Make America Great (Again)

The lectionary and daily office readings have been on point over the last few weeks. “How is such a thing possible since these readings were scheduled years ago?” you might ask. Call me absurd; call me a religious nut; call me whatever you like. But know this is my opinion: God is trying to speak to us, if only we’ll listen.

Today, I’m simply sharing yesterday’s Old Testament lectionary reading (which is also today’s daily office reading) in several different versions. Let the words sink in.

***

Isaiah 58:1-9a (NRSV)

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

 

Isaiah 58:1-9a (ESV)

Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

Isaiah 58:1-9 (The Message)

Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances, they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Well, here’s why: The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

A Letter From My Grandson

I don’t normally post on Sundays, but the events of the weekend this poem out of me. Thanks for reading.

***

January 29, 2067

Dear Grandpa,

The historians remind us, now, how you and yours leveraged your last gasp to make us and ours great–definitions being what they are, fracturable things.

Yours were the days of the news outlets, the reporters, the cameramen and college-educated journalists chasing the facts by the tail, and what are facts but wild dogs, tamed now by the great government then given to The People on a leash. It was the time before the New Iron Curtain was built by the chicken pullers in De Queen or the ranch hands from there to Brownsville, before an avocado cost more than a line of coke or a good night with the women who negotiated affections to stay in this great America. (There are always ways of getting around a wall, they say.) Yours were the days before the brown huddle masses were returned to their wars and rubble, before you crucified the many Jesuses–women-Jesuses, child-Jesuses, honest-men-Jesuses–and left their remains to the many devils.

(At night, I pray “forgive them, Father, they know not what they’ve done.”)

The new Oligarchs have won our hearts, now. For free whiskey and all the American flags we could drink, they worked their ways into our homes, and we came to count them as friends, and if not friends, at least kind, and if not kind, at least as stern fathers who might excuse our drunkenness so long as we waived our flags and paid the poll tax.

Your people might call this greatness jingoism or xenophobia–definitions being what they are
these days, fracturable things–but The People see past small notions of equality, now. We are called The Patriots, and we were fashioned by strongmen, by paid-for history, by the projection of fears you harbored in secret without speaking, without acting,

action being divisive as it was,

action being destructive as it was,

action being revolutionary as it was.

And what are revolutionaries but people whose bones are scattered as forgotten martyrs?

Sincerely,

Your Grandson

***TINY LETTER***

Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin OuttakesAnd, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb

To my faithful readers and dear friends:

I’ve been in large churches, small churches, tweeny-sized churches. I’ve done a stint in Baptist churches, non-denominational churches, and now, the Anglican church. In my elementary-school days, I even attended weekly mass at the ornate Catholic church on the corner of Rogers and Garrison. I’ve worshiped next to old ladies chewing gum and old nuns wearing habits. I’ve knelt, stood, even prostrated myself once out of some odd holy compunction. I’ve run the rails–communion and prayer alike–and I suppose what I can say with some certainty is this: I’m a church guy.

There are so many who’ve been busted up by the church. They’ve had their knuckles popped by Catholic rulers or heads bashed by oversized Baptist bibles. They’ve been shamed with and without cause–pre-marital sex, dancing, sneaking a nip of whiskey, whatever. They’ve been excluded from leadership because they asked the wrong questions or because they wore a bra. They’ve been pushed into corners–singles groups, over-the-hiller groups, you’re-not-my-language groups, whatever. They’ve been on the blunt end of power, and they can tell you, the blunt end of power leaves mark.

You know this; yes?

I’m a church guy, but I see the fundamental disconnect between the call of Jesus to his followers (divest yourselves of power; become a child) and the all too familiar call of the modern church (solidify power; build your influence, your numbers, by being excellent). Enter the prophets.

Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin have written a book that’s changing me. In The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb, they interview the church-sages of our day, sages like J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson. Along the way, they find the most beautiful truth: the way of Jesus, the way of divesting yourself of power, is the soul-freeing, healing way to wholeness.

I don’t often pop in here to encourage you to buy a book, but today is that day. It’s my sincere hope that every deacon, priest, pastor, minister, or church member–anyone in the church with a pulse–will purchase this book straightaway. It’s my hope that you’ll share a little about it with your friends, that you’ll start a church book club, or an online reading group using this book as your discussion fodder. It’s my hope that it will change you like it’s changing me, and that in turn, it will change the church.

A modest hope; I know.

Would you like to grab your copy? The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb releases today. You can find it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

For the record, I received no compensation for writing this post. These are my honest, genuine, free-of-charge thoughts, so you know I mean business. Do you see my serious eyes? I mean business.

In all things peace,

Seth

 

***TINY LETTER***

Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin OuttakesAnd, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

What Is Light?

This is my continued exploration of the senses. Enjoy.

***

What Is Light?

Behind the eyelids I see things:
a fluorescent flicker; two tiny dancers;
hazy tracers; an aurora borealis.
In the moments before sleep,
my eyes hunt and gather
the last photon trickle of night,
bend it into quantum illusions
of beauty without meaning.
I’ve known these lights since
I was a child, and once
they spoke these words: Pure dark
is the true illusion, at least
for those who have eyes to see
or to conjure seeing.

 

***TINY LETTER***

Thanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you’ll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin OuttakesAnd, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter, consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

An Invitation

I’ve found myself in lighter days, days with shining, luminous edges. Silver linings are real, I’ve found, and I can say this with some certainty–this life ain’t so bad.

I suppose I’ve found my way through a hole of sorts. It’s a hole that took a while to dig, one that involved a marriage, a career, the slow realization of the unimportance of a life, a little sickness, a little liquor, and a hell of a lot of my own stupidity. The odd thing about the hole I dug was that I dug it–for the most part–without realizing it. Is this the way we all do? Does anyone set out to lose themselves six-feet-under, buried by their own ambition, or pain, or penchants for addiction? I don’t suppose. I suppose most of us die by way of involuntary diggery.

You know this, right?

There’s an equal and opposite truth, though. I don’t suppose I pulled myself back into the light. Sure, I showed up; I did the work–yadda, yadda, yadda. But how was it that I climbed up the slickery, mudden sides of my own hole? If I’m honest, I feel as if I were pulled from it, predestined as that may sound. I feel scooped, maybe like the way God scooped the first man from the earth. Who knows. And though I call this the hand of God, a few of you might not believe in God the way I do; you can call it the long reach of the universe, or karma, or whatever, so long as you realize that I’m writing of the transcendent grace, that grace I find myself incapable of. Wherever you are and whatever you call this pulling, this grace, doesn’t so much matter to me. What matters is that I extend a little invitation to you. (Please know you’re all invited.) The invitation goes something like this:

Come and see. 

That’s how all the good stories start, and I started telling this story yesterday in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. Here’s the introduction:

There is a disquieting stillness when you sit with a holy man, a proverbial oracle. There—in his office, on his back porch, in his bedroom, wherever—stillness is acute, sharp, maybe a needle point. It’s the stillness that pushes through skin, muscle, bone, and marrow into the very center of something (The heart? The soul?). The holy man, the oracle, he knows who he is, and he rests in the way and shape of his life. The student, or novice, or receiver (in this instance, me) does not know the way or shape but instead fumbles to hold the weight of any wisdom. Holy men and oracles smile at this fumbling. They know that fumbling leads to holding, at least over time.

“Remember the child?” they ask.

I could have started the first Newsletter of 2017 two thousand and seventeen different ways, but this is the only way that seemed right. I broke words for weeks before scattering them on the page like breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs seem about right. How else should I lead you to my friend—my friend—John Paine?

If you’d like to meet the man who’s acted as a sort of rope and pulley in my life, I hope you’ll read the full piece by signing up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. I’ll be letting this story unfold in serial fashion over the coming months, and only my monthly newsletter subscribers will have the opportunity to follow along. I hope to see you there.

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.