Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Joy and Contentment - their time has come!

I had a great conversation yesterday with someone from our fellowship about how we evangelicals have a tendency to fixate on denial, suffering, loss, mourning. Her problem, she went on to share, was that she was in a very good place in her life, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. And the strange thing is this - It seems that this 'good space' in which she finds herself has feeling out of step with the Christian community.

I know what she's talking about: There's this sense, almost like an atmosphere, among evangelicals, that joy and contentment are somehow states that fall short of God's purposes. The result is a failure to enjoy the gifts God has given us and the seasons of grace that belong to our lives. That's sad and sick enough to make us weep. Why would we think that joy and contentment shouldn't belong to those who are in Christ? But what's sadder still is that our failure to enjoy the gifts that God has given us make us exponentially more vulnerable to destructive expressions of those same gifts. So the Christian who can't enjoy sexuality and sensual pleasures in his marriage becomes a prime candidate for pornography and infidelity. The person who can't enjoy good food becomes a candidate for anorexia. And my failure to see the sunrise, and taste my incredible coffee in the morning means that I'm depriving myself of the rich store of memories that should be mine when I am led into the value of the shadow.

Eugene Peterson says it this way in The Message: "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, frave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, "What's next Dad?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Faith and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us - an unblievable inheritance." Romans 8:15-18

Or how about this one... "Seize Life! Eat bread with gusto. Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh Yes... God takes pleasure in your pleasure. Dress festinely every morning. Don't skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love, each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one." Ecclesiastes 9:7-9

So please... can we lighten up in the midst of our ongoing transformation and taste our coffee - drink our wine - see our sunrise - laugh - sing - give thanks. We may not be able to do any of it tomorrow! This, I hope, will become our testimony of hope in a hopeless world.

Carpe Deim...


At 19/11/05 21:51, Blogger Jody Prusi said...

We too have felt blessed this year! We feel the tug of God shaping our hearts and minds to move towards Him.
One of the ways in which I am changing personally, is with the need to take action on the behalf of others who are less fortunate. My husband and I both seem to run the distance emotionally from feeling pity to indignation at those who can't seem to take of their own and stand at a busy street corner to beg for money, or ask a mother with two children of her own to help them! Somehow the feelings we have never seem to go away or to resolve anything. So one day I was driving by another street corner beggar and from my frustration I thought to myself," I have to DO SOMETHING!" so I proceeded to go to Fred Meyers, where I bought supplies to make up lunch bags. I went home and told my husband what I did and he just laughed, probably knowing more than I, about what was to come. Today was my first experience in trying to give one of these lunchbags to someone.
I am filling up my car at the gas station when a man walks up to me, he is young and obviously the victim of a stroke at some time in the past. He asks me for a couple of dollars and as I shake my head he lowers the request to 25 cents for coffee. I shake my head again and when he leaves me to go ask someone else, I remember I have a lunchbag in my car. I finish my fill up and take the bag out giving it to the man who looks at it, says nothing and goes to ask a third person for money. Hearing no again, he promptly throws my lunchbag on the ground and stomps off! He goes over to a fourth person who gives him some money and finally buys his cup of coffee. Incredulous I think " How could he throw away six dollars worth of food for a cup of coffee?" Well, therein lies the dilemma, It would be easy for me to say he gets what he deserves, that is why he is on the street, but the fact is the reasons run deeper than that. Values are not perceived in the same manner, and we have no experience in middle class America to draw from in this.
As I drive home my mind is contemplating a similar experience that my daughter had while in Mexico building homes for the poor there. What she found is that some people did not immediately accept the help and give thanks but indignation. This holiday season I hope that we will not let others responses shape our behavior but that we will move to be more like Jesus. Let us pray that we might continue to be generous and that others may accept our help with grace.

At 22/11/05 19:32, Anonymous Kristi said...

I, too, have felt a slight fear of times of contentment, mistaking that satisfaction for complacency. It is such a temptation to believe that ONLY in utter wretchedness are we fully experiencing God, forgetting that our blessings only become problems when they distract us from the Giver of all good things. What a timely exhortation to thankfulness, with a holiday season speeding on its way. Let us remember to take the time for contentment, for gratefulness, for JOY! Thanks for again writing exactly what I need to hear. Your words are such a blessing to me.

"Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much that we can share,
With those in need we see around us everywhere..." -The Muppets


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