Amos 5: “I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies.”

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While I’m a little behind in my 5 Day Bible Reading Program, I continue plugging away. This morning, I came across these verses in the Book of Amos:

21 “I hate all your show and pretense—
    the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
    I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
    an endless river of righteous living.

Amos 5:21-24 (NLT)

Or as another translation puts verse 21:

I hate, I despise, your feasts!
I can’t stand the stench
of your solemn assemblies.

Amos 5:21 (CSB)

Got me thinking about how we can come to a point, individually and as a Church, to where our worship of the Lord can become like a stench to Him caused by:

  • Habitual sin
  • Ongoing disobedience
  • A stinky/unrepentant heart

Not exactly a place I want to be.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

What have you been reading, in the Bible, lately?

Adoption Update – Jumping the Shark

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I won’t ever forget watching The Fonz, water skiing in his leather jacket, jump over a small ocean corral of sharks. For years, I had heard of this “jump the shark” moment, but I could never have imagined just how random/stupid this stunt really was.

Jumping the Shark

Our adoption journey had a jump the shark moment a few weeks ago. Our caseworker, despite knowing our adoption preferences, sent us the profile of a much older kid.

At first, I was okay with our case worker testing the waters. Sure, Tab and I could give this child a last name, a place to crash, and help them get ready for life. Sure, we could pack in all of the important life lessons, we would have taught them over the years, into one year of their life. I was okay with the idea of adopting a 17 year old–would especially like to look into this once our son is older–, until I wasn’t.

Our adoption process has been marked with friends and family making small comments that burrow deep under my skin. Comments such as:

  • “Why don’t you do foster and adoption like we did? You’ll get a kid then.”
  • “And we were told that we’d never get a child if we went the route that you have.”
  • “You shouldn’t be frustrated, hurt, or angry over this process, God has this under control.”
  • “Oh, I’ve heard horror stories about older kids being adopted.”

I don’t think that these comments are meant to be hurtful but they are.

I am forever thankful for those that ask us how the process is going. Those that are willing to listen and not necessarily push their way of doing things. God has brought good friends to walk alongside us on this journey.

I haven’t written as much on adoption lately because there hasn’t been much to say. Silence, from our caseworker, continues to be the norm. I have also felt God telling me to pray more and write/talk less about it. I’m sure there is a balance to that though.

If you think about my family, could you take a moment and pray with us? Every morning I wake up to see the room across the hall is empty. Someone is missing. Could you pray over that with me? That God would have His way. That we would be able to listen/discern the route we need to take. I’d really appreciate it.

Growing our family through adoption.

The Corona Reset: A Blessing in Disguise

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Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.

Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.

Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.

Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.

My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.

  • I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
  • I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
  • I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.

As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.

Hitting the Snooze Button

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Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.

Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.

This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.

I am tired this morning.

Physically tired.

Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:

  • Sickness
  • Death

A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.

In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.

From Across the Net – “Five Reasons You Need to Get Back in the Habit of Church Attendance”

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We grow spiritually when we commit to faithful attendance. We grow as a believer in Christ when we have a committed prayer life. We grow when we are committed to read Scripture daily. We grow when we share our faith regularly. We grow when we serve in ministry. And we grow when we commit to attend worship services faithfully. That attendance is a spiritual discipline. It is a vital and necessary act toward greater spiritual maturity.

You can read more here