Friday, December 30, 2011


"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment."  - Proverbs 18:1

It's funny, but when I want to sin, I begin to take steps towards isolation.  I make sure that the very people I should have around me aren't around.  I make preparations, and then I dive in!

I've seen this pattern not only in my own life, but in the lives of friends.  From what I've observed it's a twofold pattern: First, we hide because we want to continue in our sin.  And Second (after sinning), and perhaps most telling, we hide because we are full of shame.

One peaceful innocent day, (birds chirping in trees and all that) my little nephew Noah (who was 4 at the time) was playing with my 3-year-old David.  Melissa and Noah's mom (Rachael) were enjoying some quiet time together in the kitchen as the boys were finally playing quietly and not harassing them.  By "harassment" I mean stuff like hanging on their legs, whining through their noses for food and just plain being a pain in the poor mothers' hinder-regions.

Eventually Noah sauntered into the kitchen with a request/demand for his mom - probably something having to do with food.  Rachael noticed that he had a huge red ring around his mouth and asked what he'd been up to.

Noah - "What ring?  I haven't been up to anything.  Why would I be doing anything?  I have been doing absolutely nothing!"

Rachael - "Where's David?"

Noah - "I don't know.  How would I know where David is?  Where is David?  Why do you ask?  Have you seen David?  I haven't seen David anywhere!"

Poor Noah was totally losing his cool (and I added a little for dramatic effect - I wasn't there, so it could have gone just like I said).  Since Noah had "no idea" where David was they went on a David hunt.  And eventually they found two little feet poking out from under the bed in the guest bedroom.  (Knowing David, I'm sure the feet were kicking.)

When Rachael and Melissa looked under the bed, the mystery of Noah's red ring was instantly solved.  (Now if you're a mom, you're going to cringe because you've been here.)  Apparently David and Noah, had found some red jello powder and were feverishly licking it off (and into) the carpet.  Don't ask why, these things just happen.

Well, it's sort of like me.  When I want to do something I know I shouldn't, I isolate myself like in the verse above.  And then after I've done whatever misdeed I had planned (nothing so heinous as licking powdered jello into a carpet mind you) I am overwhelmed with shame.

So here's where my actions become very curious, especially as a Christian.  Rather than running to Jesus and    admitting my fault, I will typically wallow around in shame long enough until I feel I have either payed my dues, done my penance or straightened myself up.  Then I will repent.

A friend of mine said that there shame really has no place in the Christian life.  I think I agree.  Shame is prideful.  Shame is saying, "I deserve to feel really bad for what I've done, so I will, and when I've punished myself enough, I can go to God a little more dressed up - not quite so nakedly guilty."  Sounds like the garden doesn't it?

So here's to sticking close to our counselors, not isolating ourselves and when we have done so immediately running to our God with red jello still dripping off our mouths.  Now I think that that is real repentance.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Dies

"Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." - Proverbs 18:27

Christopher Hitchens, leader of the "new atheists" died this past week, and I have to admit my reaction was less than stellar.  I think I said something like, "Well I wonder what he thinks of his atheism now?"  Ugly.

The man is dead.  He now has to face the consequence of judgement.  I deserve judgement too.  I don't deserve the eternal life I have.

There was a part of me that was saddened by the loss.  A better part that saw the intellect, the impact and the keen pursuit of truth (albeit having gone in the wrong direction) that had made him a force to be reckoned with in academia.

Of course I'd never sat down and read anything he'd written ("so typical Philip"), but I had read stuff about him and had heard he made more sense than Richard Dawkins (which doesn't seem to be hard to do).  So I've been doing some YouTube searches this morning and listened to a few of his arguments and debates.

(OK, I watched this video after I wrote this post, and now I'm even more deeply saddened that he's gone.)

I guys like him and the "new atheists" for two reasons:  First, they are very passionate about faith.  Albeit they are passionate about not having any faith.  But their very passion,curiosity and intellectual curiosity remind me of their Creator.  Second, they are underdogs.  Now I'm not sure this is the case, but they consistently paint themselves as individuals who are persecuted for not having faith.  Perhaps...

As I read the verse above, I was struck by the biblical view of being cool.  Having a cool spirit, one who "restrains his words has knowledge".  How often have I been duped into arguments with atheists, or people with different opinions and have furiously argued my point without ever realizing that what I'm searching for is not truth or knowledge but being right and being better.

As Christopher Hitchens has now found out that he is tragically wrong, my hope is that we Christians, who hold the truth that has been given to us and not realized by our superior intellect, will find empathy and mercy leading the way in our discussions with those who oppose the faith.  At least that is my hope for me, and for the future atheists that cross my path.  Hitchens is getting what I deserve, and I should be more upset by this.

(These thoughts spurred on by Walt Mueller's blog post at:

Getting Systematic

My kind uncle just gave me some invaluable advice as I seek to be a resource for young people through my writing.  He encouraged me to look into Systematic Theology: "Don't assume you already know the faith well enough...  You don't.  Neither do any of us."

Now Systematic Theology gets a bad rap for all the wrong reasons.  "It's not practical." people whine.  "It's not readable." people moan.  "It's boring!" people chant.  "I hate it!"  OK, I've never heard anyone say that.

You know what I have to say to all of that?  Let's not be stupid.  Systematic Theology can best be defined as exactly what it sounds like, the systematic study of God and his word.  It's rightly dividing God's truth into categories or systems, so as to better explain them.

Now why should we be systematically studying God and his word in a world where experience is everything?  Because if we will be attempting any experience, like breathing for example, and we don't know the faintest about how to breath (like the system for breathing), um, we're going to die.

If we don't know what the Bible teaches about God, man, and creation, our theology will be dead.  And I don't want my theology to be dead.

Some contend that Systematic Theology is scientific in it's approach, and is informed by the enlightenment, and should therefor be replaced by a more spiritual approach.  Hogwash!  We need to know the doctrines that make life make sense.  Does gravity have a better explanation than what science has given us?  We could light scented candles sit in a dark room and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand and explain gravity, but if you're really listening, he's probably going to go pick up a text-book.

So I rant.  And I rant as one who knows so very little about Systematic Theology.  But I know I have been a huge beneficiary of it.  So now it's time to get my hands dirty, time to read, time to study, and my hope it's time to find the roots of my faith so that I can better help youngsters interpret their experiences.  Here's the Marion Webster's Definition: it's "a branch of theology concerned with summarizing the doctrinal traditions of a religion (as Christianity) especially with a view to relating the traditions convincingly to the religion's present-day setting."

In case you're wondering, I'm starting with Knowing God, by JI Packer, a sort of Systematic Theology for the lay person.  Or if you're like me, the person who eventually always lays down to read.  It's a gravity thing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds!'  So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name...  Come and hear, all you who fear God and I will tell what he has done for my soul."  - Psalm 65

I spend way too little time contemplating God.  I spend a lot of time contemplating me.

Real life-giving life-life stems from thinking on and telling the story of God.  I can never use too much hyperbole in describing God's power, love, justice, truth, mission, holiness and faithfulness.

But sometimes I feel like the gospel is a flat ball that won't bounce.  It's sad and deflated.  It's not good news, it's bad news, unless you just don't like sports.  The gospel's been boiled down to so many axioms, or so many facts, or so many doctrines, that it's something we say "Oh, that's right.  I get the gospel." and then go on about our days without even a thought of what just happened.

Relationship.  Friendship.  Brotherhood.  Sacrifice.  Betrayal.  Romance.  Rescue.  Intrigue.  Mystery.  Martyrdom.  Resurrection.  These are just a few of the themes in the gospel story!  And I can walk away from it and think it's boring!!!  That's crazy!

While "All of the earth worships God and sings praises to him" I too often go through my day whistling, say, "The Little Drummer Boy."

But "let me tell you what the Lord has done for my soul."  Along with King David, the man after God's own heart, I have been given an awesome place to live.  I get to live in God's house all of my days.  I don't have to spend one moment away from God.  I get to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord!  And bring all of my questions to him. (Ps. 27).

There is nothing like the life I have.  My cup runs over and goodness and mercy eagerly pursue me.  Is there anything better than being one with my Creator?

And still I yawn.  Still I think about biking, or movies, or my next cup of coffee, not recognizing and thanking God for all these gifts.  But these very "Creational" gifts are given to me to comfort me and enable me to enjoy God more.   They are not gifts meant to bring a rift into this relationship.

Having just celebrated the materialistic binge of Christmas presents with my kids, I can tell you that there is nothing better than having my child come up to me with their gift (or armfuls) saying "Daddy thank you so much, this is awesome."

On this note, I overheard our three-year-old David say (two or three times over Christmas) "I am so happy."  Try yawning when the human you played a part in creating says "He's so happy."  Try yawning when the God who loves you dances over you with delight.  Try yawning when He asks you not to just stay over at his place as long as you "do good," but forever!  (And by forever I mean forever-ever!)  Try yawning when you get to know, ask, live and bathe in the middle of it all.  In the middle of the presence that defines presence.

I hope you know that nothing will ever suffice as an explanation of the goodness of this gospel.  For the goodness of this gospel is God himself.  I hope you have a GOOD day.

(image above can be found at

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Christmas Hope

So Christmas is over, it's gray outside and life goes on...

As I drove along in the early morning fog (which we get here a lot in Orlando) I saw assorted boxes from new toys on driveways, waiting for the garbage truck and eventually the landfill.  I also saw blow-up Santas and reindeer now half-deflated and soaked with dew in someone's yard.  It was kind of sad.

But it reminds me of the direction everything on this earth goes - towards decay.  The newness rubs off, becomes old and then dies.

As humans we fumble with this universal law of entropy, constantly propping up new newness hoping that it will stay balanced and give us the peace we want.  We watch movies, read books, buy cars, purchase technology, blah, blah, blah but it all gets old, loses it's luster and dies.

I'm glad it dies.  I'm glad that my towers of stuff/escape/entertainment/idols fall over.  They make me look around for something that will last, something that won't tarnish, something like a really, really nice pearl - all the colors of the spectrum in one tiny orb.

The pearl of God's kingdom.  God's kingdom doesn't fade and won't die.  While I'll grow old, feeble and will go back to being dust, God's kingdom will just go on getting brighter, better and more awesome than my feeble brain can handle.

I spend a lot of time wondering if am I in or am I out of this kingdom.  But the real question is, since I'm loved  by the king, am I willing to enjoy this kingdom right now, help see it alive and working in the world right now, ready to be the King's regent, messenger and servant, loving this world RIGHT NOW?

Now is the time to sell all and live for this kingdom.  Now is the time to live.  Now is the time enjoy being a child of God, and let that oneness with my creator pump through my very veins.  Now is the time to quit worrying about doing the right things and begin enjoying being led, walking and running with my father/brother/friend God.  Now is the time for the kingdom of joy.

Frankly, if God's kingdom is as good as it claims to be, maybe my eternal destination isn't as important for me to think about as is enjoying this kingdom now, and letting others know about this kingdom.  For certain, Satan has a mixed CD for me that I can listen to all day.  It plagues me with condemning sinful patterns and reminders of my selfishness.  It's last song is that I'm going to hell - that even Christ's blood doesn't cover, habitual, selfish, willful rebellion and sin.  But it does...

I could either listen to this CD and waste time trying to rebut it with scripture or philosophy or theology, or I could go out and play the music of the kingdom.  And if you're like me and you like having fun, playing kingdom music sounds awesome.  So I plan on playing kingdom music, earnestly searching for God, wrestling with him and hoping, believing and trusting that he can use me (with all my baggage) to spread something so GOOD that it trumps all BADNESS.

I'm trumped, may the cards fall where they may.  I admit it Satan has me beat, but I know my Dad can take care of him.  So I'm going to live today, for it's the only day I have today.  And I'm going to show some people this pearl, because it really is something.  And tomorrow, I plan on living for tomorrow and holding tight to this pearl.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Very Great Promises

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him..." - 2 Peter 1:3 

(This passage just gets better and better. So check it out as it paints a picture of how we are to live.)

I struggle with living out the fullness of God's promises. But they are full and comprehensive. They're a feast for our hungry souls.

Sadly, in my experience often I'd rather starve. I'd rather skip off to the spiritual equivalent of McDonald's and eat food that has the nutritional equivalence of cardboard. (But do I believe there will be a McDonald's in heaven? Of course I do. There it will have Big Macs that are better for you than a mouthful of asparagus.)

I neglect what God's given me - "all things that pertain to life and godliness" - partly out of rebellion and partly out of sheer ignorance. I'm so used to functioning just like everyone else, it's hard to learn a new way. But that's what God offers me.

I was at the skate park yesterday, doing some covert missionary work observing young people. What really hit me was the crazy insecurity. It was hard to watch: some kids skating really well and all puffed up, and some kids over-weight and scared of getting in anyone's way.

As I'm 35, getting older by the minute and was sitting on a mountain bike of all things ("boy he has nerve bringing a mountain bike to our skate park. What a tool!"), I could relate to the poor fat kids. I was beginning to let the insecurity wash over me, until I realized "Hey, I have Jesus in me and these kids need my Jesus!"

 In order for me to work right, I need to be reminded of my new identity and it's power. I am a partaker in the divine (it's not heresy, look it up in 1 Peter)!!! Peter, at the end of this passage, knowing he doesn't have long to live says "I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things."

Maybe he was feeling the same sentiment that had me say to Teya, as I was tucking her into bed, "You know, of all those those kids skating, so many of them don't know Jesus and know that God loves them. I think I'll try my best to let them know."

May God fill me and you today with his "very great promises" ("very great" is sort of an understatement).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So Edgy: see how I insult my kids, dwarves and the English (all in one post)

"the gospel tells us that we find ourselves when we lose ourselves in loving God." - David Delk (The Dad in the Mirror)

I can't think of anything I want more than seeing my two children, David and Teya, grow up to love God and love people. Being a parent for the past 5 years has taught me one thing: I can't combine being selfish with being a good parent.  Dang!

And let me tell you, I've tried. I'm still trying in fact. Being as my children's outcome may rest upon my decisions, some of the decisions I make are really surprising.

I am positively astounded by the depths of my selfishness. (That sounds really English doesn't it? Have you ever noticed how anything that sounds uppity sounds English: "This Crumpet is astoundingly delightful!"). Well I have metaphorical mine shafts of greed that could house all of the world's dwarf population. (Please don't be offended if you're an actual dwarf. I would never say this to an actual real live dwarf. You might hit me on the head with an axe.  Tee-hee.)

Now I know about God's providence and all that mumbo-jumbo (j/k), and I know I can rest assured that he has secure plans for David and Teya. But I also know that I've been given a charge, a charge to love them as I've been charged to love Melissa - like Christ.

So this Christmas I'm hoping Santa will send me an "Easy" button for this whole death to self thing, because I'm sort of having a hard time with it. And that's just it, we can't put ourselves on the cross.

So I guess I've just got to keep/start taking small steps of obedience and enjoy the process of knowing God. I sound kind of begrudging don't I? So I'd say I should cheer up as well, since knowing God can be a ton of fun.

And someday, when I have reached perfection, I'll be a super-saint who only posts positive and encouraging stuff all the time. I'll get there, just keep reading.

First I've got to go get a Butterfingers from my kids' stash from Halloween. It's surprising they haven't caught on yet. Those little dodo-birds!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mr. Anxious

"...casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

I get anxious all the time. Little things make me anxious. Big things make me anxious. Even as I'm typing, I'm anxious about an errand I have to run today. (I've got to drive my bosses kids to the airport. What if I can't find his house? What if I get in a wreck? What if I can't find the airport? What if I run over my boss, back over his kids and then a plane wrecks on all of us?)

If I was in a Mr. Man book I'd be "Mr. Anxious". And since my favorite colour is blue, I'd be a hunched over blue dude with huge blood-shot popping eyes and big hands that I could wring constantly.

The verse gives Mr. Anxious hope. Its set in the context of Peter's last few pieces of advice to a group of Christians who were being persecuted. And prior to telling them to cast their anxieties on God, he encourages them to humble themselves. The two seem to be connected.

When I'm anxious, I'm not being humble. I'm trying to control things that are outside my control. I'm playing God.

I often go on and on about my fears, worries and anxieties, all the while thinking I'm being honest, transparent and humble. Now I may be the first two but I'm not humble. Humility is knowing my place before a God who cares for me.

And as I'm sitting here, I'm thinking, "Man, do I live in a constant state of sin or what?" Pretty much. But I serve a God who cares for me and each day is shaping me. All I've got to do is what Peter says earlier in chapter 4 - "entrust (your) soul to a faithfull Creator while doing good."

"Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Oh and have mercy on Mr. Anxious too."

(picture found at

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Dojo of Complaint

"Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anquish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." - Job 7:11

My kids have mastered the art of complaining. As I was wondering in and out of their "Dojo of Complaint" (the kitchen) I caught this one from Teya (think naiselly whine - like the sound of an airplane's landing gear being deployed):

"This juice is gross! Mom, did you put anything in it?" Melissa (who's stirring powders and concoctions for my juice - yuck!) - "No, just love." Teya - "Love tastes disgusting."

Ah the lessons I'm learning from the Dojo of Complaint.

And Job didn't mind complaining did he? He refused to restrain his spirit and spoke in the anguish of his spirit. (Of course he was nowhere as fickle as Teya.)

This Sunday our pastor began his sermon with the question "Why?" He just threw it out there and let it hang, with all of it's weight. It was pretty awkward. But isn't it the question that's so often on our hearts, (especially near Christmas)?

I have often inched away from questions like that. In fact I've heard it said that we can ask "What?" of God but not "Why?" But I don't believe this anymore, I believe that if we're to follow this good God, he has capable ways of answering our deepest and most painful questions.


Our pastor went on to unpack the passage in Matthew of the flight to Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents and Jesus' return to Nazareth. He explained that Jesus knew, right from the beginning of his life, our deepest suffering.

As he went on to explain this dark side of Christmas, the babies Herod slaughtered in fear and rage, he illustrated on how this can answer our "Why?" Jesus was to live a full life of suffering right from the get-go. He was to know loss, rejection, slander, misunderstanding, hatred, pain, torture and death. Is he not qualified to answer "Why?"

He's not only qualified... The passage in Matthew quotes from Jeremiah who prophecies that God would lead out his servant from Egypt and would rescue his people, make a new covenant with them, and write his law on their hearts.

So if this Christmas season unearths your deepest pains and has you asking "Why?" Ask Jesus. He's qualified, and he has your answer. I think he is the answer. So dig deep. Go ahead and ask.

(picture can be found at

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Teeth are Falling Out

"Do not let your adorning be external... But ley your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." - 1 Peter 3:4

I um like to look in mirrors. It's hard to admit but there's this huge mirror at work here that's right behind the coffee bar. "These are a few of my favorite things..." I could probably stand there all day, pumping myself up with caffeine, doing push-ups and making crazy faces in the mirror. Or looking to see how devilishly handsome I can make myself.

I know have this proclivity for vanity. In fact just using the word "proclivity" makes me feel vain. But vanity is vanity right, and it will all pass.

As a guy I like to think of myself as athletic, ruddy and intelligent, but I've been having a reoccuring dream that's shaking up this thinking. It's a dream where my teeth start falling out. One by one they get looser as I wiggle them, and finally I pull them from my mouth. The most I've pulled out in a dream was about 8. I woke up really sweaty from that one!

So it happened again last night, and I'm beginning to wonder, why am I having these? It seems to happen on nights where I'm too lazy to brush my teeth. (And dental hygienists all over the US have given me the lecture about flossing. I have it memorized. I think they must get commission or something if they give it. And I always promise to forever floss from that day forward. There's something about someone with blood splattered rubber gloves on, a mask and a host of devilish torture devices on a tray that will make you say anything!

I think my dream has something to do with the spector of death that we all live with. The spector of growing old. The spector of losing our bodies and losing our minds. It will happen to all of us. I'm reminded of the scene in What About Bob where the boy shares with Bob right before bed, "We're all going to die Bob. We're all going to die." (Of course this is right before Bob shares with the boy about faking Terrets Syndrome, and they begin jumping around the room yelling profanities at eachother - what a movie! I wish I had Bill Murray as a roommate.)

Dwelling on dying is morbid (obvious statement alert). But we're given a different picture by Peter. From scripture we know he was a go-getter, probably a man's man and perhaps (and I'm just guessing) tempted by vanity. He was the first to sign up for everything, the first to try out Jesus' super-crazy-miracles, like walking on water, and the first to say "Hey, I'm ready to die with you Jesus!"

Peter seemed to think highly of himself. So something big must have happened to Peter, a radical shift in his ego to make him think of suggesting adorning oneself "with the inner person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit."

This gives me hope. This turn-around was even evidenced in Peter's death. He refused to be killed like Jesus, so he was crucified upside-down. Peter's perspective on adornment, gives us hope in aging, for as believers we have an inner person of the heart that is making us more beautiful each day. The path to God is one of growing realization of this beauty within, the beauty of Christ.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Seed

" one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." - 1 Peter 1:23

Encouragement is not hard to come by when you actually open God's word. As a friend of mine said, "Reading the Bible always seems like a bad idea until you do it."

I've learned this again and again... and again. And still I hesitate to really dig into this word. But as Peter says in the verse above it is this word that is living and abiding in us. It is the vehicle through which we have been born again and is the imperishable seed (think new life in Christ) within us.

In the next verse Peter emphasises the awesome nature of God's word again - "... the word of the Lord remains forever." Forever is time for a long time. Forever is good, isn't it, when it's "forevering" something good.

One of my cousins said something recently that's tumbling around my cranium for the past month. He said that most seminary students don't even know their Bibles. I cringed (while keeping a poker face - I don't want anyone to know how I take the Bible for granted).

If you were to have quized me in college, and perhaps even in seminary, my Bible knowledge would have been meager. And even though I've now read the whole Bible quite a few times, I still feel it is. Perhaps this is one of Satan's ploys, just to keep us away from this powerful imperishable seed.

But this Word is so good, so attractive and so powerful that it will grow in us. Why? Because it is God's work. The gospel is not simple bible trivia knowledge, but a deep knowledge of God's love and promises (found in the Bible) wed to an experience of union with God!

Teya said something a few months back that I've really cherished. She said she had hidden a word of God in her heart. She then shared a verse which I've subsequently forgotten - I blame Satan. Perhaps a seed is already growing in her heart. I sure hope so. I want more than anything for her to have my forever too.

So if all this stuff I'm typing about is really true - God's word acting like a seed (or planting a seed - the metaphor is pretty pliable) within us, abiding and living and growing, we're in for a really good thing.

Sure we will sometimes let our Bibles collect dust, and we'll drift, grow dull and hard, but God who saves has planted a seed in us, and it will grow. That is our confidence.

How fast it grows, now I believe that's where our earnestness comes in. But even this must come from God, and it may take the a headlong plunge into the futility of our self-seeking (for me it's sometimes depression) to make us thirsty enough to drink from our fountain - not really an actual fountain (unless you have one of those water-proof Bibles).

"Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water..." - David

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


"One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor." - Proverbs 12:26

It hit me a couple of days ago that my righteous behavior is not primarily for my benefit. "Dude, that is totally righteous," I thought (along with Bill and Teds the world over).

Attempting to raise Godly kids is a weight no mere mortal can bear. Every morning I wake up and see their little faces, I'm hit by the reality of trying to be something more for my kids.

And the problem is, pretending doesn't work with children. They see through my facades and happy make-believe that everything is OK as is. It's a sort of uncomfortably reality.

And they don't help much either. Slithering around and biting my ankles, these little "vipers in diapers" know exactly how to run their fingernails down my last nerve's chalkboard.

Sometimes, especially at dinner, when their whining and griping and makingstatements like "I hate this food! And I hate you guys!" I want to turn the table over and clear the temple.

But then, they're just like me, ungrateful to the core. Thankfully God is working on my core, and likewise I believe he will work on theirs. We're family, what happens to me happens to them and that includes righteousness.

When I seek God earnestly, desiring to know him and live in his "rightness" I'm doing so not just for my sake, but for my neighbors and it just so turns out my kids too. And if they keep whining and I am provedential enough to win the lottery, I think I'll move them out so they can be official neighbors.

Monday, December 12, 2011


"He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty." - Job 6:14

I have this game I play with the kids where I tap my head with my fingers and say "Think, tink, tink, tink... I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOOOOW! Ve should go eat purple butterflies!" I think that potentially, they love this game so much, that we could actually do it for 2 full hours. (That's a long time when you're 3 or 5 and have the attention span of a twitchy rabbit.) I come up with ridiculous things, and the kids laugh, snort and yell "Again!"

Something like this is going on this morning as I write. "Tink, tink, tink..." My brain doesn't seem to be firing. And the dangers of just writing down vapid (I love this word), meaningless, blah blah poo-poo, is a real danger. And when I write, it must be profound! Just kidding...

But this verse above, set in chapter 6 of Job, where he's being forced to stick up for himself, jumped out at me this morning (probably because I'd highlighted it). I've written over and over again about how being an always happy, cheerful, manic Christian is not really a help to anyone. So I'm not sure I want to go into my issue with "Happy Christianity" again.

What I do want to take a look at is why we shoot our wounded. Why we withhold kindness from our brothers and sisters. For example: Have you ever asked someone how they're doing, and had them respond with "I'm doing terrible"? When this happens to me I wish I could leave my body and take my soul and all the real essence of me somewhere else. I guess there are appropriate ways and places to share our hurts, and perhaps casual greetings is not one of those.

But I know I withhold kindness a lot. My kids want to continue wrestling, and I come up with some lame reason like, I need to get to work, or have my devotions, meditate, brush my teeth, wax my eye-brows, etc. Melissa has something she's really struggling with and brings it to me at the end of the day when I'm trying to escape my troubles (for crying out loud) by reading fiction, perhaps living fiction. Hey I don't want to talk. I withhold.

My car was dead this morning. I was riding my bike near a school where parents were dropping their kids off. I had no jumper cables so I stopped a few cars to ask if they'd give me a jump, and after about four "Sorry, I don't have cables." I was beginning to suspect that kindness was being withheld.

Real kindness is hard. I found it in the list of love in 2 Cor. 13. I don't think it means drawing little jelly Mickey Mouses on our kids sandwiches. Just like gentleness doesn't mean having really floppy wrists and a very soft voice.

I seem to be good at mimicking kindness and gentleness, but the real thing, now that's difficult. Why? Because it's inconvenient. But it's not as inconvenient as not fearing God.

Self and selfishness are hard to escape from, but I believe that fear of the Almighty is the key. For when I fear God, I'm more likely to make sacrifices, for he's a sacrificial guy (plus he could blast me into oblivion if he wanted). When I'm close to God obedience becomes less begrudging but a delight. "Jump a car? No prob!"

I'm learning really, really, really... one more really, slowly that obedience does not mean asking God to make me feel good about doing something good, but doing what's right when everything in me wants to do something else.

It's pretty obvious that this is fearing the Lord. Trust and obey kind of stuff. The kind of stuff I learned with flannel grams at Sunday School, but hey, when you're trying to "Think, tink, tink" of something worthwhile to write about, getting back to the basics is a good idea.

Love God and love man. Trust and obey, and don't shoot your wounded friends - or poor Job. He's been through enough already.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Crowd Alone

9/11. People were shaken. People talked about the horror with tears in their eyes…

The thought that kept coming to my mind was, “Did you know anyone who died?"

We live in a weird community - a tribe of individuals. A lonely crowd.

We’re constantly with our cell-phones, tweeting and facebooking.

Never before have more been more lonely while connected.

I’m not going to rant. It would be hypocritical!

But there is something really weird going on.

Being an alarmist isn’t helpful either.

So maybe I should just stop typing.

Maybe I should turn it off.

Put it down.




My name is Phil.

Where are you from?

Bed Time

"Resistance is futile." Not only is this true of the Borg in Star Trek (for all you nerds that can track on me with that one), but resistance is futile when it comes to God.

I was reminded of this last night, as all of the nightly duties of putting young kids/crazed monkeys to bed was. I was strolling down the hall, trying to think of a way to both get out of doing the dishes whilst not bathing, tooth-brushing, reading, praying, singing, leg-massaging, coaxing, pleading and begging my children for the love of my earthly sanity to just go to sleep!

It's around this time in our nightly routine (after the begging bit) that they ask me to get a glass of ice water from downstairs. I ask if water from upstairs would work. Of course not, it has to be ice water from downstairs. So like a grizzled and hardened mountain climber, I set my jaw and produce one last herculean effort, just to see them take one swig, roll over and go to sleep. Kids, you've got to hate them sometimes, even if you love them.

Well, imagine this, last night I was very, very hesitant to ask God to give me willingness to help in this whole circus we call putting the kids to bed. Since he's really been answering prayers these days, I really didn't want to ask. But I did, with sort of a soul cringe.

Not my will, but yours be done... So I asked, and guess what, he got me through, with minimal brain-trauma I might add.

And then after I had crawled, wishing I had one of those harness things that super-obese people use to swing myself into bed, I read this line out of "The Valley of Vision" (a book full of Puritan prayers): "Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored, backsliders reclaimed, Satan's captives released, blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up, the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped, the formalist driven from a refuge of lies, the ignorant enlightened, and saints built up in their holy faith. I ask great things of a great God."

And you know I'm thinking, "Amen."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When Silence is Golden

"Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered." - Proverbs 11:12

I need wisdom. I need wisdom to keep my mouth shut sometimes: just not to bring something up; just not to seek other people's harm; just not to try and lift myself up by my words.

I'm a very social person. While I'm an introvert, I like to work things out through communication. For Melissa, who's not as verbal, this can drive her crazy. She's more of a doer.

For example, if Melissa and I were to build a shed, I'd like to talk to the pile of wood and nails until they got their act together and made me a dang shed! In my perfect world, stuff like what happened in Walt Disney's Fantasia would be going on all the time (I think dishes magicly cleaned themselves or something. I would kill for that formula!)

Melissa on the other hand, would make a sketch, do some research and get to work. Hmm, I wonder who's shed would look better?

So being a verbal processer, someone who likes to work things out with words, is my Achilles heal. If something is frustrating me about someone, it's going to come out. Unless (and here's the promise found in the verse above) I can have the wisdom to keep silent.

But how do I keep silent when people hurt me, or when my pride is wounded, I'm not affirmed, dismissed, or disrespected and people don't fall all over themselves to make me feel that I'm totally the awesomest? Or say, just theorizing here, you ask someone to read your blog and they never get around to it.

In the verses above it's simple. I can keep a thing covered. I don't have to bring it up. And I'm not talking "stuffing" here, I'm talking (ironically) about going to God with everything and asking for wisdom.

I think that some of the best stuff in scripture is dead clear, dead simple but totally impossible without God. Impossible without his wisdom. (For an interesting study on wisdom, check out the early chapters of Proverbs and the early chapters of John. You'll find wisdom in the person of Christ makes for really sweet parallels)

God help me to keep silent today. Perhaps my silence would be golden for someone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tongue Fire

"No human being can tame the tongue... With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." - James

I'm finding that sorting myself out in a new office is an interesting happening. While I'm fumbling around with Coffee machines (a priority), trying to hide the fact that I carry my lunch in a really dorkey grocery bag and attempting to bathe more often, there's other more dangerous monsters lurking.

Here's a few: the monster of being in control of my environment; the monster of being liked, respected or even reveered; the monster of being anything besides "Phil"; the monster of seeking people's weaknesses; the monster of writing people off... The list goes on beyond my finite reckoning. But as I found in James this morning, probably the most viscious monster I'm facing already, is the monster of my tongue.

Already, if I'm really honest, I've had a host of positive and negative emotions floating around in my head-space just waiting to be propelled into the world and perhaps unleash "a world of unrighteousness."

So the other day there was this whole refrigerater debacle (or at least it became one in my mind). Apparently refrigeraters are a "big deal" down here, perhaps because it's about 80 degrees in the dead of winter (the "cool people" are always huddling around them). But rather than taking it to God and asking him to tame my tongue, I went home and griped to Melissa. Tongue-fire was being kindled in my soul.

Then there are those personalities I don't get. And rather than accepting that everyone is created differently, I'm tempted to either make them like me, control them and finally if all else fails dismiss them as losers or jerks. It's ugly I know, but I'm a real sinner. And the sad thing is, these are great people I'm working with.

They're Godly people and made in the image of God. So why is my heart tempted to highlight or suspect their sin and then blab about it either to myself or someone else? I've just got to concur with James on this one, that it is absolutely true that no human can tame the tongue...

...but God can. And the truth is he can make my tongue an instrument for peace. As James says later that there is a "harvest of righteousness that can be sown in peace by those who make peace."

So when my eyes roll back and my tongue starts flapping around trying to set the world ablaze with evil, I pray that God will bridle me. My tongue needs God every mili-second. Lord have mercy.

Hold on... "Woa, did that guy just walk by me and look the other way when I said, 'Hi.' I hate him now!" Wait...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Was Jesus Misunderstood as a Kid?

"...this people's hear has grown dull, and withe their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed." - Paul qouting Isaiah in Acts

I don't know what's up, but recently I've been wondering a lot about Jesus' early years, his years as just a kid. And as I've thought, I've had a host of questions running through my poor brain ("poor" because it might over-heat).

Here are a few: Was Jesus ever in a fight? Did people think of him as a sissy? Did he ever swear? How did he express himself? What in the world did his parents think of him? Was he even thought of as a good kid, or like in his older years as a trouble maker of sorts?

Obviously, Jesus had to have been different from other kids. But my guess is something George MacDonald (CS Lewis' mentor/hero) grasped in his book "The Back of the North Wind." His main character in that book was a boy who knew goodness and lived it. People considered him odd, slow and perhaps even retarded. This didn't bother the boy a bit, as he knew that goodness was worth being thought ill of.

My guess is Jesus may have been like this. I can only imagine Jesus in a counselor's office these days. "My parents always yelled at me for being so obstinate, refusing to act like the other boys. My brothers called me a weirdo when I always took the smallest portion of pita, got beat up for standing up for the tax collector's kid, saved my scallions to give to "witch lady" and took time to talk to the beggars at the gate. I was always in trouble. I had a really traumatic upbring and just felt, well, hated by my parents and so misunderstood!"

The reason I believe Jesus would have been resented by his parents and family and most probably mistreated pretty badly, is that it's what happened when he began his public ministry. I know for a fact that we have no real clue what a truly good child would look like, because we are so blinded by the fall and the hatred that has corrupted us. I'm finding that this is my problem with parenting as well.

But I've been thinking about this a lot. So I just thought I'd share. I guess this kind of thinking on Jesus serves as a reminder that it's a good thing to be misunderstood for being truly good. But if we're going to even begin acting truly good, we've got to start sticking close to Jesus. Our culture should think of us Christians as weird for all the right reasons, not for not dancing, not playing cards and not cussing.

And while I'm thinking of it, could Jesus have ever taken his own name in vain, like in the video spoof I saw called "Vintage Jesus" on Youtube, where upon entering the temple, he says "What in the name of me is going on here?"

Monday, December 5, 2011


"Love covers a multitude of sins." - somewhere in Proverbs

Whatever difficulty, sin or person you struggle with, there's nothing that love can't cover.

I am reminded of this this afternoon, as I just got off the phone with a missionary friend who's expressing his anger and frustration (perhaps even hate) at people for their lack of generosity. Yeah, I know hate too.

I am reminded as frustration boils in my own chest as someone in the office is complaining about who gets to use which refrigerater. "Stupid petty people," I think.

I was reminded of this as I shared with Teya at breakfast about Jesus' beloved disciple John, who lived long enough to be carried into church on a stretcher, and who's repeated refrain to his dying day was "love one another".

I'm reminded of this when I think of Jesus dying for this truth: love can cover a multitude of sins.

I guess if there's one thing I had to know, one thing I wanted or one thing I had to get before I died it would be this: love - how to love well, how to live it out, how to bask in it, delight in it and believe it. Love equals life, for God is love.

And that's the beauty of it. Love isn't just some abstract principle, or higher plain of consciousness, it's a person. John knew this, considering himself "Jesus' beloved disciple", so we should too. John boiled over with love. Maybe I too can boil over.

Do I believe that all of my ticked-off/anger/hate/depression/rage can be answered by the salve of a real Jesus who really loved?

For a word that gets parried around so much, it's a very difficult one to really live isn't it?

This world knows hate, and I can sing that tune, but the tune of love, now that's something different, something I've got to have.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love..." - St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, December 1, 2011


"Give me to feel a need of his continual saviourhood, and cry with Job, 'I am vile', with Peter,'I perish', with the publican, 'Be merciful to me, a sinner'. Subdue in me the love of sin, let me know the need of renovation as well as of forgiveness, in order to serve and enjoy thee for ever." - Puritan Prayer in Valley of Vision

"Renovation", me could be needing some of that. I walked into the office (it still feels weird going into an office to work) to find one of my coworker's desk had been renovated. His desk is now a massive present, in the shape of a huge cubicle and he's resolved to keep it this way until Christmas.

It was wrapped by some of the girls in the office (definitely a girl-prank), and I believe it's going to have me up to some hi-jinks (I have absolutely no idea how to spell that) in the future. More to come on that...

But as I think about my life being a gift that others can unwrap (you have permission to let out a huge collosal groan for my tie-in), I need to ponder more and more the mystic union and communion I have with Christ. I'm not now just forgiven to live, I'm being renovated. And by a carpenter.

Anyone who's done much renovation (like me) knows that if you don't know what you're doing, are using all the wrong tools, perhaps having skipped lunch and working on coffee fumes, you're in for a world of pain condensced into a very small space, say one's cranium. If you find yourself in this place, like I have, I recommend just finally eating that dang insulation that looks so yummy.

As I'm pondering this quote above and the joy of knowing that God knows what he's doing, knowing the knower, it's a real comfort that this job on my heart is going to move forward. And while it may very well feel like God is slow on the job, hey, that's renovation for you.