Onward, Christian Soldiers*

Christian SoldierI had just come from almost two hours of Spirit-blessed prayer with two other women with whom I gather weekly. God had quite evidently met with us as we prayed for the world, our city, our church. It was hard to move on to the mundane activities of grocery shopping and other chores that lay ahead, but I soon found myself purposefully walking out the church door, across the street to the parking garage. This ‘Christian soldier’ was on her way to meet the day.

Just before entering the garage entrance, out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman walking toward me on the sidewalk. It took no more than a glance to recognize her as one of our city’s homeless citizens, more than likely heading to the social agency on the nearby corner where she could ask for food, clothing, work or another one of life’s needs.

And this ‘Christian soldier’s’ first holy, Christ-like, missional thought? “I hope she doesn’t stop and ask me for anything. I need to be on my way.”

She didn’t stop. She didn’t speak. She didn’t even hesitate. (Sobering thought: maybe she didn’t want to talk to me either??) But God stopped me in my proverbial tracks. All my praying had neglected to move from mouth to heart to life. I recall being critical of a man who, in every prayer before all hearty meals, said, “Thank you for this good food and bless those who are hungry.” Because I knew of his disdain for those without the “wherewithal” to provide for themselves, those without a work ethic to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” I concluded that his prayer never reached his heart. Or his wallet. But, at least in this instance, I was no different.

Do I feel like God is shaking his finger at me in anger and condemnation? No, not in the least. In fact, I can picture God gently smiling and saying something like, “Just a reminder, Marilyn. I love you and I equally love the least of these. It’s time to line up with my priorities.”

Incidentally, when I tried to find a picture to illustrate this Monday’s moments—something about “Christian soldiers”—I found only guns and tanks and blood and swords and Middle Ages’ Crusaders. Until I found the one you see above. His weapon, supplied by the military and necessary in battle, is momentarily unused. He is using a different weapon, one more akin to Jesus’ gear: generosity, vulnerability, kindness. A weapon I’ve now been admonished to use more often.


*A hymn written in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould for children as they marched from one Yorkshire village to another during the season of Pentecost.

Feeding the 5,000 (Modern Paraphrase)

FeedingJesus went back to the place from which he had come but people still looked for him. Sick, hungry, lonely people. His heart was filled with pity for these people with insurmountable needs.

Jesus’ followers in cities, villages, towns heard about the hungry people. They asked Jesus to meet the needs. They prayed for miraculous harvests in drought-stricken areas. They sought new and equitable economic strategies to replace selfish, profit hungry plans. But the number of hungry people increased.

And then one day, in every corner where these Christians lived, they all seemed to hear a voice: “You feed them.”

“But God, I’m just a farmer in Saskatchewan/Iowa/Nebraska…”

“But God, I’m retired and love my golf games…”

“But God, I’m just thirteen…”

“But God, I’m a single mom in a minimum wage job…”

“But God, my backyard garden is so small…”

“But God, I have cerebral palsy and sit in a wheelchair…”

“But God, if they just worked as hard as I do, they wouldn’t be in this situation…”

And Jesus said, “Bring me what you have and I’ll bless it…”

For every ten acres of grain the farmer sold, he set aside the profit from two and bought baby chicks for women in Zimbabwe so they could become self sufficient, feeding and educating their families.

The retiree challenged his buddies to donate one third of golf cart fees to the city’s rescue mission.

The teenager took babysitting jobs where she had permission to tell Bible stories to the children.

The single mom—who had learned to stretch her meager funds into delicious meals—volunteered to teach other single moms how to shop wisely, how to make banana bread to sell at flea markets, how to make nutritious soup to feed a family.

The backyard gardener gave all her extra zucchini and tomatoes to the neighborhood soup kitchen for the homeless.

The boy in the wheelchair dictated letters to be sent to orphan children in Haiti and Niger.

The judgmental man? When the stock market crashed, he begged forgiveness and had to start over.

Jesus took the money and deeds and blessed them. And all the people ate their fill with enough left over to feed many others.

Was Jesus There?

MongoliaIt was a nothing-out-of-the-ordinary meeting at our church, meaning that we are blessed to have such frequent encouraging opportunities to hear of God’s work around the world. Upbeat music from a three-man band. Scrumptious desserts. About a hundred people gathering to celebrate what God has been doing in and through individuals and groups as they’re involved in global and local mission efforts. Lots of time for both casual and guided conversation in small groups. One of the assigned topics was this: share a time of joy that left a lingering sense of happiness in your life.

At our table experiences ranged from one woman’s 20+ hours on a hijacked plane to a man’s sense of satisfaction while doing handyman work for needy people in the community. And then quiet Marni* began her story. She had never traveled far from her home, never owned a passport, was and is fully involved with her family and church activities. She had heard stories of people from the church participating in mission outreaches to Mongolia and “for some reason” (we all smiled!), she decided to apply for the next trip. Her stated reason for going was simple: “I wanted to see if Jesus was there.”

Marni is well versed in biblical truth. Her head knew of God’s omnipresence…of course Jesus was in Mongolia. But something in her heart needed to see how He was there. What did Jesus’ presence look like in Mongolia? After Marni’s words—to see if Jesus was there—she couldn’t go on with the story. Emotion took over as tears flowed. When someone asked, “And was He there?” she smiled through her tears: “Of course He was there!”

Marnie hasn’t been back to Mongolia, but part of her heart is in that beautiful country. When groups return, she attends the “report night.” She reads the emails from our Mongolian friends who tell of sharing the good news of Christ on the university campus, with teachers in cities and villages or with nomads in the rugged countryside. She prays for teams that go and for the people to whom they go. Not only is Jesus in Mongolia, Marni is there too.

*Marni has given her permission to tell this story.

Disappointment with God?

RainbowI’ve been reading two books simultaneously in recent weeks. Actually, I’m reading several (a common practice!), but two that came into sharp focus are Calvin Miller’s Into the Depths of God and Philip Yancey’s Disappointment with God. After some thought, the two seemed not such a strange juxtaposition.

Yancey wrote his book because “Disappointment occurs when the actual experience of something falls far short of what we anticipate.” He leads readers into exploring the Bible to see what can rightfully be expected of—and from—God. With his unique skill, he relates stories of those who are deeply troubled by the anxieties, pain, frustrations and terrors of our larger world and their personal worlds. After describing God’s promises of a future without the horrors of our present age, he asks, “But what of the meantime? The mean times?”

About a third of the way through the book, Yancey “introduces” Jesus. Without borrowing his exact words, he attempts to help us see that our disillusionments can be brought squarely to the person who, Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God 
as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. If Jesus is God, did he—does he—disappoint? Or is there something about him and his message that will help me through those times when I wonder if God cares? If God is?

And then I read the last two chapters of Miller’s book, especially the chapter entitled, “Dwelling in Foreverness,” where he posits that heaven is not (or should not) primarily be a place anticipated because of its streets of gold, gates of pearl, jasper walls and crystal seas. Not even because all tears will be wiped away. “Our anticipation of heaven has only to do with Jesus…” Miller explains that if in this life we are falling more in love with the Savior, trusting Him more, learning to walk so near to Him that we are covered with “the dust of the rabbi,”* stepping into heaven at the end of our earthly lives will simply be that “next step.” Instead of fearing death, as it draws closer we will anticipate that royal reunion with the One we’ve come to dearly love.

So what connection did I find between the two books? Yancey reminds me that as I venture more deeply into the Bible to more fully understand the character of God as he has through the ages revealed himself—and his actions—my disappointments will have less and less vitality, less oxygen to exist. Miller dares me to plunge into a lifestyle that seeks such an intimate, and seemingly dangerous, relationship with Jesus that when I take that next step, it is the most natural, most unbelievably wondrous step of all. The clouds of disappointment will be crowned with the rainbows of promise.


*A term used by several authors meaning to humbly follow Christ so closely that his “dust”—his character, his essence—covers the follower as would dust from his steps on the path. The thought is first introduced in the Hebrew Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic thought from 200 BC to 200 AD that still forms the core of Jewish belief today.