Shaking the Foundations

I’m watching an institution collapse.  The foundations are being shaken, and everything that can be shaken loose, is.  I’ve never seen so many things fall apart all at once.  If it weren’t so awful, it would be funny.

Leaders are sacrificing themselves trying to contain the damage.  But frankly, trying to hold back the collapse is like trying to catch a tsunami with a milk jug.  No amount of brilliant visioning, stategic skill, charisma, or hard work is going to hold back the inevitable.  This outcome was set  decades ago.  This institution as we know it is going to die.

However, this is not the end.

Once the dust has settled, we’ll see how the pieces that are left can build something new.  In the shearing and tearing of the old institution, the pieces will have new shapes.  Like a jigsaw puzzle that has been recut, the pieces will fit together in new ways.  Some pieces will be destroyed or set aside.  Others will be newly important.

I am confident that in a generation or so when the pieces are finally fit together again, the institution will have been renewed.  Feudal structures will have given way to something that looks much more like the body of Christ.  Power and privilege will be flattened and shared.  The impulse to prop up dying congregations will be replaced by the impulse to bring kingdom life to people who are dying.

Those who have lived in the land of deep darkness, on them the light will shine.  New life is coming.  Don’t be afraid!  Our Lord will not disappoint.

Taking a Load Off

Again and again in Exodus, God reminds the people to keep the Sabbath holy. What’s with the fetish for rest?  I think it’s not so much about tending to the bags under our eyes as it is about learning to trust God’s providence.

You may have noticed that the way you do things shapes how you think about them.  Your practice shapes your belief.

And so it is with the Sabbath.  Do we trust that God will give us our daily bread?  Do we trust that part of that provision is having the time to do the work God has given us?

Taking a Sabbath day each week, putting aside our own agendas and listening again for God’s agenda, is one of the ways that we live into our faith.  It’s a way that our practice forms our hearts.  It’s a way that we, with our lives, proclaim that we DO expect God to give us enough of what we need, including time.  It’s a way that we learn to trust.

It’s also the way we live into a lighter life.  Having almost 7 weeks of days each year that we don’t work is a surefire way to pare down our schedules, to prioritize our work.  It’s a surefire way become clear about what God has given us to do, and what we ourselves have taken on.  It’s a surefire way of learning to surrender ourselves more fully into the arms of our Father, trusting him to overflow our lives with blessing.

Forget Me Not

Exodus 14:19-15:21 | God led the Israelites across Red Sea away from slavery in Egypt to freedom. God displayed overwhelming and awesome power and the Israelites were blessed by it. “They stood in awe of the Lord; and they had faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” And they celebrated – singing and dancing and praising God!

But just a quick look ahead reminds us it doesn’t last. Oh, God’s power lasts. But, the memory. It only took three days for them to forget – three days! Really? It would be nice to be able to bottle that faith.

In a way the Israelites did. God, back in Exodus 12, instituted the celebration of the Passover. Every year. So they won’t forget.

We’re no different. We forget, too.

We need a call back. So we get one. We have community. And we have stories – which is what scripture and ritual and songs are all about. Because we forget.

We aren’t making this journey alone. We travel as a community, many of whom have come long before us. They remind us of the way.

The secret to doing better

Exodus 13:17-18 | “When the king of Egypt let the people go, God did not take them by the road that goes up the coast to Philistia, although it was the shortest way. God thought, ‘I do not want the people to change their minds and return to Egypt when they see that they are going to have to fight.’ Instead, he led them in a roundabout way through the desert toward the Red Sea.

God wanted the Israelites to commit. To commit to the fight. Not just with the Egyptians who were now chasing them. But their own fight. The one that would be happening inside themselves. Because God knew, at the first sign of trouble, they would want to give up. “Maybe freedom isn’t so great! It was better being slaves! We would rather be slaves and alive, then free and dead!”

They needed time to taste the sweetness of freedom. The shortest, quickest route would not do. They needed time to remember all that God has done. Time to remember all that God is bringing them to. Time to learn how to live as new, free people. The journey takes time and God wanted to make sure they couldn’t turn back.

Turns out they needed a lot of time.

And God was with them the whole way. Leading them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God the King was in the midst of his ragtag battalion.

And then Moses says something so powerful it blows my mind. So much so that it may take me 40 years of wandering in the desert wilderness to really get it. “The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.”

God wants you to experience freedom and God is doing all he can to bring you to freedom. All you have to do is keep still. Pay attention to what God is doing. And take a step into it. Doing is actually being. Doing is being one who is on a journey. Doing is being one who God is working on and in. The doing is up to God so that you may be the person God is leading you to be.

And it takes time. Don’t turn back. “The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.”

New Math

How do we go about producing the proper fruits? We want breakthrough. What do we need to do? What’s the math look like?

Psalm 33:16-18 | “A king does not win because of his powerful army; a soldier does not triumph because of his strength. War horses are useless for victory; their great strength cannot save. The Lord watches over those who obey him, those who trust in his constant love.”

The balanced equation is this. Obedience = Trusting in God’s constant love. Any other way won’t add up.

Let there be…

Psalm 33:6-11 | In the beginning, God created, saying, “Let there be….” When God speaks, things happen. God doesn’t just describe, God causes. For God, talking the talk is walking the walk.

As in Exodus 2, where God restarts the year, today is a new day. Because God says so, today is a new start for you.

What else is God saying to you (and, thereby, doing)? Whatever it is, it all starts with God saying, “You are precious. You are mine. I love you.”

Figs!

Matthew 21:12-22 | It was the time of year for figs. Why were there no figs on the tree? Something was keeping the tree from being fruitful, from being what it was created to be and do. It seems to me that Jesus simply recognized this and spoke the truth, “You will never again bear fruit!”

What season is it for you?

Are you in a season of fruitfulness? Or are you, rather, in a season of pruning? Are you being pruned back for the sake of greater fruitfulness? Are there things that have been weighing you down or holding you back that you need to leave behind? Are they familiar, comfortable ways? Are they even ways that have been successful, things that are currently growing in abundance? Or, are you in a season of abiding, of rest, so that your roots may grow deep and strong? A season of taking the time to be fed and watered? Or, are you in a season of growth, finding life in new endeavors, anticipating the buds that will soon be breaking through?

What needs your attention? How might you tend your life and your relationships before it’s the case of never again bearing fruit?

It’s too heavy

Psalm 32 | Exodus 9 | Matthew 20:29-21:11

It’s a call to be honest. Not only honest, vulnerable.

Jesus asks the blind men, “What do you want me to do for you?”

To name what it is you want for Jesus to do is to name where you come up short, where you are in need.

Our culture has taught us that that sort of honesty is weakness. Act strong. Act like you’ve got it all together. Keep up appearances. You’ll go far!

In fact, that sort of honesty, that sort of vulnerability is actually strength.

It allows us to stop. To stop playing the games. To set down the weight we are carrying. And to turn. To turn from all that was in our way or holding us back. To turn and look honestly at ourselves. And then to begin to see ourselves the way God sees us. You are beautiful in your weakness.

This turning is what it means to repent. Turn, return. Give up your agenda. Put on God’s agenda.

To lay down all the things we carry is to admit that we don’t have the power to carry them. We’re not that strong. It’s exhausting. Admit it, you can’t do it.

It is then that you’ll see that God can. And is.

Surrender to the power of the kingdom. The kingdom is here.

Frogs!

Exodus 8 | God made frogs appear. So did the magicians. Sure we can experience success on our own. But the breakthrough we experience from God’s power will be more powerful and more lasting.

What is it that God wants to do in your life? Where are you getting in the way?

Fact is, in using their power, the magicians just doubled their trouble!

Take a chance and enjoy it!

Matthew 20:1-16 | I’m always amused when so many of us become offended with this parable. For some reason we all think that we are among those who have been working all day. We think we should be paid more than the latecomers. We declare, “It’s not fair!”

But, when it comes to doing the work of God’s kingdom, I have to risk being honest and vulnerable to admit I’m a latecomer. And I’m pretty sure most of you are, too. We are not among the first. We are among the last.

God’s economy is different. Don’t be so offended or proud that you fail to enjoy it.

Reading Seth Godin’s blog today I got a real sense of the joy of God’s economy.

Freedom isn’t free

Exodus 5:10-6:12 | We think freedom should be easy. God sent Moses to free the Hebrew people from slavery under Pharaoh. Pharaoh retaliated, making life harder for the Hebrews. Then the Hebrews complained to Moses saying they preferred things how they used to be. “We thought getting to freedom would be easy. If this is what it takes, maybe we don’t want freedom.”

We think being brought into freedom should feel, well, like freedom. Light and bright – the weight and the darkness quickly lifted.

But freedom isn’t simply the old you in a new situation. The journey to freedom changes us. Freedom calls something new from us. It’s a birth.

And birth isn’t easy. It takes time to get ready for. Then when it arrives, it takes effort, it’s painful, it’s messy.

And things are never the same.

You just made new life!