29 August 2008

When I Say I'm a Christian

I'm not one for cheesy poems, but this one seems different. It was written by Carol Wimmer (not Maya Angelou as popularly credited).

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'.
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ."I am a Christian,"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble,
And need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak,
And need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed,
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible,
But God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches,
So I call upon His name.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not holier than thou.
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace somehow.

18 August 2008

Crumbs from the Table.

Sunday's lectionary Gospel reading is one of the hardest I've heard in a while. We've come off a few weeks of fun miracles--the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus walking on water, etc. We've witnessed Jesus' ability to care for people in really pragmatic ways (I mean, he fed people--lots of fish and bread) and his desire to strengthen their faith (step out of the boat Peter).

But this Sunday, the lectionary lands us in the middle of one of our hardest encounters with Christ. The Jesus we know wouldn't turn people away. But here, in Matthew 15, we see Jesus tell the Canaanite woman (very directly) that He won't heal her daughter because she isn't a Jew.

She doesn't give up. She asks again, and this time he tells her that it's not right to give dogs the children's bread. It's probably safe to assume we aren't talking about our family pet here. This isn't a compliment. In fact, I'd say its mean.

Imagine--Jesus being mean? Not very Christ-like, eh?

She still doesn't give up. She responds: Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's tables.

Wow. As I read that aloud in church Sunday, it pierced me. Her faith in the crumbs made her daughter well. Jesus changed his mind.

That is where Christ is in this story. He's in the healing, but more importantly He shows us that minds can be changed. And He proves to us that His love is open to all.

We all are searching for the crumbs from the table. Think of how the crumbs sustain us, then imagine how the feast will heal us all.

Thank God.


09 August 2008

Madeline L'Engle on Forgiveness

And ultimately forgiveness is a gift of grace rather than an act of will. I have to be willing to forgive, but I cannot will myself to forgive. I can forgive with my mind, but forgiveness is finally a matter of the heart. And the forgiveness of the heart comes from God, not from me. My part in it is to be willing to accept it. One test which indicates whether or not forgiveness has really taken place is to look at whatever it is that needs to be forgiven and see if it still hurts. If it does, forgiveness has not yet happened. But I have also learned, and I have learned it through pain, that I must be patient with myself. Just as my body is going to need more time to co plete its healing from the physical trauma of the accident, so my heat, my spirit, also need time, and I, ever impatient, must be patient with myself.

03 August 2008

Dented Cans

Two weeks ago, YTI hosted A Day of Interfaith Youth Service. It was a smashing success. We had over 60 kids descend upon the Atlanta Community Food Bank and MedShare International.

The day started out rough. I scraped a van on a cement piling, then was bugged the whole time I was driving to the food bank. The night before was a challenge. A beautiful worship service suddenly turned into a sideshow. And I was heading toward the end of a ten-day on duty stint. It was hard.

By the time we arrived at the food bank, I was ill. I was tired and grumpy and pissy and irritated. When we gathered in their volunteer room to eat lunch, I discovered my sandwich was nothing but bread and tuna--plain tuna.

We watched a cute video on the food bank, then were sent to our stations in the warehouse. I mindlessly inspected cans for expiration dates and damage. Soon, four hours had passed.

It was nice--doing mindless, productive work. In the midst of a program that challenges the deepest notions of God and the world, it was calming and relieving to accomplish something. At the end of the day they told us the amount of work we'd done--over 7,000 meals were sorted and packaged.

It was a powerful experience in another way. As we sorted, the majority of goods that passed through our hands were dented and damaged. Some were completely broken, others were jagged. But most were just the cans that were passed over because they carried a dent or two.

Yet it was these dented cans that would feed the hungry, and it that way, they carried life.

Then I realized, we're the dented cans.