to be down is not to be out (but in)

It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of everyone,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:9-10

This is not at all against those who have a sunny disposition and to whom the glass is always half full, never half empty. In fact, humankind and all of us are blessed by such people. But this is to acknowledge that we live in a sorrow full, broken existence and world.

I am more than weary and suspicious of “the good life” or “the dream.” Either can be good depending on what you mean. And it’s not like God doesn’t give us richly all things for our enjoyment. I enjoy my cup, I should say cups of coffee, and mostly classical music, and so much is enjoyable in this life. Getting home after a hard day of work, and even being partly in one’s element in the work itself. But if we’re not careful, we can be forgetful, maybe somehow in denial, and not attentive to the struggles and hurt around us. That is not good, actually not good even for us, and certainly not for those around us.

We lament over so much, with the accompanying mourning along with actual weeping that takes place. In that space we begin to sense something of God’s presence, healing and help. As we look to God’s answer in Christ not only to mend our own brokenness, but also to heal the woundedness of our loved ones, of those around us, yes, of the entire world. In and through Jesus.

a true friend tells the truth to help

Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts,
but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Proverbs 27:6; NIV

On the surface, there’s probably nothing worse than wounds from a friend. But if we can get past that, there’s probably actually nothing better.

Sometimes the only way truth and needed correction can get through to us is through a wounding. How that’s inflicted requires wisdom that is beyond us, or we could say also comes through long experience with God’s help. And it depends on each situation. And it’s not like we get it completely right in doing so. Maybe there’s wrong along with right in what is said, how it’s said. We need to be doing so always with the attempt to love. But love is not about making people feel good or in affirming their every thought and action. Not at all. If we do that, we’re not a good friend, in the true sense not a friend at all. But oftentimes it ends up being that we’re just not the friend they need. We may even be well meaning, but amiss. Love includes truth, what is right and just as well as good. So we need friends who hold us to that standard, and in turn we need to hold each other to the same.

But if we’re not regularly praying for someone, or not in prayer for them, then we should never attempt to correct them. And if we try to correct another, it should be done gently. Though maybe there’s a time for rebuke. We have to be careful not to see ourselves as more than we are, just another human in need of God’s grace, or to think we’re God’s spokes person. If we’re ever on the giving end of this, we should do so with much concern, in prayer, ready for God’s correction of us. And seeking to love.

If we’re on the receiving end of it, of course that’s harder. But if we’re maturing in Christ, than we’ll seek to hear what good is there, what actually might be helpful for us. Ever mindful of our need to grow, of the reality that we have our blind spots as well. And that God intends for us to progress in the faith significantly through the give and take of each other.

All of this not easy, but the help we need. In and through Jesus.

“we all need a home”

Someone recently told me that. It is wonderful, the family settings we can live in. But even the best of them is not without some hurts and wounds along the way, even with some cracks and brokenness. And tragically, sometimes those fractures are not mended and there can be a parting of ways. Home together as family does involve a commitment.

When it comes to church, we Christians at least here in America I think have some difficulty seeing it as family or being comfortable there. Why? It could be in part because of our own experience as family. And churches in our society are like a dime a dozen. Unlike days of old when there were parishes, and you had your church according to your location, in which you may well attend and be part of for a lifetime, now people so to speak go shopping for church. Wherever it’s the right feel, or serves the needs of one’s family, or their own needs, we stop and shop there. Maybe for a few years, maybe more, but often less. Until we move on to our next church and church experience. The older I get, the more I value the practice of those who have been in one church for decades, even entire lifetimes. Unfortunately not true of myself. Though there are times, sadly, to leave a church.

But the church in Jesus is meant to be our primary family, in a certain sense more family than our own family. Though of course each have their unique special place. Jesus made it clear that his sister, brother, and mother were those who did God’s will. And we find in the New Testament letters an emphasis on a community held together in the bond of love in Christ, with the fruit of the Spirit moving that fellowship, and the gifts of the Spirit helping it, all toward growth together into maturity in Christ.

We need a home where we don’t have to perform and have it all together. Where we can be our honest, even broken selves. I’m not saying at all, excusing our sin. But really being honest with ourselves and others. Just that sense given to us together by the Spirit who leads us to the broken body and blood of Christ for us individually and in our relationships with each other.

We need a place where we’re at home. Where people really care for us. Grace-oriented, so that by and by we can start measuring up, but not at all about measuring up, even while there is loving accountability. Where we realize that we’re all in this together, that when one suffers with whatever, we all suffer. Where when one rejoices and is happy, we all are happy for and with them. The sense that we’re indeed not in this life alone. But we’re present and in place for each other. And together for a broken world. In and through Jesus.

in the way of Christ is healing

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:21-25

Someone recently told me that only as our wounds are exposed, brought out into the open, can they be healed. I’m referring to inner wounds. I think there’s truth in that. After all, we can’t deal with what hurts us by ignoring it, or just holding it in. Sooner or later that will come out in ways that often are not helpful for others, even for ourselves.

Yes, we need to get everything out in the open before God. See the Psalms for example after example of that. And found in other places throughout Scripture, as well.

Peter’s words by the Holy Spirit actually point us in another direction for our healing. We’re told that we’re to follow Christ’s example in accepting suffering. This was actually written directly to Christian slaves (hit above link). Slavery then was different than what we think of now, in our American context. Yet still certainly an institution brought on by sin, destined not to last, certainly at least not in God’s economy, and God has the last word.

We’re told to do this and then told that we’re healed by Christ’s wounds. Not sure precisely what this means, except that it has to do with our sin problem and the impact that makes on our lives, and on the lives of others.

It is amazing, the impact of sin on us. We’re better off to persevere past whatever sin or fallout from past sin is plaguing us. And we surely do that in part by following what we’re being told here. We have to trust that God is healing us because of Jesus’s suffering, as we walk in the way of that suffering. In and through Jesus.


grounded to go on no matter what

There’s no question that living in this world means inevitable sadness unless one somehow refuses to take life seriously. And there’s a sense in which we should not hold back. It’s not like we shouldn’t control our emotions when need be. But when one is sad, they’re sad. People need to get real both in their reactions to others, and in their own lives.

At the same time we have to remain grounded. Life doesn’t stop simply because we want it to, or because we want to stop, ourselves. We have to go on. Yes, surely changed with the wounding and remaining scars that are barely if at all healed. And with many questions. Yes, we have answers in Scripture, and the answer in Jesus and the good news in him, but if you’re observing and thinking, there’s always wonderment about both the beauty and brokenness of nearly everything.

Going on in Christ doesn’t mean running like a bull through a china shop. We tread softly where need be, and seek always to walk in wisdom. But we have to get God’s grace and go on no matter what.

We have to remain grounded in God’s word and in prayer. Hopefully with God’s people, though it can be quite lonely at times. The point is that we must remain in God’s grace in Jesus, whatever we’re going through.

We want to do this in community in Jesus, yes. But we have to be active ourselves in it, sometimes quite dependent on the prayers and help of others, such as counsel. After all, we are interdependent; we do need each other. But to do our part, we have to carry our own burden, the load the Lord gives us. And we go on, believing God will see us through. In and through Jesus.


“…by his wounds we are healed.”

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Paradox fills scripture and is part and parcel to the gospel, because humans are taken into Christ, into his death and resurrection through baptism, so that through Christ’s death, we might live in resurrection life, even in this life. The tension and beauty of all of this is so profound, and marvelous in itself, like enjoying a magnificent work of art. But what makes it even more profound is that it can touch and transform us, our lives, so that somehow by God’s grace, in Jesus we enter into something of that beauty ourselves.

Jesus took upon himself all of the brutality humanity could heap upon him, all part of the will of the Trinity, certainly in obedience to the Father, but his own choice as well, and done so by the Spirit. It was done in his sacrifice of himself on the cross, so that by his wounds, our woundedness is healed.

We are wounded by our own sins, and by the sins of others; we are wounded by each other. And such wounds can be ongoing, since none of us are above falling into the sin of a wrong attitude toward another, even toward each other, and the hurtful, destructive words which can follow, and especially for some (and I think the most, of those in their formative years), sink in and change them for ill.

One of the most poignant passages and thoughts in scripture for me is how Jesus as our High Priest has entered fully into our experience, with the exception of not yielding to the temptations to sin, so that he can completely empathize with us, and not only that, but he also can give us just the exact help we need (Hebrews 2:5-18; Hebrews 4:14-5:10).

Somehow Christ himself, who we see as the second Person of the Trinity, was changed in a way, in becoming human and suffering as he did, a change through which he can help us in a unique way, as one alongside us in the gift from the Father of the Spirit.

And in turn, with the help we receive from him, even the healing of our woundedness because of sin, we in turn in and through Jesus can become “wounded healers”. By the Spirit we can enter into something of the brokenness of others, and provide for them something of the Lord’s healing. Even as we continue to receive the same healing for ourselves in and through the wounds of our Lord.

testing words

For the ear tests words
    as the tongue tastes food.

There is no doubt that much of what takes place in our human interaction of give and take has to do with words. Words point us in all kinds of directions, offered for a variety of reasons. Often to persuade, but quite often just to converse. Sometimes to humor. And much more in what it means to be human.

Readers are testers of words. But in fact everyone is. We respond according to the words given from the minds as well as hearts and spirits through which they come. When no words come at all, that can be simply a sign of bliss in acceptance and even intimacy. But it can also mean the exact opposite in flat out rejection and even repudiation of the other person.

In the context of Job it is certainly a matter of trying to persuade each other. We see the words throughout the discourses in light of what we know is to come at the end of the book- God’s response, but neither Job nor his three friends had that advantage. They were all in a quandary, Job’s friends seeing life as they were always taught it: God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked (or blesses and curses). And Job seeing that his experience did not line up with that at all, and that, by the way, neither did the experiences of others, at least many of the wicked.

Job is a compelling book, the story itself striking, even if it strikes in some ways contrary to what seems good and right, and the words poetic and bristling with wisdom, even if out of place, as we know is the case from Job’s friends.

We all test words. First and foremost we need to test our own. By the words of God’s revelation given to us in scripture and fulfilled in Jesus, ultimately with reference to the gospel. Words point to realities and are evidenced (or verified) as to their truthfulness by tradition, logic and experience. In the end words can help or hinder, wound or heal, weaken or strengthen, bring life or death. We do well to remember that both in what and how we listen, as well as how and what we say.

using trials and troubles for good

The goal of scripture could be stated in a number of ways. One way of saying it is for a community through Jesus to live in love with God and in that love with others forever. There are a number of results from that goal which are good, but secondary to it. One result for example are rewards God gives to his faithful by his grace.

Through pastoral counsel I’m receiving, I am beginning to learn to use at least deep hurts and troubles for good. I am seeking to use them as a way of seeking and drawing closer to the Lord. By them getting to know him.

It is easy for me, if hurt or disappointed, or tempted to despair to sink into depression and just be down to the point sometimes where it seems nearly unbearable. Instead I need to learn to bring those hurts, and indeed any trouble or trial to God, but especially to use those times simply to seek to draw near to God, so as to come to know God better. Of course to know Jesus is to know God. Hopefully in my woundedness to enter into his wounds and find his healing and love.

This is something new for me, and so far, so good. I want to grow in it. For me there’s plenty of opportunities over a number of chronic problems, and sometimes that problem that seems to come out of nowhere, to use them to more enter into this love of God in Jesus and communion with him. And out from that, communion with others in Jesus. I state this in my own terms, the pastoral response given to me in words which are much more eloquent and more attuned to scripture. We are in this together in Jesus, a significant part of this experience in Jesus and in his way, together for the world.

when old wounds are reopened

When what still seems to be fresh wounds are reopened, what do we do? I think we try to address the problem, in grace, but forthrightly. With an emphasis on gentleness and love. And we bring our pain before God. Like the psalmists, like Jesus himself. We must forgive, we can’t hold anything against anyone. If we understand something of our own hearts, that should help us readily forgive others, since we know that we too are in need of grace and forgiveness every day.

We want also to prayerfully consider where the other party is. Perhaps they have had a legitimate complaint concerning which we need to repent. Or perhaps they have an insight we don’t, though at the same time “insights” have all too often trumped what scripture says. When tradition, reason and experience take precedence over, or are even in put on an even par in authority with scripture, God’s voice in his written word, that is wrong.* Nothing is on a par with scripture, even though tradition, reason and experience serve to both grapple with and confirm its meaning and application for the times. We too need to beware that our “insight” is according to scripture.

In the end, we come together before God and through Christ. In the end all wounds of this nature in and through Jesus will be healed. Love will abound in righteousness, and righteousness will abound in love. Until then we carry on, praying the prayer our Lord gave us to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

*This insight (stated in my understanding of it here, if not as he wrote it) I gathered from Richard B. Hayes, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics.

not knowing

Sometimes or some times one seems to be at a place in one’s life when one is at a loss to know what to think, or what to do. For some reason I’m at that place right now. There are things set in place for which I’m thankful. But for a reason I know not, I just have this sense.

Of course there’s a whole list of things I know I can do. And I’m keeping busy enough. But there seems to be something missing somehow. That could be in me, so that when a sense of what I’m to be about right now comes, what I do may not look all that much different, except perhaps in the way I’m doing it.

There are those times in life it seems when one is at a loss somehow. When in the words of one poet: we’re hopefully “lost enough to let [our]selves be led.”

Maybe this is a special time. A time when I can seek to be in stillness and simply listen and observe. A time of drawing near to God, endeavoring to hear God’s voice and walk more in step with him. I have to acknowledge though that the hurts of life are so painful and deep that it’s going to take God’s working for all of this to really take place. I can talk a good talk and even look alright, but deep down inside at times I am just hanging on.

Not knowing makes me wonder if there is something to be known, something to encounter and then live by. Although I think that’s more about what seeps by the Spirit into our bones. So that we in Jesus are changed more and more into his likeness. In our lives and walk together for the world.