Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ignite A Fire In Me

Christ Jesus,
before ascending into heaven,
You promised to send the Holy Spirit
to Your apostles and disciples.
Grant that the same Spirit
may perfect in our lives the work of Your grace and love.
Grant us the Spirit of Fear Of The Lord
that we may be filled with a loving reverence toward You.
The Spirit of Piety
that we may find peace and fulfillment
in the service of God while serving others;
The Spirit of Fortitude
that we may bear our cross with You
and, with courage, overcome the obstacles
that interfere with our salvation;
The Spirit of Knowledge
that we may know You and know ourselves
and grow in holiness;
The Spirit of Understanding
to enlighten our minds
with the light of Your truth;
The Spirit of Counsel
that we may choose the surest way of doing Your will,
seeking first the Kingdom;
Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom
that we may aspire to the things that last forever;
Teach us to be Your faithful disciples
and animate us in every way with Your Spirit. Amen.

And Now For Something Off the Wall

One of my favorite artists thanks to the some Aussies I know...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh Let Your Will Be Done In Me

I discovered this song today and thought I would share.
Sovereign Grace Ministries

As Long As You Are Glorified

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Psalm

Psalm 25

    Of David.

 1 In you, LORD my God,
   I put my trust.

 2 I trust in you;
   do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
   will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
   who are treacherous without cause.

 4 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
   for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
   and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
   for you, LORD, are good.

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
   therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
   and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
   toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, LORD,
   forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

 12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
   He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
   and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
   he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare.

 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
   and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
   and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
   and how fiercely they hate me!

 20 Guard my life and rescue me;
   do not let me be put to shame,
   for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
   because my hope, LORD, is in you.

 22 Deliver Israel, O God,
   from all their troubles!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Civil Religion In The Church?

It happens every year. Come May 31st, July 4th or November 11th, and suddenly on the closest Sunday we have a strange sight confronting us as we reverently prepare to worship- the state?
As I study sociology, a new name emerges for a phenomenon I have long noticed and wondered at: the practice of bringing civil religion into our churches on state or national holidays.
Our church is suddenly full of fervor for the nation as the flag is brought forward, songs sung about America and even the alter decorated with red, white and blue flowers to further bring the civic religion to mind as we replace our weekly Christian resurrection celebrations with a sentimental and worshipful service for our nation.

According to my textbook, a civil religion is a quasi-religious loyalty binding individuals in a secular state. Citizen's loyalties are to the state rather than to a specific religion.

Then I checked the infamous Wikipedia to see what others have to say about civil religion.
And I quote:
 This assertive civil religion of the United States is an occasional cause of political friction between the U.S. and its allies in Europe, where (the literally religious form of) civil religion is less extreme. In the United States, civil religion is often invoked under the name of "Judeo-Christian tradition", a phrase originally intended to be maximally inclusive of the several monotheisms practiced in the United States, assuming that these faiths all worship the same God and share the same values. This assumption tends to dilute the essence of both Judaism and Christianity; recognition of this fact, and the increasing religious diversity of the United States, make this phrase less heard now than it once was, though it is far from extinct. Some scholars have argued that the American flag can be seen as a main totem of a national cult. Arguing against mob violence and lynching, Abraham Lincoln declared in his 1838 Lyceum speech that the Constitution and the laws of the United States ought to become the ‘political religion’ of each American.

From the encyclopedia of Religion and Society:
The concept refers to a "transcendent universal religion of the nation".

When I read that I confess that I immediately thought back to all the years of saluting the flag in church, to singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs, to taking time to memorialize those who had served our country, to generally waving our national flag and taking pride in America. All things that are well and good....but the thing that causes question is the fact that all this takes the place of our regular worship toward God. And now is being termed a separate religious activity.

I recall one patriotic holiday in particular. We were visiting a small church out in a remote area. This particular holiday they had set up a separate "altar" almost, complete with pictures, medals, flags, and other American memorabilia and symbols. Instead of singing hymns, all the patriotic songs were sung. When it was time for the message, the Scripture was skimmed over and plenty of time spent discussing America and how wonderful the nation is. Somehow, I did not feel like I had come in contact with the Most High God. The time spent at church was not spent thinking about our Christian walk or our relationship with Christ. And this was disturbing.

I've heard the stories of people in other countries who are hiding in order to have church. Bibles are confiscated, and lives endangered just by gathering together. I do not think they are wasting time being patriotic or indulging in civil religion. They found something so important that they are risking their lives to continue to worship God. There are no red, white and blue carnations here.

Yet many Americans are outraged if we choose to worship in the usual manner on patriotic holidays, or relegate it all to a small mention at the beginning of service. Their family members were not mentioned, their flowers not noticed, their favorite song not sung. America was not held up as the shining epitome of freedom and happiness.

And I am left wondering if all this is really pleasing, or really worthwhile. I choose to think Christ is the epitome of freedom and happiness.

And then the thought crosses my mind, "What would Jesus think of all this?"

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:16-18

Jesus came to earth to reunite us with God. He was sacrificed for our sins when he stretched his arms on the hard wood of the cross. His was the ultimate symbol of love, of freedom, of yes, even happiness. Not for just Americans. We take away from this sacrifice and the Holiness of Christ when we push Him out of the way to the strains of God Bless America and when civil religion replaces our Christianity.

Only this: Be vigilant in keeping the Commandment and The Revelation that Moses the servant of God laid on you: Love God, your God, walk in all his ways, do what he's commanded, embrace him, serve him with everything you are and have." Joshua 22:5

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Adventure of Life Is Today

The past months I've been working to change my thinking and renew my mind about how I live my life. Part of that journey included reading A Million Miles In A Thousand Years and thinking about the story I live and what kind of story it should be. I decided I didn't want a story that ended on the couch with potato chips. I wanted a good story, a story that was always leading up to the most beautiful ending of Jesus. Once I decided that, I had to figure out what that looked like on a daily basis.

And what I am finding is that the adventure of life is


Just today. Not tomorrow. Not next month, or next year. Not when I have more money. Not when I have a diploma.

Not yesterday. Not last year. Not when I was younger.


So for the past couple of months I've been consciously focusing on just that. But it takes constant reminders as I retrain my thinking. I have to refocus frequently.

I am really good at worrying about what is going to happen next. I'm really good at trying to plan or figure out in my head what the next bit is going to look like or be like or include. Tomorrow sounds like a really good thing to worry about. I worry about whether I will get the job I want, whether my dreams will be realized on my time frame, whether things will work out, what will happen next and on and on ad nauseam.

But I can't worry about tomorrow. What I shall eat, what I shall wear, what will happen next.

One of the things I've been pondering is the change and flow of life and how you're going along and suddenly a curve is up ahead and everything changes in a moment, changing things forever. One moment I think I am following what I am called to do, then it changes and I am searching for the answer all over again.
My calling is to fulfill what is before

Every day I make myself take time to think through what I am called to do that day, with the knowledge that things could change at any moment. But it helps me think about today, not tomorrow. I think, today, I am called to do my best at work. To show Christ's love to those I meet. To study and do well in school. To find the service I am to do in the community I find myself in today. All I have to worry about is today. All I have to think about is today.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matt 6:33-34

Friday, February 4, 2011

Keeping Up With The Joneses

I recently had the chance to watch the movie, The Joneses. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this movie, but I've thought about it enough to comment on it...especially after I found our recent newsletter issue from Compassion and noted an advertisement playing off the movie. To find out more, you can go here:

The movie is about a "family" of salesmen who are sent to a suburb to sell the newest, biggest, and best. In order to do this they set up housekeeping and then entice all their "friends" into buying or at least wanting what they've got. In the midst of this they find that love is worth more than stuff.

It really is kind of a shocking way of looking at how commercialism is such a huge thing in America. And how consumer we are.

At the risk of harping on what I learned in Bolivia, I'm going to throw it out there yet again...they live so joyously on so little. And then I feel like I need to complain because of no closet space? Ouch.

Kinda makes you think sometimes.

Kinda makes me think sometimes.

And We Have Falafel

Today I made falafel for lunch. It brought back a flood of memories from Israel. Here's how I made it:

2 1/2 cups washed chickpeas
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (optional)
3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup flour
oil for frying

Soak chickpeas overnight in 10 cups hot water and baking soda. In the morning drain and boil in fresh water for about an hour.
Drain the chickpeas. Grind in a blender or food processor until fine. Add spices and flour. If mixture is too dry, add a few drops of water. Refrigerate until chilled. Make small balls about 1 1/4" in diameter. Deep fry a few balls at a time for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Keep balls warm.
To serve: Stuff 6 balls in a fresh pita bread together with hummus, tehina, fresh vegetable salad and hot pepper sauce. Eat warm.