Monday, June 15, 2009

Becoming the answer

Each week at our dinner for the homeless and poor at Grace, we have slips of paper for guests to write out their prayer requests, which are then typed up and emailed out. As I read through two weeks worth of prayer requests, my heart was stirred by the simplicity of the prayers – a job, a place to stay, healing, deliverance from addiction to drugs and alcohol, restoration of family relationships, provision for family members. These are things that I take for granted, things that sometimes seem so “normal” that they feel like rights. I have always had a home, a stable family, provision for every need, a car. But I didn’t earn any of that – it was all gift.

I was also stirred by the depth of the prayer requests – wisdom with how to use time and money, wisdom in raising children, a deeper understanding of the Bible, greater faith, a deeper relationship with Christ and greater obedience to Him. And I long for our church to be a place where these prayers our answered – we offer classes for parents on raising children, solid Biblical preaching each week, and we have wise men and women who could teach young Christians what it means to live life centered on Christ. There are businessmen and businesswomen who have an ability to create jobs and businesses that could sustain some of our friends.

I think that this will only happen as more people from our church attend the dinners on Wednesdays and build bridges across racial and economic divides so that our Wednesday night guests feel like they have friends waiting for them on Sunday morning, someone to walk into church with and to sit with. This will only happen as people from our church begin to feel the pain and longing of those without jobs and are stirred with compassion to do something about it.

I think that there are people at Grace who could be used as God’s answer to these prayers, they just don’t know it. I pray that God would do a new work in us as a Body, stirring even more of us to this work that He has for us.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A prescription for rest

This is from an email I sent to a friend who is frazzled, burning the candle on both ends, and not seeing any time or space to restore their soul. It's advice that I try to heed, too:

What do you mean you don't have time to rest? Remember our convo about what is restful for you? Resting is something you have to MAKE time for or you will be useless in your work (well, not useless, but you will not enjoy it but will simply survive it). Margin never creates itself - something in life always fills the empty spaces if we are not vigilant.
1) Go to bed 1/2 hour earlier - this takes discipline and focus.
2) Make time to spend with God, reading the Bible and praying.
3) Make time to do things that are fun for you.
4) Be aware of counterfeit rest - for me this looks like ,"If I lay on the couch and watch TV for a couple of hours, that will restore my soul. " "If I surf the web for electronics deals, that will restore my soul." "If I balance our online banking on mvelopes, that will restore my soul." Those things are fine in small doses, but listening to music, reading a book, being still and quiet actually restore my soul in significant ways.
5) Exercise - unplug from your day and move your body!
I find that if I do these things, life is more balanced. Love, marsh

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Walk with the wise

Today I had the chance to learn about being faithful to Christ, and faithful as a parent; I learned about the perseverance of love in the midst of heartache; and I learned about the power of Christ to do in us what we can never do on our own. All in a 30-minute conversation with a co-worker.

Wisdom seems to be one of those things that you can’t often get apart from life experience. You most often gain wisdom by going through life and paying attention to God and paying attention to patterns and themes in your heart and in life around you. Yet you can also gain wisdom by observing others’ faithfulness in the ordinary, peace in the midst of chaos. You can gain wisdom by listening to others, especially if they give you the gift of sharing what is real in their lives, the tragedies as well as the joys. That is what my friend gave me today. As she shared her story of loving one of her children, I feel like I was given tools to be a better parent. I was given pictures of the Gospel lived out in the here and now that I won’t forget. And I grew in wisdom.

Interestingly, she was not trying to sound wise or trying to teach me anything; she was just responding when I asked how her child was doing. Wise people don’t have to convince you of their wisdom because wisdom is a byproduct of faithfulness, not the goal. Wisdom is a fruit of abiding in Christ, and today I had the chance to receive the gift of God’s redeeming work in her family’s life.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


I often live my life from a position of lack. I find myself thinking about what I don’t have, what I haven’t done, what I should have done better.

But those of us who are in Christ have no business living in lack, because God is a God of fullness, a truth illuminated in the first two chapters of Colossians. First we learn that God had all His fullness dwell in Christ (1:19), and then Paul talks about presenting the Word of God to the Colossians in all its fullness (1:25). Paul says again in 2:9 that in Christ, all the fullness of  Deity lives in bodily form. Jesus has fullness. The Word of God has fullness. God Himself has fullness. All of that makes sense to me.

But then Paul says, “You have been given fullness in Christ.” (2:10) When I read it, it was one of those “guy says wrong thing in the bar and the record playing on the jukebox goes sccrrrriitch while everything stops” kind of moments. “I have been given fullness in Christ?” scccrrriiitch

I shouldn’t have been so surprised – Paul prays for the Ephesians to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God and says that maturity in Christ entails our attaining the full measure of the fullness of Christ. John 1:16 says that from the fullness of His grace, we have all received one blessing after another.

This truth of fullness has been quietly reshaping my outlook on what I need to be OK. When my kids are misbehaving, and I feel a lack of control, I have been given fullness. When the latest flashy gadget outpaces my spending budget, I have been given fullness. When my basement floods and the carpet has to go, I have been given fullness. When I feel forgotten or insignificant, I have been  given fullness. When I am at the end of my strength and one more need presents itself, I have been given fullness.

Fullness of life, of joy, of peace, of hope. Fullness is mine already.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Carpet? We don't need no stinking carpet!

Greensboro was hit by a torrential downpour this evening (flooding, cars stranded), and so I called home to check in with Diane and she said, “There’s water in the basement,” which was an understatement. Water had flooded several inches deep in our garage and come under the door, and all the carpet was soaked (over 700 square feet). My trusted advisor Nick Loflin didn’t think it was salvageable (I think he was right), and so we proceeded to rip out the carpet and padding, assisted by neighbors Randy Lewkowicz and Gene Brown, as Suzanne and Diane shop-vacced the cement beneath.

In the end, we are thinking of varnishing the cement floor and putting down some area rugs (it’s the hip thing to do now), and maybe this will be a blessing in disguise, Extreme Flood Makeover. The chance to see the love of our friends and neighbors in action (as Nick did not leave until 10:30 p.m.) was such a blessing for us, too.

It was also neat to uncover a cement patch in which Diane and I and the Lewkowic'z’s had put our initials back in 2003. Great memories of good friends helping us live the dream here in Glenwood, sharing our home with us for about 3 years. All in all, if you had to have flooding, this turned out as well as it could.

Frank Sinatra theology

Lately I have been wrestling with what I call Frank Sinatra theology (or maybe it’s Bing Crosby) – do-be-do-be-do. There is such a pull in me to “do” things for the Lord, to live a Kingdom-minded life. I see the brokenness of the world around me, from neighbors on Silver to families in my church, and feel the need to get busy fixing. And yet in my times with the Lord, I am learning the lessons of abiding, of waiting, of trusting the Lord to be the one doing the work.

While I know that resting in Christ does not equal inertia, I also know that sometimes my “kingdom work” can look and sound spiritual but be generated by my flesh. This morning I was reading in Colossians 3:1-3, and Paul tells us to set our hearts and our minds on heaven, on things above, not on earthly things. It was interesting to me that my mental distractions that immediately sprung up were not material items I wanted or sexual temptations or anger towards someone who had wronged me, but rather people and issues around me that I ought to help with. I see other churches who are doing more than my church, and I think I need to generate more programs for the poor. I remember how harried and exhausted I was when we were seeing tons of financial assistance cases last year and I shudder, but then I think, “At least I was doing something."

I’ve also been studying Mark, and I have been intrigued by how much time Jesus spends talking about God’s Kingdom and how little time He spends fixing people. It seems that if the Kingdom advances in the lives of people, many issues of the world begin to take care of themselves.

And so right now, I think that I am being called to listen to the voice that says abide and trust. To seek Christ and His Kingdom, but not seek to make the Kingdom come. To wait and listen, even if it feels unproductive, and believe that God will move me when it is time. Maybe I need to change my listening genre to blues for a while and hang out with “Be Be” King (sorry, that was a pretty bad pun, I know).

Monday, June 01, 2009

Remaining in Christ sermon

This is the “teaser” I sent out to our church last week in advance of Sunday’s sermon. If you want to hear the message, click the link for Life in the Vine (teaser 2: my main sermon props were an artificial Christmas tree and a tomato plant).

“As I listen to the rain pour down this evening, I am smiling. My gardens are getting exactly what they need, and soon, I'm going to see some veggies forming on the vine. I love watching as week by week, the plants do their thing, growing taller and greener. The fruit simply comes as a product of the plant staying rooted and bearing what it was created to bear.

“Do you believe that bearing fruit for Christ could possibly be as simple for us as bearing fruit is for my veggies? Join us this Sunday as we look at John 15:1-8 and talk about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit, maturing as His disciples.”

Click link for the podcast: Life in the Vine

Also, for further enjoyment and musical accompaniment to the sermon, download this awesome version of  Be Still My Soul, a hymn that speaks to God’s sufficiency (podcast is free, song costs 99 cents).