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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Gritty Grace

Years ago, I was serving in a small church in my neighborhood. One week, I was preparing for a baptism and discovered this church did not have a baptismal font.

In a conversation with another pastor and friend whose church was down the street, he said, “Not a problem, I will bring you ours.”

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The Beginning of the Gospel

The first eight words of the book of Mark reminds us that everything has a beginning, our walks of faith included.

Street Psalms arrived in Nicaragua almost 20 years ago as a pilot project training series for youth leaders. The name given to this initial foray into transformational ministry was “Incarnational Youth Ministry: Reaching the Last, the Least, and the Lost.”

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year B

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

1:27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

1:28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

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Third Sunday of Advent – Year B

John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

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Something New

It’s December and suddenly Christmas music is everywhere. Lights have gone up. Letters to Santa are being written. All is merry and bright.

Mark did not get the memo. Advent with Mark is not jolly.

Quite the opposite. It starts with suffering. Jesus has been listing all the suffering his followers are going to experience.

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Second Sunday of Advent – Year B

Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1:2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;

1:3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

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First Sunday of Advent – Year B

Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

13:26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.

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Blessed is She

Advent is about the birth of Jesus, of course. But for me, the beauty of these verses is the way God uses Mary and Elizabeth, people who would have been marginalized by society because of their gender, to teach us all how to relate to each other with an attitude of abundance.

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Advent this year coincides with the election season in the Philippines. In my country, elections are often associated with polarization, division, hate, and sometimes even violence. But what is often neglected is that politics can also offer a deep sense of belonging that is similar to what people experience through religion.

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Prepare the Way

Anytime we read something like, the word of the God came to so-and-so, I’m tempted to imagine this happened in some alternate spiritual universe—one where there are prophets and visions and miracles—not my ordinary everyday world. But the author of Luke is at pains to tell us that this happened here, in the real world, at a specific time in a specific place.

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Look at the Trees

Um, what? Why the downer when I’m getting ready to hang Christmas lights and set out the manger? Even the first candle on the advent wreath is for “hope,” not a concept I generally tie to fear and foreboding.

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Mary’s Light

She was a high-school senior. She told me she wasn’t feeling well and asked if I could give her a ride to the hospital. As we pulled up to the…

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Light from Darkness

A prison cell may be the last place we look for light; they are dim by design. But in my country, the Philippines, there is a flicker of light emanating…

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On the Edges

Wilderness.  Uncultivated. Uninhabited. Inhospitable. Neglected. Abandoned. Disfavored. Dangerous. These words are commonly used to describe places of “wilderness.” And yet, as I write, my eye keeps catching the edge of…

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Blue(s) Christmas

We don’t listen to Christmas music in my house until after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday morning the prohibition is lifted and Over the Rhine’s “Darling (Christmas is Coming)” is among…

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Born in Scandal

Not too many years ago, in a community marked by a history of scandalous events, I encountered one of the wittiest and smartest kids I have ever met. His name was Kevin. Kevin understood what it meant to come from a scandalous background.

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Born in Jail

John the Baptist, sitting In Herod’s prison with nothing but time on his hands, is beginning to question his expectations about Jesus. And I would imagine he’s wondering about his own life in light of his present circumstances.

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Born in Wilderness

For Karen, the stairwell was her wilderness sanctuary, right in the heart of the merciless city. There, she found the space and solace to let loose and cry out with a loud voice. The oppressive thumb of drug addiction, abuse, pain and poverty could not find her in that place.

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Born into Chaos

We start Advent not with shepherds and angels and babies meek and mild. Instead we start with apocalyptic warnings. I don’t like it. I prefer the kids in animal and shepherd costumes—the cute Christmas. But we don’t always get what we want. Instead we start Advent with a passage that is full of images of floods, and people disappearing, and thieves.

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The Waiting Rooms of Christmas

Her picture popped up on my computer screen this week after clicking on an email from a friend—a sweet, but seemingly exhausted, 5-year-old Honduran refugee. The email author: a Street Psalms’ friend and InnerCHANGE missionary, Nate Bacon. He had joined up with the caravan of Central American immigrants on their Northward trek to the U.S. When he finally caught up with them in Huixtla, Mexico he did not find a “band of marauding criminals” nor a “threatening throng of terrorists,” but “groups of family members of all ages set on pursuing life.”

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The Waiting Rooms of Christmas: The Wilderness II

Advent gives us an excuse to consider again the nature of a God who comes to be with and in a people. If the Incarnation is anything, it is the God-in-flesh ONE who turns things upside down and inside out, simultaneously scandalizing and comforting us. This is the God we are waiting for and the God we will welcome—anew.

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The Waiting Rooms of Christmas: The Wilderness

A smartly dressed, well-heeled crowd pressed their way through a cold December evening in 1851, seeking to find comfortable seats within the warm confines of New York’s Metropolitan Hall. The hype for this event was incredible. It would become part of an annual phenomenon, featuring big and plenteous voices, gathered to sing out the scriptures, as arranged by George Frideric Handel in his oratorio, “The Messiah.”

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The Breath and the Glory

First it was an alarm, next came water and last week it was light. God uses each of these elements to wake us up. As we approach the eve of God’s arrival, are we still awake? Are we alert? Will we recognize the advent of our God?

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I tried to sleep in a few weeks ago but failed to inform my children of this plan. My daughter came into the room and flipped the light on. “Ahhhh!” Pain shot beneath my eyelids…

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Awake in the Water

We would have called it the boonies or the sticks or perhaps BFE. Mark refers to it simply as the wilderness. Whatever the name, it was a place you didn’t so much go to as you went through. And yet, John made the desert a destination. People from the Judean suburbs loaded their campers and headed out.

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Stay Woke!

I hate to wake up. Yes, it beats the alternative, but it is so painful. The mattress, pillow, sheets and comforter offer such warm friendship while the cold, hard, dusty floor promises only pain.

Like a bully smacking his fist, the cold air waits knowing I have to pass by on my way home from school (or in this case to the bathroom).

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The Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Prison

This year, during Advent, the Gospel of Matthew invites us to sit in what we are calling The Waiting Rooms of Christmas. In the first week of Advent we were…

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The Four Waiting Rooms of Christmas – Wilderness

This year during Advent the Gospel of Matthew invites us to sit in, what we are calling, The Waiting Rooms of Christmas: Apocalypse, Wilderness, Prison and Public Disgrace. These strange…

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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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Awake For What?

How much and how many can we care about before our hearts grow sleepy? There is so much to be aware of that things can dull to a low hum. It’s a struggle to stay present. Addictions large and small help take the edge off, keeping us drowsy.

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