Josh j Smith


#Lent, Wednesday, 3/30: Remember
March 30, 2011, 9:23 am
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“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” – Deut. 4.9

“In his absence a new and more intimate presence becaem possible, a presence taht nurtured and sustained in the midst of tribulations and that created the desire to see him again.  The great mystery of the divine revelation is that God entered into intimacy with us not only by Christ’s coming, but also by his leaving.”  – Henri Nouwen

Participate with this post…

When is it hardest to remember the stories, events, miracles and promises of God?

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#Lent, Saturday, 3/26: Returning.
March 26, 2011, 10:09 pm
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Rembrandt's Prodigal Son

17“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19( I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15.17-20

I was with my friend Dan last night.  Dan walks really fast.  His normal walking speed is my normal jogging speed.  So you can understand how difficult it is when we ware walking casually together – I am jogging by trying to make myself look like am walking.

We were walk-jogging through the grocery store last nigh arguing about what kind of cookies to buy. As we left there was buy-one-get-one-free Chips Ahoy!  The cashier and I agreed that they are not as good as they used to be.

I continued to rant about Golden Grahams.  A while ago I was hoping to have a sensory flashback to childhood as I took my first bite of the golden crispy cereal drenched in milk.  Instead it was soggy schlopp.  Golden Grahams lost their character.

The present Golden Graham is probably the fabrication of many changes that happened over the years.  With a small change here and there, it would not take long for a chasm to emerge between the original Golden Graham and the new Golden Graham.

There I am confronted with the gaps in my life.  The gaps between my wife and I, my children, and between God and I.  After so many days and hours of being selfish and and living for me, it catches up.  Sometimes there are massive gaps that are the result of little changes or the lack of change.  The quality of my life gets to a certain point and I realize that I’m far from God.  And selfishly I return to God for a happier life, to find direction, or to be “blessed”.

The beauty of returning to God is that he welcomes us with open arms no matter what.  Whether my intentions are selfish or not.

I love my children so much I never want to miss an opportunity to embrace them, especially when they want it.  God’s love is all the more inebriating.

The prodigal son’s motives were selfish for returning to his father, and his father was happy he realized that his life is better with him.  God wants us to realize that life is not good without him, and he wants us to admit it even more.

Prayer

God, I know that I am going to be far from you.

I know that I will take advantage of you for my own benefit.

Please never stop waiting for me to come back.

Please help me know that you are always there for when I return.



#Lent Thursday, 3/24: Test Me.
March 24, 2011, 5:00 pm
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I, Yahweh, search the heart, test the motives, to give each person what his conduct and his action deserve. – Jer. 17.10

I often forget to remind myself each day that my agenda is not what is important.  As I face decisions big and small, my reflex is to think about how this will benefit me.  Many days I’m frustrated where I am in life.  Or, even, I am frustrated where God has me in life.  And some days I consumed with God’s presence and I realized that God has me where he wants me.  Or, that I am where I am because I have a lot to learn before I can be where I want.  Or, that I don’t know what I really want and God does.

Then the journey is to merely to have faith.

Prayer

Fire fall down.

Test me.

Search my heart.

Reveal to me what you see.

Show me your way.



#Lent, Wednesday, 3/23: Serve others dang it!
March 23, 2011, 5:10 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , , , ,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 5.25-28

The Good News of Jesus is so compelling because it is contrary to everything that is natural.  I believe we long for the Gospel because it is provacative.  The Gospel inspires us to be different, to swim against the stream of culture, and to fight the good fight.

But it scares us.  My 3 year old son gets so scared when I jump from a dark room to scare him.  But he always asks for more because he loves the feeling of not knowing.

I admit there are times I am scared of being different.  Thinking about being radically different, watching it on movies, or reading about it is not the same as living it.  I admit I get scared of what others will think.  I am afraid of being embarrassed.

I’m sorry that I am more scared of being selfless than selfish in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer

Jesus.  Help me to fear you.

Help me to be scared of bringing shame to your name.

Help me to be scared of losing the opportunity of seeing your kingdom each day.

Jesus.  Light the fire in my soul to ridiculously serve others.



Lent, Tuesday,3/22: love your enemies ii
March 22, 2011, 8:40 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: ,

20110322-090746.jpg

7″But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32( “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6.27-36

This is the most radical message of the Gospel. Yet, the most neglected value in the American church. I am brainwashed with the message of my culture that says “it is my rite to…” And when my rites are not honored you are an enemy of mine. Therefore, my rites as an American often trump the call of God’s Kingdom. I am shameful for myself and the American church.

I quickly realized that the phrase “Love your enemies” is cliche. I immediately dismiss the enemies that are close to me and pray only for distant enemies (i.e. al-Qaeda). Enemies that need prayer but are a safe distance from interrupting my agenda. But Jesus gets specific in this conversation – there are no social rites when it comes to loving your enemy. We are not called to only love our enemy when it is convenient.

Co-workers, managers, customers, cashiers at the store, the ebay person who sold me broken goods, employees, neighbors, children, spouses, siblings, and parents all can be enemies. The frightening truth is that I usually do not realize it. I am very quick to notice the problem in them and begin to strategize a plan to neutralize them because they have threatened me in some way. It could be as big as someone mistreating my wife or kids, or something as little as screwing up my sandwich. Either issue, shamefully, forces me to embrace my inner viking rather than the Holy Spirit.

Everyday we are facing our enemies, and Jesus says to love them. Not to pretend to love them, but to love them from the deepest part of our being. To be concerned for their rites even if they are abusing our rites. To be concerned for their welfare even though they might be stealing ours (no pun intended using the word “welfare”). To be concerned for their need to have to humiliate us instead of retaliating or winning even though we could take them.

How can Providence Community love our enemies?
Who would be considered an enemy in our country that we could attempt to love unconditionally?
Who would be an enemy in our immediate area that we could mission together to love?



Lent, Monday, 3/21 : Loving Enemies
March 21, 2011, 4:10 pm
Filed under: religion | Tags: , ,

44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5.44-45

“Prayer allows us to lead into the center of our hearts not only those who love us but also those who hate us.  This is possible only when we are willing to make our enemies part of ourselves and thus convert them first of all in our own hearts.” (Henri Nouwen Show Me the Way, pp47).

This reminds me of the Jonah story.  God called Jonah to be an agent in helping rescue the Ninevites.  But Jonah ran.  Yes he fulfilled God’s call, and the Ninevites repented.  But he was angry that God rescued the Ninevites.  He said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a) gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.“

Jonah hated these people so much he did not desire their salvation.  He was so driven by hatred and bitterness he was suicidal at the thought these people living, or that he might have to spend eternity with them.

Is there a person?  Is there a group, race, or type of people that would make us cringe at the thought of God rescuing them and blessing them?

Our Prayer

O Lord, look with favor on us, your people,

And impart your love to us –

Not as an idea or concept,

But as a lived experience.

We can love each other

Only because you have loved us first.

Let us know that first love

So that we can see all human love

As a reflection of a greater love,

A love without conditions and limitations.

Amen. – Henri Nouwen



Lent : Forgiveness
March 21, 2011, 1:21 am
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , ,

Photograph by Engelina SmithMatthew 5.23-25

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

God really wants to forgive us.  Forgiveness is not merely the consequence of confession, but the motivation for us to return to God.  God’s story in scripture shows God’s radical pursuit to bring his people back to himself so that he could forgive them.

I confess that I do not go to great lengths to forgive those who trespassed against me.  I sit.  I wait.  I plot.  It festers.

Henri Nouwen pointed out that it is hard for me to forgive others because I do not believe I am a forgiven person.  Why would I?  I am bored with how repetitious my sins are.  There are times I imagine God saying the same thing I say when I see Friends on TV, “Is there an end to the re-runs? Please, someone, put me out of my misery. ”  My lack of dwelling in God’s forgiving presence continually restricts me from forgiving others.

“But not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.  A forgiven person forgives.  This is what we proclaim when we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Henri Nouwen; Show Me the Way; p44).

Are you going to allow God to forgive you?

Who do you need to forgive?

Do you really want to forgive those who trespassed against you if it was the same thing done to you 490 times (70 x 7)?

Are we a forgiven church?

Are we a forgiving church?

Are we a community where people feel free to seek forgiveness?

Are we able to forgive our persecutors and our enemies?

Do we put limits on who or what we are going to forgive?