Friday, March 30, 2007

Everybody is I

"The journey only took twelve minutes, but on this occasion that was long enough for a startling new truth to penetrate my ten-year-old consciousness so profoundly that it has affected almost everything I have done since that day.

As I sat on the front seat of the big green Maidstone and District bus, a sixpenny bit and a penny clutched in my hand ready for the conductor, a phrase I had read earlier repeated itself over and over in my mind.

“Everybody is I.”

For some reason I sensed an important inner core of meaning in the words. But I was unable to dig it out.

Everybody is I... Everybody is I ...

Suddenly I stiffened. Body erect, hands flat on the ledge of the window, I pressed my forehead against the glass and stared in amazement at the crowds on the pavement below. The true meaning of those three simple, but puzzling words had exploded into my mind, destroying the illusion that I was the center of the universe, and leaving me to cope, for the rest of my life, with a burden of knowledge. Every one of those people down there in the street, walking the pavements, driving cars, waiting for buses – every single one, whatever they were, whatever they looked like, whatever I thought of them, were as important to themselves as I was to myself!

I shook my head trying to clear it of this incredible notion. Everybody is I ... That funny, bent old lady with the mouth drooping on one side – she mattered, she was vital – central. The bus conductor who had interrupted my mental churning earlier; he wasn’t just a bit player in my world. He was the star in his own. He had a head full of thoughts and feelings; a life inside him; he was the reason that the earth went on turning. My own father and mother, my brothers, aunts, uncles, all my friends – all were “I”. Everybody was I, and at that moment I was somehow aware that I would probably never learn a more important lesson."

– Adrian Plass, from Growing Up Pains

I thought of this bit from Adrian Plass this morning when I read the words of Jesus in Luke 6:41,42. It’s where He exposes people who find fault with others for doing the same things they’re doing themselves, as hypocrites.

I wonder if part of our problem with specks and planks – things like complaining how people in church are unfriendly, but being standoffish ourselves, whining about bad drivers but bending the rules ourselves, all that hypocritical stuff – doesn’t have its roots here. Perhaps we’ve never learned the lesson that 10-year-old Adrian learned that day. We still think and act like we’re the center of the universe, and behave with great indulgence toward our egostically centered selves to boot.

I know I’ve been guilty. I need to grow up. Otherwise, how will I ever be able to obey that most unhypocritical command of Jesus just a few verses earlier: “And just as you want men to do to you, you do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31)?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over

"Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." - Jesus, Luke 6:38

Who doesn’t salivate at Jesus' word picture of abundance? Yes, bring it on!

But I wonder how often I don’t recognize the abundance I already have.

We have an abundance of food in our freezer and a well-stocked pantry

We have an abundance of books (this bookshelf x about 5).

I have an abundance of clothes.

We have an abundance of good memories in shelf-fulls of photo albums and many more photos in boxes and on computer disks.

We have an abundance of CDs (these are just the ones in my office).

I have an abundance of pens, pencils and paper.

I have an abundance of Bibles (many more than this!)

You get the picture?

I think this "good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over" has already hit me in many areas of my life. I’d better have an abundance of thanks!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Saturday afternoon driving into Vancouver, we again passed the site, in front of the Chinese Consulate, where for five years Falun Gong members demonstrated against the Chinese Government. They were protesting the persecution of their brothers and sisters China.

The city tried to shut down the protest last summer. Thus people no longer sit and stand there 24/7 as they used to. But there are still posters and banners. As we sped by, I caught sight of a woman’s face on a poster, emaciated and bruised, hair a mess, eyes filled with pain. And I thought of how much she looked like pictures of persecuted Christians I have seen.

This morning when reading Jesus’ woes in Luke 6: “Woe to you who are rich....Woe to you who are full....Woe to you who laugh now....Woe to you when all men speak well of you....” I thought of my rich, full, accepted life, and what a contrast is the life of Christians in places where persecution is the norm. And I also thought of that Falun Gong protest site.

It was not my choice to be born in Canada – a land of tolerance and plenty. But I do have other choices. One of them concerns what to do about my persecuted brothers and sisters in India and Uzbekistan and Pakistan and China and Myanmar and Thailand etc. etc. Like the Falun Gong, should I consider making myself a little uncomfortable and unpopular by protesting against governments that deal oppressively with Christians and which my country supports with respect and trade? That monument of their dedication on Granville Street is a rebuke to me.

At the very least, I know I should pray regularly for my persecuted brothers and sisters. For if I don’t take some of their present woe on myself in this least (and perhaps most) thing I can do – intercession – I can consider myself warned. Jesus said someday the tables would be turned:

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil....For your reward is great in heaven (Luke 6:20-23).

Don’t know what’s happening to Christians around the world? Check out:

WorldServe Ministries

Voice of the Martyrs

Persecution blog

Monday, March 26, 2007

Did Jesus make lists?

That's the question that came to me this morning as I was thinking about the day ahead and the list of things I’d like to get done. List-making has always been for me an efficiency tool or self-check guide to focus me and help me make sure I’m staying on-task. As such, though, lists can easily rule me, making me resistant to serendipity and interruption.

Jesus, on the other hand, comes across as a very anti-list person, the way He drifted from incident to incident – one day in Galilee, another in Capernaum, then Bethany, then Jerusalem – with seemingly no plan or agenda but to do His Father’s will.

And then this morning, just after thinking about Jesus and lists I came to the place in Luke where He made one! Yes indeed, in Luke 6:12-15 Jesus comes to His flock of followers one morning with a list of twelve people He’s picked to be disciples. Though I’m sure he didn’t make His list because He was in a panic, feeling overwhelmed, or wouldn't otherwise remember (more reasons I make lists), I imagine He had one reason in common with mine -- His time was limited. He had lots to get done and needed to focus His efforts.

But there is also a big difference between Jesus’ list-making and mine, and that is what He did while He was making that list: He “continued all night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12. Now there’s a novel thought – praying over my lists. Presenting them to God and letting Him strike out some items and add others to my to-do list, prayer list, grocery list, list of people I’d like to have over, books I want to read, things I’d like to do before I die ...

I’m definitely a list person, though I must admit that more than once I’ve questioned the lists I’ve made because they so easily spin me off into my own little agenda. But if Jesus made lists surely it’s okay for me to make them too – as long as I don’t forget to invite Him to be part of the process. Oh, and I just thought of a way to shake off the tyranny of any list that thinks it's the boss. I'll make sure that "serendipity" and "interruption" are always on the list!

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