Thursday, November 26, 2015

Keeping Christ in Thanksgiving

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:1).

On days like this, when people focus on their "blessings," please remember and honor the Cross of Christ, which includes the resurrection and the entire life of Christ. Don't just focus on the particular blessings you can celebrate as a family or personally.

As Oswald Chambers reminds us in today's devotion: "The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach 'Jesus Christ and Him crucified'" (1 Corinthians 2:2 and Galatians 6:14) so the Cross of Christ is not emptied of its power (Galatians 6:1).

The Cross of Christ reaches in to embrace those whose relationships and lives are still mostly felt to be under the curse. When we preach (talk about) what Jesus has done for the world we lift them into God's Great Hug too. Love to you all on this Thanksgiving Day.

[The above written a few minutes ago on facebook.]
I'm glad to be back at our home in Roseville after a short week on my regular route routine. Toni has been busy with Thanksgiving preparations. I've done some cleaning around the house and I'll do more later. We're expecting 18 for a one o'clock dinner.

It's an official holiday today so I don't need to drive, through I do drive (different routes) tomorrow. I don't get paid for today but I really having this day off so its okay. Holiday pay begins after 6 months of employment. For me that will be on December 6.

Before I went to bed last night I read something written by Joe Johnson, someone I've heard speak at spiritual meetings and who is a part of the Alliance of Renewal Churches that I've connected with over the past 20 years or so. He spoke truth about holidays, that they amplify relational and emotional pain we carry during the year.

He wrote: "...Watching others enjoy the holidays may trigger loneliness. The family focus of the holidays reminds us of not feeling like we belong. Holidays increase the amount of time we spend around people with whom we have broken relationships. Extra time with our family reminds us how they are more dysfunctional than we wanted to remember. We miss loved ones who are no longer a part of our lives. Painful rejection is brought on by someone else’s addictions..."

Last night I also happened upon a little online conversation that was posted around Christmas time in 2009 with someone who was suffering (at least I think he/she was) like Joe describes.

Joe's reflection, that 2009 conversation, and some chats with a couple people on the bus yesterday who plan on spending the holiday alone brought into focus how much we need Jesus at this time of year. Thankfulness is personally beneficial but when we focus too much on the specific things we're thankful for, and when we don't acknowledge the continued suffering that is in us and around us that same thankfulness can be like salt in an open wound for others.

In response to Joe Johnson's post I wrote this:
Those of us who have intact families can seem uncaring toward those who suffer, and any trouble that's under the surface in "happy" families can be felt especially by those who have those hidden hurts. There's a remedy in the truth of Jesus. Remember and honor the Cross, which includes the resurrection and the entire life of Christ -- and do that remembering and honoring on days like this. As Oswald Chambers says [in today's devotional]: Our "focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross" (the blessings that come from a relationship with Jesus). OC says this is true in "holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings" but it's also true on days like this. Peace be with you. Prayers.
I hope you enjoy this day -- always remembering Jesus and all those who have yet to be swept up in His embrace.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

After Paris

A word for this weekend posted on Saturday morning: "'In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.' When you are tempted to fear and anxiety about anything turn to prayer. Do not react in fear. This applies to any reaction to yesterday's events in France and any future terror. When we know Jesus there is never any cause for panic. God has been teaching me this again in the last few months and it is true. Christians need to be teaching and preaching this as they gather... Watch your reactions and repent if you are speaking or repeating words of fear or self-protection."

On Friday night and Saturday morning I heard and read many concerns from people about the terror attacks in France. I've been interacting some on social media about this, reminding my friends and acquaintances about the danger of reacting in fear. God has given me a new perspective on this that I'm trying to share here today. I am praying specifically that we would not be overcome by any fear.

It's a Sunday morning in Roseville. I'm still working "part time weekdays" so weekends mean something. Two days off in a row! That wouldn't be true if I ever went to full time.*

Just before 6:00 on Friday, between my two PM routes, I stopped in at the Minneapolis "Downtown Market" (on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street, just NW of the main post office). Since I've been dropping in there on an almost daily basis (Monday-Friday) since mid July, I've gotten to know a couple of the employees. One in particular, who calls me his friend, is from Iraq. He is there right now to visit his brother and other extended family members. Most of the employees there are from the middle east, I think also from Iraq. In any case, they speak Arabic amongst themselves.

While I was there someone stopped me and another Metro Transit driver as we were talking together in the lobby/hallway to tell us about the Paris terrorist attacks. We don't have any way of hearing the news on our buses so that's the first we'd heard. He thought we should warn our customers. It sounded as if he thought something similar could happen here that night! We told him that we do keep an eye out for anything suspicious. It's a part of our training to watch and report. Bus drivers have eyes out in almost every corner of the metro area.

Later, on the bus, a customer came forward and said something about the attack. Then, when I got back to the Heywood Garage drivers' room, and after I got done talking with others about a different subject, I saw that the television there was tuned to the coverage from Paris. Some conversation was going on there too among the very diverse group of drivers watching. I've gotten to know them well enough to know at least one is a devout Muslim.

to read click here
Through this job I've gotten to know people from different parts of the world and from different religious and cultural backgrounds. I find that to be a great privilege. Each driver and each of the others I meet and talk with has his or her own story. I've heard pieces of many since starting this summer. I can't have lots of extended conversations with people while driving, but I've learned that there are a many people from foreign backgrounds, probably immigrants and refugees, who ride with me. (Also, lots of people with various disabilities. Beginning December 14 one of my routes is one that specifically caters to people with special needs. I explained more yesterday in a facebook post that is here as a photo. Click here to see/read that more clearly.)

I'm thankful that God has provided me with this new job where there are automatic opportunities to get to know people of different backgrounds. Many who read this blog would need to go out of your way to have those interactions. I'd like to challenge you to do that soon.

Going back to what happened on Friday night, when I got home I heard more on the news and read people's reactions. The note of fear I picked up from the first man who told us about the attacks was repeated by others, particularly on the internet. I thought I needed to respond in some way so I made one simple comment. Later, I wrote the item you'll see at the top of this post.

I get the fear people have and I understand and support the need to protect those who are vulnerable. I understand that nations have responsibilities to keep people safe. But the idea that Christians should mostly retreat and protect is not something I see to be in harmony with God's plan or God's Word.

The most clear evidence of this is what we know through Jesus Christ, who came with open arms into the midst of strangers. Jesus lived and loved among human beings who were so filled with prejudices and sins and so dedicated to protecting themselves that they killed him.

Human beings are so concerned about safety and stability that we throw love under the bus! Jesus shows a different way. Will we follow him, or will we retreat?

I believe God would have us reach out instead of backing away. The Holy Spirit burns in me about this. I very much appreciate the work of groups such as "Arrive Ministries" (see video below) that encourages us to "celebrate that God has brought the nations to our doorstep and to welcome into our lives new refugee neighbors who have overcome persecution, trauma and years of struggle." I can't say whether that particular ministry is the one God is calling you to interact with, but we need to get connected in some way.

I think that unless we have personal experience with people who are different than we are, our first reaction when we hear bad news involving those "different ones" is to retreat and protect ourselves. I believe God would have us do something very different. I hope you'll talk about that today at your church.

How will you reach out? How will you put yourself in contact with others? Even taking a ride on the bus could be a way doing that. Give me a call and I can let you know how. I'll also introduce you to my friends at the Downtown Market if you'd like.

I have so much more to learn. I am praying that I will be open to just how God will move me to reach out in these days.

Now is the Time- Arrive Ministries from Bob Oehrig on Vimeo.


*See my "Contentment" post from October 28 about part time versus full time work for Metro Transit.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bigger and More Real

It's an early morning in Roseville. I'm reading Oswald Chambers' reflection on Second Corinthians 5:17 - "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." You can read it by clicking <here>.

I can say that what O.C. says here is true about the things that "really matter." I am still beset by desires and temptations but they don't rule in my life. They aren't in charge. The Lord, working in me, is bigger and more real than anything else.

O.C. says this: "...When a crisis comes, you are the most amazed person on earth at the wonderful difference there is in you. There is no possibility of imagining that you did it..."

This is most certainly true.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

God's Image at Work

Yesterday evening I made two mistakes* while driving bus. Nothing bad came of either of them (thank you Jesus!), but they were big enough to notice, and, frankly, I don't make too many like that these days. My growing confidence doesn't mean that everything will always go well, but it certainly does help. I'm doing good work... surprisingly so considering how nervous I was to start.

I will learn from yesterday's errors, just like I learn from the experiences that that the Lord provides for me every day, particularly at my job. I'll grow in patience through them too as I am afflicted sometimes by the mistakes of others. Give me a call or write back and we'll talk and pray together about how God can work through the experiences you're dealing with today... mistakes and all.

Human beings are remarkable creatures. We can do so many things. Last night Toni and I and my sister Karen went to a late movie. The Martian is on the big screen now. (I justified spending the money to go because some movies are "big" enough to be worth it.) In the movie the main character deals with problems after having been left alone on Mars. He ends up surviving** with a lot of help from the technology that he has on hand, through his ability as a botanist (he grows Martian potatoes), through the help he eventually finds as he reconnects communications with Earth, but also through the quick thinking and ingenuity that God has built into us.

It's the "quick thinking" and "ingenuity" parts I can relate too, plus the advantages that the modern bus technology puts in my hands. Bus driving isn't rocket science, but dealing with unexpected situations is--sometimes life or death ones--and dealing with them quickly. So quickly that I can really see God at work right there on the road.***

A couple weeks ago I was talking with a Cokato friend who works with large equipment. He said, and I agree, that the big machines become a kind of extension of our bodies. Tiny signals and sensations that come to me through my eyes and hands and feet... and my whole body as I "rock and roll" to see everything... those things combine in a way that is hard to describe. I end up just "knowing" where the corners of the 62 foot long bus are at and what sort of spaces I can get into or get out of. As I gain experience I'm needing less time to consciously analyze what's going on. I just drive. And normally that works quite well. 

I don't know all of what it means that we human beings are made in the "image of God" (as we read in Genesis chapter 1), but these abilities that can grow, even in an old guy like me, are evidence that is true. Who knows... perhaps someday we will go to Mars.

My experience driving bus isn't as awesome as that, but it does teach me that more is possible with us than we might think. God does amazing things in and through us. Wow!


*Two mistakes, that is, that were big enough to remember. There are always little snafus. Every day I'm reminded how much more I have to learn.

**I've that much of the scenario portrayed in The Martian movie, except the wind storms, are quite sound on a scientific level. See this article: "The science behind 'The Martian' gets a NASA 'thumbs up.'"

***This week a passenger remarked with some astonishment about how I had seen, and avoided, a bike rider who rocketed alongside and then turned in front of the bus. As I said to her, "it's part of the job." After awhile, we just see and know pretty much what's going on all around us. That's why I remember certain mistakes like the ones I made yesterday. They're honestly quite rare.

(I continue to be amazed at the ways I've been adapting to this work. By next weekend I'll be two thirds of the way through the 6 month probationary period every new driver deals with. The routes I drive right now are quite easy, but that will change. Next Friday I'll "pick my work" for the routes and trips I'll drive from mid December until mid March. Last night I brought some paperwork home to help me decide. I'm not the last one to pick this time. Others have finished training and have started work since my class did. I think there are about 20 or more drivers with less seniority than me. There are many more ahead of me though, so I won't really know my options until Thursday night.)