Generous in prayer #40acts blog

Generous in prayer #40acts blog

Act 36: Habit asked us: What generous action from the last 35 days do you want to make a habit?  Two generous actions have become a habit from the past two years of participating in 40acts. A generous action from the first year I participated in 40acts is still a habit of mine. Three years, there was an Act to be generous in prayer. (I think there is a prayer Act each year.) I knew there was a hole in my prayer life.  I knew where my prayers were stingy.  I knew who I wasn’t praying for. I had some aspects of prayer covered.  Prayers of gratitude are the bedrock of my relationship with God – even in tough times.  When I’m struggling, I pray.  I will belt out my laments to God. When I know of a situation that is devastating or difficult, I take it to Jesus.  If someone is suffering, I hold them in the light of God’s countenance. But, praying for people – people I love and care about – on a regular basis?  I never found a way to do that.  If you were doing reasonably well, I wasn’t praying for you. If you were confronting the ordinary challenges, triumphs, and hurts of everyday life, I was thinking about you, talking with you, but I wasn’t lifting up your joys and sorrows in prayer with any regularity. I tried.  I read about the systems other people – and other pastors – used to pray for people regularly.  I created lists and started cards files and set up photos.  Sorry.  If you were doing reasonably...
chocolate bars and connection #40acts blog

chocolate bars and connection #40acts blog

#chocolatetuesday is one of 40activists favorite days.  It’s simple: be generous with chocolate on a Tuesday. Being generous with chocolate is a lot easier and more fun, I think, than all those other ways of being generous.  Chocolate seems to be a natural way to offer a small, joyful gift to people you don’t know very well. This is the second year that Faith has practiced #chocolatetuesday as a community act of generosity.  Last year, we labeled a lot of little pieces of chocolate and hung out at the corner of 82nd and Hague, right outside our church.  We chose a Friday, during rush hour, because traffic was particularly bad that year because there was a great deal of road construction going on. When cars stopped, we moved up and down the rows, showing our “free chocolate” signs.  A lot of windows opened.  We passed in one, two, maybe three mini pieces of chocolate.  Smiles broke out.  A few people tried to give us money.  People asked if we were from the church on the corner.  It was a lot of fun. This year, we labeled full-size chocolate bars, in the five favorite American flavors.  (Except our shopper couldn’t find full-size M &M’s.  Guess they really are the number one seller.) On a Saturday afternoon, we went over to the parking garage at Community North Hospital, quite near our church.  We met people as they were driving into the parking deck, walking into the hospital, or returning to their cars.  We gave chocolate to nurses coming off shifts, prospective parents completing a tour, visitors going home, people about to...
Is it right for you to be angry?

Is it right for you to be angry?

The book of the prophet Jonah is an odd book and not just because Jonah is swallowed by a big fish and animals put on sackcloth and ashes.  Jonah is the only Old Testament prophet sent to proclaim to a foreign nation.  And it’s not just any foreign nation.  It’s Assyria – the cruel enemy that will conquer Israel and Judah in the centuries ahead. When God tells Jonah to go and tell the people of Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria, that they should change ways Jonah doesn’t want to go.  He runs away from God, with a one-way ticket on a ship to Tarshish.  After spending time in the belly of the beast, Jonah goes to Tarshish.  But, he’s not happy about it. He delivers a terse message to the Ninevites: “Just forty more days and your city will be overthrown.”  Despite a lack of persuasive tactics the people listen and everyone – from the king to the animals – repents of their wicked ways.  They have been given a second chance. They turn over a new leaf, for a new way of life.  At least, for a century or so. Jonah is angry that God has not destroyed the Ninevites.  He stalks off to the top of a hill overlooking the city and sits down in a fury.  God finds Jonah there and twice asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah says he knew this would happen because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and ready to relent from punishing.  If God won’t kill his enemies, Jonah...
Suffering is hard.  Salvation is grace, right here, right now.

Suffering is hard. Salvation is grace, right here, right now.

During seminary I went through a particularly grueling period. I think it is fair to say – without being overly dramatic – that I suffered. There was trauma, emotional fallout and physical pain. About 18 months into this ordeal, I was privileged to be in class on Romans with Richard Hayes.  When it came time for us to select the passage that we were to write our large, exegetical paper on, I knew just the verses I wanted. Romans 5:1-5. What I really wanted were the words “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope and hope does not disappoint.” When I say I wanted that passage, I mean I wanted to understand what Paul meant when he said that suffering became endurance, endurance character, and character hope. I wanted to know so that I could follow the steps and work my way from suffering to salvation. The apostle Paul is the origin of muscular Christianity. And while muscular Christianity has been seen as a particularly masculine form of Christianity, it is pretty appealing to any of us who have a tendency to be self-driven, hard working, purposeful people. I wanted this text to give me a way to apply my muscle, to work through my suffering and gain salvation. I would lift the heavy weights. I would run the long race. Just tell me what to do, and I would do it. I dove into the passage and translated and read and studied and researched. I produced my 25-page exegesis that concluded – much to my dismay – that Paul was simply using a common Greek rhetorical...
Ripples of Acceptance

Ripples of Acceptance

You may not realize that your world has just been radically changed, when you read Acts Chapter 10. That’s understandable. You don’t stagger with amazement at what was laid on Peter’s plate only because our cultural context is far removed from the culture of Acts 10. We don’t suck in our breath and feel a little roiling of disgust in our guts, when Peter has a Roman contingent stay in his lodging and then has a warm conversation with a Roman officer in his home, because we are not an observant, Torah abiding, purity keeping, Shabbat observant, glatt kosher Jews. As Jesus was. Because Jesus tussled with the religious leaders of his day and was called out by them for breaking Jewish laws, we have a tendency to think that Jesus routinely transgressed the Torah, the law of Israel. I know I do. Didn’t Jesus touch lepers and bleeding women? Didn’t he heal and pick grain on the Sabbath? Yes. But in every case, Jesus offered his own interpretation of the Torah. His interpretation conflicted with the interpretation of the scribes and Pharisees, but Jesus didn’t say, “The law is no longer valid.” Instead, he defended his behavior as the fullest expression of the Jewish law. Jesus was an observant, Torah-keeping Jew, as were his parents, and his first followers, including Peter. They might have argued over the application of the law, but the idea that there were no laws about cleanliness, no laws about kosherness, no laws separating Jews and Gentiles was unthinkable. The religious implications of eating pork or ingesting shellfish might be inconsequential to us. The...