Confession From a White Man & a (mostly) White Church


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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 13

17 If you are too proud to listen, I will go off alone and cry my eyes out.  I will weep uncontrollably because the Lord’s flock will be dragged off into exile.
18 Tell the king and the queen mother:Come down from your lofty place, because your glorious crowns will soon be removed from your heads.

19 The towns of the arid southern plain will be surrounded; no one will get in or out; all Judah will be taken into exile; everyone will be led away.

O (Observation):  Jeremiah mourns that God’s people are too proud, and as a result, they will be cast out.   God will not let go of them forever, but Jeremiah’s lament is that the people are so stubborn and arrogant that they are willing to be cast out into exile, rather than repent.

Perhaps Jeremiah’s tears come because he sees the disparity between the action of the people and God’s desires for God’s people.   And the people won’t listen.  So God will pull the old, “Ok.  You do life your way.   Let’s see how that works out for you.”

A (Application): Statues.   Confederate statues.  This is the talk of the town.   I’ll be listening in.   To those who want it removed.  To those who don’t.  (By the way, I’m okay with taking ours down in Murfreesboro…but I am one voice amongst many.)

I read something that woke me up, regarding the latest rise in awareness of racism.   One suggestion from a black writer to white folks wishing to be allies in the work of dismantling racism is not to act surprised.   The suggestion was this:   Don’t be surprised by acts of racism; it’s always been here.  The author wants folks to be aware of racism…the point is that the level of shock shows a lack of awareness on our (white people’s) part.   

Click here for the entire article from Sojourners. Here is the section that got me:

4. Please try not to, “I can’t believe that something like this would happen in this day and age!” your way into being an ally when atrocities like the events in Charleston, S.C., and Charlottesville, Va., happen. People of color have been aware of this kind of hatred and violence in America for centuries, and it belittles our experience for you to show up 300 years late to the oppression-party suddenly caring about the world. Don’t get me wrong, I welcome you. I want for you to come into a place of awareness. However, your shock and outrage at the existence of racism in America echoes the fact that you have lived an entire life with the luxury of indifference about the lives of marginalized/disenfranchised folks. Please take several seats.

I have had many moments of awareness, but let’s just say that I feel a bit more convicted now than I ever have.   

I invite you to discern your place in the system and to see how you might be both a part of the problem and solution.  I invite you (my white friends) to repent of your part in systemic racism.  Don’t look to others or their actions.  Look at yourself, repent, and then seek God’s direction in your life.  See how you can be a part of God’s glorious plan to bring about reparations and reconciliation in your town.   

Build relationships across racial lines.  In a workshop on racism, I explained to an African American friend that – even in a genuine show of neighborly love – that I might feel like I was trying to build a relationship artificially.  She assured me that if I was genuine, and she heard that I wanted to get to know her and befriend her, that that would not be as artificial as I am making it out to be.  She said, “I’d be happy to get to know you.”

So, you see…sometimes it just takes stepping out of the circle.  Just a step or two at a time.  

Step out.  Today.  

P (Prayer):  #SpiritLeadMe.  Amen.  

Paul Wrote a Letter to Me, Today (and Maybe to You, too!)

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S (Scripture): 2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we always must thank God for you, brothers and sisters who are loved by God. This is because he chose you from the beginning to be the first crop of the harvest. This brought salvation, through your dedication to God by the Spirit and through your belief in the truth. 14 God called all of you through our good news so you could possess the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions we taught you, whether we taught you in person or through our letter. 16 Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. 17 May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say.

3:1 Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us so that the Lord’s message will spread quickly and be honored, just like it happened with you. 2 Pray too that we will be rescued from inappropriate and evil people since everyone that we meet won’t respond with faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful and will give you strength and protect you from the evil one. 4 We are confident about you in the Lord—that you are doing and will keep doing what we tell you to do. 5 May the Lord lead your hearts to express God’s love and Christ’s endurance.

O (Observation): Paul gives encouragement to the church in Thessalonica, to keep on fighting the good fight of faith.  

A (Application):  I guess you can say that I feel as if Paul wrote this letter to me, today.   

Maybe you feel like this, as well?

#SpiritLeadMe

#NoSilenceNoViolence

P (Prayer): Spirit, lead me.  

Meditation: Trust in the Lord


S (Scripture): Psalm 94

16 Who will stand up for me against the wicked?
Who will help me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord hadn’t helped me,
I would live instantly in total silence.
18 Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
your faithful love steadies me, Lord.
19 When my anxieties multiply,
your comforting calms me down.

O (Observation):  A steady and reliable God is mentioned in today’s psalm, a sure and true presence in times of calm and in times of trouble.  

God’s faithful love steadies the psalmist, and all of God’s people, and comforts them in times of trouble. 

A (Application): Today’s application is more of an exercise than a written devotion.   

Take a deep breat in.  Hold for 3 seconds.  Breathe out for 3 seconds.  

Repeat this several times until you’ve reached a peaceful state.   

Read the psalm text above.   Let your mind focus on a phrase or even just a word.   Repeat this phrase or word slowly, several times, in your mind.  

What is God speaking to you through this phrase/word today?   Is God addressing a difficulty in your life?  Or a joy in your life?

Give thanks to God for being present with you.  Seek God’s guidance and lift up any concerns you might have for yourself and others.  

When you are done meditating on this phrase/word, and you are done giving thanks and lifting concerns, repeat the breathing exercise above.  

Be still for 5 minutes.   Concentrate on your breathing.  Slow.   Steady.  

Now, with God’s peace, set forth into the glory known as “this day”! 

P (Prayer): Lord, we are thankful for your presence.   Give us strength and courage to trust in you.  Amen.  

How’s That Working Out For You?

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 2:20 Long ago I broke your yoke; I shattered your chains.
But even then you said, “I won’t serve you.”
On every high hill and under every lush tree, you have acted like a prostitute.

28 Where are the gods you have made for yourselves?
Let’s see if they will come through for you in your time of trouble.
You have as many gods, Judah, as you have towns.

3:6 During the rule of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you noticed what unfaithful Israel has done? She’s gone about looking for lovers on top of every high hill and under every lush tree. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she didn’t. Her disloyal sister Judah saw this. 8 She also saw that I sent unfaithful Israel away with divorce papers because of all her acts of unfaithfulness; yet disloyal sister Judah was not afraid but kept on playing the prostitute.

O (Observation): God sent prophets to the people of Judah and Israel, because they needed to hear from God regarding their actions and how they pleased or displeased God.   

In this case, Jeremiah – God’s prophet – warns God’s people that they are acting like a prostitute, giving themselves over to other gods, and dismissing the one, true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.    

God’s people invented other gods on every hill and under every tree, seeking their own will, dismissing God’s will.  

A (Application):  Dr. Phil – a day time talk show host – likes to hear people’s stories and offers suggestions for how to improve their lives.    When people explain their situation and how they are so sure of their course of action, Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”  Usually, the answer is that things are not going so well.  

Asking that question gives one pause – or at least it should give you pause.    Take stock of how things are so far.   Is this path working for you?   For others?  Who’s the author of this path?  You?  God / the Spirit?  

Is your path helping you to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom?  Are you growing in faith in God?  Are you welcoming others to join the path with you?  If you are not bearing fruit, perhaps you can take stock, listen for God, and see a clearer path forward.   

When you sense the Holy Spirit asking you, “How’s that working out for you?” maybe it’s time to step back into prayer and see what God has in store : )

P (Prayer):  God, remind us that you are our Savior, and will give us everything we need.   Amen.   

We See Broken; God Sees Mended


S (Scripture): Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah took the letters from the messengers and read them. Then he went to the temple and spread them out before the Lord. 15 Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

16 “Lord of heavenly forces, God of Israel: you sit enthroned on the winged creatures. You alone are God over all the earth’s kingdoms. You made both heaven and earth. 17 Lord, turn your ear this way and hear! Lord, open your eyes and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words. He sent them to insult the living God! 18 It’s true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have destroyed all the nations and their lands. 19 The Assyrians burned the gods of those nations with fire because they aren’t real gods. They are only man-made creations of wood and stone. That’s how the Assyrians could destroy them. 20 So now, Lord our God, please save us from Sennacherib’s power! Then all the earth’s kingdoms will know that you alone are Lord.”

21 Then Isaiah, Amoz’s son, sent a message to Hezekiah: The Lord God of Israel says this: Since you prayed to me about Assyria’s King Sennacherib, 22 this is the message that the Lord has spoken against him:

The young woman, Daughter Zion, despises you and mocks you;
Daughter Jerusalem shakes her head behind your back.

28 I know where you are,
how you go out and come in,
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me and because your pride has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you go back the same way you came.

33 Therefore, the Lord says this about Assyria’s king: He won’t enter this city. He won’t shoot a single arrow here. He won’t come near the city with a shield. He won’t build a ramp to besiege it.

O (Observation):  King Sennacherib is planning to attack God’s people in Israel.   He has conquered many people and taken many lands.   This time, he has his eyes set upon taking over the Israelites.   

King Hezekiah (of Israel) hears of these threats made by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, and takes the letters which contain Sennecharib’s plans…and Hezekiah lays them out before God.  Hezekiah seeks God’s discernment on this matter, which weighs heavy upon his heart.  

God’s response is priceless.  God says that the Assyrian’s will not get a single shot of an arrow off, let alone build a siege ramp.   Reading past these verses above, you will notice that God sends his messengers to slay 145,000 Assyrian soldiers and has Sennecharib’s own sons kill King Sennecharib!

God was pleased with his people turning to God, rather than to their own strength or wisdom.    In response, God protects the Israelites.  

A (Application):  When was the last time you relied on God?   We try to be self-made people…and yet we have a God who calls us to call upon and depend upon God.   The struggle we have is that we think we can make it on our own…apart from God.   

We think need is a sign of weakness in this world…like if I need childcare, or money, or help fixing a car or doing taxes.    Why?   What if we know people who can help with these things?   Isn’t that part of the reason why we have community?   Aren’t we here to help each other out?  If so, why the shame?

We’re not fighting an army or worrying about a pending attack, but we are facing our own challenges.   The biggest struggle is likely self-image.   When we think we have to rely on ourselves to get us through our problems, we will likely fail.   Or worse, if we get through it and forget to thank God, we find ourselves like so many of Israel’s kings…thinking “we” did it, no thanks to God. 

But I hope we can be like King Hezekiah: ready to lay out the world’s sinister plans for us, and seek God’s power and wisdom.   

In doing so, we become vulnerable, but vulnerable to God’s ways, which is a good thing.  We lay down our ways, and pick up God’s ways.  This is God’s grace for us.  A way forward that relies on God.  

I was listening to a song today on the radio: Matthew West’s “Mended.”   (Listen to “Mended” by clicking here.)  When we lay down our ways, and instead see ourselves and the world around us through God’s eyes, we see a world waiting to be mended.   

May you see the world through God’s eyes today: when we see broken, God sees mended.   

P (Prayer):  Lord God, we lay our plans and the world’s plans at your feet.   Guide us. Save us.  Amen.   

Trust the Pregnant One: “God with us”


S (Scripture): Isaiah 7:10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? 14 Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign.  The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].  15 He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. 16 Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. 17 The Lord will bring upon you, upon your people, and upon your families days unlike any that have come since the day Ephraim broke away from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

O (Observation):  King Ahaz is the king of Judah, the remnant of God’s chosen people.  They are less than perfect, and God has called upon Isaiah (touching a burning coal to his lips, remember?) to speak truth to God’s people.   Isaiah called upon God’s people to trust God and believe that Judah is NOT beyond redemption.  

What will this redemption look like?  

The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].

Sound familiar?   See Matthew 1:23 : )

In Isaiah’s time and in the time of Mary’s pregnancy, God’s people are in a time of difficulty.   They are in need of salvation and help from the Lord.   

God remains faithful.  God gives them hope. 

Isaiah reminds King Ahaz that Judah’s enemies – in the span of about 2-3 years (or, about the time it would take for the pregnant woman to give birth and teach the child right from wrong) – will be no more.  They can trust that God will provide for them.   

A (Application): So many things to do and so little time and motivation.  We all hit roadblocks.  We see obstacles and challenges and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We feel trapped. 

We want to be smart enough to figure a way out. We want to work harder to make the work “ours” – to put our stamp on it.    We want to prove to God how worthy we are.   

And the sad thing is, we sometimes make it not realizing that it was God who gave us what we need to make things work.  We forget that God gave us the relationships and the skills we need to make things work out.   We forget that God called upon others to provide us guidance and wisdom.  

We claim for ourselves what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.  

We forget that hope came through a pregnant woman – Mary – which was not our doing.  We forget that God is our protector, choosing instead to protect ourselves by shouting on social media about how we need to be stronger as Christians.  We shout about how we need to really step up and claim God for this nation and to push back all others.   

Instead, I call for unity, in the midst of diversity.  We come together, people of varied nations and tongues, seeking goodness and mercy and justice for all.  We do this, confident that the Lord will provide us with merciful and just leaders.  

This starts with you.   Where do you see a need for justice?  Where do you see a need for mercy?

Remember that you need others to be just and merciful for you, too.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, make us wise not in the ways of the world, but wise in your ways.  Amen.  

Every Creature, in the Image of God

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I don’t normally post on Saturday’s, but Richard Rohr’s meditation from Friday, June 9, 2017, is too good to pass up.  

Click here for is his daily meditation, in full, with my favorite quotes from the meditation below:

In his original Rule, Francis instructed friars who traveled to Muslim lands not to engage in argument or disputes, and to accept local authority, even if it meant making themselves vulnerable. [2] He wanted them to carry the Gospel, not take up crusaders’ weapons. We need such a message today.

Imagine what the world would be like if we treated others with inherent and equal dignity and respect, seeing the divine DNA in ourselves and everyone else too—regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, appearance, or social class. Nothing less offers the world any lasting future.

Every creature carries the DNA, or Imago Dei, of the Creator, and it shall not be taken from them.