Infused emotions

A preacher announced; “The Holy Spirit doesn’t move in our emotions.”

I thought, God please don’t let this be true ‘cause I need you!

I need you in my body, my mind and my emotions.

I want to believe that you’re God of all; including all of me.

And I do. I believe that in some mysterious way I can’t understand, God created and redeemed my emotions. I believe he infuses my emotions, along with my body and my thoughts with his Holy Spirit.

God gives me his dreams and desires, then he fulfills them. God gives me his love and peace. These aren’t just gifts to my mind – they’re gifts to my heart, my emotions, too.

I can’t believe God only speaks to my mind.

That’s more like the teachings of the Gnostics: God as the eternal mind. God as a disembodied Spirit. No, that contradicts the glory of the Gospels entirely. God took on flesh, became a human being, fully human, and dwelt among us.

When we see God, God in the flesh, we see a man of emotions; weeping over Jerusalem and the tomb of Lazarus, turning over tables and chasing out moneychangers, groaning a prayer in the garden. Surely, these are examples of emotions.

It’s not just in Jesus that we see emotions, either. In the Old Testament, we see a God who weeps, who becomes angry, who is delighted and happy.

God is a God of emotions and he breathes his Holy Spirit into ours.

“But you can’t trust emotions.”

No. Of course not!

We can’t trust emotions or thoughts or the physical desires of our bodies. We have to test all things and hold on to that which is good, true, loving and kind.

But to cut off our emotions is to cut off an essential part of ourselves, a part created by God in the image of God. Our emotions are part of what it means to be human.

It would be far better to invite God into our emotions and submit all that we feel to him, to invite him to move in our emotions and to speak to us through them, along with our minds and our bodies.

What are your emotions right now? Can you invite Jesus into them? Is he speaking something to you through them?

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Mercy and Justice

It’s so hard to do it all. Maybe it’s impossible, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?

God calls us to offer justice for the oppressed, to show mercy for those who struggle, and to live daily with faith in God and his kingdom.

Maybe faith in God’s kingdom means that believing and offering justice and mercy is right, good and appropriate.

But how can we do that?

Suppose I walk into a room. I look around and ask, is someone here oppressed? Can I do something right now to lighten their load?

Perhaps there’s a word of encouragement I can speak. That might be nice, but isn’t that like saying; ‘hey, I see your load, but you can carry. No worries.’

That’s not very helpful.

Oppression is always caused by another. Sometimes, it’s systemic. Other times, it’s personal.

When we see oppression, the invitation is to offer justice.

One evening, a Bible study group disintegrated into an argument over whether or not a homosexual committed to abstinence ought be allowed into the fellowship of the saints.

I saw oppression and spoke up. I didn’t make any friends and I’m sorry about that, but I’m sure faith in God requires that we offer justice for the oppressed and that night, offering justice meant speaking up to those who, perhaps unwittingly, were oppressing.

But we’re not just called justice. We’re called to mercy, too.

Perhaps I walk into the same room and ask another question; is someone here trapped in their own sin?

Suppose at that same Bible study, a man says, “I’ve stumbled again. I’m trying so hard to welcome and accept people.”

How can I show mercy? How can I be kind and full of compassion? Is there something I can do to help?

Perhaps this is the place where I offer encouragement, gentleness and acceptance. ‘You can do it. With God’s help, you can do it.’

Faith is believing that offering justice to those oppressed by sin outside of themselves, and offering mercy to those destroying themselves with their own sins, is the stuff of the kingdom of God – it’s God’s desire and brings forth the beauty of his kingdom in all of our lives.

Lord help me, help all of us to offer justice and mercy, and give us the wisdom to know which is called for when.

Posted in Kingdom of God | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Reading the news

I’m a newshound. I track events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, the UK and the US. When I have time, I read reports from just about anywhere. It’s important to me. I’ve traveled all over the world, loved people in diverse places and care about what happens to them.

Still, I absolutely won’t watch news on TV. It’s not just an aversion to the way it’s presented. It’s more than that. I need time.

Let me explain.

I need time between the reports to stop and pray.

What’s the point of reading article after article, if all I’m doing is filling my head with knowledge and my heart with pain? How can I carry that into my next activity? No way!

I need time to stop and pray.

Sure, I don’t get to read as much as I want, but what I do read, I read with Jesus.

I open BBC or AP, read an article, pause, and have a conversation with Jesus. I look for his perspective, tell him how I feel, and pray for the people involved.

When I read the news with Jesus, I see his light shining in the darkness. And though I may walk away sad, I carry hope with me. I remember that Jesus loves and that he desires to save. I remember that all is not lost. That he is present. His spirit is moving in even the most difficult situations.

When I get busy and just skim the headlines and walk away, I carry a heaviness in my spirit and a sense of despair. I find myself wringing my symbolic hands. “Woe is me. Woe is us. Woe!”

I don’t think that helps anyone. It certainly doesn’t help me and it offers nothing to my neighbors near and far. I would so much rather pray for all of us. So, for me, the news is like a global prayer list for people precious to God.

I’ll stick with reading it with Jesus.

How do you read the news?

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Battle for the keep

I have friends who will stand up in the face of whirlwinds and shout down the enemy. I love that. I have others who will stand before the sick, quietly anoint them with oil and pray for healing. I love that, too.

Both are practicing spiritual warfare. Any time we shine the light in the darkness, we enter a spiritual battle.

But beneath all of this, all of our responses to the darkness, is a more fundamental battle. It’s the one that takes place in our hearts and minds. And that one first about who God is.

Hey Eve, God’s trying to deny you something good. He isn’t for you. See, God really isn’t good. You’re on your own, kid.

Sound familiar?

That’s the foundation and the battle is pitched within the heart of every follower.

A Pakistani woman’s child was killed in an attack on a school. She cried out, “Oh God, what did my son do to deserve your punishment?”

Is God the author of evil? Did God compel armed gunmen to enter that school, to move from room to room and to slaughter over hundred and twenty children?

Is God good or is God evil?

That is the fundamental question and the most significant battlefield we will ever enter. This is the keep in the castle, the King on the chessboard, the flag our enemy seeks to capture.

If God is not good, then we will do everything we can to hide ourselves and all we treasure from him. We may go to church. We may read our Bibles and we may even give our lives on foreign fields, but we won’t know God, we’ll only know about him.

If we see God as good, if we recognize that he is for us, then we will open every corner of our hearts and lives to his presence. Day, after day, with all our hopes and fears, our tears and laughter, our confusion and our clarity, we’ll walking intimacy with him.

That’s why this particular battle matter so much. In a way, it decides everything.

So here’s my question for the day; do you believe that God is good, really?

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Assimilation

When I first went to Afghanistan, a foreign coworker told me that I should pray after the meal because that’s what Afghans do and I should assimilate.

I thought that was a brilliant idea and immediately adopted it. But then I discovered that Afghans don’t always pray after their meals and if I didn’t pray before them, I wouldn’t remember to pray at all.

I said bunk on that. I’m going to pray my way.

My coworker said – “you need to assimilate”.

Hum… Really?

Is that what Christ calls us to do?

I didn’t think praying before the meals would insult my Afghan neighbors, but just to be sure, I asked their permission whenever I was eating at one of their houses. Some Afghans teased me, but no one ever objected.

There were other rules in Afghanistan, too. I wasn’t supposed to look into the faces of men I didn’t know, or to laugh out loud on the street.

I broke those rules, regularly. I wanted to treat the men at the little shop on the corner as though they were human beings, just like me. So that’s what I did. They still welcomed me in their neighborhood and loved it when I visited their families.

Assimilation, I think, means doing what’s right in other people’s eyes.

When I lived in Afghanistan, I was supposed to do what’s right in the eyes of the Afghans around me. Now, I’m back, in America and apparently, I’m supposed to do, think and feel what’s right in the eyes of others in this culture.

That seems like a crazy standard, and anyway, it’s the ultimate of hypocrisy. Look at me, I’m look just like you.

But I’m not just like you. I’m just like me, and only me.

And anyway, Christ called us to do what’s right in his eyes. Maybe that’s what I should be doing; trying to assimilate to Christ’s kingdom. Hah! Now that makes sense. I think that’s what I’ll do.

What are you assimilating to?

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Remember your baptism

A woman I know recently lost her husband. He was an aid worker, killed in Afghanistan. She’s still trying to find the ground under her feet. I think she’s living between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Another friend went through a horrendous cancer journey. It took her almost two years to get from that first diagnosis; Good Friday, to a clean bill of health; Resurrection Sunday. Now, she’s walking in the joy. Or maybe, she found Resurrection Sundays dozens of times through that journey; Small celebrations; experiences of life, full and rich in the midst of a very dark season.

Jesus called his passion a baptism and having been through a few hard times myself, I get it. I think the water was just a shadow.

Yeah, I waded into the Pacific, answered a few questions and relaxed as my pastor pushed me under the waves. When I came up out of the water, I had been baptized. A once and done, glorious experience.

But clearly, that wasn’t the last time the waves overwhelmed me!

I was under water when some of my friends were killed. I was under water when I had to evacuate my home. I was under water when my kid sister’s life was in trouble. And I’m sure I’ll be underwater again.

There’s a lot of ways to be underwater.

The Passion was Jesus’ most real baptism. John’s water was only the shadow.

Life is always the real thing.

Each dark, Good Friday experience opens the door to a glorious Easter Sunday celebration. If we hang on long enough, we’ll find it.

What is “it”?

It’s life. It’s joy. It’s laughter and praise. It’s rising Phoenix-like out of the ashes into something entirely new. And yeah, it takes a miracle.

Something is lost; a loved one, good health, a sense of safety, something, always something is lost. But if we hang on long enough, we’ll come up out of the water and something else will be gained.

With every experience; the something gained is different. Maybe a sense of the preciousness of life, a joy in being alive, a passion for new work, who knows. Or maybe, everybody knows in their own way, from their own experiences.

The point is, there’s a resurrection. Always, there’s a resurrection.

Remember your baptism. All your baptisms.

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Seeing the Stranger

When I lived in Afghanistan, my Afghan neighbors saw me as an outsider, a stranger in a strange land. They recognize that I was far from home, separated from my family, my customs, everything that made me feel safe. With that recognition, they invited me into their homes for tea. They asked me about my family and my homeland. Eventually, they claimed me as their “foreigner”.

I often wonder how Muslim immigrants in the United States experience life here. I imagine they look at us and feel like outsiders, strangers in a strange land. I’m sure they miss their families, their customs and their homelands. I wonder how many times they’ve been harassed and how many more times they’ve been afraid.

I suspect most Muslims walking the streets of America, riding in our subways and entering our workplaces are more afraid of us than we could possibly be of them. After all, they’re the strangers.

Maybe that’s one of the first things to realize. Maybe it would help us if we understood some of the tension, fear and sense of judgment that lies in the hearts of some of our Muslim neighbors. Maybe we would see them as human, as individuals, as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, people who are just trying to figure out how to live in a place they sometimes experience is hostile.

Perhaps, if we saw our Muslim neighbors, really saw them, we might be able to reach out, offer a smile, a friendly hello, perhaps a cup of tea.

Just a thought.

Posted in Loving the Stranger | Tagged , | 2 Comments