21 August 2007

Fear of Our Calling Due to Fear Calling


The LORD had said to Abram,
"Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.

"I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him. (Genesis 12:1-4)

✡ ✡ ✡ ✡ ✡ ✡ ✡ ✡

The Lord invited Abram (later called Abraham) into a life of adventure and meaning. On the other hand, the choice required Abraham to leave his comfort zone -- the safety and security of his own country, his own people and his father’s household. Heading off to Canaan, Abraham quickly became a minority, immersed among peoples who lived, looked, thought, spoke and believed differently. I’ve been there, in situations where I feel like the only one of my species. (An American in New Zealand! ☺) It’s easy to get defensive, even fearful, and switch into self-protection mode.


The natural compulsion when afraid is to seek protection from what we fear. Even though Abraham’s God-given vocation was to be a blessing to all peoples on the earth, it didn’t come naturally or easily. In fact, Abraham’s fear-induced actions (better, reactions) among the Egyptians caused them so much trouble that they paid him to leave and gave him a police escort out of the country! Not really what God had in mind back in chapter 12, was it? What went wrong? When we’re afraid, Abraham shows us, we do things that feel to others more like a curse than a blessing.

A short time later, God in his goodness appears to Abraham with these words, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” (Genesis 15) God even assures him that, even though things will not always be rosy for his descendents, Abraham himself will “die in peace, at a ripe old age.” In essence, he said, “Stop fearing for yourself, Abraham. Start trusting me, so that I can bless you, so you can bless others, like I promised.”

In the same way, as children of Abraham, believers are called to move into the unknown in order to be a blessing to others. When we’re afraid, like Abraham, we put the shield up, we protect ourselves -- we do things that feel to others more like a curse than a blessing. It always takes trust in God to be a blessing. Let’s not let fear keep us from reaching out in friendship and blessing to all around us.

Let’s trade in our fear for faith.

Just a thought…

Music Review: Salvation in Lights, Mike Farris

Here's what I'm listening to this week. Great music from a Jesus-following, New Orleans bluesman. Doesn't get any better than this! Check out the review below.

Review by Randy Brandt

Originally posted at http://www.almenconi.com/index.php
The first time I listened to Salvation in Lights, I thought it was pretty good, but I wasn't paying very close attention. Then I listened to it again and changed my mind--I realized that it was a great album, and now I consider it one of the top couple of CDs I've heard in 2007.
Mike Farris lived the stereotypical substance-abuse lifestyle as the frontman for Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies and then Double Trouble (Stevie Ray Vaughn's former band). A couple of years ago he quit running from God and now he pours his voice and soul into songs about heaven and redemption. New Orleans-flavored gospel, soul and blues are mixed into a musical stew so hot that it just might melt your CD player. While my favorite song is "I'll Take You There," marked by passionate vocals and a scorching guitar solo, "Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down" is the one that gets me moving. If you can sit calmly during that one, you're probably in the grave already. Farris shares his testimony in "Lonely Road":
Used to think that I had the power to change me / but only you my Lord / had the power to save me / There's no doubt in mind / where in this world I would be / Without Your love, without You...I was so blind til I saw Your glory / the day You saved me... will always be the best part of my story

Salvation in Lights offers quality musicianship from Nashville pros on a good variety of musical styles. Contemplative moments are mixed in with tunes that could blow the doors off buildings when performed live. If you have any appreciation at all for passionate bluesy gospel, Salvation in Lights is a must have.

Not a solution, but a sign

One of my absolutely favourite podcasts is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. The guests are intriguing, the show is well produced and Krista asks thoughtful questions. Last week she did a broadcast on L'Arche, a community formed around people with mental disabilities. L'Arche may ring a bell for some of you who are readers of books on spirituality and spiritual nurture. The Toronto home was where the author Henri Nouwen spent the last years of his life, as an assistant to one of the mentally disabled core members. He wrote about it in a number of his books, including In the Name of Jesus which I wrote about in an earlier post.

The entire podcast is well worth a listen (it can be downloaded from the website or found on iTunes), but one comment has stuck with me, like a songline you can't get out of your head, like one of those sappy songs from High School Musical. "We’re soarin’, flyin.’ There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach..." Sorry, got a little distracted there for a moment.

Here is the quote that keep repeating itself in my head:
What we say that we want to be, and what I think that we are, is we want to be a sign of hope. In the charter of L'Arche we say that, you know, we can't serve every person with a mental handicap. We're not out to be a solution for anything, but more of a sign. You know, our visitors are really important, our pilgrims are very important to us because we live this every day, and we can tend to think there's nothing extraordinary about what we do. When our pilgrims come in—I like that term—you know, they tell us that we're living something that's very unique and very different. And so a lot of times at the end of the week, they're telling about this wonderful experience that they've had and we're sitting around thinking 'Wow. Where were we?' You know, to know that what we're living and how we're living, it has a profound effect on hundreds of people. You know, and that's where the sign of hope comes in. -- Ms. Jo Anne Horstmann, L'Arche
"We're not out to be a solution for anything, but more of a sign"

Huh. As an idea person, I'm usually striving to get the big picture in order to put all the components of the picture into the proper context. I've found it easy to get overwhelmed with trying to be the solution to some huge problem. The first thing I thought of when I heard the above comments, was that it sounds a lot like Jesus. The Gospel of John tells us that if we attempted to record all the works Jesus did, the world couldn't hold all the books it would produce (John 21:25). He was indeed a busy man. But he didn't solve all the world's problems. In fact, John intentionally left out descriptions of much of what he did, and instead, listed seven of Jesus' miracles, referring to them as "signs." In other words, in the same way that L'Arche doesn't seek to meet the need of every individual with a mental handicap, Jesus didn't heal every sick person in Israel or feed every hungry person he came in contact with. Nevertheless, the things Jesus did choose to do were neither a meaningless attempt against an ocean of need (throwing back a starfish or two) nor the complete solution to a global problem. Each person he healed, each miracle he performed, was a sign -- a sign of hope, love and joy, a sign of his future kingdom, the domain in which he is king.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm free to not change the world, to not be a solution to some pressing global problem. Maybe God has called me to be like Jesus, like the L'Arche community, and to do little acts of goodness to ordinary people in my little community. Nothing extraordinary, but signs that point to a future kingdom -- a kingdom of hope, love, and joy.

06 August 2007

Making the Move Back to the Mainland

First of all, we want to thank all of you who have been praying with us for Tara's father and his battle with cancer. At last report, his particular kind of cancer is advancing very slowly and now appears not to be his biggest health concern.

A couple of weeks ago, after feeling increasingly miserable, he went into the hospital, and, as a result, is now on kidney dialysis three days a week. His condition is compounded by the fact that he also has diabetes to contend with. Since Tara's extended family lives in eastern Canada, this leaves her mother and sister with primary care responsibilities. Tara's mom has limited ability to provide complete care, especially if the situation should worsen. Tara's sister, Melanie, has been carrying the load the past few years, as well as caring for her own family.
Consequently, Tara and I have made the difficult decision to move back to Northern California in order to be near them and provide whatever assistance is necessary.
While in the midst of vacillating between staying and going, in my daily reading I came to 1-Timothy 5:4, "[Children or grandchildren] should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." Tara's parents are not yet believers. Her sister and brother-in-law are very young in their faith. Nevertheless, over the past 15 years, they have grown more and more supportive of us and our life choices. We feel it is now our turn to serve them. We have been preaching St. Francis-like stuff to others -- "Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words" -- now it's our turn to model it in the clearest way to the people that should most obviously be the recipients of such love and service.

We are hoping to find employment in Northern California and make a move in the next three or four months. However, if we find it difficult to find work or a suitable ministry situation from here, we will make the move anyway and pray that we will find something quickly after arrival.

Reprinted from baltzley::::broadcast, August 2, 2007