Charity: Water

Monday, January 2, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

(to be listened to while reading this post)

My Resolutions for 2012:

1) Learn to play the guitar
2) Workout upper body more
3) Volunteer and serve more in the community (plug for cool ministries like the Potato Project)
4) Invest in others more intentionally (pray more for others & keep a prayer journal; write and send more letters to people)
5) Fall more recklessly in love with God in 2012 than 2011 (more Scripture, more Sabbaths)
6) Kiss Lea Michele

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where is He?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 
"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel." (Matthew 2:1-6)

I was packing up to leave work when a bundle of students slowly passed by my door, pressing their hands intentionally against every wall and locker. Noticing I was still in my room, a girl who isn’t one of my students left the group to come into my room and explain that the Bible club was having a prayer walk and “Is there anything we can pray about for you?” I said something about family and how what they were doing was cool. Then she said, “Mr. M, I don’t really know you. Do you know Jesus?” Without hesitation: “Yeah, I know him! He’s my Savior and the reason I live.”

The honest answer would have been to say that some days I feel like I know him, and most of the days I believe he’s my Savior. To say, “Yeah, I know him!” with such zeal is just not true. My confidence about Jesus’ identity is about as steady as a three-legged chair, so I’m grateful God’s grace isn’t dependent on my understanding. I cannot comprehend why it is so exhaustingly difficult to figure out who this Jesus really is.

With all the holiday emphasis on glittering décor and extravagant presents, this Christmas bustle is a great reminder that I am so vacillating in my understanding of Jesus. Reading Matthew’s Gospel, I think the author found himself in a similar predicament, or at least he seems to be writing to those who do. Matthew walked with this man named Jesus, was present for his miracles as well as his death, and he witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. But who is Jesus really?

In the beginning of Matthew 2, the Magi from the east ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” The Magi’s assurance confounds me. He’s a king, and we’ve come to worship. They have never met Jesus, yet they are already so sure of this newborn’s identity and what their response should be—they just need to find him.

How did the Magi reach that point of confidence? What happened in their process of belief that led them to travel miles in search of this child in order to bring him gifts? I don’t know, and maybe Matthew doesn’t either, because he remains mute on their history.

In response to the Magi’s question, “Where is the one,” Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 and a prophesy made 700 years prior about a promised ruler (Matt. 2:6). It seems that Matthew is witnessing connections unfold, and as Matthew reads through the ancient Scripture, he finds Jesus there. I think it’s critical to note here that Matthew uses Micah’s prophecy not to validate ancient Scripture, but to validate Jesus. He asserts a connection between Jesus and the prophesied Messiah.

While Matthew watches ancient Scripture and finds Jesus there, a couple verses later in chapter 2, the Magi find the king by watching the stars. Throughout the rest of the Gospel, people find Jesus in deserts, in fishing boats, and in their living rooms. Matthew finds him at a tax collector’s booth, but he soon finds him on a cross. In the last chapter of his Gospel, Matthew writes that eleven disciples finally found Jesus on a mountain in Galilee, and “When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted” (Matt. 27: 17).

I am so like those eleven. I cannot stop doubting the identity of this man, and yet like them I cannot stop worshipping him. The Magi ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” and Matthew says, “I’ve found Him in Micah! I’ve found Him in the Stars! I’ve found Him in a tax collector’s booth! I find Him everywhere!”

I may waver when you ask me exactly who Jesus is, but I can say I know where to find him. I find him in the classroom while I teach and on the sidewalk while I run. I definitely found him in that little girl who asked me if I knew him. I find him in so many places, and hard as I try, I can’t seem to get away from him. Maybe we can be content with our inability to pin down who Jesus is. Maybe it’s enough to simply look for Jesus everywhere, and when we find him, for we surely will, fall on our knees in worship.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Work

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; Your steadfast Love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

I’ve adopted this verse as my theme and prayer for the summer while working here at the Boys and Girls Home. In the face of discouragement and frustration, which threatens to take me under everyday, God’s promise faithfully lifts me above the water: “A New Work,” I hear God whisper in my ear.

I was studying that verse above, and in the original Hebrew, the word used on that second line for “steadfast Love” is the Hebrew word hesed (Blue Letter Bible). According to several of the Bible dictionaries I’ve consulted, hesed means an enduring and lasting Love, or like my translation of the scripture put it, a “steadfast Love.” One scholar put it this way: “Hesed connotes a depth of loving-kindness unmatched in the world’s various kinds of love.” Hesed, this deep and holy love, is everywhere.

Genesis tells us God’s hesed preserved Joseph as he suffered in prison after being betrayed by his brothers and master.  Exodus tells us God’s hesed saw the Israelites suffering and led them out of slavery into a land of promise. Jeremiah tells us God’s hesed was stronger than the sins of the people and it drew them back to God. Daniel tells us God’s hesed protected Daniel and granted him favor in the eyes of the King. Jonah tells us God’s hesed transformed Jonah in the belly of the fish and gave him strength to fulfill God’s plan for his life. What I find when I study the Bible is unending evidence of God’s hesed, and it’s that same everlasting Love that the Psalmist writes about.

The reminder of God’s hesed in this scripture comforts me, and God’s promise here rouses me. I can’t always see what God’s purpose is for me, but I know God sees it and promises to fulfill it. To think that I am a work—a piece of art or a construction project—is both humbling and empowering; I am not my own, and yet it’s God’s hands that are on me—pressing me, fixing me, and turning me into something greater than what I am right now. Coming vulnerable and weak to allow myself to be changed by a power I don’t quite understand is scary, but when I remember that the hands of God move over and through me in hesed, I realize that the pain I feel is God working out the lumps and smoothing me into a masterpiece of priceless worth.

God has begun a work in my life, and God promises not to give up on me. As the Psalmist writes, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011


[context: working as a Pastoral intern at the Boys and Girls Home for the summer]

The other day, I led a Bible study here at the Boys and Girls Home for some of the newer guys. At first, we just talked about life--the bad stuff we’ve done in our pasts, the mess we’re in now, how cruel life’s been. So I asked the question: 
   What are you worth?
Are you worth more than the life you’ve been given? The situations in which you’ve been placed? The things that have happened to you? Are you worth more than the quality of life you have right now?

Without a hesitation, an adamant “yes” from every guy. So what are you worth? “Everything.” That one word--“everything”--released from the breath of the youngest, invaded the room, filling the spaces between each of us. Whether that one word captured the inner voice of everyone in the room, or whether the conviction in which it was said was so sincere, or whether the ache for it to be true outweighed the need to utter an alternative, that one word “everything” connected us and stole the need to speak.

Silence. So loud you almost smarted from it. Then (of course), I talked. I was probably wrong for what I did—I’m usually very wrong. I looked that young boy in the face, who’s struggling through layers and layers of the injury being rejected has caused, and I told that boy, “No.”

To be honest, you’re not worth it. You’re too risky an investment. Too many times you run away. Too many drugs stay in your system. Too many wounds, too much bitterness, too much. It’s not worth unpacking. Even if you change, even if you don’t totally screw up again, your return would never be worth the investment. Everything? You think you’re worth my everything? All of my goals and passions, all of my desires and needs, my very life—you’re worth that? No. You’re too dirty, too stained, too messed up. Not strong enough. Can never be good enough. You don’t deserve anything because you’re just not worth it.

But for some reason that I do not get, you are loved anyway. Despite the risk, the cost, the loss; despite your brokenness, and helpless; despite how many times you’ll walk away and give up on, no, turn your back on him; despite how many times you’ll curse him, and fight him, and criticize him, and doubt him; despite the fact that you will always disappoint yourself and never do enough right—He will love you.

As dirty and untouchable as you feel, you are accepted by the maker of things as intricate as blood cells and as massive as mountain ranges. You are loved and prized by majesty. The God of all, the God who births all life and works to make it good, says you are worth it. And let the one who knows you best and loves you the most anyway tell you your worth.

Finishing my monologue, I gave every guy a copy of the words from the Psalm: “O Lord, you searched me and know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up…You hem me in, behind and before, and your hand is always upon me…Where shall I go from your Spirit?”


God, take the stupid works of these barren hands and the crippled words from this broken vessel and use them in spite of me. I pray every child here finds a home in you, where your consuming and steadfast love gently tickles our ears with the assurance that, to you, we are worth it. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Could Be a Farmer

I think for the longest time I knew only a black-and-white joy because I was a grazer. A fat, lazy cow chomping blades of grass under a burning sun. My movements slow, I'd eat my way from pasture to pasture. School--being fed. Church--being fed. Family and friends--being fed. We need that for so long, being fed, because we can't sustain ourselves. At some point, though, we do get it, and at that point, I think we're invited to change. The choice isn't forced on us--we're allowed to keep grazing off what others have sown if that's what we want. But that choice visions a black-and-white life. The invitation is to plant. To labor in the field farming what others will eat. A choice including sweat and blisters, but illuminating so much more color to life. I guess a lot boils down to what we choose to do.

Here's to being a planter instead of a grazer.