Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jesus, The Real Deal

"Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." - Jesus

How could Jesus want anything but God's will to be done? This quote is so proving to be so pivotal in my understanding of Jesus. He was no halo-clad, blonde-haired, beautiful saint in a toga. Jesus was a real man, with real struggles. Jesus' struggle was profound.

In the Garden of Gethsemene, in his anticipation of the cross and the rupture of his relationship with his father, I can't even begin to plumb the depths of his anxiety, fear, and troubled-spirit. Can you imagine sweating blood? I can't, and I've dealt with some pretty fear inducing stuff, like tasting "tootie-fruitie" ice-cream for the first time (my fear was well founded).

In Jesus' experience in the Garden there is some stuff we do know. He was anticipating the loss of a parent, the loss of life, the reality of torture and deep-spiritual darkness. This last had to be the worst, for he was facing pure, undistilled evil. And he was facing it as a human.

I've never really given this too much thought. That Jesus didn't somehow have super-strength to endure the cross and ensuing hell. We find in scripture that he had to face it fully human, and as fully God. The fully God part only made it worse, not better. He was capable of experiencing infinate pain that goes, umm, infinitely beyond our feeble imaginings.

All of this taken into consideration, we have in Jesus, illustrated by this quote, someone who knows temptation towards self-preservation. And to the degree that I'm capable of being honest with myself, self-preservation defines my life. What I want, when I want it, I need and if I don't get it, you'll pay.

Jesus now lives in me. So there's severe tension with my self-defining attitude. Great tension. People who think that the Christian life is easy, haven't yet faced themselves. We are bent on evil, Jesus is bent on good. A battle ensues. But Jesus is tender with us in the battle as he knows what it's like to be tempted after something other than God's plan.

That's what I find in this verse. A fierce declaration of loyalty in the fiercest storm of temptation this world has ever know. I don't think I'm using hyperbole. In Jesus we get the real deal.

For the longest time, my whole life on and off, I've thought that we get a weirdo who floats around and lives on a different plane than the rest of us. That goes utterly against the incarnation, and the experience Jesus went through. As my eyes are opened to reality of what happened at the cross, my temptations begin to go all fuzzy. That's what I'm counting on anyway...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God Come Home

Today all I can do is to cry out to God and plead for his mercy. I just want to take my problems to him and share what's troubling my heart.

On days like today, when I'm this weary, God knows my way. I know my thoughts are a trap. If I look around I don't have anywhere to turn. No one who really cares.

But if I cry to God and repeat, "You are my refuge, my portion in life. O God, hear my cry, for I've hit rock bottom. Please deliver me from those who want my life, because they've got me beat.

Please lead this prisoner forth, that I can thank you. That the righteous will come around me and rejoice over the fact that you are a rescuer."

-My paraphrase of Psalm 142

If you happened to read my blog yesterday, you may still be depressed. It was a tough entry on a tough day. It's not easy being Phil sometimes. Life can easily get me down. I heard on the radio a few years ago that people who are depressed have a perspective on life that is more realistic than most. I'm just really, really realistic sometimes.

But this Psalm is such an encouragement to me today. For it preaches that life, real Life, doesn't come from me. It comes from God. My God. The one who is my refuge. The one who is my portion. The portion that's been layed asside for me.

I love that David chooses to use the word "portion." When I think of the word I think of getting a heaping portion of my favorite food: carrot cake. I just can't wait to dig in, taste it's sweetness and wash it down with whole milk. I crave the satisfaction of a stomach full of carrot cake.

It's interesting to think on this and the connection Jesus makes with us feeding on him. He is to be more our sustanance than food itself. It's the truth, perhaps a truth that's going on all the time even though we barely recognise it.

For example here I type along (hum-di-dum-qwerty-whatever-hits-my-puny-brain-stuff)and he's the one enabling me to breath and do all the other stuff that I don't understand. I don't understand it because my stupid 8th grade Biology teacher thought we were smart enough to handle post-graduate-doctoral-totally-nerdy textbooks. I weren't smart. And I'm not the leastest bitter.

Back on topic: while it's dangerous to go to far in individualistic thinking as a westerner, the truth is that Jesus goes after and delivers the individual. He loves me, and in his rescue the community rejoices.

I believe that, in the process of support-raising, he will deliver this weary old soul of mine. And he won't just do it for me, he'll do it so that all the righteous will rejoice. I'm not saying that we'll get all our funding. Nothings for certain, save the fact that Jesus saves.

His plans are beyond mine and I know that I'll one day rejoice in them. My vision is so myopic, but his is truly comprehensive. He has the good of all of his children in mind.

This is the nature of our God. He's a rescuer. He delivers. He brings his children to rejoice in the bounties he brings home. And when he's around we're truly at home. God come home today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Just a Spark

Nobody said the Christian life was going to be easy. I've read Dietrich Bonhoffer, Amy Carmichel and the rest and they really lived. But when I think about them I'm tempted to wonder, "Where does my life measure up?"

Here I am, supposed to be raising support to reach youth for Christ, and I'm hesitant, fearful, lazy and just plain sick of it. I'm not the charasmatic picture of someone "on fire" for God. I more resemble a weak spark. I'm "a little spark" for God.

I feel worn, weary and discouraged. ("Fun! Keep writing Phil!") Life with Jesus isn't supposed to feel this way is it? It's supposed to all pan out and be groovy. In fact life with Jesus is supposed to fill us with unquenchable joy right? I don't know.

I hate "happy-all-the-time-Christians." Maybe I shouldn't type this, but I do. But it's not the picture we get from the Bible is it? The Bible shows us people at the end of their rope living in desperate hope. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Right now, I don't like doing what I don't want to do. And given the opportunity, I'll avoid hard work like the plague. Or at least the hard work of fund-raising that I've been called to. By grace I've done a lot of hard work. But I'm feeling restless these days.

Why don't I just throw in the towel? I wonder sometimes. Maybe I'm just not cut out for this. Here I sit at almost 80% support, with two beautiful kids and a gorgeous wife who cares and gives and gives me to shame. And I just want to sit. Plus I can't find any towels to throw.

I'm all out of phone calls. I'm all out of emails. I'm all out of vulnerability. I'm all out of being a missionary. I just want to hang it all and go fishing. It's what the ancient Chinese would do when they were disenchanted with the world. It was their subtle way of saying the world could go to heck.

I guess I'm disenchanted. I know I'm being pretty dramatic. And this is probably just me coming down off of a coffee high, but it's how I feel. I'll probably be happy again by the afternoon. It's the way of the human. I know nobody wants to hear me gripe. But the Christian life, the life of being stretched to do what everything in me wants to run from, does make me grumble. Or it at least gives me indigestion.

With all of the above being the way I feel, it's weird because I can calmly and reasonably say that I still have hope. Jesus is familiar with my suffering (even if it's just being human) and in Hebrews I hear he prays for me. He prays that I would not only have hope, but that I would live with joy and a purpose. And I'm not talking "Purpose Driven Life" stuff, I'm talking about walking with my God in the cool of the Garden kind of purpose stuff. I need more than Christianeze self-help, I need Jesus.

In the morning before my coffee, I need Christ. At noon-time, the time of this entry, I really need Christ. In the afternoon, I need Christ. In the evening I need Christ. Through the watches of the night I need Christ. We all do, especially when we don't know it.

Sometimes this need is what I run from. I hate being needy. I hate not being able to make life work. Sometimes I hate it when people remind me to trust. I'm like, "I've tried trusting and it doesn't turn out all peachy." Thankfully I don't feel this way all the time. This is just a faze, perhaps a coffee faze. It will pass.

So what do I do in the meantime? I should trust when it feels all wrong. I should work when it doesn't make sense. I should practise a little radical self-love, by inviting the Spirit to sing the Gospel music to me. I want to wallow around in self-loathing, but I'd much rather hear the music. I need to relax, pray and breathe.

Most of all I should let this big God of mine be big. I should recognize that he takes my faltering, stuttering, sin-riddled steps towards him and makes something beautiful happen: His Kingdom Coming. I don't think God's looking for me to be a saint. He's looking for a sinner to do his work. I've got the sinner part down.

I've got to quit thinking that I've got this whole "missionary-support-dad-husband-writer thing." I don't have it, and never will, but Jesus does and in him I hope, be it ever so weakly... be it just a spark. God can use a spark...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dazed and Confused: American Christianity

Note on the picture: I will one day take an axe to all pithy church signs everywhere. You can count on it.

"We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them." - Paul trying not to be confused with Zeus
I was reminded yesterday of the fact I live in America, the land that has taken Christianity and formed it into a religion all its own. What I see on TV, on the internet and in our Christian culture is such a mixed up hodge-podge blend of American pragmatism, materialism and religion.

Now I don't want this to be a bashing session in which I unload all of my baggage in self-righteous indignation towards American Christianity. What I do want to do is see more clearly how I have bought into this mutated religion that is not Christ-like in any form. Here are a few personal beliefs to get warmed up:

I believe that if I'm a good boy and go to church, I will be blessed.

I believe that if I work really hard and am really responsible, God will be pleased.

I believe that those who have money have been blessed by God.

I believe that I will have a successful ministry if I just follow the right models.

I believe that I can do it, because I'm an American...

As you can see, I'm in trouble, and I can hardly believe what I believe. It's so silly. What does wealth, ministry models and nationality have to do with following Christ. Nothing. Let me say it again so I'll believe it: Nothing!

God didn't bless America to the exclusion of other countries and cultures. I do believe that God has blessed America with democracy, freedom and some other things. But in this sense he's blessed many a country. We are certainly not the focus of his blessing, the new Israel.

And these days, I'm not so proud to be an American. I'm not so proud to be a human. Since I'm bigoted, shallow and selfish I have fashioned a Christianity all of my own making. Will it save? Absolutely not. Will it maintain the status-quo? Certainly.

But the radical nature of the kingdom is totally different than the Christianity we see in our culture. I've suspected this for a long time, but it's mostly just made me prideful, self-righteous, critical and unhelpful. It's easier to be critical than helpful. I want to serve the church, but maybe first I need to get on board with God's business of reforming it.

I don't like radical Christianity. It makes me think of social activism, which I'm totally scared of. But Jesus was a radical with a radical message. A hard message. A message of hope for the down-trodden and a message of impending wrath and judgement for the oppressor and for the comfortable.

I don't have to look far for comfortable Christians. I don't have to gaze beyond my own navel. I need reform. I need Jesus. I need ministry. I need fierce and penetrating repentance through the work of the Spirit. As John the Baptist says, "the ax is at the root!"

I live in the South, so everywhere I look I see Christians. As I'm typing this two old ladies are praying beside me. "Firm believers in a vague religion," as a friend of mine likes to say. And I worry. I worry that who I am and what I believe is not wed more to my culture than to Christ. I worry that what I will pass on to my children is just a plastic image of the real thing. I don't want to give my kids plastic Jesus action figures, I want to point them to the real guy.

As Paul says to the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith."

As you can see, I need the Gospel to reshape my thinking and my attitude. What I see in American Christianity makes me sick. But unfortunately I suspect it makes me sick more because of my own theological biases and doctrinal superiority than for the humble reason that we aren't following Christ.

I'm tired as well. Even as I write, I'm feeling pretty grumpy. Disillusioned. And it's a Friday too. How can this happen on a Friday? Maybe because I'm catching a glimpse of the distance between my religion and the way of Life. They are miles apart.

Today I must rest in Jesus. I must rest in the one who has the power to reform. I must rest in the one who bridged the gap for me, enabling me to be a son. Only from a place of peace and intimacy with Jesus will I be a helpful critic of our culture. And only there will I find direction for this tired old soul of mine.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner..."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bees Make Me Feel Stoopid

"The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."

-Moses responding to the first "Are we there yet?" (It wouldn't be the last time he fielded that one).

The Israelites had barely slipped their sandled toes onto the first tiny grains of sand in the wilderness before they were complaining. Of course, I don't blame them, they had a massive Egyptian horde after them. The Israelites sometimes get a bad rap. I think I'd at least be muttering something uncouth under my beard. As an Israelite I'd have a really scraggly beard and would never, ever have to bathe. I'd look like a pirate. My son David would love it.

I grumble all the time. As a "writer," it's practically part of my profession. But there are times, where God clearly tells me to be silent and watch him work. This seems to be one of those days.

Today I suffer from what I'd call a "queenless, bee-hive mind," thoughts are buzzing willy-nilly all over the place in my brain, searching for something sweet to land on. Thinking of, one landed in my coke way back when ... when I was a teenager, when I was young, when I had a world of possibilities in front of me, when I had a long life to live with little to no consequences, when I wasn't the grizzled and bedraggled old coon-fart that I've become... Anyhow, it gave me quite a crunchy surprise. I then mused that whilst I was in the dawn of my years I do prefer bees outside of my mouth.

But as my thoughts buzz, God's telling me, ever so tenderly, to slow down, to be quiet and to watch. Watch him do his thing. And when God says things like this, stand back... Way back. Ten-years-old-having-made-your-first-model-rocket-out-of-everyday-household-items back.

God is doing something in this crazy world I live in. And this morning, I can't quite put my finger on it. But it's nice to be reminded who's in control. It's something I need to hear everyday. Even if I can barely hear anything above the bees, and my own grumblings.

So rather than write on and on, I'm going to try and watch. "For I only have to be silent..."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fred the Ugly Iguana: Thoughts on Psalm 138

Here I sit at my favorite coffee shop again, wondering where today's adventure in writing will take me. I'm never sure...

I could write about how I just blew an hour of work looking at mountain bike parts I could never afford. When I'm tempted to look at mountain bike parts, I'm like a monkey who's just been introduced to banana chips. But I don't feel like castigating myself for my irresponsibility and you'd probably not enjoy reading it. Even though I deserve some castigation, it gets me nowhere and gives me headaches.

I could write about how God is teaching me to be patient. How I'm growing in patience as I wait on him to provide funds and contact individuals to partner with us in ministry. But being as I've been hesitant to call people the past couple of days, and I'm not very patient right now, I'm not going to.

I could write a day in the life of Fred the Ugly Iguana, but while I'm sure it'd be exciting, I don't know anything about Iguanas really. Wow, I'm being really vulnerable today.

OK, so I'll read my Bible for a while...

Here's something. Something a little more relevant. Something for days like this when my faith is shrunken to the size of a small pea (not the big ones injected with hormones that Melissa warns me against). Something for guys like me who struggle with really-tiny-minuscule-little-person faiths (or iguana faiths I don't want to leave you out Fred).

"On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased."

I forget that faith is a gift, not something I have to give to God. It's to be asked for and received. And our father loves nothing better to give us faith, as well as constant thoughts about iguanas named Fred.

I'm so mixed up by this. It seems that my lack of faith keeps me from asking for faith, because I just don't have faith that God will give me faith. "I've tried it," I say to myself.

The truth is that I have more faith in me than in God. After all, even as I pick at the blister on my hand, I'm made of flesh, bone and blisters. I can see me. I can handle me.

Can I handle me? Not really. My instincts are always all in the wrong directions. I don't trust me. While I'm not going to go rob a bank (even though that would make me feel super-cool and would definitely be on my list of things to do if I wasn't so inhibited by my culture) and while I'm not going to buy a pet tiger (like the guy last night on animal planet who got eaten, surprise surprise), my instincts do seem to go in directions that could be best described as "curious." I do not handle myself well.

Left to myself I search the internet for banana chips, I mean bicycle parts. I rarely want to be about the business of work. Work is restrictive, uncomfortable and just not me centered enough. Why can't work get in line?

All of the above is why I found this verse so encouraging today. With all the roller-coaster thoughts derailing and exploding in my head, faith, real faith and strength of soul is promised to those who ask.

"For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly"

I'm definitely low. Enslaved to stuff I've been freed from. I hate that verse about the dog returning to his vomit. I'm always like "Yup, that's me."

I think God knows this. He's super-omniscient-present-knowing-stuff. Come to think of it God could be the ultimate black-mailer. Thankfully he's not. "He regards the lowly."

"The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands."

Wow! That about takes my faith problem biscuit. And I hope it encourages you. I'm going to call out to God now. Not too loud though, because I'm in a coffee shop. Cultural inhibitions again. Maybe I'll go by the bank and do it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big and Good

"Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you."
-Jesus in John

As a Christian my life should be characterized by rejoicing and joy. I'm not to go brow beating myself and others. Plus I don't even know what that means. I'm pretty sure it has something you do with your eyebrows.

I've been rescued from the world of cause and effect. My sinful cause is met with Christ's sacrifice. I have been given the word of life, I am clean and Jesus abides in me. I have no better promise, no greater reality. God has breathed into me and I can breath deeply and be satisfied. It's good to breathe.

I have much to be happy and optimistic about, but I also have something that is deeper, richer and more profound than a lifted spirit. I have complete and concrete moral cleanness. I have right standing before the God of the universe. Surprisingly I don't even blow up or vaporize in his presence. Many mad scientists would be dissappointed.

I often forget the bigness of the Gospel. The fact that I am completely washed of all sin and completely accepted and loved by God is, umm, kind of a big deal. And in blogging about it, I write words of which I barely know the meaning. But Jesus, the word, knew the meaning and the cost. His death was worth it because he saw the Gospel bigness.

It's not about me. It's about Christ renewing the whole world. Creation's groans being met with his Christ's salve of rightness. (I just used "salve" in a sentance. I think salve means "to save with lotion.")

And it's primarily about God. He loves. He's just. He's merciful. He is good. He will be glorified. Bank on it. Better yet, invest in it, gamble on it, mortgage the house!

Out of his character flows the story of our salvation, the fountain in which we can wash and find what we've always been searching for. Personally, when I found the fountain, I dove right in and bonked my head. Which is a good thing - my pride in my self-righteousness needed to get knocked out of my silly head. Plus I'm done with giving myself self-righteous sponge baths with those horrible sea sponges forever. (And since I don't like to bathe, this is good news.)

I search everyday for salvation, whether I know it or not. Every idol I craft is an attempt at filling and finding acceptance or rightness. Jesus Christ alone is my rightness. He is my abiding place. It remind me of the saying, "I like to inbibe abiding whilst riding lightning..." (In case you're wondering, I just made that up. "Phil, you creative genius you.")

I was praying yesterday that God would do this and that (as well as make me really really ridiculously wealthy and good looking) and then it hit me: this is a BIG God I am speaking to. My tiny pea brain can't even conceptualize him. I can't even rightly think of him. But I am heard by him. Amazing.

God will always be more. He will always be bigger. His salvation is always larger than I think. And as I find more and more sin in my life, I do begin to suspect something. I suspect that the Gospel is Big. It is. Someday we will all feast on it. We'll stuff our faces till we pass out. And, to the satisfaction of the mad scientists, our hearts may explode. For Jesus himself has "called us friends."

I blog news I barely understand. That's why it's called good. Sometimes it even makes me smile.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dumb, Blind and Deaf

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes but do not see, they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!"
- Psalm 135

Here I sit at Pashas (my sweet little Coffee shop at the foot of Lookout Mountain, TN) on Monday morning, trying to rub the sleep and pollen from my eyes. Mondays. Wow, I bet a lot has been blogged about Mondays and pollen for that matter. But I'm really feeling my Monday this morning and I just don't have the strength to add to the pile of literature. In fact I can't even think of a creative word that would mean "a large body of written work." So as you see, I just used "pile." Great words for writers are words like "stuff," "sort-of," "that thingy" and I can't think of any others.

Why am I blogging you ask? Good question. Sometimes it's good to write when you don't have anything to say. That way you can get out all the junky "stuff" that no one in their right mind would ever read and go back to being profound. Yeah, that's it.

In my morning devotions, which consists of me wearily flipping through "Phil's version of read through the Bible in 15 years," I stumble upon passages that spur me on to write. And this morning, even with all of the above excuses, seems to be no different. As I was explaining to somebody the other day (a day that wasn't a Monday, in which I could talk to other human beings-being as it wasn't a Monday. Have I complained enough about Mondays yet?), the Bible is a writer's gold-mine! I should probably feel guilty for how much I use it to write silly blogs, but there's just so much in it begging to be reflected on by some life-and-child-weary-34-year-old sitting in his favorite coffee shop on a Monday morning.

The passage above is no different. In fact it's so undifferent as to almost rise from the page of my Bible and smack me around for a bit before it innocently settles back down onto its glossy-thin Bible page. Which makes me think have you ever read a book with such thin pages? I haven't. I wonder if my Bible is anorexic. We probably need to have a talk.

This passage likes to beat me up a bit, because it highlights the end of our idolatry. The end is that we become like our idols: lifeless. I don't want to become like a bike. I don't want to become like my fuzzy TV. I don't want to become like a soccer-ball, unless I get to be played in the English Premier League of course. I don't even want to become a dollar, even though it would be cool to see all the sites and places it's been.

Idols kill us and are killing us. They have come to steal, kill and destroy! Sound familiar? They're big meanies. And oh how we bow and pander and worship these "thingies." We think that without them we'll just die. Of course we rarely voice this, but we certainly live it out.

We human-beings are natural born killers - killers of others and ourselves. We human beings were meant to be worshippers, but we're better at destroying life. It's what we do best. We make idols, bow down and, as the passage says, become dumb, blind, deaf and out of breath, literally.

I wish we weren't like this. The human propensity to destroy and kill kind of stinks. In fact I sometimes wonder why God puts up with us. Especially me. I seem to do more harm than I do good. But God's promises never fall to the ground (sort of like the American flag), they are true and they promise to redeem and rescue his people, and he promises that he will enable us in good works (somewhere in the Bible).

So on this bleary, tired, and even boring Monday morning, I want to recommit to not look to the hills (where we set up all our Asherah poles) and to look to my God for breath. The sight, hearing and speech can wait for now. After all it is Monday.

Hang in there, Tuesday will come.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Weaver

"For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 'This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. Her priests I will clothe with salvation. There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.'"
- by David, to be sung by pilgrims on the ascent to Jerusalem.

Zion doesn't deserve God. We don't. People make up cities and Zion rejected God. I am just like Zion.

A thick veil lays over my heart this morning. It always seems this way. Even yesterday as my pastor and I gaped at the span of the Gospel, my heart was lifted to praise but for a moment, and then the reality of my veil descended.

This is not the way I was made to live. And it is why I am seeking to meditate on God's word. Reality is what I am veiled from. Reality is what I forget every morning. Reality is so much more than I take it to be. And Reality is so much full of the other, the utter glorious Otherness of God.

I have no idea how blessed I am to be a part of this eternal city, the place where God is. I have no idea what a privilege it is, and how undeserved. In fact when struck with it fully, when I leave this body, when I'm "deader than a door-nail," I know the question will be "Why me?" It's the only legitimate question in light of God's election.

The trivialities of stuff, things to do, movies to watch and kids to get in their darn beds preoccupy my daily thoughts. There's little room left for God. Yet God is all there is. He breathes life into all of these things. And he gives me a heart for others, which frankly, I find pretty impossible.

Today I feel so privileged and blessed to exchange the "garments of shame" that I fully deserve and to be clothed with salvation. And for someone who is so-not-style-concsious, and who can best be described as living in a "style-coma," these garments are a pretty good thing.

And I can't wait to see my Lord's crown shine. May it shine in my heart today, burning the truth of his love, power, justice and grace for all of mankind deep into the torn fabric of my being. May the great weaver of history show me his loom woven for the nations, even as he weaves me back together.

One Testament

There once was an Old Testament without Jesus. It was old, crusty, dull and boring. It was rotting...

There never was an Old Testament without Jesus! From the beginning to the end of our Bible, Jesus is central.

I was talking this over with my pastor friend this morning, and he was tearfully painting with broad and generous strokes the meta-narrative of the scriptures (the tears were from allergies). It was a beautiful painting. One that when he finally stopped brushing, we both stood back and gaped at.

My conclusion as we gaped was that God's love is ridiculous. His was that it was irresponsible. Jesus was here, there and everywhere. In God's Shekinah Glory, in his dwelling with the people, in the beginning through the Lord's spoken word: "Let there be light." Jesus was in every Covenant. In fact in every Word the Lord spoke, Jesus was present, coming forth. He was there in the giving of the Law - God's perfect parameters for a people chosen to be Christ-like, a light to the nations.

All that is good in creation is from the spoken Word of God. All good is from and connected to Christ's work.

That's what irks me when I find my own dispensationalism popping up time and again. The idea of two covenants, where one just wasn't good enough is problematic. God doesn't make multiple plans. His idea from the beginning was to fully express himself in the person and work of Christ.

It's why David can revel in God's forgiveness. David had more faith in God's veiled covenant, than I do in the unveiled (thank you pastor). Sadly a veil still lies over my heart.

In Psalm 119 we see David revelling in God's Law and Word. That which created the mountains, rivers, trees, animals and us. God's Law is good. We miss-read Paul when we call it bad. We made the Law bad. We did so by making it a means to get to God, rather than the gift of parameters for a people chosen out by God. It's what we've always done.

And the Gospel is bigger than any of us. My pastor explained that the idea that God would die for us individualy is to minimalise God. God's good news was for all creation and not simply us. We are simply the beneficiaries. God's glory is expressed by his goodness, and his goodness is throughout the whole Bible.

So don't tell me Jesus isn't in the Old Testament, because I'll quickly have to repent for believing the same way most of the time and for forgetting to "Hear O Israel, Our LORD is One!"

Just a few minutes after I typed these words (and I'm not lying) in walks a Messianic Jew who says the phrase above in Hebrew! His name was Joseph, pronounced with a "Y," and he made my day. Life with God is always more beautiful than fiction. Here's to the greatest fiction ever told: (whisper) "It's true!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Daily Home: God's House

"The LORD is my strength and salvation, whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Though enemies assail me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Though war rise up against me yet I will be confident.

One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple."

- David, meditating again!

I've been meditating again ("Shame on you Phil!"). And I've chosen this passage above to set my heart on. It is a passage that my mother sent me when I was in dark depression and has been a source of great encouragement.

Life throws us curveballs. Enemies of anxiety, fear, broken relationships, wrecked dreams and familial loss, surround us. It is in these times that we call out to our to our "stronghold."

The God we serve deserves our full attention. Why? Because he loves us even though we have throroughly rejected his love. This hit me last night. Have I really rejected his love. Absolutely. And God, in his radically ridiculous love has taken me back. He's made a way for me. He is my "light and salvation."

In the passage above I see a progression in David's thoughts. He begins with stating that God is our savior and stronghold. He then begins describing the dangerous realities of life, and the courage he has in God. And finally he shows us where this courage and hope in God leads: Dwelling in God's presence "all the days of my life."

This last verse has to be my favorite verse of this Psalm, and perhaps of the entire Bible. It invites us to dwell in God's presense and gaze upon God's beauty. Nothing else can satisfy like living in God's constant presense. To live in his temple. We often think of him templing or dwelling in us. A still small voice that we must search for. But the opposite is true, we dwell in something so much greater and so much bigger than us. We dwell in God. Our life is found outside of us. It's found in God.
Notice how David doesn't say, "One day I will dwell in God's house." No, he believes that he can dwell there today. He was already home in God in that day.

Yesterday in Sunday School, someone said, in light of the purgings and wrath of God poured out on people in the Old Testament, that they didn't have Jesus yet. I couldn't dissagree more, if David didn't have Jesus, who did he have? Whereas he didn't know his name he trusted in a God who "forgave all his iniquities, redeemed his life from the pit, and crowned him with steadfast love and mercy..."

David loved God greatly because he had a large view of God. And he spent time meditating on him. It's apparent in the Psalms that this was no feel good exercise, like I often look for. It was the bread and butter of his existence. He clung to God, much like Jacob in his wrestling match.

I hope that I cling to the God that clings to me through all of my rebellion. For I too want to dwell in God's house every day I'm on this earth. I want to see his beauty and wonder. And when troubles come, I want to deal honestly with my BIG God. For no small god in the hear and after will do for me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Warm Fuzzies

"Bless the LORD, oh my soul. Let all that is in me Bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, oh my soul and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like eagles." - David spending a little too much time meditating in Psalm 103.

Sooo, I meditated last night. "Gasp! Phil you did what!?" No I expect you readers to have no problem with meditation and conteplation, two of the keys of spiritual discipline. There are the dangers of opening yourself up to demon possession, but what the hey. Just kidding. In my defense David did it a lot, and it's the reason we have so many beautiful Psalms to meditate on.

I chose the passage above as my "mantra", because it was written by David and is a powerful summary of a wholistic understanding of what God does for us as his children: He gives us the benefits of forgiveness, healing, redemption, and good things! He even renews our youth, something that I should pray for every day. Especially when I'm trying to get out of bed.

In fact at age 34, my body, while still working relatively well, is showing the questionable signs of aging. Stuff like bloating, excess weight and a myriad of things that are depressing (like new lines on my face) remind me of this need for youthful renewal. I'm still waiting God! I believe God to be full of dubious promises. I don't think that I'm going to feel like an "eagle" anytime soon. What gives God? God: "You have no idea what an eagle feels like. They actually feel pretty terrible most of the time."

But the biggest promise, or reminder in this Psalm is it's opening verses: "Bless the Lord Oh my soul. Let all that is within me bless his holy name..." Our biggest blessing in this life is that we get to bless God. I know it sounds a little circular, but as with so many riddles, there's something profoundly true in the mystery of the riddle.

That we, of all God's creatures can bless God is pretty amazing. Other creatures do so with their lives. But we get to bless not only with our lives but with our very consciouses and subconsciouses for whackos like me.

So as I meditated my way down into my deep conscious last night (the murky depths where my anxieties seem to reign) I was struck by the calming effects of these words. And for someone who has grown up in a tradition that poo-poos experiencial encounters with God, I was somewhat scared and delighted as warm fuzzies washed over my body.

It was probably the simple fact that I was sitting in a comfortable room, in a comfortable chair, with comfortable thoughts running through my head. It sort of felt like the time I was given morphine for my broken arm. No wonder people like to meditate!

There was a gift of peace and warm fuzzies that felt pretty good as I reached about 40 minutes of repeating the passage. My father-in-law walked in at about minute 20, so I'm sure he was wondering what in the world I was up to, sitting in a chair apparently doing nothing at all.

That's the beauty of meditation, I wasn't doing nothing, but I was stopping to attend to someone. To attend to God. Of course my motives weren't that pure, I was looking for the elusive warm fuzzies. But someday I'll be able to do this face to face, and I for one can't wait, especially if he's passing out warm fuzzies.

But before you go off and dismiss me as a warm fuzzy new age weirdo, which totally fit me last night, and which I see so many Christians doing on the world-wide-interweb-of-hate, I think it's really important that we, as evangelicals, learn what it means to stop and attend to the important.

We're called to read scripture, pray AND meditate. From this movement and vigourous action should result. At least that's what I bank on. And it's true, without internal time with God, we're running on empty.

So here's my plug for Contemplative Spirituality, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Transformation, or Christians Gone Whacko. I hope we don't dismiss what we don't understand, or embrace it for that matter. I plan on critically studying these popular movements as we're called to be discerning, but more importantly I plan on meditating again as I got warm fuzzies.

Warm fuzzies get a bad rap from those who don't experience them often enough. They're pretty neat little guys.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Broken Bicycle

"It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory. A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." - Solomon

I yearn for new material to write about. I grow weary of writing about my own sin. But as I was reading this morning I came upon this proverb that had me totally pinned, which is my way of saying it nailed me (I'm suffering writer's block on what to call it).

Yesterday, I spent a majority of my day, which I was supposed to be spending working, looking to somehow raise by bike from the dead. Without my fix (biking), and with my bike in need of a fix, I was fixed on getting it fixed. Fixated on fixing the unfixable. I was fixedly stuffing honey into my face.

Can you be addicted to anything as seemingly innocent as biking? Absolutely. I believe there are children all over the world who struggle with an addiction to playing jacks (as well as picking noses). I pity them, they need an Xbox (besides having an Xbox helps with the "picking noses disease" as children don't like sticky controllers. I'm not strictly against balanced nose picking however. I find it very satisfactory and hardly gross at all).

In a real way, I was living in slavery yesterday. I was consumed by my hobby and unable to relate to the world around me. I was also like a "city broken into and left without walls." Biking had literally broken into my world and I was open to wherever it lead. Balance, peace and substance had left my city as I restlessly searched for my fix.

Thankfully I have a loving wife who hates it when I get like this. And while it grates my nerves when she attempts to step into my mess of a city, she can see when I can't. She can be a source of unreasonable sounding reason in the midst of my storm. I can find Christ's wisdom in her, not always directly, but in her insistance that something is amiss.

The irony of being human is that the very thing that we seek for - our own glory - and think will bring us freedom, just enslaves and makes us feel miserable. Especially when it's centered on a broken bike. Here's a bit of trivia: Did you know that there is more technology put into bikes each year than cars? True, I think. Once again I'm to0 lazy to waste time on Google trying to verify my claim, but I heard it somewhere from someone.

Someone enslaved to stuff, accomplishments and prestige is simply living dead. They become a zombie brainlessly sorting through random bike parts, and mumbling under their very bad breath. They even attempt the impossible, putting back together a tiny sealed bearing hub. It's impossible, don't ever try it. It will make you wish you were dead, even if you're already a zombie (I guess I should say "dead again") Especially if your wife is calling you to dinner.

Am I hard on myself? No. I'm simply getting clued into how ridiculously enslaved I am to stuff. It's really a pain. And it's why I want to cling to the God who offers us an eternal city, one which doesn't fade and one which which will never dissappoint.

So what am I doing about it? Like a true addict I've sworn off biking for the week. And like a true addict who's realizing that he's powerless, I'm totally at God's mercy for strength to pull off such a rash vow. My prayer is that he'll enable me, and help me to find the vista or "open pleasant space" that David writes about, a life lived in balance with God.

Back to the city without walls. I guess I'm leaving for a trip to God's city today as I totally wrecked mine yesterday. I hope it's not far, as my stupid bike is broken...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

God Smoking?

I found God on the corner of 1st and Amistad
Where the West was all but won
All alone, smoking his last cigarette
I said, "Where you been?" He said "Ask anything"

Where were you when everything was falling apart?
All my days were spent by the telephone that never rang
And all I needed was a call that never came
To the corner of 1st and Amistad

Chorus: Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me
Lying on the floor surrounded, surrounded
Why'd you have to wait? Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late, you found me, you found me

But in the end everyone ends up alone
Losing her, the only one who's ever known
Who I am, who I'm not and who I wanna be
No way to know how long she will be next to me


The early morning, the city breaks
And I've been calling for years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
You never sent me no letters
You got some kind of nerve taking all I want!


- "You Found Me," by the Fray

I love music in the morning. It gets me going, helps me overcome the numbness in my ear lobes and basically makes me feel there is hope. Funny that I heard this song this morning by the Fray. I've been meaning to write about it for a little while now, since the radio plays it over, and over, and over... and over.

As I was gathering the lyrics off the web, I saw a comment that said it's very similar to Psalm 13, so let's put on our sweaters and outdoor shoes and follow Mr. Rogers to the Psalm (I like Mr. Rogers)... Read... Ponder... Blog... Ok, so I read the Psalm and so did you, if you're not as lazy as I am when I read blogs. There's definitely some parallels.

In the Psalm David's crying out to God "How long... Will you forget me forever." It parallels the Fray's question of "Where were you?" and their expression of waiting by the phone for a call that never came. Though David believes a call will come. Hmm.

Another key parallel is David's expression of the sorrow in his heart with the Fray's "losing her." There is no greater anguish in this life than the loss of a loved one.

The idea of being surronded echoes the David's refrain of being surrounded by enemies, which are all throughout the Psalms.

"In the end, everyone ends up alone" reminds me of the difficulties posed in Ecclesiastes and Job.

I find it ironic that a song that plumbs such depths is a popular pop song on my radio. Also one that they would choose to play in the morning. I can see the DJ selecting it for it's lyrics, smiling sadisticly, turning it on with a cackle and saying "Good morning. Now everyone despair!"

But the beauty of the song, other than the coolness of having God smoke, is that it's dealing with God. And the Bible deals. It takes on the hard questions. Where were you God? Where are you? And why?

And the Bible, precisely because it asks those questions, is about deep-rooted hope. I heard a friend the other days express that he's lost and needs to find God. He can't find God. I believe in a God that finds him. A God that will rescue him. In this I'm confident.

With David in Psalm 13, and now much more because of the cross, I trust in God's steadfast love. I know that I will one day rejoice in His salvation and will "sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me." Our journey as believers is to hold hope in open palms of dependance. It's how we hold on for dear life, palms open to heaven (for this illustration I thank a dear friend).

The world says "rage, grasp and demand." Much as the song above. The Bible says "rage, depend and hope." Much as in Psalm 13.

Life is hard. It's not simple. The Bible takes us to these places because it wants us to trust in the God of true Life. After all he breathed Life into us, so he knows how and when to take us to his truths.

Predictably, I will get cheesy and end with "Help us Obi-Wan-Kanobi, you are our only hope." Star Wars is never far from my mind and is the source of much of my spiritual heritage. Sorry.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Making Cheese out of Skim Milk

"If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope..." - Psalm 130 (sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem)

I wasted a whole bunch of time today at work. Probably 2+ hours! It makes me feel like a heal. Here I am supposed to be raising support for my family and for the mission of reaching out to youth with the Gospel and I find myself simply whitling away my time. Craigslist and Google were my gods today as I looked for shiny bikes that I couldn't or shouldn't buy. Melissa is in charge of finances, so I never really know where we are. Or at least that's what I say when I want to buy something.

Why the endless browsing and internet-powered-window-shopping Phil? I guess it stems from a lack of satisfaction and a restless spirit. On top of that I'm often given to laziness. And these are not characteristics that are outside me, they lurk in the inside. To say that there is some profound fear or anxiety or wrong thinking that drives my disobedience is to shirk the reality that I sin. There may be, but I still choose to disobey. I choose to be deceived. I run.

Am I being hard on myself? I don't think so. Have I been called to something that's difficult in fund-raising? Definitely. But who is it that strengthens us to do anything? Who is it that equips where he calls? God. And honestly guys, I have a hard time making up my bed in the mornings. I can be really lazy. I pray almost every morning that he'd give me the strength to get up and make the bed.

But the flip side to my sin is that the God I believe in and follow I fear for the exact reason that he forgives. I honor him because he forgives me. He gets my allegiance. If he didn't forgive who would stand?

But at the same time he gets so little of my allegiance and fear. It's a difficult thing being a sinful human in this broken world. But God knows this (and in Jesus he knows more deeply then we can imagine) and his provision for me runs deep. If only I'd run to him and find my life in him. Simply trusting and obeying, the children's song to true Life.

I believe that life is difficult and confusing. I also believe we have all we need in God. I believe it 2% of the time anyway. Maybe 1%. Or I guess I'm a skim milk Christian. But I'm God's and he works with me. He even wants to churn me into creme and make a fine cheese of me. Good luck God! He's really surprising. And it's why I want to honor him all the more. May my life reflect the Psalm of ascents above!

Meditate Good Times, Come On!

"Meditation" is a dangerous word in a lot of Christian circles. I know it has been in mine. And for good reason. Hinduism and Buddhism, while they have much to teach us - and should be studied, are ultimately the wrong paths and will lead to destruction.

I've been wrestling with this recently and asking myself what is "Christian meditation"? What does it look like? I think I've been afraid of demons for so long that I've neglected this art of pausing and allowing God to speak into my life.

I am a novice at letting God's word transform my mind. Even now as I write I'm supposed to be reading my Bible and meditating on the given word of God. And I've settled for researching Christian views on meditation! Not a bad thing to do, but isn't this my fallen human spirit at work? I look everywhere but to God for answers.

Being a writer at heart, I often think that the answers are inside me. That if I would just pause and slow down, that I would find the inner peace I'm looking for. That by clearing my mind of all thoughts and leaving my body I would be in a place where I could draw strength, nourishment and grace for living. That if I would just blog long enough and explore my innermost thoughts, I would find where I err and draw close to God.

These are dangerous patterns of thought. They lead to more of self and not less. Yes, I need to slow down and meditate. But I need to meditate on God, not myself. I need to allow him to show me my thoughts, truths about my body and createdness and guide me in the one true path.

So how am I called to meditate? I believe we are called to meditate on God in an infinate variety of ways. But the infinate ways must be founded in scripture, and as my parents would be quick to point out scripture that is read correctly and not taken out of context. The Biblical story is God's story of love to us. And it is in meditating on that that we can go to the pool of peace, strength and hope that refreshes. It is there that we hear from the Spirit.

Melissa was meditating on the Abrahamic Covenant last night and connecting it to the cross. I knew where she was going so I was like "Blah, blah, blah, no duh..." But thankfully the Spirit interupted me, with a gentle encouragement to wake up and listen. Sure enough she had stumbled upon something big that I had never thought about.

I bet you'd like me to share that with you now. I won't, since I'm kind of a jerk sometimes, and it may be a helpful exercise for you to meditate on these two events. In other words, I don't want to be that guy who says "You haven't seen the Matrix? It's all about this guy who lives in a fake reality created by robots! You should totally see it!" And if you haven't seen the Matrix, then I'm terribly sorry. I thought it would be better to pop that bubble then the one that may expand from examining the cross side by side with the covenant with Abraham.

Anyways, I should grab a bite to eat and then get down to the real business of Christian meditation: reading God's word and asking the Spirit's guidance for Life (with a capital "L"). I love how in Christ we have all the answers! I only half way believe this most of the time. But it's true, at least about all the answers we need anyway...

My conclusion on meditation, is in practise am I playing God or am I allowing God to play you? If I'm allowing God, the God of the Bible, to play me, I believe I'll be in a good place, a place I'll want to visit again, again and again. So here's to a deep renewal of Christian Meditation, let's not let all the Hindus have all the fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


"Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamaties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise." - Paul to the Corinthians

What a list! And what an intimidating passage. Does my life reflect anything of Paul's? Honestly, I'm not sure. Though I'm sure the Spirit is moving in me and taking me in Godly directions.

But what pops me between the eyeballs ("You're my creative writing hero Phil! I love your word-smithy. Bravo, bravo, applause, applause, fog-horn, applause." "No, no, I quiet down everyone...") in this passage is Paul's statement of putting "no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry." With so many people turned off from Christianity and the church these days, this statement and following description is truly a refreshing take on what it means to live.

In the list he mentions "the power of God." I'm glad he includes it, because without it it'd be a impossible list.

The question I want to challenge myself with is "Am I willing to follow God in such a way that I put no obstacles in peoples way?" The way being the "Way" by which the early Christians were called. Umm, no.

I'm a sinner. Duh! But the power of God is at work in me, and I make it my aim to reflect Christ, to live in the light of Christ and to enjoy God's companionship. I believe this will draw others. There's no better way to witness than finding your sufficiency in Christ.

I'll give you a recent example from this sinner's life. And I got a hug and a kiss out of this one from Melissa when I related it to her! ("Store up you treasures in heaven Phil." "But are we going to be allowed to get kisses from beautiful women in heaven? Hmm?") So, I am often tempted to spend frivolously on candy. And I had that craving yesterday. But I decided to test God's sufficiency for me and resist the temptation to wittle away at our finances, which are already tight. In doing so I suffered the "affliction" of being without chocolate, and showed kindness to my wife's wishes which are "I'll kill you if you spend any more money on candy!" It was no huge victory, no big affliction (I had chocolate waiting at home for me), but it was a step in God's way. And I believe it was a light to Melissa.

I hate it when pastors come up with illustrations like mine. "I really struggle with speeding" etc. etc. So I'm sorry for my poor illustration. But if we lived like my illustration all the time, not just giving up stuff that keeps people from seeing Christ in us, but pro-actively loving others in the midst of hardship and being mis-understood (slander) for our sacrificial lives, I believe we would find an intimacy with God that is not only sufficient, but could be best reflected with "my cuppeth runneth overeth."

In the west the bar is set pretty low for living a life that is different and Christ-centered. That's why it's sad that people are turned off from the church. It reflects that people are not living the Gospel. Living lives that are filled with the radical (yes I used the buz word "radical," which I hate) love of Christ. Perhaps the American church has fallen out of love with Christ. So we heap up obstacles that no one in their right mind can get over.

So I wax and wane, and whine! I am so grateful that we serve the God who climbed over every obstacle to rescue us. Out of this gratitude and joy let us clear a path of love toward this world that so desperately needs Jesus. After all Paul was just a dude. He was no saint. He simply knew "the Dude." Let's fall in love with Jesus again.

OK, enough preaching, you probably don't read my blog to get preached at. But sometimes I have to preach at myself. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Moses, God, and Lord Xenu

"Who has made man's mouth?" - I AM to Moses.

When I began my devotions about five minutes ago, I opened to this passage. My blog entries almost always occur this way: I open my Bible to read a little and am struck by something really profound. When I'm looking for stuff to write about, the Bible serves as a book of endless possibilities - it's so full of truth, adventure and insights into interplay of human and divine. It's simply the reason I blog. And the process of blogging enables me to better understand, digest and remember what I'm reading, so I recommend it to anyone who wants to know God better.

But it didn't take me long to find something really profound today. Here I am reading the exchange between Moses and God in chapter 4 of Exodus, and Moses is expressing that he's not really a good choice to speak to the people, using the excuse that he's not eloquent. To put it in it's modern context he's saying something like, "But God" (nasally whine) "I'm not a 'dynamic' speaker." (For an entire entry on why I hate the modern usage of "dynamic" in Christian circles check out the entry "Dynamic" - original eh?)

God's not having it. He does a serious "No duh!" with Moses as he points out, "Moses who has made man's mouth?" I love this. In God's divine humor, he highlights the ridiculous world Moses is living in in his mind. Moses has just seen the burning bush, heard God's voice, had his staff turn into a snake which he fled from (ha!), had his hand turn leprous (fun) and then been healed. You'd think that the last thing Moses would be concerned about would be the fact that he's not "eloquent." But no, Moses is to prideful in his insecurity.

Moses is so much like me. I am so quick to forget all that God has done in my life when faced with any sort of challenge, obstacle or parking ticket. For me public speaking is always a truly terrifying experience to anticipate, but I can honestly say I have not died yet. "I'm not dead yet (Monty Python)."

But I question pretty much anything that God asks me to do that goes outside of my little controlled universe of my imagining. No wonder God got a little miffed with Moses, and he probably gets a little exasperated with me. That's why I love God's humorous response, "Umm Moses, did you know that I made your mouth?" The very vehicle that Moses was afraid to use was God's invention.

I don't want to miss the irony here. It's really potent. Moses was afraid to speak, and every word he spoke was going to come from God. God goes on to harp on this ironic theme by stating that he will be with Moses' mouth. Come on Moses! Aren't you getting it? You're nothing in this equation of Man + God.

And that's exactly the difficulty I cause all the time. I question God's part of the equation, forgetting that my side isn't so hefty after all:

Me - "God I don't want to get up and go to work."

God - "Um, how, pray (God likes sounding religious!), are you going to get up?"

Me - "Duh, I'm going to sit up and get out of bed."

God - "That's what I thought, need I say anymore."

Me - "Yeah!"

God - "How do you think you're going to sit up?"

Me - "With my stomach muscles, Jeez!"

God - "Did you almost say "Jesus" in an exasperated fashion? You know I smite people for less than that! Just kidding. No, who do you think made your 'chiseled' abdomen that enables you to sit up?"

Me - "Um, you. And did you really give me a sweet six-pack this morning?"

God - "No. But I did make all those muscles under your cellulite addition."

Me - Thanks for the sarcasm as always God.

God - No problem.

That's what I love about being in a relationship with the God of the entire universe and beyond. He's bigger than Lord Xenu, the alien that conquered all the other aliens in the universe, dumped their bodies on earth, caught their souls as they rose from earth in special soul-sucking ships, indoctrinated their disembodied souls with a made up history (known to us as "human history") and then let them loose on earth where they found some monkeys and brainwashed them into being intelligent. For this insightful anecdote I thank L Ron Hubbard, outlining some of the key principles of Scientology.

Not only is God bigger than Lord Xenu, he loves to take me back to the basics when I'm scared, fearful and anxious. He reminds me that my world really isn't all that real, and that his world is. It's really comforting. And isn't that what the Gospel is all about anyway: opening our eyes to reality.

So I hope if your worried about something today, that you'll remember who invented your brain that you're using to worry with. I'm sure I'll forget. But God is patient. More patient than Lord Xenu anyway.