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Faith + Vulnerability

At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
5 Tips to Develop a Healthy Habit: Read Your Bible (for iBelieve)
March 13, 2017 at 5:08 am 0
I'm a pastor's wife and I have a hard time reading my Bible every day. There I said it. It's actually the thing I'm trying to focus on during Lent this year -- how to create a small habit that I know will feed me. To that end, I've written a short article on some tips to develop a habit of reading daily. I think I'm still revolting over those little check-boxes Bible reading plans in my youth -- how the boxes became the reason to read through the Bible more than any other love. But we can also make the mistake of waiting around for lovey dovey feelings before we start something new. This is yet another way to fall off the wagon. Sometimes the discipline comes first, sometimes the feelings do. But to start any habit we need to help till the soil for growth to happen. And just like exercise and diet, we make small changes that add up:
I love to fit into my skinny jeans, but I also really love to eat good food. When my pants start to get a bit tight, I’m faced with a dilemma: will I change my eating habits or not? Deciding is never a question of knowledge: I don’t need to know more about nutrition, or even plan out a rigorous diet if I want to lose ten pounds. More information and more advice will never affect change. What I need for change is to be captured by a greater love. I need to want to be healthy and fit into my jeans more than I want to eat chocolate cake. Being physically healthy is made up of a thousand small decisions about how I talk about my body, what I put into it and how I exercise it. We change when we are captured by a greater love. Our spiritual lives are no different: to change we must pay attention to what we put in to our souls. If we say that God’s Word should shape our lives, then we need to move around in it. It needs to shape us. And it can’t shape us until we’ve first developed a healthy habit of simply reading it.
  I'm over at iBelieve with "How to Develop Healthy Bible Reading Habits: 5 Tips." And don't worry, they're fun.   
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Faith + Vulnerability
When our Suburban Homes are Large, our Hearts are Small, and Refugees Forgotten
January 31, 2017 at 7:17 am 1
This post originally appeared in November 2015 at Erika Shirk's website.    Welcome home, gather round all ye refugees, come in. Oh refugee, I did not cast you out In death and broken ground, Salvation springs My body and my blood, the healing that you need Come and receive” Sandra McCracken, “All Ye Refugees” // I’m sitting quite comfortably in this warm home of mine. It’s newish to me. The pangs of moving 1000 miles away from the longest place we’d ever lived since we became a family still, always, linger. And yet here I am, doing all those routine things: walking my children to school, going grocery shopping, shouting too much at my boys’ soccer games. In the throes of transition, I feel like I’m living in two universes, where home is both here and somewhere else. Home feels a bit like putting down my phone or glasses and being unable to find them. I don’t know quite where I belong without either. I wander around trying to find something I have no definite memory of letting go. I’m watching the United States map change colors: each state colored to oppose or welcome the new plan for the US to help resettle refugees. Twenty-six governors vow to tighten their borders like cinching in their belt. It’s too dangerous, they say. It’s not our place. It’s a Trojan horse, letting them in like that. Them. I realize of course that immigrant policies, national politics and international crises are things much more complex than I am making them here. But I do know this: problems only magnify when we start to see us as somehow wholly different from them. And must we surround our nation, our homes, with watertight walls? Are we so very scared that we cannot let them in because they might hurt us? But, we must ask, who are they? They are the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widow. They are at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus gathered a rag-tag group of fishermen, he did not run from women of disrepute, he did not turn in disgust from our disease, or dishonor or shame. He saw the widow, the child, the orphan and the leper. And he had compassion. His heart saw that we were like sheep without a shepherd. We are the homeless, the refugee. It is Jesus who comes from a far-off country and made his home with us. It’s a fact that’s at the heart of the Bible. Giles Frazer writes for The Guardian that “For the moral imagination of the Hebrew scriptures was determined by a battered refugee people, fleeing political oppression in north Africa, and seeking a new life for themselves safe from violence and poverty. Time and again, the books of the Hebrew scriptures remind its readers not to forget that they too were once in this situation and their ethics must be structured around practical help driven by fellow-feeling.” The Bible is clear: our homes cannot be castles. Our homes – whether our nation, our physical dwelling place, our economic policies or any other number place of belonging – cannot be simply about us. For our homes were never meant to serve ourselves. We count square footage and upgrades to garner our worth in the same way we count our kids’ soccer goals and progress reports. We invite others in to our homes to “entertain” rather than show true hospitality. We make our homes all about us. It’s important for our spaces to reflect us and it’s not a bad thing necessarily to upgrade your kitchen. But when our homes stop being a place to welcome the wanderer, I wonder where we think we’ll find home exactly, where we’ll find belonging. Or if we’re just burying ourselves in the trappings of home but never quite belonging. When we wall up our homes and hearts and build castle walls of impenetrable self-centeredness, what use is Jesus exactly when he says he goes and prepares a place for us? That home that Jesus says he’s making for us feels a whole lot less valuable than the granite countertops in front of us. What use is a Jesus who we wall out with economic belt-cinching and say that he (like the refugees) isn’t quite safe to let in and really change our categories? For yes (like Lewis says), Jesus isn’t safe, but he is good. Will our homes be safe? Because as Jesus makes his home in us, he uproots cobwebs of shame and doubt and all the ways we wall others out. He turns over tables and plants a seed of his upside-down kingdom right in our hearts. And you better believe that Jesus making a home is more than a pretty little image, an abstraction that makes us feel good. Because Jesus never does a background check to see if we check out first before building us a home. Because no one measures up. We’re all homeless wanderers, set adrift on the hem of someone else’s mercy. We’re all refugees, wandering around since Eden, trying to make and find our true home. IMG_0926 And Jesus sees us; his eyes warm with empathy, in our squalid, homeless state. He sees us, as devastated internally as the refugees sleeping on concrete are externally. We have no roof over our head either. There is nowhere we quite fit. We, too, are longing for home. This Jesus runs to meet us. He says “My son has come home!” He places rings on our fingers and the clothes of the family and throws a feast. But sometimes that Jesus just feels a bit too unsafe to have under our roof. So home escapes us, like my lost glasses, and we keep searching for the missing thing that promises to make things okay, to feel like we have things ordered, so we can really see. The refugee crisis is complex. Yes, it’s a risk to welcome people, from refugees in a far-off country to even welcoming your neighbor truly into your life. But both are necessary. How could we do anything less? How can we stay walled up and impervious to our own refugee status? How can we ignore that Jesus built his tent right in the midst of our finitude? How can we forget that his body and blood house us, that our experience of the Eucharist welcomes and clothes us, gives us sustenance? How can we turn our backs on those that cry out for home? How can we not do something? Refugees aren’t safe and neither is Jesus. Both are messy and turn our world upside-down. But isn’t that right where we find home, in the mess right in the middle?
Feel free to engage in the comments, send me an email, or I'd love to grab a cup of coffee if you're local (or on Voxer if you're not). If you disagree or have questions or concerns, let's talk. Let's learn civility and kindness here.  Resources: World Relief International Justice Mission International Rescue Commission US Office of Refugee Resettlement
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Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Inauguration Day
January 20, 2017 at 9:57 am 0
Dear King of Heaven, On this day when another man takes over the highest office in America, our nation is deeply divided. And all of us have been brought up short by this election. We confess that we have trusted leaders and politics to be our God, instead of you. We have made America our god. Forgive us.  We confess that we are fearful. We are afraid for what policies may be enacted that do not have love and justice as their driving force. We are afraid for those who are weak and marginalized, that the voiceless will not be heard. Oh merciful Father, increase our faith. Show us your light. Help us to see how we can be agents of a Kingdom that breaks every barrier based on race, politics, and socio-economics. Grow our compassion, help us to see the good in all those who are made in your image. Help us work for justice, compassion, mercy, and love for our neighbors, no matter how they voted.  God, your Kingdom is one where the last shall be first. Humble us so that our empathy for others increases. Grow our discontent over injustice so we become good neighbors. Let us be like Jesus: challengers to greed and to immoral ways of living. Both the rule-followers and rule-breakers couldn't understand a Kingdom that said the way up is down; the way to live is to die; the way to peace is not through a sword. Let it start small. Help us to listen to our spouses, friends, children, neighbors. Then, let it grow. Help us to listen to one another. Help us to listen to those who are saddened and scared today and those who are rejoicing. Let us not demonize someone made in the image of God because they think differently than we do. If so, we will have only given in to hate. And, "darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only love can do that." Increase our love. May love keep the revolution you began going.  Oh God, you who set the stars spinning into space, rule over all. May we be faithful agents of your Kingdom. May we take refuge under your wings, knowing you rule, see all, forgive, and comfort. Amen.  
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At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Deliver Us from Christmas Cookies, We Pray (for The Mudroom)
December 7, 2016 at 6:40 am 0
  merry2   It's the season of sweets. As much as I want to indulge, there's often a tug-a-war on what to eat and what not to eat going on under the surface. Or, most likely, I chuck it all and indulge and vow to eat healthily later. I'm finding that eating (like most things) isn't often about eating at all. It goes much deeper. Today, I'm at The Mudroom writing about food, deliverance, and prayer.  
The problem isn’t the food or my inability to eat healthily, to say “no” to what is bad for me and hunger after what is good. The problem isn’t food at all. Like so much else — relationships, sex, church, houses — food is a gift. It is sustenance and grace and provision. Like good gifts it is meant to be received and enjoyed. But when we obsess over it, Gollum-like, through our indulgence or abstention, we’re simply using the gift of good food to say something about ourselves. That I don’t measure up unless I measure up. That I use food to feel my feelings because I’m too scared to feel them. Swallowing them is much easier. That I feel productive when I eat healthily so I’ll beat myself up when I deviate from my plan. That I deserve this coffee or cocktail or this cookie because somehow it’ll make up for hard decisions, tired mornings, and feeling unseen and unappreciated. As if food could solve soul problems. Food is the safest drug we have.
Read the rest here. 
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Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Election Day
November 8, 2016 at 7:06 am 2
Prayer for Election Day -- aahales.com Father in Heaven, You know all things. Nothing surprises you. Today, the world watches as America chooses her next President. Our land is rife with battle cries, with despair, with so many people anxious, worried, afraid about the election's outcome. We confess we have but little power -- over the affairs of countries or even over our own lives. Perhaps this election shows us how very little is within our control. Father, we know that you are good. We know that you are loving. And we know that America is not synonymous with your Kingdom.  God, we praise you that your Kingdom is where the last shall be first. Your Kingdom is equitable, just, kind and compassionate. Your economy is not one where the rich get off and the poor must deal with injustice. Your Kingdom is full of miraculous hope. Forgive us, we pray, for our condescension. For seeing "the other side" as not fully human. For blanketing people made in your image with stereotypes that denigrate the divine spark. Forgive us for seeing only our way as right. Forgive us for not listening, not seeing, not loving those who are different from us. Forgive us for our hard hearts. Forgive us, most of all, for thinking a nation or its leader will calm our fears, perfectly champion justice, and make our lives (or our wallets) have meaning. Only Jesus, who died, suffered, and rose again, can provide us with a narrative that makes this messed-up world make sense. Thank you for Jesus, the King who gave up power so that we can be reconciled to God. I pray that those who claim your Kingdom would find their primary allegiance today: not to a political party but to God himself. I pray for your church worldwide, that we would see how love covers sin. How grace and mercy triumph -- for they are all that will move a hard heart. How goodness -- even amidst great disagreement between persons and platforms -- can make our Jesus look attractive to a watching world. May your people be unified in faith, hope, love and charity today. Amen. And Amen. And Amen.
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