“What is truth?”
That was Pilate’s question to Jesus, after Jesus told him that he had come into the world “to testify to the truth.” The question was a good one, but Pilate didn’t wait for the answer. Probably it was less of a genuine question and more of a cynical—possibly bitter?—statement of the shifting realities of political life and Pilate’s role in it. This was a man who had given up on the idea of firm principles. He had seen how changeable the crowds could be, and how precarious his position and power were. He could not afford to care about what was really, foundationally, true—he could only respond to the immediate situation in front of him and try to make the best of it for himself. Or so he thought.
Continue reading The Truth Is Not Mine
Have you noticed that people aren’t quite the same after the pandemic? Apparently, humans beings can’t just pause most of their normal life activities for two years and then suddenly switch it all back on again without any difficulties. There are difficulties. People are generally more tired doing the same things, which makes them less willing to commit to the same number of things, which leaves some things undone, or at least struggling to get done. This seems to be especially true for voluntary activities like the local committees and clubs and churches that hold communities together and serve the needy and vulnerable. Serving others in these ways takes time and energy; resources that are already being demanded by commitments we can’t get out of, so often the easiest option is to cut the voluntary activities out. It makes sense. We only have so much to give. If we’re not careful, we’ll burn out. But I know a way to keep that from happening.
Continue reading How To Never Burn Out
Last week our family attended the first birthday party of a little girl whose parents waited and longed and prayed for six long years, wondering if they would ever be able to have a child of their own. To say it was a joyful occasion is an understatement.
Also last week the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a decision from almost 50 years ago, finding that there is not actually a right to abortion in the US constitution, so individual states are free to legislate as they please on the issue. Some states have kept abortion legal, others have not. Some people rejoiced, others mourned. Some said the judgment was a gain for life, others that it was a loss for personal autonomy.
Continue reading Life Is Precious
Reading the news these days is like watching a train wreck in slow motion—except it’s not a train, it’s the whole world. And like a train wreck, as horrifying as it is to watch, it’s also hard to look away. Every day I want an update on the war in Ukraine and the responses and effects on the rest of the world, and every day I know that the updates are going to make me sad when I see all the needless suffering of so many people who are made in the image of God. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly which updates are the truth and which are exaggerated for effect, or what is being left out, or what is going to happen next, but the general outlines of an unfolding tragedy are clear enough.
The stakes are high. Once again, the world is being shaken. We never even had a chance to catch our breath. The bad news just keeps rolling in every time I refresh the news feed, demanding my attention, shouting about fear and disaster, death and destruction and economic collapse. It’s shocking, worrying, tiring, and anger-inducing, all at the same time, and I don’t want to look away.
Continue reading My Head And The Headlines
We’ve been working our way through Romans in our local Bible study group, and last week we talked about the part in chapter 8 where Paul writes this:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
As I’ve read the news this week, I have thought about these verses often. I feel it in my own heart: I am groaning inwardly. The whole world is groaning in pain. But the beauty of this passage is not in its realism, although the realism is important. We dare not downplay the pain. It is too real, too horrible, too heavy. In a global moment like this, we simply cannot ignore the brokenness of our world, or pretend that everything is fine. It’s not fine. At all. And yet, we see in these verses that although reality includes pain and groaning right now, reality is more than those things—there is a hope that is just as real—even more so. That’s what I tried to capture in this poem:
Continue reading We Cry Out
Halloween is a dark holiday, but I don’t find it very scary. Costumes and plastic skeletons don’t intimidate me. It’s all pretend, and for most people, the main point is sugar. I find the news headlines in my Twitter feed a lot more terrifying. Some of the themes are the same—darkness, death, and evil running free. I guess the decorative ghosts and tombstones and skeletons do contain an element of realism: there is real darkness in this world, and real death. At our point in history, there’s no question that the real skeletons on this planet outnumber the living humans by a long shot. That’s a sobering thought. And there are plenty of other fears for those of us who aren’t skeletons yet—from disease and disaster to dystopian decisions and disturbing trends and growing disorder and disunity, you don’t have to look far to get a fright these days.
In Luke 21, Jesus warned his disciples about difficult days that were coming. He said, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” Does that sound familiar? But he tells his disciples: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Continue reading Lift Up Your Head
Restrictions are lifting in Ireland, and we’re going back to something like normal. We’re picking up the threads of life that were untouched for so long and sliding back into routines we used to think were immutable until they weren’t. It’s good. We’ve been waiting for this, looking forward to this, and now it’s happening.
And now we’re tired. I keep hearing it from all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways, and feeling it, too: The old threads of life that were so familiar feel funny in our hands now, and heavier than we remembered. The jobs we used to do and schedules we used to keep feel harder, and somewhat foreign, like running through water. Yes, we’re all happy about life returning to familiar forms. But we’re also exhausted, and it’s showing.
Continue reading Going Back To Normal (And Everyone’s Exhausted)
Those who belong to Jesus have the privilege of being able to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Is a greater privilege possible? Through Christ, we can speak directly with the God of the universe. We can approach him with confidence, because our standing with God does not depend on our own goodness, but on Christ’s. He has already won all the mercy and grace we need, for every situation, if we are putting our trust in him. This is a great comfort—but it’s not only for us. Everyone who believes is a member of the body of Christ, together, and “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Continue reading Approaching the Throne of Grace for Afghanistan
Today marks the second St. Patrick’s Day in a row without celebrations in Ireland, St. Patrick’s country, which is perhaps more appropriate than it sounds. Patrick would understand the experience of having plans upended. The only reason we think of Ireland as his homeland today is because his life did not go to plan. At all. Growing up in Wales (probably), he never thought that his future would be in Ireland, and he didn’t much care for God, either. Then, disaster struck. He tells us in his autobiography: “I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time. At that time, I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others.”
Continue reading St. Patrick’s Lost Years
From a prison cell in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the believers in the city of Colossae, and shared with them a prayer that, at first glance, seems underwhelming. After praying that they would know God more and live lives worthy of him, he goes on to ask that they would be “…strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
Strength. I need it. I can get behind a request for power and glorious might. Yes! Give me that! And with the glorious power of God himself give me…
Great endurance and patience.
Is that all, Paul? Couldn’t we pray for a stunning victory over all obstacles and opposition, all trials and troubles? Isn’t God’s glorious might enough to ask for more than just patience?
Continue reading The Work Of The Wilderness