I Have Given You an Example

When we’re deciding on a direction for our lives, it is not uncommon to follow someone else’s example.  As children, we naturally look to our parents.  As we get older, teachers, friends, and siblings influence us.  At work, we may choose a mentor, someone we respect, and imitate their work ethic or philosophy.  Sometimes we even look to celebrities or heroes whose lifestyle we wish to duplicate in our own lives.  Often those we choose to follow end up disappointing us in some way.  We find out that even the greatest saints have feet of clay… or as one Christian author said, we’re all cracked pots.

Jesus is the one person whose example is always perfect and safe to follow.  Earlier this week I went to Maundy Thursday service and I learned something about that (for those who are from not from liturgical background, this is the evening when we celebrate and remember the Last Supper).  Before the Passover meal Jesus deliberately set an example for the disciples.  He knew that His time with them was growing short and He wanted to impress upon them this matter of great importance.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them.  ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'” John 13: 12-17

Jesus set the example for us — servanthood.  As His disciples, He expects us to follow.  Are you moving in the right direction?

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Christ

One day

as he braved a twisted, tortuous road

beneath an angry, grey-streaked sky

burdened by wood and love

he held me in his heart

so carefully I did not fall

and shatter on the stones

when he stumbled

 

He laid him down in dirt

until ribbons of pain tied him

to the angry, blood-stained sky

still holding me in his heart

so carefully I did not suffocate

as his lungs clawed the heavens

to keep from bursting

 

When it was finished

he held me in his heart

so carefully

I did not spill out

when his blood rained down

beneath an angry, night-black sky

to purify the broken earth

 

When he died

he held me in his heart

so carefully

I lived

 

I live

as I have always lived

as I shall always live

so carefully held

in his heart

 

[NOTE: I wrote this on Resurrection Day (April 4), 2010.]

Is this Spiritual Direction?

I found this quote which led me to wonder, “Is the Lutheran Ladies blog actually a form of spiritual direction?”  In sharing our experiences, insights, reading and more are we becoming to spiritual directors to our readers and to one another? I certainly think sharing my feelings in my posts has led me to confront my own sin, and the frequent lack of purity in my motives.  It makes me think and read deeply about each month’s theme. Hopefully,  this means it has led to some changes as well.  I would love to hear what others (authors and followers) have to say on this subject.

“When we speak with others about our experience in Christ, it sharpens our attentiveness to the voice and will of the Father. Sharing our stories helps us clarify the intentions of our hearts toward the fulfillment of his divine will. A small circle of friends also reminds us of the presence, power and protection of the Holy Spirit. Confiding in one another instills a sense of hope for the future as children who are dearly loved by their Father.”
Stephen A. Macchia, Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way

It’s Your Choice

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” Jeremiah 6:16

We Lutherans believe that we do not choose salvation;  God chooses us.  However, we can choose how and whether we’re going to progress in our Christian walk.  We can stay at a very basic, elementary level in our understanding and faith;  or we can grow into a greater knowledge and understanding of God’s ways and His will for us.  The way is marked out for us — we have the Holy Scriptures and we have the example of Jesus Christ.  We can study and learn, attend worship regularly and pray;  or we can be content to just coast along.  According to the prophet, Jeremiah, in the verse above, the “good way,”  the way God desires for us will bring rest for our souls.  Too often, though, we refuse to walk in it.  We’re busy.  We want worldly success.  We want to use our free time to amuse ourselves.  This is the easier way, but it doesn’t lead to maturity or bring true peace.

 

The unknown author of Hebrews chides his readers this way:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrews 5:12-14

The choice is yours —  will it be milk or meat?

 

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Psalms 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.”  They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traveled the road to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine, for the great worship festivals.  Eugene Peterson uses each of these songs to describe a portion of what takes place along the walk of faith, as we travel upward toward God.  The chapter titles include:  Repentance, Worship, Service, Security, Joy, Perseverance, Humility, Community and more.  I love Eugene Peterson!  He never fails to engage and enlighten me.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society / Edition 20

In the updated edition, Peterson uses his modern version of the Psalms, from his translation, The Message.  Many will like this, but I preferred to go back and read from the NIV, as I enjoy the familiarity.  His goal is to encourage people to once more pray the Psalms, as an encouragement to pray all their emotions, good, bad and messy.  We can take it all to God, in fact we must if we want to progress in the Christian life.  According to Peterson we won’t change overnight:  it takes “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This is not a popular idea in our “give it to me now” culture.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

This book was recommended to me in a comment by my friend, Nancy, and I heartily recommend it as well.  It’s not a difficult read, and the chapters could easily be read one per day, as part of a devotional practice.  Has anyone else read this book, or others by Eugene Peterson?  If so, let us know what you think, we’d love to hear.

P.S. Check out the archives for another Peterson book I reviewed, Eat This Book.

Henri Nouwen on Traveling

“Traveling–seeing new sights, hearing new music, and meeting new people is exciting and exhilarating.  But when we have no home to return where someone will ask us, ‘how was your trip?’ we might be less eager to go.  Traveling is joyful when we travel with the eyes and ears of those who love us, who want to see our slides and hear our stories.

This is what life is about.  It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made.  When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds and be happy to return home.”

Journey of the Magi by T.S.Eliot

Here you go, my English major moment for the month.  I love this poem and the sense it gives that after meeting Christ, our old life is unsatisfying.

The Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.