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Like blazing wild fire singing your name

February 22nd, 2019 . by maria

Multiplied by NeedtoBreathe is one of the songs we sing at Ponce Church, and it’s in my set list this week. There’s a line in the song:

His love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fire singing your name

Multiplied by NeedToBreathe

As I practiced this, I thought, what does that mean? I know God’s love will come find us. I know the verses about leaving the 99 sheep to find the one, so I understand “surely come find us”. But “like blazing wild fire singing your name”? What does that mean? What does that look like?

“Blazing wild fire” would be something you cannot ignore, right? It is bright, and loud, and hot. It might be scary. It burns a path, unwavering, taking down obstacles. Woah! That sounds like God. OK. But, living here in Florida, we also know that wildfires bring new growth. Without them, all the underbrush and vines begin to choke out the solid trees, and they cannot bear fruit. That sounds like God, too – wanting us to let go of things that are choking our lives and keeping us from bearing fruit.

What about “Singing your name”? First of all, this says He knows your name. And your name is more than a word we call you. In her book A Wind in the Door , Madeleine L’Engle calls the enemy of peace “the Ecthroi”, and says:

“I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming – making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need Namers, because there are places throughout the universe like your planet Earth. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.”

So your name, your true name, is more than a word. It’s your identity and your calling and your purpose and your value, all wrapped up in one. When you were named, there were all sorts of hopes for your future and beliefs about what you would do in the world wrapped up in giving you that name.
Chances are your parents thought your name sounded pretty, or strong. You might have a family name, or a name from your family’s country of origin, or a name from the Bible. Maybe you were named after someone, and your parents hoped you would be like that person, or wanted to keep part of that person in the world. It’s more than a collection of letters, isn’t it?

When someone is calling your name, they want you or need you. And not just a generic person, but the specific you – with whatever it is you mean to them. Probably someone willing to help with what they need, maybe someone with a specific skill they need.

But singing your name is even more special. (And I think we can agree we’re not talking about creepy chanting like a horror movie villain. Nor are we talking about when someone recalls that your name is part of a song they know, and they sing the song.) Singing your name would be an act of love, like a mother singing to their child, or a someone in love singing the name of their beloved.

So if we put that all together, “like blazing wild fire singing your name” is an amazing picture. This is our powerful God, unable to be ignored, bringing renewal, and banishing darkness, by lovingly calling out to exactly who you are and are meant to be. Wow, what a powerful image.

Homemade Gifts and Gift Cards

February 19th, 2019 . by maria
My mother was a 1st grade teacher in the 70’s and 80’s. We had a enough apple themed ornaments to decorate our whole Christmas tree, and quite a collection of mugs. I’ve seen several articles telling people what gifts they should or shouldn’t give their teachers (or other service providers). Most fall on the practical side. While we definitely could have used the cash, she NEVER would have been critical of someone’s choice of gift. (Besides, homemade gifts usually cost less than even the most modest gift card.)
A gift reflects both the giver and the recipient, and their relationship, and is not based on need. The gift is a token of the relationship, and the time or thought put into it is reflective of time spent thinking of the recipient. This is why cash/gift cards have often been maligned as impersonal. Recipients also play a role in this, being thankful for the recognition, for the time/work in the handmade gift, or for the giver’s taste or thoughtfulness.
Need-based gifts are called “charity”, and there is certainly room for that, but not necessarily as a replacement for the gifts we give out of love/appreciation. Certainly if you are in a position of great wealth relative to others, who depend solely on you (i.e. the corporate magnate in a small town Hallmark movie), then you should be wafting $100 bills at all and sundry. But this says much more about your power over them than it does about your good will toward them. Don’t be ashamed to give a thoughtful homemade gift as a token of appreciation. And if you happen to receive a “useless trinket” instead of a gift card, remember that it took time and planning to pull off, and be gracious to the giver.

A Thought, a Wish, a Prayer

February 18th, 2019 . by maria

I recently heard someone complain that their coworker said “I’ll be praying for you”, after they shared a personal struggle. The complaint was that they felt it was slightly invasive – assuming they’d want to be prayed about. What?

Consider if you shared your personal struggle with me – something you’re going through right now. Assume I have listened thoughtfully and you feel I genuinely care for you. What does it mean if I say then “I wish you well”? Or “my thoughts will be with you”? Or “I’ll be praying for you”?

To me, “I wish you well” ends there. Sure, the good will in my heart for you doesn’t end. But the response to your problem ends with that wish, thrown out into the air. There is no further action on my part. Solving the problem is left to you and to luck.

“My thoughts will be with you” is slightly better. At least it implies ongoing action. If a friend tells you their problems, you are likely to occasionally remember what they told you. But it is hardly intentional, and again I am doing nothing to solve your problem.

Wishes and thoughts are what a stranger will do even without trying. Anyone who drives past the scene of an accident is likely to hope (wishes) that everyone is ok, and may even think (thoughts) about the scene later. Those are hardly the actions of a friend.

A prayer is a little different. It is intentional action. Not only will I recall your problem, but I will ask for assistance from someone who I believe can help you.

Of course, if I can actually help you myself, that’s what I should do. Offer advice, lend a hand, share a meal or clothes or a place to stay.

James 2:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?