C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere that it is best to try to like everybody you meet. After all, it’s easier to love people that you like. And Jesus teaches us to love everyone.
Good as his word, Jesus set the example he wants us to follow. For instance, as he gasped for breath on the cross, he asked for forgiveness for the ones who had driven in the nails. But even Jesus struggled to follow Lewis’ advice to like everybody.
Especially one group pressed Jesus’ buttons: religious people. Or at least, some among the Pharisees and the scribes were on the receiving end of his sharpest criticisms. Spiritual arrogance was chief among the traits that set him off. Continue reading
[Listen to Audio] Barbara Brown Taylor writes about exploring Organ Cave. Or more accurately, she talks about what the dark taught her in that cave.
Hearing that Taylor was researching the spiritual significance of darkness, her new-found friend Rockwell and his wife Marrion offered to take her to a vast cave network near their home. Continue reading
[Listen to audio] Grace has a way of creeping up on us.Before we realize it, Jesus has been at work shaping us into his very own Body. We’re just not able to see ourselves as he does yet.
For instance, I had a major surgery when I was in my early twenties. The surgeon prescribed months of post-op rehab. As soon as possible, I showed up at the therapist’s office.
The woman who greeted me there eyed me warily and, with a chill in her voice, told me I would have to wait while she reviewed my file. Whatever it was I had been expecting from a therapist, this wasn’t it. I realized that she was a speech therapist, not a psychological counselor. But I wasn’t prepared for the Big Nurse routine. Continue reading
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Don Armentrout stood tall enough to ride the big rollercoasters at Disney World and Six Flags. His balding head formed a kind of natural tonsure, and he peered through eyewear that resembled twin magnifying glasses.
When I was a seminarian at Sewanee, Don delivered his Church History lectures at a torrid clip, frequently hiking his sagging khakis back up to his waist as he said, “You know what I mean?” We all struggled to keep pace with him in our notes and breathed a sigh of relief whenever he started in on one of his brief asides.
One day, he said something like this:
When you get out there in your churches, people are going to come looking for Jesus. And all they’re going to get is you. You better think about that.
I’m still thinking about that. And now I’m asking you to think about that. All sorts of people are looking for God. God took up flesh and moved into the neighborhood. God comes to meet us in Jesus.
And here’s the catch. Since the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit, we are the only Body that Jesus has. People will come looking for Jesus, and they’re only going to get us. And that’s exactly how God designed it.
To borrow from Sting, every move we make, every breath we take represents Jesus to the world. God expects us to represent Jesus in the way he deserves. God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration hinges on it. Continue reading
Musical chairs is one of those children’s games that teaches a wretched lesson.
You probably remember how to play. Somebody arranges chairs in a circle, making sure to have one less chair than there are players.
While a tune plays the participants walk in a circle around the chairs. As soon as the music stops, everyone scrambles for a seat. The person left standing is out. One chair is removed, and the game resumes. The game reaches its final round with two players and one chair. There is only one winner.
The lesson about human community is bleak. To have a place, you have to take it from somebody else. And only a very few are going to get the place that everybody is struggling to get.
I’ll bet nobody ever considered calling this the Kingdom of Heaven game. But musical chairs does bear a dismal resemblance to how our world too frequently works. And Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he has come to do something about that. Continue reading
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When Ezra Tull was still a child, his father Beck picked up and left. Beck’s departure maimed and scarred Ezra, as well as his mother Rose, his brother Cody, and his sister Jennifer. Each in their own way.
Reeling from the feelings and the economic fallout of abandonment, the remaining Tulls grew distant from one another. The weight of loss and the sting of rejection frayed the fragile threads that bound mother to child, sister to brothers, brother to brother.
In Anne Tyler’s novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ezra tries to weave all of these scattered, fractured individuals back together. He repeatedly plans a dinner for them at the eating establishment he manages and eventually owns: The Homesick Restaurant.
Ezra believes in the power of a shared meal to mend his family. His restaurant provides a homey setting and offers a menu of comfort food designed to nurture and heal the homesick soul. Continue reading