Monday, November 26, 2012

Brothers


"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is 
for brethren to dwell together in unity!" 

"And there was also a strife among them, 
which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, 

'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; 
and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 
But ye shall not be so: 
but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; 
and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.'" 
~Luke 22:24-26

There is a beautiful dynamic between brothers who love one another that does not exist in other human relationships where one 'outranks' another. I love to watch my sons when they are being kind and getting along. The older, who is eleven, helps his five-year-old brother with an understanding of how it is to be a little boy. He carries him around piggy-back, and wrestles with him gently, since he is half his size. The younger one, in his minuscule manliness, is not ridiculed for his weakness, but built up in his masculine identity. I see my older son slow a little, to allow his little brother to beat him in a foot race. I see him limit himself for the sake of togetherness. He plays games that are younger than his interests because they interest his little brother. He is 'being as the younger'. When his attitude is good, he cheerfully assists his brother in brushing his teeth, putting the toothpaste on for him. He oohs and ahhs over Lego creations that are not that amazing, even while he assembles his own designs that have gears and moving parts. And while he is older, and in a sense has more authority, they are both subject to the authority of their Dad and me. As they age, their relationship to each other becomes more and more equal.

One of the things I love the most about family dynamics over the holidays is the easy relationship that exists between the siblings in my family and our spouses. Some of us are older, and some younger, but we're all adults now. The first thing among us is our brotherhood. It isn't our age. There is a freedom to disagree, because we are all secure in our place in the family. I hear my husband and my brothers and brothers-in-law in loud, good-humored discussions on subjects that in many circles result in breaches. But they are brothers. And that ought to be the case among believers. Because they are brothers, there isn't that constant undertone of who is in authority, and who is subject to them. They shift from theological discussion to passing the salt -- to showing each other better ways to keep rhythm while playing the guitar and playing ping pong with the children. Three or four gather in one corner to sing, and two more go back and forth in Wii golf, since it is now too late to play real golf. One goes out to load the wood stove, and another joins him to help. We are one family. Many members. And the older ones are the ones making the meals, and cleaning up the spills, and picking up the ones who have scraped their knees, and rocking the cryers to sleep and running the vacuum cleaner. Over the three days we spent together, I saw three or four people vacuuming at various times. (Thirty-four people track a lot of sand in and out.) Two of the vacuumers were men. And the foremost among us, the one of highest rank -- my Dad -- was one of them.

"But you must not be called Rabbi," Jesus said, 
"for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anniversary Thanks


What to say on this anniversary of her homecoming?
Looking back on my memories of her,
I look forward to realities she's already living in.
When next I see her, her eyes will sparkle more
than they always did when she arrived for a visit.
I expect she'll have a bag to unpack full of gifts of another kind.

"Give thanks in all circumstances," it says.
Grandma did that.
Here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving,
and many of us have suffered loss,
and perhaps only look forward to more losses.
In all these things, we are more than conquerors.
Our prize is already waiting.
The Son of God has crossed the finish line for us.
In Him, all the promises of God are 'yes' and 'amen'.
So remain in Him.
In Him we have Life.
Live in Him.
In all our sorrows, He has shared.
And we will share His joy.
Thank You, Jesus, for the fellowship of the Spirit,
the communion of the saints.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quiet Ambition


I have been asked the question before,
"So... what are you doing now?"
Actually, they started asking me shortly after I got married.
I think I have finally come to the answer.
"We are living quietly."

There are circles of Christianity for whom quiet living is a failure.
Because we adopt the values of our culture.
And quietness and rest are not American values.
American values have to do with productivity.
With sweat and effort and efficiency.
With action and movement and full schedules.
If we aren't working hard, we strive to play hard.
But Christians ought not to be known for their tumult. 

God did not call us to live in immorality, but in holiness. 
So then, whoever rejects this teaching 
is not rejecting a human being, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. 
There is no need to write you about love for each other. 
You yourselves have been taught by God 
how you should love one another. 
And you have, in fact, behaved like this 
toward all the believers in all of Macedonia. 
So we beg you, our friends, to do even more. 
Make it your aim to live a quiet life, 
to mind your own business, 
and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. 
In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, 
and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need. 
1 Thessalonians 4:7-12

I exhort therefore, first of all, 
that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, 
be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; 
that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life 
in all godliness and gravity. 
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 
who would have all men to be saved, 
and come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 

But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; 
it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; 
it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; 
it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. 
And goodness is the harvest that is produced 
from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.
James 3:17-18

It's a tall order in a loud world.
Let us not be the noise.

Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness; 
and righteousness shall abide in the fruitful field. 
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; 
and the effect of righteousness, 
quietness and confidence for ever. 
And my people shall abide in a peaceable habitation, 
and in safe dwellings, 
and in quiet resting-places.
Isaiah 32:16-18

One of the differences between the aged and the young
is their level of activity.
The youth in any society are the ones who speed around,
climbing and racing, and moving between their furious pursuits.
As men mature, they slow their steps,
and they lessen their speech,
and they value peace and home and family.
Their testosterone levels fall,
allowing the oxytocin they naturally produce
to work its magic in nurturing others.
Their aggression fades, and they take up gardening.
There is a good reason the church ought to be headed up by older men.
Older men don't need to fight with everyone.
They aren't off conquering the world, and beating their opponents.
They are accessible to younger men, to women and children.
Their ambitions have grown quiet.
They don't agitate for war.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Thursday Prayer

Please will You move in my nation and in the world?
I pray for my nation, 
that You would turn the hearts of the people 
away from murder and sexual immorality.
Lord, You have done it before in this land.
I pray You would do it again.
Have mercy on Your people.
Show Yourself strong and merciful, and full of lovingkindness.
About the election: I do not know what to pray for.
Will You please have Your will in this election?
I believe in You; in Your sovereignty in human affairs.
You don't need 'Your man' to run anything.
You can accomplish Your will 
through even the hatred and disobedience of Your enemies.
Their very sins can be made to serve You, 
though they intend them for Your destruction.
Please forgive my sins.
The sins of my heart, and the sins of my hands.
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