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Archive for December, 2008

I know I should write the obligatory “New Year”s Eve”  post, full of retrospection and deep theological musings about the coming year… But, I have one last (OK, probably not really last) post on community – and the coolest thing is that it merges the “community” ramblings I’ve been having for a few months now with the “reconciliation” ramblings of the past few days.   The two kind of have to go hand in hand, don’t they?

Anyway, this is from a great newsletter I get (though this is from an oldish issue) from an organization called Jubilee Centre. You should really read the whole article here, but if you don’t have time, at least read this great paragraph.  (As usual, all bold print is my own emphasis):

In a mindlessly tolerant society, demonstrating that behaviour matters is an important biblical responsibility. The key to meaningful Christian relationships in the church is not the abandonment of values but the commitment to forgiveness when things go wrong. However, all too often our mechanisms for dealing with difficulties are avoidance or division. Like bacteria, unaddressed difficulties grow and eventually infect all relationships, debilitating the whole body. Division too is just another way of avoiding the painful route of forgiveness. While Jesus said that there were many rooms in the place he was going to prepare, it was hardly his intention to provide accommodation that would facilitate our tendency to avoid one another!

Ha!  How great is that last sentence?!

Like I said, you should really read the whole article.  And subscribe to the newsletter: great stuff.

And finally: a blog I’ve lurked around on for quite some time, and enjoyed, belongs to Sarah of Nine Tons of Marble. She has written some great thoughts on community too, and they’re worth checking out on her site.  (She also does some amazing sculptural work, apparently, which makes me really want to know her in person… Check that out here.)

I wish you all a happy new year.

I wish you all great community and connectedness.

And mostly, I wish you all reconciled relationships, coram deo.

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Giving In

…I can’t believe I gave in to the Facebook thing.  And that it has eaten me alive for the past 24 hours!  I have to just keep chanting to myself “I won’t stop blogging, I won’t stop blogging, I won’t stop blogging…”

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“Not just our own anger, but the fact that someone has been hurt, damaged, or disgraced by us, who ‘has a cause against us,’ erects a barrier between us and God. Let us therefore as a Church examine ourselves, and see whether we have not often enough wronged our fellow men. Let us see whether we have tried to win popularity by falling in with the world’s hatred, its contempt and its contumely. For if we do that, we are murderers. Let the fellowship of Christ so examine itself today, and ask whether, at the hour of prayer and worship, any accusing voices intervene and make its prayer vain.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

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You can find the most random, wonderful things with Google.  

Today, googling (isn’t it funny how quickly that had become a verb?) for something related to”reconciliation,” I stumbled upon a document produced in 1970 in Nairobi, by The World Alliance of Reformed Churches.    I found it to be a beautiful statement.

All italics are mine, in this excerpt that follows:

“We know that the church is often untrue to its calling. … The church itself knows with a special agony its own weaknesses – its failure to love, its idolatries and false securities, its temptation to disguise sordid purposes in pious language. It confesses that it fears to lose its life, to be a servant of men, to bear the cross.

“Yet we know also that repentance is the way to renewal. In the active remembrance of the deeds of God and the contemporary awareness of his presence, the church finds the assurance of forgiveness and enjoys the foretaste of the promise that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. It is an awesome responsibility to be given the ministry of reconciliation. The church, even with its troubled conscience, acknowledges that responsibility and rejoices in the call to be faithful to its God. In this present age, so loaded with portent and opportunity, the church declares in word and deed that the God of its past history is the God of the present and the future.”

 (The World Alliance of Reformed Churches, report to the uniting general council, Nairobi, 1970: )

 

Although this was a part of a document which was addressing a more global, organizational sort of reconciliation, it seems that these words are perfect for individuals to consider as well.  How would our churches be transformed if we saw repentance as the way to renewal, and viewed personal reconciliation to one another as one of the best privileges we have in bearing the image of a God who is all about reconciliation?

“Loaded with portent and opportunity” – Isn’t that just what life is with messy people, globally or in our own little corner of the world? Oh, for the grace to learn this, and be about the unsafe, wonderful business of mending and healing!  Lord grant us a passion for this ministry!

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I stepped out on the back porch a few minutes ago to relish the balmy December evening.  It has been a bit damp, so the ground has that moist smell and there’s a light breeze making the empty winter trees creak. 

Rick has a friend over right now and I could hear their low voices coming from the library, and smell sweet pipe smoke.  He must have the window open to enjoy this mild night.

Earlier, a friend called and listened.

These are the small graces that stumble through discouragement.  I always hope for BIG graces: for miraculous restoration of broken things and for triumphant “praise the Lord!” moments.   But mostly, what I find, when I’m paying attention, are the small graces that allow me to say, with Job, ” yet I will still praise Him.”

December mildness, conversation and pipe smoke, a friend who listens.  It is enough.  I will still praise Him.

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Pray

John Piper provided this great encouragement to “pray more consistently, more earnestly, more hopefully, and more biblically in 2009.”

I found it helpful, and hope you will, too.

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Spiritual Friendship

I heard an excellent message by Tim Keller this morning.  Rick sent it to me a couple days ago, and I just got around to listening to it today.

It was so good that I took the time to pause it and take notes in a few places.  Here are a couple of the passages that struck me:

 “What the Bible teaches us is that the gospel of Jesus Christ creates and calls us into spiritual friendships. … In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not simply send you deeper into the heart of God than you ever thought you would go, or deeper into the heart of the hurting world than you ever thought you would go, but it sends you deeper into the heart of other brothers and sisters in Christ, giving you profundity and intamacy of relationships beyond anything you ever thought was possible with any other human being…”

 
“…if you don’t need people, if you’re afraid of accountability, if you’re afraid of people looking inside, if you’re afraid of people nosing into your business… …if you’re afraid of love: the less you want friends, the less like God you are. Don’t you realize?  What is the purpose of creation and what was the purpose of redemption? What is the purpose of everything God has done since creation?  To make us friends!”
 

“To need and to want deep friendships is not a sign of spiritual immaturity: it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of health.”

Listen to the whole sermon here: Spiritual Friendship

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