Infinite Worth

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Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

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Why do we strive mightily for what ultimately has no worth or meaning?  We spend too much of our lives accumulating that which cannot last, blinded to the reality of our inherent worth from the moment we came to be.

We are worthy because we are His, created for His Glory, illuminated by His Light.

It’s that simple: we bloom.

 

 

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To Be Interruptible

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We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

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I’ve worked hard in my professional life to be easily interruptible;  my patients, colleagues and staff need to be able to stop my momentum at any time to ask a question, get an opinion or redirect my attention to something more important than what I’m doing at that time.  As a physician, it is crucial that I remain prioritized from outside my field of vision as I don’t always realize where I’m needed most until someone grabs me.

In my personal life, I struggle with interruptions happening outside my control.  I feel imposed upon when things don’t flow as I hoped or planned– after all,  this is MY life.

Yet God interrupts.  God interferes.  God intervenes.  God intrudes.  God intercedes.

As He must.

I must be ready, accepting, answering His grace with my grace.

It is HIS life living within me, His plan, His timing, His priorities, His story playing out in such a way that it becomes my story.

I can’t skip ahead to see what happens on the last page, but I hope it is one of those stories I don’t want to see end when the last word is written.

 

 

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God Among Us: The Wonder of All Wonders

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The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8

 

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
~Madeleine L’Engle  “The Winter is Cold, is Cold”

 

Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

 

My weakness does not separate me from God,
but brokenness and weariness
is His invitation to draw closer to Him.
I lift my eyes to hills; my help has come.
Wonder of all wonders.
EPG

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Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

 

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, long, long ago

God, heaven cannot hold Him nor the earth sustain
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ

Angels and archangels may have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air
But His mother only in her maiden bliss
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man I would do my part
Yet what I can, I give Him, give my heart

God Among Us: Brothers of All Mankind

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Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity for this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2: 14, 17

 

And in the Incarnation
the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God.
Henceforth, any attack even on the least of men
is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man,
and in his own Person restored the image of God
in all that bears a human form.
Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord,
we recover our true humanity,
and at the same time we are delivered
from that individualism which is the consequence of sin,
and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race.
By being partakers of Christ incarnate,
we are partakers in the whole humanity which he bore.
We now know that we have been taken up
and borne in the humanity of Jesus,
and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means
that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others.
The incarnate Lord makes his followers the brothers of all mankind.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

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I’m reminded after every long day in my clinic, weighted down by the sorrows of the people I am asked to help — how much greater was the weight borne by God as mere baby delivered by woman to become humanity with us and for us.

His incarnate presence unites us all as brothers and sisters to each other, whether or not we speak the same language, whether or not our skin color is the same, whether or not we have great riches or dire need.

This is the truth of the God of love, that we should love one another, even after a week such as this — we are delivered by Him who was delivered.
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All poor men and humble,
All lame men who stumble,
Come haste ye, nor feel ye afraid;

For Jesus, our treasure,
With love past all measure,
In lowly poor manger was laid.

Though wise men who found him
Laid rich gifts around him,
yet oxen they gave him their hay;
And Jesus in beauty
Accepted their duty,
Contented in manger he lay.
Then haste we to show him
The praises we owe him;
Our service he ne’er can despise;
Whose love still is able
To show us that stable
Where softly in manger he lies.
Poverty Carol (Welsh)

 

 

  • This is the truth sent from above
    The truth of God, the God of love
    Therefore don’t turn me from your door
    But hearken will both rich and poor
  • The first thing that I do relate
    Is that God did man create
    The next thing which to you I’ll tell
    Woman was made with man to dwell
  • And after that, ’twas God’s own choice
    To place them both in Paradise,
    There to remain of evil free
    Except they ate of such a tree.
  • But they did eat, which was a sin,
    And so their ruin did begin,
    Ruined themselves, both you and me,
    And all of their posterity.
  • Thus we were heirs to endless woes
    Till God and Lord did interpose
    And so a promise soon did run
    That He would redeem us by His Son
  • And at that season of the year
    Our blessed redeemer did appear
    He here did live and here did preach
    And many thousands he did teach
  • Thus He in love to us behaved
    To show us how we must be saved
    And if you want to know the way
    Be pleased to hear what He did say
    ~The Truth from Above — Traditional English Carol

 

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The Storm Within

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Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions,
beneath our religion or lack of it,
we are all vulnerable both to the storm without
and to the storm within.
~Frederick Buechner – from Telling the Truth

We are so complicit and compliant
in pleasant and peaceful appearance,
sitting in silence allowing
our inner storm to stay well hidden;
if called and compelled to face wrongs boldly,
the tempest can no longer be contained.
Silence in the face of evil
must itself be shattered,
even the rocks will cry out,
as our storm spills forth
speaking the truth.

 Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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A Shudder of the Heart

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Follow Breanna and Jim Randall on burmachronicle.com

…you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you.  These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christ is always stronger in our brother’s heart than in our own, which is to say, first, that we depend on others for our faith, and second, that the love of Christ is not something you can ever hoard.  Human love catalyzes the love of Christ.  And this explains why that love seems at once so forceful and so fugitive, and why “while we speak of this, and yearn toward it,” as Augustine says, “we barely touch it in a quick shudder of the heart.”
~Christian Wiman from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

This young couple and their unborn child leave for Asia today to serve as long term missionaries to strife-filled Myanmar.  I’ve known them both for over a decade and for the last several months they have stayed at our farm waiting for this day when they had enough funding and support to leave for a place few people visit, and where even fewer would choose to live and raise a family.  Yet off they go, with so many hugs and hopes accompanying them.

Breanna’s family had arrived at our church over ten years ago with three very blonde daughters in tow — Breanna the oldest.  I have watched her grow through her teens into a determined woman of faith, seeking where she might best serve and never leaving a doubt in any of our minds that God would direct her to where she was needed most, whether it was to use her writing or cooking skills, or to share her entrepreneurial spirit to help others plan and execute their own business.

Jim knows Myanmar well, having served as a missionary there for much of the last seven years, learning the language and working on an updated translation of the Burmese Bible.  He first came to our church as part of a small group of local university students who sought a worship home that was steeped in scripture and dedicated to mutual support of the church body, both here and abroad.  He sat at our kitchen table ten years ago and talked about his computer programming major and how he hoped somehow to make a difference in the world with the skills he was learning.   We (and he) could not have imagined his hope would lead him to a rural village in Burma and the challenging itinerant life of a missionary.   He would return to the States occasionally to report on what he was seeing and experiencing, and on his most recent visit home two years ago, there was Breanna in the front row, all grown up and full of questions for him about life in missions.

Ten years ago no one expected these two would find each other.   Yet God has plans for His people that we can never guess at, swerve from nor try to circumvent.  Their love for each other catalyzes the love of Christ in people they reach out to — never hoarding, never shrinking from a call to go to a place unlikely and unappealing.

For those of us they leave behind, it has been a time of farewells and tears and no few “shudders of the heart” as we bid them Godspeed to their new home far away.

For Jim and Breanna, the seemingly endless goodbyes now become hellos as they bring a love so yearned for to new brothers and sisters on the other side of the earth.

 

 

Awaiting His Arrival: From Being Turned Away to Answering the Knock

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2: 6-7

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20

 

…we are faced with the shocking reality:
Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality.
He asks you for help in the form of a beggar,
in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing.
He confronts you in every person that you meet.
Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people.
He walks on the earth as the one through whom
God calls you, speaks to you and makes his demands.
That is the greatest seriousness
and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message.
Christ stands at the door.
Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from an Advent Sermon “The Coming of Jesus into our Midst”

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