Category Archives: Faith

From John Weborg

“Colossal evil is unprepared for an encounter with colossal grace. Such evil is caught off guard when grace dares it to do its worst (Colossians 2:14-15). When grace is too good to be true, it becomes the ground of its own dismissal. Yet grace won’t go away. It reaches beyond itself, as was the case at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, site of the deaths of 90,000 women and children during World War II. The following prayer was found on a scrap of paper near the body of a dead child:

‘O Lord, Remember not only men and women of good will, but also of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us, remember the fruits we have brought thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgment, let the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness. Amen. Amen. Amen.’”

An Easter reminder

My kids love to be read to, and part of our nightly ritual is sitting on one of their beds after they are all tucked in and reading sections of a longer chapter book. We alternate between books from the library, books we own and have read before, and the big children’s Bible they love.

The big kids can have a hard time settling down at the end of the day, so one of the expectations during the reading time is that they lay in their beds, practicing being “quiet and still”. They can of course ask questions, and there is typically a fair amount of “Excuse me, Mommy…” and “Excuse me, Daddy…” and the waterfall of questions that we have come to expect, especially from Mercy. (Someone made the comment this past week that if we could somehow charge admission for entry into our daughter’s mind, we would be rich!)

At some point, either if it is late, the kiddos are extremely tired, or there have already been enough questions asked, we will tell the kids that they need to lay still, with eyes closed, and no more talking. This is often what it takes for them to finally settle down enough to come anywhere near to sleep.

The other night I had reached the point with Mercy (Aaron had already passed out) where we were at the eyes closed/no more talking stage, and I was reading for her the story of Jesus’ death. This is almost always the story she asks for when I open up the big Bible.

As I finished reading about the crucifixion, I chose to keep going with the story and I read this:

“Peter and John returned home, but Mary stayed by the tomb weeping. Suddenly she looked up to see two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had lain.

“Why are you weeping?” they asked her.

“Because they have taken my Lord away.” As she spoke she turned and saw a man standing behind her in the shadows. It was Jesus, although at first Mary failed to recognize him.

At this point, Mercy’s body grew completely tense and her face started to twitch, yet she managed to keep those eyes closed and remain horizontal on her bed. I continued reading:

“Why are you weeping?” he said. Believing him to be the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body had been taken.

“Mary, it is I.”

“My Lord!” she cried, her face full of joy.

As I read these last words, Mercy suddenly erupted into a grin that seemed to cover her whole body and her eyes flew open. And through that giant smile, her voice breathless, she hurried to explain: “Mommy, my face just always has to smile when she says “My Lord”!”

Mercy’s joy, uncontrolled and overwhelming, at hearing about that moment when Mary recognized Jesus; when she realized that her Lord was alive, is a good reminder for me of what this Sunday is all about.

Shane Hipps on Porsches and the Gospel

I came across an interview with Rob Bell and Shane Hipps on the Out of Ur website this morning, and the subject they discuss in the interview is the role of “the medium” in proclaiming the message of the gospel. This is a timely discussion as we see a lot of church-growth initiatives rely more and more on video screens. Just yesterday I sat with an old friend who is a pastor in the area and this issue came up: how new generations are being shaped by technology and how the church is responding to that.

Shane was a TA for one of my preaching classes at Fuller, and he offered a great deal of encouragement and affirmation to me as a preacher, for which I was grateful. I was pregnant with Mercy at the time of the class, and I remember feeling a bit self-conscious in my mostly male class. It was my first preaching class at Fuller and I hadn’t realized it but I was still slightly haunted by my experience at North Park Seminary where a male student shared during the feedback time in a preaching class that my eyelashes were too distracting. I remember debating what to wear when I gave my first sermon to the class and thinking about how to minimize the fact that a child was growing in my belly, fearing the ways that would “distract”. All that to say, Shane was great, and it was fun to see him in this video sharing about a topic that he is passionate about.

I would love to hear any responses to what he suggests in this brief interview with Rob…

Another Mercy

When we were deciding what to name our first child, Doug and I had a funny experience where someone made a joke about a name we could use and then commented that the nickname for that name could be “Mercy”. Neither of us said anything to each other in the moment, but later we both commented to the other that we thought “Mercy” would make a really cool name.

I have known a lot of Faiths, Graces, Hopes and Joys, but I have never met another Mercy. I have enjoyed that Mercy’s name is unusual. I have enjoyed the way it makes people stop and think about the word and what it means, because it is not familiar. I have loved how her awareness of her name has so often reminded me of this central, shaping theme in our life of faith. And I have loved how she has journeyed in her own understanding of what her name represents.

As I sat in the ER on Saturday, I noticed a little news item scroll across the bottom of whatever news channel was playing in the room, and there was a word that leaped out at me: Mercy. The announcement had to do with Madonna and her pursuit of adoption of a Malawian girl whose African name translates into English as “Mercy”.

So now with the celebraddiction that dominates our culture, I expect that Mercy’s name will have lost a bit of its novelty, and now instead of a discussion about our faith with people who comment about her name, we will instead likely end up talking about Madonna.

Update

For those who are praying for my friend in L.A.: she does not have West Nile as they initially believed. Her paralysis remains, and she now has pneumonia as well. Please pray for the Lord’s full healing and grace to be upon her and her loved ones.

Young lives

One of the things I am really enjoying here at Shoreline Covenant is the opportunity to be involved with pastoring our youth. There has never been a season in my adult life that I have not, in some capacity, served young people, and while the youth ministries of our church here are not one of my areas of focus here in terms of job description, I am involved in working with all of the other adults who serve our youth in seeking together how we can serve our young people and walk alongside them in their discipleship journey.

This morning I came across a discussion at Scot McKnight’s blog that I will definitely follow that explores what kinds of shifts have taken place culturally for youth, and how the church is or is not responding.

The post suggests that maybe 25% of youth who participate in a church’s youth ministries will grow into mature disciples of Jesus. Do you think that is accurate? Why do you think that is true?

One commenter writes:

The fact that there is a “their” culture is largely “our” doing. Who worships youth? Adults. Who makes the shows, the songs, the technology, etc. forming/facilitating “their” culture? Adults. Who made even ‘big’ church into something that ‘entertains then entertains some more?’ Adults. Who made following Jesus into something you can supposedly do while remaining loyal to consumerism? Adults. Youth groups are just amped up versions of big church, trying to ‘reach’ a more media sophisticated, less religious, more energetic group.

Grace also has a post up this morning that speaks to these questions on a much broader level in defining what discipleship or Christian formation really is. She offers a series of quotations form an article by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. These are well-worth the read. I will offer some of Willard’s thoughts as a concluding word here:

Spiritual formation is the process of establishing the character of Christ in the person. That’s all it is…Forget about perfection. We’re just talking about learning to do the things that Jesus is favorable toward and doing it out of a heart that has been changed into His.”

Please pray…

A dear member of our church family in Los Angeles was just diagnosed with West Nile Virus and is undergoing risky treatment for this as we speak. Pray for her husband and for their baby (she just found out she is six weeks pregnant); for God’s protection and for complete healing. She is currently experiencing paralysis form the neck down and is having difficulty breathing. We are joining our friends in around-the-clock prayer for her, and I am asking anyone willing to carry this burden with us to intercede for her.

Thank you.

Grief, fasting, and community

My friend Christine writes with great beauty and depth about journeying with pain and loss as ever-present companions. Christine lost her beloved son one year ago, and she wrote the following reflection on how her grieving mother’s heart will journey through Lent this year:

Last year at this time, I had a strong sense that I ought to abstain from meat for 40 days. It was odd because I only tolerate meat in minuscule amounts. I’m partial rather to shellfish and dessert. Hence, the high cholesterol.

I wrote something then about abstaining from the stuff of life rather than the fluff of life. It was a prophecy uttered unknown to myself for now until forever in this mortal habitation we call time. For what is the stuff of life more than children? They are evidence that one isn’t just going through the motions “long after the thrill of livin’ is gone,” to quote John, not the Cougar, Mellencamp.

This is how I know that God was not absent last March 28th at nine-o-something in the evening. It was his Spirit who inspired me to abstain from the stuff of life—the blood and muscle and sinew of my days—instead of chocolate, too ordinary a Lenten abstention, but one much more challenging for a frivolous fool like me.

The Almighty was preparing me for who knows how many years of abstention, of hope deferred, of evidence unseen…

So what this year? Am I excused from abstention because I do without already. Every day. Every hour. Every heartbeat and break. From the stuff of life, by half.

No. I think not, because life does in fact go on in this interminable Eternal Now. The flesh still needs its training in abstention. Abstention from excessive grief. Abstention from wallowing in the bitter cup. Abstention from fear and morosity…

Perhaps I’ll feast on joy for 40 days…

This past week she offered this comment on a spiritual retreat she had just attended:

Here’s the verse I brought home to meditate on through Lent:

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

(Psalm 126:6, ESV)

Our speaker reminded us not to surrender to our wilderness experiences, but to God in them. When we surrender to God in our difficult circumstances, we gather seeds to sow for the nourishment of others.

I had the privilege yesterday of sitting for a bit with a woman who, with her family, has walked through a simply life-shattering experience as a result of the actions of Christian sisters and brothers. She is on a journey of healing from the events that injured her and her loved ones, and I do trust that God is with her as she passes through this place of abandonment and affliction. But it is that: a dark place with more questions than answers.

I am reminded today how many of us need Lent to remind us to consider places of pain, sobriety, and grief. We need the ashy mark on our forehead because it is not our heart’s inclination to mourn and weep. But there are others in our midst who are already living among the ashes.

In the earlier centuries of church life, the forty days of Lent were the season when new believers prepared to be baptized into the church community. The members of the faith community joined these new believers in this special time of preparation and reflection on the death and new life that Christ gives. Lent and baptism were, for many years, intimately linked together (and still are for the Catholic Church). Lent was something the church did together, to identify with one another and with those being welcomed into their family.

My thought today is that we would do well to consider this season as something we do as a community. What would it look like for us to consider the places of suffering and death and isolation and grief that are present among us, and exercise intentionality toward joining our sisters and brothers there? Could we spend these days fasting, as a community, from the isolation that falls too quickly and easily upon those in pain? Could we see Lent as an invitation to come together as a body and identify with one another in some new way?

A whole lotta faith

One of our favorite breakfasts here at the Haub house is something we call “puff”. Four eggs, one cup flour, one cup milk and some melted butter make for a very tasty morning treat. The big kids typically help with the measuring and mixing, so they know the recipe: 411, as we call it.

This morning, Mercy really, really wanted a puff for breakfast. I was happy to make one, so I asked her to check and see if we had enough eggs. She walked over to the refrigerator, opened the door and pulled out the carton of eggs.

“We only have three eggs,” she reported sadly, looking inside. “Well,” I replied, “I guess we can’t make a puff today.”

Mercy stood there, still holding the open carton in the middle of the kitchen, looking down at the three eggs. “But Mommy,” she finally pleaded, “you could just be like Jesus…”