Real Butter…a post by Tom

Recently I journeyed with a 100-year-old woman as she neared death. When she died the family shared memories and reflections on her storied life. I find it fascinating how people focus in and remember the small things over the big. One of the grandchildren, of whom she was particularly fond, recalled going over to her grandma’s small apartment for movie night to eat popcorn made with REAL BUTTER. The grandmother did not have much materially speaking. She lived alone and worked as a waitress. However, when her grandkids came over she used REAL BUTTER! The children were accustomed to margarine at home but with grandma there was REAL BUTTER and this was astonishingly good and decadent.  The granddaughter, a successful professional on the West Coast, flew in and couldn’t stop talking about butter.  Among other things her candy dish was also exquisitely stocked with very good hard candies, the kind with fancy crinkly wrappers. These are the small lavish touches that can change everything. What are the ways we can reflect God extravagance towards us for others? How can we be lavish toward loved ones in small simple ways? Do we have to let a scarcity mentality dominate even our popcorn? It is in the small things that our lavishness or stinginess can shine. When it comes to us, God uses REAL GRACE lavishly.

Ephesians 1:7

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.

When the Dew Dries …a post by Jim

When going for a morning walk last week I notice an unusual sight on the sidewalk. There were hundreds of dead worms. Strange. I’ve seen a few on the sidewalk before but nothing like this. I wondered what caused them to die there.

After a couple miles I seem to stumble on what I thought was a reasonable answer. Worms need moisture. And we haven’t had rain in a week. Instead of doing the hard work of digging their way into the sod of the lawns they seemed to be seduced by the heavy dew that was on the sidewalk. The strategy worked during the night but when the morning sun came and the dew dried the little creatures could not survive.

To a great extent, life is the culmination of decisions we make. Sometimes we do what is right even though it is hard. But sometimes we do what is easier just because we can. We become attracted to the “evening dew.” Sometimes it takes years before we are forced to live the consequences of some decisions. But it goes away. Eventually. As Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right but the end of that way is a death.”

“Dear Jesus, help me to make decisions that reflect a deep love for you and others. Don’t let me be seduced by evening dew. Draw me deep into the soil of your fellowship even if it is hard.” Amen

God Loves Us Even When We Are Messy!…a post by Joy

Christian spiritual formation can be a process that is enlightening, encouraging, sorrowful, and humbling.  Plain and simple, it can be “messy.”  Journeying back to the true self of who God has created us to be may require going through painful situations which teach us once again that we are His beloved children no matter what. As each layer of our false self is peeled away by the working presence of the Holy Spirit within us, He reminds us over and over again that even in these times of  discouragement, depression, denial, or grief, He loves us more than we can imagine.  Our underlying emotions of fear, shame, or guilt can be triggered as quickly as we take a breath. Remembering to say a “breath prayer”  reminding us that Christ loves us or quoting a “breath of Scripture” is a practical and spiritual discipline to intentionally posture ourselves to be present to Christ’s work of love within us. 

Recently, as I began to drive on the interstate for an hour’s drive, the oil light on my dashboard came on to alert me to give attention to checking the oil. I really did not need this on that particular day. I pulled off the rest area within a mile. When I parked I saw 2 men checking the oil in their pick up truck.  Since I have the oil checked and changed on a regular basis, it had been a while since I had checked the oil myself.  I knew I would have to get the manual out etc. I didn’t want to be late to my appointment so I asked them if they would help me by checking the oil. The older gentleman and his grandson obliged me and both agreed after checking it that the car was a quart low. I retrieved the quart of oil that I had in my trunk and proceeded to pour it into the place they showed me. I thanked them and continued on my way. Within 5 minutes, the tears began streaming down my face as I acknowledged that once again the Lord had taken care of me and provided for me in a very loving way.

Two days later, while walking from one building to the next at the campus where I teach, a young man and I crossed paths. As I continued to walk toward my building, he kept walking perpendicular to me, turned around and said, “God wants you to know that He loves you.” The spontaneous message from this student surprised me. In response, I said, “He loves you too.” Just inside the door, I paused with a thankful heart and a few tears, realizing that, truly, the Holy Spirit had moved this young man to speak to me. God has His own ways of reminding us in specific ways that are appreciated by us individually that He loves us. 

The title of this blog came to me one day because I was cleaning up after our 70 lb. golden retriever, Jordan.  He is truly loveable, fun, and endearing. Yet, he is definitely messy. It reminded me that we are all blessed to be loved by God in our messiness whatever it may look like. 

Our 22 1/2 month old grandson  had just arrived to our home 2 weeks ago from California. We’re so thankful we have seen him as often as we have. He is recognizing us more because of these visits and plenty of Face Timing. The following morning, he allowed me to hold him quietly with his pillow, blanket, and “binky.” He snuggled up close and we sat together quietly for 10-15 min. I felt truly blessed and loved by Christ in giving me  these moments with him that I would savour for a long time. God knew that this was a particular, specific, way that I could connect with my grandson, and connect with the realization that I am loved just as deeply by Christ as He is holding me.

These noticings of the love of Christ for me in specific individual  ways reminds me over and over that God is always with us all in this spiritual transformational journey.  I have referred to this Scripture passage before in other blogs I’ve written. It’s an old passage that never gets “old” to me. 

Ephesians 3:17-19

And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home 

in your hearts as you trust in him.  

May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should,

how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully 

understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power

that comes from God.”

Beacon of Light…a post by Joy

As a child I remember that my mother loved to light candles for many of our evening meals. For me, it made the meal time extra inviting along with the delicious food served, and the ordinary conversations of daily life. Time permitting, my father would tell a favorite story using the candles as a prop that we as children, and even as adults, loved to hear.

As a college student returning home for a visit, and when Jim and I were first married, I remember the candle light in the window welcoming us home.  It was as though it was a beacon of light guiding our way back into the open arms of family life lived there.

January is the month that my mother passed away 31 years ago.  I am especially mindful during this time of what I learned from her about living, loving, and dying. She loved Jesus Christ with a tender hearted passion.  She reflected the light of Christ to all who knew her.

Through the years, lighting a candle often makes me think of my mother and the tradition that I have integrated into my own family’s life. Yet, for almost 15 years now, I am also reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives within us as believers.   Christ, as the Light of the World, beckons us to reflect His light to others in every way that we can. Part of the journey of Christian Spiritual formation is to notice or pay attention to how Christ “shows up” for us in ordinary every day life. This simple act of lighting a candle is one such “noticing” for me.

Christ is the One who is the beacon of light for us daily. Thank goodness He will also welcome us home for that particular time when it is our turn to cross the divide between earth and heaven receiving us into “family life lived there.”

God Paid Attention To Me…a post by Joy

God paid attention to me this morning in a way that He knew I would love! I opened the blinds of the window in the bedroom. Immediately I saw a bright red cardinal sitting on top of a tall weed in the field of swaying grasses behind our house. I smiled and whispered a prayer of thankfulness. The beauty of the red bird always reminds me that “God is with me.” He shows up at the most amazing times. He may be flying across my pathway as I’m driving, arriving at the bird feeder on our snow-clad deck in December, or even singing as he lands on the top of my wreath hanging on the front door of our home. The latter has happened at least 3 times this year. The last time it happened, I first heard the close sound of his chirping before seeing him. I walked quickly to the living room to see if he had landed on the wreath again. Sure enough, he had!

I felt that Christ was being playful with me by sending the cardinal to my front door. It delighted my child’s heart within. Intentionally entering into every moment when God’s little messenger comes “flying by,” I am reminded that He loves me unconditionally with my own particularity with no strings attached.

 

Ephesians 3:18-19

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

Thanks be to God!

 

Laughter, Laughter, Laughter…a post by Tom

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
  I will tell you.
  In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.
  The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.  The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.

When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.   
When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, 
that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the Holy Spirit.

-Meister Eckhart

Christ, the Doting Father…a post by Joy

This past week-end we have been celebrating the 1st birthday of our grandson, Hayden. Having never been in this position before, we entered the occasion with delight! Travel plans to fly across the country were made, bags were packed, the camera and phones were charged to take lots of pictures and video clips and of course, a birthday gift was chosen, purchased and wrapped.

While participating in the preparations for the party, Jim and I were told that Hayden needed a playmate. We, or course, obliged! Watching him explore while crawling from place to place reminded me how far he has come since he first began. Stacking cups of different sizes, throwing and retrieving balls, knowing how to turn the pages of his baby books, taking stronger steps one at a time while holding onto someone’s fingers.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him! It’s true that as a grandmother, I have “fallen in love” with him! I held him as often as I could, laughed with him, played with him, sang to him, and helped with the other activities of carrying for a baby.

I kept thinking that Christ must dote over us the way that I am “foolishly” and crazily happy to be around my little grandson! It brings joy to me to just watch him in his process of constantly playing to learn new things and to keep going, especially in the crawling stage and now as he is exploring and trying to walk on his own 2 feet.

Christ loves each of us with this doting insatiable fondness. Sometimes we may think He doesn’t really love us that much in our day to day lives when we may feel shamed, or guilty, fearful, or angry. Yet, He Does! He loves us with that doting love right where we are in our journey……even when we are just beginning to crawl!

Two of my favorite verses are Ephesians 3:17-19.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide,

how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will

never fully understand it.

Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. “

“I Lead You Back to Grace …”

God asks, “What fruits of the spirit do my servants receive? First, I look on you and give you light. I wake the loud, barking dog of conscience within you. I also make you sensitive to the perfume of virtue, and I give you joy in fellowship.

“Sometimes I allow the world to show you its true colors. I let you feel all sorts of different emotions. I do this so you may know how inconstant this life is, and so you’ll be more eager to look for your home in eternal life.

“The eye can’t see, the tongue can’t describe, and the heart can’t imagine how many paths I walk, solely for love. I’ll lead you all back to grace so My truth may be realized in you. I want to do this because My love for you can;t be measured and also because of your prayers and cravings and sufferings.” — Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

Unconditional But NOT Uninterested

Easter is before us–the most compelling three days of human history. Here we see God’s honor inseperable from God’s goodness, God’s justice being fulfilled in God’s mercy, God’s righteousness that condemns being the love that restores by surmounting even the obstacle of human disobedience. Easter is God’s resolution to God’s twin decrees that humanity will share in divine life (2 Peter 1:4) and that death must fall on transgressors of God’s holy law (Romans 6:23).

It would be monstrous were God’s decree that sin shall merit death prove to be false. Justice must prevail for God to be God. But it would be unworthy of God’s goodness were God to let his handiwork, his crowning creation come to nothing. Mercy must prevail for God to be God. So Christ enters our story and accomplishes what we cannot accomplish on our own.

Love (which includes both justice and mercy) is the motivation for Easter (John 3:16). It is a love which is unconditional but not uninterested. Love which gives without reserve but without desire of return can never be anything but the energy of an absolute debt. Love that is inseparable from an interest in the other is truly selfless because it delights in the splendor of the other.

Simply put, God loves us because God delights in us (Song of Songs 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me”). God’s love is one of recognition and delight, desiring all and giving all at the same time, giving to received and receiving to give.

A ‘uninterested’ love reduces the other to a mere formality. But Easter is a love entreating us to be loved and to love in return. It is a love which liberates us from debt because love must, in the divine economy, be returned. This is the love of the Trinity into which we are brought by Easter. We love because God first loved us!

Blessed Easter to you from all of us here at CrossPoint.

Cat and Dog ‘Theology’

Some years ago I heard of cat and dog ‘theology’. Reducing theological perspectives to generalities about cats and dogs is anthropomophism to extreme (is there such a category as ‘animalmorphism’?!). But I never forgot it! In part because I think in simple terms. In part because of my experience with cats and dogs.

I acknowledge that my experience has led me to a generalization which may not match your experience. But here is mine. ‘Ace’ is the cat. Ace belongs to my daughter who left for college six years ago. Ace didn’t leave. So now for almost 13 years Ace has given me a taste of life with a cat. The one thing that strikes me about Ace is that she relates to me on her terms. When she wants something she shows up. When she doesn’t she refuses to acknowledge my presence.

‘Jody’ is the dog (one of many we had when I was a kid). Jody never tired of playing with me. She always showed up. She never turned her tail on us and walked away. We loved her and it felt like she loved me! I know this is not true of all dogs, but it was true of Jody (and every other dog we had).

Cat and Dog Theology makes the obvious point. About God and about us. God relates to us like a dog, not a cat. And God wants us to respond like a dog, not a cat. Cats seem narcissistic (a generalization … forgive me all cat lovers!). Dogs seem self-giving (again, a generalization … forgive me all who have been bit by a dog!).

In Christ we have the most complete and compelling picture of God’s self-giving. God gave God to death. Whether it is dog-like or cat-like the picture is clear. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Now we are invited,by grace, to enter the same love for God and others. “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you … the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:12-13).

I confess that I have grown fond of Ace. Even when she turns and walks away. Maybe it is because I am becoming more like Jody!

“Lord, in your mercy, give me the grace to love as you love. Amen.”