Month: May 2014

Welcome Home

Two words every traveler anticipates hearing, “Welcome home.” Airports have enough convenience to make waiting palatable, but not enough convenience to really unwind. Getting to the right terminal and gate feels likes an 800 meter sprint with a load of luggage. Missing a flight bothers us because it means an extended delay from our destination. Gates in airports were never meant to be our homes.

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Sunday morning, I found myself in JFK of New York City after a red eye from Burbank, CA. My neck stiffened from attempting to sleep on the plane. Travelers miss their beds and other amenities of a home. When you travel alone, you bring your luggage everywhere. Another reminder you are on the move.

At 11:04 a.m. on Sunday morning, I heard, “Welcome home.” My wife Robyn said that to me as I exited the Rochester Airport. In this brief exchange, I no longer felt like a traveler rushing to the right terminal.

We live in a world full of weary travelers, searching for the people who make them feel at home.

The Gospels display a Savior who invited people to feel at home. Little children, cheaters, tax collectors, fisherman and so many others found acceptance in Him. When we look like Jesus to others, they experience the words, “Welcome home.” A significant message to a world full of weary travelers.

Find the people in your life who say, “Welcome home.” Not merely because you arrived at a place, but even more so because the care which motivates those words. They invite you to be you and continuously challenge you to grow. Conversely, you have the opportunity welcome people home. To give the same grace given to you as you have received.

German theologian Walter Kasper  in Jesus the Christ says this:

Experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ mean experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept oneself and one’s neighbor.

May our lives make the weariest of travelers feel at home in the love of God.

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

Providence

“A Christian disposition, much like ears trained to discern and appreciate the tonal qualities of the gospel, is an absolute necessity if God’s providence is to be adequately perceived and interpreted.” Christopher Hall, Learning Theology from the Church Fathers.

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Providence became another theological term in my life. I could describe God’s providence in relation to chapter and verse or even point to scholars of past and present. If I provided a definition I would say, God superintending the circumstances of our lives for His glory and our good. Definitions seem trite, because they do not always capture the complexities of understanding how God works in our lives.

Followers of Christ have the audacious belief that God will shine His light in the midst of the darkest nights. It’s far more than white knuckling through the night. Even the most devoted saints experience doubt in regards to God’s goodness. I think the words of Scripture we identify with the most come from the Gospels, “I do believe, but help my unbelief…”

I have found myself understanding providence as more than a definition, but as a way of life. The circumstances of the present invite us to find God within the midst. No matter the chaos, pain, or confusing, we find ourselves learning to trust the intentions of God rather than positive circumstances. A process full of struggle from our human perspective, because part of us believes we have a better plan.

We hope Aslan is on the move and the winter without Christmas will come to an end.

When providence moves from an intellectual conversation to a way of life…
We encounter Christ’s grace in the most unrecognizable ways.
We begin to see what thought would destroy us, God brings to save us.
We see the Holy Spirit refocus our view from ourselves to others.

Providence allows the follower of Christ to interpret the events of their lives through the heart of God. Christopher Hall in Learning from the Church Fathers shares an insight from John Chrysostom:

For those  who are well-disposed, the revelation of God in and of itself, even before the proof drawn from his works, suffices to demonstrate not only his providence, but also his fervent love towards us. For he does not simply watch over us, but also loves us; he ardently loves us with an inexplicable love, with an impassible yet fervent, vigorous, genuine, indissoluble love, a love that is impossible to extinguish.

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

Seasons

I have heard the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 thousands of times, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” The melody to the Byrd’s song Turn! Turn! Turn! immediately plays in my mind. You may have heard this verse quoted in the midst of a trying situation; reminding you that this to shall pass. 

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The meaning of this verse significantly changed in college. Dr. Ron Hall (mentioned in a previous post) taught about spiritual seasons in class on internships. Identifying these seasons allows us to recognize how our current circumstances can propel us towards growing in Christ. Dr. Hall invited the class to have perspective. 

No matter your current reality, I think we need to identify our spiritual seasons for our own perspective. Perhaps, in recognizing these seasons we can begin sees God’s work in our lives differently. He moves and directs us in various situations. Here are the four seasons:

1. Life is good and God is near.

Have you experienced smooth sailing? Seasons like these make life seem effortless. The promotions and recognition come from various sources. You open the Bible and pray to see God close. Each sermon speaks directly to your heart. On the other hand, we can become complacent and comfortable in this season. Experiencing this season teaches us gratitude – God has graced us with His provision.

2. Life is good and God is far.

This season can sound like a contradiction. Yet, we can go through life with success without feeling the nearness of God. Think of our lives on autopilot. At a time like this we can get caught up in ourselves. Perspective helps us see the momentary benefit, but to remain humble. Often, the most difficult time to realize God’s work comes when we experience positive circumstances.

3. Life is hard and God is far.

Picture the wilderness. We find ourselves in the midst of trials and pain. To add to it, God seems distant from our predicament. You might consider this the dark night of the soul. Yet, in this season we begin to draw on the strength of others. Community matters. Not looking for Job’s friends who offer advice without understanding. This season helps us find people who listen to our doubts and pain. God’s silence allots us space to share our true feelings. I have found this season challenging areas of my life outside of Christ where I find security. In order to experience the growth of spring, we must walk through winter.

4. Life is hard and God is near.

Psalm 23 describes this season as walking through valley with God present. Though you face difficulty, you find God’s presence and strength close. Trials and suffering point us to the sovereignty of God. Hebrews reminds us of Savior who walked through pain. A season like this makes us acutely aware of our dependency on Christ. C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God’s nearness in our pain helps us to be present for others in this season. Our pain allows us to give the mercy and grace to others that Christ has given us.

So to everything there is a season. What spiritual season do you find yourself in today? How is your perspective changing? Where can you identify God’s work in you and others? 

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

 

The Necessecity of New

New implies a chapter ending. Exchange what you have known for an unknown fresh start. I don’t think we always comprehend a God making all things new. Change comes easy when convenient. Rarely, do we experience change in this fashion. Usually, the old chapter ends abruptly without our preparation.

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My childhood pastor Bill Kirk preached a sermon on Joseph. We toss around the phrase “new normal.” Joseph lived an erratic new normal. The last portion of Genesis records how his brothers disowned him; rising and falling from power as Potiphar’s slave; leading the prisoners as one himself; waiting two years for time with pharaoh; and finally finding a place as second in command of Egypt.

Pastor Kirk drew from Joseph’s life this point, “The God who works in the behind the scenes of life…”

Why is new necessary? New comes to us at a cost. The life we left behind to the life where God has brought us. As much as we love the idea of God making things new, the actual practical application in our lives can seem unexpected. We find ourselves in these moments growing the most; finding a God working behind the scenes and ushering us into a new normal.

The image in this post depicts a mural. I picture our lives looking like this. Focus on one scene and you can notice the intricate detail. Step back and you will find how that scene fits within the picture. Only when we step back from the singular scene of our lives can we see the necessity of new.

God brings the new in our lives to…
Move us from our security to His.
Redirect us to His path for us.
Find Him closer than we ever imagined.
Recognize His grace.

Foreseen or unforeseen, part of following Christ means experiencing newness. A new normal invites us to step back and see the mural God has created in our lives.

What does new mean to you?

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

 

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