Practicing Christ-Centered Reading
An Excerpt from Fire of the Word: Meeting God On Holy Ground

The Bible

How… might we begin to develop our ability to read the Bible more Christocentrically—that is, as a book that speaks everywhere to us of Christ?

First, it is essential that we develop the skills of attentiveness outlined in chapter ten and have some experience of using those skills in our reading of the Gospels. Until we have learned, at a deep level, to discern and respond to the presence of Christ in the Gospel narratives (where he is most conspicuously present), we will always struggle to identify how, say, Leviticus or Job might be revealing Christ.

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Faith and Tribalism
My Dad's Tougher Than Yours
By |   June 23, 2015 |   in Blog |   4 Comments

If one could point to a distressing pendulum swing in our culture, deadly to spiritual growth, it would be the meteoric rise of tribalism. It’s a kind of mob mentality that is more interested in self-preservation than actual family expansion. It is the pursuit of control through brand-specific convincing rather than the compassion of conversion.

Merriam-Webster defines tribalism as “loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group.” In other words, to be best at tribal mentality is to scorn (or worse) those outside one’s tribe. Exclusivism becomes valuable currency in such a paradigm. The freedom offered by true grace becomes a dangerous liability.

More distressing still is the fact that it is nothing new. It has been a human proclivity all along. It’s the “my god’s bigger than yours” syndrome. My king’s mightier than yours. My clan’s greater than yours. My bloodline’s purer than yours. My kids are smarter than yours. My abs are tighter than yours. My crayons last longer than yours.

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Acceptance: Then What?

I recently blogged about accepting people as they are. I received many appreciative emails, especially about this line: Expectations are the early stages of resentment. I also received some good questions. Here are my responses.

  1. But isn’t it sometimes good to confront people? Yes, but acceptance is still crucial. “Talking it out” works only if we both have a right heart. Even if only one of us has a right heart, that generosity of spirit can be contagious.
  2. How does letting go of expectations of others apply to the work setting and a supervisory relationship? What should happen if there are expectations that are not met? In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard talked about the difference between condemnation and discernment:
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Where in the World is God?

I have been praying for the Persecuted Church for over 30 years. I receive prayer points from several organizations working to bring the light of Christ to areas where the Church is the bruised reed and dimly burning wick of Isaiah 42:3. Over the years, I have heard of many miracles and answered prayers; I have also seen a shift in the tactics of Satan. In the 1980s and 90s, the Church in Communist lands dominated the prayer lists. Now, Muslim nations top the list of places of intense persecution for God’s people.

It is with great sorrow that I read about the kidnapping of the Chibok girls from their school in Nigeria by Boko Haran over a year ago. In pain, I continue to read about the hundreds of women and children who have been recently rescued by the Nigerian army: women who have seen their husbands killed and their children scattered. Woman who have been forced at gun point to convert to Islam and marry Boko Haram fighters. Women traumatized at levels I cannot even imagine, their homes and families devastated. All over the world, as I sit at home warm and well-fed, children are denied education, men refused jobs or jailed simply because they seek to follow Christ, women live in fear that relatives will discover their faith and kill them.

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Accepting People As They Are

Some of us have an “inner judge” who notices when others don’t do what we think they should do. Maybe they’re not doing their “fair share” or not following through as promised or they’re promoting political policies that we dislike. What do we do with that “inner judge”? I’m on a learning curve of accepting people as they are. (I’m mindful that your journey might be different—that of speaking up—but I think this will still make sense!)

Here’s what my progress has looked like so far: I’m part of a group that highly values accepting others as they are, but I’ve noticed that group members aren’t very welcoming toward a certain person in the group who might be described as “socially disabled.”

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Come Away With Me: Expanding the Boundaries of Spiritual Retreat
By |   May 20, 2015 |   in Blog |   6 Comments

And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.­ – Mark 6:31

I once went on retreat by accident. It was early September just before I was to start my second year of grad school. Instead of spending the summer break getting some much-needed rest, I accepted an opportunity to earn money by working full-time at my regularly part-time job. Because of my years of experience with the company, I became the “go-to girl” for covering other people’s vacations. At one point, I was actually doing 5 different jobs simultaneously! To get through this intense time, I clung to God. I prayed, usually out loud, on my drive to work and all the way home again. I was grateful for God’s sustaining power and for the additional income. But by summer’s end, I was even more exhausted than I had imagined I’d be.

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Faith and Failure – Why We Still Don’t Get It
By |   May 13, 2015 |   in Blog, Faith Through Failure |   1 Comment

By earthly standards Jesus was perhaps the most colossal failure in history. His decidedly understated birth under less than ideal circumstances to an unremarkable blue-collar family in a trailer park town (no offense intended – it was the right metaphor here!), who, along with his siblings, would always live with suspicions of his bastard mystique, under oppressive conditions, with little hope of “success”, and few options for “advancement”, all without the ear of the very population he sought to lead, didn’t position him well for anything but.

A whirlwind ministry full of strange, unexpected teachings made him a constant provocateur. His grassroots acceptance by the lowest, dirtiest, and unlikeliest of his society brought him into sharp disagreement with the top down hierarchy of his own religious milieu. And, it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to suggest even his own family misunderstood him. Perhaps they were even a little embarrassed by him.

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Faith In, Through, Despite Failure

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
It sounds an echo in my soul,
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest round me roars,
I know the truth, it liveth,
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his,
How can I keep from singing?

Robert Wadsworth Lowry

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Parking Lots, Wandering Hebrews, and Phones That Talk
By |   April 30, 2015 |   in Blog |   2 Comments

I get lost easily. Especially in parking lots. They are a desert wasteland of desperation and woe, my wilderness, and the bane of my existence. It’s funny to those who know me best, annoying and confounding to me. Many are the times I’ve lost my way in the Safeway parking lot, often in an ungodly fog of non-Sunday-school language. The average parking lot is generally well marked and designed to streamline the inflow of traffic, ease of parking, and relatively painless escape.

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Small Things Keep Us from Being Practical Atheists
By |   April 28, 2015 |   in Blog, Wisdom & Aging |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

Many years ago a friend suggested that when I couldn’t find something, I ask God to show me where it was. When she did this, she could see where it was in her mind’s eye. But I didn’t try it because she had such a “hotline to God” and well, I didn’t!

A few years ago I began hearing the same thing from people through whom God worked through regularly to heal others (in private, not on stage; my memory says it was Agnes Sanford, Bill Vaswig and Dallas Willard, but I can’t find the documentation.) The location of the item is in our mind anyway, so we simply ask God to help us locate it in our memory.

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