Rick and Monique

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In the Moment

We've had a wild few weeks.  I'm a motor-mouth of the fingers and so I could tell you all about it, but I won't just yet.  But, we've planned an Auction, were delighted to have Cole with us, trained for RAGBRAI, worked at work, worked on the church production crew, and practiced music for the church music team.  The lawn is already outa control--my shoes disappear into the lawn.  That can't be good.  

I know you're all interested, for the most part.  We've endured a life that, sometimes unfortunately, makes a good story.

Right.  That makes all of us.  Some of my life I've hid from you.  Sometimes things should remain hidden, sometimes not.  I want to be more confident about my opinions.  I want to work harder.  Bet you didn't know I spent a lot of yesterday wasting time.  I should be more willing to understand the mechanics of things.  I should be willing to try something without help.  I should be less worried about what people might think.

Right.  That makes all of us.  The point is that everyone has a story, good and bad.  We all make rockin' mysteries.  I've been in the hospital often unfortunately.   People say, "You know, my back really hurt yesterday but then I thought about you and said, 'I've no right to complain.'"  Well, that's crap.  I've got a high tolerance for pain.  The attribute serves me well considering my prolific experience.  But your scratch hurts like a SOB and, considering your less-than-prolific hospitalization experience, I'm empathetic about your scratch that hurts like an SOB.  

You've a right to live your own story and I have an obligation to give you some credit. 

We talked a lot about being foster parents.  We've told you motorcycle stories, vacation stories, stories from church, thoughts about politics.  I've shared poetry with you--I write poetry--even ranch hands read and some write poetry.  I mowed the yard yesterday, took about 45 minutes to mow ten square yards--grass was freakin' thick man.  I'm having trouble starting a business, but I'm excited about it none-the-less.  I'm also hoping to be published, I love meeting with my best friends every week, am not always the most observant person but have the best wife ever because she knows this and, though she complains a little about it, is more often simply willing to help me think of things I can do to help her.  She encourages me to try and fix something that's broken, even if I've never done it before.  I ask her a lot to help me with this or that--she knows when to push me to do it myself.  God knew what he was doing.  Are you interested in that?

Oh yes--I joined Facebook too and I'm having a great time re-living some memories with friends I haven't seen in twenty years.  Some are as hilarious and others as ambitious as we all knew they would be.  Others have surprised me quite a lot because of the careers they choose or the places they live.  

See what I mean?  You have a story.

But you have to care about their story if you want them to care about yours.  I get it, the scratch hurts.  If I treat your scratch with disdain, then why should you care about my many hours in the hospital?  The bible says, "Be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen," (maybe not in that order).  James truly utters a Proverb about relationships here.  I can tell when you believe my story is a bunch of blather.  I can.  So you can you most likely.  

SO, I have a few guidelines that might help all of us believe our stories:

1.  Some of my stories are blather--If you can be trusted with my blather, I'll most certainly trust you with the good stuff too.

2. "You had to be there to get it."  No I didn't, I had to be excited by your story and obviously you didn't get that from me.  Sorry.  On the other hand, none of us had to be there, you just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

3. "You missed the moment."  Actually, we all live every second of every day--it's difficult to escape time.  I was off having my own moment, so practice the ability to tell me a great story about the moment you just experienced.  Your child just had a first step and your spouse wasn't there, that's alright.  There's no reason to put your spouse down about your moment.  Share the story.  Even if your spouse had been day dreaming or tuning you out, he or she was having a moment themselves.  They'll tell you about it if you're interested.

4. "You wouldn't understand."  Really?  I have nearly thirty-eight years of experience, I've probably come pretty close to every emotion out there.  Not that I need to know everything.  I don't.  Besides, it might not be me, but it seems there's always someone that pops up that can most certainly relate to what's up with you.  

If we trust each other a little bit more and deal with our stories a little bit better, our lives will be like fine wine--a complex mix that never tastes the same goin' in as it does goin' down.  Also, I need your help!  I'm not too big or masculine to need help or ask directions.

5. Last one:  Be willing.  That's it.  You figure out what that means to you.  Because everyone has a story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

So--How You Doin'?

A week like ours into perspective.  How you doin?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Foster Parenting

The first full day he was here Cole looked out our front-room window at a wide and dangerous world that was his vacuum. He was safe in our home. He was loved here.  I now have a tangible something to miss what we've never had. We fell in love with him five minutes after we got him. Cole is a magnificent young boy.  His tiny, trusting, beautiful voice reverbs through my brain and my heart.

It's the eve of the day we lost our first and only pregnancy.  We called her Reyana Breen, and I may mourn her forever.  

We're losing Cole today too.  Ironic.  There's a lot of life I'd give up for Cole, for parenting.  Monique's giving Cole a bath right now.  He's playing with the best rummage sale ten cents my wife ever spent.  He laughs and plays and Monique pours water over his body with the big blue funnel.  

I'd give up a lot of life for sounds like that.  Monique tasted motherhood for the first time in our married life and she was brilliant, and I was proud.  But he's gone today.  He'll be in a good foster home and we're looking forward to our life as a childless couple for the summer.  That's what I said, a childless couple.  I didn't ask for that life, but I am blessed in it.

The foster system is a both sad and happy place.  This young one-year-old didn't bargain for this.  He was happy with his family, and in one day, his parent's consequences requires him to move into the homes of strangers.  We do make our own beds.  I don't judge the actions of his parents, I don't.  But their actions ripped their family apart, and one of many brave little children gains experience he doesn't need.

Many foster children are abused, tortured and mentally scarred. Some of them haven't been abused thank God. But, I'm happy that there's a system made of workers and willing and decent foster parents ready to take the fruits of many scars into their homes. There's good and bad really. Some workers are better than others and the foster parent has no clue about the challenges that face them.  And the rest of the world really has no clue the amount of love and skill these parents are able and willing to give.

And so Cole is gone today.  I'm pretty sad about that.  I take that back--I feel desperately sad that Cole is gone.  I've picked up the toys.  There's a half-eaten yogurt in the fridge--his.  In my mind I have to get him up from his morning nap about now.  What is it about rhythm we love?  

We've planned our summer as a childless couple and we have to live it that way.  I want to.  I don't regret that.  But I'm different-we're different.  I didn't think Monique should've said yes when we got the call.  Turns out I was wrong.  She said God would bless us in this. Turns out she was right.

The wind blows and trees sway.  I'm watching them right now. Are they God's way of saying, "Like the wind I gave you something specific to do and you did just that.  Thank you,"?  We did good.  We were faithful to the task.  We taught him things. Monique taught him sign language.  I taught him how to sleep alone. He'll need that skill for this time.  He was stressed and we provided a safe environment and he flourished.  We feel good about that.  He talks a bit--we can make out "Thank You" and "Hi Dad," "Hello," and "Uh Oh..."  He was a healthy boy, a strong boy.  His parents simply made a couple of bad choices and I expect they'll reunite soon. 

Cole will disappear in the swirl of invisible winds.  He's finished with nudyville bath-time now and slides down my steps one last time.  He takes my feet and my knees, stands and laughs.  "Hi Daa."  "Hi Cole."  The lump in my throat grows like the piece of fruit eaten by Adam and Eve.  The fruited lump resides there and I'm disquieted.  So many "beds" have been made from this one piece of fruit.  I'll probably drain a bottle of wine tonight mourning the taste of this vile piece of fruit.

He's a copycat.  I roll my tongue and he does the same.  I shake my head, so does he.  I loved that.  I miss him.  I love him.

Silence is so bloody noisy.  I don't mind stillness.  Silence I can do without.

Turns out he's not yet the young-un I'll play catch with, ride bicycle with, fish with, or take him with me out on the wide beautiful motorcycle trail. Maybe I'll always and simply be asked to be faithful to the this task for mere moments.  I'll do it. 

The foster system is a sad and happy place.  We knew it was our time to engage.  My sister Gina, also a foster parent, wrote me and said this,"Foster parenting is a unique and difficult and beautiful type of parenting, as you take kids when they are most broken.  I've been learning a lot about how I come to Christ throughout this process."  I'd have to work long and hard to end this post any better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rick the Right-Wing Extremist

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a loving, loyal, generous man who would bend over backwards to help you.  I love people, peaceful conversations and many topics, and milk and cookies.  I enjoy playing guitar and riding motorcycle.  I enjoy classical music and listening to the laughter of children.  I love my work and time with friends and family.  I've been caught speeding and I caused a vehicle accident most recently, oh and I ran a red-light at 5 a.m. one morning, but am generally not a law-breaker.  I'm a husband, brother, son, grandson, friend, co-worker, uncle and foster dad.  
Add "Extremist" to the list!  Sounds exciting?

Homeland Security on April 7th declassified a document defining the make-up of a right-wing extremist. Information included A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis that defines “right wing extremism in the United States” as including … groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.”  It actually says this:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

I'm looking at myself in the mirror right now--I see a man who hates abortion, desires less government involvement, much lower taxes, is a devoted Christian, for school vouchers, prayer in schools, doesn't always oppose certain weapons controls but am definitely for rights to weapons ownership (hunting, protection, constitutional right to form a militia etc.), am for state and local authority and against illegal immigration, played a shoot'em up game on the XBOX-360, and is headed to a Christian music concert tonight...

Aw crap.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Chauffeur Revisted

The Philippians text says, "Being in the very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped--to be grounds for grasping, but poured Himself out, taking on the very nature of a servant."  One possible interpretation is concessive, i.e., "In spite of the fact that he was in nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped..."  Did Jesus become a servant "in spite" of the fact that he was God?   John Ortberg, in his book, "The Life You've Always Wanted" quoted writer Gerald Hawthorne who suggested that the "typical" and easy interpretation of this text "misses the essential point Paul is making about Christ," (John Orberg, page 115).  He says that the text illustrates a cause of Christ's action.  In other Words:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus--precisely because he was in the very nature God--did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but poured himself out, taking the very nature of a servant..." (p. 115).  

Ortberg says, "We perceive here the sheer goodness of God.  When Jesus came in the form of a servant he was not disguising or throwing off who God is.  He was revealing who God is,"--not in spite of, but because of.

Our friend Julie posted a blog entry called "Reflections", and I believe you'll thoroughly enjoy her post.  She wrote about the servant, righteous, and faithful nature of God.  She wrote the Easter post last year and decided the news was important enough to retell. I agree.

I'm going to do the same actually--yes, I'm a copycat this time around, but I liked the idea.

Neither of us repost because we believe that everything we say rocks or that all wisdom slides from our fingers, no.

Sometimes it's good to hear the story again. Sometimes we ponder old information and discover something new. Remember the gift--understand the Servant God.  And so here, again is last year's slightly altered version of Easter:

My wife and I read devotions together this morning. We read bible stories--Jacob and Esau, Cain and Abel, David and Bethsheba and Uriah, and the story of Jonah. We talked about revenge and forgiveness. My wife surfaced one of my past grievances, my past sins, and the memory felt painful and mortifying. Our loved ones often bear the weight of our sin more profoundly than even we do.

My eyes dipped to the floor, their glimmer dimmed.

My wife could've been vengeful towards me or she could've forgiven me. She forgave. I didn't do anything to merit her forgiveness...in fact, once my deed was done, time whisks it away. One doesn't get to relive the moment. There's no retracing steps to redeem the sin. I can't choose to go back. I can't even decide to be forgiven. I, the offender, cannot will the offended to forgive me.

John 6:44 says that no one comes to the Father unless he is drawn. Romans 9-11 contain poignant words about the forgiving and just mercy of God, His faithfulness, and the righteous power of God. Psalm 19 discusses the powerful words of God on creation. Some scientists say the universe stretches more than 80 billion light years! That's unfathomable. However, it only takes 1 second to see God the creator of more than 80 billion light years of universe...isn't that amazing? It takes a second because He’s here and He’s obvious. Believe that.

The bumper sticker says, “I’m the Captain and God is my co-pilot.” Another says, “I’m driving and God is navigating.” We've always believed we direct our own destinies, piloted to our own destinations.  Mankind have always believed they could control both good and evil. 
Adam and Eve were promised they would. 
The problem wasn't the consumption of fruit, but the vanity of the attempt at harnessing God's power. But, they couldn't. Impossible. We can't. We simply can't jump into our Angelic Luxury Car and drive to our Heavenly Mansion just as Eve and Adam couldn't harness God's power over good and evil by snacking on some fruit. We could never stand equal with God over all that is. We do know that God reveals his glory, his mercy, his justice and his righteousness in all things, from an eternal time well before Adam and Eve. Like my wife, God forgave me. I was formed, found and forgiven. By the time I realized my humanity, I was safe amongst the Angels.

My eyes no longer dipped.

"MY GOD MY GOD! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!" Jesus hung with those words. Do you know what they mean? They mean we aren't driving our Angelic Mercedes to our Heavenly mansion ... the words mean we're being chauffeured.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Travelin' Music...

Can you imagine the wind in your hair, the motorcycle's engine whirring or rumbling into the country side.  You've burned through all the gears and settled in for a long ride at 85.  Your IPOD sets neatly in your ears--you need some travelin' music--what about this?

Don't have a motorcycle?  Open the window and plug in.

I think the base player oughta loosen up--but happy trails ya'll.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Put Away Your Sword!

Drawing the sword - Photo by Peter Fesler, Szombathely, Hungary

Snow fell yesterday...a chill hangs in the air today, much like the night Jesus was taken into custody.

Ok, there are a few things I truly love to talk about--my wife, my family, motorcycles and religion, particularly Christianity. Even those who don't have a religion think in some way about their existence. And those who don't ponder existence, want a point of view from time to time. Maybe you're all bored by bible lessons, but it's too close to Easter not to point something out. Those of you who don't know Christian thought, read up a little...really can't hurt much except you've used buggered up about 8-10 minutes of your day. I'd encourage you to read.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. I can't imagine. Jesus asked Judas, "you would betray me with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)."

Romans 16 says “Greet each other with a Holy Kiss.” Kissing girls as a teenager--well, I wasn't casanova, but I knew how to kiss a girl. The social kiss, however … awkward. My wife's family grew up in Europe. Her parents spent more than thirty years in Europe. Monique's Uncle's, Aunts and Cousins live in the Netherlands. The first time I visited Europe, Aunt Tineke gave me the traditional European kiss--a kiss on both sides of the cheek. I felt awkward--but I felt the integrity, the sincerity of the greeting. American social kissing techniques differ widely. My favorite is when women draw their faces closely together, careful not to touch, then they both say in unison,“muu–waaaA!” and slowly back away so no one gets hurt. A greeting that is a Holy Kiss implies intimacy, grace and sincerity. Scripture says this kind of thing was an early Christian ritual. Paul consistently reprimands people to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”(Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). I'm led to this question: how often does cultural “religion” interfere with the body of Christ...a body that was never intended to act independently of itself?

Judas kissed Jesus--According to Paul, the act that tied Holiness to friendship, instead essentially killed Jesus Christ. How severely did Christ suffer? Peter understood. He drew his sword and engaged the enemy, severing the ear from one guard. Immediately Jesus rebuked the impulsive Peter by saying "Peter put your sword away!" Jesus would not gain victory by drawing swords. It had to happen. Jesus had to be arrested. Inevitably those men killed Jesus, but without his death and shed blood, my sin would be sealed against me and without his resurrection I would die with them. Put away your swords!

The ultimate betrayal happened not when Peter denied knowing Christ, but when a holy kiss was used to kill him. Put away your swords. Historically, Christians have defended themselves, have gone to war, have defended the weak and tired and poor. Jesus said, "Put away your Sword!" He said the world would not be conquered, but changed.

He said the world would be saved.

Put away your swords. We are not affected by one who would try to legislate morality, or enforce it, but to walk with it. We are not affected by one who would say great things, but who lives great things. One who writes laws, does not write for law’s sake, but for something that resides within him before the law existed. A man who would write moral legislation, or legislation regarding morality, does not live because of a legislation, but before it became, he was an example to it. Christians ought to know this. The new testament makes it clear that we are no longer born of the law. But because of Christ, we are born before the law was written, so that through Christ we may live out the example, not of was written, but before it was written. Put away your swords.

I recently read a response to the idea of discipline, sin and particular kinds of sin, and the church. This person feared for instance that if Christians accept Homosexuals as members of a denomination and, more importantly the congregation, that it’s akin to a jettison of the Word of God. This gentleman said that he and we can’t call ourselves “Christian” and accept homosexuals as Christians. He said that those who do not repent and then stop their egregious sins can not be allowed membership into a church congregation. He wrote his disclaimer saying homosexuals are free to attend church, but not allowed membership.

His point of view mirrors many who feel that "membership" in a church is made up of people who deserve to be there, those who they feel in their eyes have truly repented from their sin…those who have graduated into a true and mature relationship with God.

Membership to some gives the right to communion—gives them full rights in the official responsibilities of the church.  But I thought that all those who know Christ were called to remember and believe…even those new believers who are not a member of any church, or those who have not yet been given full access by their own congregation to all activities enjoyed and mandated to members only.  Do they have to remember?

Truthfully, I'm not a club member who could afford the rates. I sin. Membership is a signed document proving one’s worthiness, productivity and true repentance, Grace is a gift. By each criteria, I deserve neither. Please—put away your swords.

I believe we all learn more and more over time what it is we must repent from. I know one Christian friend for instance who's always seeking to make more money, he's never satisfied. He's been talked to and advised etc. but he won't see the issue in any other way but his. The question of excommunication has to fit somewhere in that discussion too right? So, he doesn’t have to repent from homosexuality, but he has not yet repented from a love of money…excommunication!

Put away your swords.

I believe that many Christians oft put aside two tenets of Christianity in response to sin. First, our salvation does not depend on "getting it right" nor does salvation depend on my own accounting for what I've done--God will judge me, I will not defend myself against God. Neither will I restore myself against what I have done. By God’s grace I am restored. Oddly Christians seem to forget. Second, my life doesn't happen in one day...I learn change and live over a lifetime. I believe I see men like trees. I am partially blind, but God looks fervently upon me and sanctifies me until the day I am called to the other side of eternal life (Mark 8:20-25).

I sin, therefore I need a Savior. I am a hypocrite because I am human in need of a Savior. We all justify our actions. We all try to interpret the Bible in certain ways (That's why denominations exist). Our own doctrinal statements carry some controversy. We need a paradigm shift. Put away your swords.

It’s important that we give sinful Christians time (that means all of us). We allow them and us time. The bible isn't a hammer as if the law saves. The Christian Reformed Church, for instance, says "Always Reforming" but why do we act as if we're already fully reformed?

I espouse Godliness. I want to be Holy and I will encourage holiness in you. But when someone’s behavior disturbs me I will not shove them around with Pharisaical fervor. I won’t. Certain denominations believe that I am living in sin because I drink wine and beer. Others have issues with the fact that I wear jeans and tennis shoes to church. Some Christians debate vehemently whether the earth is young or old. We’re obviously not a perfect church. Thus, my paradigm shift says that since God loved me and from His love I can love others, giving them hope and building their faith (Colossians 1:1-12), my form of discipling will look much different than shoving sinners around in “Christian Love”. All believers who sin rest on the same hand, a hand that the Gospel of John says in the 10th chapter we can’t be snatched from. Christians, put away your sword!

The church as a whole makes a mantra of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Fine. However, many millions of us have a difficult time moving beyond our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christians use their own personal relationship to ward other Christians off with a simple “This is between me and God.” I don’t mean to suggest that our experience with God isn’t very personal to us. But, I believe that living in the Holiness of God is a very communal activity. Even though we are different parts of the body (for instance I am the hand, you are the foot, someone else is the neck), each body part exists in community with the rest of the body. The heart, the brain, the kidney, the hand and the ear work in tandem with the rest of the body – period. No one part exists above another. I can’t lop my finger from my hand and expect it to act as a finger. The body of Christ should do the same, and yet Christians are more likely to lop people off of the body of Christ, to cut their own branches from the tree so that it doesn’t have to deal with them or their particular vices, issues, debates and thoughts. How arrogant! Consider someone else’s sin in relation to your own.  A Christian might secretly be addicted to porn or alcohol and, while I don't like those addictions, and believe them to be sinful, that person or those persons is and are most welcome to my pew, in my church building and part of my congregation. The world doesn’t change under a hail of stones and swords.

Do you really think we're "catering" to sinful people because I claim that some don't yet see or acknowledge their error and yet are still Christians? Maybe these people never will...maybe one particular sin will forever be their companion.  And yet some of these same people do acknowledge a need for a savior as I do. They do believe that Christ died on the cross for them and that they are joined to him with the body of Christ. I believe that they believe. What do I think about that?

I won't lie to them about the Christian life.  I don't want them to lie to me either.  However, I am also not always above reproach and thus they, like me, are most welcome in my church and my home. I hope we’ll disciple and love each other. I need graceful discipline as much as they do. Besides, Jeremiah 18:5-6 says that God, not I, change and mold lives.

Christianity does not happen in a single day. I do not have to achieve God's pleasure...God is already happy with His body, His bride. We’re forever trying ourselves to find favor with God, and trying to get others to find that same favor through piety and right living. We don’t seem to realize that we have found favor with God…AND we’re sinners. And if that is the truth, the true truth doesn’t fit our model, a model that gives the impression that Christians must strive to deserve the table of the Lord. So we must change our model. I will not take vengeance on people to make God happy--He'll talk to them in the throne room one day. I will not shoot the wounded. And yet nowhere in this writing have I catered to sinful behavior. Simply be reminded that every time you lust after a nice bum walking down the street, you'll remember to start working on the plank in your own eye. Put away your sword.

Ironically, we all practice our own sin while claiming to love and follow Christ, right? The biblical teachings tell us that God found us in our sin and pardoned us in spite of it. I swore a half hour ago and yet I am a Christian man. Another man or woman who lives a homosexual lifestyle can also be, be converted to, want to be a Christian and still lean towards his/her homosexuality. We don't expect perfection out of the rest of us divorced, over-weight, foul-mouthed, angry, unmerciful, petulant Christians, but homosexuals, ‘they have to cut their ties immediately.’ Put away your sword, please. Instead we all should come to the communion table together as sinners acknowledging the need for a Savior. Sinners of every kind are welcome to that table according to our God.

My Pastor once said that the church is one of the places that’s willing to shoot its wounded. Homosexuals? Not welcome here. Dirty people? Not welcome here. People who swear? Not welcome here. People who are addicted to porn? Alcoholics? Not welcome here. Compulsive liars? Not welcome. Even grudges against our own stand in the way of blessing. Often grudges are remembered even when the issue is forgotten. I know from experience, because I held a grudge against someone and it cost me 5 years of friendship with them…5 years...and I'm a Christian. We need to instead be the embodiment of grace. The wounded need tending.  Choose to live the blessing. How often do we talk about going to the Throne of Grace from which the decree came that we would not have to save ourselves, and at the same throne defy Christ's humility by shooting the wounded? In our own piety we expect immediate perfection from particular sinners, such as the gay individual. But, miracles are not rendered by human power, born of human intuition. Miracles are of God. A miracle happened the day the homosexual said "I believe." And yet still more “mature” Christians go spiritually nuts on them instead of bearing spiritual fruit with them. Do our actions toward each other show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control?  Put away your sword.

Fact—the church view certain behaviors such as taking the Lord’s name in vain, lying, cheating, homosexuality, murder and physical abuse as anything but sinful. God is explicit. The church can’t see buddha, or the sun and moon as gods. We can’t accept a New Age pantheism. God says, "I am the only God."  Any agreement to the bending of these rules causes the church to be inconsequent, illogical and inconsistent. However, the church does need to love as Christ loved His Church, His body. In love, we realize that while we weren’t looking we became sinners ourselves! In love, we prove graceful—we can say that “Grace Happens” instead of that other more unsavory bumper sticker. In love, we are able to see each other as we are and invite each other to be together, to begin to shape each other, to begin to disciple each other. In love, we realize that behaviors and Christianity are a life-long battle, and that behaviors are shaped, molded and honed over a lifetime. In love, we realize that on this side of eternal life sin is always a part of us, even though in God’s eyes our slate has been wiped clean. In love we realize that forgiveness is much more powerful than ferocity. When we love in holiness we realize that while we were inviting the “ungodly” to a pure life, when we were shaping them, discipling them, neighboring them, that the same thing was happening to us. Maybe that's why the CRC says "Always Reforming."

Truth is what it is and we can’t compromise on truth. But truth doesn’t begin in ourselves. Our presupposition says that God the eternal, holy, righteous, powerful, loving, Father is the beginning of truth…IS the truth. God says My ways are not your ways, not in the way that I go left and he goes right but because he is the creator the I AM. And if this is true and it is, then it is also true that God’s ways are wholly righteous and that without Him no one is righteous not even one. And if this is true and it is then none of us has a 50/50 chance at getting it right, no instead we are lead by a Holy and Loving and perfect God to believe. And if it is true that we were lead to believe and it is then it is also true that our belief is not of ourselves but of God. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that the Holy Spirit, not I, is the one who searches and understands the deep things of God. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that the Holy, Just, Righteous, God who is not prefer persons over another united Holiness with love and didn’t meet us halfway but reach down 100 percent of the way, and by the blood of His son reached down and set us on the palm of His hand, not in a precarious place, but held tight, forever safe and forever loved. And if this is true and it is then it is also true, that All scripture is God breathed and is trustworthy and is useful for rebuke, encouragement, teaching and the like. And if this is true and I believe it is, then it is also true that nothing in Scripture has gone out of style, is passé, is irrelevant to today, inconsequent, irrational, or untrue for today’s world. And if this is true and I believe it is then there should be no reason why we should be taking proof texts from their original context and place them in new contexts as we so often do today so that we have a reason to act differently and judge for Christ. And if this is true and I believe it is, then it is also true that we are not saving the world for Christ, but Christ is saving the world for Himself. And if this is true and I believe it is then it is also true that sinners like all of us are welcome to this congregation. Yes we all practice our sin. And if this is true and it is then it is also true that no one’s story is finished here, that all sinners deserve loving and graceful discipleship based on the Love of Christ for us. And if this is true and I believe it is then we are by no means absolutely Holy unto ourselves and by every means in need of love, grace, mercy, molding and fixing. And if this is true and I believe it is then it is also true that all that is left for us is to respond with grateful obedience toward God and by extension toward each other…amen?

Jesus looked up at Peter, who had just defended his friend, his Christ, by engaging Christ's captors in battle. Jesus healed the injured man who suffered the brunt of Peter's sword.  Jesus firmly instructed Peter, "Peter, put away your sword!"  I think Jesus instructed me and the rest of His body when he gave a rebuke and instruction to Peter, a man who Christ told would be the rock of His church.  I think as Christ fervently gazed upon Peter, He was also intently gazing upon me.

Put away my sword Jesus? Put it away?