Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bible in 66 Haiku

On December 31st, 2014, I started a Bible reading plan of epic proportions: read every book of the Bible, 20 times in a row. I added the challenge of turning each book into a 17-syllable haiku, and today, I wrote the last one. I alternated between the Old and New Testament and am aso thankful for the deep time spent in each book. The first few times I read a book, I was really just trying to understand what was happening. After awhile, you start finding these nuances and repetitions and how these small things play a big role in an even bigger story. Reading each book so many times in a row let me get past the average Bible study or sermon outline, and see things I'd never seen before.

Although every book was a tremendous and rich experience, a few stood out to me*: Deuteronomy, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Philemon, Hebrews, James and most of all Luke. Luke was the perfect book to have such a strong experience to, as it came so early on and really set me up for the following year and a half I'd be spending on this project. I think more than anything else, reading Luke helped me remember what it's like to be hungry for God's word. When you're a Christian in America, the Bible is not in short supply. There are Bible teachers available online, even on your phone, not to mention your own local church. You can go to Bible studies and meet freely, you can have the Bible in any translation on your phone, your tablet, your kindle, your computer. You can go to Target, Barnes and Noble or a hundred other places and find entire shelves of options. Diving into Luke encouraged me to take advantage of this! I would read a chapter or two on my phone waiting in lines, or pull out my kindle waiting for an appointment or killing some time. I wanted to enjoy the riches of His grace.

In these last 20 months or so, I've read the Bible the equivalent of at least 20 times all the through, not including the reading I did outside of "the plan" (which I did quite a bit of), for Bible study, for Sunday School teaching, and for church itself. Just this morning, the last thread of binding gave out, and the five pieces my Bible was in turned into six. It's a beautiful and emotional, tender thing for me to see, this Bible, well-loved, because I know the time spent there and how God met me in those pages. It turns me soft just looking at it. I had decided awhile ago not to replace it until I finished all the haiku so I could write them all in and have them in one place. But I am also really excited about the new Bible because it will be nice not to have to worry about losing pages.

And as much as I loved the reading, I really loved writing the haiku. It was a creative balance to the intellectual and theological challenge of doing the intense reading. And now, I have the entire Bible in 1, 122 syllables.

It was as God said
We disbelieved His goodness
He did as promised

God is who He is
He gives the slaves their freedom
Back then, and today

Yahweh has rescued
He gives His laws to make us
Happy, holy, His

Following the Lord
Is what's best for His people
Trust Him. He is good

Remember your God
His ways will be life to you
By His word, you live.

Be strong, and let God
Fight all your battles for you
He's never failed you

Follow the leaders
Given to you from the Lord
They point straight to Him

To love is to put
The interests of another
Ahead of your own

1 Samuel
They wanted a king
And said God wasn't enough
Look what that got them

2 Samuel
David had his faults
But God used him to shepherd
His flock. Go and do.

1 Kings
Sol had wisdom, but
It wasn't enough to keep
From falling apart

2 Kings
God's people left Him
But even in their exile
He remained faithful

1 Chronicles
Don't ignore the past
It will help you understand
The kingdom of God

2 Chronicles
Church has always been
Broken people God loves and
Leads despite themselves

God's covenant is
The prevailing force throughout
Human history

Devotion to God
Is best displayed in public
Fear no one but Him

God rules over all
Kings, times and people, even
Such a time as this

We do not have to
Understand the mind of God
In order to worship

This is who God is
He is worthy of our praise
Now and forever

Are you in a place
To receive wisdom from God?
Get there - run, don't walk!

If life is a breath
Consider the One who breathed
Your life into you

Song of Solomon
Husbands and wives were
Designed for intimacy
And we are Christ's Bride

Your rescue will come
Undeserved, unexpected
You will see the King

I know your failure
But I am coming for you
You will be made new

When all hope seems lost
Remember the Life-Giver
His mercy comes new

God brings renewal
To the driest of dead bones
He loves to give life

At the end of days
There will be one kingdom
Messiah will stand

God's pursuit of us
Does not depend on our faith,
But on His great love

Repent, Christ will come
All rebellion will be judged
Every promise kept

Judgment does not mean
God forgot His covenant
It means He's kept it

God rules the nations
Out of the depths, His people
Find resurrection

If you know the Lord
But you don't know who you are
You've missed the good news

Nations will be judged
The royal ruler will bring
Peace for God's people

God is still sovereign
His enemies will perish
His people will thrive

In the best of times
In the worst of times, God is
Still doing great things

The day of the Lord
Will come; how will you be found?
Seek Him, and rejoice

Rebuild the temple
All things are for My glory
I will be with you!

Remember what was
Repent, and look forward to
The One who will come

God loves the faithless
He's coming to the rescue
Watch, and be amazed

The prophets told us
Messiah would come - He did
Christ died and He lives

Jesus is God's Son
When we gain this knowledge, we
Respond in worship

Jesus knows our hearts
He wanted them so much that
He died to heal them

Jesus is the light
By which we see everything
This light is our life

The name of Jesus
Is our saving foundation
Let us build on that

We who died to sin
Have life in Christ to be shared
With one another

1 Corinthians
Dear Church, I love you
Get over your sin and live
United in Christ

2 Corinthians
Oh! Hello again!
Your life is all grace - live it
Spread knowledge of Christ

There is only one
Gospel that leads to life
Love it and live it

You are now in Christ
You have been saved by His grace
To be His body

Christ brought Himself low
That we would count all as loss
And have peace in Him

Live as people who
Were created for God's glory
You are with Jesus

1 Thessalonians
The gospel means we
Have the truth with which we can
Encourage the church

2 Thessalonians
God will be faithful
To the body that stands firm
And clings to Jesus

1 Timothy
Jesus came to save
Now, this is how a redeemed
People should respond

2 Timothy
Remember Jesus
You won't regret anything
You do in His name

We have seen God's grace
He's redeemed us from our past
So, we do good works

Slaves become brothers
The bound are called beloved
By the work of Christ

You know the high priest?
The atoning sacrifice?
His name is Jesus

Works cannot save you
But when you have faith in Christ
You won't do nothing

1 Peter
Your reality
Will always be the gospel
You are safe in Christ

2 Peter
Don't be tempted by
The false promises of sin
God is truth. Live it

1 John
To the beloved
Christ Jesus is your whole life,
The eternal life

2 John
Brothers and sisters,
Love one another; obey God
Abide in the truth

3 John
Beloved, love truth
Abide in it, work for it
For God is the truth

You who have received
The truth of God's salvation
Don't be led astray

We look forward to
The fullness of victory
We have in Jesus

*Now that I've gone back and read all the haiku, I am totally enamored with every book all over again, and I'm pretty sure they're all my favorite.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Before and After and After

For the last week and a half, I haven't been able to stop reliving one of the most stunning moments of my life. I couldn't figure out why it was on my brain, and then I realized it had been one year since it happened.

I've written about my friendship with Christina and how it's grown both of our faiths and our whole lives, but I appreciate September 1st, 2015 more now than I did then.

Sometimes when I'm at PCC, I remember standing in the aisle trying to pick a flavor of sparkling water, and finding out some of my most desperate, pleading, raw prayers had been answered. I remember talking to Christina on the phone - a rarity for us - and hardly understanding a word that she'd said. I remember thinking the only response that made any sense at all was Praise Jesus.

Sometimes I go back to that time in March 2014 when Christina's pastor and counselor asked her to gather people to pray specific things over her for a season and she invited me into that. Because I'd already been praying for her, with a love far above the capacity of my own. I'd been praying for her in the first messes of our getting to know each other, through her time as a weary counselor as a Christian camp, through the time she stayed with me right before her already crumbling world completely shattered.

There was a before, but it was really setting us up for the after.

I remember praying for the best case scenario, while praying strength through the back up, and help in coming to terms with the worst. I remember feeling so conflicted about these tiers, because I absolutely believe that God can do anything, but I also know that sometimes what His plan is not ours.

I remember when it looked like the worst was inevitable and still trying to believe that God was able to do the impossible. If you have ever prayed for something impossible with all your heart, you know. You know how to wrestle with hope and conviction that God is sovereign and Jesus is King, but understand that even if He doesn't move how you most desperately desire Him to, He is still after your good and your joy.

I remember when the worst was happening right before our eyes and it looked like God was about to do a miracle.

I remember those 24 hours of waiting, when we'd find out if it was a sick joke, or absolutely real.

And I remember with every fiber of my being receiving a message:

It's over.

Relief. Beauty. Awe. Glory.

It's been a year since then, and the darkness hasn't been magically transformed into rainbows and sunshine. I don't think the darkness will fully lift until the new heavens and the new earth are established and the Son of God is the only light we need. And I also think that if things had been the worst, we all would have been held and we would still be here a year later saying that "Until now, the Lord has helped us", ebenezer!

The moment is in the grocery store is an ebenzer for me, a moment that I can hold on to and point at and said "Look! Look at what God has done" But even beyond the miracle He did there, the work he did in my heart was tremendous. He led me through a place of wilderness, of coming to terms with the even if not, the even if He does not respond to me the way I desire. It was not a "If You do this, I will love, trust and praise You", it was a "If You do this, I will love, trust and praise You, and even if not, I will do the same".

Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Job 1:21 

I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, 'I am lost.' 

I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!" You came near when I called on you; you said, 'Do not fear!" 

You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. 

Lamentations 3:52-58