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Is There a Way?

I have to write this. There is a trial underway right now for a crime that is beyond my comprehension. The nature of the crime is such that I will not discuss it here; it's too awful. My stomach has been in knots, I've cried, and I've been on my knees.

There are many political issues that divide our nation. One group says this is the right way. Another group says that is the right way. Yet another group says there is a better, and right, way. It is hard to know which way is right, sometimes. Often, each different way produces problems of its own; which problems, then, become the ones the nation is willing or able to deal with? Or live with? 

Policy is made that makes going back to the way it was nearly impossible. What are moral issues for some are not for others, but rather rights issues. When completely different worldviews inform individuals' and groups' perspectives, conflicts will arise. 

But there are some things that happen that are not ambiguous. In spite of polar opposite worldviews, surely humanity can issue a resounding and collective,"NO! WE WILL NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!" But in light of the laws, how can they make a way? I honestly don't know the answer. I feel so much sorrow. 

One day there will be a way. Until then, I will try to use my voice to show others in whom my own hope rests. I will pray that the sovereign God of the universe's will be done. I know I have a long way to go for that to happen in my own life and home, and I don't want to sound self-righteous at all. But some things that are going on in the name of freedom? That is not God's will. I believe he will not be mocked. One day, he will make his way known. I truly believe this way is the way to peace. 


The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
     and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35



I'm trying to learn more about what is going on in the world, especially as I continue to learn what has gone on in the world. Freedom is on my mind these days.

I'm finding myself thinking that freedom might not be what people think. I am certainly guilty of wrong thinking about this. I want to do what I want to do, and I don't want anyone else telling me differently. 

Some wise men have said,"Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought." I am wrestling with this right now. Really wrestling. 


Bonhoeffer Talk

Today we are discussing chapters five and six from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Metaxas relates Bonhoeffer's time in Barcelona, where he lived for about a year just after his twenty-second birthday, and then the following year back in Berlin. There were many details about his time during this year that helped bring both Dietrich and his experience in Barcelona to life. Metaxas says that the Spanish women who ran his boarding house "made an impressive effort to pronounce 'Dietrich.' They failed." I laughed out loud at that. I can picture them trying so very hard, him correcting them with a smile, them trying again. He had to have laughed. Again and again, his sense of humor is referenced. That is a huge draw for me. I picture him smiling a lot, even as serious and intense as he was. 

This was a clever turn of a paragraph (and maybe it was an accidental cleverness...I have no idea): "He wanted to be effective in his role as pastor, and he knew he must enter the lives and, to some extent, the lifestyles of the people he was charged with serving. [New paragraph] As in Rome,..." "As in Rome," hahaha! It seems that he was able to strike a balance and enter their lives/lifestyles in order to serve without entering their lifestyles such that who he fundamentally was changed. He seems so wise for someone who is so young, at this point. When I think of myself at age 22, I remember someone who was earnest, but very silly in many ways. His self-awareness and theological bearings testify to his upbringing, yes, but also to what seems to me almost a supernatural ability to discern well. His work with children is especially endearing. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book is at the beginning of chapter five, from Bonhoeffer's diary, January 22: "Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness."




On Good Friday...

My heart is often heavy on Good Friday, and not inordinately so, but such that I feel the weight of it (that sounds ludicrous...can we ever truly feel the weight of it; not likely, since that is what Jesus came into the world to take on our behalf), and it makes me think. 

I have been struggling today with so many things: things that are going on in our country (in my brain, it's all over the map - this is not a one-issue struggle), things that are going on in the world, the things that I leave undone, the things that I do and shouldn't, the things in which we as a family are lacking, the fact that I don't have a dinner plan (that might sound silly, but right at this moment, it is just one more manifestation of deep-seated problems which I need to address) (not just address, effect change).

As I thought about some of these issues, I came to the conclusion that because we humans are so messed up, pretty much everything we touch is going to be messed up, at least a little. And there is rarely an answer that is not complicated. Not that some things aren't black and white. But not everything is. And even if something is black and white, because the world is a broken place full of broken people, it almost never works itself out in day-to-day life as black or white as it should. 

During our Wednesday night class, our pastor encouraged us to remember that no matter what happens in the world, in our culture, in our lives, that Jesus still reigns. Nothing can change that. His exhortation echoed his words after the shooting in Newtown: we are never not safe, God is never not in control. Sometimes (okay, a whole big fat lot of the time) that is so incredibly hard to remember. Yet, we must! I must continue to name the ways that God has been and is bigger than any given problem, disagreement, catastrophe, or tragedy. Remembering what he has done helps us to remember what he will do.

He promised. 

On this Good Friday, a day that was made black as night and marred by the seeming forsakenness of God's only Son, we remember and cling to the promise..."[the woman's offspring] will crush [Satan's] head,/and [Satan] will strike his heel."

We remember that Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming...


Bonhoeffer Discussion Questions

Do you think that if there was a stronger faith commitment Mrs. Bonhoeffer might have been able to handle the tragedy of loss more effectively?  Why or why not?  How have you or your family and friends handled tragic situations?  Have you "folded" as Mrs. Bonhoeffer did for a while? What lesson(s) did you learn from the situation that helped to strengthen your faith?  If your faith was not strengthened, why do you think that was the case? 
Here are a couple of quotes from the book:
"Dietrich sang loudly and clearly [at the funeral of Walter], as his mother always wished the family to do. And she did, too, drawing strength from its words, which spoke of the heart's longing for the heavenly city, where God waited for us and would comfort us and 'wipe away every tear.'" (p. 28) Note the words of the hymn which she picked out for the service: "What God has done, it is well done./His will is always just./Whatever He will do to me,/In Him I'll ever place my trust." A person with a weak faith commitment would have a very hard time choosing a song like that at a moment like that. Our grief affects us physically, not just emotionally. One son away at war, one just killed in that very war, and a third called up to go just after...this kind of stress (on a mother!) was great.
Jesus taught us that grief is an acceptable emotion, and unavoidable. He wept (and certain commentaries on the passage where he goes to Lazarus' sisters after Lazarus has been placed in the tomb render the word that is often translated "weep" as something far stronger, like "cried in anguish or rage." Why was he so affected? Especially since he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. What I have read on the subject points to Jesus' sorrow about death, and in particular the death of his very close friend and how it devastated that family, because death was not supposed to be. Mankind was created to live with God, and forever. Now that was all messed up (and can it be more clearly seen during times of war?), and it made him righteously angry. The beautiful thing is that he was setting himself, firmly and resolutely and voluntarily, to make things right again. Raising Lazarus from the dead was a foretaste of the glory that would come: from his own resurrection and victory over death forever to the resurrection of all who believe in his name unto eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth. In light of Jesus' own grief and compassion, Paula Bonhoeffer's grief was legitimate, understandable, and most certainly not a sign of a faith that was not strong. I'm having trouble remembering if the neighbors that she stayed with were Christians, and the only thing I might add is that it is possible that if she had had more of a Christian community of faith surrounding her, it might have been easier to bear. I am afraid that is coming out wrong. The fact is that by God's grace, she came through this difficult period, and as far as I could tell, her faith was not weakened by losing a son. Imagine this mother's broken heart at the end of her life, as so many of her boys had been taken in war. 
A quick word on my personal experiences...I have been through several things that I thought I never could have managed. I know that I am here because of God's grace and others' prayers. I have been strong in serious circumstances; I have folded for lesser. The point is that we must rely on God for everything; there is nothing, no thing, that we may accomplish on our own. It is all by his grace. Sometimes I have gotten dinner on the table and that in itself was a testimony to the help of the Lord. Sometimes I have "climbed a mountain." And that could only be by the Lord. We have to learn to say that he is the one who makes all things possible. A lesson that I have learned from tragic times is that the joy of the Lord is truly my strength.
Bonhoeffer wrote, "It's much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity."  Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
Um, mainly this makes sense because Jesus did things like invite tax collectors to be disciples, free prostitutes from their lives of misery, touch "dirty" people without fear or hesitation, and forgive sinners who put their faith in him (such as the murderer on the cross next to him). Jesus said: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8) Jesus constantly invited those who were burdened by their sins and sicknesses to come to him for rest, healing, and forgiveness. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow...and we are the ones he came to save, along with them.
"Is there such a thing as a necessary lie?"
How would you answer this question?
Can you think of an example of a lie that would be "necessary"?
Would God condone it?  Why or why not?  Support your answer with Scripture.
A tough question. I can think of many times in the Bible when someone lied in order to do what they thought would accomplish God's will, and not always during a time of war. Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, Isaac and Rebekah in Egypt, Jacob and Rebekah to Isaac regarding the blessing. There were also times when lies were used during war, as with Rahab and the spies. There are also instances in the Bible where lies are met with immediate and terrible consequences, as when Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much they received when they sold a piece of property and gave the money to the disciples, but not all of it. They lied to God and men, though, so maybe that's the difference? I don't know Scripture well enough to know how that factors in.  At any rate, God is never surprised by our sin. While I don't think he condones lying (there are many verses that speak of how God hates lying (in the Proverbs especially), I believe he can redeem it. How he did so in Peter's life! How grateful are we that we have such examples in Scripture of great failure on man's part and great saving grace on God's part!