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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Taking a Break

As I sat down yesterday morning to write, I realized just how tired I have become. I have been writing blog entries six days a week and sermons on the seventh day for quite some time. It's now time for me to take a little break from my daily writing.

I want to take some time this Advent season to think about ways I might continue my sharing in some form via the Internet. I'll post something on New Year's Day to let you know where I'm at in my discernment process. In the meantime, I want to thank you for taking the time to check in with my blog. I hope our time together has been helpful.

May you have a blessed Advent season and a very Merry Christmas!



Back Up Plans

What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 35-36

When I was a senior in high school, I thought I had my future all planned. I thought I would graduate from high school, attend Whitworth College (a private Presbyterian college that was just 20 miles from home), get an degree in elementary education, and spend my career teaching near home. After all, no one in my immediate family had ever left the area. I figured I had no reason to leave either.

For several months I relaxed because I knew I had a plan in place for the future.

In March of that year I participated in a piano competition in nearby Spokane. The adjudicator was a music professor from Pacific Lutheran Unviersity, a private Lutheran university across state. He liked my playing and asked if I could make him a tape before he left town in a few days. I did. "I'll see if I can get you a full ride to attend the college where I teach," the professor said. He didn't quite get me a full ride, but he did get me a scholarship that paid for over half of my college expenses.

I was shocked the first few days after all of this unfolded. All of the assumptions I had made about how the world was supposed to work – and what my role in the world would be – were shattered. I ended up moving 6 hours from home, getting a degree first in secondary education and then theology, and eventually moving to far off places like Denver and Los Angeles.

I learned an important lesson about life through all of this: things don't always unfold in the ways you might accept. The quality of one's life is determined by how you adapt to those changes.

In today's reading from Numbers, we are reminded the Israelites had initially been introduced to a set of Laws that included the teaching that if a person killed someone then that person's life would be taken as well. Everything seemed cut and dried.

Over time, however, they realized things were not quite so black and white. There were instances where someone took a life accidentally. It would be inappropriate to treat them like those who had intentionally taken a life: hence the need for asylum-cities where those who had taken a life accidentally could live.

That evolution in the Law was yet another reminder that life doesn't always unfold in the ways we expect. Often, we need back up plans to help us deal with emerging circumstances.

As you step back and look at your life today, I would ask, "How flexible are you? Are you someone who creates a plan for how life is to unfold and then rigidly adheres to that plan; or are you someone who can do what the Israelites did at God's urging – adapt to unfolding circumstances?"

Til next time …


What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 32-34

When I was in seminary, one of my professors was a member of the Lakota nation who had been ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The professor, Dr. George Tinker, was a valuable resource to those of us from middle-class, European American roots because he helped us see things in surprising new ways. This was particularly true in how he helped us read Scripture in new ways.

Take a passage like today's from the book of Numbers. Most of us in seminary had grown up considering just one side of the story as portrayed in the passage. We saw the distribution of land, for instance, as an exciting time to be celebrated. "After all," we thought, "the Israelites had been traveling for years in the desert (and had already been geographically displaced in Egypt for hundreds of years before that!)" - so we simply assumed now it was their time to get their due.

"Now wait a minute," Dr. Tinker would say, "I can understand one group of people celebrating the new land they were about to receive. But what about those indigenous people who were already living on the land? Don't forget that what was perceived of as one people's gain was also a HUGE loss for another group of people."

Dr. Tinker went on to note that one of the challenges Christian communities have in reaching out to many Native America peoples is that many of the Native Americans relate more to the experience of the displaced people rather than they do to the victorious group that moved in.

Ever since he challenged us with that awareness, I have been much more cognizant of remembering there is always more than just one perspective on any topic that comes before us: the challenge for us it to take the time (and have the humility) to remember that.

Perhaps there is a situation in your own life where you have been "reading" the events in one particular way and feeling justified in resting in one particular conclusion. While such a sense of certainty can be comforting to an individual from her or his particular point of reference, perhaps that perspective is leaving another aspect of the human experience out. As you seek to broaden the conclusions in which you rest, take comfort knowing that we are not alone as we broaden our perspectives; such efforts ultimately bring us closer to the One who can see it all.

Til next time …