Monday, December 17, 2012

Powerful Words

... having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore let no one pass judgement on you...                          - Colossians 2:12-16

Just as soon as I think I've found a new favorite passage of scripture, I pick up my Bible and find another one.  Through my times of discouragement, one of the things that happens to me is sort of defeatist attitude towards scripture.  "I've read it all.  It doesn't have anything new to say.  I probably will just read it and feel more guilty."

But then I read a passage like this and, I don't know whether it's the coffee I just drank or what, but the gospel just explodes off the page.  And as I wipe gospel shrapnel off my face, I'm thinking, "Wow, that is really, really good.  I wish I believed it more."

I mean, just to think that I was really buried and put to death with Christ in baptism, raised with him by faith, made alive with God in him, totally forgiven, debt nailed to a cross, in a demonstration of power that put all earthly rulers and authorities to open shame, in order that no one (including myself) should pass judgement on me.

Boy, a covering that thorough, a covering of rightness and goodness that is so infused with God's affection towards me, is good, good news.

Often I don't believe that I am lovable.  And when I look at the old me that was buried, I realize that I'm not.  But God shows his staggering love in this, that he loves the unlovable, and not only loves, but moves towards, dies in love, washes in love, and fights in love for me.

And this is for you.  May you rejoice in the powerful words of the gospel this Christmas.  And if they've grown tired and weary to you as they are so often to me, my hope is that you'll hold to them until you hear them afresh, and they grow deeper into you.  Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cool Video

I had the privilege of helping work on this video with Cru.  Check it out and share if you get a minute.

How Clouds Break

"All things in heaven, earth, around, within, without condemn me-- the son which sees my misdeeds, the darkness which is light to thee, the cruel accuser who justly charges me, the good angels who have been provoked to leave me, thy countenance which scans my secret sins, thy righteous law, thy holy Word, my sin-soiled conscience, my private and public life, my neighbors, myself-- all write dark things against me.

I deny them not, frame no excuse, but confess, 'Father, I have sinned';  Yet still I live, and fly repenting to thy outstretched arms; thou wilt not cast me off, for Jesus brings me near, thou wilt not condemn me, for he died in my stead, thou wilt not mark my mountains of sin, for he levelled all, and his beauty covers my deformities.

O my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, sheltering in his side."              

- Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision

This morning I woke up tired and depressed.  I woke up wanting to ride my bike and escape the tasks of the day that loom over me.

Being a "professional Christian" can be really hard when I'm not feeling my faith.  I possess a deep passion for escape, materialism and entertainment (the pleasures that are so easily attainable in my culture) that often and (it seems like) always overrides my passion for God.

Facing my reality, I  feel like an empty shell.  I feel hollow and without much hope.  I feel like I'm attempting to lift a weight of condemnation that I can't bear.  I'm even finding it hard to write.

That's why it was so good to read the words above.  To know that I'm not alone and that many a weary traveller has been my way before - travellers that have seen glimpses of their sin and are overwhelmed.

It is good to know that they found hope in the reality of God.  It is so comforting to know that I have Jesus and his sacrifice to cling to.

A clear vision of Jesus and his mission can break through the heaviest clouds of condemnation.  He lifted the weight.  He carried the burden.  He knows the guilt and shame.

When I am tired and want to give up and give in, I have a savior.  When I am sick of my old ways of escape and entertainment, I have a savior.  When I've exhausted every other avenue in the pursuit of self and satisfaction and am left like an empty shell, I have a savior.

And this savior, this Jesus Christ, not only has "more medication than I have pain" (as a friend of mine put it), but he is with me.

God with me always.  To think that he knows far more about my sin than I do, and that he radically and furiously loves me and covers me, and that he never, ever, EVER leaves me is simply too much to comprehend.  But it is an encouraging thought on grey mornings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Story


"Repetitive patterns have become themes in our lives over time, themes that impose structure on us even when a surface evaluation would tell us that these themes are nothing more than personal preference or desire.  We are not wholly our own, we are exclusively the result of what has happened to us.  No wonder reading the plot of our lives is so difficult."  - Dan Allender, To Be Told

Just as soon as I've begun to think that I have a handle on the story of my life, some sort of banner gets jammed in the wheel of my understanding.  I think I have forgiven, only to have something send me off into worlds of bitterness and rage.  I think I know love, only to find that I need so much more than I can give.  I think that I know healing, only to run towards all the wrong sorts of medication.

I have a God who knows all the ins and outs of my story not only because he wrote it, but because he loves it.  My story is so very precious to him.  Now I'm not saying he loves the tragedy both that I've suffered and committed, but he is not only interested in my story, he loves it.

This is a start.  As a Christian, I am in the really unique and weird position of knowing the one who's written and continues to write my life.  I don't know what tragedies or joys are around the bend, I don't even know what I have experienced all that well, but I can rest in the knowledge that the resolution, the climax, the ending will be glorious.

I was thinking about this last night as I sat with our small core church-planting group.  We were talking about hope - "the ernest expectation of things to come."  We were talking about longing.  And we were looking at the painting I've pictured above, "Lift up Thine Eyes."

As we were talking and sitting in silence as well, I was wondering, "What if my deepest hope and longing is true?"  What if all that I most sincerely hope for in the dark will one day explode into the light and color of reality.  What will it feel like to have my heavenly father's kiss, to hear his tender words and to finally, beyond any of the shadows, know that all will not only be well but will be beyond what I've even dared to dream.

My dreams are too small for a God like this.  A God who indeed is working all things for good, not just for the elect but for all creation.  He knows that my eyes are half-shut to his realities.  He knows the internal wounds that bleed and the ways in which I interact with the world simply out of these wounds.

And the great thing is, the fantastic thing, the thing that makes my heart race, is that this is not the end.  In the gospel it will never be the end.  And when it is we will all say "Amen."  Truly.  And just at it was at the beginning, it will be very good.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A New Rule

"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God."  Galatians 6:15-16

My counselor leaned forward in his chair, gave me his full attention and with earnestness in his voice, invited me to envision with him hope.  His hope for me was that I'd be able to walk out of his office, thinking about myself the way he thinks of me and with joy say, "Now what do I want to do?"

That question has been rumbling around my brain for the past 24 hours.  What is it I want to do?

I love to write.  I love to share the gospel.  I love how it shapes us, redefines us and is the reality that is so bigger than any of us.  If I can't write, I know I'd be very very sad.  So I want to write.  And I want to write about the gospel.

I love people.  Well I do and I don't love people.  People are complicated.  But they are infinitely interesting and I want to work with them.  I don't want to get holed away somewhere alone, burying myself in a coffin of to-dos.

But most of all, deeper than I even know, the divine within me, Jesus himself, is calling me to walk according to a rule.  A rule that I am a "new creation."  This rule frees, this rule enables me to breath, this rule is about peace, mercy, love and hope, real hope.

And as I think about this new rule and it's hope and all that I want to do, I'm encountering a deep longing to live near my family (my parents and siblings).  But they live in the Pacific Northwest.

We've moved here to Orlando to take up a place with Cru High School (formerly known as Student Venture), and rather than feeling like I've struck gold, found the place where I belong, I've grown disillusioned, sad and weary.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a very good minister, but I will not back down from the truth that God is ministering through me.   So I'm conflicted.

Many people suffer similar frustrations with their jobs, thinking they are out-of-place, getting over-looked or not using their giftings.  And many have gone before me and had a dream and chucked it all only to find that they're not any better off "near their family".  Yet I do wonder about my family...

And I'm in a tricky circumstance I'm not even sure I should be blogging about.  I'm a fully-supported missionary financially, and this may cause friends and partners to doubt I am where God wants me to be.  Or it may even make them think I've lost the vision of reaching those who haven't heard the gospel.  It hasn't.

But honestly, most of me believes right now, in this moment, that I am here simply because I didn't know what else to do.  Crazy right?!  I raised financial support for 2 years, put my family on the line through a big move, and now am wondering if I did it all out of fear of not knowing what to do.

So what do I want to do?  I'm not sure.  But I know one thing.  The God that created this new rule, this fact that I'm a new creation, will not only take care of me and my family but enable me to do what I most truly want.  Not my will, but his will be done.

I write all of this in the hope it connects with you, and for the selfish fact that I just wanted to get some of this out of my head.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Perfection Problem

"But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach among the Gentiles..."  Galatians 1:15

My friend looked up at me, winced and said, "Are you ready to go through the Gospel presentation video script?  I hear it's really shitty."  I smiled and nodded enthusiastically, and not just because I enjoy hearing swear-words.  I'd just read the script and it really was bad.

Here's why:  The video script we had been given to review was based in a coffee house where too young women, one Christian and one not, have a discussion about what Christianity is all about.  So far so good, even if it is cliche.  But then as we read we noticed that when the Christian began to share the gospel she sounded like a robot.  Surely she can't have hardly believed what she was sharing, even if she was fictional.

She talked about how a perfect God loves us, how sin cuts us off from this perfect God, how Jesus bridges the gap to God by his perfect death, and how we can receive God's perfect gift if we pray a prayer (it was probably a perfectly scripted prayer as well).  "Perfect," I was thinking, "all we need are more perfect gospel presentations about perfection."

God didn't offer Jesus up to suffer his wrath and essential hell for us because he simply wanted us to be morally perfect!  Jesus wasn't God's formula for perfection, as if God was a divine perfectionist.

This reminds me of a radio commercial I hear all the time.  It goes something like this:  "Have you ever done anything wrong?  No?  How about the time you took that paper-clip from the office?  Did you know that stealing is a transgression against God's holy and perfect law?  Did you know that any offense cuts you off from the perfect and holy God?"

Really!?  So you can go to hell for paper-clip stealing?!

Is Christianity such a petty religion, is the gospel so truncated, that the best we can do to describe our rebellion and hatred towards God is paper-clips?  Is the gospel about being perfect?

Yes the gospel is about being perfect.  It says so in my Bible.  But it's also about so much more.  I believe that the gospel is primarily relational.

Here's my short take, if I have to make one without the time to go into explaining Israel: God created us as his beloved children.  Satan tempted us to mistrust and disbelieve in God's love, so we rebelled and went our own way.  So God, being the extremely merciful and loving type that he is, put in action the bravest rescue attempt known to mankind.  He put his life on the line for us, so that we would not only know his love and enter in to it, but have something like the cross to point to whenever we are tempted to doubt it again.

So the gospel is not primarily about moral perfection.  If that's all it is, we might as well just say "Thanks God," and be on our merry way.  No the gospel, I believe, is about God showing a perfectly unbalanced love towards us.

Paul above said it was because God was "pleased" with him that he revealed Jesus to him.  I can't think of one perfectly good reason God would do that.  Why reveal Jesus to someone who murders Jesus followers?

Was it just so Paul could have a perfect record and think of himself as sinless?  No, I believe Paul's life reveals a much deeper motivation than that - namely the very fact that God was pleased with him and wanted him, even though he was a sinner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fates Entwined

"Whom have you mocked and reviled?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights?  Against the Holy One of Israel?"
...
And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 180,000 in the camp of the Assyrians." - 2 Kings 19:22&35

My fate is intertwined with the LORD's.  I know that I am just as unfaithful as the nation of Judah when they faced it's marauders the Assyrians.  I deserve the taunts and the heckles.  But God won't have it.  For his reputation is all mixed up with mine.

It's weird how God does this.  It's strange this sort of love.  That he would take up my cause and make it his own really doesn't make too much sense.  I'm not better off than the Assyrians, and Judah's king Hezekiah had to be aware of his nations unworthiness when he took his nations threat into the house of God.  He had to know that he wasn't better off.  His nation was just as arrogant, unfaithful and idolatrous.

Yet he knew something about God so he went, and there he rolled out the scoll of the Assyrian's taunt.  From here God does the rest, wiping out 180,000 of the invaders.

Do I believe that God cares that much about me?  Or has my sin and unworthiness clouded my understanding of God's covenantal faithfulness, in which our fates are bond together.    

It all seems to good to be true.  That a God would make my cause his own is out of character for gods.  But there you have it.  This is the God of Israel.  And when the clouds of condemnation and disaster gather, I am sure glad he's mine as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Prison Break

"The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well.  All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong;  the Lord Almighty is his name.  He will vigorously defend their cause   so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon." - Jeremiah 50:33-34
I know my prison well.   I can see the rocky walls, a damp trickle of water running down one of them, and the scratches in the smoother places of dates, names, crimes and resentments.  I star at them in fear.  The bars are rusty, the prison cold, I see my shackles I know so well, and hear the chains clank and as I curl up for warmth. 
I prefer my prison.  In my life of wrestling with anxiety and depression, I know that I often choose my prison.  
This week I've spent a couple days in bed "sick".  I know it's not good to stay in bed when you're wrestling with anxiety and depression, but I've given in.  I just don't want to face all the craziness that is in my mind, so I've slumbered and rested, and oddly I do feel better.
But in retreating and seeking my needs first, I've hurt others.  I missed a friend’s appointment who really wanted to be with me, I missed a gathering at work where I could have served.  I've gone into prison mode, locking myself off from the world, because my unrealistic fears were just too big.


A friend leaned across the table this morning and said, "I won't let you do that.  I want to be with you.  I experience Christ through you."

My captors hold me fast.  Fears of what people think of me, what's expected of me, how I measure up, whether I am liked, whether my sin is leaking out, whether people see my shame on my face, it all holds me fast, gripping me with vices daring me to try to step out of prison, or out of bed.

Ever have those mornings like mine?  They need a lot of coffee.  Ha.

My Lord is STRONG.  The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name.  He whispers to me, "Son, my dear son, get up.  Walk into your world for it is my world.  I will vigorously defend your cause.  My people shall arise and see me bring them joy and their land rest."

Now how about that?  God wants me to take joy in my weakness.  To walk out in confidence that he is strong and I am not.  To rejoice when I feel vulnerable and want to stay under the covers.  To rejoice when I find strength from him to go out and be me, a freed prisoner.  Me, broken yet mending, blinded by time in the dark, but rejoicing at the sun on my face.  For he is bringing rest to me and the land.

Sometimes setting foot in God's ways is the most painful and scary thing in the world.  I so prefer my prisons, my methods and modes of being ok with myself and the world around me.  Hell, it's all I'm used to and Hell is all I'm used to.  But wait that's not true, I know of a prison breaker, a strong redeemer.  The LORD Almighty is his name.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Childhood Closet


(I've been absent for a little bit, as I've been doing more personal journaling and creative writing exercises, but I want to share bits and pieces of what I write.)  

Here's one:

Our closet’s horrible creak was worth it.  The door would open to shelves full of our most prized toys.  Deep shelves would reveal treasures and we would revel in play.  

My brother and I were bound together in our delicious imaginations and adventures.  We became more than brothers, we became copilots, coexplorers and confidants.  Laughter and jokes as we dug into the shelves.  Action figures spilling out with weapons tiny weapons falling in cracks.  

What lies in those shelves still?  My mind is awash in the mystery of those deep shelves and the joys they held for us.   Remote control cars and model airplanes.  Home made rockets and stuffed animals.  

The door slid shut for inspection, only to be opened again for adventure.  Heart beat rising in anticipation of adventure.  It was our Narnian wardrobe to new worlds.  Through toys we lived lives we couldn’t.   We expected and reveled in our futures.  All the while knowing we were in the fortress of room, of house, surrounded by love.  

Those shelves had to be deep.  They contained more than dreams, containing hopes, and great passions.  Old projects left to fall apart were drawn out again with joy.  Always discovery and rediscovery, this was a joyous closet.  

Reaching back one might find amongst airplane models, dust bunnies, loose change and what-it toys that lit the brain with new possibilities, new places or fond forgotten joys ready to be re-explored.   My brother’s projects could be found here, making it a place where I could see and find his creativity.  

Slight guilt at looking through his stuff, but excitement at what toys of mine may resurface.  Chewbacca’s belt and !AHAH! all of our action figures weapons, stockpiled for a war-time need.  That’s where they’ve been!  The screech of that closet is unforgettable.  

Also it almost always came off the runners.  Its doors swung, and were made of cheap metal, but inside it was full of goodness.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing

Why do I take myself so seriously?  I know I write a lot about me.  And I'm beginning to think that it's a little narcissistic.

Sure I like watching words flow across the page and all that.  But I hope I'm reaching deeper into the well of who I REALLY am and who God REALLY is as I write.

I believe I am.  And I'm excited to continue writing.  I feel compelled to write.  It's something I have to, if nothing else than to kill the editor/perfectionist/jerk within.

I've got to beat him.  I've got to be drawn into the world of the senses: sight, smell, sound, touch.  It's what writing for me is all about, getting dirty.

I want those grubby finger-nails I had as a kid again.  I want to scratch the surface of rich brown loamy dirt and come away uncovering treasures.  Writing is about exploring just that.  And hoping in that.  Is there treasure to be found?

Writing too represents freedom.  If I can't say something than I've got to ask why?  I've got to figure some stuff out, hash it out, have it out and take it to my God.

Writing is also about wisdom.  If I don't put stuff down, things don't quite lodge in my core.  Does that make sense?

I can't wait to become more proficient at this, and I know it will take hard work, but it's totally worth it.

It's worth escaping the prison of my mind and playing in the garden of God's rich treasures.

I've been listening to NPR a lot recently and they're obsessing on the election.  Some poor four-year-old  girl phoned in crying saying "I'm just so tired of hearing about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama."  I feel her pain.

If I don't write I'll get stuck just like NPR.  Obsessing on one thing with no-where to go.  So writing for me is a form of prayer as well.  It's basically me just crying out my big WAAH! to God.  I've got to let it out, or I'll get distended and bloated.

Sometimes I feel like a fool for pursuing this life of a writer.  It's scary sharing your secrets.  But if I don't share and others don't share, I feel like we'll literally (ha) suffocate in our isolated thoughts.  That's why I read as well.  I need to hear and find wisdom from others who are reaching out.

So in case you were wondering what keeps me going other than patent narcissism, there you go.  I hope you to can find a way to express your longings, desires and struggles as well.  Perhaps you could leave a comment :).  Something like "I read this."


Reaching

I feel like I have something to say so I'm writing.  I'm sort of going to let my brain wander, so if you're not interested you can move on to another post jerk (j/k).

I don't know much about me these days.  I'm hopelessly addicted to escape.  I like to ride my bike and jump it, buy bike stuff and dream of biking adventures.  Often I just wish I could bike all the time.

But then there's another part of me.  A place of shame.  A sadness I feel at all the trades I make.  Trading time as a father for biking.  Trading time with my spouse for biking.   Trading energy and joy for biking.  I'm finding that I'm getting a raw deal in my trades.

I think we all do this.  We sacrifice, in a sense, the good things in life for the not-so-good.  We sacrifice our real spouses for imaginary spouses, we sacrifice real parenting for imaginary parenting, we sacrifice and sacrifice and sacrifice.

God says he doesn't want these.  He's tired of them and so am I.  What he desires is a contrite heart.  Something like that.

He wants me to enjoy this whole comprehensive human flourishing thing.  Sure he wants me to mourn my broken desire to hold on to stuff, but he also wants me to lighten up, or rather let him lighten me up.

Satisfaction is too heavy a burden for me to carry.  I just can't attain it for more than a moment or a day.  And if I do find it, especially if it's in the wrong place, I feel less me, less real.

I feel like I become a ghost of who I am when I pursue life in the wrong place.  Hell, I feel like I'm less me all the time.

One day I will be me.  I will have union with the one who loves me so much and I love so little.  That will be a good day.

But for now I press on, trying not to give up hope, and embracing this God of a million-and-one chances.  He's not trying to get me to figure out this whole life thing, he's just asking me to come to him with my hunger, pain and restlessness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cambridge

I lived in Cambridge, England in the early 80's from the age of 4 to 9.  Here's a creative look at that wonderful place:


It’s a place so near to my heart it’s poking it.  Cambridge England, with smells of roasted bratwurst and tastes of Thornton’s chocolate lingering on my tongue it’s a place of history surrounded by rural beauty. 

What a place!  Bicycle rides with long flat stretches over greens beside the still moving waters of the Cam.  Cambridge is lush.  Cambridge is wet.  Cambridge is in my blood. 

It really is a part of me.  So much of me was shaped by this place.  And still is.  I can smell the musty books of my father’s trade.  I can hear my mom laugh and giggle as we tickle and play in our house off Marlow Road.  What a wonderful place to grow.  What a wonderful garden for human beings to thrive in. 

Time spent punting on the Cam didn’t really feel like time at all.  Cambridge is a place so rich in history time takes on a different quality there.  You can feel time slow when it’s set in the relief of the majestic.  

Bursars and robed professors and students hustling about the place.  Musicians plying their wears in the open market.  Busy streets with people flushed red with health. 

The Round Church, the colleges, the feel of stone, the echoes of Cathedrals and halls, libraries, chapels and the rich oak framing all.  The sound of dining hall dishes echoing off ancient walls.  The taste of five alive after church.  The mixture of old and new.  All seems to come together in this small place.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Going Hungry


Rather than hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I hunger and thirst for sin.  So I'm thinking what I need is to starve or at least go on a diet.

I’ve never completely made the connection between Adam’s temptation in the Garden and the idea of being hungry. 

It all sort of came together tonight as I was finishing up Lois Lowry’s The Giver series.  In the series she addresses a range of human characteristics like memory, pain, history, addiction and evil.  Over all it’s sort of a light-hearted romp. 

But [spoiler alert] she brings in the real goods at the end of the series in The Son.  It’s about a boy who chooses to go hungry rather than give in to his desires and in-so-doing defeats evil. 

It reminds me of Jesus in the desert.  Here he’s tempted with a number of things and chief among those is food.  He had to be starving.  And then it reminds me of Israel and Manna.  Man this just keeps going!

But it makes me wonder.  How can we rid ourselves of sin?  I know I’m sick of it.  I need to starve it.  And it is possible to cling to Jesus and go hungry. 

If I choose to feast on him and what he provides part of me dies.  But what does that even mean?  Sin selfishness is always in front of me.  I have to choose what I simply do not want.  And I have to face that I do not want God, but I desperately need him.

I know I don’t want God and I’m a Christian.  Sure there’s a deeper part of me, the blue-haired blonde-eyed Jesus (j/k), part that wants him, but my actions betray me.  Stupid actions.

I sound a little defeatist I know.  But only in Jesus can I have any victory over sin.  Only in having my very appetites changed.  Only in going hungry.

To ask that he enable me to hunger and thirst for righteousness is a good place to start I guess.  Plus I don’t like dieting.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Words

I don't have long to post something, but as I'm learning brief and to the point is better.  At least that's what I'm banking on.  I'm also banking on having something to say.

But I have to admit, sometimes I just like seeing words scrolling across my blank page, and thinking "I made those words.  I played a part in their creation."

Not to be cheesy or over-spiritual, but my desire to create and produce is definitely connected to the God whose image I bare.

There is something magical about God speaking creation into place.  I believe it's the sort of deep magic that CS Lewis writes about.

I don't think God waved a wand when he made creation, and it was certainly infinitely more than watching words scroll across a page as his fingers made neat little clicking sounds on a keyboard.

But when I watch ideas take shape in the form of writing, it's a real thrill, and I know who I have to thank.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Molding

I can still picture my bedroom.  It was pretty bare save my bed, a super-bright light-bulb and curtains holding out the darkness.

As I remember it, I'd climb into bed and wiggle my toes deep under the chilly covers.

Then I would lay facing up, reveling in the warmth rising up around me.

Looking up I would notice the crown molding as if for the first time.  I gazed at its round smooth curves and enjoyed how creatively it brought wall and and ceiling together.

Some of my fondest memories come from staring at ceilings.  Times when my mind was at rest.

Sadly these days, my mind is rarely at rest.  I live a restless life.  I can blame it on a restless culture, but I know the restlessness begins with me.  I live detached, stumbling through dark rooms searching for I don't know what.

But a restful mind is a gift from God.  It is a mind that is free to notice reality, free to wonder and to wander.  It's free to notice the very good in God's creation.

And as I remember my bedroom, it was very good, until I remembered that I had to get out of bed to turn off the light.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple of My Eye

"Keep me as the apple of your eye..." - Psalm 17:8

My 4-yr.-old David has dark brown eyes.  They are clear, full of expression and depth.  To me they are the expression of God's creative goodness.

Yesterday David and I were outside looking at each other.  We were ready to go somewhere and were waiting on Melissa and Teya (this seems to happen a fair amount - something David and I might have to get used to).

While we waited, I was on my knees listening to David go on and on about something I can't remember now, but I'm sure it involved heroes, swords and lots of fighting (4-year-olds are monologue masters).  But then he stopped mid-story, took a closer look at me, and said, "Daddy, I can see myself in your eyes."

Now that I write about it, there's a sense in which my whole life has anticipated what David said yesterday.  For God describes us as the apple of his eye.  And I heard someone explain once that the "apple" of someone's eye is the reflection you see of yourself (I think in scripture it means the center of one's eye, so it's not a stretch to think as this as the reflecting area).

I attempted to explain this to David and he asked me,"Can you see yourself in my eyes?"  "Yes," I replied, "I can."

Let me pause here for a second to brag about my son's eyes.  They are a deep chocolate brown, and it was easy for me to see myself in them.  They are as merry and jolly as an old man's when he smiles.  They also have a fury and determination when paired with his furrowed brow (Melissa can attest to this, and all of our accompanying disciplinary measures).  David's eyes have a depth of expression that I haven't yet been able to plumb, but I try to all the same.

God looks at me with such eyes.  He asks, "Can you see your reflection?"

After David and I talked about being the apple of God's eye he smiled, giggled and leaned until our noses touched and asked, as everything was out of focus in the wonder of closeness, "Can you see it now?"  "No" I whispered in ecstasy.  I believe God gets that close.

In David's eyes I see the love of God.  In those eyes I see love reflecting me.  In those eyes I see playfulness, peace, hope and joy.  I see eyes that truly twinkle with a secret knowledge that is being shared and dim reflection that is growing clearer.

In the apple of God's eyes I see delight and I see me.    

Friday, October 5, 2012

Faith Never Waivers

I'm not sure there is such a thing as wavering faith.  I may have a lot, I may have a little, but I don't think it wavers.  Faith isn't like that.

Now I am all over the place.  One day I'm up, one day I'm down.  One day I read God's word and treasure it, the next it seems like dead routine and I put it aside.  One day God feels close, another he feels a million miles away.

But faith isn't like me.  I don't believe faith wavers.  (Sure, James and Hebrews talk about wavering in our faith, but I think they would agree that faith that wavers, isn't faith at all.)  

Faith is something altogether other.  Faith is a God gift.

Faith is the ability to take all of our human craziness to God.  Faith is happy with us, and faith is sad with us.  Faith lifts us in ecstasy and holds us in the darkest raging storms.  Faith is from God.

I used to think, and still do a lot of the time that faith is something I produce.  Its not.  Its something that is planted in me by God.

It is not a feeling, though it effects feelings, its not will, though it effects will, it is in my mind simply this: the Hesed of God.

What do I mean?  Hesed means steadfast or faithfulness, and in the case of God, I think it just overflows.  God is so full of robust goodness, he simply fills us with knowledge of him.  I believe that this is where faith comes from, as well as where it ends.

The second I try and produce faith, its gone.  The second I think I've lost faith, I find it.  Its mysterious.  But so is the God we have the privilege of serving.  So here's to unwavering faith.

For in faith we forget ourselves, and in faith we find God.