Compassionate Endings

A few weeks ago, Scott did a message at NSC about compassionate endings in relationships. He started out by observing that as the year draws to a close we often begin to talk on and on about new beginnings but we aren’t too keen on talking about endings. True and compelling. Since that message I’ve been thinking about endings in general, and if compassion can accompany them - all the better. It’s given me a lot to think about.



Frankly, he gave us room to begin small. He talked about how easy it is end a relationship by burning bridges, maybe even blowing them up. He encouraged us by saying that if we could avoid doing that - maybe that is the best we can do. I’ve heard him speak similarly about forgiveness. Sometimes, according to Scott, we are forgiving “enough” if we can restrain ourselves and refuse to seek revenge, i.e., burn bridges.



So let me level with you and start where I ended up: it ought to be HARD to end a relationship. I mean REALLY, REALLY HARD. Why? Because relationships are the glue that holds the world together. (I know, you thought it was gravity.) Relationships are fueled by love. If there is any universal characteristic of God that we are all challenged to reflect - it’s love.





12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 The Message

Waiting for Forgiveness

If we go to church, the second Sunday of Advent (which was this past Sunday- December 9) finds us lighting another candle, also purple, reminding us of our great need for God’s forgiveness. Tradition says that Santa keeps a naughty and nice list of all the little girls and boys; that list determines whether or not Christmas morning will be cause for celebration or suffering. Even Santa understands that our behavior matters.

But what I really, really love, is that when we regularly spend time getting to know who God is, we do not have to freak out about our stuffed stockings. We understand that part of expecting, waiting and hoping is simply remembering: God forgives, loves and is crazy about his people. Like most moms and dads I know, he wants blessing for his children, not cursing. However, what we discover as parents is that our desires and our capacity to deliver are sometimes not congruent.

I know plenty of parents who curse their children too. I know parents who mock their children. I know parents who do the best they can but that doesn’t mean they have the tools, resources, and experience to actually BE great parents. This is a sad reality.

But that’s the beauty of Advent. It gives us hope. It tells us that just because we ARE sometimes a disappointment to ourselves doesn’t mean we cannot BECOME a person who better reflects our hopes and dreams for being a person who can bear the image of God and show up for others.

None of this happens by magic; it requires that we respond to this God who shepherds, saves, forgives, and restores.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2, NLT

We don’t need to manufacture sparkly; our work is to expect, wait, and hope. And in that space, I suspect we all find new ways to think, feel and do - ways that are more in keeping with our status as kids of THE king. What about you? Are you ready to look for the light?

Unbelief

When an angel appears to Zechariah in the temple, he tells him that his wife will give birth to a son, and the old man doesn’t believe the angel. Understandable right? If an angel appears to Pete and tells him that I am going to give birth to a son in our advanced age - heads are gonna roll! Zechariah’s response was not unreasonable. Because of his unbelief, Zechariah was given a timeout and was unable to speak until his boy was born. I suspect he thought that was the least of his problems.

During Zechariah’s encounter, and once he regains his voice, he expresses his renewed viewpoint, including a description of the times, saying that God’s people are “lost in darkness”. That’s not all he sees and says, he also says this, “God’s sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness.” Further he says that God will “Show us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.” If you want to read more, check out Luke 1.

Part of the ritual of Advent that I have loved as an adult is the lighting of a candle each Sunday of the Advent season. The first week the lighting of the purple candle focuses on taking our hope seriously. I love that. Hoping is not always happy. Sometimes it is a determined small but next right step of obedience.

Zechariah messed up AND still ended up with a son who would play a pivotal role in the ministry of Jesus. Have you or yours messed up so much that it feels impossible to enjoy Christmas this year? Fine. You do not have to. What you could do, if you were willing to believe, is look for ways to help others have a better holiday season. Who can you bless? Gift? Appreciate? Serve?

God is the Shepherd, We are the sheep

Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;

he will gather lambs in his arms

and lift them onto his lap.

He will gently guide the nursing ewes. Isaiah 40:11 CEB

Let’s be honest. Christmas expectations, waiting and hoping are WAY different depending on your perspective. As kids, we wondered about gifts under the tree. Ours. We couldn’t wait for Christmas break, not the childcare arrangements that working parents need to figure out. Unchurched as a child, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to think about Advent. I was thinking about adventures!

As an adult, it has certainly been easy to get hyper-focused on re-creating Christmas adventures for my family. Another possible distraction from the reason for the season. But I also have MORE reasons to wake up and pay attention and reframe the holidays for myself (and maybe others?).

I am aware of my friends for whom this is the first Christmas without a child who lost their fight with substance use disorder this past year. I am awake to the possibility that for some, this is just another holiday that reminds them of their precarious financial position. Or the stress of dealing with fractured family relationships.

BUT - I can also choose to remember who God is, seeing as how I know more about him than I did when I was seven. I can remember that in all these things, God tends his flocks, gathers his lambs and gently guides nursing ewes.

Scott and I have been focusing on bearing God’s image for I do not know how long - are you sick of that message yet? This is the perfect time to practice what we’ve been preaching!! Are you willing to join us in trying to apply this in our daily life? In this holiday season?

The BIG question is how can I participate in tending, gathering, lifting and guiding? How can you?

Reframing

Shepherd of Israel, I am listening!

You, the one who leads Joseph as if he were a sheep.

You, who are enthroned upon the winged heavenly creatures.

Show yourself 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh!

Wake up me up to understand how you lead me!

Come to save us!

3 Restore us, God!

I long to see your face shine so that we can be saved! Forgive my distractibility!

4 Lord God of heavenly forces,

how long will I fume against your provision for me? How long will I ignore you?

5 You’ve fed us even when our disobedience brought us to tears;

you’ve given us water three times over because we have been stubbornly resistant!

6 Our selfishness has put us at odds with our neighbors;

our enemies make fun of us because we behave laughably.

7 Restore us, God of heavenly forces!

Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

The Israelites often expressed their self-pity over their difficult circumstances, some self-inflicted, others simply part of living life on life’s terms. It served neither them nor us well. How about we give it up for the Advent Season? Turn it in and ask for a refund. Instead, lean into the collective effervescence. In sickness and health. Conflict and camaraderie. Joy and sorrow. Getting our way or giving away our preferences for the sake of the tribe. How can we apply this to our decisions as we plan for our holiday festivities?

And maybe we can do what the Israelites got so very right - ask God to save and restore us so that we might see the value of singing in the rain, even if it is very, very uncomfortable.

Honesty and blame with God and us

Oh Israel, I Feel You!!

Shepherd of Israel, listen!

You, the one who leads Joseph as if he were a sheep.

You, who are enthroned upon the winged heavenly creatures.

Show yourself 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh!

Wake up your power!

Come to save us!

3 Restore us, God!

Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

4 Lord God of heavenly forces,

how long will you fume against your people’s prayer?

5 You’ve fed them bread made of tears;

you’ve given them tears to drink three times over!

6 You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors;

our enemies make fun of us.

7 Restore us, God of heavenly forces!

Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

~ Psalm 80:1-7 CEB

The Israelites were always willing to be honest with God. Their ability to blame God even as they ignored him was not only impressive, it is relatable - at least for me. Tomorrow, I might take the liberty to rewrite this call out to God from a teeny tiny bit more recovered perspective. I do so even as I respect these people - so willing to just lay out their own sleepy perspective for God to hear and respond to.

Tomorrow: How can we change the way we see? What is ours to do? How will we apply it between now and December 25th.

The meaning of Advent

We aren’t quite there, but we’re getting close to the Christmas season.

Advent means “coming” or “visit.” For Christians, Advent has historically been a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. The people of Israel had expectations for God’s “coming.” They had legitimate needs. And although they sometimes, well, regularly, forgot this one true thing, when they got into trouble, their hearts would inevitably return to the source of their hope and rescue - God.

When we forget that we too have profound needs, it is often because we have distracted ourselves, just as the Israelites did, with baubles and beads (false strategies/false gods). Christmas can be an enormous distraction. But it can also be collectively effervescent.

I believe we can do that without giving up our lights and tinsel and trees and hot cocoa and cookies. But only if we are willing to wake up and recognize our need for a God who saves and restores. You know what is beautiful about this perspective? It gives us a way to appreciate even our gully washer holidays. You know the ones - when coal shows up in our stockings, or all our family goes out of town and we are left to scramble for a way to celebrate with others. Or the kids all come down with the flu. Or there is a fight about politics on Christmas Eve that takes the Ho Ho Ho right out of the season.

Collective effervescence can provide us insights into how we can take the most humbug Christmas and turn it into something magical. But we will have to wake up to do so. Are you ready to wake up? Are you willing to think about the collective even at the expense of your personal preferences?

Gully Washers and Effervescence

Thanksgiving is now technically behind us, and that means we start looking at Christmas, right?


I could write something snarky about how we’ve all lost our way with the commercialization of Christmas, but who am I kidding? I love it all. I love the secular, the sacred, the lights, the handbells, the cheesy Christmas movies, the old standby Christmas songs, and even all the preparations surrounding the Christmas season. In our community, we have a few rituals around how we celebrate Christmas and I love them as much as I love the ones my family practices. I love Christmas. Mostly, I love the expecting, waiting and hoping that Christmas seems to awaken in me. As an adult, I am more focused on creating the experience of Christmas than hoping someone will make my Christmas merry and bright. I believe in Christmas. After reading Brene’ Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness,” I have no guilt or shame about my love for the season. I no longer understand my passion as the generational expression awakened in me by my Christmas-loving, Santa-celebrating, and over-the-top light-loving mom. In fact, I am turning into a Christmas holiday celebrating zealot.

In chapter six, “Hold hands. With strangers,” Brene’ Brown describes in detail a key point that emerged from her research to help us cultivate and grow our belief in the inextricable human connection. This matters because this capacity for connection is so vital to our well-being, and the wellbeing of our communities. It is what Christmas does for us as a collective, in my opinion. Brown was shocked by the results, which were this: Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection. (p.120)

She entertained, illustrated and connected with her reader by providing examples of how she had experienced this showing up, which pretty much explains why I was unwilling to stand in the hallways at Scott Stadium during a recent downpour and legitimate gully washer at a recent UVA football game. At gametime, the seats were mostly empty but the entire stadium was filled with water! In raincoats, boots, ponchos and head gear, we were soaked within seconds of taking our seats. Pete suggested we go stand in the covered concession area. Maybe buy UVA apparel to change into that would at least give us dryer clothes? For like 15 seconds? I was having none of it. I cheered with the others in the stands, sang the good old song, and said to our neighbor a few seats down, “This is crazy, right?” What we were experiencing was collective effervescence. Brene’ says (p.130) that a French sociologist coined this term to describe a type of magic he witnessed during religious ceremonies. He says it is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a “sensation of sacredness” that is what happens when we are willing to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And this feeds our soul.

Pete and I have been going to UVA games together for 44 years. UVA fans understand that the “effervescence” has been a lot of PAIN with an occasional side of joy. Our football team has lost a lot of games in 44 years. But our night in the rain was magical. To sit and stand and cheer and have water gather in nooks and crannies of our body was awesome. Our team lost that night, but we won another memory to cherish that was bigger than either of us individually or even the two of us as a couple. We need more of this in our lives folks, we just do. Christmas can be that if we are willing to be more intentional, aware and thoughtful in our Christmas expectations, waiting and hoping.

Letting go gives us balance

Over the past few weeks we’ve visited and revisited step 11 of the 12 steps of AA: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out.

It seems to me that the eleventh step takes a lot of pressure off of prayer and meditation. It’s clear and simple: we are simply improving our conscious contact with God, we acknowledge that our capacity to connect is limited by our gaps in understanding who he is, we ask only for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out.

It is assumed that to have the capacity to know and do the will of God is enough. It is more than enough. What else is there? This makes such perfect sense to me. Without big long lists of demands for God’s immediate action in the life and times of me, I am now given the time to meditate. To sit quietly. To be still and know that God is God and I am not. To, as Jesus did, draw away from the hustle and bustle of the world into solitude.

This is yet another blessing of letting go and letting God. It is a counter-weight to my natural tendency to codependently point out to God all that I think HE is missing!! Today, I wait more, expect more, and hope more.

Or, to be more specific, I expect differently. I have stopped demanding results and started trusting God with whoever and whatever my mind is concerned about. I’m aware that God is not obligated to DO anything about my concerns, but I love the practice of sharing them because I know he cares, not because I think he needs me to keep him informed.

December is a big month for waiting, expecting and hoping. I’m going to spend the rest of this month looking at the season of Advent - the four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve, a time of preparing for the coming of the Christ. I wonder if our recovery perspective might enrich our faith perspective on Christmas.

Inspired Ways of Seeing

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV

Whether it is a holiday event or just another day in our collective lives - we have some choices to make with regards to the way we live.

It boils down to this - are we committed to the confusing, difficult and downright hard work of acquiring wisdom?

Or are we willing to just roll the dice, live like we have always done, follow the paths trod by those who have gone before us?

This is one choice that only we can make for ourselves. No one can interfere with this choice. What do you choose?

More Holiday Lessons

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV



Here’s what I learned the holiday I stood between my parents and their bickering:



* I do not want to be the relative that yells or cries when things do not go “my way”. For the traditions that really mean a lot to me? I make them happen for me. If others participate, cool. If not, I make Pete do them with me! (Marriage at its finest.)

* Do not assume that what you think is more fun, less stressful, etc. is the same perspective shared by others. As torturous as it was as a bystander to watch my parents repeat the same turkey fight every single solitary year, evidently it was not torturous for them. Otherwise, they would have changed their ways. I have stopped being the person who tries to make other people’s holiday experience stress-free, because I know that this is their work, not mine.

* I will not be hijacked by other people’s holiday expectations. The turkey debacle was not my fault, and I won’t own it. This was my home and my electric knife. I could put it in the hands of anyone I wanted to - so there!

* Finally. When possible, if you have a situation that your gut teaches you might be sticky, even though you may be the host and the owner of the knife, it might be kind to prepare people for changes in advance. That way, they can choose to show up or not, depending on their own priorities. In a million years it would not have occurred to me to talk in advance about the turkey carving, but there might be other issues that would warrant a heads up. Say, if you go vegan and plan to only serve tofu and root vegetables for dinner.



Any holiday is a good holiday to observe yourself non-judgmentally, learn a lesson or two and plan accordingly for the future!

Anticipating Holiday Problems

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV



One Thanksgiving my parents almost left our house in a huff because I asked someone else to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. This was quite a shock seeing as how my father had always complained bitterly about carving and inevitably he and my mother bickered over him snacking on the turkey as he carved. She also thought he took to long. It was a thing.



I thought I was giving them the gift of peace when I asked my brother-in-law to do the knife wielding. That did not go over well, and a different fight ensued - with me being the bad guy in the story.



After that incident, I had an extremely hard time not being a cranky, ungrateful holiday participant and I am quite sure it showed. Remember my childhood promises? All down the drain. And it was all my responsibility. I was the problem.



Their bickering was really none of my business; my unease over said bickering was best handled by me with me, not in trying to avoid the experience that my parents seemed to need to have year after year.



Sometimes anticipating problems that OTHER PEOPLE appear to have over the holidays is an example of good old-fashioned codependency. This is a tradition we can jettison for the benefit of one and all.

Holiday Stress

My mother loved a decorated tree but hated the actual time it took to decorate. And let’s be honest - she didn’t like the mess of a live tree. My dad was a grumpy and reluctant participant. I decided that when I was a parent, the tree decorating would be an EVENT and all adults would be merry and bright about the task without requiring the children to be neat and have an eye for perfect ornament placement. My children had other thoughts. They reached an age when they weren’t all that merry and bright about the tree trimming. It wasn’t their thing. It was boooooring.



This was a disappointment to me.



I confess, I still love the tree thing and I am already excited about this next generation of children. I am plotting the Christmas that both Norah and Christian will join Meme and Pops for a sleepover and a tree decorating extravaganza. It will include hot chocolate and homemade cookies and gingerbread house making. Their parental units can have the night off.



This does not mean that the intervening Christmases were unhappy. They were just different than I had imagined. Imagination is a wonderful thing until it bites you in the tushy. Imagination without decent checks and balances can turn into fantasy living. Real life cannot measure up.



When I was faced with reality versus fantasy, I made a decision to not be foolish. I refused to play reindeer games. I did not ruminate over what I wished for, I took action and created what was workable and gave me a reasonably happy Christmas. I stopped asking the kids to be all-in on the decorating, but I continued to buy them specialty ornaments - that brought me pleasure. I did not ask them to have my feelings.



This holiday season, I would encourage us all to own our experience. Make it reasonably happy, without demanding that others share our preferences. Free people to do their holiday the way that suits them. This will require some creativity, adjustment of expectations, and even downright discipline to not ruminate over what might have been. But it is also wise.

Don’t be a Debbie Downer.



The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV

Holiday Hangovers

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV



Do you get the post holiday blues? What does that look like for you?



When I was a kid I made myself a few promises. One of my promises was about the holidays. I promised myself that I would follow my mother’s lead in her commitment to holiday merriment AND I would do it MY way. My mom enjoyed the holidays and modeled well childlike joy in an adult body. But I was also familiar with grown up holiday depression. So one of my promises included a vow that I never wanted my adult hangovers to bring a cloud over my home, my children, my husband. Of course, I have not kept this promise perfectly. It is still a commitment though, and I continue to strive for equanimity in all things. Even the holidays.



In the process, I have learned a few things.


To be continued…

You don't have to be thankful for Thanksgiving

I fully expect to wake up the morning after Thanksgiving and hear about some of my friends’ hangovers. Not the hangover that goes with over-indulging in all its many forms, but one that leaves its mark nonetheless. I’m talking about the post traumatic stress from dashed expectations hangover. You know the one.



We went into Thanksgiving with our marching orders - lead with compassion, lower expectations. Do NOT talk politics. Have an escape plan if the partying gets out of hand. We reviewed our notes from the books, and groups and hopefully a weekend message or two and prepared ourselves for living with our inspired way of seeing while sidestepping the family traditions of mocking and teasing and shaming and fighting that so many of us have experienced in large family gatherings. Some of us may have even opted out of family events, choosing instead our families of choice to break bread with and practice new ways of living among.



Still.



Friday can be a bit of bummer.



What’s up with that? What are you thoughts? I’m curious.

Striving, hoping, and waiting

You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings. James 4:2-3 CEB

When I was young, I tried to solve my prayer problems with hard work.

I continued to redouble my efforts because I was convinced that my evil intentions in prayer were the cause of my desert-like prayer experience. But I also began to question my own prayer posture. The more I read and studied, the less convinced I was that God’s greatest desire for me was to feed him a list of requests, let’s be honest - demands, for how he was to show up and work in the world.

I continued this elaborate ritual of prayer but all joy drained from the experience; even my school supplies could not comfort me.

In 1986 my brother got sober; to support him, I began to embrace the 12 steps. Step 11 blew me away. Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out.

What do you notice about this prayer? What is the objective of this step? What is promised? What is not promised? I thought prayer was about solving problems and feeling better. It was a relief to discover that prayer was possible and even sacred without solving a particular problem and even if I did not feel better as a result of my prayer efforts.

Hoping and Waiting

The eleventh step radically changed my perspective on prayer and meditation. I sorely needed a readjustment. Historically, I have proven time and again that I am capable of misinterpreting the scriptures.

“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Matthew 7:7-8 CEB

Early on in my faith journey, I developed a system of praying that looked more like a strategic plan then sacred time spent with God. I organized my prayer requests in an elaborate system of checks and balances so that I would not forget to ask, seek, and knock so that I might receive and find.

It was tiring.

As much as I enjoyed the school supplies I used as my prayer tools and the structure of rigorous and daily asking and seeking, I felt something was missing.

Do you ever feel that something is missing when it comes to prayer?

Why NOT me?

36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be. 40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.

Acts 8:36-40 MSG

Luke is such a creative story teller! What a fantastic narrative! Chariots and men running beside them. Philip talking to angels and being swept off by the Spirit of God - high drama. But also something else quite lovely. “Why can’t I be baptized?” asks the eunuch. This is a question of such hope! Frankly, there were a ton of reasons why someone might consider eunuch unfit for time, attention or baptism.

He was not an Israelite. He was a foreigner - Ethiopian. He was castrated in a world that values a family that has many arrows in their quiver - as the old saying goes. He just wasn’t the guy that God’s chosen people would have noticed. He didn’t seem like the kind of person God would choose. Time and again, God says, “I choose all people.”

I hear stories every week from people who do not feel chosen. I witness folks who behave in ways that indicates to me that they are primed to feel rejected. Often it appears to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for people who seem pre-wired in every situation to feel left out and alone and seem to hone in on any perceived slight as a reason to confirm their belief that they are not “good enough.” The eunuch asks a question that implies a state of mind - I do belong. I can be part of. I will get baptized! Today - what can you believe in about yourself in light of who God is and how he provides?

What about us is the same?

29-30 The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”

31-33 He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him.

Philips helps the eunuch. He helps a servant. He helps a man that society was willing to mutilate so that he might work more efficiently. This is how God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, his angels and his people think.

The passage he was reading was this:

As a sheep led to slaughter,

and quiet as a lamb being sheared,

He was silent, saying nothing.

He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.

But who now can count his kin

since he’s been taken from the earth?

34-35 The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him. Acts 8:29-35

We can only imagine how the Eunuch, himself a sheep who was slaughtered, with no voice to change his society, mocked by all, his opportunity to make and build a family of his own stolen from him for the sake of squeezing out a few more hours of productivity….related to the story.



And that’s just it, isn’t it? It is the capacity to say, “Me too.” I understand that these are politically charged words today but, regardless of that particular set of conflicts, they are also sacred words because they communicate empathy, a true spiritual virtue. Our particular perspective is always shaped by our own experiences, expectations, and beliefs about the worth of self and others. Our perspective is always richer when we recognize what we hold in common.



Set it all aside and hear this: Jesus cares about the broken-hearted, the disenfranchised, the people that others in society are able to bully. God is the running Father who creates space at the table for all people, without distinctions.

You are on the team and you have a part to play

In this next parable, we read about how an angel of the Lord gives a mere mortal instructions, strange instructions, and Philip, the mortal follows the angel’s lead.


26-28 Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah. Acts 8:26-28 MSG


Back in the day, men were castrated under the misguided and brutal assumption that they would be more attentive servants. “Candice” was historically the traditional title of the queen mother, responsible for performing the secular duties of the reigning king - who was thought to be too sacred for such activities.


Please reread that last paragraph. Breathe. Think about what was just said there. If you have the stomach to proceed and you have stopped laughing or crying, depending upon your personality, at the utter ridiculousness of those two historical perspectives, I will continue.

My point is this: look at what effort God is making to reach out to the eunuch. A man of shame, a man who literally has had his manhood removed. Imagine all he has lost, and yet he is valued by God. Notice also that the angel goes to Philip and asks him to participate as an emissary in the “running of the father” toward the eunuch.


Many times we expect to receive a strange call like this from God via angels or texts, burning bushes or according to a new tv show - by God friending us on facebook. We fret over knowing and doing the will of the Father - as we should. But this kind of movement across the heavens to earth with an incredible specific request needs to be seen for what it is - unusual. Not everyone will be summoned in such a direct manner. Most of us will be expected to make obvious choices that sit right in front of us concerning God’s will. Like be kind to each other; pay our bills on time; try not to gossip; do our best not to judge self or others. Stuff like that which is neither grand nor sexy, but is as important as anything God asked Philip to do.


God has a team. We are part of his team. That’s quite lovely. Are you participating or sitting on the sidelines? Are you willing and able to take small next right steps? As obvious and simple as they may seem, sometimes those are quite difficult to accomplish.