May we grow up together into Christ our head, who knits us together into one body for His glory. May our love for one another be our witness to the world that we belong to Jesus, that He is alive among us.
May we press into holiness as those brought from death to life. May we encourage, admonish, correct, teach, mentor, and sharpen one another as we imitate Jesus and are transformed into His image together.
May our gatherings be a signpost of God’s coming Kingdom, where the broken find refuge and safety, where the sick find prayer and healing, where the lonely and fatherless find family, and where we all see Jesus more clearly.
May we walk in the power and boldness of the Holy Spirit, declaring the riches of God’s deep and wide mercy for this world through Jesus Christ.
May our worship redirect us to love our neighbors as God loves them, and realign our dependence upon the faithful and just power of God to redeem people from every tribe, tongue and nation.
Go in peace.
(Written for Anabaptist Core Conviction #5: “Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender and baptism is for believers.”)
May we proclaim Jesus as Good News to those in need of good news, welcoming the unwelcome, eating with sinners and outcasts, and blessing those that the world has deemed unworthy of God’s blessing.
May we not seek power, prestige, or wealth. As new creations, may we seek the power of the Holy Spirit, the status and reward of being known by God, and may we pursue generosity and a store of treasure that cannot be stolen or destroyed.
May we serve one another, as well as the poor, the powerless, the least in our world, just as Christ came not to be served, but to serve.
May we throw off the weight of selfish ambition and vain conceit, following Jesus into a life of humility, sacrifice, and obedience even to the point of death, that the extraordinary power of God might be displayed in these jars of clay.
May our unshakable hope remain in Christ, whose sufferings we share, whose comfort and mercy is abundant, and whose power raises the dead.
Go in peace.
(Written for my local church for Anabaptist Core Conviction #4: “The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.”)
May our allegiance be to our Lord Jesus, who has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and has brought us into his own kingdom of light.
May we walk by faith as aliens and foreigners in this world, following Jesus’ example as we love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and pursue peacemaking in a world that has not yet seen the Prince of Peace.
May our citizenship be as members of God’s household, His chosen people, His royal priesthood. May we direct one another to Christ, rejoicing with those who rejoice, grieving with those who grieve, and bearing the burdens of one another in the love of Jesus.
May we proclaim Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as faithful witnesses in the power of the Holy Spirit, imploring every tribe, tongue, and nation to be reconciled to God.
May our lives bring praise to God, who in his great mercy, has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
Go in peace.
(Written for Anabaptist Core Conviction #3 for my local church: “Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalised Jesus, and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.”)
Parents of toddlers know this one thing: you can’t easily change anything.
Sure, it’s 90 degrees tonight, but you better have those fleecy pi’s with the lions on them clean and ready to go.
Yes, you’re out of cereal because you need to go to the store, but cereal is the ONLY acceptable breakfast this morning. Make it appear in that pantry or suffer the consequences.
Or, my personal favorite: I wanted a WHOLE banana, but because I insisted on peeling the thing myself, it BROKE IN TWO PIECES!
Now, for me, multiply that by two (I have a 3 and 1 year old), subtract verbal skills for one, and add explosive anger for the other, and that’s my toddler situation. Joy. (It really is, but such hard days sometimes) So now, here we are, selling nearly everything we own and preparing to move to Colorado in October, then overseas in December.
With two toddlers.
Mayday! Mayday! S.O.S.!
As we sell each piece of furniture, poor Kian sees his very life slip out of his control. He expresses his sadness and loss of control as rage and extreme stubbornness. Suddenly, it takes upwards of an hour to coax him into his clothes in the morning. It takes hours to lay him down at night. He refuses every task he used to happily do. On top of this, he knows how to push the buttons of the people he knows, and he has set the crosshairs on me.
I’m a sinner. It hasn’t been pretty.
Last week, after an entire day of catering to all the needs of an extremely fussy (teething?) 18-month-old, a stubborn and whiny and disobedient 3-year-old, and a very whiny, needy 5-year-old…and hearing “I hate you” yelled at me by these little ones…I just sat on the disaster of a kitchen floor after bedtime and stared at the cabinet. Nothing left. No energy, no ideas, no hope left for myself and quite sure I’d made a mistake by becoming a mother.
I’ve written before that these kids are my living parables, that God teaches me about Himself…and myself…through them, even while the intensity of this season keeps me from long “quiet times.” (QUIET?!)
And so as I stared at those cabinets, I saw myself in little Kian, with life feeling out of control and just digging my fingers in and flailing about, hurting everyone in my wake. I wonder how often I’m so sure the Lord is doing something to me, leading me places I don’t want to go, when His heart for me is good and He is reassuring me that He will be there even when the world is falling down all around. Teaching me that quiet trust is a safe place to be, though everything else is changing.
It’s actually very humbling how much I see myself in my toddlers. How I respond to change very much like them.
There are ways we’re making our family a “safe” place for our kids as everything around them changes. It’s hard work and we aren’t great at it yet. But even as we respond to violent outbursts with gentleness, to proclamations of hatred with promises of love, with a caring firmness and careful teaching that is for their good…I see the Father in it all and I want to be like Him.
This year, it seems the world has unraveled a bit, with the atrocities of the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, the Ebola outbreak threatening to collapse West Africa, Boko Haram’s kidnappings.
I get overwhelmed with the needs of this world, ripping apart at the seams with evil and injustice. There are too many things to care about, pray for, take action. I care that so many do not have clean water and die of things like diarrhea and dysentery. I care that far too many girls and women are victims of sex trafficking, genital mutilation, child marriage, sexual assault, and abuse. My heart breaks over the evil of ISIS and the persecution and chaos they leave in their wake. I care about buying fair trade so that farmers can have living wages and that I would reduce my contribution to worldwide slavery. I care about the homeless here in Dallas, the cycles of poverty that can be so hard to break out of. I care about the billions around the world, looking for the things that the Kingdom of God is about–life, healing, justice, dignity, love, provision–and no one to announce the Good News there. I care about those in my own midst, hurting and transitioning and struggling.
Didn’t Jesus come for these? Didn’t He come to announce Good News to the poor? To those in slavery? To those oppressed?
And I look around at a church culture that is Good News for the wealthy, the Haves, the middle class. Here, have a latte and a Bible study. I see the great disparity between Jesus’ life and American church life, and I feel so powerless and little to change anything.
I ask for more power, more influence, more resources, more time, to pour into these causes because they are close to the heart of God. And I find I have very little power, that I cannot afford fair trade everything, that few people listen to this little young housewife, and even this blog is pretty small potatoes. I want to do everything, but find that I am limited. It turns out, I am human. And my power is very small.
What hope do I have?
Jesus turned the powers of the world upside down. He was born in scandal to young Mary, shepherds (outcasts) were invited rather than kings to bow down. He was raised in a Nowhere town called Nazareth (what good could come from there?). He was rejected by his own hometown, rode a donkey instead of a regal horse or camel. He had a following of lepers, tax collectors, women, children, and fishermen. Victory was gained in the most unlikely way: a death on a cross. What appears more powerless than that?
The way of Jesus is stooping low, of humility and serving often without reward, appreciation, or notice. It’s a way of closet prayer and calling on the Almighty to intervene. It’s taking up a cross, which may result in actual death, following in the footsteps of the Suffering Servant. It means doing little things that I can do instead of lamenting the Big Things I cannot do, praying that the Lord would make any of it matter.
And it means because I am limited, I must listen to the voice of God to tell me where and who to serve. I truly cannot do it all. Even my ability to care is subject to compassion fatigue and overwhelm. Maybe I can give time and advocacy for this, $25 per month for that, knee-scraping praying for this, go to these people in this particular location. Maybe I can be encouraged and encourage those I see in the Body of Christ lifting up the causes I cannot, trusting that God’s Spirit is carrying them to do what must be done.
But what is not acceptable is doing nothing simply because my somethings are small and not world-changing.
So until Jesus rides in on that horse, dispensing justice and wholeness and the Kingdom we long for, we take up our cross and our wash basins. May we serve in our small ways wherever we are, following the Lamb wherever He goes.
May we submit our lives to the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, who is the reflection of God’s glory, and who sustains all things by his powerful word.
May we seek and find understanding of the Law, the Prophets, and all of Scripture in Jesus, the promised Messiah, the mediator of the better covenant.
May we listen to one another as we study the revelation of God, allowing the message of Christ to dwell richly in us as we teach and admonish one another.
May the Holy Spirit empower us to follow Jesus faithfully together, built up in love with Christ as our cornerstone.
May we hold our doctrines, dogmas, and creeds with humility and meekness, seeking unity among all believers as we pursue truth together.
May we cling to Jesus with hearts of obedience and trust, following him though it may seem risky, naïve, and foolish to the wise of this world.
Go in peace.
(Written for Anabaptist Core Conviction #2: Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.)
I had the very great honor of writing benedictions this past summer for my local church. Our pastor was preaching over the seven Anabaptist Core Convictions, so each benediction corresponded to the conviction discussed each week. I had never done this kind of writing before, and found that I truly loved it.
So I’d like to offer my benedictions here each Friday – the first seven will be the ones I wrote specifically for the Anabaptist Core Convictions (though they are based heavily in Scripture, so could be used in any denominational or non-denominational setting).
These benedictions are my prayers for the Church, my hope for us all as we follow Jesus together, from meditations on the Word of God. If you are a church leader, please feel free to use them. If not, I hope you’ll pray them with me.
(Anabaptist Core Conviction #1: Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.)
May we fix our eyes on Jesus, the image of the invisible God, the author and perfecter of our faith.
May we graft our lives into His life, the abundant vine, keeping his commandments and bearing fruit through his love.
May we follow Jesus closely, listening to him with ears willing to hear, watching him with eyes willing to see, and may our feet be ready to go wherever He leads.
May we take up the cross and follow the Lamb of God even to death, rejoicing in the great honor of suffering for him, and holding fast to him as we grieve in hope.
May we be formed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, imitating his humility, mercy, and grace.
May we go out into this world as ambassadors of our risen King Jesus, proclaiming his reign and calling all creation to worship Him.
Go in peace.