Monday, November 24, 2008

Good Debate

These two churches face each other across a busy street!











A humorous and interesting theological debate! Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jeremy

Our mutual friend and Jeremy's pastor, Andy Teston, articulated my feelings and thoughts so well about our loss. These are his words:

I have been in ministry in various capacities since 1991. Through the years, I have seen God use various situations and relationships to shape and form me. One of those relationships that has most profoundly shaped me has been my friendship with Jeremy Dwayne Moore.

Jeremy was gunned down this past Friday while delivering pizza in Oklahoma City. This was his second job, for he also worked for a printing company in Oklahoma City. Jeremy was the proud new father of his baby girl, Lillie. Lillie was born just last week, October 28th. Sure he’d gotten the cart before the horse, but it was his intention to asked Jamie to marry him the night he was killed. They had picked out and purchased the ring the day before, but Jamie wanted to be asked. Jeremy had planned to do it right.

Through the years that I have known Jeremy, I have known him to be one of the most honest persons around. When many others doubted life, society, or even God, and they put on mask to cover up that doubt, Jeremy was always willing to honestly deal with that doubt in public. Many people that claim Christianity would label him as “lost,” but I beg to differ. Jeremy was one of the most “found” persons I have known. Through the years, Jeremy and I have had the privilege to struggle out loud together. We have laughed, cried, mourned and celebrated together. The togetherness of the relationship was what Jeremy was all about, and he stirred that same desire in all of us.

Last night as I gathered with family and friend in Oklahoma City, someone finally asked the question that I knew would eventually be asked. “Is Jeremy in heaven? Was he a Christian?” If loving Jesus and loving others is the definition of what a Christian is, then the answer is “Yes, Jeremy was a mighty fine Christian!” Jeremy didn’t live his life for himself, but always for the other. Along his journey of faith, he had for a time stepped away from what many church folks would say is “Christian.” I know, however, that every step of that journey, Christ knew and was involved in. The wideness of God’s mercy is greater than our human understanding can know or possess. Jeremy was the epitome of graciousness. I can only hope that all of us who claim to be grace filled could be as gracious as Jeremy.

At this time, we don’t know yet details of the funeral, not any other arrangements. We hope to have some of those answers by the end of the day. We don’t know who took Jeremy from us as either. We are all dealing with a whole range of emotions. Jeremy’s capacity to love people was only matched by the likes of Mother Teresa, or other heroes of faith we read and hear about. It is my belief that Jeremy would love the person that perpetrated this crime; I know that God does. Let us all take care to pray for Jeremy’s family during this tragic loss. Let us also pray for the one who has done this. In Christ teaching us to pray, he instructed us saying “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Matthew 6:12).

I will miss my friend. I am grieving hard. But I also know that through it all, we are not alone on this journey we call our faith in God. May God richly bless us all in the relationships that we have, hold, and share. I love and will miss you Jeremy Moore. Shalom.

Jeremy's Obit:

Jeremy Dwayne Moore was born on October 15, 1979 to Dwayne and Joyce (Bussard) Moore in Okarche, Oklahoma. He passed away Friday, November 7, 2008 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the age of 29. Jeremy graduated from Calumet High School as Valedictorian of his class in 1998 and attended Southern Nazarene University in Bethany for three years, and was currently attending University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma. Jeremy served in the United States Army Reserve and was honorably discharged in 2004. He worked for G&S Printing in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He enjoyed building "green" furniture, loved music, collecting old albums, loved to go thrift store shopping for vintage items, loved hanging out at the coffee shop, pulling practical jokes, and loved to explore his artistic abilities including painting. Jeremy is survived by the love of his life Jamie and his daughter, Lillie LaRae of Oklahoma City, OK his parents Dwayne and Joyce Moore of Calumet, OK one brother Josh Moore and wife Satirah and their children Jacob and Josalyn of El Reno, OK grandfather, Raymond Bussard of Guthrie, OK and a host of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, other relatives and friends (from the Red Cup), and special friends Gene and Shirlene Tarbox, Nathan and Mandi Greenfield, and Gavin, Madison, and Katie. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Jim and Amalee Moore and Annette Bussard. Memorial donation may be made to the Jeremy Moore Memorial Fund at any Midfirst Bank in Oklahoma City, OK. Viewing will be at the Mercer-Adams Funeral Home, 3925 N. Ashbury, Bethany, OK, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Services: First United Methodist Church, 10:00AM, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2008, Calumet, OK. Officiating: Rev. Andy Teston, Rev. Kevin Rogers, Rev. Lance Schmitz, Rev. James Trippett. Burial: Canadian Valley Cemetery, Calumet, OK under the direction of Turner Funeral Home, Geary, OK. Condolences may be sent to turnerfuneralhomes@gmail.

Maranatha!

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Friend!

My friend and college roommate was murdered in a senseless act of violence on Friday, November 7th in an apartment complex three blocks east of our church. Jeremy was a man of peace and grace. He was thoughtful and caring. Dr. Howard Culbertson reminded me of the time, when Jeremy was involved with our church during the planting days, that he tried to get a cross dresser involved in our congregation. He would look for him each Sunday to try and bring him to church. That's the kind of guy Jeremy was. He wanted everyone to experience genuine community and a life changing relationship with the homeless Rabbi.

Jeremy had a genuine love for all people - especially the marginalized, poor, and forgotten ones of our society - it was evident in his life. I would really like to write a meaningful tribute, but I can barely think... there is a deep pain in this kind of loss. Pray for his brand new baby girl... pray for the family that he leaves behind... pray for our broken community... for our broken world. Lord have mercy on us - Maranatha!

This was the news report from channel 5:

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Police said a man who was shot and killed in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City apartment complex was working as a pizza delivery driver.

Investigators said Jeremy Moore was killed at the Lantanna Apartments in the 7400 block of Northwest 10th Street. Neighbors called officers after hearing gunshots at about 7 p.m. A Papa John's Pizza delivery vehicle was found just about 100 yards from Moore's body.

Police said someone made a fake call to have a pizza delivered and then killed Moore after he arrived. They said the motive appeared to be robbery and won't say how much money Moore had with him. A Papa John's employee told KOCO that workers aren't allowed to carry more than $20.

Moore was the father of a newborn baby girl. A longtime friend said Moore was working part-time at Papa John's to try to make extra money to buy a house and to raise his baby.
"Jeremy was a saint," said Rev. Lance Schmitz, of the Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene. "He's just always been a person that loved people, wanted to take care of people and cared about people and the environment."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Prayer for the Persecuted

10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-11 NIV


Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in more than sixty nations do not have the full freedom to confess Jesus as Lord in public. For example, some two thousand Christians are in prison in Eritrea (in the Horn of Africa) and thousands have lost their homes in India as a result of anti-Christian attacks. More than 100 million Christians face disinformation, discrimination and persecution only because they want to follow Jesus Christ. These brothers and sisters of ours easily feel alone—in the jungle, in a hiding place or in a prison. I would encourage you this Sunday to make your people aware of this emphasis and take some time in prayer specifically on behalf of those who are being persecuted for their faith.

The next two Sundays are designated at the International Day of Prayer for the Pesecuted Church. I would encourage you to participate in one way or another. There are many resources out there to help church leaders. A good place to begin is at http://www.idop.org/

Monday, September 22, 2008

Testimonies

I'm not sure how far back the tradition goes and I don't know how it all began - but for as long as I can remember testimonies have been a part of our identity in the Nazarene movement. Often, in the small congregation that shaped my early Christian experience, the opportunity would be offered for folks to share a personal testimony - a word of what God is currently doing in their life. This practice, like many, isn't recognized as highly valuable until it is gone.

Most of the congregations that I've been involved with since those early days don't open up the time and space to participate in this act of worship. As a pastor I understand why this practice has fallen by the wayside - it is a little nerve wracking to leave an open mic out there for anybody to speak their mind. It tends to draw out the extreme personalities in our community who willingly step up to the mic - at times expressing heretical thoughts that have no edifying sense about them whatsoever. You cringe, bite your tongue, and try to say something positive when they are finished. There is also the fear that someone might find this a great opportunity to attack the pastor, leadership, or simply share something completely inappropriate. Yet, for the sake of control and order, we miss out on the beautiful chaos that happens when people share from the heart.

At New Life, I get to experience this at times in our women's weekly luncheon called The Vine. Broken and hurting women share their prayer requests and praises with one another each week. They are so eager to share - that it becomes distracting at times for those of us who want to be in control - but this deep desire to share, I believe, expresses a need that we rarely touch these days.

In fact, it was this powerful "cardboard testimonies" video below that forced me to reflect again on our communal practices. I'm convinced that I need to open up more time and space for these relational engagements. I'm not always sure the best way incorporate personal testimonies in our life together, but I am convinced that there is more wisdom in our traditions than what may appear on the surface. The popularity of this video would testify to that.



Lord, help us find the organic order that comes to us through Your Spirit. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Preaching - So Easy Even a Baby Can Do It!

It is sad when a one year old can get a better reaction from the congregation, than I can on my best day ;)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Faith & Politics - The Civil Forum

Only a church like Saddleback would be able to arrange a conversation with our current presidential candidates. I found this civil forum fascinating. Does this suggest a significant shift in the relationship between "the church" and "the state"? Probably not... but it is encouraging to see Democratic leaders engaging evangelicals on a much deeper level. That, I'm sure, does reflect some significant shifts.

Something Warren said in the introduction intrigued me. He stated, "We believe in the separation of church and state. But, we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics. Because faith is just a worldview and everybody has some kind of worldview and it is important to know what they are." It is an interesting statement... I'm not sure what to make of it yet. I suppose that he is suggesting that there needs to be institutional and organizational separations - but we cannot bifurcate our personal lives into private and public or the faith side and the political side. If that is what Warren is saying, then I agree.

I don't know if this will affect your opinions in any way, but I thought I would post the candidates responses to each question. Enjoy!

Q: Why do you want to be president?






Q: Does evil exist?





Q: Define "marriage".





Q: What is your stance on abortion?





Q: What is your stance on stem cell research?





Q: What does being a Christian mean to you?





Q: What do you think about religious persecution?





Q: What is your stance on federal funding of faith-based organizations?





Q: What do you consider your greatest moral failure to be? What is America's?





Q: Who are the three wisest people in your life?





Q: Name one instance when you went against your party loyalty.





Q: Name one instance when you flip-flopped on an issue.





Q: What is the most gut-wrenching decision you've every had to make?





Q: Which existing Supreme Court Judge would you not have nominated?





Q: What is your stance on merit-based pay for teachers?





Q: Define "rich".





Q: What cause is worth our troops dying for?





Q: Would you consider creating an emergency plan for orphans?





Q: What do you say to the people who oppose you answering these questions in a church?



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Gift of Opposition?

We don't often think of opposition as a gift. "My grace is sufficient." Those words sound nice on the surface, but in their proper context they can be quite unsettling. This difficulty isn't going away... you just have to deal with it. Toughen up.

The spiritual rule is that growth happens through opposition... it becomes the fertile soil for genuine formation. We can thrive if we begin to view opposition as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. John Ortberg had a helpful article on this topic in July's Leadership Journal.


The Gift of Opposition
Not everyone enjoys conflict. But everyone can benefit from it.
by John Ortberg


I was thinking the other day about a class I took in seminary called "How to handle opposition, criticism, resistance, and passive-aggression." Come to think of it, I think I missed that course. The class I took was on source criticism, not criticism per se. Not that understanding source criticism hasn't been useful. I have new attenders coming up to me all the time to ask why J, D, P, and E couldn't all just get along.

Still, I think the other class would have been more useful.

Opposition is an inevitable reality of pastoral life. Not just spiritual opposition ("we wrestle not against flesh and blood"). Not just the intellectual opposition of Richard Dawkins/Daniel Dennet/Samuel Harris/Christopher Hitchens readers. I'm talking about friendly fire. The deacon board who votes to wish you a speedy recovery 13-12. The e-mail writer who wonders about your orthodoxy, theological literacy, or citation of unsafe authors. The helpful critic who wonders why you don't do more altar calls. The champion of worship/missions/children/evangelism/discipleship/prayer/stewardship/marriage/expository preaching/praisercize who wonders when you will get your priorities straight.

There are radically different temperaments when it comes to opposition response. It's been observed that Teddy Roosevelt required opposition in order to be fully energized. If he didn't have any opposition, he'd stir some up. Winston Churchill got bored by agreement. Criticism—from his own party, from the opposition, or from his nation's enemies—fueled him like a double espresso. When Hitler appeared, Churchill found the opponent he'd been waiting for his whole life. His finest hour was the courageous fight against a truly evil adversary.

Some leaders are not intimidated by opposition; they actually thrive on it. It wakes them up. It energizes them. It calls them to battle. It causes them to mobilize their thoughts and energy.

But not everybody.

Neville Chamberlain, for example, is historically associated with the word appeasement. "Peace in our time,' he said at Munich. He thought that if he could just give enough ground to Hitler, conflict could be avoided and everyone would be happy (except the Poles, the Czechs, the Austrians, and the Jews).

I wonder where you are on the Churchill—Chamberlain spectrum? My guess is that most pastors fall on the appeasement side.

I don't know that either temperament has a spiritual advantage. A friend of mine served as an elder in a church that hired a pastor who made General Patton look like he needed assertiveness training. But this did not mean the pastor was a fearless leader. It just meant he was an ego-centered stubborn little tyrant whose fated ended the same as Yertle the Turtle.

On the other side, I know a pastor in the southwest who has faced mean-spirited, ill-advised, bad-hearted opposition from a key lay leader for years. He's been trying appeasement the whole time (although he would not admit that even to himself). And it has cost him effectiveness, energy, joy, and self-respect.

I have given up the idea that there is an opposition-free church out there. But I have gained something else—an appreciation for the gift of opposition. When it comes, I learn something about my motives. When it comes, I get to test my courage. When it comes, the truth about my humility (or lack thereof) is revealed. When it comes, blind spots get exposed that would otherwise do damage. When it comes, I am given the opportunity to grow strong. When it comes, I discover that I am the opposition in more lives than I ever would have guessed.

And then I meet the force stronger than any opposition. The force that can call opponents a brood of vipers. The force that can also forgive opponents because "they know not what they do." In opposition, there is grace.

John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership and pastor of Menlo Park (CA) Presbyterian Church.

You can find the article in it's original context here. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Demotivation

Family life and ministry life has kept us extremely busy these days. Sometimes you just need a little demotivation. I thought I would share some of my favorite demotivators with you. Enjoy!









Have a productive week!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mondays

Since I began the lead pastor thing, I've noticed that by Monday morning my brain is fried. Yet, I come into the office anyway with great expectations - if I'm not stepping on Dicken's long buried toes - and through much persistence I'm able to get a little bit accomplished. However, the creative juices don't usually start flowing again until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Reading and prayer usually help me to re-energize, yet cultivating a fruitful imagination while engaging in a draining life in ministry is becoming a challenge. I was just wondering if anyone has suggestions for overcoming the Monday haze - or the ministry haze that sometimes captures more than our Mondays. What habits or practices keep your imagination engaged and growing? What enables you to maintain focus and clarity? I'm even willing to try some off-the-wall ideas as long as it doesn't involve anything illegal ; )

Have a enlightening week! Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Monday, July 21, 2008

Super Pastor?

It seems that standing in front of people to preach the Word on a regular basis gives some folks the impression that one might have superpowers. I suppose that could be because we talk about things that are often beyond our ordinary everyday experiences or it could be our insights into a foreign world. To be quite honest, I'm not exactly sure where the idea comes from but there are many who perpetuate the myth that pastors are super human.

Please, for the sake of all that is holy in the nerds fantasy world, stop! It is such a destructive and counterproductive ideal.

Contrary to popular belief, all the pastor's that I have met have been of the human variety. I should know, because I am one and many of my friends, acquaintances and enemies are also pastors. If I ever come across one that is from another world I'll let you know. I've had my suspicions from time to time but upon further investigation they turned out to be your garden variety earthling.

You see, the reality is that I've never felt more human than the moment that I became a lead pastor... I've never noticed my finite limitations and boundaries more... and those limits are constantly stretched and tested partly because of the "super pastor" myth. Oh, and believe me, I know that pastors perpetuate this myth as much or more than our parishioners... they are often more than aware of our limitations than we are. There is a bit of an ego boost involved in thinking that we are somehow special, chosen, that we are super... and maybe just a little better than the rest of our race. Unfortunately or fortunately, I know the truth about myself so I've never been able to believe that myth.

Yet for some reason I try to live up to the mythic expectations of others. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is simply the desire to please others... maybe the drive to succeed... wherever it comes from, I know it is not a good thing. I've only been doing this lead pastor thing for a short time but I already sense the super pastor pressures and know that they will ultimately lead to fatigue, burn out, and a joyless, bitter ministry that bears little to no fruit. Lord save me from myself.

Don't get me wrong... I serve a wonderful and unique congregation where most people understand human limitation. I feel very fulfilled in ministry here. But there is always that possibility of becoming a quivering mass of availability - a result of ignoring our limitations... believing that we can somehow fix every problem and touch every need, while maintaining a healthy marriage and family life. What a crock.

I've decided that I'm not going to try to be a super pastor... but that it is okay to simply try to be a faithful Christ-follower, a good husband, a good father and a good pastor. That is what success looks like to me. Now... could you let the others know? I would appreciate it.

Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Allegiance Thoughts

As Independence Day approaches, I'm often reminded of the importance of our allegiances. It is certainly something that Jesus discussed - to whom or to what do we give our lives. What deserves our honor, our commitment, our allegiance? This was a common source of discussion with friends during Seminary and I've found it to be more convoluted and complex than we often make it.

It is not completely clear to me what the separation of Church & State means for the citizens of my country. How do we bifurcate our personal allegiances? If our lives are wholly given to God, how then do we reconcile our subsequent commitment to our country?

It seems to me at times the two commitments may coexist in harmony with one another, yet is also seems apparent that there are times when the two come into direct conflict.

This question about displaying flags is a symbolic representation of that deeper question regarding our allegiances. Who or what takes primacy in our lives. I'm posting some thoughts here from Hoyt Hickman - I don't necessarily agree with his line of thinking or conclusion (I'm not sure that we can neatly bifurcate Church & State), but I'm posting it simply as a discussion starter. What do you think? All of this is becoming even more complex as our society becomes increasingly pluralistic. Should Christians display flags?


Should We Have Flags in the Church? The Christian Flag and the American Flag
by Hoyt Hickman

The following response to a request for help with the issues of placement of the American flag and the Christian flag in the sanctuary was written by Hoyt Hickman when he was a staff member of the General Board of Discipleship. We post it here as a resource for your church.

Answer:Thank you for your inquiry concerning the use of American and Christian flags in church sanctuaries.

Common as this practice is, there seems to be no way to display both flags together that does not dishonor one flag or the other.

The Christian Flag gives the background of the Christian flag and the reasons why it should always have the place of highest honor when it is displayed. It is not a denominational flag or a church flag, but a symbol of our allegiance to Jesus Christ, who is above all others. It is a cardinal tenet of our faith that our loyalty to Christ comes above all earthly loyalties.

On the other hand, The Flag Code (United States Statutes at Large, Seventy-seventh Congress, Second Session 1942, Volume 56 — Part I, Public Laws) states in Section 3 (k): "When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the [American] flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the congregation or audience. Any other flag so displayed in the chancel or on the platform should be placed to the clergyman's or speaker's left as he faces the congregation or audience. But when the flag is displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium elsewhere than in the chancel or on the platform, it shall be placed in the position of honor at the right of the congregation or audience as they face the chancel or platform. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the congregation or audience as they face the chancel or platform."

(Editor's note: See the updated Flag Code in a downlodable file from the U.S. House of Representatives' web site. )

Both in The Flag Code and in the Bible, it is assumed that placement on the right signifies higher honor than — and priority over — placement on the left and that higher placement signifies higher honor than and priority over lower placement.

One might reason that the Christian flag could be placed in the chancel on the clergy's right, with the American flag on the floor level of the congregation on the congregation's right, or vice versa; but this inevitably means that the flag in the chancel is higher than the other and thus has the higher place of honor.

A further difficulty arises from the fact that in many church chancels the clergy presides from various places during different parts of the service — pulpit, lectern, Lord's Table and baptismal font. The way many chancels are designed, placing a flag to the right of all the points from which the clergy presides would mean placing a flag so far to the side that it is obviously not being accorded the place of highest honor but is shunted off toward or into a corner.

It is important to remember that the Christian flag originated almost a hundred years ago in churches that usually did not display a cross in the sanctuary other than the white cross on the blue field of the Christian flag. Today, of course, most United Methodist churches have a cross in the sanctuary in what is obviously intended as the place of highest honor, on or above the Lord's Table. Since this cross serves the same function as the Christian flag, it renders the Christian flag unnecessary. It also places any American flag present in a position of relatively lower honor. Given the provisions in the U.S. Flag Code and the fact that a cross serves as a symbol of allegiance just as a flag does, I do not see how we can properly display the American flag in the chancel if there is a cross there. Because of its central and higher location, the cross plainly has a place of higher honor than the American flag.

The same difficulty arises when the American flag is carried in a processional at the opening of a service and the processional cross goes first, as Christians agree it must.

There is still another difficulty in displaying the American flag in the place of highest honor during worship. It is one of the oldest and most universal Christian understandings of worship that when we gather around the Lord's Table for worship, the gathering consists not only of God and the visible congregation, but also includes (even though invisibly) the whole universal church of all times and all places, in heaven and on earth. Even if everyone visibly present is an American citizen, most of those invisibly present are not.

To sum it up, we in American wisely separate church and state. As American Christians, we honor the cross and we honor the flag; but we keep them separate. An American flag used in the worship of the universal church is no more appropriate than hanging a cross in a civil courtroom used by Americans of all religions.

"Should We Have Flags in the Church? The Christian Flag and the American Flag" copyright © 1993 The General Board of Discipleship. Permission is granted to print this article or quote from it as long as you post the following copyright and permission line:

"Should We Have Flags in the Church? The Christian Flag and the American Flag" copyright © 1993 The General Board of Discipleship. Used with permission. The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, P. O. Box 340003, Nashville TN 37203-0003; telephone: (615) 340-7073; Worship Web site http://www.umcworship.org.

Editor's Note You might also want to read "The American Flag in Methodist Worship: A Historical Look at Practice" by Karen B. Westerfield Tucker.

What do you think, is the matter that simple? Until next time ~ Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back in the Big OKC

Sara and I began a journey over five years ago that has come full circle. While we were students at Southern Nazarene University, we began working with an urban church plant called New Life Community. I served as their youth pastor for about three years and then when the planting pastor left, I filled in as interim for a time. We left for Kansas City about five years ago that I might attend Seminary - we had a sense then that God would call us back to this unique ministry.

New Life Community partners with an amazing compassionate ministry called Reaching Our City (ROC), which offers numerous services to this community. We feel blessed to be a part of this powerful compassionate movement.

Standing back and observing all that has happened to bring us back to this place, I can only say that it is nothing short of providential. We moved late last Thursday - driving all night with a caravan of vehicles, a six week old baby, and three cats that we might be here to close on our house early Friday morning - then unpacking, preaching Sunday and getting things in order all week... well, I'll just say we've gone through some refining heat over the last few weeks. I don't have time to go into all the details, but I'll post more as we get settled in. You can also check out some info on the church at www.okcnewlife.com

These are just a few of the kids that we are reaching in the community. You can check out more about ROC at their website www.reachingourcity.org Until next time ~ Blessings in Christ!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Waves

Where is a surfboard when you need it?

The waves of transition and blessing have been washing over us recently. In fact, they are coming so rapidly and with such force that we feel as though we are barely keeping our heads above water.

We are adjusting to the parental life...you know, feeding, changing, lack of sleep...repeat the process. I never knew such a draining and intensive activity - that is caring for an infant - could also bring so much joy.

On top of that we are attempting to help a new church plant, finalize things with our current position, get things going with our new church in Oklahoma City, buy a house, pack, say our good buys...as you can imagine these last couple of weeks have been a blur and I don't expect things to calm down for a while. You'll understand and forgive me if I don't get around to updating this blog as recently as I used to...at least for a while...I'm desperately trying to locate a surfboard that I might learn to ride these waves. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ephraim Todd Schneberger's Birth Day!

At 5:27am on Sunday morning the miracle began. Sara had her first real contraction. Obviously, we were excited and anxious as we anticipated all that this new day might bring.

Sara's friend Jaye, who just happens to be a labor and delivery nurse, had just arrived from New Mexico on Saturday. Sara wanted to share this experience with her best friend and receive all the support possible. Shortly after her first contraction, Sara went in to Jaye's room to get the diagnosis - labor had begun!

It was time to take a shower and begin making all the calls. The first call was to Dawn, Sara's doula. Since Sara wanted to have a natural birth, she began working with Dawn and she was a God send. We really couldn't have done it without all the support that we received.

Sara wanted to labor at home as long as possible. The contractions were coming pretty regularly through the morning, so I had to call our worship pastor Tim and let him know that I would not be preaching on this particular Sunday...time to go to plan B.

Sara was contracting about every 6 to 7 minutes and they were lasting anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. Around 11am we decided to go for walk. During and after the walk the contractions began to come more regularly and were lasting longer. Soon they were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 75 to 90 seconds. It was time to go to the hospital.

We arrived at St. Luke's Northland on Barry Rd. around 1:00pm. They checked Sara shortly after arrival and she was dilated to 7 cm and 100% effaced and the baby was at 0 station. We had made lots of progress and we knew our little boy would be coming into the world soon.

Sara continued laboring so well without any pain medication. Around 3pm they checked Sara and she had only moved to 8 cm and not progressed any further, but that was primarily because the bag of waters had not broken yet, which was providing a cushion that was prohibiting the baby's head from coming down much further. When at 4pm Sara had made no more progress and was still at 8cm, the doctor talked to us about breaking Sara's water in order to help labor ...we took a few minutes to think about it and then decided to go ahead.

The doctor came in and broke Sara's water at 4:06pm. Then, everything began to progress very quickly. Around 4:30 pm Sara began to feel the urge to push. She started pushing at 4:48pm and Ephraim was delivered at 5:18pm. Only 30 minutes of pushing for her first baby! Sara did such a great job with the whole pregnancy, labor and delivery - no pain medication whatsoever.

The first hour after delivery was full of frenetic activity. Cutting the cord, getting pictures, weighing and checking vitals, getting pictures, making all the calls, getting baby to feed. What a miracle. He is here! Ephraim weighed 6 lbs 15 oz and was 19 3/4 inches long. Mom and baby are both healthy and doing well. And I got video of the whole thing...but I don't think mom will probably let me post it on the world wide web. But, if you are lucky enough to come by our home, you might get to see some of the video.

Ephraim got his first bath around 12:30am. We've been up and down all night checking and feeding and changing, but it is definitely worth it!

You can check out our pictures at the link over on the left. We will constantly be updating our family blog and our pictures of our miracle!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Morning After

Powerful storms hit our area of Kansas City in the overnight hours. Here are some pictures of houses and businesses that really aren't too far from us.
















Living in tornado alley all of my life, I've become fairly accustom to these sorts of storms in the spring. The morning after a storm like this is always a time to assess the damage and grieve over our losses. It is a tragic and difficult occasion when life is lost. More often than not, though, we lose memories, space, time, energy, and some of the material things that have become a major part of our everyday lives. It has always amazed me how quickly we begin to plan and prepare for restoration after the storm. It can be a time that draws people together with a common purpose to rebuild and unified in the hope of renewal.

I sometimes wonder why we don't respond this way when we face other storms in this life? Often, when we face a spiritual storm or relational storm or a financial storm...when we face storms in our family, at school or at work...we shut ourselves in and once the heaviest part of the storm is past, we rarely assess the damage, grieve what we've lost, or reach out to others that we might begin the process of rebuilding and restoration. It seems that we often walk away from the wreckage and attempt a new build. I tend to find that our foundation weakens with each new build.

May we learn to build our lives once and for all on the only stable foundation. He can withstand any storm. That doesn't mean that we will come through every storm unscathed. We are affected by the storms of life. Yet, even if there is damage to our house, the foundation will stand. We, then, are able to rebuild a more stable structure for the future.

Of course, as a pastor it is difficult to pass up this metaphor, which is probably of little consolation right now to those who literally lost their homes or businesses in this real storm. Nonetheless, I hope that we learn from the reality of our experiences. And I pray that those who have been affected by this storm may find this deeper reality a sustaining and stabilizing force through these difficult days. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nazbo Rap

Hilarious!



Just overlook the inconsistencies and inaccuracies and enjoy it as a piece of entertainment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ropes

Do you ever feel like this guy? You know, like you are barely keeping your balance on a taught tight rope. Well, that's how I feel right now.

In my first ministry class, many years ago, I was told that life in ministry is a difficult balancing act. I took notes and nodded, never realizing the depth of such a simple concept.

I feel that so far in my ministerial journey I have done okay at keeping that balance. I haven't fallen off of the tight rope...yet. These days, though, the rope is shaking more than ever before and there are strong, swirling winds, which are all simply a part of this transitional phase we are currently experiencing.

The shaking comes from family transitions. As I have already mentioned on numerous occasions, we are preparing for the arrival of our first child any day now. This is exciting and scary and has added a whole new element to my balancing act.

The winds come from ministerial transitions. I'm moving from the associate pastor role at New Hope Church in Kansas City to take the lead pastor role at New Life Community Church in Oklahoma City. This new step is exciting and scary and has added a whole new element to my balancing act - did I just say that? Hmmm...deja vu.

We are preparing for new life in our family and meanwhile we are attempting to purchase our first home, take up a lead pastor role, move everything to OKC and all while I'm also attempting to finish out my responsibilities at New Hope for at least another month. Right now, I've wrapped my arms and legs around that tight rope and I'm holding on for dear life! You may know how that feels.

All of these transitions are great things for us, but they also introduce new elements that threaten to trow us off balance. Yet, as I cling to that rope I'm strangely comforted. The rope is familiar. The rope is stable and secure. I begin to trust again that the rope will hold me...that I will not fall. I get back up and keep walking. I'm just glad that the rope is there to hold me even in the most turbulent times.

3 I myself taught Israel how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
4 I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.
Hosea 11:3-4 NLT

Hosea is obviously using the metaphore a little differently than I have here, but I love the idea of these ropes of love and kindness...these ropes that represent the presence of Christ and His loving leadership. That is what I cling to for dear life. Thank you Lord, for Your ropes. I know that we can trust them to hold us up. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Charismata

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:1-13 NIV)

Gifts. That's what God gives. We haven't understood the depth of this reality. I suppose I should say that I haven't understood it - but given our communal life, I think I can say "we".

Rights. That's what we claim. Rights-grasping is a completely different way to live. I must be careful here, in no way do I want to down play oppression or injustice - for those very concepts imply that there is such a thing as right or just, but there is certainly a different attitude and way of life involved in rights-grasping, rather than recognizing and receiving gifts. The former involves striving, struggle, tension, and even violence. The latter requires openness, humility, grace, and peace. I wonder what our lives might look like if we believed that God only gives gifts and not rights.

That is why I tend to gravitate toward the image of the Spirit as the Giving Gift. In other words, the Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving. We have all been given gifts and become gift givers through the work of the Spirit in our lives. As Paul well understands, it is this reality that makes genuine Christian community possible. We are swept up into the live giving, perichoretic penetration of the Trinitarian community in the Spirit, which means that every single person in our community is a part of the Body of Christ and plays an important role in His mission activity in our world.

It can be difficult to recognize the gift of the other. At times we feel that some are life draining to us personally or to the entire community, rather than viewing them as gift. I was struck and convicted when I read that the Amish explicitly acknowledge the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly, and the infirmed as gifts to the community, because their presence brings forth grace and love in others. Their participation shapes us more and more into the image of Christ...well, only if we view them as gift. This challenges me.

Becoming aware of the gifts we bring to the Body and the gifts of others is part of what we are called to as the church. In his list above, Paul reminds us of two important truths - which move us away from rights-grasping: that all gifts are from the same Spirit and they are all given for the common good. Like breathing, we become a receiving and giving community - which is appropriate since the word for Spirit in both the Old & New Testaments is also the word for wind and breath.

Similar thoughts were covered beautifully in an article by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre in the May/June 08 edition of Weavings. But, I suppose that there are various reasons her words resonated so deeply with me at this time. The pregnancy is progressing so well that the Doctor thinks the baby will be born early and could really come any day now. I can only conceive of our son as gift. He is not a right...we don't deserve him...he is a gift from God and I pray that we always view him that way. Also, we are preparing to lead a unique Christian community and there isn't a healthier way to view the life and mission of the Body.

Lord, help us cultivate a heart of gratitude and praise that comes from viewing all reality as gift. Fill us with your Giving Gift and enable us to humbly receive the other and humbly give out of your resources. In the name of our source and our destination - the Triune God. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Life

He will be here any day now...our son. I'm still adjusting to those words...our son...my son. I've been preparing, but I'm not ready. Yet, somehow I know deep in my bones that everything will be okay. We used to call that blessed assurance...it's a good thing.

It is amazing how many thoughts can flood the mind when approaching such a transitional threshold. I'm full of awe and wonderment. What will he look like? smell like? feel like? What kind of personality will he have? What will he be passionate about? What kind of life will he live?

New Life is always future oriented and full of hope. We sometimes forget that in this journey with Christ. We sometimes are so focused on the cross - human brokenness and sin - that we forget about the resurrection. During this Easter season we should be reminded that our future is the Kingdom of God...therefore, we live with awe, hope and wonderment.

That is not usually my modus operandi. I tend to focus on suffering and death...I tend to get caught up in meaningless and lifeless activities. Anticipating the advent of new life in our family has reminded me that, yes all of those things are realities of this broken world, but Christ has overcome...He is victorious over sin and death. His Kingdom will come bringing with it real life, resurrection life. In that day God will be all in all. May we live with the hope of new life today. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk?

I got myself into a little trouble this week. I thought it was "Rock Shock Jayhawk" - what else do you expect from an Okie. Boomer Sooners! Nonetheless, I really offended some of these Jayhawk fanatics. I should have known better since my wife has a Master's degree from KU.

I find our identification with and celebration of sports teams fascinating from a purely anthropological and sociological point of view. Yes, I'm a nerd. In response to my fous pas, someone sent me this history of the KU tradition:

“The Rock Chalk Chant is perhaps the most distinctive cheer in all of college sports. Some have likened it to a Gregorian chant, but anyone who has been in Allen Fieldhouse and heard the chant start low, then build and roll over the crowd knows that it is much, much more. The "Rock Chalk" chant dates to 1866, when it was adopted by the University Science Club. A chemistry professor, E.H.S. Bailey and some of his associates were returning to Lawrence from Wichita on a train. As the story goes, they passed the time by trying to create a rousing cheer. The sound of the train's wheels on the rails suggested a rhythm and a cadence to them. At first, the cheer was "Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU" repeated three times. Even though KU didn't have a football team until four years later, KU students quickly took up the chant. Later, an English professor suggested "Rock Chalk," in place of "Rah, Rah" because it rhymed with Jayhawk and because it was symbolic of the limestone, also known as chalk rock, surrounding Mount Oread, the site of the Lawrence Campus. It became the official cheer of the University in 1897. Teddy Roosevelt pronounced the Rock Chalk Chant the greatest college chant he'd ever heard.”

You learn something new everyday.

KU is on top. Bill Self has been offered a ridiculous amount of money to become head coach of the OSU Cowboys. Hmmm...stay with a National Championship team and just make an insane amount of money or go start over at your alma mater and make a ridiculous amount of money. Tough decision.

Back to our identification with sports teams. We find great joy in their victory. We praise them and celebrate and do all kinds of crazy things because they won a game...a game. A friend went to Allen Fieldhouse to watch the game on Monday. He posted a link to this great video that illustrates my point.



The reality is that a much greater victory is to be found in the coming Kingdom. I can only imagine the celebration that will break out in all creation when the Kingdom fully comes on earth. That is what I live for. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Traditio

We all bear the responsibility to "hand on" important traditions to the next generation. In fact, that is literally what the word "tradition" means. It comes from the Latin traditio meaning to hand on or hand over, from which we also derive the words trator and trade.

A friend sent this really great video of a two-year-old singing the Lord's Prayer. I just had to hand it on...and it really got me thinking about how we engage our children in the important traditions that shap us. Enjoy!

Friday, April 4, 2008

In Memory of Scottie Houghton

A great civil rights leader was gunned down and died forty years ago on this day. As our nation collectively memorializes a great man who lived for justice and peace, a man who gave a voice to the voiceless, a man who stood up for the rights of the oppressed, a man named Martin Luther King, as so many are remembering him another man quietly went to be with the Lord.

I got to know Scott Houghton while he was living at the Kansas City Rescue Mission. Over time he became a member of our church...a part of our family. He fell asleep in the Lord this morning. Years of living in brokenness ultimately broke his body and devoured his liver and kidneys. Becoming a follower of Jesus didn't take away this physical decay - at least not in this age, but we look forward to the age to come. I'm officiating his memorial serivce at the Rescue Mission tomorrow. This is in memory of Scottie. [ I have to thank my friend Brian Postlewait because he gave the basic thoughts and structure to this memorial message. ]

Jesus had lots of interesting encounters with lots of interesting people during His earthly journey. And thankfully some of these encounters have been recorded for us in the New Testament. It is in these encounters that we begin to see who this Jesus is and what His mission is really all about. One such rendezvous that has really stuck in my mind recently is the conversation that Jesus had with a man named Nicodemus. Now, Nicodemus was a Pharisee…who was a part of the ruling counsel. In other words, he had money, influence and power. Yet, something about Jesus struck him. He wanted to go talk to Jesus, but there was no way that he was going to go in broad daylight…someone might see him, it could ruin his reputation, it could get him kicked off the counsel…so he decides to go see Jesus at night…in the dark.

Jesus starts talking to him about crazy stuff…like being born again…being born of the Spirit…a Son who has come from heaven to teach us heavenly things. But, Nicodemus just can’t understand what Jesus is talking about because he is still in the dark…and then Jesus says some of the most famous words ever recorded:

John 3:16-21 NIV:

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Jesus clearly reveals His mission here. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Folks, Death is not our friend. Yet we all know that death will come. For some of us sooner than others. For some in seasons of peace and remembrance after many long years of life, for others unexpectedly, but it is certain it will come for us all. Doctors tell us that the human body begins to turn from the growth process to a process of decay around our mid twenties. We can do things that speed that along or we can try to slow that down, but we cannot stop our bodies from decaying. How easy it is for us brush aside this inevitable reality until one close to us experiences what we will all experience. Death is not our friend.

It is not our friend because God did not intend for it to be this way. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. This is the same God who brought order out of chaos and formed man and woman in His own image. He created us out of dust and then breathe the breath of life into us. He breathed the life of His Spirit into us. We were supposed to live and grow and enjoy the goodness of God’s creation. Yet now we are all in the same boat – stuck with a curse of our own devises.

No, death is no friend of ours. Death and darkness are enemies...our greatest adversaries. Jesus knew this. Remember when Jesus hears that his dear friend Lazarus’s has died. He goes to the tomb, knowing that he will raise him – but John records that Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit…Jesus wept. He is consumed with grief, because this just isn’t the way life is suppose to be. But the light cries into the darkness and says, “Lazarus, come out!” Well, you know the rest of the story.

Scott knew that death is our enemy. We went to visit Scott at the hospital during those last days – he picked up the bible that was ever by his hospital bed and one of the first things he said to me was, I’ve got the sword of truth…I’m doing battle with the enemy. And he was…he was.

Those who have life in Jesus are not condemned; but those who do not have life in him are condemned already. You see what is more tragic than the inescapable reality of our natural death, is the sad but profoundly true reality that many begin dying long before their death. I’m not talking about illness here. I’m talking about the fact that many people, and it is not such a difficult thing to do, many people, like Nicodemous, live in the darkness rather than the light. And if you are living in the darkness, though the signs of physical death are not always evident, a spiritual, mental, social, death is already at work in your life. Let’s be honest. Many of us have walked on the path of darkness for such a long time that even when we find the light, we still have to deal with some of the physical and relational consequences of being in the dark so long.

We can live for wealth or influence or power, like Nicodemous, but if we do…we’re still in the dark. We deceive ourselves if we believe that living is about pursuing success or fame or fortune. We deceive ourselves if we believe that happiness can be found in such things. Unforgiveness, anger, hatred, violence, are not signs that we are still living; they are signs that we may already be dead. More tragic than the inescapable reality of our natural death, is this reality that we risk the possibility of dying long before we ever die. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light.

For all that do evil hate the light and do not come into the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

Here is the good news, folks, because as surely as death may set in for us long before our bodies decay, life, good life, the Godly life, the life of the light rather than the false life of the darkness, eternal life, life everlasting also begins before we die. And that, Brothers and sisters is the testimony of the life of Scottie. Death is our enemy, yet we are given hope for eternal life, and it starts long before our bodies lay still. Scott found that life and light in his Lord and Leader Jesus Christ.

You see, Scottie Houghton was a Saint of God. The world may not have noticed him for any grand achievements, yet after becoming a follower of Jesus - he managed to live a life that many, many people fail to live. He lived a life of loving service, a life of redemption. Where family may have been far away God gave him a family – right here at the Kansas City Rescue Mission and at New Hope Church. He battled many things in his life, but he fought that battle through the Word of God. His was a life of hope for a better world. That is why he willingly went to serve others in Mississippi and longed to return to help those who were hurting and broken.

It was on that trip to Gautier, Mississippi that I really got to know Scott…to know his story. His life tells the story of a savior that he didn’t just know about, but he knew as the light of the world…that he knew as the light of his life. Scott Houghton knew Jesus. He knew Jesus in the same way that I got to know him on that trip. He journeyed with Him…he served with Him…he knew Him. And for that he has lived life as perfectly as any of us can ever hope to live. Through simple trust and faith in God he has become for many of us a window into God’s presence.

I’m so glad that Scott came into the light…that he became a follower of Jesus…if you haven’t found that hope, that life, that peace, that light today…I pray that you take the same step that Scott did...that step of faith, that becomes the first step in a journey…the first step on a mission where we get to know and serve with Jesus.

Scott’s life is the fulfillment of this scripture we have read today: But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. And all who have life in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.

Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

N.B. Again, Brian is to be credited with a great bulk of this reflection.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Simply Christian

There isn't a better Christian scholar in our time than N. T. Wright. He has a way of eloquently articulating theological thoughts and powerful biblical images in our current linguistic forms. He brings the biblical world to bear on our world. When these worlds collide, a sense of Kingdom mission begins to emerge in the heart and life of genuine Christian communities. To me, this effect is a result of his deep rooting in the text itself, for it is the Word that gives us life and empowers us for mission.

Wright has so many great books to read and though I've only read a handful, I would encourage anyone to pick up any of his books and get to reading. Simply Christian is a great book that follows in the spirit of C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which was influential in my early Christian formation. I've wanted to use Simply Christian in a small group study for some time. It is the kind of apologetics in which I think we should be engaged. In a lecture last year at Calvin College he summarized this work. If you haven't the time to read this short book...you can go to this link and at least listen to the lecture. There is also a lecture presented at the Washington Cathedral on the same topic, which you can watch here. I hope that it influences you in transformative ways. Enjoy!

His new book Surprised by Hope is now on my reading list. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paschal

"Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Words recorded in the Gospel according to John. We have entered an important season in the life of Christ-followers, a season often referred to as Easter, which began on Sunday and continues until Pentecost Sunday. I'm not sure why we adopted the language of Germanic pagan worship of the goddess Eostre. Now my ancestry is mostly German (Deutsch) so I take no offense at the linguistic origin, and I also recognize the attempts to infuse ancient cultic practice with Christian content - yet, I often wonder how successful those attempts have been. In many cases it seems that this practice causes more confusion than anything. I suppose that it does little good to criticize methods adopted hundreds of years ago - I simply hate to see us repeat past mistakes.

That is all tangential to my reflections this morning anyway. As I've been reading back through the Old Testament it is quite apparent that God does condescend to reveal himself through our human cultural practices. Take Solomon's vision at Gibeon, for instance. He participated in the detestable practice of offering sacrifices and burning incense on the high places. There at Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream allowing him to ask for whatever he wanted from the Lord. And we all know that Solomon's request for a discerning heart to lead the people was pleasing to God - so the Lord not only promised him wisdom to administer justice, but also riches and honor, and if he walked in faithfulness, long life as well. God met him in this strange place.

Life is so sterile in the modern West. Even if we consider Solomon's practice of sacrificing on the high places misguided, it seems to me that there was something real in this ubiquitous ancient human practice. The smell of blood and the sounds of death reek of reality. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis' novel Till We Have Faces, which is a modern rendition of the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. The older sister Orual can't stand what she calls the smell of holiness every time she enters the house of the goddess, where there is continuous sacrifice taking place. Something deep within us resonates with this brokenness...we understand the smell of holiness.

"Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Our sterile Western theology has difficulty with sacrifice. We can't get our collective minds around the concept because it is not a part of our shared experience. We've tried to ignore our own brokenness by hiding from blood and death. We turn away from reality...we pinch our nose at the smell of holiness...we cover our ears at the cries of brokenness. Even in our version of Christianity it is all clean and positive and nice - a journey without sacrifice, a holiness without the spilling of blood. The wisdom of the Apostles says this cannot be...we've lost touch with that wisdom. We are confronted by the Paschal Lamb.

What strikes me most in the resurrection scenes are the wounds of His crucifixion. Jesus carries with Him the scars of sacrifice. He is the slain Lamb who sits on the throne and the Lion of Judah. He is worthy to open the scroll. He has the smell of holiness all over. He has opened the way of life for us by the tearing of His flesh. Our only hope for genuine peace...our only hope to become an authentic reflection of the Kingdom is to understand the depth of brokenness and chaos. Then we might open our hearts to actually eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lamb, following the way that He made for us to experience real life.



Until next time - Blessing in Christ ~ RLS

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Breastplate


I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

~ An adaptation of the famous prayer known as St. Patrick's Breastplate

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS