, next time you find yourself reaching for something that comes in plastic, think, “Could I make this?” You’d be surprised at how easy it is to whip up hair-care productsbody lotions,cleaning products, and pretty much every plastic-packaged food at the store. Or just go without. As Dani, one of the bloggers who followed our challenge on her site News from Nowhere, told us, “I would rather get in the habit of having and using less (of plastics and everything else), than be disgruntled about it when the situation is forced upon me.”

#4: Slow down.
Plastic exists to support the go-go-go lifestyle that we all think we need to maintain. Committing to cutting back on plastic gives you a reason to insert some helpful speed bumps into your day. So enjoy them! Take 10 extra minutes to eat breakfast at home, for example, or use a full 30 minutes to eat lunch at a restaurant, off glass plates using real silverware, rather than grabbing something packaged in plastic to eat at your desk. Along with the benefits of avoiding plastic, you’ll gain an opportunity to catch your breath, enjoy your food, and let go of some stress.

#5: Don’t be a jerk about it.
None of your plastic-addicted friends wants to hear a lecture about the evils of plastic (ours sure didn’t). Be relaxed and nonjudgmental when you talk about your decision to cut the plastic cord. Focus on why the alternative is better, not on why plastic and the people who use it are evil. And let your deeds, rather than your words, be the strongest argument. Every time you tell a cashier you don’t need a bag, and walk out of the story carrying your carton of milk in your hand instead, you’re planting an idea in the head of everyone around you. And that’s how new norms are created.

Followers of the Way – Lenten Reflection by John Mitchell

Today’s reflection comes from John Mitchell who is on staff with Youth With A Mission.  He and his wife have just spent 2 years in Nicaragua and are heading to New Zealand to join the YWAM team there.


Today we live in a culture that is obsessed with leadership. From the bestseller list to politics to parishes “leadership” has become the buzzword of our generation. Spiritual leadership, servant leadership, courageous leadership, leadership laws; we even have a magazine solely devoted to leadership! The problem is, in our self-absorbed quest for leadership, we’ve forgotten what it means to follow. We read from the scriptures that Paul identifies himself and other early saints as “followers of the Way”. The term “Christian” was seldom used in the New Testament and was bestowed by others, not by the church. Meaning adherent or slave of Christ, “Christian” was an accurate title but the early church looked upon themselves as willful followers. They used terms like “brethren”, “believers”, “the saints” and “servants of God” to reflect the communal gathering and following of Jesus.

Why was all this emphasis placed on following Jesus and not on a status of “being a Christian”? We find that some of the most audacious words in the Bible are spoken when Jesus commands people, “follow me”.

To Peter and Andrew in the boat, “Come, follow me”,

To Matthew sitting by the tax booth, “follow me

To the rich young ruler, “sell your possessions and give to the poor… then come, follow me.”

To the man with the dying father, “follow me and let the dead bury their own dead”

To the disciples and crowds gathered to listen, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Implicit in these invitations was a profound promise: that Jesus believed these people could live up to His name. Wrapped in the whole Rabbinic culture of first century Israel was an idea that the followers of the rabbi could be like their rabbi and in extending the command to follow Him, Jesus says, “You can be like me.” But there are no qualifiers in these statements. Jesus doesn’t beg, He doesn’t explain, He doesn’t wait, He doesn’t ask permission. He demands a reaction, right now, choose today: Obedience or disobedience. He is the God of the universe and you are either with Him or not.

What has following Jesus meant to me? It has meant reorienting my life to reflect the fact that I am not in control, I am not in the lead and I am not the center of this story. I am supposed to listen and obey. I’m supposed to go where I’m sent and do what I see Him doing. If I suffer or perish then I have entered into the same fate as my Lord, who boldly faced the cross for the joy set before him. Following Jesus means the same thing that it has meant for two millennia: determined, persistent, willful obedience with the promise of the only reward that ever mattered: fellowship with Him.

A friend of mine, during university, found little reaction to a proposal for a Christian gathering on campus, people hardly noticed, but when they placed signs for a gathering of followers of Jesus, people reacted adversely. Those worldly students understood the latent power just as well as the Roman Empire did. Those who lead are often misguided but those who follow Jesus will change the world.

Don’t Try and Escape the Desert

We are into the second week of Lent and it seems to me that the attention of many of us is wandering.  We are on to the next thing before we have completed this one.  So this is my challenge for today.  Don’t try and escape the desert and cut short what God wants to accomplish in your life during this season.  It can be painful but it is liberating.  Desert experiences are always meant to prepare us for entry into God’s promised land where shalom, wholeness and abundance are provided for all.

I could not help but think about this today as I gazed out on the mountains.  Their winter snow provides us with water over the summer.   If the snows don’t come then we suffer drought.  We need the pain of dark rainy and snowy days to sustain us through the season that lies ahead.  And the season of Lent is one of those times when God is storing up within us the resources we need to see us through the summer seasons of growth.

These thoughts in turn inspired the writing of this prayer

May we look from the heart of God

And see afresh enormous love poured out

A son hung upon a tree and crucified

May we return to the womb of love where God holds close

And suffer in union with the God of compassion

Unafraid to share life with hurting neighbours near and far


Following Jesus – Lenten Focus by Alex Tang

Today’s post comes from Alex Tang, a senior consultant paediatrician at the Johor Specialist Hospital, Johor Bahru and an adjunct teaching faculty of Monash University School of Medicine in Malaysia.  His books include Random Musings From a Doctor’s Chair.  He is founder of the Spiritual Formation Institute at the Holy Light Church in Johor Bahru.  His special interests are in theology, philosophy, spiritual formation, Christian spirituality and biomedical ethics.

This post first appeared on Alex tang’s blog: Random Musing’s From a Doctor’s Chair


You ask me to follow you? To be a fisher of men? Aren’t you just a carpenter? And the son of a carpenter? What do you know about fishing? Who do you think you are? And why should I follow you?

What? Yes, I must admit that I have heard rumours of your so-called miracles; the blind can see and the deaf can hear. Me? I’m seeing and hearing just fine. I have a thriving business here and have branches in Tarsus and Derby. That’s in Greece, you know. I have a beautiful wife and many children. Yes, children are a gift from God and my quiver is full. Too full, I sometimes feel. I am a respected leader in the community. In the evening I sit at the gate with the other leaders of this community and share my wisdom with them. In the synagogue I have a honoured place by the eastern wall. I serve my God well. I am not fanatical as the Pharisees in following rules. Well okay, sometimes I bend them a bit. Then I am not so crazy as the Essenes with their monastic ideals. I am seeing and hearing just fine.

Erh? You want me to follow you and leave all these behind? Do you know how much work I have put in to become who I am today? You do? Stop looking at me with those piercing eyes! Sometimes I feel that you are looking directly into my soul. I am a good man I am. Well maybe there are a few dark secrets I keep. Okay, okay, more than a few. But then who hasn’t? Well maybe I play too easy with the rules in my business. You know what they say, as long as you don’t get caught… Will you stop looking at me that way? Yes, I am sometimes a hypocrite in my dealings others and sometimes I pretend to know when I don’t. But I do have to keep their respect, don’t I?

Again with the following. You don’t exactly live in five-stars hotels in your wandering. I like my comfort. I deserved it after working so hard, don’t I? What, you want me to shake your hand? Oh, to see your hands. Man, your hand is so hard and rough. So many scars and calluses. Must be hard being a carpenter, eh? No power tools. Okay, okay, you work hard too. Who is going to look after my wife and kids when I am following you? Who is going to take care of my business when we are gone? Your Abba in heaven. You mean the One whose name we must not say. Your Abba? Woh, let me get out of the way. Lightning strike time.

Follow you, Jesus of Nazareth? Give me one good reason why I should. What do you mean I have to give you reasons why I should not?

Leaving to Find Church – Lenten reflection by Ron Cole

Today’s post is provided by Ron Cole and can also be viewed on his blog  Faith Unleashed… Running Wild

Ron Cole and his wife Colleen are empty-nesters living on Vancouver Island off Canada’s west coast. Ron works as a health care provider as a clinical laboratory technologist in a local hospital. After 20 years working within various minitries in the church, he now finds himself on the fringe. He is a director in CARTS an non-profit organization, providing food, clothing and love to the marginalized in Victoria’s inner city. Also finds himself regularly in ” hot water ” in the dish pit of the Rainbow kitchen, a soup kitchen feeding the working poor, and street community.


I really dedicate this post to Chris Heuertz, his writing, his passion for Jesus, and his Kingdom have really influenced me over the past few years. Thank you, for words that encouraged me to be bold, to grasp that mustard seed of faith and plant it in the brokenness of my neighborhood.

For me faith has always been a mystery, a journey over the topography of my mind, heart and soul. But, it does stay there it moves me into the broken, and shard pieces of the world around me. So this is where I am. I have left the church, to find the church. Many of my friends do not understand this. They are caught up in Sunday morning…that I have somehow forsaken the assembly of the saints, the singing of spiritual songs, and teaching. Some more critical, that I have lost my way…that I have engaged the slippery slope of losing my faith altogether.

Perhaps, it’s best if I give you a glimpse of my church. It begins somewhere around 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon. A group of 3-4 people gather in a small garage in the high Quadra area of Victoria. It’s a our warehouse where we store our supplies for CARTS. I envision it almost being a sanctuary, because in a sense, it’s here we prepare our sacraments for the journey through Victoria’s inner city streets. I like the thought of a  sacrament being religious symbol or often a offering which conveys divine grace, blessing, or sanctity upon the person who participates in it, or a tangible symbol which represents an intangible reality. Or more, it’s the radical scandalous love of God, the redemptive imagination of holiness being justice, and righteousness as God turning the table upside down putting things right in the perspective of his Kingdom.

So what are the sacraments we prepare; it’s underware, men’s and womens; it’s bags of socks; it’s personal packs; it’s touques, mitts, gloves and scarves; it’s ponchos; bibles; it’s fruit, baking, gallons of hot chocolate, sandwiches, cookies, candy.

Some may ask, how are these sacraments? I ask you to let your mind, heart and soul wander into the words of Jesus found in Matthew 25…

When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.”

Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?”

Jesus will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”


Our service begins, in the vicinity of Queen’s and Douglas Street. Anywhere from 8, to 24 people gather to organize, fill and pull carts.This afternoon its about 2 degrees Celsius,the rain is a mix of snow…almost being hit by a slushy. Across the street we see our friends, our community beginning to gather. They huddle under neath the second floor balcony of Victoria’s solution to social housing, the in need of renovation, ” Traveller’s Inn.” Standing at the edge of the intersection, we wait for a gap in the traffic. They wave at us, we return the wave, making a mad dash across in the intersection…CARTS in tow. Immediately, a middle aged first nations woman embraces me, she hugs me, she kisses me on the cheek. Suddenly from now where an image floods my mind…

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

I am overwhelmed by love…am I the prodigal son, and this first nations woman, struggling with addiction, with poverty, with oppression all the injustice in her world. Is she Jesus? I look at her, she looks at me…we laugh.

We give out the clothing, the food, the hot chocolate…and the wet cold rain continues to fall. But there is warmth that is kindled in this community that seems to push away the cold. There is the constant chatter of conversation, sharing stories, smiles, and hugs. They know, and we know, our community is more than just here… that we must move to visit the rest. We say our thanks, our goodbyes and we move along Douglas into the inner city.

We move a few blocks, and underneath the cover of a run down vacant gas station a man sits on the steps working on his bike. He is wet, cold, filthy and smells…this is the fragrance of broken humanity. This is the incense that attracted jesus…the offering he found wholly acceptable. We stop to see how he’s doing, offer food, a hot drink, socks…a blessings. Our rag tag gang of ragamuffins moves on towards Centennial Square…to the epicenter of Victoria’s political power. There again our community has gathered under a covered space below the mayor’s office, and council chambers. Again, it is the simplicity of community, conversation, stories, chatter, laughter, hugs, handshakes, pats on the back…there is a profound sense of communion, man and God at table…

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.

To my pleasant surprise, giving out hot chocolate I see a friend I haven’t seen since the parking lot behind Capitol Six. He has severe health problems, a constant battle with hepatitis, and HIV. But tonight he is animated, so excited and happy to see us. Again, more hugs and stories, and catching up on all the missing spaces of life.

Just before we leave, we have a prayer circle. I think to myself…this is so ironic. Here we are with Victoria’s inner city community, the homeless, the poor, the addicts, the mentally ill. This small circle of seemingly insignificance, of the powerless and the voiceless…huddled under the political power brokers of the city. It is so…Kingdom.

Before we start there is a testimony from the inner city community…he is overwhelmed. He shares about his discovery of Jesus about a year ago. He exudes with joy…tears flow. He tells us of learning how to love people…how much he loves people. Al shares a beautiful prayer of compassion, grace, mercy, love and protection for our friends, our community. There is profound peace, and silence and we move off.

It has been busy here a contant stream of people. Once everyone has got what they need, it’s time to move again to Johnson Street to the Salvation Army Shelter. Again they are waiting for us. It is a repeat of the other stops.

Supplies are running low, and the church service is coming to an end. We have one last stop… the ” Needle Exchange Van.”

We move along Johnson, and in the distance I see a young woman standing at an intersection. The light changes a few times, she dose not cross…she does not move. She’s waiting…waiting for someone to stop. We arrive at the intersection, she smiles at me, I at her. I know her…I’ve seen her many times. Another image floods my mind…could she be the prostitute that anointed Jesus feet, and washed them with her tears. I wonder…and am filled with compassion, a profound sense of worship.

We arrive and there is two young men getting crack pipes, and soda. There eyes brighen up when they see the bananas and cookies we leave at the van. They fill there pockets and love off into the darkness of the night.

We are now back to where we started the church service is over, the van is packed up. In the distance we hear a voice, ” Carts, is that you.” We have nothing left really. She is living rough on the street…it is wet, and cold. We dig around, we find some polar fleece jackets, some rain gear. She leaves happy that she has something to keep her warm.

Following Jesus has made a profound difference in my faith. My beliefs have changed, my theology has changed. My life, my thinking orbits around the mystery the God-person, Jesus. His divine graviational pull continues to draw me in. The gospels have become a have become the map in which I navigate life. No matter how many times I read it, in the contours of its topography I am blown away by the redemptive imagination that I continue to find. As dangerous, as wild, as scandalous as the words, the life of Jesus is…if we dared embrace it, dared live it as Jesus did. I can only imagine…Father your Kingdom come; on earth as in Heaven. As Jesus lived his life, the Kingdom would be here, now.

Following Jesus has taken the leash of my faith, caused me to run wild…church will never be the same for me.

You Do Not Need to Go to Seminary to Follow Jesus

Today’s post comes from Jon Stevens who together with his wife Elaine runs The Open Gate Farm on Camano Island an hour north of Seattle.  Jon says: A little bridge brings friends, family, and customers to our farmgate produce stand where crisp lettuce, crunchy radishes, and beautiful beets share space with bread and cinnamon rolls and colorful plants.  We have lived here 10 years, and are entering our 6th year with the produce stand.  All of our activities are rooted in, are centered around, and are driven by our family mission statement, “To live so that others may know the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
It comes as a jolt to some folks, but it is true.  You do not need to go to seminary to follow Jesus, to draw close to Him.  If you can read, or know someone who can, you can do it.  It starts with reading the Book, the big one.  Then just do what it says.
It’s that simple.  Really.  Just do what it says in the Bible, remembering that the New Testament trumps the old if there is any conflict.  Of course, you have to take it at face value.  That is, after all, how Jesus takes you.  He does not “contextualize” you. He doesn’t form a committee to consider you, or gather some friends together to talk about you.  He just takes you.  So likewise, we should “take” Him.  Read the Bible and take Him by doing what it tells you to.
And therein is the jolt.  The more seminary training, the bigger the jolt.  And if you want a lesson in ducking and dodging, in denial and doubting, get someone with a Phd in religion and ask them why we can’t take the Bible at face value.  You’ll see a lot of fancy footwork, but they won’t be dancing with Jesus.  You’ll see them dancing with doubt.
I’m not sure we can draw close to Jesus.  I’m thinking since He is the one who chooses us, He’s the one who does the drawing close.  Sends His Holy Spirit ahead to clear out our cobwebs and check our shoe size, then He shows up with the band and refreshments and when the music starts, asks us to dance with Him.
When we do finally shuck off our shyness, we step out on the perfect floor and so long as our eyes are on Him, we don’t feel like fools, and we begin the dance.  And you know, it goes on and on and we never get tired and our feet never hurt.  Not until we take our eyes off Him so we can get a diploma that says we know lots about religion.  Then suddenly the shoes start to shrink and we meet real pain.
But when we listen closely to the song in the Bible, the love song of the New Testament, we can always step out again and He’ll be waiting for us on His dance floor.  The band will strike up and we can once more celebrate the real.  For none of this around us now is real, you know.  Only what is around Him is real.  At least, that’s what I read in the Bible.
And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
May you start reading the Bible soon, and discover yourself dancing with Him.