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Showing posts from April, 2016

The Rights of the Poor...and everyone else.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights booklet
In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  They are simple, yet profound, rights that apply to all people and all nations.
In Proverbs 29:7 it says, "The godly know the rights of the poor; the wicked don't care to know."
What is interesting to me is that the godly know the rights of the poor because they understand the foundational truth that all people and all nations have the same rights. The wicked have a different point of view--seeing their rights as different or supreme to others.
The godly don't consider themselves to be different from the poor.  They are the poor.  They identify with "the least of these"--because this was the message of Jesus.
So what about you?  Do you know about the rights of the poor?  Do you know about the people in poverty within your own city?  Do you hold assumptions about their lives?  Do you believe that they should "…

Down into the dry, lonely valley

"A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Psalm 23 has always been one of my favorite Scriptures.  It is short and sweet and goes like this:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures:  he leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul:  he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil:  for you are with me;  your rod and your staff they comfort me.  You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies:  you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life:  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever
One of the things that I have always pondered when reading Psalm 23 is the tranquil scene set by the Shepherd.  He takes the little sheep and leads her gently into safety.  Her soul is restored and she is at peace.

He leads her.  In paths …

When God had a secret to tell

"The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms.  This was according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." Ephesians 3: 10-11

In this Scripture, I see God much like Dustin Hoffman's character in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (one of my favorite movies, btw).  Hoffman plays Mr. Magorium, an eccentric toy store owner that creates a world of magic for children and adults alike.  
I see God like this.  He has a secret.   An ornery little grin on his face.  Wringing his hands in excitement. Bushy eyebrows risen in anticipation.  Dancing in small circles--little thrilled hops like a child that cannot contain the secret.  
Oh and finally he gets to tell it!  The angels have seen his excitement and wonder what he has up his sleeve.  And now he gets to tell them!  
Death and suffering have a deadline!  They will not last fore…

Little birds and protective wings

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty... For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go." Psalm 91:1

In this verse, God is compared to a bird that protects its young in the shadow beneath protective wings.  Here, we see the feminine characteristics of God.   She is protecting her young.  She is nurturing.
This chapter goes on to say that God will:
rescue from every trap protect from deadly disease cover with his/her feathers shelter with his/her wings protect with his/her faithful promises
All of these actions are the loving care of tender parents.  Father and mother. The emphasis, however, is on the action of the little chick. She is the little one that runs under the protective wings when danger is close by. She lives in the shelter of the protective wings. She finds rest.
As I am writing this, I have a Pandora station playing quietly in the background.  This is the song that came on... A lullaby from a loving parent.
Our God i…

When others condemn us. When we condemn ourselves.

"He will vindicate you in broad daylight, and publicly defend your cause." Psalm 37:6

Upon reading this, I immediately thought of the story about the "adulteress woman."  If you don't know the story, it's recorded in John 8.  Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include this story but I believe it's here for good reason.
The scene is this:
It is early morning.  Hundreds of people are already at the temple praying.  Some stayed all night and slept in the temple courts.  They have come with their grief, their petitions, their repentance.   Jesus walks into the middle of the crowd and begins to teach them.  He tells them about the deep love of God.  He has compassion on their suffering and tells them that they are forgiven.  He heals them.
And right into the middle of the crowd storms a league of the religious elite.  These are the bad dudes that tried to lay claim to God's attention and authority.  Their grimacing faces set like stone and determination.  …

For those that experience pain

"He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised and we considered him insignificant." Isaiah 53:3
Loneliness by Hans Thoma

As a mental health provider, I am also acquainted with illness and with individuals that experience pain.
There are those that suffer with mental health challenges.   And those that love someone suffering with a mental health challenge.
There are those that have been abused. And those that abuse others.  Often because they were also once abused.
There are those that sit alone on the side of the street. And those that walk right by.
There are those that are alone and hopeless in their illness. And those that suffer along with them.
There are those that we hide our face from.   We don't answer the phone when they call.   Or the door when they stop by.   We offer them a polite smile...but none of our time.  
They're too needy. Too annoying. Too broken. Too ill.
We consider t…

Tend to your integrity like little sheep

"Trust in the Lord and do what is right! Settle in the land and maintain your integrity." Psalm 37: 3

"I always marvel at how gentle some of the men were at this time of year, how you saw them kneeling in the mud or the straw of the pens, delicately threading a stomach tube down an ailing lamb’s throat, over the little pink tongue. You could see how much they cared. My dad would be gutted if he lost a lamb; it would hang over him like a grey cloud until he had put things right by saving others."  James Rebanks:  "The Shepherd's Life"

In the Hebrew, "maintain" could also be interpreted as to tend, watch over, guard.  It likens our integrity to a little flock of sheep--easily devoured, easily scattered.
A shepherd tends to his flock because he loves each little lamb and knows their value.
What is the value of your integrity?

Does it "gut" you if you lose your integrity or have your integrity questioned?

Does it hang over you until you have &…

When wicked people seem to succeed

"Do not fret when wicked people seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! For they will quickly dry up like grass, and wither away like plants." Psalm 37:1-2

Look at anything happening in US news (politics?) right now and it seems that "evildoers" and "wicked" are constantly winning, succeeding, triumphing over those that are trying to live right and with integrity.  It is easy to point fingers at thosepeople out there...
But because of Jesus' ministry and those that He considered to be wicked and evil, I see this scripture speaking about the wicked within the church.  The wicked were those that created fictitious rules in the name of God to oppress others.  The evil were those that grabbed on to power, particularly religious power, to keep others down, and ultimately, away from the compassionate mercy of God.
This scripture speaks to injustice.  In fact, all of Psalm 37 is about God fighting for our justice when everything around us seems so unjust.  The wick…

Cultivating compassion in a pizza place

"The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me." John 14:21

Disclaimer:  I feel weird sharing this story but it is not about me.  God is compassionate.
Yesterday I offered an all-day training on Trauma-Informed Systems of Care and the deep importance of living with compassion toward ourselves and others.  ("Cultivating Compassionate Culture")
Exhausted, I ordered pizza online to be picked up after work, picked up my kiddo from soccer practice, and headed to the pizza place where the food should have been ready- hot and gooey!
Walking in the door, a customer was walking out and huffed a frustrated "Good luck!" in my direction.  The employees were obviously swamped with orders.  They were frazzled, working hard, struggling to keep up...
I walked up to the counter and learned, with an apology, that my pizza was not ready but should be shortly.  I stepped to the back of the room to wait.
I watched as customer after customer came to the co…

To the Exhausted.

"Now Gideon and his three hundred men had crossed over the Jordan River, and even though they were exhausted, they were still chasing the Midianites.  He said to the men of Succoth, 'Give some loaves of bread to the men who are following me, because they are exhausted.'" Judges 8:4

The whole point of this Scripture is God offering compassion to the exhausted:
To those chasing a dream.     To those that labor for God. To those that battle. To those that are crossing rivers, feeling flooded. To those in pursuit of a goal. To those weighted down with worry, fear, weariness.
God is compassionate.
His solution is simple and sweet: Eat carbs. Glory to God.

Meet Stephen: Exploring slavery and freedom.

"Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.  But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen...stood up and argued with Stephen." Acts 6: 8-9

This Scripture was the focus of the church message yesterday morning.  The story goes on to say that the men at the Synagogue became more enraged and eventually killed Stephen for daring to love deeply and heal with compassion--in the name of Jesus. 
What is most interesting to me is that these men were Freedmen, or men that had once been enslaved by other men and had been set free.  They were now using their freedom to enslave others with religious regulations.  Once having no power, they knew what oppression felt like.  Instead of taking their freedom and using it for good--to set others free--they became dictators of the religious law. They believed themselves to be God's hand of justice, enslaving and killing men that were truly free in Jesus. Men like Stephen.
When they…

The Weak--They are Us, We are Them.

"By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35
Science teacher Erik Gordon at Lincoln Alternative High School

I spent the morning crying through Paper Tigers--a new documentary about a school in Washington that implemented a trauma-informed environment with their students.  
The work that I do involves researching, creating materials, and training organizations around Trauma-Informed Systems of Care and the impact that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have on the development of a child's brain.

In Paper Tigers, high school staff at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington chose to take a new approach with their students by recognizing the youths' "problematic" behaviors as simply coping skills (albeit unhelpful coping skills) that the youth had learned from simply trying…

A Parental Faith

"By faith, when Moses was born, his parents hid him for three months, because they saw the child was beautiful and they were not afraid of the king's edict." Hebrews 11:23
photo credit:

Continuing from yesterday, I wanted to stay in Hebrews 11 giving special attention to Moses' parents. 
Slaves.  They knew suffering.  From what we know about the living conditions under Pharaoh, they lived their days laboring to build the kind's gluttonous kingdom.  They remembered the days when their ancestor, Joseph, was second in command to all of Egypt.  They remembered freedom and told their children about the days of long-ago when they walked through the countryside, tending sheep, growing their own bountiful harvests, and worshipped on humble alters built to their God.
They knew that their own people had rejected their God.  It grieved them.  For they were reaping the punishment of a disobedient people.  
Moses' mother had not heard of the new law directly…

Faith and Hope

"Now without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who approaches God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  I love the old stories, the examples of faith in the lives of the often faithless.  Faith does not mean perfection.  Or even perfect belief.  It's a hope in something that seems comprehensively incomprehensible.  
Their stories give me hope.  
Noah.  Drunk and naked in his tent.  Abraham.  Father of an illegitimate child with a servant girl.   Isaac.  Showed favoritism between sons and lied saying his wife was his sister. Jacob.  Deceived his father and betrayed his brother. Joseph.  Haughty of heart. Moses.  Murderer. Rahab.  Prostitute.
Each one called faithful, obedient, believing, hoping, persevering, blessed.
In each of their lives, there was a time (and perhaps only a moment) when they experienced flawless faith.   But that is the "mustard seed" that …

The place where the Lord lives

"How lovely is the place where you live...even the birds find a home there, and the swallow builds a nest, where she can protect her young." Psalm 84:1, 3

Maybe to the annoyance of some of my friends, I am constantly talking about how much I love my home.  It was built almost 100 years ago--with creaky floors, wobbly original windows, and an old musty basement.  It also has all of the character of a house this age:  wooden moulding around the doors and windows, a window seat (where I am perched right now), french doors, and little added cubbies and cabinets in almost every room.
This house came to me in a dark time, after some really tough decisions.  And it has been the place where I am beginning to heal.  The Lord lives here.  How lovely is the place where He lives.  It is a place of peace, gathering, laughter, and beauty.  It is a place where a little bird (me) can build a nest, where she can protect her young.  This is the Lord's house.  
As I sit here in my little windo…

Light for everyone

"The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:9
"He was the true light, who gives light to everyone who comes into the world."

This is why I love the Scripture.  One little verse such as this with such complexity.  So many various meanings and interpretations and applications to our lives.  One little verse offering so much "bread."  We could chew and chew and chew and never be full.
The distinctions here are important and are primarily why I have such a great hope in Jesus and sometimes lean toward Christian Universalism.  I have a great hope (not a solid conviction) that Jesus has saved everyone.  Has given light to everyone--everyone who comes into the world.
I understand that this is controversial.  But like I said, I have a great hope.  
I hope that Jesus will redeem all of those who never had the chance to learn about Him on earth. I hope that Jesus will redeem all of those who knew about him but never had an encounter …

The Satan

"Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Oh, that crafty devil.  
Whenever the Scripture uses "Satan" it's actually ha satan, which means "the accuser."  Satan just means accuser.  And it's the same picture as being in a courtroom with "satan" being the prosecutor against you and I.  He is offering his best argument against us before the Judge--God.  
Oh, that crafty devil.
He is always scheming, trying new arguments against us.  Trying to dig up dirt.  Searching through our internet activity, recording our conversations with others, twisting the truth to have us condemned.
I get it about the "full armor of God."  I've learned about it in church since I was a child.  We colored pictures of a roman soldier in a little soldier skirt and sandals.. 
I know that I am to put on love and truth and faith, etc.. and I try, truly.  But I think most of th…