Desperately seeking Miriam

d7a74293-e884-4f32-a655-1d6bc4be4890Last night’s BlogTalkRadio show featuring David Horner, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies & M.A. Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, is now required listening for all of you who have your boots on the ground and are representing the Gospel of Welcome which is Grace Turned Outward in the marketplace. In it we discuss how Christians have a bad reputation in the world, and how we need to do something about that for the sake of the gospel, which, as you know, is good news, not bad. What we ended up with was, primarily, our message of Grace Turned Outward — a clear sign that we are on the right track here at the Catch. What is called for is for us to be full of grace towards others because of God’s grace towards us, and the way we do that is through word and deed, but much more deed than word. It’s what Marti means when she says: “It’s not the big things you say, but the little things you do” that matter in the world.

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… but is he a Christian?

If your ears were burning last night, it’s because we were talking a lot about you. You were the center of an intimate evening where a group of people gathered to learn more about you and celebrate you with a house concert by Noel Paul Stookey. It was so great to meet so many old and new faces, and a warm welcome to all who are here today for the first time.

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from the song, Hymn by Noel Paul Stookey

Sunday morning, very bright,

I read Your book by colored light

That came in through the pretty window picture.

I visited some houses where they said that You were living

And they talked a lot about You

And they spoke about Your giving.

They passed a basket with some envelopes;

I just had time to write a note

And all it said was “I believe in You.”

The year was 1969. It was my senior year at Wheaton College. My roommate had just purchased “Late Again” by Peter, Paul & Mary and there was a rumor out that Paul had become a Christian and that one of the songs on the new album was supposedly the story of his conversion. Being huge Peter, Paul & Mary fans — indeed, we were folk guitar players who had learned how to play every one of their hits — we were brimming with excitement. Having a celebrity come out with a clear statement of faith in Jesus Christ was like a sudden legitimization of our faith, in a prominent place in popular culture.

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What happens to a kernel of wheat that’s so special?

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“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

It’s a spiritual principle that God has built into the fabric of the universe. One dies so that many might live.

It happens on many different levels. On a human level, it can mean a death that raises consciousness to some danger that could take the lives of others if something isn’t done. Someone dies on a rollercoaster drawing attention to a flaw in the design or execution that is corrected so that no one else will have that tragic fate.

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017, lead singer of the Gen X grunge rock group Soundgarden, committed suicide this week. Here is the creator of a sound that defined a generation — never mind that the sound represented cynicism and depression. That he would take his life at 52 says something.

He was a dad, a philanthropist, a grown up. He had just gotten his group back together and recorded a new album. He had celebrity. He was making lots of money. What went wrong? Most would say it was his depression that he lived with most of his life — a depression not uncommon to his generation — the “middle child” trapped between the retiring Boomers and achieving Millennials. Could his death raise awareness among other Gen Xers that depression is not something to be trifled with — that it is a mental illness that can be treated and his peers need to take notice? It may be that lives may be saved as a result of Chris losing his.

But Jesus was talking about something deeper and longer-lasting than even this. He was talking about a spiritual reality of death to life. Ultimately He was talking about His own death and resurrection — a death that bought eternal life for all who believe. It was the whole reason He came to earth and He was announcing that in this illustration when He called up of the life-cycle of a grain of wheat.

Yet there is still another application of this principle that takes place in the everyday life of the believer. It is what Paul referred to when he said, “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). He means here that dying experiences — what he had just defined in previous verses as afflictions, perplexities, abandonment and calamities — happen to us because it is through these trying experiences that the life and power of Christ is released in us so that others may benefit. Death in us means life in you.

Are you going through a dying experience today? Take heart. Life will come from it — lots of life — indeed, “a plentiful harvest of new lives.” It’s the way God works and it’s built into the universe.

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Sound advice for all of us “supers”

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Time, again, for that good advice from Elastigirl, the “super” from the film, “The Incredibles.” In this fast-paced animated feature movie, Bob and Helen Parr are retired superheroes trying to have a normal life blending their family into the suburbs, when they get sucked back into their superhero stint of saving the world. (Once a superhero, always a superhero. Good thing to remember right there about our calling to walk at all times in the power of the Spirit. You don’t get time off. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” [2 Timothy 4:2].)

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I never knew I had it so good

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It’s been nothing short of overwhelming — an avalanche of memories and well wishes coming to me via email, text, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other means of message notifications I didn’t even know existed, and most of them going beyond just Happy 70th Birthday to stories about how something I sang at a concert, taught at a retreat, said in a conversation or wrote in a book, article or blog had touched someone deeply and made a difference in their life. I didn’t know. (I still have the bulk of these yet to go through so it may be days before I comment, but I will get to them all, because you all matter.)

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‘I feel more like eighty-five’

IMG_0481I can remember like yesterday when Randy Stonehill first came out with his song, “Turning Thirty.” Great song, but it made me feel old. I’ve got a couple years on him so I had already passed that milestone. I do not plan on writing a song, “Turning Seventy.” As a matter of fact, I’d just as soon have this day pass quietly. Slip right on by. (That’s kind of hard, however, with a social media birthday message popping up on my screen every 30 seconds. How will I thank all of you? There’s one from the guy across the hall from me in college. How cool is that?)

Seventy is old, at least I’ve always thought it was. “Some old guy in his seventies,” is not a phrase you’re going to hear from me anymore. Especially when I don’t feel seventy. This feels like just another day. In fact, it’s my jogging day.

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Living out a mandate

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Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28

This is where God asks us to take care of the world He gave us. This is no small potatoes. That means that we each have a mandate from God to look after that portion of God’s creation that we touch.

Today we live in a vast, complex, technologically specialized world, where our dominion has been broken down to the minutest parts. Your dominion or my dominion may seem of little consequence compared to the fish of the seas, the birds of the air and every living creature moving on the ground that Adam and Eve ruled over, but it is no less significant. Whatever you are responsible for in the world is to be considered your mandate from God, and vitally important to His eternal kingdom

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Through the Eyes of a Child

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In light of Mother’s Day yesterday, Marti and I recalled this wonderful poem by Beverly Cunningham, who was without a home at the time we first met her and living at the Isaiah House for Women in Santa Ana, California. It’s a poem that beautifully captures what I shared in our Facebook church message last night — that our mothers are not perfect, but love can win out if we learn to forgive. This is a beautiful poem from a mother’s point of view about how her adult child has forgiven her, and how much that means to her.

The assignment from church was to sit down and write your mom a letter. Might be a good idea for all of us. And write us if you’d like, and let us know how that experience went. Were you able to love her, forgive her even though she may have screwed up your life, and then tell her she’s the best mother in the world because she’s your mother and she gave you life?

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