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We give what we have

"All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish," they said. Jesus said, "Bring them here." Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers.

Matthew 14:17-20 The Message

Generosity is the core value being expressed here. The value of sharing, of distribution, instead of hoarding, acquisition. In some ways that's the spirit of this blog and many others like it. Taking a few personal thoughts and practices in response to a few morsels of text.

God take the last two weeks of praxis as an offering to you.

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You Feed Them

Toward evening the disciples approached him. "We're out in the country and it's getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper." But Jesus said, "There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper."Matthew 14:15-16 (The Message)
I wonder if Jesus was smiling or yawning as he sent these guys off to organise one huge picnic. More than likely he was in the middle of a life-changing conversation with a member or two of the crowd. Anyway, he throws his followers a test of spiritual intelligence. "You feed them".

I wonder who I can share leadership challenges with this week.

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Interrupted by messiness

When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully - someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:13-14

I'm reading through Mike Yaconnelli's book, "Messy Spirituality". It's helpful to be reminded that spirituality is not just about quiet spaces. Engaging with real people with real lives calls on a real spirituality lived in the now. For me that often involves the demands of a busy family - housework, cooking, helping with music practice and homework, discussing sexism and unpacking the ethics of buying brand clothing. I note here that Jesus calls on compassion rather than duty.

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Seaching for solitude

When Jesus got the news (about John's death), he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself.

Matthew 14:13 The Message

There are times when we need solitude and silence. This is one of them for Jesus. A time to allow grief to be expressed deeply and intimately with God.

I've recently been reading through Henri Nouwen's book, "The Way of the Heart", in which he reminds us of the value of solitude, silence and intimate prayer. And now I have the challenge of following the lead of Jesus - ensuring that I get time and space to just 'be' in the presence of God.

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Humble and relaxed in God's presence

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Romans 8:38-39 The Message

Nothing I can do can make God love me more or make God love me less. A couple of wise worship leaders told me a few years back that this was what kept them both humble and relaxed in the presence of God.

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Fazed by nothing

And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us -who was raised to life for us! - is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: (They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one). None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us.

Romans 8:33-37

I wonder if Paul is being autobiographical here. Obviously Christians are not immune from trouble, hard times, hatred, hunger, homelessness, bullying threats, backstabbing or murder. There's no easy path set out for followers of Jesus that will remove the pain of facing difficulty. But what Paul hangs on to in the middle of the worst of times is the comfort of knowing that the love of Jesus is constant. It's unconditional love for all conditions.

So what's the practice called for here? How do we respond when people do mess with God's chosen? What do we do when someone does dare to point a finger? Paul's not into returning the threats. He's into turning to the source of love. Good move.

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God on our side?

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?

Romans 8:31-32

"If God is on our side then who can be against us?" I've heard that quoted in rallying the troops for wars, evangelistic crusades and battles against errant Christians. "Victory we have in Jesus' name".

But the next verse doesn't match up with triumphalism at all. "Embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst" is about humility, long suffering and servanthood. What would happen if we extended the word 'us' to include people with whom we don't see eye to eye?

What do you see as you read these words?

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God isn't finished with us yet

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
Romans 8:29-30

What's God up to here? Is this about being able to forsee how our lives turn out? Or is it about God's consistent intentions for our lives? This is less about whether we've been chosen, and more about God who is designing, shaping, restoring, calling, reconciling, establishing, staying and completing the creation that is happening in us.

One temptation I face as I read this is to sit back and enjoy the show. God's the active one. But as I look at the life of Jesus I see a model of engagement in the designs of God. Jesus' continuing obedience was in response to God who called and sustained him.

The good news for me here is that God is still completing me. Like the poster I had on my wall through my teenage years, "Please be patient. God isn't finished with me yet".

So if I apply that to the community in which I live, I discover a sense of patience, recognising that God's dreams for this place are still being brought into being. "Be patient. God isn't finished with this community yet."

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Liminal Space

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Romans 8:26-28 [The Message]

I've never been pregnant. With a child, that is. But I've carried within me ideas, dreams and plans that longed to be expressed and put into action. And I've had my fair share of 'wordless sighs and aching groans'. There's pain involved in the birthing of creativity. Part of that pain is the discomfort that comes from being in between states.

Anthropologist Victor Turner provides the phrase, "liminal space", a phase in which we live on the threshold of a new way of being, coming to terms with ambiguity, discovering reality in a marginal, transitional state. In the liminal space we're not who we used to be. But we're not yet who we're destined to be.

The good news according to Paul is that we are not alone in the liminal space. God's Spirit is a natural here. After all, Genesis 1 begins in this context. When we find ourselves giving up on the future, God's Spirit keeps us breathing, hoping, pushing, exploring, communicating.

For thoughts on liminal space and worship see today's notes at Pacific Highlander

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Are you tired?

Yes I am tired. I've been on the road for too long. Burning the candle at both ends has made a head cold inevitable. Today's the beginning of a much needed long weekend at home. And so I warm to the words of Jesus, as paraphrased by Eugene Petersen:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
Today I'm clearing out the video and vinyl collections - learning to live freely and lightly. What's your practice of rest involve?

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a break :)

i will be taking a break as we move across country. duncan, the other half of this little adventure, will be taking over on, or around, the 15th :) i hope you all have a grea time, and i will be back soon.

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to follow

to follow - to allow another to lead, and simply follow behind them. what does it take? what does it mean? are you willing to do it all? are you willing to take the leap and follow the leader? here is a very interesting story i ran across that might get you thinking...link

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living in sin?

i love the way paul says it in romans 6:1-3 when he writes, "So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace--a new life in a new land!"

this idea what we have in the church that we are all "living in sin" seems to fly in the face of what paul is sharing. if we are truly changed, we can not keep using the old address as a hiding place.

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i am very against any kind of violence. i belive that jesus teaches us that violence is not the way we deal with events in our lives. even on the "state" level, war is, in my reading of scripture, wrong.

about a year ago i was speaking at an event where tony campolo was also speaking. tony gave a very clear call, "if anyone can show where jesus supports violence i will change my point of view." no one was able to do so - but this was a gathering of southern baptist and even though they could not find any place where jesus spoke in favor of violence, they refused to let go and follow the teaching.

what do you think? can we live as christ tells us to, or is it just a bunch of hot air?

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pushing love to the fullest

one of the things that i have been thinking about as of late deals with jesus telling we can do more then he did, and in the section before (john 13) jesus tells us that we are to love each other as he loved us. can we? yes, and using human limits is a cop-out. because we are told we can do it - we just need to do it.

when was the last time you tried to love the unloveable? here's a thing to try to do - this week, pick someone you "can't stand" and learn to love them - thake them to lunch, hang out with them, learn some personal information about them - invite them to your home. hard? sure, but why not?

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what's next?

can we do all that jesus did? can we raise people from the dead? can we heal the sick? yes? what about forgiving sins? interesting - just something to think about today :)

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doing what jesus did

The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. [john 14:12]

i have been praying over this for a while, and will be posting over this for the next few days. i think this is a scripture we need to be praying over - because i keep hearing, "we can't do that" or "we don't hav e the ability to do this..." i think we sell ourselves short when we ignor these works of christ.

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sundays :)

sundays we usually don't post - but i wanted to post to let people know we would not be posting :) worship today :)

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loving those in community with us

i know, your thinking - "not another thing on love. we all know we are to love each other like christ loved us - so, get past it" right? your thinking that, right? come on, admit it, you know that is what your thinking. but i wonder, if we know it - and we hear it all the time, why are we not doing it?

the "fall of humanity" is a cop-out (because in christ we are changed out of that and we are to follow his way) - we live in the word is another cop out, because in christ we live in him and are not part of the world. so, why not? why don't we love others? i think it stems from the fact that to truly love someone else means we need to change a great many things we live in -we need to stop talking about and start doing it. in romans, paul writes this, "don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them." (romans 12:9). so, the question is, do we truly love others.

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paul and the romans

it is harder to live in grace, than it is to live in law

it is harder to forgive, than it is to judge
it is harder to love, than it is to hate
it is harder to include, than it is to exclude
it is harder to engage, than it is to ignore
it is harder to share, than it is to hold
it is harder to accept, than it is to reject
it is harder to welcome, than it is to walk away

it is harder to live in grace, than it is to live in law.

[Romans 6:14-15; "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."]

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