Learning to See Again

Have words in a book ever jumped out and hit you between the eyes?

That was my experience this morning while reading, Learning to See Again, Chapter 2 of Only the Lover Sings, Art & Contemplation, written in 1952.

“Man’s ability to see is in decline…
The spiritual capacity to perceive
The visible reality as it truly is…
There is too much to see…
What can be done?”

Josef Pieper responds to his own question… “a more patient openness for all things quiet & inconspicuous… The capacity to see increases.”

Claude Landmann Revealed the Holocaust Through the Memories…

Claude Lanzmann died a few days ago, July 5, 2018.

His epic movie, “Shoah”, released in 1985, revealed the Holocaust through the memories of survivors, victims and perpetrators.
While writing A Garland for Ashes, seeking elusive facts about my parents’ death in Chelmno, I read the whole script & watched the first part of “Shoah”. Too painful to watch to the end, and yet part of saying goodbye. The film opens with Simon Srebnik, one of the few Jews who survived Chelmno, telling the miraculous story of his survival and describing his experiences in horrendous detail.

Thankful for the life of Claude Lanzmann.

The Zeal of Thy House

Dorothy L Sayers, author, born 1893, continues to inspire writers today. In her 1937 play, “The Zeal of Thy House” she wrote, “…Humans manifest the ‘Image of God’ through creativity… Any creative work has three distinct components:
the Creative Idea,
the Creative Energy, begotten of
that idea and The Creative Power that is the meaning of the work & its response in the lively soul”.

Photo & quote from an article in Christianity Today

One Voice

A year ago, June 2017, we were in the Circus Maximus, Rome, a place of martyrdom for early Christians. Led by Raniero Cantalamessa we cried out with one voice, “Jesus is Lord”. We were together for the 50th Anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal in the RC Church.

Today we watched, “A Current of Grace” (“Ein Strom der Gnade”) on YouTube, a film from Net for God describing this gathering of 50,000 from many, many nations.

(photos: Ryan Thurman and from the web)

Let Us Be Tenfold Careful…

…”If God has given any insight into the reality of His Being, and our relation to Him… let us be tenfold careful about our fellow man, that we do him no wrong.”

George MacDonald in a sermon preached more than 100 years ago in Westminster Chapel, London… CS Lewis was profoundly influenced by the writings of George MacDonald.

Totalitarianism

Refugees…Suffering…How do I respond to the daily diet of words and pictures from, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, Russia and the Americas? Hannah Arendt, Philosopher, a refugee herself, wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951. “How could such a book speak so powerfully to our present Moment?” Jeffrey C. Isaac.

Characteristics of A Work of God

1. Insignificant beginnings.  Acts 1:12-15

Jesus had ascended into heaven. Now what? The Christian community numbered only around 120 people. The external environment was filled with danger. 

There was the power of Rome and the hostility of Jewish leaders. The disciples were vulnerable and weak. And Jesus told them to go to all nations!  Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus had taught that the kingdom of heaven (every work of God is an expression of the kingdom of heaven) is like a grain of mustard seed.  Matthew 13:31-32

A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. But it grows. It becomes larger than all the garden plants. The birds of the air come and make their homes in its branches.

2. Where there is life, there is growth.  Acts 2:42-47

The fellowship of disciples was huddled together in an upper room. Then, after a short ten days, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came.

Unbelievable! A transformed Peter called the Jewish crowd to repent and be baptized. About 3,000 people responded. More were added to their number daily.

Ultimately the power of the Gospel of Christ permeated and transformed Roman society. Christianity would ultimately be declared the official religion of the Empire.

3. Testings.  Acts 4:1-3 

Powers of darkness will oppose any work of God. Especially in its fragile beginnings, they will seek to snuff out the new life that is beginning to grow. 

It is important to view testings and counter-attacks as predictable. We are not confused or discouraged by them. We move to counter them—with God’s resources.

Choosing faithfulness to God’s call in spite of hardship brings us to experience the cross. We stand with the Savior, prepared to suffer that his kingdom might expand. 

In the process, we find more of God’s blessing flowing to us. Entering more fully into the death of our “old self,” we discover our “new self” in Christ maturing within.

4. Prayer.  Acts 1:14

Our most foundational response to attacks of the enemy is prayer. Note the practice of the early church: Acts 2:42; 3:1; 4:31; 6:3-4; 9:10-11; 10:1-2; 12:5; etc.

We learn to pray, not just after an attack, but before one happens. We establish a protective prayer covering over the work and everyone in it. We enlist intercessors. 

5. Humility. 1 Corinthians 4:9-16

This is a foundational passage for understanding some basic components of the calling and ministry of apostolic leaders. Their God-given mission is costly.

Blessing and fruitfulness from God does not lead to personal aggrandizement and glory. It leads us rather into our own experience of the sufferings of Christ. 

Pioneering a work of God calls for apostolic calling and gifting. Apostolic leaders are spiritual fathers and mothers. They learn to lead as those who are “last of all.”

Humility is living in light of what is true about God and me. I am not God. I am a glorious being created in God’s likeness. I am also a broken being needing a Savior.

Lack of Christlikeness in leaders leads to chaos, hurt, defeat. Christlikeness in leaders will be imparted to other team members who make up the ministry.

6. Faith.  Hebrews 11:8-10

Scripture tells us that Abraham is the father in faith for us all.  Romans 4:16  It is instructive to notice the rhythm in Abraham’s faith experience:

Called. Faith is not something I use to try to get God to do what I want him to do. I don’t initiate; God does. Faith is my response to God’s call—his initiative—in my life.

Failure. We seldom get it right the first time. Abraham didn’t. He had struggles and failures. Consider his process in the matter of the birth of Isaac.  Genesis 15-21

Obeyed. The settled response of faith is obedience. Faith is not just cognitive. It is a decision of the heart, expressed in action harmonious with what is believed.

Did not know. When Abraham first set out from his home, he did not know where he was going. But he knew the One who was with him. That was enough. 

City with foundations. How faith unfolds: God speaks. I struggle. I choose to obey. I don’t know specifics. But I know the One who is with me. God fulfills his promises. 

7. Passion to honor God alone.  1 Samuel 2:30

One of the most proven paths to blessing in a work of God is to ask in every decision, “What choices will bring the greatest honor to God?”

We heard the Lord say to Antioch Network: Do nothing motivated to grow Antioch Network. I will extend the work in my way and time. You grow the kingdom.

Our role is to take the work deeper into God. God’s role is to develop the work—in his ways and timing, according to his pleasure and will.

8. Laying foundations.  1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:20

Every work of God has identical foundations: Christ, the apostles and prophets, and the Scriptures. But every work also has its own unique foundations built upon them.

Foundations for each ministry are laid by apostolic leaders—those called and gifted by God to initiate, lay foundations, build a team/fellowship, and order the giftings.

9. Setting the gifts in order.  1 Corinthians 12:28-31

Laying foundations requires ordering the gifts in the body. Apostolic leaders oversee this. It is crucial to understand how calling, gifting and character interact.

Gifting. We invite individuals into a range of ministry opportunities. We notice where they are most fruitful and joyful. This is a good indication of how they are gifted.

There are natural gifts and spiritual gifts. These tend to be compatible. One gifted spiritually to teach will probably have natural ability to teach. Both are gifts of God.

But caution! Although gifting is often the most visible factor in the body, it is also the most vulnerable spiritually. Far more important than gifting is character.

Calling. How someone is gifted by God points to how that person is called by God. God gives us gifts to enable us to do what he is calling us to do.

Character. Crucial in ordering the gifts is character—the foundation on which every gift must rest. When character is inadequately formed, gifting will often implode.

Gifting produces effects, such as the praise of man. Christlike character enables us to navigate these effects well. Character is the first line of protection in God’s work. 

Godly order requires gifting to be subservient to character. As appropriate, leaders call on individuals to set aside gifting for a season to allow Christlikeness to mature.

To order the body around gifting rather than character will result in disorder. God’s work is never hindered by mistakes; God’s work is hindered by sin. 

10. The need for protection.  1 Peter 5:8-11

In a work of God we must always be alert for spiritual attack. God has provided a wide range of armor to enable us to withstand.  Ephesians 6:10-18

A group of spiritual fathers and mothers providing prayer, oversight and counsel to leadership can be vital. In abundance of counselors there is safety.  Proverbs 11:14

Self-will in each of us must be submitted to others in love. Decisions emerge from oneness of heart. Until unity is reached, the choice is easy—just wait.  James 4:7

Look for the Spirit to form an organizational structure something like: apostolically gifted leader(s) protected by an oversight group of spiritual fathers and mothers. 

Costly Grace

 

Church & Politics: Just downloaded the Kindle version of Costly Grace, by Rob Schenck, who played a pivotal role in forging the alliance between evangelicals & the Republican party. He “is now a voice for ethical reform in evangelicalism & public policy”.
Rob Schenck, what caused you to change your mind?
“I rediscovered the life & writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and evangelical pastor who was executed … for his opposition to Adolf Hitler … I looked at the evangelical church [in Germany] during the time in which he lived … I saw in those times a reflection of our own … What happened to the German Christians was happening to us.”

Apostolic Ministry: Inner Healing for Apostolic Leaders

Unhealed places within us will find expression in our behavior. In this we can not only harm ourselves, but also others around us. The consequences are even greater in the case of leaders who have responsibility for others and enjoy wider influence. What are some main areas of wounding within? How can we seek healing from Jesus?

(George Miley) Recorded at 2011 Antioch Network Gathering

How Do I Receive A New Kind of Life in Christ Now?

I don’t “do” it. God “does” it. But I must “choose” it—daily.

Jesus: Everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. John 8:34b
Paul: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17a

1.  Repentance: I acknowledge my sin, and choose to re-direct my life away from self-centeredness and toward God-reliance. Matthew 4:17

2.  Faith: I come to believe, not just profess (I can profess what I don’t truly believe) that Christ is who he said he was. Such belief catalyzes action. James 2:14 

3.  Grace: God immerses me in his grace—empowerment to do what I cannot do on my own. But he doesn’t force it on me. I must choose to access it. 2 Peter 3:18a 

4.  The “with-God” life: God unites me with him in a new kind of life—divine life—by grace (unearned) through faith (my choices). All benefits of Christ’s passion are now accessible; e.g., forgiveness of sin and transformation of character. John 3:5-7

Dallas Willard: Grace is not opposed to effort; grace is opposed to earning. 1 Corinthians 15:10

5.  The flesh: The old life—received from parents—wars against new life with God, seeking to subvert it, Galatians 5:16-18. I learn the path to victory in discipleship.

Paul: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25a

6.  Discipleship: I am with Jesus to learn from him how to live this new life. It is not about trying harder; it is about my inner life being re-formed. Luke 6:40

Does anyone really believe that Jesus did not intend for his disciples actually to do the things he said were best—the ways of eternal life in God’s kingdom? Luke 6:46

7.  Spiritual formation: The product of discipleship. Being with him, learning from him, I am gradually re-made. “Behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17b 

8.  Christlike character: Behavior expresses the condition of the heart. A heart transformed into Christlikeness makes holiness of action the norm. 1 Peter 1:14-16

Thesis: The foundational curriculum for all Christian education: Teach people how actually to live the way Jesus taught; e.g., how to learn to love one’s enemy. 

Lord have mercy (Matthew 20:30)

Lord have mercy on
Children in trauma,
Lord have mercy on
Parents in sorrowful loss,
Lord have mercy on
Officials who separate
Children and parents,
Lord have mercy on
Those who justify evil deeds,
Lord have mercy on us all.

(Photo: Albrecht Dürer,
“Praying Hands” 1508)

Internal versus External

Internal versus external:
I thought the book of Proverbs,
In the Hebrew bible was
A list of things to do, or not to do,
All about external behavior &
Warnings about consequences.
Slowly reading Proverbs again today,
I was surprised to discover the word ‘Heart’ mentioned nine
times in the first five chapters e.g 4:23
“Keep your heart with all vigilance
For from it flow the springs of life.”
What is the heart?
In the “Divine Conspiracy” p.206
Dallas Willard writes..
“Our heart is our will, or our spirit:
The center of our being from which
Our life flows…A heart rightly
Directed therefore brings health &
Wholeness to the entire personality.”

Prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas

“Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory and the ability
to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability
to express myself with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, direct the progress and help in the completion.
I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

One translation of the Prayer Before Study (or before writing) by St. Thomas Aquinas.

St Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village, NY.

We thought we were only going for the Stolpersteine…

Dear Friends,

We were in Phoenix when an unexpected email arrived. We were being invited to Koblenz, Germany, for a May 8 laying of Stolpersteine (commemorative brass bricks placed in sidewalks) in remembrance of Hanna’s three aunts who perished in the Holocaust: Johanna, Dora and Elisabeth Schneider.

Laborious digging into the family history, searching for facts while writing A Garland for Ashes (Meine Krone in der Asche) had yielded sparse results. But now the city of Koblenz was acknowledging their history and honoring their memory. 

Almost immediately we knew we were supposed to go. We began to invite friends in Germany to join us.

In Koblenz on May 8 it was already…

Stolperstein Verlegung in Koblenz: May 8, 2018

My heart-felt thanks to all of you who have come to witness the laying of Stolpersteine for my three aunts. 

Perhaps the year was 1937. I would have been five years old when I walked through the front door of the grand house that stood here at Markenbildchenweg 30. I had come to visit my aunts. 

My mother was the eldest of four sisters, daughters of the Schneider family, Weinhändler, originally from Heddisheim, now Guldenthal, near Bad Kreuznach. 

By 1937 my mother had settled in the Eifel region, but her sisters made their home here on this street in Koblenz. 

I only have faint memories of my three aunts, their appearance or personalities. Aunt Johanna was a business woman, strong and efficient. Aunt Dorothea, or Dora, cared for the house. I see her wearing an apron— kindly, quiet and timid. The youngest aunt, Elisabeth, I remember having curly black hair and laughing eyes. I have no photographs. They were single, all three, and I was the only child in the family—loved intensely. 

For many years, it was too painful for me to even ask the question, “What happened to my aunts, Johanna, Dora and Elisabeth?” 

It was only after I experienced the healing of my wounded history that I received the courage to search out their story. The facts are few. On May 22, 1942, they left Koblenz from the Güterbahnhof Lützei on the first transport carrying around 300 Koblenz Jews to the east. 

The three of them were among the 11-15,000 Jews who were ultimately brought to Izbica, a small shetl in Poland.

My aunts died in the summer of 1942. Did they die by gassing in the nearby camps, Belzec or Sobibor? Or from typhoid, shooting or starvation in Izbica? 

About a year ago, George and I were in Koblenz. We walked with a large group of local citizens, following the route these first deportees took, under guard, on their way to the Güterbahnhof Lutzei.

In the evening darkness we stood together at the station, holding lighted candles and yellow stars. We listened as all the names, ages and addresses were read by students. 

And now, today, we are together here, honoring Johanna, Dora and Elisabeth, remembering them with Stolpersteine. 

I am deeply thankful to Gunter Demnig, who has already laid so many Stolpersteine throughout Europe. And from Koblenz, especially Wolfgang Hüllstrung and his team, and all of you gathered here as witnesses. Some of you have travelled hundreds of kilometers to be here. 

I would like to close with the Aaronic blessing. The role God intended for Jews was to bless all peoples. I pray this prayer today, asking God’s blessing on all of us gathered here, and on the city of Koblenz:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
And give you peace.