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No Time

We'll drift in the haze of space. #Portland (

The world never stops. Its citizens scurry from home to work and back with barely time to breathe in a frenetic freeway rush of activity. Climbing the corporate ladder requires extra hours, so even sleep is sacrificed to the gods of success. Those removed from the work-a-day world whirl through meetings and projects of clubs and causes. Or they focus their time on leisure activity, the great oxymoron of modern society.

Activity is addictive. And like any addiction, there are consequences. The symptoms of life’s staccato speed are universal: headaches, depression, loneliness, irritation, shallow relationships, mountains of debt in the frenzied pursuit of bigger and better. What will it take to regain perspective, return to sensible living? Where does rapid-fire, war-torn living end?

A doctor from Australia, now living in Seattle, suggests a solution. Christine Sine writes of a different way in Sacred Rhythms: Finding a Peaceful Pace in a Hectic World (Baker Books, 2003). And she starts with her own experience: “I was so busy being zealous for God that I did not take the time to renew and replenish my spiritual life,” Sine writes. “I ended up in the hospital.

“I spent time reflecting on what had brought me to that place and how I could have avoided it,” she continues. “The underlying cause was a viral illness, but I am convinced that my body rebelled against my fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle. I had abused my body. I had lived in a state of constant spiritual arrhythmia . . . . Now I was paying the price.”

In just over 230 pages, Sine offers a challenge to Christians in the western world. She asks them to stop for a moment, diagnose the arrhythmia of their own lives, and seek out the proper rhythm established by the Creator of life itself.

Sine recognizes that separation from the world — in most cases — is neither desirable nor possible. She insists that we need balance: “a rhythm that both paces us through the everyday and sustains us through the mountain passes.” And she spends considerable space selecting and explaining disciplines intended to restore a healthy focus to our lives and balance existence in the world with a spiritual perspective.

Celebration: “Christ is meant to break the power of the eternal winter of our souls and bring festivity and celebration to our lives.”

Prayer: “Intimacy does not develop from a one-sided monologue.”

Relationship: “We know that the darkness is dispelled and the dawn has come when we can see in the countenance of another the face of Christ.”

Sabbath Rest: “For the Jews, Sabbath is fundamental to life and to both their spiritual and emotional health. It is the culmination of the week, the day that gives purpose to all other days.”

Christ’s message, according to Sine, is not one of guilt or condemnation. Instead, God longs for His creation to rediscover the gift of life He gave in the garden. It’s not a duty. It’s not a space in time waiting to be filled by human activity. This gift of life is opportunity and only the beginning of what God has in store for those who seek Him.

We know that the darkness is dispelled and the dawn has come when we can see in the countenance of another the face of Christ.

Whether to Count

Yesterday (

This morning, thinking about what it means to minister, I remembered a thought that came to me eight years ago. I was struggling with the measures we use for outreach activities in the church. We count commitments. The argument goes something like this: “We count people because every person counts.” It sounds like a great bumper sticker slogan, but if that’s what ministry is about, I reasoned, than Christ commissions salesmen. Back then, I refused to think of myself as God’s salvation huckster. I still find the idea repulsive.

My focus must be on letting God have His way in me rather than trying to push my way on others. I’ve seen the church commercial with it’s cheap grace: “You can have all this for a quick, repentant prayer and no payments for the rest of eternity! But wait, there’s more! Act now and receive quality Sunday morning programming for your entire family!”

That’s not what I need, and it’s far from what I desire. I want to meet God. I want to know Him. I want to follow Him. I want to die to self and live in Him so that I might have life and have it to the fullest. In turn, I hope that others will glimpse Christ alive in me and begin to recognize their own hunger for what is real rather than that which is easy or cheap.

“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” John 12:25, 26

I was struggling with the measures we use for outreach activities in the church.

Preemptive Strike

We are slaves to time, its colors and forms. (

More than 100 Americans have died in Iraq this month. And suicide bombings in Basra Wednesday along with continued battles in Fallujah leave the conflict with no end in sight. Our “war on terror” is not going well, and Congress is holding simultaneous hearings on how much more we’ll have to spend as well as what went wrong. The pre-emptive strike — hailed as an operation of surgical precision — has ended in a quagmire.

In the beginning, it seemed this was the only sane method for removal of a madman. Using force to capture Saddam made sense. Now, we’re committed. Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic announced they’ll withdraw their troops within the next few weeks, and Poland may join suit. Meanwhile, we have close to 135,000 fighting men and women in the region with thousands gearing up for transfer to Iraq.

I don’t know what will happen next, and I don’t have any good advice or words of wisdom. But Jesus — in His introduction of God’s Kingdom — offered us another way.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Here is a different kind of preemptive strike. We respond to those who would make us victims by offering more than they require. It seems like foolishness, this loving of enemies and prayer for those who persecute, and it runs counter to my personal concept of equity. But Jesus understood the weight of His words. He called us then and now to a holy revolution. And He made it personal when he instructed us to begin by loving our neighbors.

“Christ didn’t say, ‘Love humanity as thyself,’ but ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ and do you know why? Because your neighbor, by definition, is the person nearby, the man sitting next to you in the underground who smells, perhaps, the man next to you in the queue who maybe tries to barge ahead of you, in short, your neighbor is the person who threatens your own liberty.” Luciano De Crescenzo

Your neighbor is the person who threatens your own liberty.

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