One In the Spirit, One in the Lord

A song came to mind today. I remember linking arms with friends as we sang it around the campfire when I was young and naïve, and perhaps a little too trusting. The song is “We Are One In the Spirit.”

I believed in the ideals in the song. I still do. Fifty years later, having observed at least fifty demonstrations of decimating attacks on “each man’s dignity and each man’s pride,” and experiencing lots of opportunities to forgive, I still cling to the hope of the unity the Apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 4.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

We have some maturing to do. In the same chapter he writes:

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Are there good reasons for separating? Of course. Dangerous people who refuse to change remain dangerous. A parent who loves two children will move an aggressive bullying sibling away to another room protect the other. The object is protection for one and restoration for the other. We have far too many examples of situations where habitual abuse in churches was covered up using 1 Peter 4:8 “love covers over a multitude of sins,” as justification while ignoring Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” One is about extending grace for growing-pain type sins and the other is about not tolerating a pattern of serious sin with potential long-term consequences, whether for one person or for thousands.

One instruction has grace for the faults of immaturity while the other permits harmful, ungodly ideas and practices to become established. That discussion requires more time and space than this blog post allows today. I’m talking today about the chafing that occurs when we rub shoulders with fellow-believers who still have rough edges, in other words, all of us.

I saw these roses in the landscape patch between an apartment building and the sidewalk as I walked to the grocery store. I grabbed a photo on my phone because I liked the circle they formed. Usually, I edit out the flaws in my flower photos before I publish them. I tell people that if a photo of mine doesn’t have a time/date stamp on it, assume I have adjusted something. I did zap a couple of aphids on this one, but I left fading colour, browning edges and uneven pigment just the way it was. To me, the image represents a circle of unity with grace for imperfection.

I heard a wedding sermon in which the officiant gave a pep talk to the bride and groom. He talked about the admonition to forgive and forbear. (Colossian 3:13)

“Who knew that forbearing the daily annoying stuff would be harder than forgiving the exceptional major stuff?” he asked, speaking of his own experience.

I’ve noticed that one of the major reasons for splits in places where people once gathered with every intention of bearing with one another in love, are often triggered by the opposite character qualities of humble, gentle and patient. Instead, they jostled each other with arrogance, harshness, and impatience.

Sometimes we find ourselves side by side with prickly people. Graham Cook calls them “grace-growers.” Their presence in our lives is not so that we can fix them (or develop protocols for their removal), but so the Lord can using their annoying qualities that continually rub us the wrong way to smooth our own rough edges.

Jesus said we would be recognized as his disciples, but not for our ability to shun the flawed and those who fail to fall in line with shunning practices. We will not be visible representatives of Christ for developing perfect theoretical doctrine, for “maintaining the pure DNA” of our particular sect, for either indulging sinful practices or condemning people still in process, or for becoming successful by the world’s definition. He said his followers would be recognizable. You’ll know who they when you hear people say, “Look how they love one another!”

It’s like they are one in the Spirit or one in the Lord or something.

One in the Spirit by Joseph M. Martin

Show Me the Fruit

It is not the job of the vine to hold up the trellis.

When religious institutions divert energy that should go toward producing fruit into maintaining their own structure, they are more a hindrance than a help.

Show me the fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV}


The fear of lack has always been with me. I was born in the days before Canada made healthcare available to everyone. My parents’ health insurance disappeared with my father’s former job just before I was born. My mother had many complications from my birth that left many bills. Both my parents worked hard to pay those bills, as well as bills from a failed business venture, but at ten years old I overheard a conversation I wasn’t meant to hear. It was about how much my birth had cost and how debt payments were still setting the family back compared to other people. Like kids tend to do, I thought the tension on bill paying day was my fault for being born in a way that caused my mom and dad way more suffering than it should have.

I developed a fear of lack as well as anxiety around asking for what I needed. That kind of fear can lead to an obsession with earning money and displaying what it can buy. It can also lead to not wanting to spend money and bragging about money-saving DIY skills and finding things at lower price than anyone else in the room. And sometimes both expressions manifest simultaneously in ways that thoroughly annoy others. Most of my life, I have tended to take the penny-pinching, make-do means of coping with fear of poverty.

Don’t get me wrong. We always had enough for necessities when I was a kid. Compared to most of the people in the world, we had a lot. Compared to neighbours in our community, “Things,” as the expressions goes, “were tight.”

The sense of being poor or rich often comes only in comparison to others.

Compared to my grandparents when they were living through the Great Depression, we were rich. We had indoor plumbing, more than two changes of clothes, nutritious food, a vehicle, and heat for the house that didn’t require scooping dirty coal or hours of chopping wood when you could find it. Come to think of it, we had a house, which was more than my grandparents, who spent some tough years living in two uninsulated granaries pulled together, could boast of. It seems tiny house living is most attractive to people who have options.

Families in our circle had ski hill memberships in Banff, two cars, lots of toys and sports equipment, college funds for all the kids (girls included), a mom who didn’t have to go to work, and cash in hand at the end of the month. Since I didn’t actually know anyone who still lived in a granary, this was my concept of the average family. Compared to other kids at school or at church in my affluent city in Canada, I was from a poor family.

My husband is a naturally generous person. I’ve had to work at it. I’ve had to learn to trust God with my needs by giving things away as an act of faith and obedience. I’ve often spoken Psalm 37:25 out loud as a reminder of God’s keeping power: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

Discussions of run-away inflation and shortages in the news lately make me want to buy more things than we need before the price goes up or they are not available. I fight the urge to hit the bargain shops and buy things to stuff into bins in the closet in case we will need them someday.

(A note to clarify: I’m not talking about either unwise spending or lack of planning. Ask the Lord for wisdom and for his leading in your own life, then obey and go for it -as long as you do it in faith. For me, at the moment, the temptation to hoard is a left-over manifestation of fear that there will not be enough, that God will not be there to provide for our needs. I understand he’s giving me an exercise in trust.)

Realizing that sometimes fear is often the root of negative self-fulfilling prophecy, I asked God for wisdom. Then I had a dream. In this dream a heroic warrior looking person gave me a marvelous pair of skates just before I went into a grocery store. People in the store were fighting over items on partially empty shelves. They blocked the aisles as they argued. Somehow (I don’t know how because I haven’t been skating since I was a teen and my skills never progressed beyond moving across the rink without falling down, not to mention that skates only work on ice), I put them on and skated around all these people with issues. With these special skates on my feet I was like an Olympic figure skater accomplishing amazing leaps over freezers and spins in the produce section. I picked up the few things I needed without upsetting anyone, paid, and left. When I saw the hero outside, he gave me a hero’s welcome.

I believe the dream is telling me I can trust that my Hero will provide what I need when I need it. (Hosea records in chapter two that on the day the unfaithful woman responds to God instead of going after material symbols of insincere forms of attention, she will call him Ishi –Hero/husband and no longer Baali –Master.)

Today I read Hebrews 13:5 in the Passion Translation: “Don’t be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, ‘I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life.’”

That’s a promise that’s safe without a safety deposit box in the bank.


Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all. “Believe me,” he said, “unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:2-4 Phillips

Have you noticed that children do not possess many of the things that many people assume will earn positions of influence or power? They don’t have tons of money, or a impressive resumé, or outstanding talent. Even cuteness has an expiry date and doesn’t help much when it comes to gaining status. A child actually holds very little status in society. A little kid may try to throw their weight around, but since they have little to throw, an adult can easily pick them up and instantly change their plans.

A child doesn’t need any of these things when they are loved perfectly by a good father. What a child possesses, that most adults do not, is a drive to learn and grow, enough confidence to try new things, and trust in the one who loves them and lifts them to see the world from Papa’s perspective.

A child doesn’t work at being humble or put herself down. A child looks to the one who loves him most, lifts his arms and asks, “Up?”

And that’s the heart attitude where greatness resides.

By This Will Everyone Know

If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.

-Richard Rohr

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about the importance of treating each other well, with out prejudice and with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, he added an important truth: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14 NIV)

His advice about wrapping our motivations in love is what keeps us from turning his earlier instructions into another to-do list for controlling types. A song from “The Slipper and The Rose” called “Protocoligorically Correct” demonstrates a situation many of us are familiar with, even outside a fairy tale kingdom setting.

“Yes, we must be protocoligorically correct
Good form must never suffer from neglect
The rules and regulations we respect
Must be treated circumspect
Else the kingdom will be wrecked
We’ve a system to protect
Checked and double checked
And protocoligorically correct.”

It’s an amusing song even if its satire stings a bit. Many virtues seem, well, virtuous, until we realize that without love they become mere rules and regulations and the means to maintain control. When virtues morph into protocols, the soul of Christian existence is relegated to the back of the broom closet. Sometimes it’s easier to preoccupy ourselves with protecting a system than actually caring for each other and raising each other up. Love is an investment in another person’s well-being and spiritual growth. Love requires sensitivity to the tempering wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the kind of emotional courage Jesus demonstrated.

Love is not an option for the Christian. It’s not something to be sentimentalized and brought out for special occasions. Love is the identifying feature of the Kingdom of heaven.

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34, 35


It is always the liminal spaces, those threshold in-between places in our lives, where old things pass away and new things have yet to emerge, where we face our greatest challenges and have opportunity to experience our greatest learning.

-Mark Chironna

The cold weather fell so suddenly this year that the leaves on the trees in the park did not have time to sing their final, colourful adio. They froze mid-roulade and missed their chance to exit to applause before the audience went home. Now they fall, unnoticed, on the dusty, crusty January snow.

Sometimes seasons march out in a grand finale. Sometimes they slink away slowly, finally noticing their time has passed.

Like the leaves, I am reluctant to let go. At the moment, the potential of the next season feels like a sodden weight of too many options, too many yeah-buts, and too little energy. But this is where the future is born –in quietness and rest. There is a rich feast of wisdom and revelation to be found in this season.

This is the time of the in-between.