Wednesday, October 17, 2007

under the circumstances

the big question that people are asking is how are you doing? i could say that under the circumstances, we're doing pretty well. n is excelling academically and enjoying ballet. b is having fun at bcc, taking a 10-unit (!) english class and working out four days a week. m is beginning to meet with people for prayer and mutual encouragement. we have begun hosting prayer events for the church plant in renton, and people are beginning to commit to being a part of the work.

of course, all of that is happening in the midst of some difficult adjustments and unwelcome surprises. it's not being able to get a van registered or obtain a driver's license after sitting in the waiting room for half a day. it's trying to figure out transportation for the girls in this automobile-dominated area. it's discovering about $1700 of unexpected auto repairs -- in a week. it's having reimbursement checks held at the bank when large bills (mostly related to moving) are coming due. it's running into obstacles in starting the new church, from the expense of possible sites to the lack of key bits of information. this morning, it was taking a hard fall in the shower, and gimping around for the rest of the day with an ice pack on my back. i'll admit that i don't always handle the challenges with grace; for instance, i've been waking up earlier than i intend to, and can't get back to sleep.

that's why i'm tempted to say that we're doing well under the circumstances. but as the old joke says, what are we doing under there? as christians, we are invited to live above the circumstances. God doesn't promise that it will all go easily or comfortably -- only that we will still have victory in him.

we know
that God causes all things to work together for good

to those who love God,
to those who are called according to his purpose
romans 8:28

for your sake we are being put to death all day long;

we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

but in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer
through him who loved us

romans 8:36-37

i pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,
so that you will know what is the hope of his calling,

what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints

and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
toward us who believe.

ephesians 1:18-19

Monday, October 01, 2007

crisis of faith

about a month ago, i had a chance to read the time magazine article on mother teresa (find it here). i found it fascinating -- and not a little disturbing. in brief, a book of mother teresa's letters are being published. these letters reveal that despite her public persona, she did not sense the presence of God for nearly 50 years.

the article was not at all what i was expecting. my first reaction was frustration that mother teresa's enemies couldn't leave the memory of this wonderful woman intact. but that was not the case at all. the letters are being published by some within the church who are hoping that she'll eventually be canonized as a saint. they believe that these letters make her faithfulness even more extraordinary, given the agony she endured as she served in this long absence of the felt presence of God. and the article was relatively sympathetic to her plight, especially for a secular publication.

so why did it trouble me? it's not that i think that spiritual leaders should be perfect. on the contrary, i think it essential that christian leaders be transparent about their struggles and even their sin. people don't need perfect leaders. they need leaders who can demonstrate how broken, sinful human beings can trust in a perfectly faithful, loving God.

but a leader who has a very different public face from his or her private experience is problematic. isn't it an issue of integrity? why not just admit that her long hours in prayer and decades of service to God had not kept her from struggling to connect with him? did any of her confessors give her this counsel? i doubt that very many people would have thought less of her or her amazing ministry.

but as i acknowledged in a facebook note, i'm probably not in a great position to critique mother teresa. her courage, perseverance, and radical service to jesus are both an encouragement and a challenge to me. and if my life has a fraction of the impact hers did, i'll consider myself blessed indeed.

then the King will say to those on his right, 'come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for i was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; i was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; i was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; i was sick, and you visited me; i was in prison, and you came to me.'

then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? 'and when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you? 'when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'

the King will answer and say to them, 'truly i say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.'

matthew 25:31-40