back to the daily grind



The bright aura fades
But the angel's words echo.
My God is with me. 

Thinking of Mary this year. And God pulling. (Previous years' Christmas haikus start here.)


o come

My favorite version of my favorite advent song, from Heather's celtic Christmas album:

O come, O come, Emmanuel



going lower

Recent experiences brought to mind this old favorite, from the Tao Te Ching:

The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
Which flows in places that others disdain,
Where it is in harmony with the Way.




in this moment

Continuing "God Pulls"...

This is the good that we desire but cannot see, the pure good that we cannot imagine or reach for, though we long for it helplessly. To be with God. It seems impossibly far from us, and yet it is incredibly close. In this very moment. God is in this moment, touching us, ready to pull us and move us with his love, to change how we relate to others, how we work, how we receive all we need, to share with us the truly good life that we long for.

It is by God's power that this can become real for us. It doesn't matter that we don't even know what goodness looks like. It doesn't matter that our past has proven that we are weak and confused and selfish, that it is beyond our power to change. It is not by our power that this gift will be given to us. It is God who will make the unimaginable a reality.

This gift is close, in this very moment. Not at the end of a long, difficult struggle or journey, but now. God is pulling us to himself now. Only our resistance separates us. What God asks of us is neither patience nor struggle, but rather to stop struggling, to let ourselves be pulled in by his powerful love.

This happens in this moment, and in each moment of our lives. To surrender to God's love right now does not mean we will always live in that love. But God wants us to. That alone makes it possible for us. We must not be overwhelmed by the terrible failures behind us or the terrifying challenges ahead of us. God is here, in this moment. And it is in this moment that we must let God pull.


we are the end

Continuing "God Pulls"...

The power of God will produce the results God wants to see. The results are not in our hands. God sometimes works through our hands, but he does not need our power or hard work. God calls us, draws us in, but God does not desire us for the work we can do for him. What God desires is not our labor, but us. For God, we are not a tool, a means to an end. We are the end. We are what God wants.

Recognizing this, we can understand that there is no shame in being poor or weak. And whatever part we might play in God's work in the world, it is nothing to be proud about. As Paul wrote, "No human being can boast in the presence of God. Let him to boasts, boast of the Lord." The work of God is God's. It is not our accomplishment, no matter what we do. So our boast can only be in the greatness of God, and our joy can only be in the wonder of what God has done. This is our worship of God. We recognize the accomplishments of God and appreciate the beauty and goodness of it all. This also is surrendering to God's pull.

And this is what God wants from us. To be with him. Not to manage the world, or save it, but to surrender our power and be pulled in by God's love. All God's work is for this, and nothing else: to draw each of us in, to himself.





to be weak

Continuing "God Pulls"...

Following Jesus' example in this way seems like intentionally choosing to be weak. And how can weakness help anyone, or defeat the evil we see around us? God's love pulls us in this direction because our own strength can never provide real hope for the people around us. It is the power of God that saves people, that defeats evil, not our power. If we wish to help others, the best thing we can do for them is help them to see the powerful love of God and to surrender to its pull. We are not the ones worthy of their trust, only God is. And God's power is more clearly seen when it appears working through weak people. As Jesus said to Paul, "My power is made perfect in weakness."

So we should not be ashamed about appearing weak, because our hope is not in our own strength, but God's. And the fate of the world is not in our hands, but the hands of God. The world will not be saved by human strength. And neither will it be owned by the strong. Jesus said "the meek will inherit the earth," that it will be given to them. To the meek, to those who have chosen to be humble and weak. To those who have surrendered to God's pull.




Continuing "God Pulls"...

But human power is used against God's efforts. This was seen in the way Jesus was treated, and the way many of his followers have been treated throughout history. And God always suffers with them. Not because human power can harm God, but because the fight against God's pull is a rejection of his love, a rejection by the ones he loves. God suffers because of us, because he loves us.

If we are acting with God's love, this is our suffering also: the pain of being rejected by the ones we love. And this is made even more difficult because this rejection is not just by a few individuals. It is rejection by the majority. As Jesus said, "The world hates you, but know that it has hated me before it hated you." Because it is the majority—and the overwhelming power of the majority—against us, it doesn't feel like our good efforts are being rejected by a few ungrateful people. It seems like everything is turning against us. It can seem like we are being isolated, and even God has abandoned us.

It is in those moments of rejection that it is most important to be able to feel and recognize the pull of God's love. This is how we are reassured that God has not forgotten us. And God's pull in these moments provides the creativity and strength to respond to this rejection—this alienating, threatening rejection—with love. Jesus described what that love looks like, when he said, "If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also." This is the way of loving those who reject God's pull.

This love in the midst of rejection is what Jesus was talking about when we said to his followers, "Take up your cross and follow me."



"На месте кратера от бомбы"

I want to remember these words from my friend in Kharkiv:

"На месте кратера от бомбы растут весенние цветы"

 In place of the bomb crater, spring flowers grow.


"хорошие парни"

A friend I met online lives in Kharkiv, and his city is currently being bombed and shelled, including civilian areas. He has written to me almost every day since the invasion. His heritage is Russian, though he has lived all his life in Ukraine. Today I wrote to him (in Russian):

Я согласен, что то, что происходит сейчас - это братоубийство. Война - это всегда ужасное братоубийство. Но я думаю, что лучше, когда власть народов разделена. Многие россияне считают Соединенные Штаты злом из-за того, что они сделали. А многие в моей стране считают Россию злом из-за того, что сделала Россия. И я согласен, что у обеих сторон есть веские причины так думать! Каждый народ творит много зла, используя ту власть, которой он обладает.

В английском языке есть известная поговорка: "Власть развращает; абсолютная власть развращает абсолютно". Есть ли такая поговорка в русском языке? По моему опыту, это правда. Поэтому я благодарен за то, что ни одно правительство не обладает всей полнотой власти. Я плачу и ужасаюсь тому, как люди воюют друг с другом. Но в каком-то смысле я благодарен и за то, что они разделены и противостоят друг другу, потому что это ограничивает их власть и ограничивает зло, которое они могут творить. И их ужасные деяния на войне очень ясно показывают нам всем, что ни одна из сторон, которая сражается и убивает, не является "хорошими парнями". (И те, кто душит российский народ санкциями, тоже не "хорошие парни"). Это показывает нам, что мы не должны следовать за могущественными лидерами любой страны.

Я последователь Иисуса, и Иисус сказал: "Никто не благ, кроме Бога". Я верю в это. Все, что в нас есть хорошего, - от Бога. И я верю, что мы должны сложить свою власть и делать только то, о чем просит нас Бог, а именно "любить друг друга". Тогда мы будем жить в мире.

(Читали ли вы Толстого? Достоевского? Думаю, они бы со мной согласились.)

Я молюсь о мужестве для вас. И милости Божией к народу Украины. Даже когда люди творят зло, Бог творит добро. 


I agree that what is happening now is fratricide. War is always horrible fratricide. But I think it's better when the power of nations is divided. Many Russians think the United States is evil because of what it has done. And many in my country think Russia is evil because of what Russia has done. And I agree that both sides have good reason to think so! Every nation does a lot of evil using the power it has.

There is a well-known saying in English: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Is there such a saying in the Russian language? In my experience, it is true. So I am thankful that no government has all the power. I cry and am horrified at the way people fight with each other. But in a way I am also thankful that they are divided and opposed to each other, because it limits their power and limits the evil they can do. And their terrible acts in war show us all very clearly that neither side that fights and kills are the "good guys." (And those who strangle the Russian people with sanctions are not the "good guys" either.) This shows us that we should not follow the powerful leaders of any country.

I am a follower of Jesus, and Jesus said: "No one is good but God." I believe that. Everything that is good in us is from God. And I believe that we must lay down our power and do only what God asks us to do, which is "love one another." Then we will live in peace.

(Have you read Tolstoy? Dostoevsky? I think they would agree with me.)

I pray for courage for you. And God's mercy for the people of Ukraine. Even when people do evil, God does good.