Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis, and me

This week’s SEMI (Fuller’s student publication) features an interview with my boss, Jim Wallis, and an article by me telling some of the story of how I ended up at Sojourners. For those of you at Fuller, pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts! And if you’re not in Pasadena, drop me a comment and I’ll email you an electronic copy.

Also, for Pasadena friends, Jim will be speaking at All Saints Church tomorrow (25th) at 7pm. Go say hey!

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Tonight is inexplicable

Tonight, for some reason, I am filled with a most-unspeakable and inexplicable joy. For the first time since my move to DC, there is a settledness of spirit, a calmness of character. There is a renewed hope in my calling, a reinvigorated sense of freedom in God, a restored feeling of confidence in my own creative abilities and in what I hear God speaking to me.

The fire in my belly to create music and to perform and to put my faith into song is back. The passion to write the words (and perhaps books) that I believe God has put on my heart is back. The yearning to live with and laugh with and lead and love the people of God is back.

Perhaps it was the gig I played at on Friday night, where I was reminded of the great joy and satisfaction–a certain assuredness or perhaps even a sense of divine approval–that comes with using the gifts that God has graciously given me.

Perhaps it was the conference I attended this weekend–RootsCampDC–a gathering of progressive organizers. At RootsCamp, I encountered kindred spirits of all ages and colors, and my hope for change and the power of people working together was renewed.

Perhaps it was getting to talk with my dear friend Kate, whom I love and miss dearly, and whom I could best describe–and not exaggerating all that much–as the person in whom I see the peace and love of God embodied. Every time I talk to Kate, I’m reminded not only of God’s perspective on life, but I’m also humbled by how he is at work in her life in ways great and small–and simply because she has given him the space in her life to work.

Perhaps it was the decisions that I made at the start of the Lenten season already beginning to bear fruit.

All I know is … God is good. He’s showing me the path and urging me to go, like a father encouraging his toddler to venture out.

So I go.

Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

–Matthew 19:26

This year, for Lent …

Welcome to Lent 2010. (For those who are unfamiliar with Lent, check out this primer from Beliefnet.)

Writer extraordinaire Julie Clawson penned a great and very thought-provoking piece on just what Lent is about (which you can find on God’s Politics or on her own blog). Of particular note:

Lent isn’t about denial; it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. Our acts of kenosis — denying ourselves in order to empty ourselves enough to allow God to fill us — are means to an end. They are disciplines that prepare us to be transformed. We deny ourselves so that we can be reborn as new creations — to live more fully as the kingdom citizens God desires us to be.

Various friends are doing various things for Lent. Some decisions are related to food: one friend is going vegan for lent, while another is committing to the Daniel fast. Others are choosing to spend less time staring at a screen, whether it’s through swearing off of Facebook or abstaining from watching TV. Yet others are choosing proactive resolutions, in one case deciding to commit to a half hour quiet time every day.

Me? I’ve been thinking more about what it is that would be healthy for me, and what would best clear space for God. I went to an Ash Wednesday service last night at which Dallas Willard reminded us that “Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5:15). Like Julie, I don’t want to withdraw from Facebook, which is one of the few ways I’m able to keep contact with my widely-dispersed friends. I don’t really drink coffee or eat sweet things all that much, so abstaining from those wouldn’t create much lifespace.

I’ve decided that my Lenten plan will be a little mish-mash of everything:

  • I’m giving up alcohol. I’m an artist. I don’t need any additional aids to make me emo.
  • I’m gonna try to be more consistent with working out a little every day. I’ve been hobbled by various ailments since I’ve moved here–I blame a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • I’m cutting down on my TV intake–not completely, but some. So I’m still keeping Lost, Smallville, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother … uhhh, I might rethink this one. 😉
  • For those of you who remember the 6-month dating fast of 2007–Micah and Christie?–I’m instituting something similar for Lent. The last few months have made me realize that I need to be a little more settled, especially since I’m still trying to find my feet in DC. (Six months was a doozy; Lent should be a breeze.)

What about you? What’re you doing for Lent (if anything)?

Believe it or not, Jesus loves you

Original post: March 28, 2008; update: January 28, 2010. Always a good reminder.

The late, great Rich Mullins told a story of when he was struggling in his faith, and someone said to him, “Jesus loves you.” His response: “Big deal. Jesus loves everyone.”

Sometimes, I feel like that; sometimes I feel like God’s love is so indiscriminate that it isn’t worth anything. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve heard that Jesus loves me, or that the Bible says so, it just doesn’t help with life’s difficulties and tensions, with the struggles I’m facing or the emotional turmoil I’m going through. Sometimes, I feel, love just ain’t enough.

But on most days, I’m able to live in the knowledge and understanding that God’s love is so expansive—so high and wide and deep and true—that somehow, even though he loves everyone, it’s as full as it can be for everyone.

Human love is limited; it’s finite. We only have so much time and energy to spend with people; we are only able to spread ourselves so thin, and even our greatest commitment is often not enough. God’s love doesn’t have such limitations: his love is wide and deep. He can and does love everyone, and he does so fully. Which can be hard for our human minds to comprehend.

Years ago, when I was first discovering faith for myself—becoming a follower of Christ rather merely a believer in Christ—the words I used to hear God saying to me the most often were “I love you.” And I used to wonder why he’d say it so often. I knew that Jesus loves me, I’d think; the Bible tells me so. Why does he need to keep repeating himself?

Over time, I came to realize, first, that it’s one of the hardest things to do—to see ourselves as loved by and precious to God; and second, that an understanding of how much God loves us is the source of everything else: for how we’re able to see ourselves in proper perspective, for how we’re able to respond to his love by loving him back, and for how we’re able to love others with the love that he has shown us.

God’s shown me that these three simple words speak of a truth that’s pretty important and foundational to how we look at life and how we live life. It’s a message that I still need to hear every day.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Think about it.

This is Love

From pastor/musician Jaeson Ma:

We are loved

C.S. Lewis:

We are all receiving Charity. There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one’s fault if they do not so love it … You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times — and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit — they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself [Christ] is in those who love them.

The Four Loves, 182-183.

God loves the poor; do we?

Original post: March 7, 2008; update: January 27, 2010. It’s certainly interesting to look back on the journey that I’ve been on over the last couple years.

It so happens that I’ve been reading Jim Wallis’s The Great Awakening at the same time as I’ve started going through Isaiah, and at the same time, God continues to nudge me towards what I may well end up doing. Both texts are challenging, especially with regard to the crisis of poverty, something which I’m learning more about and something I’m learning to care more about.

Reading through the Scriptures over the years, I’ve come to know one thing that I wasn’t taught in Sunday School: God is with the poor. God cares about the oppressed, the downtrodden, those who have no one to speak out for them, those who are suffering under the weight of injustice and an unjust system. And when about half the population of the world live on less than two dollars a day (including more than a billion people living on less than one dollar per day), you’ve got to think that God is doing an awful lot of caring.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, Bono said:

The one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response. And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice. Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad. Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it. But justice is a higher standard.

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment. Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Jim notes, “low-income people have the lowest voter turnout of any group in society (and don’t make many political donations either!)” (107) so it’s no wonder that advocates on their behalf are hard to find on Capitol Hill.

Broken systems need fixing, unjust institutions need correction, change needs to happen at an institutional level—it all seems rather daunting. But God is bigger than broken systems and unjust institutions. And he is on the side of the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17).

It’s as much a challenge to me: what am I doing to get involved in God’s story? What am I doing as I learn more and more of God’s heart? When we love someone, we come to love the things that they love. God loves the poor. Do we?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18, cf. Isaiah 61).