8:22

8.2

Today’s Word: ‘8:22’ as in… the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, verse 22.

I had a really illuminating conversation with some friends last week. We pulled apart Mark’s ancient story about Jesus’ interaction with “a blind man.”

(btw… you’ll need to pay close attention to my use of ‘single quotation marks’ going forward. They’re there intentionally.)

When Jesus and his followers arrive in Bethsaida, Jesus is all about ‘making clear,’ ‘shedding light on,’ ‘illuminating,’ ‘furthering understanding’ (get it?) about who he is and what he’s doing there. See how it always comes back to identity and purpose?

Mark tells us that “Some people brought ‘a blind man’ to Jesus, and begged (implored!) him to touch him.” This reveals so much about this community of people.

Why did they do this?

Maybe, just maybe they wanted nothing more than to get this guy off the street corner. Begging day in and day out for absolutely everything he needed was most certainly a drain on the economy. But what if he had his sight back? Could he then potentially find employment, maybe even help others do the same, adding to the wellbeing of the entire community?

Maybe. Just maybe.

Or maybe, just maybe this tells us more about the depth of friendship, awareness, compassion and love among this small group of friends, than it does about the man who couldn’t see any of that (yet). This was a small group of people who ‘looked out’ for each other. They were ‘eyes wide open’ about the needs of their small community. They had ‘gained new insights’ about looking out for one another.

Maybe. Just maybe.

Compassion drove them to bring this man to the rabbi whom they had heard was healing people and helping people see. Maybe, just maybe this was a small group who had begun to ‘see everything about everything’ from a completely different perspective! They had become a community who discovered that compassion and love for others – whether they knew them or not – could change the dynamics of the wider community.

If this is merely a story about Jesus fixing this guy’s eyes, then we’ve lost sight of what the larger message is; we’re certainly not seeing all that is really there for us to see.

Maybe. Just maybe. Well, probably.

#100days50words

Rush

RushToday’s Word: ‘RUSH’ as in… what kind of rush are you experiencing?

On April 5, 2019, I introduced you to a phrase that continues to speak deeply to me:

“Sometimes you have to go far in order to come near.”

For me, this has always been about stretching myself into new and different experiences that demand that I think, behave, and live differently, so as not to get stuck. Sometimes you have to go a great distance – physically, mentally, spiritually – in order to arrive at what the moment is trying to teach.

It happened again this past weekend in the Dominican Republic. While hiking in the mountains around Jarabacoa with several Board members and staff from Doulos Discovery School, including my birthday girl, Nancy Lee, one of my fellow trekkers asked me what my Today’s Word was. It hadn’t revealed itself to me yet, but just that question sparked a deeper awareness of what was happening all around me. Moments later while standing at the foot of a waterfall, the word arrived: Rush, as in the rush of the mighty waters. As I stood at the base of the falls, I thought of all of the ways I was experiencing the ‘rush.’

The rush of the mighty waters was loud and powerful, dynamic and moving.

There was the rush of the wind and the rain that sabotaged our attempt to climb Pico Duarte, the highest point in the Caribbean Islands.

There was the rush of the moment that kept returning, again and again, reminding me that the rush of what I was experiencing was on “repeat.”

But by far the most important “rush” of all was the rush of the quiet reminder to not rush through all of these moments, to not rush from one experience to the next, to not rush forward without lingering in this present moment, learning what this has to teach.

Isn’t it ironic that by being in such a rush to get to the next moment, we often miss the rush of this moment.

Let’s not rush it.

#100days50words

 

20+C+M+B+20

20+C+M+B+20Today’s Word: 20+C+M+B+20’ as in… Chalking.

We’re still in the Epiphany season. It’s okay if that’s new news. It hasn’t been on my front burner either. Not like Advent and Christmas were front and center. Much of our culture got a running start on Thanksgiving, jumped right over Advent into Christmas, then briefly paused on New Year’s Eve, and is now leaning heavily into Valentine’s Day. After the chocolate is gone, it’s on to March Madness.

Epiphany began on January 6 and stretches into the gray days of mid-winter, right up to February 23, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. But again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

There is an ancient practice that is directly linked to Epiphany called “Chalking.” It seems to be making a bit of a resurgence, or at least I’m starting to notice it more; kind of like when you start noticing multiples of things after seeing just one, like when you notice red cars, or motorcycles, or perhaps even other guys wearing beautiful Carhartt shirts. “Chalking” begins either on the eve of Epiphany, January 5, or on the Day of Epiphany, January 6, when Christ followers around the world mark their door frames with this pattern: “20+C+M+B+20.”

Let’s break that down a bit. The ‘20’ on both ends refers to the calendar year. The crosses points to Christ. The three letters refer to the initials of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, who visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as well as the abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, May Christ Bless this house.” And all of this, of course, recalls the Passover in Exodus 12 where the Israelites marked the door frames of their houses.

So why do this? It’s a home blessing that we share with those who visit. As hospitality was shown to the Magi, we’re called to show extravagant hospitality to all people as we invite the presence of God into wherever we live work and play.

What an Epiphany!

#100days50words

Connected

Connectedness

Today’s Word: ‘Connected’ as in… connected people connect people.

I was with some students and getting into our van when we heard someone yelling obscenities. These were full-bore, foul invectives backed up with a rage that really concerned me. Fifty yards away, someone in a car was screaming at an employee through a drive-through window. As I walked toward this ugly commotion, the car sped off and disappeared into the otherwise beautiful Saturday morning.

When I got to the drive-through window and looked in, I saw a small group of employees gathered around their coworker; the one who bore the brunt of the ugly experience. She was in tears. Approaching the window, I asked if everything was okay. What the manager told me revealed that everything was not okay. The 16 year old employee had accidently miscounted the change due back to the driver. He then looked at me with that “you’re-really-not-going-to-believe-this” kind of look:

“It was only 11 cents. She missed the correct change back by 11 cents.”

Let’s just pause a moment to let that sink in.

There’s a well-known phrase for moments like that. When someone deliberately hurts another human being, we say “Hurt people hurt people.” Neither the driver of the car nor the young woman whom he’d verbally abused had any sense of thriving in those moments. Yet, the connectedness between those workers began to reorient that young girl back toward thriving. And the thriving began to emerge from the connectedness that she had with her coworkers.

Thriving healthy relationships come from communities that are willing to invest in one another for the sake of deeper connectedness.

Those caring coworkers who gathered around their wounded sister were invested in showing her a deeper kind of hospitality. It’s the kind of hospitality that makes us aware of the similarity between the words ‘hospitable’ and ‘hospital.’ While they are different words, they are similar in the sense that the amount of trust and respect along with an enormous amount of care and compassion becomes part of the power of a connected community filled with rich relationships.

It’s where loved people love people.

#100days50words

Primary

Primary

Today’s Word: Primary” as in… another look at the primary questions.

Let’s take yet another look at John 1:1-14:

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light.

He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

There are a number of “primary questions” that we continue to ponder. The first is this: “Who are you?” This is the “Identity” question. The 16th century mystic saint, Teresa of Avila probably said it best:

“You are the presence of Christ in the world—who has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours—yours are the eyes through which Christ looks with compassion on the world. Yours are the feet with which Jesus walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which God blesses all the world.”

That’s who you are. To continue to ask this question of ourselves will eventually make us better for one another.

The second question is this: “What are you doing here?” This is the “Purpose” question. You could also say it’s a question of mission. Again, Teresa of Avila:

“You are here to reach across the gap – across the chasm into the life of someone in need. You are here to be the hands, the feet, the eyes—the body of Christ, because Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

In what’s known as The Prologue from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the writer is rather poetically connecting these questions to Jesus. John tells us that Jesus is the living, breathing, life-giving, breath-giving Word who exists from beyond time and continues to create in real time. John, the “one whom God sent” wrestles with these same questions. The fascinating layer here, though, is that by locating these questions in Jesus and John, they become our questions. Who are we and what are we doing here? We are the living, breathing, life-giving, breath-giving people of God who “tell about the light so that everyone might believe.” We are those who are constantly becoming children of God.” We are living out our “birth that comes from God,” and we are those for whom “the Word became flesh” in order to make his home among us!

#100days50words

Doer

Today’s Word: Doer’ as in… let’s be doers, not just hearers!

I recently had a conversation with a remarkable group of parents. We made a list of the character traits that we want our kids and grandkids to develop in their lives: compassion, love, empathy, kindness, joy, hope, patience, a sense of justice, self-control. We all agreed that they won’t develop these traits unless we are modeling them.

I was reminded of the challenge from the ancient writer James. I imagined him holding up his very practical letter (with whatever he used for ink barely dry) and saying something like this:

“Hey, it’s not enough just to hear this and think it’s a great idea. You’ve got to get into this so that this can get into you! Hear it, then live it! Make this so much a part of you that it impacts the whole community!”

My late, great friend, Eugene Peterson understood it this way:

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

Those who embody this ancient gospel-good-news will naturally bear the image of the ever-present Christ. Whether we’re in middle school or high school, a college student, young adult, middle aged or older, when the good news of God in Christ flows out of every part of us, the world shifts a lot.

So how do we practice this? Three “Ls”.

First, Listen. This is about developing the discipline of intentional hearing. We have to actually decide that we’re going to listen well before speaking.

Second, Linger. This is about practicing the art of counting to 10. Counting was never so challenging! By withstanding the temptation to speak right away, we create common space for differing views.

DoersThird, Love. No one walks away from expressions of love and forgets what they look like.

#100days50words

‘ing-ing’

Ing-IngToday’s Word: ING-ING’ as in… yelling, waving, pounding, sputtering, freaking (out) gets us nowhere!

I’ve got this “quick-to-listen-slow-to-speak-slow-to-get-angry” business rolling around in my frontal lobe; that where decisions get made. Yesterday afternoon while driving home I had a “frontal lobe moment” with another driver. Something I did apparently “set” him off. Honestly, I have no idea what it was. He honked (beeped? Is there a difference?) his horn and pulled up on my right side. I thought it might be someone I knew, so when I turned my head and smiled, I realized that I didn’t know him. And it was obvious that I was no friend of his (I’m thinking that this is his loss!). My smiling probably didn’t help, either.

Man, he was hot!

As he matched my speed, he was “ing-ing” at me: yelling, waving, pounding, sputtering, freaking (out). For a moment it was rather comical; all of that “ing-ing” going on while driving 35 miles an hour, fifteen feet apart, our windows up, through two frames of glass and a lot of metal and road noise. Did I mention I had Snarky Puppy cranked up in my cab.

It was really funny. For just a moment. And then it wasn’t. That’s when I felt it kick in: Anger.

Let’s just pause there. Most of you who know me know that I’m really easy going; long fuse. I’m a 7 on the Enneagram (with two 7 wings!) and I’ve got Positivity and Adaptability in my Top Five Strengths. So I’m super-chill. Am I not? So why, on God’s green earth did I speed up when he went on his $&%%# way*?

I’ve clearly got some work to do.

Anger isn’t inherently bad, but it’s important that we learn to manage it well. There are a couple of kinds of anger. Destructive anger is reactionary and often creates even more anger which leads to the death of contentment, peace, and relationships. Constructive anger creates life and health and leads to deeper, healthier relationships.

When we’re slow to anger, we create some space between an action and the reaction; where we find anger dissipate-ing and peace expand-ing. Perhaps these are the healthier versions of “ing-ing” that would get us everywhere…

*merry

#100days50words