Christ in…Politics?!

One of the ideas in which I believe strongly, one of the basic premises, in fact, behind the writing of this blog, is that there can be no division between sacred and secular. There can be no segmenting out pieces of life, saying that this is for faith and that is not.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ~ Colossians 1.16-17
If all of life is under the authority of Christ, then the opposite supposition is also true, that there is nothing that is outside of Christ. The point seems inarguable, yet it seems easier to say that all is in Christ than it is to begin to name specific arenas that therefore matter to Him.
If singing hymns in church is in Christ, then scrubbing filthy toilets is also in Him.
If working in the food pantry is in Christ, then creating a PowerPoint presentation for work is also in Him.
If learning about Old Testament Prophets is in Christ, then politics is also in Him.
It seems unreasonable, yet the conclusion is inescapable. If in Christ all things hold together, then there can be nothing that falls outside of His realm of influence.
US Government
If politics, too, must fall within the confines of our faith, then we should spend time considering the best way that our land should be governed. Especially when we live in a land that gives us a voice. Especially when we live in a year that is an election year.
And so I have been pondering and wondering. None of my wonderings have produced anything that I could change, yet I still believe that the process of considering our country’s politics in light of the way God created life to work is valuable.
There is much in the Bible about teaching and training, about people being gifted to do specific tasks, about being and doing what you were created to be and do.
All of which makes me wonder if the idea of citizen governance is as good an idea as our founders believed. I understand, I think, that part of the reason behind term limits and bringing in ordinary citizens to do the job for a time is to prevent anyone from taking and keeping too much power.
It is easy to become drunk on the trappings of power.
Or so I’ve heard.
Yet would we want our children to learn under someone who just comes in and teaches for a few years and then is replaced by another community member? Would anyone trust a citizen surgeon?
Then why do we trust a job like governing our country to amateurs?
What if we treated politics like we treat other careers? What if we had a governing body that developed training and schooling requirements? What if people who have the talent for governance could attend a study program and go through an apprenticeship? What if that same governing body helped the governors of our land decide when it was time to retire, like the governing body that decides when it is time for us to give up our driver’s license?
I know that there are probably hundreds of issues that would make this improbable. I understand that none of this is likely to happen.
Yet isn’t it better to think through something as important as how our country is governed rather than just falling in line with how it has always been done?
Loving our country
If part of loving God means loving Him with all of your mind, then shouldn’t we use our mind to consider how all things would be best under His authority?
Even if it never comes to pass?
I believe so.

Photography credits: U.S. Capitol by purplepic; Flag on building by Robert Linder; Flag backlit by Robert Linder

Outside the World

We stand outside the world.
We dance and dream and die, and through it all we long.
We long for something else, for something more.  We long for something bigger, for something more real.
Some understand what they long for and others do not.  We long for what is true.  We long for a world that is fully real.
We catch breaths of the morning air, fresh and clean and pure.  We catch glimpses of the morning light, startling and bright and glorious.
Yet we stand outside the world and these hints of morning air do not change us.  We do not become pure or glorious.
We stand outside the world and we hear a Word.  We hear a Word that spreads a rumor.
It is a rumor that this shall not always be so.  It is a rumor that one day we will be allowed to walk through the door and stand on the right side.  On the inside.
It is a rumor that one day we will finally be changed by the Morning.  Through the Morning Star we will become pure and clean, bright and glorious.
We will be as we were made.  We will become as we are remade.  Remade into the very image of the Word.
And by moving through the Word we will be allowed to stand.  To stand in desperate gratitude.  To stand covered in another’s glory.
We will dance and we will dream, but we will not die.
We will stand inside the world.

The Beauty of Gray

The older I get, the more gray shades I see in our world.  An expansion of colors, a deepening of my perceptions, these nuances that make my life richer are a bit astonishing.
It was much easier when the lenses I wear saw only black and white.
Lily Black and White     Analise Black and White     Cross Black and White
Life gets harder when you see things from other points of view.  Straight lines get hijacked and carry you off to the unknown.  Solid perspectives grow a little blurry and you begin to take a softer view of those you disagree with.
The more I meet people who were raised differently than I was raised and the more I read authors from other places and times and faith traditions, the more I begin to catch a glimpse of how much my view of God, of the Bible, of the world around me is colored by my own place and time and faith tradition.
Just as with every place and time and faith tradition, there is truth to be found and there is misunderstanding.  There are many issues of our faith that I have been rethinking and restudying lately, asking God once again to teach me His way.
Issues like the role of women in the church and in the family, homosexuality, how science and the Bible fit together, what the inerrancy of the Scriptures really means.  On some of these issues I am changing.  On others I remain.  Yet on all of these issues and more, as I read and study I realize something that is even more important than figuring out what is right and what is wrong.
No human here on earth is my enemy.  We who claim the name of Christ are all trying to love Jesus and obey God’s words.  Rather than those who disagree with me being the enemy, being the one who is deliberately misinterpreting God’s words, being the one who picks and chooses what they will believe, those who see things in a different light are just trying their best to follow Jesus.
Just like I am.
Perhaps they are interpreting Scripture incorrectly, but perhaps I am the one who is wrong.
Grace.  It is easy to receive and devilishly difficult to dole out freely.  I spend so much time wanting to get it right, sometimes from good motivation and sometimes from pride, that I quit looking at the person with whom I differ.  I see black and I see white, and the sharp edges of truth keep me from seeing the gray shades of Jesus in the face of the person before me.
Lily Four Shades     Analise Four Shades     Cross Four Shades
It is easier to look at the black and white of an issue, because to see the gray of a person is to see Jesus.  And seeing Jesus is always hard.  Looking at the face of Jesus has a way of changing you deep down where it hurts.
There is a reason why Jesus said that the most important thing is to love.  Loving God and loving people is more important than getting it all right.  He didn’t say it was the easiest thing.  Most things with Jesus aren’t.
Loving others has a way of hijacking the straight lines of your life and carrying you off to the unknown.  Loving Jesus has a way of blurring your sharp edges and softening the contours of your heart.
It is painful and it is frightening.
Lily All Shades    Analise All Shades    Cross All Shades
And those gray shades are beautiful beyond words.


Thanks to Kirk Sewell for turning the colors of my photographs into various shades of gray.  You can see more of his work at

Sacred Eating

This is an essay that was featured on (in)courage’s Bloom Book Club Facebook page a few weeks ago.  Those who were featured were asked to also post these essays on our blogs this week and link up with everyone else on the Bloom website.  For those who have already read this essay once, I’ve added some pictures and a few links if you would like to read again.  For those who have not read this essay yet, welcome!
My girls love to eat.
Messy Eaters
By “love to eat”, I mean that they are mildly obsessed with eating. It is, in fact, difficult to get them to stop at times.
A eating corn
N eating corn
When I was in the hospital, having just given birth to my second girl, my dad called me around lunchtime. “Analise has had two sandwiches, some yogurt, a bunch of grapes, a banana, and some applesauce and she says she’s still hungry.” “Cut her off! Cut. Her. Off.” was my gracious response.
I am grateful that I do not have to deal with picky eaters, and at the same time I wonder how to get my girls to slow down, to enjoy the act of eating more rather than simply inhaling as much food as possible.
Glorious Food
It is so easy to fragment my life between sacred and secular, and eating would seem to fall into the latter category. Eating is, after all, a physical necessity, a way to sustain our bodily functions.
Yet God wants to knit the secular places of my life back into the sacred.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Brother Lawrence
Brother Lawrence, the dishwashing monk says:
The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.
So how do I make eating into a deliberately sacred event rather than a piece of my day that has no connection with God?
I am learning that eating is linked over and over again to fellowship with and enjoyment of God.
Christmas Dinner
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father celebrates the son’s return with a feast.
Jesus shares His last supper with his closest friends and then tells them that He will not drink again until He does it with us in heaven.
The image of a banquet, especially a wedding feast, is used several times to illustrate our enjoyment of God when we are finally with Him in body.
When we eat, we often are doing more than simply nourishing our bodies. We are sharing of ourselves with our family and our friends. This is sacred.
Thanksgiving dinner
Perhaps eating is one of the last things that our culture hasn’t been able to take the sacred out of.
Our world tries hard to take God out of all that we do, to make everything a matter of utility. Yet when we share a meal with our family or with our friends, there is a sacredness there that is felt even by those who do not claim to follow God.
God created food. He created eating. When all is created, when all is love, then nothing is ordinary. Everything is sacred.
I cannot separate my life into ordinary parts and miraculous parts, into secular parts and sacred parts, into praising God parts and eating parts.
Without Christ, nothing was made that has been made. In Christ, all things hold together.
Chinese New Year Meal
When we share a meal together, it is not ordinary, it is not solely of this world.
No matter how tempted I am to name something as mundane, as secular, it is not so.
Nothing that God has created is ordinary.
All is miracle. All is sacred.
There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the incarnation. ~ Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water

Art credit: Brother Lawrence in the Kitchen from a book published by Fleming Revell Co. in 1900.

God’s Passing Notes

I am really tired of getting things wrong, of feeling ashamed of myself.

I didn’t speak when I should have spoken because I was afraid of someone’s opinion of me.

I spoke sarcastically to my husband in front of several friends.

I chose to read story books rather than to spend time with God.

I yelled at my babies. While we were praying!

I often have a really hard time loving myself. I feel frustrated with my inability to obey, to love, to be perfect. I often have a very low opinion of myself.

I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who feels like this.

I want to share a truth that was recently spoken to me: Your opinion of yourself doesn’t matter.

Does that sound hard? It is true.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself…it is the Lord who judges me.  ~ I Corinthians 4.3

It doesn’t matter what you think of yourself, whether or not you approve of yourself. Only God’s opinion of you matters.

That’s worth saying again.

The only thing that matters is whether or not God approves of you.

This then is…how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. ~ I John 3.19-20

And the best news of all? The news that fills up my heart and gives me peace?

If you are in Christ, God does approve of you!

Just read Romans 8:

vs 1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

vs 33: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Yes, this includes bringing charges against yourself!) It is God who justifies.

vs 38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (italics mine)

When I am playing a difficult piece on the piano, sometimes I play the wrong notes. When that happens, rather than getting upset, making horrid faces and just quitting, my mother taught me to simply improvise the wrong notes into the next bit of music. These wrong notes are then given a new name: passing notes – notes that don’t really fit but can become fitting.

For me, one of the most breathtaking things about being a Christian is that God can take our worst mistakes and turn them into His passing notes. That’s what God is promising to do for us in the end, and it can start now. And if you haven’t heard that before, it’s time you did. ~ Jeremy Begbie

So. Take a deep breath. Quit thinking about yourself and your mistakes.

Trust God’s approval of you in Christ. Allow Him to turn those mistakes into His beautiful passing notes that lead us to become who God intended for us to be.