May 13, 2012
November 23, 2011
When Job’s life is about to be taken away from him, he can say one of two things. He can curse God, as he is tempted to do, and say, “God, why not fifty-one years of life?” Or he can surrender to love and say, “God, why even fifty years?” Why did I deserve life at all? When we take on that attitude, we’ve made a decision for grace.
“Naked I came into the world, and naked I will leave,” Job says (Job 1:21). What do we have, brothers and sisters, that has not been given to us? All is grace. All is given. Who gave me this hand? Who wiggles these fingers? Who created these eyes which I cannot explain or understand? I cannot even make this hair grow. It is all gift.
From beginning to end, everything is grace, everything is given. There is nothing that we have a right to or that we deserve.
– Richard Rohr
I read this Richard Rohr quote last night on Facebook. It was both what I wanted to read and what I didn’t want to read. It was probably what I needed to read. In the midst of a difficult week, month, year, I needed to be reminded that my life is full of gift, full of grace. That is the beautiful reality that all of us live in.
So I enter Thanksgiving this year with both an honest recognition of the difficulties in life, and a renewed realization that my life is full of grace. My life itself is a grace. I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for … far more than I deserve. It is all gift.
August 4, 2011
Today Robyn and I celebrate the tenth anniversary of our wedding. I am thrilled!
While that probably sounds like an obvious statement, let me tell you that I struggled with our anniversary a little this week. You see, we are currently facing a number of challenges in life (This is not just the Gen Xer in me whining … there are some real challenges.). In many ways, this is not what I wanted life to look like when we celebrated our tenth anniversary. I was disappointed, and a little angry about the circumstances.
Then I remembered two pieces of advice that we give couples in pre-marital counseling:
– You will have challenges in life, that is not your choice. Those challenges will drive you together or drive you apart, much of that is your choice.
– On your wedding day you give yourself to your spouse, and they give themselves to you. There is not a greater gift that you can give. There is not a greater gift that you can receive.
Robyn and I have weathered some storms of life over the past ten years, more storms than either of us would have anticipated, many of them outside of our control. While we always have the choice of how we will respond, and we do not always get it right, the storms have strengthened our bond. We are in this together.
The point of today is that we are in this thing together.
That is reason for great joy!
Ten years ago Robyn and I exchanged vows of commitment to each other. We did not lay out a business plan for a worry-free life. There were no powerpoint slides with life graphs always going up and to the right. We gave and received something even greater – self. We continue give ourselves to one another. There is still nothing more valuable that we could give or receive
The point of today is we continue to give and receive the most precious gifts possible.
That is reason for great joy!
The current challenges of life have allowed me to focus on what Robyn and I are really celebrating today – our union together. Today we celebrate the existence of “us.” That is it, and that is reason for great joy!
In the years to come, we will have anniversaries with more favorable circumstances. We will also have some anniversaries with less favorable circumstances. The circumstances are not really the point. The thing that we remember and rightfully celebrate today is our sacred promise to each other.
So today I take joy in the mysterious reality that when the question was asked,
“Do you intent to have Jim as your wedded husband. Do you pledge to love him, honor him, comfort him and protect him – through good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want as long as you both shall live?”
Robyn answered, “I do.”
Robyn I love you. Here is a link to take you back in your memories to our first home together – that apartment made out of a boat factory – complete with strange pipes and mysterious bulges in the wall. We sang this song about being together in the midst of challenging circumstances.
July 29, 2011
The week of my last blog post I discovered that I was going to transition out of my pastoral role at Elmbrook church. In December a new senior pastor arrived at Elmbrook. Those of you familiar with the church world will know that it is common for a new senior leader to restructure ministries and often reassemble the staff. That has happened at Elmbrook. The ministry that I led was integrated into the broader church, and I am one of a handful of pastors who have left staff.
April 23, 2011
The past nine months I have been attempting the ancient practice of the divine office. While it may take various forms, I am utilizing a liturgy of prayers, readings and songs six times a day. There is an Ap for that. Seriously, I practice the divine office on an iPhone application which is helpful!
Today’s office of morning readings included the homily that I posted below. It is about Jesus descent into hell. To be honest, while Jesus descending into hell is a part of church tradition and even found in the Apostles Creed, I have not been convinced that there is strong biblical support for the idea. Regardless of what exactly happened on Holy Saturday, this homily beautifully describes much of what happened for humanity in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I pray that you find it encouraging.
An Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday: The Lord descends into hell
February 27, 2011
This is my first Sunday Shout Out in a long time, and it is a very special one. This Sunday Shout Out is to my mother, Judy Vining.
I could give a Sunday Shout Out to my mother for a lot of different reasons. I could write about how she sacrificed and served to raise two children as a single mom. I could write about the warm hospitality that she has extended to hundreds of people over the years. I could write about her career as a nurse serving thousands of women and children living in poverty. I could write about the strong convictions that guide her life.
While all of those would make great posts, this is about something different. This shout out is for the profound things that my mother said to me recently.
First, you need to know a little back ground. A few months ago we discovered that my mother has pancreatic cancer. Since the diagnosis our family has done a lot of researching, praying, planning, and crying. It has been hard, very hard. In a recent visit I was inspired by how she is choosing to face this difficult journey.
This is how my mother is trying to approach each day:
I want to handle the days ahead with grace.
I only know that I have today.
Today, I know that I am loved.
Today, I have people to love.
Today, I can make a difference.
Her words are full of wisdom that all of us would do well to live by.
(Thank you mom for all that you have done for us over the years. We love you. Happy Birthday!)