Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm researching Psalm 22, which begins, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" While I know God neither slumbers or sleeps (psalm 121) I wonder if God takes a vacation?

I know as my family prepares to camp this summer, I make plans to vacate several of my identities: mom, pastor, chief complainer and put on a new one: camper. But sometimes I think I try to take a vacation from being a child of God. I forget who and whose I am. Well sometimes, to be honest I set aside my values and jump headfirst into self-centered hedonism. Isn't that how we define vacation?

Does God do the same? At the beginning of this psalm, the author certainly feels the absence of God's presence. This is a LAMENT! The psalmist is picturing God off having an iced tea under a perfect sky while dressed in bermuda shorts and attended by bikini clad angels, rather than saving him from his current predicament. (wow that's just wrong) Where is my constant companion? Where did God go?

True to form the psalmist cries out in frustration to God and expresses the dire nature of the present situation in gripping (griping?!) detail and then remembers God's faithfulness, the blessings of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus.

While this psalm may remind one of the saying "If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?" it isn't that simplistic. Upon further review the psalmist stands. It is because of his faith in God's deliverance that his suffering is increased by the mocking of his enemies. It isn't a lack of faith or unrighteous living that has created this feeling of distance from God. It is a difference of vision. We are not always in the same rhythm as God. We do not see as God sees and we expect that God's success in human history will be equivalent with our success.

People who are acting on faith sometimes make assumptions about how God will act. then we act on that belief whether or not it is accurate. When we find ourselves alone and unsupported we lament because we feel that God has not lived into God's part of the bargain. It is then that we think that God must be on vacation.

I found my answer in Isaiah 40:31. I have that scripture on a ring that I wear as a daily reminder: "Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings and soar as eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow weak." Instead of ditching my christian identity this summer, perhaps I will wait upon the Lord. I will serve.(get it "wait" upon the Lord) I will rest. I will prepare to fly. I will condition myself to run the race set before me. I will walk with God and not grow weak. (Wow I think I mixed about 5 scripture references in there) Then if (when?!) the world gets abusive and I feel that God is no longer by my side, I will remember that my vacation is in the Lord. If I simply wait, God will save. And generations will know God's grace through the stories we tell of God showing up whether we work or vacation.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Living in the Poverties of Lent

This is the season of Lent. Often we religious/spiritual types seek to give something up for 40 days as a sign of our devotion. Our act of sacrifice is rarely that, a sacrifice. It becomes almost a sport or contest rather than an offering to God. I am not saying that our sacrifice is meant to be some kind of payment for future grace, but it is supposed to cost us something significant. However, I have been chewing on a different piece of cud this season.
What if we live in a season of poverty to better identify with Christ who came to serve the least and the last and the lost? Jesus asked the young ruler to leave all of his riches and follow him. I am no Jesus, as I've often said, so I am not asking for us to put on ashes and sackcloth and martyr ourselves to impress the public or to make ourselves worthy to follow Jesus. Let me get to what I am saying.
Let us not livein our abundance but each week let us live in a different mode of poverty. The partial poverty list includes a poverty of:
clean, plentiful water
material goods
cultural acceptance
In a small group decide to live in one of the poverties in some way. The group could research how the world lives or experiences that poverty. They could choose to experience the poverty for themselves for the week. I think an example will help. Your group is working on the poverty of clean, plentiful water for the week. Two people are doing research: one on how people survive without clean, plentiful water and the other on how different groups have worked with indigeonous (sp?) to help provide their communities with adequate clean water. Two other people in the group are recognizing how much water they use. One is calculating how much water in all its forms he uses each day, while his partner is trying to see if she can survive on 5 gallons of water a day. Other people in other groups have other ways of experiencing this poverty, so at a predetermined time groups meet to share their research and experiences. After sharing and worshipping God and thanking God for the Spirit's presence, it is time to choose how to live and learn regarding the next poverty.
Spending Lent in poverty will help people develop networks of communication, help people find God working amidst the poverty, help people quiet the noisiness of this world to hear the voice of God and help people live amongst the people Jesus came to save. In this season of repentance, forgiveness, atonement, discipline, humility and sacrifice the people of God need to evaluate their relationship not only with the Trinity but with the people whom God wishes us to love. I think that the time has come to try something new this Lenten season. While giving up coffee or chocolate may fulfill what the culture thinks is necessary, living in the poverties of Lent may fulfill what Jesus has called us to do in order to be his disciples. Good LUCK! Let me know if you take on this challenge. I am writing the curriculum resource for this idea during this Lent so I can present the finished idea next year (2011). I would love to add your experiences. Look forward to hearing from y'all.