Category: God working in history

Exploring the Love of God

If you believe, as I do, that God’s essential nature is Love, then you would enjoy reading this book. Cladach didn’t publish it. But I contributed an essay to it entitled, “Opening to God Through Prayer.”

After reading the 80+ essays in the book, I’d like to share with you my review:

Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God is a treasure trove of diverse viewpoints looking at many aspects of life in light of God’s love being non-coercive. You may not agree with all of the essayists (I agree with most, not all). But they will stretch your thinking and challenge your heart. That’s part of the beauty of a collaborative project like this. Here are quotes from the contributors who especially spoke to me:

Will Albright: “I wonder if God isn’t instead this great music maker, teaching all creation to play and sing along to the melody of love.”

Rick Barr: “In a sense, to be is to be known and to be loved.”

Justin Heinzekehr: “The non-coercive God is not hovering over us with a specific set of directions but is encouraging us to tap into our own creativity without knowing where it will lead.”

Tim Reddish: “Prayer makes a difference, but so do the necessary regularity of the world and every free choice humans and angels make…. It is quite legitimate to say that the Christian and the Spirit are ‘co-praying’.”

Scott Nelson Foster: “It is when we respond to God’s call to love that God’s will is done.”

Sarah Lancaster: “One advantage of thinking about God as uncontrolling is that it allows and impels us to look for God in the regular events in our lives.”

Bob Luhn: “It is the non-coercive, others-empowering love of God that sets a person free to be fully human–capable of loving God with one’s whole being and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.”

Simon Hall: “If we are spiritual beings, just as much as we are physical, then our prayers matter just as much as our actions. Prayers that attune us to the heart of God. Prayers that lend our voice to God’s voice…”

A BOOK TO READ SLOWLY AND SAVOR. Allow your thinking to be infused and inspired with the truth, beauty, and power of God’s uncontrolling love.

You can find the book on Amazon.

Grace in Horrific Times

Snapshot - 1

There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, more than ever before in history.

There are more natural disasters occurring than ever before in recorded history.

There is a growing spirit of division among people, as evidenced in current discourse, events, politics and elections. So much of this division seems fueled by fear, anger, and distrust.

There have been horrific times before in history. We humans like to think we have learned from those experiences and that we wouldn’t let such things happen again. Can we learn from history? Will we? Or must history repeat itself?

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Cladach has released books that feature true stories of God—and his people—at work even during the most horrific historical times. For instance:

  • Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in Cambodia (in the book, NO MORE FEAR).
  • A political terror-hostage crisis (in the book, HOSTAGE IN TAIPEI).
  • Christian and Muslim refugees in Africa and the Middle East (in the book,A PEOPLE TALL AND SMOOTH).
  • Spiritual hunger during the Communist revolution in Russia (in the book, PAPER POPPIES).
  • Jewish children and their pets during the Holocaust (in the book, FAITHFUL FRIENDS).

All these personal memoirs happened in extremely tumultuous times and circumstances. Each describes injustices, cruelty, and evil forces unleashed on nations, people groups, and individuals. Each of these stories also gives witness to God’s personal presence, providence, and grace.

We offer these stories in the hope that readers will find renewed perspective, faith, and love.

Showing Love and Offering Hope in the World

We can each do something this day to increase shalom, well-being, and flourishing in our world—to participate in “God’s kingdom come.”

I like the quote by Anne Frank, that I photographed summer 2017 when I was visiting Birmingham, Alabama. This monument was erected in the context of the Civil Rights struggles of that city, quoting a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis. If she could think and pen such words, shouldn’t we—as followers of the Messiah—who revealed to us God’s heart of Love and compassion—be looking for ways to “improve the world” that God created, Christ gave his life for, ever lives to intercede for, and is coming back to reclaim and re-create? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” John 3:16.

As a believer and follower of Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer, I want to reflect his character of holy love into this groaning, strife-filled world.

One way I seek to do that is by publishing books that offer hope. I believe that hope is what sets “Christian books” apart among general book publishing. Whether through fiction, nonfiction, memoir, or poetry; a story, essay, or poem may portray a context of brokenness, sin, and conflict. But into that milieu will shine a ray of hope that gives the reader renewed courage to reach up and take hold of “the helping hand at the end of God’s long arm of love.”

————

Hope for Refugees

Lang with her brother and three sons in our backyard

On this World Refugee Day (June 20) I think of the refugees I have known. First, years ago my family helped sponsor a family of Vietnamese “boat people.” Lang, a South Vietnamese Army officer’s widow, and her brother and her three sons, escaped for their lives off the shore of Vietnam in a small boat to wander the sea along with many others. They gave everything they owned to the boat’s owner. They suffered on the sea. But they were fortunate that a ship picked them up and took them to a refugee camp.

Lang with my daughter

They arrived in our town frightened, slightly sick, “lost” in a completely different culture. While we waited for an apartment to open for them, this sad little family stayed in our home. Our little girl gave up her bedroom for them. Our way of living was so different from theirs. I showed them the glasses in the cupboard. They took one and drank water from it, then returned it to the cupboard. I bought five plastic glasses and wrote their names on them and lined them up on the counter for them to use.

They had experienced dangers and horrors that I could barely imagine. Even though I made beds on the floor, at night they all slept side by side on one double bed.

The word “refugees” changed in my mind from strange, almost-suspect stories into warm, real human beings.

Using gestures and a Vietnamese-English dictionary, I tried to tell Lang about Jesus’ love. Tears welled in her eyes. I tutored her in “English as a second language” for a short time. Eventually they moved to another city and I lost track of them. But I’ll never forget all I learned from them. And I have prayed that the welcome we gave them, and the bit of God’s love we tried to show them across cultural and language barriers, would grow like a seed planted—and that I will see Lang and her family again in Heaven. I look forward to worshiping around the throne the One who gave us freedom, who rescues us from sin and evil and death, and gives us the opportunity of new life and hope and peace.

Because of this experience, and then later getting to know the many Laotian refugees who came to our church, I had the opportunity to write and publish the book, No More Fear: From Killing Fields to Harvest Fields, the story of Physa Chanmany who came to America as a Cambodian refugee.

Physa also had some things in common with many refugees today. As a boy, Physa saw indescribable horror and genocide. Taught to fear Westerners, especially Americans, he had never heard the truth of Jesus. But as a lost and traumatized refugee, he had a dream in which he encountered Christ, who set his life on a new course of hope.

Both Wise and Innocent

Photo ©David Lawton

As the world seems to get smaller, do you feel more and more powerless? We continue to believe that each individual—and each group—makes a difference. What we do, how we think, our actions and prayers—along with the currents of God’s purposes and the showers of his love—cause ripples that can bring lasting change for well-being in our world.

“I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil….The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:19-20)

The Wounds and the Promise

“We are committed to describing the world not just as it should be, not just as it is, but as—by God’s grace alone!—one day it will be. And we should never forget that when Jesus rose from the dead, as the paradigm, first example, and generating power of the whole new creation, the marks of the nails were not just visible on his hands and his feet. They were the way he was to be identified. When art comes to terms with both the wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection and learns how to express and respond to both at once, we will be on the way to a fresh vision, a fresh mission.” –N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope (Harper Collins, 2008, p.224).

In this context I offer the following free verse from my forthcoming book, Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems :

LIVING WOUNDS

Christ’s wounds—

holes, gaps, gashes?—

remain, continue there,

healed; no pain or festering.

But they remain

places on the body

of the God-Man,

remembering.

A mystery!

There,

in the wounded place

we are part of Christ.

The nails are gone,

the sword withdrawn,

the thorns pulled out.

But these wounds live,

efficacious.

When His followers also

stand gashed and riddled,

touching our wounds to His;

bearing scars from

our own sins and

those of others

but festering no more;

together we form

places of healing

in the body of Christ.

~Catherine Lawton

Why “God Bless America”?

Many political speakers—both Republican and Democratic—end their speeches with the words, “God bless America!” This brings questions to my mind:

  • What do they mean by those three words? Are some parroting words that to them are empty of meaning but perceived as politically expedient? Are some repeating a mantra that is to them essentially a superstition? I think when most people say “God bless” they are invoking prosperity, protection, guidance/wisdom, and well being on the recipient. I personally do want all those things for the country in which I was born, in which I have lived my life, the home of my children and grandchildren.
  • Whose blessing are they invoking? We can no longer take for granted that a person asking for the blessing of God, is thinking of the God of the Bible—both Old and New Testaments—the Creator, Father God whom Jesus came to reveal. Even Christians can find themselves idolizing a lesser “god” and loving the blessings (such as wealth and influence) more than the Blesser.
  • Why do we ask for God’s blessings? Even those who put their faith in an economic, humanistic, or social ideology may say these words for “good measure,” “just in case,” to win the following of a block of voters. Or, maybe they really believe God wants to bless America. Maybe some even feel we need God’s blessings. We pledge allegiance (many of us still do) to “one nation under God.” Doesn’t this show we acknowledge, want, and need the help of a Higher Power? We need more-than-human help to achieve aspirations, defeat evil, protect against enemies, educate and prepare and provide for future generations; steward natural resources and care for creation; we have a “charge to keep.”
  • How does God bless nations? It seems, according to the biblical record, that God blesses nations because he has a plan for them, because of the faith of their members, because of their humbling themselves and seeking his help and presence, and because of his love for all his creation. He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. He gives manna, he calls out leaders, and he diverts disasters, saying to evil, “This far and no more.” He gave us Jesus who taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
  • What does God’s blessing look like? Through his providence, his creation, his mercy, he gives to us not what we deserve, but what pleases him, what furthers his purposes and plans and increases his “kingdom.”
  • Why does God bless people and nations? According to the Bible, God’s blessings are meant to lead us to repentance, encouraging us to return to right relatedness to him, others, ourselves, and creation. God’s very nature is love. He is working with all things to empower us to live in goodness. He really cares about us, as he equally cares about all individuals and people groups and nations of this world he created. He blesses us so we can know his love and goodness. He blesses us so we can in turn bless others.
  • What responsibilities come with God’s blessings? First, we have the responsibility to seek his blessings. We are given the responsibility—the ability to respond—and receive/take the blessings bestowed. That may involve periods of waiting and watching. We have the responsibility to acknowledge God’s blessings, to give thanks for them. We are given the task of holding firmly but lightly God’s blessings, so we can share them with other Peoples and nations, so we can pass them on to the next generations. We are given the responsibility of being faithful stewards of the blessings of God, working together for the well-being of all.

As one whose family generations have lived in America since Revolutionary times, have joined the Westward expansion to seek opportunity and fulfill what they perceived as God’s call, I have been a recipient of the blessings God has bestowed on this great land and nation. I have lived near the mountains, on the prairie, and beside the ocean “white with foam.” I grew up saying, with my hand on my heart, “I pledge allegiance to … one nation under God” and singing at the top of my lungs, “God bless America.” When I said those words, I was acknowledging the Almighty God as the source of all good and hoping for his favor.

I believe, generally, when we say “God bless America,” we are still invoking the God of the Bible. I also believe we sometimes forget that the Bible says God’s blessings come with responsibilities and that we aren’t blessed to feel good. May we never get so “blessed” and comfortable that we aren’t touched by the plight of the poor and oppressed. May we never become so complacent with our great blessings that we quit feeling our need of continued help from above. May we never allow our blessings to become idols and find ourselves worshiping the gift instead of the Giver, that we don’t let our great blessings lead us to pride. We must remember that we are blessed to bless others.

God bless America!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: