Sunday, August 24, 2014

I don't read my Bible every day.

I know, I know. This makes me a pretty rotten evangelical.

But I'm in good company. Most Christians in most places at most times didn't even have access to their own Bibles. Jesus didn't read the Bible every day, and neither did St. Peter, or St. Paul, or any of the early church. 

The "read your Bible every day" rule is ubiquitous within evangelicalism, but despite its strong presence in our particular church tradition, I'm unaware of any Scriptural basis for it.

The Bible itself doesn't tell us to read it every day, but rather to meditate on it day and night. Daily Bible reading regimens can be a wonderful tool to help modern Christians answer this ancient call, but we have to remember that the Bible was initially written for people in less technologically privileged times and places. God was still at work among them, even though they didn't read their Bibles every day, and he's still at work today among believers all around the world who don't share our astonishing access to print.


The Bible tells us to meditate day and night, but it leaves a lot of freedom as to how we're supposed to do that, and it only ever refers to Scripture reading in public contexts. Given that we are no longer bound by Old Testament regulations, it's just fine that we don't read the entire book of Deuteronomy aloud every seven years at our debt-cancellation party. Still, the plans laid out in Scripture are full of wisdom, and while we have full liberty to replace those ancient devotional practices with modern technologically-driven approaches, we are not free to mandate our modernized practices, nor to restrict the work of the Holy Spirit to the confines of our inventions.

If we tell people about the ways that we benefit from daily Scripture reading, and recommend that they do likewise, this is good. Very good. We serve a God who chose to become incarnate, and we do Him honor by bringing His truth to bear in our particular times and places.

But if we tell people that it's a sin not read their Bibles every day, we join the Pharisees in adding on to God's requirements, and we dishonor Him by restricting His work to the particularities of our time and place. 

And anyway, why every day? Why not every hour? Why not every minute?

But this is silly. We're supposed to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, and reading the Bible every minute would surely prevent anyone from actually acting on the things that he read. Hourly Bible reading is slightly more plausible, but it is still unlikely to work out well for most of us, most of the time. In the same way, reading the Bible every day is very profitable for many people, but it is not something that everyone is able to do.

And that's okay.

So read the Bible when you can. Better yet, listen to other people read it aloud whenever you get the chance, whether that's in public or in private or through your computer speakers. Meditate on God's Word always. Think about it while you wash the dishes, while you commute, while you break up yet another fight between your kids, and while you scroll through your facebook feed. And as you flop exhausted into bed, pray that you dream about it all night long.

And yes, take a good honest look at your schedule. Plan to be transformed by Scripture, and if that means cutting some things out of your schedule, then so be it.

But never forget that God cares more about the doing than the reading, and that all the reading just multiplies your guilt if it isn't teaching you how to love. And whatever you do, don't ever allow your Bible reading to squeeze obedience to Christ out of your schedule.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't
let
the world's
bright blood stain
your hands. May it pulse
in glittering veins buried deep
beneath Earth's crusty skin. You who breathe the air, live free.
Let love like golden sunlight pour
in spirit and truth
from hands held
open
and
clean.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

If
you
would rise
heavenward,
stoop down to caress
the tattered fragmentary leaves,
the rocks that crumble first to sand, then dust, and above
all the little earthworms, fellow
flesh. Bow low, knees pressed
to the ground
that God
so
loved.

Friday, August 8, 2014

His yoke is easy, but you really do
have to put it on. Bear this burden,
and be borne by its light. Rising with the gravity
of fire and wind, obey his stern command
of mercy. Receive its blessing, and live as children
of God most merciful, God most kind, and God
all mighty righter of wrongs and bringer of peace.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Choosing

Choice is an odd phenomenon. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever managed to give a really adequate explanation for how it can possibly exist, but experience tells me that it is very real.

I do this thing.

I choose.

I decide, and in so doing I demonstrate time and again that the universe is much more than matter and energy in mindless motion. There are always various reasons and causes behind my choices, but there is a bright, bewildering freedom as well. I am constantly constrained both by my circumstances and my character, but within those limitations, I can choose to do one thing... or another. Whatever I choose, the fact of my choosing is a deep mystery that points to the great Chooser who was from the beginning, and whose intention contintually shapes and directs all our lives.

It happens every time I choose pistachio almond instead of fudge ripple, every time I choose to write a sonnet, and every time I choose to let the words slip by because this moment with my children matters more than anything I could say about it. It happens every time I choose to gather the courage to lovingly confront another's sin, and it happens every time I choose to swallow back my bitter words and just keep silent.

I participate in this god-like mystery of choosing all the time.

Except not really. Not always.

Sometimes I don't choose. Sometimes the ugly words just tumble out before I can catch them, and sometimes my silence is fear-bound and involuntary. Sometimes it's both all once, as shame of the words that I shouldn't have said holds back the words that I should have said, until they burst out, putrid, at some absurdly inappropriate moment.

Sometimes my actions are simply and entirely the product of my circumstances and my temperament. Sometimes the image of God is so obscured in me that I am little more than matter and energy in mindless motion.

It's pretty ugly when I'm in that state. We humans can't be good automatons, since that is not how God designed us. The moment we cease to choose, we cease to submit to God's perfect plan for us, since choosing--and choosing well!--is at the heart of what He wants from us. We can choose well, or we can choose badly, but when we aren't choosing at all, it's always awful.

When we choose badly, we start to lose our ability to choose at all. We slip into a spiral of hurt, shame, and just plain orneriness, until we find ourselves doing most of the things that we've decided not to do, and very few of the things that we wanted to choose.

Jesus paid a tremendous price to bring us back to our original glory as choosers in the image of God.

Grab hold of this gift, and guard it well!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free...serve one another humbly in love." Galatians 5:1a; 13b NIV

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I was always told the passive voice
should be avoided, since it does not result
in drama. Still, my rebel soul's been captivated
by peace. Things have been said and done, and these
must not be allowed to continue on unnamed.
There are words which must be spoken with unrelenting
quietude, with love that leaves nothing forgotten, but keeps
no record of wrongs. Things have been said and done.
I have done my share of them; this much
I must confess. As for the rest, the telling
may be the task of another, but for me,
to speak will always be passive, and the words of blame
must all give way to deeds of restoration.
Things have been done, and much remains to do.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Love
is
neither
the fullness
nor the poverty.
Do not be distracted by such
incidentals. Love is the endless economy,
the current and the currency
that flows in between
the endless
motion
of
peace.