“The (Im)partial Church”: A New Podcast

I’m so pleased to have discovered a podcast that addresses issues of color, ethnicity, and diversity with a Christ-centered perspective. Prof. Janine Bolling and Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling host The (Im)partial Church podcast for Lutheran Hour Ministries, a podcast exploring “how Christians embrace different cultures, celebrate diversity, and live out their faith.”

Entertaining as this brother-sister duo is, when addressing the issues of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), cancel culture, and cultural diversity, they follow the apostle Paul’s admonition to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). As they point out in “What Not to Say” (episode 3), salt preserves, and we must use our speech to preserve relationships between people, not destroy.

The Bollings are winsome and practical, providing with their podcast a place for Christians to look for ways in which to live out their faith midst cultural diversity. Bringing their personal and professional experiences into the conversation makes it that much more relatable, while grounding their discussion in frequent references to Scripture and what God calls us to be as His family bought and reconciled through the Cross of His Son provides the solid ground of love and hope and fresh motivation to build bridges between communities.

Repentance. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Love. For Christians these qualities are part of the very identity we have in Christ Jesus.

The (Im)partial Church engages and informs, inspires and connects, all in service to the God who calls us above the noise and fray of hostility to live to His glory in obedience and love and humility and sacrifice.

Listen to this podcast and be refreshed and energized to meet the challenges of a culture that would divide rather than unite us. As Christians we are called to this ministry of reconciliation by living missionally, reflecting the new life we have in Jesus.

“Overflow” by Michael Reeves: Book Review

Overflow: How the Joy of the Trinity Inspires our Mission (Moody Publishers, July 2021, 112 pp.)

If someone were to tell us that knowing God is Three Persons in One is an easy concept to understand, we would have to declare them either a simpleton or a liar. But if someone were to tell us that this concept of the Trinity makes all the difference to how we interact with him in adoration and joy, with his overflowing love as the driving engine of our evangelism, we may just stop and ask this rejoicing Christian to explain. And Michael Reeves, president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in the UK, does just that in Overflow: How the Joy of the Trinity Inspires Our Mission.

There is a reason that Christ commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit(Matt. 28:19, bold italics mine), and Reeves does a great job spelling it out for us simply and convincingly in this short book that will leave a lasting impact.

Charles Spurgeon once said this: “The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” (p. 11)

Reeves shows us that “the Trinity is not a weird puzzle for theological nerds but glorious good news for every Christian to enjoy”; that “the radiantly self-giving nature of God as the wellspring of all love, joy, goodness—and mission” is revealed from Genesis to Revelation; that when the Trinity is denied, love is denied; and “how, when Christians share God’s own outgoing fullness and radiance, we shine as lights in this current darkness.”

Reeves writes, “Mission is rooted in the Trinity, in the very being and nature and heart of God. And this is something deeply heart-winning and attractive in Him. If there is one thing I really want, above all, to communicate in this book, it is the great truth that God is mission. Wherever you’re at with God, particularly if you aren’t too thrilled with Him at the moment, I’d love for your eyes to be opened so you see just how stunningly beautiful and satisfying He is. I pray that your heart begins—maybe for the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time ever—to burn with a love for Him. Not just a duty that compels you and tells you what you ought to do, but rather, that you truly love Him! And then, out of this deep love, you will want to see the whole world come to know about Him too.” (p. 18)

“Mission is the outworking of God’s very nature. Before we ever did anything for Him, this God comes and gives His life away for us. So mission does not start with something we do, but with something done for us” (p. 48).

“Mission is the overflow of love from the enjoyment of divine fellowship. As we partake in the Father’s pleasure in His Son, and the Son’s pleasure in His Father, and the Spirit’s enlivening of their mutual love, it causes us to share their love for the world. Thus we become like what we worship. It is then, friend, you will want to sing of Him: when you are basking in the sunshine of God’s love. Because, as Jesus said, the ‘mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart’” (Luke 6:45 HCSB) (p. 56).

Reeves reminds us of the Father’s eternal love, what Christ has done for us on the Cross, and the Spirit’s regeneration, and encourages us to live in the light of this gospel truth: “You can live by the flesh, which means living under a spirit of slavery, always propelled by an insatiable lack, by guilt, by greed, by the desire to justify yourself. Or you can live as a child of God, by the Spirit of adoption.” (p. 82) “The children of God live from a fullness of life, a fullness of blessing. We can’t help but overflow with it. Other people need it too.” (p. 89)

This book is full of encouragement for those who feel themselves spiritually weary or empty. It is Christ-centered, Gospel-proclaiming, and Trinitarian-affirming and celebrating. I heartily recommend it.

The Table

Sitting across the table from you
Wonder what you’re thinking
Is it just the food? Something more?
You look up. The sweetness in your eyes
Dispels all doubts in wedded bliss
All conversations merge into one
There’s no one for me but you.

Sitting down at Your table with You
Dark the vagrant thoughts in my head
Not on the bread, nor on the wine
Your living Presence hid to my eyes
Your tender, humbling gaze on me, I look up:
Enthroned majesty cloaked in a naked Lamb
Slain for the love of a sinner like me
There’s no one for me but You.

Image by Bouf16 from Pixabay

From Tree to Tree

Ribbed, malnutritioned, unhallowed eyes knuckle mine
And without turning I see in wintry desert climes
A thing to be desired above all others
A taste to consume and be consumed by
A reign of terror sublime where worms meet flesh
Of tree-fruit hung, mouth-watering pulp of initiation
Plucked, bitten off, in excess of secret concupiscence

In ravishment of the verboten, for that which I hate,
I had done, and thus doing, am undone, the unmaggoted
Fruit in its rainbow pride turning to dust and ashes
in my mouth. For I have traded a Love without price
For emaciated fruited-husks littering the fields of deceit
Yet again, an unslumbered hungering malice ever-stalking
At my heels, until out it comes, the vinegared indigestible

Bulk of it spilled vomitously, wretched retchings of a fool
Words and deeds like knives ungorged flying mercilessly
And I with unclean hands, naked in the cool of the evening
Hidden, yet sought, drawn to the hallowed treed shade where
Gratuitously, there is room for me, manna for me, Bread of life,
Water that quenches my thirst, Whose wine-dark blood
Spent in mercy divine washes over and covers me so
To walk at last in honeyed valleys and orchards free.



Song of Songs 2:3
[She]: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Continue reading “From Tree to Tree”

Sightings (1)

The first time I saw you I wondered
at you, a pale pink floret
in the shade of a tree

content with stray rays
of sunlight on the forest floor
a passing delight of its denizens

a woodland note of praise to your Maker
under whose gaze
you contentedly lie.

Belief (6)

no longer mine, but Thine, Father,
my will to yours aligned
through twists and turns on this dark road
sight fails where Your hand guides

these steps I climb are harder yet
than they have ever been
time spent with You in expectant prayer
seems now almost a bygone tale

in sorrows, sickness, mourning my sins
but for You, God of hope, would crush my frame
each muscle, tendon, cord of heart
Your hand weighs down on me

trusting You in whom is life
weakness in humility to bear
strength, wisdom from you to receive
all my glory in Christ alone

tho’ muttering pain speaks itself
most clearly in complaint
even then in love do You take hold
and raise me to Your throne

here where angels throng,
martyr songs remind
that whate’er we lose we find
in greater store in Christ

so speaks Your word
by Your power, a fellowship of joy
in Father’s love, the Spirit’s peace
and the limitless grace of the Son


Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Image by gabicuz from Pixabay

A Mother’s Joy

As clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree
a twilight gold wreathes three small figures
their Dad quickening his steps
as they race toward open church doors
their laughter echoing in its depths
and I still warm from the summer’s smile
sit waiting on the benches of sung psalms
there to worship the living God
who knew this moment
before it began
a moment
that began long before
my conception in the dreaming womb
of a mother returned to the songs of her land
and I cold from her lost embrace, lost lamb
carried in the arms of the Shepherd to sail motherhood
embraced by the cossetting arms of a sun-kissed husband
and the eager hands of ebullient children whose mouths
warble love like songbirds in the Sabbath twilight
as clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree.

For my husband and children on Mother’s Day with love.

Easter Morn

Grave clothes left behind
see death’s dominion broken
in an empty tomb

Light the air, so bright
silent glory transpiring
the King ascending


John 11: 25-26
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Humble Singh and the Giddy Widow: A Good Friday Story

It was Good Friday morning and Humble Singh was watching the clock.

He had done this every Good Friday for as long as he could remember, even while his wife, Millie, was still alive and before he had sold his business and moved to live with his son and his family.

It was a quarter to nine. Soon Jesus would arrive, cross-laden, at Golgotha. His face is beaten to a pulp, Jewish and Gentile spit mingles with his blood, and he is struggling with exhaustion and pain as long strips of deeply scored flesh lie open on his back from the scourging, and every nerve in his body screams in anticipation of the crucifixion. The soldiers hurry him along. They conscript a bystander to carry the horizontal beam on his back.

Ten till. Humble sat in his sitting room at the back of the house. Suddenly he leapt up and went into the back garden. Red tulips. Purple hyacinths. Large burgundy magnolia buds like the bruises that covered Christ’s body. The Roman soldiers had mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns while beating him repeatedly. The Jewish priests and their hitting, spitting and slapping needed their scorn driven home. But it was their hour of shame. “His blood be on us and on our children!” the crowd had cried. The mob must have its victim. Even if that victim was pure, blameless. The Lamb of God.

A minute till nine. They lie him down, stripped, arms held down on the cross beam. Humble looks up at a movement in the shrubbery. A bunny had scurried through the open garden gate. Humble hurries to close it.  Piercing nails. Blood running free. Writhing agony. Joints stretching in excruciating torture. The crowd gathers round. Women sob. Many watch in satisfaction.

“Humble! Yoo hoo, Humble!” a woman’s voice sings out. It was Prithi, known in the predominantly Asian neighborhood as the “Giddy Widow.” She approaches him with a broad smile and with nowhere to run, unlike the bunny, Humble returns her greeting. She comes into the garden, her heels clicking on the pavement, bangles bouncing on attractively plump arms and her rouged face a pantomime of coquetry.

They wander around the garden, Prithi chatty, Humble surreptitiously checking his watch. It was a large garden, professionally tended, an arbor here, a fish pond there, a large oak in the middle of the grounds, shady trees of cherry, plum, and maple. No olive trees. Unlike that garden where Christ sweated huge drops of blood at what he would be enduring today. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

Continue reading “Humble Singh and the Giddy Widow: A Good Friday Story”

Belief (5)

Based on the Gospel of John, chapter 9

“A man they call Jesus” he tells them
the source of his healing
he who had been born blind
sitting in the temple
day after day
begging for alms
when suddenly
one spits on the ground
makes mud, covers his eyes
sends him to wash
in the pool of Siloam
and immediately he sees
this one who had never seen before
“Where is he?” they ask him
and he can’t say until that same one
finds him, after he, now healed,
had been thrown out of the temple
for recounting the miracle, for saying,
“If this man were not from God,
he could do nothing.”
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
this man asks him. “Who is he, sir?”
the healed man wants to know. “Tell me
so that I may believe in him.”
The healer reveals himself as the one
and the man replies, “Lord, I believe,”
and worships him
he worships him!
well, wouldn’t you?
if you were blind from birth
and your eyes are opened
with a bit of spittle and dirt
and you come up out of the water
and you can see! oh God! you can see!
but not just anything, like a temple
not just anyone, like a robed priest
you can see a man they call Jesus!
Prompt from Peter Frankis of dVerse challenges us to "Meet the Bar" by "Coming full circle."

Rebirth

For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
— Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

There ought not to be anything but that my mind has ordered it so —

So I had been taught — for the mind is designer

Reality but the by-blow, bastard child that diminishes as I diminish

But that the Emperor of Ice-Cream has clay feet

Which stand on eternity’s threshold eyeing a feast.

There the bread and wine of Thy design

Grain and grape sweetly lies upon the tongue

To “taste and see the goodness of the LORD”

Yet nothing tasting if not sanctified by Thy Word

Blood spilled and body broken

Spoken gospel of love heard by a few

Who once nothing being are born in You

Till nothing become sons and daughters

Alive to You.

Originally posted on This Jolly Beggar.

What God Has Done

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
— Ecclesiastes 7:13



what God has done
a crook in your lot
can’t be set right
by human device
bent to a degree
sorely injudicious
by reason’s measure
imperfect yardsticks
we hold up to judge
what God has done

what God has done
humility to bear
a stony field
unleveled path
that curved back
that strained heart
the roof that caved
vanquished plans
deathless grief
if we dare decry
what folly to fight
when we can’t change
what God has done

what God has done
he sent his Son
to bear our sins
to pay the price
to win our peace
to lead the crooked
down a narrow way
to carry the weak
to strengthen the tired
to lead them home
on eagle’s wings
of faith and love
of hope and joy
to open blind eyes
to see, my soul,
what God has done


Job 12: 13-16
[Job speaks] “With God are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.
If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he shuts a man in, none can open.
If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
With him are strength and sound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.”

Jude 24-25
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority,
before all time and now and forever.
Amen.

Romans 11: 33-36
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever.
Amen.

 

 

En Pointe

Sarah of dVerse asks us to choose a poem we’ve read over the last year and write a response to it in conversation, as it were, with its preoccupations. I’ve chosen John Updike’s “Fine Point,” written just weeks before his death in January 2009. His consciousness of our tainted public and personal history, and faith’s endurance as he alludes to Psalm 23, is what engages me most. And so my response, “En Pointe.”

En Pointe

What divinity is this that tempers our clay

with hammers of wrath expended on temple,

church, in our uneasy play with pagan tunes

of lust? Even as we covet our neighbor’s lamb

we would sing tuneful papyrus songs in our Babylon

with lyres hung under willows, calling out as children

“Abba, Father,” knowing we are heard by the Name

of One who bore the curse of our sinful rebellions.

O Son of David, thou whose lips have tendered infinity –

“It is finished” mercy and justice united blood

spilled and body spent on the cross so that Surely—

yes, “surely”— and all the days of my life wilt thou

pursue not merely “follow”— poor substitute

for the ancient tongue which reaches out in mercy

as unbounded as a lover’s song of songs to me

now to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Selah.

Last Year’s Snow

When last year’s snow is slow to go
The chill hanging on, no mellow glow
Arrives, freeing wintry branches and briers
Beneath the ice like frozen desires.

So may our hearts harden, slow to thaw
When too long we don’t withdraw
Our gaze from yesterday’s wrong
Mistrusting forgiveness for which we long.

Then what loss we bear to gain instead
A bitter disbelief in what had once been shed
Where warm blood flowed from pierced side
Christ’s sacrifice unheeded and despised.

Look up, dear soul, see who’s risen above
Healing in his wings to bear your judgment in love
He enthroned in power, has power to melt
Your shame-hardened heart, set free from guilt.

Seeing Christmas Light

I stand at the well at the desert’s end
the camels noisy at the trough
there’s the star blazing above me
the night sky distraught with light.
I, looking down as into a mirror,
drawn to the abyss below.

The star grows preternaturally, soundless
my cries echo it close, spilling embittered tears,
so might the well’s bounds overflow,
now the journey has been for nothing
my hopes and fears for naught.

This cankered sore that my heart is
this cauled face, disfigured husk,
what the worldly-wise has given birth to,
I sag to my knees and howl:
there is no sorrow as impenetrable
as knowing the road you’ve followed
in the end was all a mirage.

Even as death hangs o’er me
an eternal vision belies it;
alone I stand under starlight
alone I gaze at the night
this wanderer as foolish as a beast
wondering that the yawning darkness
had not overtaken the light.

If birth is but a prelude to death
what if death is the prelude to life?
Here, across trackless sands following
a star as bright as the morning shines
to watch over me in the night;
bemused I lift my eyes up
to see a distant rise,
there to see a babe born
who set the star in the skies.

Recrudescence

Slim, liminal, posterns of light
these words given and received
outskirting impossibilities
and health-riven cheek-jowling pain
absenting gormless vacuity,
Jude not Judas, thirty pieces of silver
husbandry of waterless clouds
but faith’s Canaan vine-laden
Jerusalem’s milk
unfathomable peace
Cross-borne recrudescence
and a Kingdom come.

dVerse's Quadrille #116: "possible," 44 words
Click on Mr. Linky for more quadrilles

Journey (2)

Image credit; Evan Clark@ Unsplash

Journey

water still
log submerged
balanced feet
journey of the mind

what do you see,
what do you understand?
“to reach the shore
keep your eyes on land”

feet submerged
the sky above
you whisper, what now
as your heart gives out

from misty shore
a Voice calls out
“to walk on water
you can’t look down”

can faith hold firm
Who do you trust?
what your eyes can’t see
is what bears you up


Leaves in Light

Eden’s light long since faded
we no longer look to know or see
as we once saw but question
the light we possess, frugal,
appalled at universal decay:
but now You have come.

Contained within the palms of Your hands,
not a leaf, not a flower, not a rock,
not the universe in a grain of sand,
but nails driven into You in whom
we have our being.

You did not suffer apart from me
as a celestial leaf in glory fallen
shorn from root, tree, limb,
but You in me, now dead, buried,
risen to new life.

In this crucible of exile do not deny me
now the fire of your Spirit along darkened veins,
a reckoning, their pride of life burnt dry
into joyous rivers of light.


Romans 6:22
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.