Thursday, May 21, 2009

Put on your clothes!

When you woke up this morning, how long did you spend getting ready to head out the door? Did you take a while trying to pick out what to wear? Are you one of those people who picks out their clothes the night before? Did it need ironing (mine did)? How long did you spend on your hair? Makeup? Shaving? Making oneself presentable can take a little while, can’t it? That’s especially true if you’re trying to make a good impression. I admit that I spend a little more time getting ready on Sunday mornings than I do on Saturday mornings. Who of us hasn’t agonized over which shirt or dress to wear on a date?

For all the effort we put into our physical appearances, the apostle Paul writes we should put even more effort into our spiritual appearances. He writes that we are to “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . and over all these virtues put on love.” What a beautiful image. Every morning, just as we put on our physical clothes, we are to clothe ourselves with those virtues that make us look like Jesus. Paul’s words remind us that this clothing is often a conscious effort. If I don’t choose to wear kindness today, I’ll likely be mean spirited. If I forget to consciously choose to put on humility, I run the risk of being caught in public wearing only my pride (far worse than being caught in your bathrobe if you ask me!).

But how do we choose such things? Well, just like it takes time to get physically ready in the morning, it also takes time to get spiritually ready. Spend time in God’s word which acts as a mirror for our souls. Spend time in prayer actually asking God to dress you up for the day. You can even do both at once. You could memorize this verse (Colossians 3:12-14) by writing it on a note card and putting it on your bathroom mirror. Then use it as a centering prayer as you get ready every morning. That is, repeat the verse in the form of a prayer over and over as you comb your hair and brush your teeth and take a shower as a way of getting dressed up in these virtues. And as you head out the door, don’t forget the most important part of all, throw on that coat of love which binds up the whole Christian life in one beautiful ensemble.

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature – Romans 13:13-14.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Patience and Imagination

Some of the teenagers in our church are quickly nearing their graduations from high school. I’m sure by this point, they’re pretty tired of hearing (and having to answer) the question, “So, what are you going to be doing next fall?” It’s a loaded question, no doubt, for it is a question about becoming. At first, we may simply want to know what someone is going to be doing in three months – working? going to school? mooching off their parents? But no doubt there is a deeper question at play in that person’s heart – who am I going to be? When phrased like that, we realize the weight of such questions.

Molly Marshall writes of speaking on vocation to adolescents in her church. Vocation describes not simply what we do to make a paycheck, but also those areas of life in which we feel called by God. She recalls, “One bright-eyed freshman boy could clearly articulate his goal to be a cardiologist. In response, I asked the clinker question: ‘But what will it take to get there?’ With wisdom beyond his years and quiet confidence, he answered, ‘Patience and imagination’ – a remarkable answer for a fourteen-year-old . . . or anyone.”

Whether we are recent high school grads or whether we can barely remember our high school graduations, all of us are still in the process of becoming. We are constantly or at least should be constantly asking ourselves the question, “Who am I going to be?” The scriptures tell us that if we have cast our lot with Christ we are becoming more like Him everyday. What will it take for us to get there? Patience and imagination. Patience in the gracious hand of God that is at work in us. And imagination, I like to call it faithful imagination, to keep seeing that which is not yet but that by God’s promises will surely one day be.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are you contagious?

Have you been washing your hands more this week? Seems everywhere I go (including the church) there are reminders to wash your hands. We’re afraid of catching something. Specifically, we’re afraid of catching the germs that spread the H1N1 flu virus. That’s understandable. And even if all the hand washing is an overreaction to this particular new virus, it certainly can’t hurt in the fight against all sorts of other illnesses. Doctors and other health professionals tell us that washing our hands is the very best way to prevent catching someone else’s cold or flu (see the post below).

Historically, when people have been afraid of catching something, I mean really afraid, they’ve done more than wash their hands. Very often, as has been the case in a few countries during this scare, suspected disease carriers were separated from the public at large. In Jesus’ day, one of the only ways they knew how to keep people from catching leprosy was to make all the lepers leave town. But it wasn’t just the lepers who found themselves ostracized. Religious people weren’t simply afraid of catching a disease, they were equally afraid of catching sin. So just as adamantly as they stayed away from the lepers, they also attempted to stay away from the sinners. It seemed self-evident to them that sin, like disease, was contagious. They even used the same word to describe both the sick and the sinner – unclean.

We can understand, then, why Jesus’ way of walking in this world caused so many people to quiver in fear and long for their own personal bottles of Purell. In a culture that thought uncleanliness was contagious, Jesus dined with, identified with, and touched the unclean. He embraced the leper. He conversed with the prostitute. He dined with the hard living crowd. And instead of Jesus catching their sin – they caught his grace. This truth is not something we think about often enough. Just as evil is contagious, so is goodness. That’s the message of the gospel. I wonder today, which have you caught? Which are you spreading?

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.- Mark 1:40-42

Henry the hand

John Curtis will be sad to discover he's not supposed to stick his fingers in his mouth, nose, or ears. Sticking his fingers in those places is pretty much his favorite pastime.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A poignant word about life, death, and grief

Mark Osler, Baylor Law School professor, has written a moving post in memory of one of his former students, Maggie Weaver. I believe his words will prove valuable to all who have at one time or another grieved the death of someone they loved.