Repeat it once again.

I‘m all about  value efficient writing. I understand the value of editing. I can, when I choose, cut words and phrases and even paragraphs. I know that good writing isn’t redundant.

But good teaching is.

“It is good for us to say these things again.”

It’s a phrase that shows up in a letter Paul wrote to one of his favorite groups of people, a house church in the Roman colony of Phillipi. He talks a bit about how to live their lives well. He encourages them to rejoice. And then he takes a digression into talking about a couple of his colleagues.

These personal words are emotional. One of the men was Paul’s apprentice, Timothy. Paul valued his presence but was sending him with the letter, as soon as Paul knew that is own situation was safe.  The other was Epaphroditus, a person from Phillipi. He had come to help Paul, gotten sick, and nearly died. Paul talks about his own anxiety over Epaphroditus’ health and the grief it would cause in Philippi.

E is well now, Timothy is free to come, and Paul can get back to the outline of his letter.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord,” he dictates to the person writing down his words. And then, perhaps, he laughs. Or the scribe does. Paul had repeated himself. And so we get the next sentence, self-deprecating acknowledgement of his humanity. “To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”

Paul’s right. There is value in repetition. Some phrases, some affirmations, some challenges bear repeating.

Rejoice. Love one another. I love you. Fear not. Go. Obey.

So that’s the question for this new week: What are the things that you need to learn again? 

Tell me your vision.

My boss and I hadn’t talked at length for a couple months. It was summer. We both had vacations and conferences and workshops and many good things. As we were looking toward fall, I was feeling a little lost.

I walked into his office one day. I asked him to go down the hall with me to the sanctuary (I’m a pastor.) We sat down in the middle of the room. As I write this, I wonder what he was thinking. Was he waiting for some big confession, some revelation, some earthshattering news? What he heard was me saying, “tell me again what your vision is.”

Fortunately, he knew me. He gave a simple clear explanation of the ideas I’d heard a dozen times. Hearing those words with his voice speaking them specifically to me got me back on track.

I’m a second chair person, an associate. I don’t make the vision, I help live it. I troubleshoot, I help with infrastructure. But every so often I need recalibration. I need to hear again what the mission and the vision and the guiding values.

I started wondering the other day what would happen if I sat down with a cup of coffee across from God and said, “Remind me again. What’s your vision.”

Would he tell me the story that starts before time and ends after time? Would I see hands with holes in them?

Or would I hear a series of stories which I’ve heard dozens of times but need to hear again.

He’d say,”The Kingdom of God is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep and looks for one.”  And then wait for something to click in me.

And then he’d say,”The Kingdom of God is like a woman who has 10 coins and loses one, and searches everywhere until she finds it and then acts like a mad woman telling her neighbors.” And then wait for something to click in me.

And then he’d say, “The Kingdom of God is like a father who welcomed his broken runaway son with open arms.” And then wait for something to break in me.

 

Reviewing the basics

She stopped me in the hallway on Sunday morning. “Can I stop by this week?” she asked. “I think I just need a reminder of what I’m doing.”

I’ve known her for awhile. She’s working hard to apply her understanding of what it means to follow Jesus in the many parts of her life.

She knows and lives out the basics of following. She has acted out the story of God’s forgiveness by being immersed in a pond. She has learned to talk with God about  a variety of things. She has read 2 Corinthians out loud. She has looked for ways to serve others, to grow in trusting and in trustworthiness.

But she knows that from time to time she needs a review of the bigger picture. When she thinks, “Give me one good reason to keep doing all this,” she finds that reason in the marquee story of a God and a death and resurrection and a cast of billions, an eternal story which is being lived out right now, by you and me and my friend.

I understand her need for both context and connection, for the view from 30,000 feet and the view in the mirror. I am fine with knowing that you cover the 13.1 miles of a half-marathon one step at a time, but I sometimes need to know that there is a finish line and this is how to get there.

I need to review the basics.

In his last letter to Timothy, Paul gave a simple summary: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.”

“I’d be glad to talk,” I said. “Remind me to tell you a story.”

sit-still cups.

Some friends gave me some new coffee cups the other day. They are small. They are from Ethiopia. They are for the coffee ceremony.

My friend said her husband uses a travel mug while he’s working in Ethiopia. She said that these are the opposite of travel mugs. These are sit-still cups.

IMG_2365You sit still and share hospitality. You sit and share time. You sit and share reflections and strengthen the fabric of community with small cups filled with just-roasted coffee. It’s a ceremony. It’s a routine. It’s an appreciation of small sips.

I have coffee in my new cup as I write. Because the cup is so small, I’m sipping. I’m painting with smaller strokes. I’m slowing down. I’m thinking about Jesus and you and the quiet conversation we are all having at this moment as we talk and listen and sip coffee.

I was actually looking for stories about Jesus in the evening, sipping something with the disciples as the sun went down. I had a picture to paint together about quiet moments. But when I searched for “evening” I realized that evening is when crowds came to Peter’s house to see Jesus. Evening is when the huge crowd just feed miraculously by Jesus bedded down for the night, but the disciples headed across the lake to be terrified by Jesus walking on the water coming to them. Evening is when Jesus told them to get into a fishing boat and then went to sleep as a storm came up. Evening is when Jesus and the disciples left Jerusalem during Holy week to avoid late night attacks from the religious leaders. Evening is when Nicodemus came to Jesus.

I’m sure the wilderness was quieter. But Jesus was with people. Because he was looking for them. It’s who he was seeking. Small sips at a time.

Proverbial wisdom

I don’t use proverbs very often, wise sayings, pithy statements. Sometimes they feel cliche to me. Sometimes they lack originality. Sometimes I notice the exceptions more than the rule. Sometimes I prefer the snarky one-liner.

Sometimes I’m not very wise.

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. Proverbs 27:14

bless

 

The proverbs that show up in the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings classified as “wisdom literature” and appearing in the Bible after the book of Psalms, are helpful commentaries on life, both past and contemporary.

A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops. Proverbs 28:3

They read differently than the history books in the Bible, lacking narrative. There are no long explanations of theological positions, as Paul writes, no letters from which we can identify something about the audience. They feel like someone walked into an office,  took all the post-it notes of encouraging words from someone’s bulletin board, and typed them up. Which is kind of true.

Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.
If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. Proverbs 29:8-11

Some people read a chapter of Proverbs a day. You get through the whole collection in a 31-day month. And I realized this week, when I read a chapter, that regular reading may not give us an application each day, but it will gradually shape how we think.

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Proverbs 28:26