When You are Weak…

Liberacion_de_San_Pedro_Murillo_1667But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
Acts 12:24 (NIV)

Executions. Imprisonments. Persecution. And yet, the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

There were so many reasons for hopelessness and despair. If you were a gambler there was every reason to put your money on the powers-that-be. These Jesus followers, becoming known as “The Way” or “Christ-ians,” were such a rag-tag, motley crew of uneducated misfits. The power was with Rome. The power was with the regional ruler, Herod. The power was with the politically leveraged Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Put your money on the power brokers. These Jesus people are doomed.

But wait a minute…
“‘…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

I’ve been mulling over our daughter’s blog post the past few weeks. It keeps bubbling up in my heart and mind at random moments. It bubbled up again as I read this morning’s chapter. She writes:

My faith, which had once seemed small and simple became increasingly challenging and complex. I went to six different countries and in each I was confronted with injustice and brokenness that sank my heart and made my blood boil. But I found it impossible to be disheartened to the point of giving up on my faith because the people who had every reason to believe that God had abandoned them were the most faithful, resilient, grateful and joyful people. Consistently. Everywhere I went. And they could tell you of all the ways God provided for them. Even when the world was dark and evil, He was still good, they told me. There was never any denying of the loss that comes from war, poverty, famine, or disease…but there was always rejoicing in hope. I think in much of the third-world there is a greater understanding of Jesus’ words, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The river of God flows upstream. The Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of this world. The Spirit does not operate in the same way as flesh and blood. Those who have the least in this world realize that they have more than anyone perceives. Those who are weak and find a source of power that is not of this world. Those doomed discover that God can do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think.

We who have so much are blind to the true depths of our poverty.

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Memorial Day Weekend 2015

Memorial Day Weekend is the traditional start of summer at the lake. The Pella VLs joined us for a weekend that, unfortunately, was cooler and rainier that we had wished, but it didn’t dull the fun. There was fishing: a few small ones caught, a big one got away [sorry Chad], and Aaron dropped his pole in the lake (thanks to Dad for fishing it out of the bottom of the lake on Sunday morning). There were movies: Star Wars was a big hit with the kids (of all ages) this year. There was also reading, frisbee golf, boat rides, Captain Ron’s beach, and plenty of food and laughter.

Wendy and I arrived late on Thursday afternoon and got the Playhouse ready for fun. The VLs arrived just after 9:00 p.m. and everyone hit the hay fairly early. On Friday we headed to the beach at Captain Ron’s in the afternoon. It wasn’t exactly sunny, but the rain held off and the kids enjoyed the sand and water. In the evening we had a lovely dinner with salmon on the grill and, after the kidlets went to bed, the adults enjoyed conversation on the deck.

Saturday started out pretty rainy, but by the afternoon there was a break and we headed to Larry’s for dinner. We’d never been there, so it was fun to try. Food was great and we all enjoyed the boat ride there and back.

Sunday we headed back to Captain Ron’s in the afternoon and enjoyed grilling out burgers and brats in the evening. The VLs headed into Osage for some frozen custard while Tom and Wendy held down the fort.

Monday morning was the requisite donut run to Sunrise Donuts. Afterwards, Tom and Chad took the kids for a long boat ride. Then, it was time to pack up for home. It goes so fast, but the memories last a lifetime!

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Generations of Memories

Walking Back from Captain Ron'sWe’ve enjoyed a rainy, but fun Memorial Day weekend with the VLs. I captured this moment as we walked back to the Playhouse from the beach at Captain Ron’s. It struck me the generations of friends and loved ones who have walked this lane, holding hands, growing up, and creating memories. As I watched Wendy walking hand-in-hand with Miss Camille I had a flashback of Taylor and Madison holding hands and walking with Grandma Jeanne.

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Of Sneetches and Circumcision

sneetches quote

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Acts 11:2-3 (NSRV)

I love Dr. Seuss. I find the illustrations, the rhymes, and the created words even more entertaining as an adult than I did as a kid. As an adult, I also have an even greater appreciation for the lessons that Dr. Seuss taught us about human, though he did it through the most creative of fantastical creatures.

One of my favorites as both a kid and an adult are the story of The Sneetches. Some of the big yellow creatures had stars on their tummies, and some did not. What follows is a zany study of how we tend to discriminate through our prejudices and will go to great lengths to belong with the crowd.

The Sneetches came to mind this morning as I read about Peter’s return to Jerusalem from the house of Cornelius. The early followers of Jesus were an almost exclusively Jewish sect. And, like the star on a Sneetches tummy, the physical determination of whether you “belonged” to the Jewish faith as a man of that day was whether your penis was circumcised and the foreskin ritually removed. The practice went all the way back to Abraham and the Jews took great pride in having this physical evidence of their belonging to the Jews.

So, when Peter returns he is confronted by the Jewish followers of Jesus asking why he ate with the unclean, uncircumcised, lower class, dirty, rotten, don’t belong, non-Jewish Gentiles. The very question smacked of prejudice and socio-arrogance. I find it interesting that Dr. Luke saw fit to repeat Peter’s story in exacting detail rather than writing, “Peter told them what had happened.” A writer repeats things when they are important, and I believe Luk repeated the story he had just written because this was a big deal. The times they were a changin’. Think of telling southern Klu Klux Klan members a century ago that they had to start accepting African Americans into their membership. This was going to shake things up in a big way.

But, God gave this experience to Peter, the unquestioned spiritual leader of their faith who had been placed into leadership by Jesus. This was a top down policy shift, and Luke records that the initial response of the believers in Jerusalem was acceptance. But, we know from other sources, it wouldn’t be a peacefully and universally accepted paradigm shift.

In the end of Dr. Seuss’ tale of The Sneetches, the Sneetches with stars and the Sneetches without starts get so mixed up that in ceases to be relevant. It’s hard for us to relate to how radical it was for God to command Peter and the early Jewish followers to love non-Jewish Gentiles and accept them into the fold. People are people, however, and we have our own prejudices and forms of socio-arrogance.

Today is another good reminder for me to acknowledge my prejudices, and to let them go.

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Throw Back Thursday: This One’s for Mom

Jeanne Hendrickson Vander WellMy dad was fishing the boundary waters of Minnesota with his brother this week, so yesterday I had the joy of taking mom out on a lunch date. We had a bite of Mexican and then she took me over to show me the apartment at Woodlands Creek they will be moving into in the coming weeks. So, for Throw Back Thursday, I thought I’d post a photo of the beautiful and lovely Jeanne Hendrickson Vander Well in younger days.

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Breaking Social Boundaries

source: krayker via Flickr

source: krayker via Flickr

…and [Peter] said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Acts 10:28 (NSRV)

In high school, people were separated by social sub-cultures: jocks, nerds, burnouts, toughs, bookworms, and etc. There was also separation by ethnicity in my high school which, at the time, was the most racially and ethnically diverse school in the district with whites, blacks, asians, and hispanics. Then there were separation by world-views. Christian kids hung tight, as did partiers, smokers, drugees, and so on. You get the picture.

I’ve observed along my life journey that adults are typically children who learn to mask, obfuscate, deny, normalize, and justify our childishness.

The cultural realities faced by the early followers of Jesus was like an extremely bad case of high school. Romans, Greeks, Africans, and Judeans all had their separate and unequal cultures. Pagans and Jews had their separate groups. Within sub-cultures like the Jews you had sub-groups dedicated to religious, political, and ethnic bents. The region around Jerusalem was a melting pot turned powder keg. You belonged to your sub-culture, you hung with your homeys, and you kept to yourselves.

And, Jesus was about to radically change all of that. The seeds had been sown. Jesus had led the way. In a misogynistic, self-righteous, ethnic Jewish culture Jesus broke social norms by speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well and extended gracious kindness and forgiveness to prostitutes. In a culture of political silos, Jesus was publicly seen with both Jews and Romans, the religious and the secular, the rich and the poor. Jesus called twelve men from a diverse panacea of political views including liberal Roman sympathizers, Jewish zealots, Jewish conservatives. They came from diverse socio-economic strata of the day.

Jesus is now gone, and His followers are falling back into their high school sub-cultures. In today’s chapter, God intervenes by making an introduction between the conservative, religiously self-righteous Peter and the “unclean” Roman foreigner, Cornelius. God makes a radical, paradigm shifting demand of Peter, the appointed leader of Jesus’ followers: stop considering any person unclean (e.g. less than, lower than, other) or profane (e.g. meaningless, not worth my time).

This morning I’m having a serious heart-to-heart with God. Who is my Cornelius? Have I slipped back into high school mode hanging with my homeys and steering clear of those who look differently, were raised different, believe differently, have different political views, come from different social strata? Lord, have mercy on me. Forgive me for my mindless, thoughtless, unintentional way I treat others as unclean and/or profane.

Yesterday is gone, but I have today before me. Help me cross and erase social boundaries in my thoughts, words, and actions.

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The Kid With a Thousand Faces

2015 05 12 Aaron Paul FacesSome subjects make it easier on the photographer than others. I love taking photos of Aaron. He’s still that kid. :-)

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