Thursday, November 15, 2007

an acorn and a mustard seed

"Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32).

i grew up in church so i heard this parable of jesus a lot. i always wondered exactly what a mustard seed grew into. it was never really explained to me until recently. i always assumed that the mustard seed was something like an acorn that grew into a huge oak tree. (c'mon. i'm from the midwest. forests are where birds hang out, right?) jesus' kingdom is like a huge oak tree - sturdy, strong, wind and storm proof, the tallest of trees.

couple, jesus is talking about a garden, not a forest. two, the mustard plant grows 10 feet max, and usually it's 3 or 4 feet. it's no oak tree tree. and mustard is invasive which means that once you get it in your garden, it's next to impossible to get out.

i have an invasive plant in our flower beds. it's me against that crazy plant every summer. it grows 3 feet tall and has a cute little purple flower on the top. but i don't WANT it there. i've tried everything to get rid of it....cutting them
down (plural....they pop out everywhere), pulling them out, pouring poison on them, and calling them names. nothing seems to work. i took one of the stalks (is that what you call it?) to the local landscape and garden center. they couldn't help, shook their head and said, "good luck" with a "yeah, right" smile.

that's more like a mustard plant.

i wonder if this slight shift in perspective is more important that we might first think. viewing God's kingdom as an invasive garden plant that can't be stopped is MUCH different than oak tree theology.

i subscribe to a "conservative" christian political email update as well as sojourners, a more "liberal" christian political update. i'm not sure i want to throw in my towel with either side. but one thing that drives me up a wall about the conservative one is the "kingdom as an oak tree" perspective. i'm all for using our voice and influence to change culture. that's part of the cultural mandate in genesis 1 and 2. but the spirit and tone behind some of the updates sound more like a diseased oak tree that's being cut down than a mustard plant that knows if you cut down one stalk, another will pop up.

the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed and it can't be stopped, even if someone tries. but might western christianity actually be stopped if it continues to view itself as a mighty oak instead of a mustard plant? i don't hope for that, but i do wonder.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

spiraling back to basics

i'm a follower of jesus. essentially, that means that i try to live out (external world, what i do) and "think out" (in my internal world, faith, belief, etc.) the message and teachings of jesus of nazareth who claimed to be the king and deliverer of the world.

i'm coming to believe that a key indicator of how i'm doing as a follower of jesus exists mainly in my house- my place of living, sleeping, eating- and not in my church-related activities. i am who i am really when no one is looking and when i'm with those i live with. so when i find that i'm crankly, irritable, impatient, unkind, stand-offish, uninvolved with my wife and kids, i know something's wrong. maybe you don't have a wife and kids, but have a roommate. who you are with your roommate is a mirror for you.

last night was the end of a long day in the dalach house...i started the day living out most of the negative list above and it quickly spread to everyone else. at the end, of the day we were crying out to God for help. one of the things that came from praying was that we needed to listen to music first thing in the morning that puts us in the mindset of loving God and others.

"music? that's it? been there, done that! how many times do i need to do those really simple things!?" but it was really helpful. and it points to a principle that keeps popping it's head up over and over again.....

a key to continuing strongly as a jesus-follower is to keep coming back to the basics.

God-centered music in the morning is something that i've known about for years. that praying to God in the midst of darkness usually turns my perspective around is a, "yeah, duh!" and i so quickly forget that telling someone else about my screw-ups and straight-up rebellion is incredibly freeing and healing.

what are your basics? what keeps you on track? what are the things in the past that you don't do/think now that keep you centered on jesus?

i envision the jesus-centered life as a spiral. on one side of the spiral are elementary things....basic beliefs, practices, habits that are common to many who follow jesus. as we live life, we spiral away from some of the basics, sometimes to learn deeper things, sometimes because of busyness and unhelpful things. then hunger for God brings us back to basics, but this time the basics are in a new light.

so seek the basics. embrace the simple things of God that draw you in. spiral back to them often and God will meet you and make you more like jesus.