Saturday, December 30, 2006


We live in a busy world - there's no denying it. We hear it so often when greeting each other in our customary way. "How are you?" "Oh, I'm just soooo busy . . ." and then comes the litany of frenetic activities overflowing in our lives. The chaos seems to spill over into just about every area we could imagine.

I've been thinking of this cultural phenomenon for a few reasons. First, you may have noticed that I haven't posted anything for a few weeks. My simple explanation - I was too busy with the activities that surround the Christmas season. Our busyness is magnified at this time of year. In many ways it is a good busyness, but I often wonder what the costs might be.

Secondly, I've been reading a few articles related to our skimming the surface of life because we are too busy to explore the deep waters. Most of these articles come from the current volume of Weavings, which is a journal of the Christian spiritual life. I would encourage you, if you don't already, to pick up this journal and read through it. It is a wonderful resource for spiritual reflection.

I found Hinson's article, "The Quantity Quotient Behind Busyness," especially apropos. Meteorologists give us the temperature, but they also include the chill factor in the winter and the heat index in the summer. In a similar fashion we should add the "quantity quotient" to our interpretation of our overwhelming activity. The "quantity quotient" is simply the recognition that through the cruel twist of our culture's logic our quantity of activity determines our importance. We are easily caught in a vicious cycle that leaves us ragged, worn, and empty.

Something is out of wack in our society. The disease of workaholism is ubiquitous. However, it is almost impossible to treat the illness, because in our culture unlike a number of other illnesses, this one is socially approved. We hear people rave in admiration over those who extend themselves to the brink of collapse. People are killing themselves through this addiction to activity; their family relationships begin to unravel, and we stand by applauding and encouraging them in this destructive behavior.

Is this what God desires for us? NO! "Be still, and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10) We will never know the depths of life with the Living God if we are caught up in the activities of our own little worlds. In fact, the Lord God takes slaves that are accustomed to working long hours, 7 days a week, and what is His command to them? You will take a day off! "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." The Hebrew word shabbat simply means to cease, to stop, to rest. The one who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves, calls us to a day of rest.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean that we should encourage sloth. Work is a good thing. The point is to keep our priorities in order and to place work within it's proper boundaries. However, it is not only work that results in our busyness. We need to recognize our limitations as human beings and as a result we should limit our involvement in various activities, regardless of how good they might be.

Why are we so easily caught in this web of activity? I believe that Hinson assesses our situation adequately as he says, "If we are honest, I think that we have to recognize that while our culture creates part of our problem, it's deeper roots lie in ourselves, in selves that never feel adequate." Since a higher quantity of activity boosts our egos, we attempt to fill every moment leaving little room for quiet, reflection, Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. This only exacerbates the problem because it leaves the root cause untreated.

As we are rooted and grounded in a loving relationship with God, we find that our value and worth lies not in the quantity of frenetic activity that fills our life, but rather it is in the value ascribed to us by the Lord of the Universe. Therefore, to confront this destructive busyness in our lives we must do as Jesus commanded, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness . . ." As we seek God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength then we allow ourselves to be found by Him, sensing His forgiveness, peace, and presence we are set free from the forces of chaos. When God forgives us and invites us into His presence we receive a contingent worth that may only be found in this relationship, but it is a deeper value than we could find in ourselves or anything else. This value releases us from the prison of striving for worth through busy activity.

And so, especially during this season, may you weave Sabbath moments throughout your day to "be still" and know your finite existence in the presence of the Infinite One. Through these moments may we receive the value that can only be found in God enabling us to live in and breath forth His loving presence at all times. Blessings ~ RLS

Monday, December 11, 2006


What does it mean to wait on God?

I have been confronted with this question in a new way today. As we participate in the anticipatory waiting of Advent I think it is important for us to continue to explore this question, "What does it really mean for us to wait on God?"

Some of our best friends in Kansas City have spent many months preparing to go as missionaries to Rwanda. We initially met in a spiritual formation group. Our friendship has grown deep over the past three years as we have met every two weeks to eat together, encourage each other, and share in the journey of life together. Most importantly we meet to pray for one another. Even though we come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, I can honestly say that we are a family. This morning was probably the last time that we will see them for quite some time, as they will soon be headed back to Europe to see their parents and extended family before they take their assignment on the mission field.

It was a bittersweet encounter - rejoicing over the blessing of our friendship, recognizing how we have obviously grown together, but weeping over our separation. I have learned so much about the love and grace of God through them. They continue to teach me what it means to trust God completely. In fact, even this morning God was tutoring me through them.

They are in a time of limbo. Well, let me explain . . . you see, my friends are European. Andre* is French and Verena* is both Swiss and Lebanese. Andre finished a masters level degree in Robotic Engineering and was working in the field of science and technology when he became a Christian. In his quest for understanding he completed a Master's degree in Old Testament Studies at a Catholic University in Switzerland, where he met Verena. During his time in Switzerland Andre began to study various facets of Christendom and was especially drawn to those movements that emphasized a relational spirituality in the Christian life. He sensed a leading, a calling of sorts to come and study among us strange "Wesleyans." That is where our stories intersect.

After studying with us, they actually became a part of our denominational body, recently becoming missionaries for the church. As official missionaries in the Church of the Nazarene they were assigned to develop theological education and pastoral training in the French speaking areas around Rwanda. However, the recent comments by the French investigative judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, have resulted in a violent backlash and broken diplomatic relations between the two countries. He accused Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, of orchestrating the plane crash which killed one of Rwanda's former presidents in April 1994 serving as the catalyst for one of the most horrible genocides in human history. As a result of these comments all French people have been ordered to leave the country.

The tensions in this region have made it impossible for our friends to fulfill their assignment. They will eventually be reassigned, but in the meantime they peer into a fog. They know that God has called them. They see the fruits of His Kingdom through them and all around them. Yet, they are left in a time of waiting. Did God know this would happen? What do they do now after months of preparation seemingly vanished into thin air? How do they pack? When do they leave? Where will they go?

Graciously, they wait for God to show them the way - trusting that He will guide them. They wait knowing that He will come and show them the way.

I really wish that I had that kind of faith - a complete trust in God. Too often I am the one who makes the decisions, and many times I hastily do things without even a prayer. When things get tough I look for solutions, rather than seizing the opportunity to wait on God and to deepen in faith. I'm not sure if you are like me, but I would venture a guess that there are others out there that struggle with impatience and the illusion of control. In this Advent season, may we learn together what it means to wait on God and experience together the joy of salvation that comes to us in the Giving Gift. We may miss it altogether if we don't learn how to wait. Blessings ~ RLS

*I've changed the actual names of our friends for confidentiality reasons.

Torture and Eucharist

As most of the world has heard by now, the infamous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died yesterday at the age of 91 after suffering a fatal heart attack. His era of leadership ended in the early 90's and his popularity among the Chilean people has continued to dwindle to almost complete disdain. Not that he was ever really popular, for he ruled by military force, torture and fear. However, he managed to maintain some support as folks felt that he at least provided stability in an unstable country, and some of the economic prosperity that has begun to bud in the region was attributed, in part, to some of his reforms.

I actually know very little about the political landscape in this particular part of the world. However, it seems to me that Pinochet proves a perfect icon for the politics of power. In fact, what little I do know about the Pinochet era in Chile comes primarily from William T. Cavanaugh's excellent book Torture and Eucharist, which compares the politics of power and torture with the politics of the Kingdom of God - that is the politics of God's people who are shaped by His self-giving act in Christ that we celebrate and participate in through the Eucharist. I don't have the space or time to even summarize Cavanaugh's work here, but I would highly recommend picking it up if you have some time and are interested in such subject matter. It is a rather technical book and is somewhat difficult to understand at times, but it is worth wading through the difficulty to gain some glimpse of the Kingdom that many of the Chilean Christians saw in the midst of such tumultuous times. Blessings ~ RLS

To learn more about Pinochet check out Wikipedia's article here:

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


We were road racers. That was one of the things that my family did together as I was growing up. I know we were a little weird, you don't have to remind me. My father was a runner. So, he would get all of us kids out training with him, and as a family we would go out to some of the 5k & 10k road races in the area.

There was one race that we rarely missed. It was associated with the Watonga Cheese Festival. Every year they would have a large festival with all kinds of cheese related activities, oooh what fun. And the 5k run was called the Great Rat Race. I was thinking of that today because I’ve been thinking a lot about “peace”. I know, the connections don’t seem obvious, but there is a connection, I promise.

Our world is full of tension and strife – it seems worse these days, but I’m pretty confident that it is the same as it has always been. Conflicts, tensions, violence seem to be ubiquitous in this world. There is a constant power struggle, it seems, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a Marxist.

The witness of Scripture locates this tension in the human heart. There is a deep seeded maneuvering and positioning among human beings to get to the proverbial “top”. It is the Great Rat Race, which is fleshed out at various levels of human life. We experience brokenness as relational beings as a result of our broken relationship with our Origin and source of being.

Our growth and development as healthy human creatures is deformed and our vision is warped. We are plagued with the disease of “god-grasping” and will continue to experience the effects of this disease – brokenness, violence, and death. Can we experience true person-hood? (If I can use anachronistic phrases when speaking of the Biblical witness, which I can and will.)

Who is the greatest? That question seems to sum up the fallen life. We see the effects of that question every day - Who is the greatest? That seems to be a driving question in our lives, in our society and in our world. Our Lord addresses this question with the answer – children, servants, slaves.

People speak of the paradox of the Kingdom or the upside-down Kingdom. But, it seems to me that we live in an upside-down world. We need our vision corrected and we need to be re-formed. St. Augustine says it this way, “O Lord, You made us for Yourself and we are restless until we find our rest in You.” Until this truth becomes a reality, peace is not a possibility. Until every knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, peace is not a possibility. And by that I don’t mean people becoming religious because we have all seen the fruits of religion – it simply magnifies human sinfulness. That is the “not yet” of the Kingdom.

However, we must rejoice in the “already” of the Kingdom. We do experience a foretaste of that rest and peace now, even in the midst of violence and strife. We are called to bear witness to the peaceable Kingdom even now, to offer up proleptic signs of what is yet to come. May we live as a community of grace that confesses Jesus Christ is Lord. May we live as children and servants of the King. May the peace of the Kingdom shine forth in our lives, especially at this time as we celebrate the inhomination of the Word - the Child King.

And so we pray: “O God our Father, who did send forth Your Son to be King of kings and Prince of Peace: Grant that all the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of Christ, and learn from Him the way of peace. Send forth among all people the spirit of good will and reconciliation. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” ~ Prayer from The Book of Worship

Monday, December 4, 2006


C. S. Lewis’ epic children’s story The Chronicles of Narnia tells the entire story of the land of Narnia from its creation - through Aslan’s singing - to its end in The Final Battle. If you haven't read the story or seen the movie then please crawl out of your darkness and come into the light. (Can you tell how much I love this symbolic narrative?) Well to catch you "Philistines" up with the rest of us (I use that in the most loving way, I promise), Aslan is a majestic lion who symbolizes Christ in the iconic story. He is the Creator and rightful King of Narnia.

Evil forces enter the land during it's creation. These evil forces personified are unintentionally brought into the land by two children who've been using magic rings. Throughout the rest of the narrative children play an important role in Aslan’s work to redeem his kingdom from these evil forces.

In the Last Battle a place called “Stable Hill,” named for the little stable on its summit, plays a central role. The stable itself is a paradox: it serves as the headquarters of Aslan’s enemies (those enemies of God’s kingdom) but it is also the way into Aslan’s home country (heaven). During the final battle, the enemy forces press the king and his followers closer and closer to the stable door, behind which the enemy insists Tash (an evil monster) is waiting to devour all who enter.

After a long battle the children finally resign themselves to their fate and are pushed into the door. At first, the door seems to open on nothing but darkness. Once through the dark, terrible door; however, the children are astonished to find themselves not inside the stable (nor in the jaws of Tash) but in the open air on a summer morning. They are transported to a whole new world. Only the rough wooden door of the stable remains – no walls or roof. The children can walk around the door “simply standing up by itself as if it had grown there like a tree.” (Lewis, The Last Battle, p. 132)

In fact, they can still see through a crack the darkness of the Narnian night in which they have just fought their last battle. They quickly come to the realization “that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places . . . Its inside is bigger than its outside.” It is at this moment that Lucy is reminded of Bethlehem, and she says: “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” (Ibid., p. 133)

As, we approach the Advent season, we are invited to find our Savior in Bethlehem’s stable and to follow Him as our Lord beyond it, beyond all worlds. This humble servant; this wandering preacher . . . is the Lord of all creation! It is the unveiling paradox of revelation - that our end is our beginning. O come, O come Immanuel! And ransom captured Israel. (These thoughts come primarily from Deborah Smith Douglas' article "Beyond All Worlds: Our End and Our Beginning," Weavings, Vol. XXI, No. 6, pp. 16-27.)

Happy New Year

No, I'm not delusional (at least I don't think so, others may beg to differ). I'm simply greeting those whose lives are centred around the revelation of God-in-Christ. We order time differently from much of the world; we order our time around that life changing revelation. And thus, our new year began yesterday with the first Sunday of Advent.

I haven't always conceived of the year beginning with the anticipation of Christ's coming. That is a rather recent development in my life. However, it seems that even from an early age I recognized that there is a deep significance in this season, something that goes beyond the surface materialism and consumerism that our society suggests as the highest human virtues.

As the story goes, I was three years old when I uncovered the emptiness of our American Santa Clause narrative. It simply didn't satisfy even my undeveloped sensibilities about significance and meaning. So, I asked my mother, "Is Santa Clause real?" Of course, keep in mind that I was speaking from the paradigm of the U.S. Mid-West as a three-year-old; the Santa Clause narrative is shaped in quite distinct ways in that context. I'm not in any way suggesting that the older traditions surrounding St. Nicolas are insignificant or void of meaning.

Well, my mother honestly answered, "No, the Santa Clause that you know of isn't 'real'." This didn't surprise me at all - I had been suspicious for some time now. She then went on to describe the Christian narrative and the reason that Christ-followers set this time aside as a season of celebration. This narrative of God's self-giving gift resonated deeply within my little three-year-old being. She went on to explain that we anticipate the day when the King Jesus will come again.

Mom, knowing that I understood her, sent me off to play. Hours went by and she heard no peep from me. This was odd, since I was a rather precocious and curious child. She began to be a little concerned and went to investigate my whereabouts. She quickly found me on the front porch, quietly waiting. When she inquired what I was doing out there in the cold; I replied, "You said that Jesus was coming back soon - I'm waiting for Him."

My understanding of the parousia has changed significantly since that day, but this is still a time of childlike anticipation for me. A time of waiting. Waiting for Christ to come again in my life and to fill me with the purpose, joy, and peace that can only come from Him. And He does come again and again in the most unusual ways. Maranatha.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Red Blog

As I mentioned before, today is World AIDS day. I simply wanted to make you aware, if you're not already, of another way to participate with those who are battling this catastrophic epidemic. You can purchase items through (RED), a company started by Bono and Bobby Schriver. A portion of all the proceeds go to "The Global Fund." You can find out more on the (RED) Blog. Blessings ~ RLS