Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marcescence and other Marvels

“All virtue is a miracle,”

The little oak tree on the other side of our back fence clings to its leaves all winter while other trees loose their foliage. “Marcescence” is the term botanists use to describe the phenomenon. They speak of unformed abscission layers and other arcane causes, but they do not know why some trees refuse to give up their leaves until spring.

I noticed last week, however, that the oak tree was dropping its dead leaves. The process was effortless: One by one the old leaves broke away and fluttered to the ground.

I wondered what brought about this transformation and looked more closely at the tree. I discovered that a tiny new leaf had formed at the base of every stem and had forced the old leaves off the tree.

“Aha!” I said. “A miracle.”

And so it is: All virtue is a miracle. We cannot rid ourselves of the old life and its vestiges. We cannot shoulder the burden of our sanctification any more than we can shoulder the burden of our salvation. Our part is to embrace every day what our Lord is doing in us and count on him to rid us of all that is unworthy.

As we walk with him day after day, taking in his words, seeking to be like him, asking for his help, resting in his wisdom and love, new life will emerge and old things will pass away—silently, slowly, mysteriously, inexorably. “The same God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish...” (Philippians 1:6 The Message).[1] 

So, don’t fret...

go for walks,
live in peace,
let change come quietly and invisibly on the
—Thomas Merton

[1] Cf., Psalm 138:7, 8

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bow Wow
 “We have known and believed the love that God has for us.”—1 John 4:16
A friend called me the other day to lament his sins. Said he wasn’t good enough for God. I agreed with him.
But then I told him about Bow Wow.
Bow Wow was a rag dog that one of our sons adopted when he was two years old. Bow Wow was Linus’ shred of outing flannel, Radar’s Teddy Bear and the Velveteen Rabbit all rolled into one. Other toys had more intrinsic value, but none was more cherished than Bow Wow.  
Bow Wow was hugged and dragged everywhere and in time became indescribably dirty. Cleaning him became a major problem because we couldn’t tug Bow Wow away from the boy. Washing Bow Wow only made things worse: All his stuffing came out. In the end he was nothing more than a dirty, stringy bundle of rags.
But, my how he was loved!
It occurs to me that we’re God’s rag dogs—tacky and desperately dirty, but precious beyond all computing, loved by Love that will never let us go. Love that looks at you and at me and says, “You’re not much to look at, but you’re mine!”
Stuart Townsend put it this way...

How deep the Father’s love for us;
How vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son,
And make a wretch His treasure.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Humbling Up

“Sometimes, you have to humble up to win.”
(BSU linebacker Derrell Acrey when asked to step out of a starting role.)
Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday and read again the story of the “Triumphal Entry.” We were told that Jesus entered Jerusalem, “humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Thus he rode in “triumph.”
What an odd juxtaposition: “triumphant” and “riding on a donkey.” I picture a fully grown man riding on a tiny, shambling donkey, the man’s feet dragging the ground. A ludicrous sight!
Yet the man is described as “righteous” (in the right) and “bringing salvation” (setting things right).
I thought of those times when I have been “in the right” and have ridden in to set things right, but charged in on my high horse, and brought instead ruin and devastation. Oh, for the grace to enter into every conflict “humble and riding on a donkey.”[1]
Paul put it this way: “A servant of the Lord must not be contentious, but gentle to all, able to teach,[2] patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition...” (2 Timothy 2:24,25).

[1] I find this prayer pertinent to church disagreements, but more so for conflicts closer to home!
[2] The word Paul uses here has a curious, ambivalent sense: “teachable” and “able to teach.” The word suggests a tractable mind, an awareness that we who teach must always be learners and that we may not be “in the right” after all.

Putting Us Right “An’ noo, for a’ oor wrang-duins (wrong-doings) an’ ill-min’ins (misjudgments), for a’ oor sins and tre...