Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fair Trade

Many of you already know that Fair Trade is "in". It is popular in many circles to push Fair Trade products. But for me and for many others this isn't a popular fad, it's something more. Justice and righteousness are two of the primary themes that keep coming up again and again in Scripture. Righteousness primarily has to do with our right relationship with God and justice has to do with our relationship to one we treat each other, that is. Buying Fair Trade products is one way that we're able to work toward justice, to work toward restoring the broken relationship in the human family. So I would encourage you to look for the label. Lets not contribute to the injustice of this world simply out of convenience or ignorance, but instead lets work for justice as we live out our relationship with God in authentic ways. If you'd like to learn more about Fair Trade check out the Wikipedia article here. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spirit Fragrance

I was somewhat annoyed that I had to get out of bed at an ungodly hour this morning. I've not been a "morning person" since the late nights of Seminary studying, while keeping an evening job. On top of all that my neck was sore this morning from jumping on a trampoline during a backyard Memorial Day BBQ. Can I really be getting to that age where I wake up sore from playing around the night before? The annoyance wore off much quicker than the pain in my neck, after Scripture reading, prayer, and some coffee I was ready to go for the day.

I got up early for a reason. We delivered gift bags to all of the teachers at one of our local elementary schools before the teachers arrived for the day. It is a school that has a high turnover rate, a wonderful sense of diversity, but the teachers face all kinds of challenges. We simply wanted them to know that they are appreciated and their service doesn't go unnoticed. We've already received an email from one of the teachers this morning thanking us for our generosity. We don't do it to get "thank you's" but it does feel good to know that you made someone else's day.

We just celebrated Pentecost...and Hans Kung got me thinking this morning about the activity of the Spirit. He says, "The Spirit works where he wills. The Spirit of God cannot be restricted in his operation by the Church...The power of the Spirit of God can pass through all walls, even church walls...At the same time, God's Spirit does not blow when he must, but only when he wills. No decrees of the Church, in doctrine or practice, can force him to act or not to act at a given time. True, God is absolutely free, and is thus free even with regard to his freedom."

Sara and I went for a walk this morning after getting home from delivering the gift bags - we're trying to develop better habits. There is one part of our walk that we both deeply we pass one of our neighbors homes that has a number of vibrant rose bushes growing near the road. The fragrance alone is enough to wake you up and make you smile - now I know where the phrase, "stop, and smell the roses" comes from. I hear that the olfactory sense is closely connected with our memory - smells can trigger memories like nothing else. Smells can make us smile or make us sick...they have a powerful affect on our feelings and emotions.

I think that when the Spirit blows we smell's kind of like our walk this morning, you're just going about your every day business and all of the sudden you smell the Spirit and you're awakened to a presence that's been there all along. I also think we're called to mediate that smell to others...they should smell the Spirit all over us as we are bearers of God's presence. I believe that smelling the Spirit enables us to remember - it is a sacramental sense. Our role is not to tell the Spirit what, when, and how, but rather to receive the Giving Gift, to re-member, and to share the aroma of Christ daily. I wonder, what do you smell like today?

"Dear Lord, let me preach thee without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to thee. Amen." ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


"O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
for His steadfast love endures forever."
(Psalm 107:1 NRSV)

This is my first nephew, Ethan, with Grandpa and Dad - the guys. As I said before babies seem to be popping out all around us - which does lead to lots of pooping.

The mysterious gift of life continues to induce awe within me. Here is new life, full of hope and potential. As we approach our celebration of the Giving Gift - that is the Spirit which brings the transformational presence of God into the life of the community - let's remember that the Spirit brings us into the life of God through Christ - filling us with hope and potential. It is all because of His steadfast love.

That is what Ethan means by the way - steadfastness. May the steadfast love of God pursue him and overtake him all of his days and may the Spirit make him steadfast and faithful in responding to God's grace; may He do the same for us. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


If I lived through the 60's I think that I would have really been tempted to be a hippie - not the drugs and free love type, but the grungy, long-haired wanderer who goes around talking about peace. What a concept...peace. It seems so elusive, like a dream that makes us want to sleep forever, knowing all the while that we must wake up to the reality of this broken world. There are days when the signs of peace emerge all around us - it feels like spring! Everything is alive and life giving. We see the truth, goodness, and beauty that we long for. It it a time that we simply call "blessed".

Psalm 133 talks about the blessing of peace in family relationships:
"How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!
It's like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron's beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It's like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that's where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life." (MSG)

Even in our family relationships this kind of peace, in which we experience God's blessing, can seem elusive. We cherish it when it comes, but it doesn't seem to rest on us forever - the chaos of brokenness raises it's head again and we're thrown back into turmoil. When we don't have peace in our own lives, in our families, or in our faith communities - the microcosm - why does war and violence among nations surprise us - the macrocosm.

I long for peace. Jesus proclaimed peace over his followers. Where's the root of the problem? If I'm reading scripture correctly - the problem seems to run right through every human heart. As we live out the formless void of broken relationship with Reality, then peace is far from us. We know that peace is the true reality, but it seems so distant. Looking toward the horizon, we catch glimpses of the peacable Kingdom - and we wonder if it is coming or if we just saw a mirage. Then we remember the concrete reality of Christ's incarnation and we confess that is has come and is coming.

I've been thinking about this lately because I desperately want peace in my life - especially today. Hearing these words from Paul have been somewhat difficult in these days: "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7 NLT)

Anxiety and worry lie at the foundation of brokenness, chaos, and violence. There is a lack of trust that emerges from our broken relationship which elicits our anxiety, flowing out of a sense of self-sovereignty...a sense that the world rests on our shoulders - we've become Atlas breaking under the weight of the world. The peace that I long for only comes when I re-cognize (re-envision) the Reality of our finitude and that all things exist through the life-giving Word, the Word that loves all creation and wants to give it the blessing of peace. In the false reality I have anxiety, but living in the True Reality I have peace. May we find the way to true life in Christ and may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding reign in our hearts and minds today that it may become a living reality in our world. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Practice Makes Christian?

We've all heard and probably used at one time or another the old adage, "practice makes perfect." There are a number of assumptions that underlie this particular platitude that don't always make sense. Hopefully, we've all realized the folly of such a phrase - I know that I came to the realization quite early that no matter how much I practiced, I would never become an Olympic runner. That's not to say that I didn't benefit from participating in the practice of running with the ambition of what I considered to be perfection - but the simple reality was that I would never achieve my vision of perfection in the art of running. Even the amended version of this popular parental encouragement, "practice doesn't make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect," makes no sense. I'm not saying that it is wrong to have goals or even to encourage your children to work hard so that they might achieve some greater goal, but let's not use non-sense to encourage those practices. If you choose to use such phrases, at least clarify to your children what you mean by perfect.

Now that I've said all of that some of you are sitting there with a smirk on your face thinking, "But Jesus called us to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, and there doesn't seem to be much clarity with that phrase since people still quibble over just what Jesus meant." In some sense you're right, we don't fully understand what Jesus meant, but if we look at the context we just might gain a deeper understanding.

43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)

Jesus does seem to clarify perfection here - the perfection of our heavenly Father is to love our enemies. This perfection is revealed through the Son - for God loved His enemies in this way, He gave his one and only Son, that we might believe in Him and have ever lasting life. We practice perfection as we love our enemies in this way - so in the end, I guess I have to eat my words because right practice really does make perfect. We must practice, practice, practice regardless of how we feel, what we think, or where we're at and as we practice the love of God we are shaped by the Spirit of God into the image of God. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


What does it mean for us to be discerning in these days? How do we exercise the gift of discernment? This is something that I've always struggled with, especially in times of major transition.

In speaking about discretion, Maggie Ross talks about the relationship between discernment and discretion. These two words come from the same root in antiquity, discretio, and should be considered inseparable. They are two sides of the same coin: discerning the truth and then acting appropriately according to that knowledge. Without discernment we cannot have discretion, that is to say, without knowledge of the truth we are doomed to live and act falsely.

Maybe that is why Paul prayed for the Philippian church in this way, "9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:9-11)

Discernment comes out of a living, breathing relationship with the Truth. It is only then that we can live according to the truth...that we are able to walk in the light. Our perception of the Truth must continue to deepen and grow. My fear is that in the busy-ness of our culture, we don't regularly open up appropriate time and space to encounter the Truth in substantial ways, rendering us an undiscerning and unwise people which is illuminated by our broken actions.

We need discernment and wisdom in these days. Apart from a relational knowledge of God, it's like we're hiking across rough terrain on a pitch black night. May the light of the Truth break forth in our lives so that we might find the right path, the one to Golgotha. If you're struggling with discernment in these days, I would encourage you to open up time and space to encounter the Spirit of Truth, which will lead you into all Truth as it is in Jesus - for He is the way to true life. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS