taking the words of Jesus seriously


The morning after Donald Trump became President-elect, I met my mother-in-law and pastor at our church. I prayed with my mother-in-law in that old brick building, knowing full well that her vote had cancelled mine the day before.


She prayed that Jesus would make himself known to Donald Trump, bringing him to repentance and humility, and that people would not gloat in Trump’s victory because victory belongs to God. I prayed by name for my friends who may face deportation in the coming months, for Muslim friends, for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, for people who fear that their families and marriages are in danger. Our pastor prayed for all who are afraid and hungry for a love and security that only Jesus can fill. We prayed together for the church, in tears. We allowed ourselves to hear and carry the other’s petitions to a God whose love is deep and wide enough to receive it all.


My mother-in-law is one of the most faithful people I know. I baked her blueberry pie last Wednesday because it was her birthday, and she brought over chicken for my birthday the next day.  We both celebrated the little flames of our lives on this planet. Earlier this fall, she started helping with my laundry with one stipulation: she insisted I use the time to write. She tells me that she often doesn’t understand or agree with what I am writing, but she helps me make time to do it all the same.


The smell of campfire has lingered in the Southern air this week. There is fire, literally, in the mountains. After weeks without rain, the red soil is compacted and the land is a dry tinderbox. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, firefighters are fighting fire with fire. “‘Creating fire on the ground is just one of the tools that operations use to help control the fire, ’ Clay Van Horn of the USFS said.”


I am loved and called to love by the God Scripture calls a “consuming fire.” To me, this post-election season sometimes feels apocalyptic. Dare I bring my little flame into this firestorm of words?


James, the brother of Jesus, wrote “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire.” I’m a woman with fire in my belly, and I cannot deny the voice God gave me. But I want to speak in a way that will build up and not burn down that bridge of love and prayer between my mother-in-law and me.


Dangerous words are flying around. I have at times allowed my passion to override compassion. The radical way of Jesus is bold, and consistent love must sometimes pray “forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” But love is also vulnerable.


In his book The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin wrote,  Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace–not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.


Love is challenging me to grow–to dare to know another James, my husband’s father James, whose death last year prompted my mother-in-law’s move to be closer to us. I’ve been getting to know James better through his computer. His love of beauty, his sense of humor and his love of God shine through many of the things that he wrote and saved. We lived on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but in his final years I learned to love and be loved by him on the solid ground of Jesus.


Here’s an excerpt from one of his essays:


In one church in which I was a regular attendee I had a vision from the Lord.  In the vision I was standing in front of the church and was supposed to deliver a message.  However, all I could do was weep….

Instead of pursuing a real relationship with Christ, we pursue the American dream and it turns into an American nightmare…..  

Pray, Christians!  Pray!  Pray some more!  When you think you have finished praying you need to know you have only scratched the surface!  Pray!  Pray without ceasing!  PRAY!  And when you pray, do not ask God to change someone else.  Ask God to change YOU!  When Daniel prayed for Jerusalem he did not say, “they have sinned.”  He said, “We have sinned.”  The closer you get to God the more you will recognize your own sin.  Pray!”  


I read his words and remember our prayer meeting in the little church last Wednesday. And I wonder if even those flickering flames of prayer can become a fire that heals this aching land.

About The Author


Josina Guess clings stubbornly to the Church and to the belief that God is making something beautiful from our broken worlds. She lives with her husband and their four children at Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community in northeast Georgia that offers hospitality to recently arrived refugees. Josina serves on the Board of Directors of Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA.

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