Embrace your crazy

Abraham and Sarah weren’t the only couple in the scriptures who struggled with infertility.  Zechariah and Elizabeth did as well.  Infertility, like other misunderstood health issues, was viewed back in the day as a judgment from God. 

 

Honorable folks, Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t end up responding to their suffering with the same crazy antics that Abraham and Sarah had; they seemed to accept their lot in life. 

 

But then an angel showed up and that was a game changer.

 

His message was a simple one – God was going to give them a son who would ultimately have a specific and crucial role in the grand epic narrative of Israel’s history.  We know him as John the Baptist.  He heard the stories of signs and wonders, after all, his very existence was one of those tales.

 

John was a good kind of crazy; a contemplative by practice, a minimalist by today’s standards.  These decisions were made to prepare himself for his call.  Eventually he left his solitary lifestyle and began to preach and baptize converts.  He was a compelling messenger although a confusing one and the religious leaders wanted to know: who is this dude?  The priests didn’t recognize what seems so obvious in hindsight – OF COURSE God would work like this. 

 

It’s so easy to wonder what’s wrong with those forgetful priests, men whose jobs included  telling the story of God and his people so as to constantly remind the tribe of their calling to bless others.  But wait.  Don’t we forget too?

 

I do.  I forget all the time that it isn’t my job to succeed, even if I am defining success in a way that I am absolutely convinced would make God smile.  I desperately want to succeed at things I think we would all support – effective interventions, restoration of families, spiritual awakenings and transformation of individuals, communities, and the world.  But all that, as good as it sounds, is forgetfulness.  What is my/our work to remember?  That we are to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  I can participate in all of that as a failure.  I can preach incoherently and still do justice, love mercy and easily walk in humility/humiliation!  I can utterly fail at helping a family get help and still do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.  Me, my marriage, my kids and my extended family can go to hell in a handbasket and still do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.  And the cool thing is this is true for all of us!  Tomorrow we will talk about how we might improve our memory.

Glory and Guts

With what should I approach the Lord
        and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
        with year-old calves?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
        with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
        the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?

8 He has told you, human one, what is good and
        what the Lord requires from you:
            to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

~ Micah 6:5-8 CEB

 

 

That night at Laity Lodge a group of us huddled in the parking lot hoping for a miraculous sign. Like a shooting star.  We got not one, but several.  Oh happy day!  We appropriately celebrated, counting our lucky stars and even remembering to thank God for his glorious works.  So yes, there is glory to be had.

 

But then Pete and I returned to our ultra-modern, super comfy, fancy digs and I complained about a particular person who got on my ever-loving last nerve. Woe is me.

 

The glow of glory fades so fast.  Maybe it’s just me, but if I am sustained only because by signs and wonders, I’m not going to persevere in my faith. I’m going to burnout much like those shooting stars.  For onlookers, a shooting star is tantamount to a miraculous sighting, especially for folks who live in suburbia and rarely see more than a small sample of what the skies hold each night.  From the star’s perspective, it represents its last hurrah – rapidly moving through the sky as it enters the earth’s atmosphere, burning up as it displays its glorious plumage of wreckage while we mere mortals clap and cheer.

 

Thanks be to God that he demonstrates himself not only in the glory but in the guts of simply taking the next right step.  I step out of my car, head toward the voting booths and freeze as I witness the shouting match.  I watch the five little guys display various responses to their fathers’ bad behaving.  Mostly they look scared but a couple are nervously giggling.  In a split second I wonder if they are embarrassed or if this will turn into a tall tale about how my dad can beat up your dad. And I think that for times such as this, we all need adult supervision.

Shooting Stars and Other God Things

In October I saw a shooting star.  It was awesome.  We were in Texas on a retreat at this place we go called Laity Lodge that is freakishly perfect and beautiful.  And dark, really dark, at night.  The view of the stars is amazing and every time we visit I make Pete stare at the heavens for a long time at least one night while we are there. 

 

And I wonder about what in the heck Abraham must have been thinking when God said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.”  (Genesis 15:5 CEB) And then Sarah was barren.  How do any of us make sense of that?

 

Russ Ramsey says in his book Behold the Lamb of God that every story God tells is filled with glory – and of course, how can I argue with this?  It’s true!!!  But it is also chock full of strange things and mundane acts that continue to highlight the reality that we both bear the very image of God while simultaneously demonstrating our willingness to litter and call each other naughty names.

 

This is key information.  The volunteer ballot bearer, the well-heeled woman in her finery, the two dudes practically coming to blows over the best selection for Commissioner of Revenues for our county and even cowardly me who did not step in and defend a decent woman…we are all both fully human – in both the best and worst sense of that word.

 

This absolutely MUST impact my choices.  I must find grace for the mistakes made – even my own… I must find a way to love who God loves and support what God supports. I need to ask the kind of questions that guide me toward the light.


What does the Lord require? ]

With what should I approach the Lord and bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings, with year-old calves?

~ Micah 6:6, CEB

 

It isn’t about what we want to do or need to do or should do or shouldn’t.  There is no one-size fits all response. But there are responses to be made. This God who invites us to look up and admire his handiwork is the same God who encourages us to be transformed through his mercy.  I want that life. 

 

….to be continued