Holy Bewilderment

“I was trying to absorb what the oncologist was telling me. Yesterday’s tests clearly show, he said, that I have a very rare condition. Turns out—this is the unbelievable part—it only mimics aggressive cancer.”
“I’m simply overwhelmed with this news.”

Gary* and I share a very long silence. Finally he says, “I… I don’t know, honestly, all what it means.

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A Malicious Question, A Healing Answer

I’ve heard it said that the Bible is “God’s Answer Book.” Some people must find that to be true, but it’s hard to see how. Among the Bibles I own, a few have sections in the back that serve as FAQs (frequently asked questions) plus answers. That’s handy, but they’re modern add-ons.

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I’m not sure why Jesus said, “Don’t tell.” All I know is, Love seems not in a rush. She takes her revealings slow.

I’m learning, very slowly over a lifetime, not to be in a rush either. Present to the absence; present to the presence.

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The Trouble With Uncovering

Jesus was not a violent disruptor. That much is abundantly clear in his life and teachings. Rather, he was a disrupter of violence—both interpersonal and structural. By no coincidence, he died by violence.

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The Courage to Disappear

This week’s gospel story depicts two people walking down a road with a stranger who joins them. So happens the stranger is famous, but they don’t recognize him. Like the airplane story, it’s a setup for comedy, but it’s no time for laughter. All three are in the aftermath of trauma, walking away from the scene of public and personal horrors. Primary trauma, suffered directly. Secondary trauma, witnessed and absorbed.

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It is Written

“God hates,” men told her. Many men in fact, many times. Because they were religious, she believed them, because she wished to believe in God. The men held the sacred writings, copied from goat skins to gilded pages to church multimedia screens.

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Skin of the City

In one of my favorite Ted Talks, Educational Technology Specialist Sugata Mitra discusses his experiments with “Hole in the Wall” computers. These are computer kiosks left in Indian slums, among children with no prior contact with PCs. Mitra found that children, by pooling their knowledge and resources, learned how to operate the computers.

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Vulnerability and Authority

Having given away or sold most of our stuff, my wife Melanie and I were headed to Asia as community development workers with an organization called Gooddeeds. The name pretty much summed up what we wanted to do. As a young couple we wanted to engage our lives and our faith with the poorest, someplace. Woefully clueless but eager, we cast about for, well, clues. Tips, training, insights – anything to steer us in the right direction.

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Riding the Waves of the City

I spent my formative childhood years in wilderness. Every day prompted a new foray into the woods with my dog Bessie leading the way. This was actual wilderness, not the national kind with streams of visitors. Bessie and I were the only outsiders; our hosts were cougars, bobcats, coyotes, bears, owls, skunks, and rattlesnakes.

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Dismantling and Re-framing Family

Spend any time at all in communities challenged by poverty and violence, and you will encounter people who have spent formative stages of life without the blessing of family. Such hardships may be part of your own story, and you know the reality all too well.

For abandoned people – who may be found in any corner of society – the words of Jesus in Mark 3 can provide genuine comfort and hope. Jesus re-frames and re-constitutes “family” in such a way that it includes those formerly excluded.

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Make Yourselves At Home

The more closely we examine Jesus’s words in John 15 – among the last words he would speak before his death – the more it seems an awkward mix of metaphors. On the one hand, he uses as the key verb “abide,” which sounds to our ears almost transcendental, serene, relinquished. Something that could happen most comfortably on a couch.

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The story of God in the world, because it is a love story, moves ever toward intimacy, toward oneness.

As with all love stories, obstacles abound – comical and tragic misunderstandings, turnings away, outright betrayals, and faltering reaches toward the other.

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The Lightest Touch, The Touch of Light

Glancing back, I saw my father slowly slide his belt from his trousers. He folded it in half. His face was ashen; I turned away. I tried in vain to relax my buttocks – rumored among friends to make it not hurt so bad.

I wouldn’t know. I’d never gotten the belt before,

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Suffering and Love

To live is to suffer, Gautama Buddha taught. This is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

Raise your hand if by some chance your life experience has taught you otherwise. Maybe you are an extraordinarily fortunate child reading above your grade level here. Even then, I might prompt you to think again upon your few years.

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The Word Without A Word

About a hundred years ago the poet T.S. Eliot produced, some would argue, his best and most influential work. It was before his conversion to Christianity. Physical ailments, an uneven academic career, and a tortured marriage left him in a frame of mind that produced “Waste Land” – 76 memorably bleak lines such as “April is the cruelest month.”

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In Mark we get a smelly guy yelling – dressed like a nutcase. Right from the opening verses.

“Repent!” Literally, “get a different mind!” Wake up! Rub the sleep boogers out of your eyes. Splash some water if that’s what it takes. Brew a strong cup. Yes this is going to be good, and you’re going to miss it in the state you’re in.

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The Crushing Weight of Purity

Last week I “had the talk” with a group of young leaders in Romania, on the topic of “God and sex.” What was I thinking when I volunteered for that? While I’ve had countless informal conversations with these friends over the years on both subjects, it’s the first time we’ve tackled it formally in our leadership training.

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Un-Beautiful Questions

At Street Psalms we’ve grown to love “beautiful questions.” They provide doorways to freedom and life.

Unfortunately un-beautiful questions abound as well. These questions prove to be traps – luring us to small, confining spaces with doors that snap shut.

How very crucial to discern the difference!

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Binding and Loosing

In this and similar passages, Jesus doesn’t weigh in on whether he falls in the strict or loose camp. As a rabbi he makes a far more profound move.

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Gospel of Rejects

This gospel of rejects is the “way of salvation” hinted from the early pages of Scripture and revealed fully in Jesus. It’s at work in the world and in us. In our busy-ness building, are we paying attention?

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Formed Among Thorns

Spiritual purgation cleanses and clarifies the true identity into which we are being called and into which we are formed.

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Lent: A Time

I’m personally no good at pausing, in writing or in life. I am in fact behind on everything all the time. My email inbox is crammed and messages are flashing on my phone.

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