Saturday, November 22, 2008

Discretion and Discussion

A time to be silent and a time to speak…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.7

A Proverbial Problem

Why all the proverbs about keeping thoughts to ourselves? They're so well known, a parlor game could be built around them. Two teams, two pads, and 30 seconds—go! “Loose lips sink ships.” “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” “Discretion is the better part of valor.” “Don’t spill the beans.” “Think before you speak.” “Still waters run deep.” “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” “Don’t talk out of school.” And a personal favorite, “Take something to your grave!”

With all these mottos on the loose, one might expect far less loose talk. But, oh my, how we love to talk! We tell on us, each other, friends and neighbors, and even people we’ll never know—celebrities and acquaintances twice removed and random strangers whose compulsive talk invites us to repeat what we overhear. We buy magazines and surf Websites for more to talk about. We watch mean-spirited TV attorneys speculate wildly about alleged criminals and victims. In today’s chatterbox culture, anyone is fair game and loose talk is only offensive if we’re the subjects. That alone should teach us to mind what we say. But we don’t quite connect being talked about and talking about others. Wags coin proverbs about talking too much because too much talk is—literally—a proverbial problem.

Listeners First

According to Solomon, there are times for discretion and times for discussion. As much as what we say, when we say it reveals more about us than those we talk about. Our comments float into the ether, leaving impressions behind: Mary’s a gossip. Martin’s a braggart. Meg’s a critic. Ryan exaggerates. Though we preface observations with disclaimers, if our audience is too inexperienced or impressionable to acknowledge our sincerity, it’s the wrong time to speak. In Romans 14.15 and 16, Paul explains why ignoring perceptions harms others and us: “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” Being strong enough to speak honestly doesn’t override considering our audience. “The ear tests words as the tongue tastes meat,” Job 34.3 says. The ears our words fall on decide the right and wrong in what we say. Putting listeners first disables the compulsion to show off how smart we are and how much we know. It informs us whether it’s time to keep silent or time to speak.

Spiritual Correctness

Political correctness does us a grave disservice by shifting attention from things we say to how we say them. But swapping older, belittling epithets for newer, “appropriate” ones doesn’t change what they mean. It just ties a fresher ribbon around the same scorn and hatred the old phrases expressed. For instance, a person with an IQ below 70 is clinically retarded. As we know, the classification seeped into usage decades ago as a general insult having nothing to do with mental ability. Teaching our children to refer to retarded people as “special” or “challenged” only allays our guilt for abusing the terminology when we were young. Before today ends, hundreds of kids will use “special” and “challenged” disparagingly, meaning exactly what we meant by “retarded.” Nothing’s changed. It’s not a matter of “inappropriate,” but unacceptable. Until political correctness takes that on, it’s no more correct than what it pretends to replace.

Spiritual correctness, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on what’s acceptable by measuring what we say, how we say it, and when it’s said by God’s standards. This is why David prays, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD.” (Psalm 19.14) It’s why Jesus chastises Pharisees who malign Him, saying, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12.34) It’s why Paul advises Timothy to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4.12) Spiritual correctness fixes our thoughts first, so what, how, and when we speak is acceptable to God. And if He’s pleased, we can be confident we’re saying the right things when it’s time to speak and keeping our thoughts to ourselves when it’s time to be silent.

video

Attempting to scripturally justify this would stretch credulity past all limits. Nonetheless, I can't resist. Dianne Wiest and John Cusack in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway: "Don't Speak!"

(Tomorrow: One in Ten)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rending and Mending

A time to rend, and a time to sew…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.7

Imperfect Fits

My partner and I are obsessed with “Project Runway,” Bravo’s fashion designer competition. One of its trademark moments comes as time runs out. A designer transfers his/her creation from mannequin to model and discovers how imperfectly it fits. The outfit gets ripped apart and reconstructed for a more flattering fit. It’s a huge risk. The show milks the tension, suggesting the designer might face his/her judges empty-handed. But always, in the end, it’s the right thing to do.

Our lives bring similar challenges. We apply imagination to time and resources we’re given in hopes of pleasing our Judge. Sometimes what looks so clever in theory fizzles out in real life. It just doesn’t fit. We can keep what we’ve got, pretending we don’t notice how unflattering it is and hoping no one else—God most of all—sees the disaster we’ve fashioned. Or we can risk tearing it apart and reconstructing it so it works. We may find there’s too much going on, too many unnecessary pieces complicating the design. On the other hand, we may learn previously eliminated parts contribute more to the design than we first thought. Rending times and mending times are typically fraught with anxiety. But, in the end, fixing our mistakes is the right—the best—thing to do.

Over-Accessorizing

Parents and teachers encourage us to amass friends because being well-liked signals character. The notion carries forward as we grow up. How we get along with colleagues and neighbors plays a major factor in how we do on the job and in the community. Then, when we decide to follow Christ, we couple what we’re taught about popularity with His commandment to love everyone. Equating indiscriminate friendship with unconditional love can lead to trouble, though. We can over-accessorize our lives with friendships that distract from, rather than enhance, the godly image we want to convey.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,” Solomon says in Proverbs 18.24. Seeking popularity exposes us to many hazards. It puts us in company and situations that bring us no good. For the sake of building and maintaining friendships, we make concessions that confound our desire to freely express God’s love. It’s essential to distinguish tolerant love from friendly indulgence. They’re not the same. Love accepts people as they are without condemnation. Indulgence accepts what people do—an altogether different proposition. Leading friends to believe their attitudes and behaviors are OK with us leaves us nowhere to stand when asked to join them. And friends who pressure us to participate in unacceptable activities aren’t true friends. They’re liabilities. They detract from our design. Difficult though it may be, the time comes to rend their influence over us without rejecting them as unlovable.

Patching Things Up

In counterpoint to ridding ourselves of unprofitable friendships, we face an equally tough challenge: mending torn, beneficial ones. Stubbornness, pride, jealousy, and other unnecessary weight we carry can fray good friendships until they finally burst their seams. But as we mature in Christ, much of what pushed them past their breaking points falls away. We slim down, if you will. Greater experience and knowledge reveal how much these estranged friends added to us. Patching things up asks many things—honesty, humility, and courage chief among them. Yet it’s imperative because until these cast-aside friendships are mended, we won’t fully please God with our reconstructed lives.

Solomon balances caution against many false friends with admonition to treasure true ones, saying, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” These people never leave us voluntarily; we send them away. We could rationalize not redressing the situation—what’s done is done, they’ve moved on, they’ll never trust me, etc.—were it not for what Jesus explicitly teaches in Matthew 5.23-24: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you… first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Mending healthy friendships takes precedence over worship, He says. Rending harmful friendships removes risks that impede worship. “There’s a time to rend and a time to sew,” Solomon tells us. Both times call for decisions that ultimately determine how we’re judged on the runway.

 

In designing the "look" of our lives, what seems good in theory may not properly fit our purpose. Unflattering friendships need rending; essential torn ones need mending.

(Tomorrow: Discretion and Discussion)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Having and Heaving

“A time to keep and a time to throw away…”

                        Ecclesiastes 3.6 

The Corners of Our Minds

The Streisand classic, “The Way We Were,” begins with a dud: “Memories, like the corners of my mind…” I suspect her songwriters meant, “in the corners of my mind,” because that’s where memories live. They’re artifacts of events that once commanded center stage. The actual occurrences happen quickly and yield the spotlight to new ones. Their memories don’t leave. They hide in shadowy corners for us to spy in our periphery or unexpectedly stumble across.

If only we could apply Solomon’s counsel about keeping and throwing away to memories—if we actually could choose those worth having and those worth heaving. But we can’t govern memories any better than the events that spawn them. They are what they are, and we should accept that. Memories can, however, be managed. And that’s where Solomon’s wisdom obtains unique relevance. Inability to purge our minds’ corners outright of unwelcome reminders doesn’t prevent us from addressing them one by one, consciously deciding what of each to keep and what to toss.

Core Removal

When I was 10 or so, a nasty boil popped up on my knee. I didn’t mention it to my mother in dread of the undoubtedly painful procedure she’d administer. (She was a nurse before entering ministry and many things that sent other kids to the doctor she treated at home.) The boil grew until wearing pants was unbearable. I had to ‘fess up. Mom glanced at it and ordered me to the kitchen. She sliced a potato, shaved off a bit as a poultice, and bandaged my knee. “Go to bed. You’ll be fine by morning.” I was. The starchy potato had drawn the boil’s poisonous core to the surface. “Now, don’t you wish we’d done this sooner?” Mom asked.

In dealing with pain from our past, love is to memory what potato is to boil. “Love covers over a multitude of sins,” 1 Peter 4.8 tells us. And in 1 Corinthians 13.5-8, Paul says it “keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” A poultice of love is the treatment of choice for bad memory core removal. It goes beneath surface wrongs to counteract underlying victimization, betrayal, despair, and resignation with protection, trust, hope, and perseverance. It turns our thoughts from what evil has done to what love can do. We keep the memory—as we must—but throw away the core causing so much pain.

Mind Renewal

Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12.2) What is the world’s pattern of bad memory treatment? Basically, it follows one of two methods: suppression or managing side effects. Unassisted, we try to bury the past; with professional help, we try to live with it. Both methods subscribe to natural logic—they’re both personality-based defense mechanisms. But neither fits the love-driven, unnatural lifestyle Jesus taught because it accepts evil rather than overcomes it. Christ’s followers don’t conform to conventional wisdom; we’re transformed to approach life from an entirely different, typically counterintuitive perspective. We do this by renewing our minds, filtering them of logic’s limited alternatives to infuse them with faith’s infinite possibilities.

There’s a reason why Paul uses the present tense. Mind renewal is a constant, conscious process, not some kind of spiritual conk on the head that induces amnesia. It’s more like waves of faith we release over thoughts about where we are, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. With each fresh surge, memories bob up—some quicker than others. When they do, we apply love that leeches their core poisons. Then it's time we choose what to keep and what to throw away.


I know nothing of Mr. Jones or his methods, but here's a great example of patterns Paul warns against conforming to. Hypnosis doesn't erase memories; it suppresses them. Renewing our minds transforms us to manage memories by applying love to remove their poison.

(Tomorrow: Rending and Mending)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Searching and Surrendering

A time to search and a time to give up…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.6

The Same Old Song

Thinking about this evokes more Top 40 hits than one might expect: The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” U2’s “Still Haven’t Found,” Waylon Jennings’s “Lookin’ for Love,” Chicago’s “Searchin’ So Long”—the list is endless. It’s also enlightening. It tells how deeply seated our drive to find and claim what we haven’t got really is. The compulsion is so overwhelming it eclipses questioning why we’re not satisfied, haven’t found what we’re looking for, etc. If we took proper time to analyze our objectives, though, we’d get a clearer idea of why we’re always singing the same old song.

There are as many reasons for not locating what we want as songs about it. For the record, let’s toss a few around. We may search for more than we can handle or less than we need. We may be captivated by an imaginary ideal that prevents us from seeing the real thing. We may look for something actually secondary to more elusive goals like impressing neighbors or building a façade. Our search may rise from envy or insecurity that ignores the thing itself to focus on what it symbolizes. Examining these and myriad other motives exposes flaws behind the futility of our search. In such cases, it’s time to give up and seek fulfillment in more beneficial, realistic pursuits.

Unexpected Places

Not every search is superficial, though. If it’s legitimately worthy, our search stays in effect until its objective is realized. It demands commitment and endurance. What we’re after remains top of mind. Our eyes stay open and faith guides us to believe it’s already there, waiting to be found. Where “there” is, though, isn’t always where we anticipate it will be. Many searches end in unexpected places, in unusual ways. Matthew 17 describes an incident where taxmen confront Peter about Jesus’s unpaid temple dues. While there’s a bigger point to the story—honoring obligations—what happens illustrates why we never dismiss any endpoint as too unlikely. Peter has no cash. He takes the problem to Jesus, essentially looking for money to pay the tax. “Go fishing,” Jesus says. “You’ll find it in the mouth of the first fish you catch.” It probably was the craziest idea Peter ever heard. Yet he took Jesus at His word and found what he needed.

Finding Love

The most significant search most of us ever undertake is finding love that lasts a lifetime. This quest is particularly urgent for gay people, many of whom view loving partnerships as the ultimate means of validating their worth and reconstructing self-images critically marred by hatred and rejection. The “urge to merge” plays such a potent, prevalent role in our overall community, however, that wisdom is vital to know what we’re really searching for versus what our culture encourages us to seek. Our media and merchants jam our minds with so many images, myths, and mystiques—and we invent so many codes, rituals, and catchphrases—that it’s a constant struggle to hold fast to our search. Too many distractions interrupt us. Too many surfaces gleam. Too many dreams cloud our focus. So our streets and establishments teem with Mr./Ms. Right Nows while Mr./Ms. Rights seem nowhere to be found. But if we’re there, they’re there, because we are they. Yet instead of seeking someone worthy and willing to love us as we are, we insist on circling the ring, looking for someone better—butcher, buffer, bigger, etc., etc., etc. Our world is full of lonely lookers chasing illusions.

If we’re truly sincere in seeking meaningful, lasting love, we have Jesus’s promise we’ll find it. Matthew 7.7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” We must believe that and take confidence we’ll find what we seek. But before we jump into our jeans and head to the hunting grounds, we should heed Jesus’s warning above His promise: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Placating ourselves with momentary pleasure puts us off our search and belittles our bodies, our emotions, and our beings as disposable commodities. It numbers us with the fast and furious crowd, putting us in serious jeopardy of being stampeded and ripped to shreds. “There’s a time for searching and a time for surrendering,” Solomon writes. Our search for what’s real will come to naught if we won’t surrender the unreal figments and fantasies we cling to and let cling to us.


Sincerity in our search requires surrendering our illusions.

(Tomorrow: Retaining and Ridding)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Holding On and Holding Off

A time to embrace and a time to refrain…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.5

Excellence

I live with a packrat who holds on to everything. This evening, we had one of “those” discussions—over a Pyrex measuring cup, of all things. We live in a high-rise flat with a galley kitchen and finite cabinet space. Given the paraphernalia we’ve collected over the years, every inch is precious. So when I found a collapsible cup that tucks into a drawer, I snapped it up. My partner came in tonight just as I trashed the old cup. With not a word, his look said it all. We’ll never use both at the same time, I told him. He suggested someone might want it. “Of course,” I said. “The next time somebody says, ‘Boy, I wish I had a measuring cup’ we’ll have one.” He wandered off, muttering about how I love to throw out perfectly good stuff. As I saw it, though, I replaced one cup with another to free up space the old one required. Keeping both cancelled the new one’s advantages. The Pyrex cup was history.

Growing in knowledge of Christ, we pick up better tools to replace old ones used for the same purpose. No finer example of this exists than love. Younger, less experienced followers of Jesus love out of obligation; it’s what He asked us to do. But as we mature, we learn love is an opportunity to introduce God’s presence to people and situations that need it. If we hang on to love as what we’re supposed to do, we negate advantages gained by approaching it as a privilege. Obligatory love is history, replaced by love no less obedient to Christ, yet far superior in effectiveness. This is why, transitioning from spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 to love in chapter 13, Paul writes, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.”

Expedience

Experience urges us to hold on to most excellent mindsets and habits in lieu of previously held, less effective ones. It also teaches when holding off is best. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.12 (KJV). Later, he repeats this, affixing a fresh conclusion: “not everything is constructive.” (10.23; NIV) Contrary to the legalistic bent of religiously (rather than spiritually) minded Christians, Paul places believers above the law. Codes and statutes are useless to him; they eliminate assessing how closely we conform to Jesus’s example on a case-by-case basis. The issue shifts from what’s right to what’s best, opening all options to consideration. Yet blanket permission doesn’t excuse us to do as we please. It forces us to choose between holding on to what’s constructive and holding off compromising influences.

Green Light, Red Light

“There’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain,” says Solomon. Knowing what we need tells us when to hold on; knowing what we don’t need tells us when to hold off. During early stages of walking with Christ, discerning what’s best in every situation—choosing excellence over expedience—isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like. Tools we’ve collected so far may prove inadequate and skills we've acquired may need fine-tuning. For example, it takes seasoning to embrace people unconditionally and still refrain from indulging their unhealthy pursuits. The art of simultaneously holding on and holding off comes with experience.

Regardless how often we fail to choose what’s best, however, we stay at it, applying today’s lessons to tomorrow’s challenges. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” James 1.4 explains. It’s a trial-and-error process. As one songwriter said, “We fall down, but we get up.” With every stumble, our sight improves. Experience helps us differentiate green lights signaling times to embrace from red ones that say “Refrain! Refrain!”


Experience teaches us to see when it's time to embrace and time to refrain.

(Tomorrow: Searching and Surrendering) 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Giving and Gathering

There is a time for everything… a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.

                        Ecclesiastes 3.1, 5

The Redistribution Principle

Coming off an election in which redistribution of wealth became an unexpected hot button, it’s good to revisit Jesus’s teaching of the principle. Its opponents try to scare us off with complicated economic and political theory, but it’s fairly rudimentary. “Give, and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6.38)

Sharing wealth creates wealth. This holds true with everything we give—money, time, tolerance, good will, and so forth. As Jesus instructed, how much we give determines how much comes back. Some pulpit charlatans have exploited this concept all the way to the bank, promising outlandish profits on modest, one-time gifts. But Christ’s redistribution principle isn’t a pyramid scheme—it’s a cycle. Giving lets us gather, gathering lets us give. Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” While practicing the principle yields substantial dividends, its operative factor isn’t ROI. It’s IOR—investment of returns.

Risks and Shelters

Financial gurus categorize investments as risks or shelters, counseling clients to weigh what they have now against what they desire in the long run. If they can afford temporary exposure, advisors recommend riskier investments with higher earning potential. If investors need stability, they’re advised to shelter their holdings in safer, less profitable ventures. Timing is everything—knowing when to buy and sell, when to take chances and when to take cover. This is literally what Solomon means by scattering stones and gathering them. At times our lives are so full and secure, we can afford to tear our house apart and give big chunks of it to those worse off than we. We can expose ourselves to risk. At other times, our coffers run low and storms rage. We need safe shelter. We gather stones to build security until our lives are replenished and the storms pass.

Gatherer’s Guilt

Paul ended his last sermon at Ephesus with this: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20.35) We’ve taken that quote (which, by the way, was off the record) and run away with it. And while its words remain intact, it’s gained new meaning over time. In Paul’s day, “blessed” meant “happy” or “pleased,” rather than current usage, which implies divine favor. Paul didn’t say God likes givers better than receivers. He said we should take greater pleasure in giving than getting.

Misguided embrace of Paul’s quote spawns resistance to expressing our needs. We prefer going without to feeling ashamed and beholden to others when time comes to receive. But gatherer’s guilt is nonsense. First, it reveals ridiculous pride in us. Do we really think not asking for or refusing help convinces people we’re completely self-sufficient and invincible? They know we’re not, because they’re not. Second, it squanders energy and resources we should be gathering for shelter from what got us in trouble to begin with. And third, how can others give if we can’t receive? Denying our needs denies their opportunity. It’s horribly selfish. Why we go from giving times to gathering times actually has nothing to do with us. They’re just parts of the same redistribution cycle that we all travel. Giving makes us happier, not holier. Gathering makes us stronger, not weaker. Both are responsibilities we can’t forsake—for others’ benefit as well as our own.

 

Giving and gathering are parts of the redistribution cycle. We should feel happy to open our hands when it's time to give. When it's time to gather, we shouldn't be too proud to open our hands for help.

(Tomorrow: Holding On and Holding Off)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sitting Around, Going Nowhere

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?”

                        2 Kings 7.3

State of Siege

The Israelites are in a state of siege. Enemies camp outside their walls and block their food supply. Their leaders have no reliable means to overtake the enemy, nor are they inclined to broach a peaceful compromise. Walls they built for protection now imprison them. Dwindling stockpiles bring on malaise—a sort of Death Row mentality that transforms a once vibrant community of faith into listless people sitting around, going nowhere.

God sends Elisha to tell the king the food shortage will end and markets at the city’s gate will reopen in 24 hours. The king’s most trusted advisor questions this. “Look,” he says, “even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” He apparently believes God will provide for His people, raining down manna if necessary. It’s this business about the markets reopening in plain sight of the enemy that worries him. Elisha answers, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it!” The advisor’s faith falls short because he expects God to see the problem as he does, from the inside out. But there’s a new plan afoot. God intends to end this crisis from the outside in.

Stuck in the Middle

While Elisha speaks to the king, four lepers size up their situation. Religious law labels them as undesirable and bars them from the city. They hover at its gate, relying on charity from people who fear them. Without the market traffic, their income dries up. They’re stuck in the middle—lost between warring factions. Yet their isolation buys freedom. Nothing to lose gives them options. “Why stay here until we die?” they ask. Sitting around, going nowhere isn’t viable. They can go into the city, where there’s no food. But starving to death where you’re not wanted is no better than starving alone. Their best alternative is approaching the enemy. “If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die,” they reason.

As night falls, the lepers move out, unaware God is unleashing an uproar that sounds like an army of Israel’s allies riding to her aid. The enemy flees in panic and the lepers enter the camp to find plenty of food. Their first impulse is to hoard it, but then they say, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we’re keeping it to ourselves.” Armed with their astounding discovery, they’re welcomed in a city that once banished them. The markets reopen the next morning. One final irony: the skeptical advisor lives to see God’s promise fulfilled yet, as Elisha predicted, he doesn't taste God's provision. Crowds rushing to plunder the enemy camp trample him to death.

Exercising Options

GLBT Christians and other ostracized believers can strongly identify with the four men. Exclusionary religious laws force us to sit outside the gates, depending on the kindness of conscientious, courageous people. Meanwhile, the church is under siege, trapped by walls of self-righteousness and bigotry allegedly erected for its protection. It’s cut itself off from the world and the exchange of ideas it needs for nourishment. Stranded in no man’s land, we starve. But, like the lepers, rejection blesses us with options. We should exercise them.

Rather than hover at gates that won’t open for us, by faith we move out in search of spiritual sustenance. Our Father safely leads us to provision. Finding there’s more than enough, we say, “This is a day of good news and it’s not right to keep it to ourselves.” Millions of our brothers and sisters sit locked inside traditions and taboos, slowly dying of spiritual starvation. Their leaders expect God to look at the church’s turmoil like they see it, from the inside out. But there’s a new plan afoot. It may be that God intends to end this crisis from the outside in—and we may be the ones He uses to make it happen. We can’t sit around and go nowhere, hoping the standoff will end soon. We can’t sit here until we—and countless others—die.


Why sit at the gates until we die, when we can move out on faith in search of spiritual sustenance? And when we find it, why not take the word back to countless other starving souls?

(Tomorrow: Giving and Gathering)