Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Light of His Face

"Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk O LORD, in the light of your face." - Psalm 89:15

The constant buzz, whir and images of our culture keep me distracted.  It's not hard to do, because I'm looking for distraction.  But it keeps me from enjoying the one truest thing: the knowledge of God.

In the passage above it speaks of how "blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk in the light of the LORD's face."  I am one of those blessed people, and how often I forget it.

This morning, as I was attempting to meditate and then scribble down some thoughts from God or from me (jury still out on that one), I was encouraged to be vigorous in my studies, as the end of my studies are and should be to know God better and to walk in the light of his face.

I find the whole image of God's face shining on me extremely comforting.  Recently, Melissa and I have been cracking down on our little 3-year-old David.  Sometimes my face has been stern in disapproval, other-times silly in playfulness and at others just glowing in love and pride.  David has the privilege of living in the light of my face, at least when I'm being attentive.

My guess is as we've been ratcheting up discipline in response to his ramped-up defiance, that sometimes he wishes that we wouldn't have our faces turned on him.  I have a friend who has MS and struggles profoundly with this precise question.  The face of God is always upon him, and like Job, his sentiment is sometimes that God would just leave him alone.

But God has given my friend courage.  He shows great courage, that while he sometimes feels that he's under God's thumb and wiggling to get out, he knows deep down that there is no better place to be.

I'm hesitant to say it (as it might sound trite) but suffering in the light of God's face brings blessing.  It is this hope that gives me hope on days when I don't want to live.  It is this hope, hope in the furious love of God, that enables me not to just totally pack it in when suffering hits.  And above all it's a hope that is grounded in relational realities far deeper than can be unpacked with words.  It is the hope of the Father yearning for his child's growth.

As I looked at David this morning, face all sweaty, splotchy and snotty, moaning and thrashing at me in fury, I think I caught a glimpse of how our heavenly father sees us even in these moments.  It is in precisely these moments that God sees us with great pride and with great love.  Why does God keep his face on us?  You tell me.  It's a mystery.  But one that I am glad for.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Toxic Gnostic Christian Victory

"Your wrath lays heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves...  You have caused my beloved an my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness."  - Psalm 88:7,18

Where do you take your pain?  "Heman the Ezrahite," in Psalm 88, took his pain directly to God.  And he was satisfied to leave it there.

I was talking with a friend of mine about all the "victorious Christian living" and gnostic dualism floating around, and how people use it to manipulate, hide and deceive themselves and others.  He mentioned that there was a Psalm out there that addressed this, by ending not in a victorious stance, but in a somewhat angry and seemingly defeated way.

As luck/providence would have it, I opened my bible to it today!  It's the Psalm I quoted above by Heman.  I believe he would be very puzzled by our need these days to claim that everything is good, God is good, and we are living victoriously above our sin or at least trying to.  He knew that sin and pain are things that must be taken to God and left in his hands, and this means waiting.

Hmm.  Maybe that's why there is so much victory language in our culture.  We hate waiting.

And to address what I mean by "gnostic dualism" - it's the claim that the spiritual world is good and the physical world is bad wed to an idea that we can conquer this physical world by claiming spiritual promises.  The spiritual and physical worlds are in tension.  Thus anything that ails the Christian can be explained spiritually and healed by spiritual means.

I've learned a lot about "gnostic dualism" by a prolific blogger at  I recommend him highly.  He's one who has suffered a lot of abuse at the hands of "gnostic dualists" and is well equipped to deal with the false spirituality that has run rampant in American evangelicalism.

So back to Heman, he's still scratching his head at our spiritual culture.  How could we reconcile this philosophy of gnostic dualism with biblical spirituality?  Obviously we can't.  And it's going to take digging into God's word constantly to root this dangerous philosophy out.  So there's another plug for rigorously studying our bibles.

On a closing note I'd like to learn to be satisfied with leaving my pain with God.  It is so comforting to know that I can express it thoroughly, and then simply leave it in his hands while I hurt and wait.  For the Christian life is about living in realities, not living in denial, even spiritual denial.

I think that Heman the Ezrahite would "high five" me on that one.  "Thanks for including your problems in my bible Heman and simply leaving them there."

"No problem."  

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I've been trying to meditate recently.  Actually I've been "trying" to meditate for about the past year and a half.  But it's easier said than done.

I don't think of myself as a busy person.  In fact, I kind of view myself as a highly motivated slug.  I've got great ideas and intentions, but my energy lets me down.

This is why I'm excited that I've actually stopped sluggishly, and taken the time to meditate for the past three mornings.  What I do is simple, I take a passage of scripture, memorize it and go through it in my head.

Having done this for about a year and a half, I have four passages from the Psalms I can rehearse.  This is pretty impressive for me, as holding on to memory verses seems extremely difficult, like juggling wet noodles for example, just less satisfying, unless you go two times round with the noodles - that can be pretty satisfying.

I'm finding that meditating changes the character of my day.  A daily reminder of my Creator and his words is immensely satisfying.  Who would have thunk it?

Another practice I've taken up, which is extremely border-line for a good Presbyterian boy like me, is writing down what I think God is saying to me each day.  So my new commentary on Revelation is coming...  Just kidding.

When I picture meditation, I always think of hindus or hippies with body-piercings and paint or tie-dye swaying back and forth whilst repeating a mantra, with eyes rolled back, all set in a candle lit and incense filled room  (with crystals tinkling, you can't forget the crystals).

This mental picture kind of made me a little hesitant when I began, but I was greatly helped when a friend of mine said that meditating is sort of like brushing your teeth every-morning, it's a necessity, and not a performance.

I don't really know why I'm sharing all this with you this morning, save to say that it's a practice that seems to go in and out of style for a host of reasons, and I think Christians need to take another look at it.

For one thing, it enables me to allow God's word to move from my head on down to my heart.  My daughter's quote "I've have a verse hidden in my heart" and David's thought "I've hidden the word of the LORD in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" apply here.   And for another, I think that in a culture  where I am constantly bombarded with messages, I need to begin to allow God to bombard me with his.  Otherwise the great "transformation of my mind" may never occur.  Scary thought.

Plus in meditation, I'm reminded that I'm a human being with a soul.  I remember that I am both physical and spiritual.  And my very physical repetition of God's truth impacts me both physically and spiritually.  It brings peace, slows my heart rate (sometimes) and brings cheer.  I am cheered by the fact that I am loved and have a purpose and this cheer effects me both physiologically and spiritually.

So as my reader/fan/can't-believe-Philip-is-so-profound base, I look forward to occasionally sharing with you the very infallible words of God that he shares with me.  Then I can begin my new cult and you can drink the Kool-Aid with me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Zion - I Was Born There

"The LORD records as he registers the peoples, 'This one was born there.'"  Psalm 87:6

I was born in Zion, the city of God.  As a believer this is my new homeland.  At least it is according to Psalm 87.  It's funny because last I checked I was born in Chattanooga, TN at some hospital I've forgotten the name of.  But in the mystery of knowing God comes this: those who follow him are given a new home and a new birth-place.

Last week, my wife, Melissa, put a pot of chili on the stove, set the temperature to high and left the house for three hours.  We came back to a flaming pot of chili and a very smoky house!  Coughing and sputtering we held our breath and ran to windows, flinging them open in an attempt to breathe.  We didn't eat chili.

It's been about a week and our house still smells like a chain-smoker lived there, though it's getting better by the day.  Apparently Melissa had set the stove to high just to get it warmed up, planning on setting it to low before she left.  Needless to say she felt pretty "stoopid," but she must have simply forgot, and our house got smoky.

This morning I feel like I'm still stumbling through those smoky rooms.  I've been riding the emotional tilter-whirl again and frankly, I must have had way to much cotton candy, cause I'm feeling sort of sick.

One day I'm up, the next day I'm down.  And on days like today, where I'm somewhere in the middle, I feel hunted (I'm also craving coffee as my source of life.  Though it just makes the emotional swinging more vigorous, I sometimes opt for it anyway, because I'm a man in love.)

That's why the "habit of devotion" (The Valley of Vision) is so important for me.  I need to be reminded, every day, of who I am, who I belong to and, since my earthly home's probably going to burn down anyway, where I was born.  I was born in the city of God.

When God looks at me, he records, "This one was born there."  Cool.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two Things

"Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly.  I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."  - character playing John Newton in the movie "Amazing Grace"

I looked across at my friend, who with tears welling up in his eyes, was summarizing for me what he thinks theology is all about.  "Two things," he said, "that I am a horrible sinner, and that Christ is a gracious savior."

Little did I know the depths that my friend and I were going to plumb this afternoon as I stumbled into the office (I stumbled because I'd been watching the kids all morning and was hoping to gather my wits at the office).  I had no idea about the relational feast I was about to enjoy.  For in a short period of time my friend and I got to talk about everything that truly matters.

Everything that our hearts burn to know (at least in the moment) we looked at and discussed with eagerness.  So much so that at the end of our conversation I thought, "This friend is oxygen to me, I need him in my life."

He's farther down the road in his theological understanding and depth than I am, and he has me constantly wondering, "Have I heard of that thinker or that heresy?"  But even though he's farther down the road, he's not pretentious, he's kind.

That's what I'm looking for, for someone who thinks deeply about the matters of God, and who's conclusions have made him kind.

I have many of these types in my life.  Heck, my whole family is this way!  They are oxygen for me when I can't catch my breath.   When I am surrounded by doers and people running, I need these guys who flag me down in the race, take me into a tent, and hook me up with some water and oxygen.  I need to be stopped and told to sit, rest and listen.

We all need this.  We all need people in our lives who will not only challenge our actions, but challenge our thinking behind our actions - our theology.  For it all comes back to what we think about God.  What we think about God absolutely does determine our actions.

So I thirst for God and for a deeper understanding of his ways.  To the degree that God wakes me to the reality that he is my teacher and I am the pupil, I will live with what I most need.  This is the only way forward when you're put in a position of influence in ministry, as I have been (though right now it's humble and undefined), and I'd say it's the only way forward in everyday life.

My friend reminded me that I've been trained by my culture to think to truth.  God's way is different for his word is truth.  I want to find again healthy respect of who I'm dealing with even as I type about the things of God.

I can't reason my way to deeper faith.  I can't study my way to richer understanding.  But if I reason and study as God graces me, and do so with grate vigor in my freedom, I will find Wisdom.  I will find grace.  I will find Christ.

Why?  Because God delights in giving good gifts to his children.

"I remember two things..."  


Monday, February 20, 2012

Silly-Walking with God

"Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name." - Psalm 86:11

My walk with God resembles one of Monty Python's "silly-walks."  Heels flipping up to my ears with knees bent in and elbows swinging vigorously, I walk with God in a fashion that betrays my lack of a "united heart."

One second I'm excited about the prospect of obeying God and walking in his way, and then I'm not even into the next second before I find myself in a ditch somewhere with a toe in my nose wondering what happened.  My silly-walk took over.

So I was relieved this morning to find again in God's word that we are supposed to ask God to teach us his way so that we can walk in his truth.  And to go a step further, we are to ask for a united heart to fear God's name.

I was also just reading J.I. Packers, Knowing God, and growing more worried by the fact that I often don't fear God.  A lot of the time my actions betray that I don't give a too-whit (is that even a potential word?) about what God thinks.  The problem I faced as I read was that I was reading on God's WRATH.  I don't need coffee on mornings when I read about God's wrath.

But this brings me back to asking God.  It's pretty cool.  As I'm strutting around like a turkey-buzzard, trying to read my bible and be a good Christian, God beckons me to ask him to teach me his way.  Who would have thought that the Christian walk would be so uncomplicated as to simply rely on God and ask him for help?  It sounds pretty straightforward.

I've been a believer long enough though, to know that the Christian walk, while being straightforward, is still extremely difficult, due to the great gulf that lies in my heart.  I want to ask, but I don't want to listen.  Or I think I want to listen, but then "inexplicably" I don't ask.  I know that God will lead me, but I'd rather not be lead.  So around and around I go, doing the chicken strut backwards.

Is there any hope?  Not really.  I can't do this whole Christian thing on my own.  I am utterly dependent on the mercy of God and his work in me through his Spirit.  Jesus has got to not only cover me, plead my case before the father, and then teach me to fear, but he's going to have to teach me how to walk.  And after seeing my latest version of the gorilla-crab-hop-jingle-shuffle, he may want to pack it in...

Friday, February 17, 2012

That "Dang" Perfect Jump

"Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty."  - Proverbs 28:19

The words of this Proverb haunt me whenever I find myself obsessing over my go-to hobby - biking.  It's not exactly a "worthless pursuit," but it can certainly become more about me pursuing self-gratification than about enjoying God.

I wonder why I've been wrestling for so long with taking this particular hobby too far (you're probably sick of me writing about it).  Just this morning I was out there again, attempting the perfect jump and cursing in frustration when I didn't get it.  Poverty was creeping into an activity meant for joy.

If you struggle with obsessive tendencies, as I do, this Proverb probably haunts you as well.  Why do we attempt something over and over until we get it just right, until we feel ok, until that empty and anxious feeling is gone?  I don't know exactly.

My guess is (I heard this somewhere) that we all obsess, even if we haven't been clinically diagnosed with OCD, because of fear.  There could be a host of other reasons.  But for me it's definitely fear.  Fear that God just isn't enough for my day.  Fear that I must achieve satisfaction myself.  Fear that if I turn and rest, my daily life satisfaction won't be given to me from God.

Maybe God has me wrestle with over-doing my hobby just so I will crave the gospel each day.  So that I would see the tension and difficulty of surrender and trust each day.  Perhaps it's not because he wants me to be haunted, just reminded, that he offers more.  And he wants to give me a physical and pictorial opportunity for surrender.

I was listening to a friend describing worship and liturgy to me and he kept using the phrase "And then there's so much more."  I believe that if I turn and "work my land," or work the gospel, I will be forever murmuring "Wow, there is so much more!"

What's at the heart of God's promises will always be "so much more."  For he offers us himself.  We look to creation and man.  But God leads his children into futility, with kindly discipline, so that we will feel the poverty and recognize our need for him.    

It doesn't mean it's fun dag-nab it.

Note on picture: Yes that's a self-portrait, of me enjoying my tiny bike :).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Prune Juice Balloons

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all peopl will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  -  - John 13:34,35

As I was driving to work today I was thinking about what a mess we are as Christians.  So much sin!

Sometimes I just want to hang it all.  "This Christian experiment must have had it's day a while back," I think.

But then as I was driving, I pictured the cross, and I was struck by the reality that the "Christian experiment" is not about us, it's about the character and quality of Jesus Christ.  It's about God on a cross.

Yeah it's sad that we so often don't reflect Christ, but the truth is his grace will always far-outstrip our efforts.  That's why the Christian life and call to love is fully dependent on Jesus, this guy who willingly gave up everything, his family and his life, for you and for me.

What lead me to this thought was trying to be real about the sin I see all around me and in me.  It's everywhere.  If sin were prune juice (I imagine if it was a juice it'd be prune), it's like somebody dropped a billion-gazillion water balloons full of it on everything.

I could spend the rest of my life growing more and more critical and bitter.  Then by the time I was a shriveled up prune of a man that smelled like, well, prunes, and I'd also be a jerk.

That's why the clean-up effort is so arduous but so needed.  We need to seek constant intimacy with Christ, not so that we can be better people and lead tidy lives, but so that we can dive into this prune juice that's gotten everywhere and be peacemakers, forgivers, lovers, and have wisdom when addressing sin.

And the clean-up has got to start within, doesn't it?  If not we'll all smell like prunes.

It's never quite as bad as I think, our sin situation, it is WAY worse.  But it's never quite as good as I think, our resources in God, it's WAY better.

Jesus who commanded the above verse will enable.  All I've got to do is ask.

And if you like prune-juice, you've got a serious problem.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Job Does Good Job

"They make night into day; 'The light,' they say, 'is near to the darkness.'" - Job 17:3

I have considerate friends and family.  They understand me often-times more than I do.  I've been really blessed.  But I know many of you who are reading this blog (by now I'm sure it is very popular) who do not have sympathetic or considerate friends.  Your friends may even be abusive and not know it.

I've been picking up on this theme in Job.  His friends are not only unsympathetic, they are positively abusive.  And while many of their speeches would make good Psalms, this adds to the scariness of Job's situation. He was being abused by individuals who claimed to know God and his ways.  Their abuse is hidden behind a thick veil of spirituality.

This has me thinking (always a pain), how often do I abuse others with my dysfunctional spiritual life?  This God of rules that seems to be so entrenched in my thinking, how often do I use him to measure and diagnose my friends.

God is not some formula or robot.  We all know this, but it bears repeating over and over.  In fact, it'd do me good to repeat it every morning before my feet hit the ground (they do so timidly - I hate mornings).

Why?  Because God is immensely mysterious.  His ways are not comprehensible.  His ways are beyond.  And his ways are good.

God doesn't need me to defend him.  God doesn't need me to justify even my own suffering.  God doesn't need me, period.  Yet he wants me.

One thing (and I picked this up in my ESV study notes) Job does really well is argue God's character back to God:  God's ways are good;  He is just;  I am suffering;  I have done nothing to deserve this.  These are a few of Jobs tacks.

And I find that they are arguments that enable me in my smaller suffering to breathe.  Like Job, I can deal with God.  The simplistic answers and arguments for God that I hear in Christian culture often don't hold weight.  I can cling to God, precisely because his character is good enough and strong enough to be argued back at him with.

Suffering doesn't need a defense of God.  What suffering needs is deeper knowledge of God and his goodness.  It's what Job is after, and it's what he gets in the end.  This should be a comfort to sufferers everywhere.

Note on the quote above: take a little time and mull it over.  Or if you're like me, look at you ESV study bible and get the quick answer.  It's intriguing...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"To you, O LORD, I call." - Joel 1:19

I haven't written in a while.  I've actually felt like I don't have much to share.  Life has been sort of ho-hum.

People ask me how I'm doing and I say, "Good," but I'm not so sure.  I'm thinking that maybe I should start answering with "Really iffy, with a 70 percent chance of anger and malaise after 3PM."  Ironically it's almost 3PM.

Maybe it's all the days of sun and 70 degree weather here in Florida that has lulled me into this no-man's-land.  Maybe I'm not comfortable with not being all-good.

I was just doing my daily scripture reading, and I could barely keep my eyes open.  They felt dry, itchy and my lids felt like little gremlins were dangling from them.

That's how I feel.  I feel like a little gremlin that's been left out to dangle on God's eyelid (well it's not a perfect metaphor).  If you haven't seen "Gremlins" you must, it's sort of like watching "Nanny 911," and no matter how bad a parent you are you can say, "At least my child is not a gremlin."

So this little gremlin has been dangling.  I have felt put out to pasture, left in no man's land and just waiting for something to happen.  I feel like I was promised a fishing trip in the streams of Montana, and am now sitting in front of a stagnant pond in Florida, fishing for catfish.  Yuck!

Living the life of the Gospel is not always an adventure.  Sometimes it takes great patience and ability just to not pack it in due to the strong feelings of inadequacy that come with equal doses of anxiety and boredom.

I think that the key to living fruitfully, is to not give up in times like this.  In dry seasons, we must cling to God, for he still is our help.

I was in staff meeting this morning and the thought hit me really clearly, "You don't have to be productive right now, because I have a plan."  Sometimes that's all we get - the promise of a plan.

Sorry if this sounds depressing.  But it cuts the illusion that Christ following is always exciting, happy, adventurous, envigorating and you-name-it good stuff.  What we are promised is not fulfillment in the stuff of this world, but fulfillment in God.

So if you're like me, and don't know what to say when people ask you how you're doing, tell them to go to Hades.  No I say it's time to cling real tight to your hope in God.  That's all I've got.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rubber-Band Religion

A few days ago, rummaging through our van, I found a big red rubber-band stamped with the line "God is Awesome" (rummaging through our van is a little like dumpster-diving).  Not being a big fan of chintzy sorts of stuff (I hate it when people put fish on the back of their cars - how do they get to make rude gestures at other drivers?) but loving wearing wrist-bands I was in a quandary.

The more I thought about wearing the rubber-band, the more I was conflicted.  You see, I've recruited a bunch of local teens from the skate-park near our house to build dirt-jumps behind a local grocery store.  I find that there's nothing that unites guys like doing something that's not exactly, um, totally technically legal.

I thought about the guys as I considered wearing the band.  Would this be a good thing to wear as I'm around them?  Could it open up spiritual conversations?  Realizing that it just might, I decided to wear it.

So I've been wearing this funny rubber-band for a few days now, and while I haven't seen the guys yet, it taught me a totally different lesson about myself this morning.  I was driving (where I do most of my thinking and cursing) and was stopped at a red-light when I remembered hearing about how depressed people sometimes wear rubber bands and snap them against their wrists just to feel pain.

I considered this for a moment, finding in me a desire for a little asceticism.  I've felt spiritually frustrated recently and thought I could use a few snaps.  Then it hit me, is this the way I view repentance?  I do feel I have to punish myself don't I!  When I repent, I seek "earnestness" by attempting migraine loads of brain-wracking.  Um, I don't think that's repentance.

And now that I think about it, the rubber-band I'm wearing has a little smiley face on it as well.  It would be humorous to go around snapping that!  Imagine people wondering around snapping their wrists in guilt with "God is Awesome :)" bracelets on.   What sort of testimony would that be?  Oh the layers of irony and social commentary that my new rubber-band religion would provide.

I was reading Lee Strobell's book, "The Case for Christ," yesterday, where he examines the medical evidence for Jesus' death by crucifixion.  It made me feel sick.  Here I'd been thinking about snapping my wrist with a rubber-band in an attempt to punish myself for my sin, when Jesus endured a Roman torture in crucifixion that was so intensely painful that a new Greek word needed to be invented to describe it - "excruciating."

Time, distance and lack of intimacy with God, has me thinking I can exercise my sins with a rubber-band.  When if I look at the pain in my wrist compared with the pain in Christ's wrists - with raw, bleeding and seething ripped nerve endings (the nails would have gone through the biggest nerves in the body - found in the wrist) - I've got to admit my little rubber band insanity boarders on the absolutely absurd.         

So I had a near brush with asceticism this morning, and I'm proud to say I haven't snapped my rubber-band once precisely because of the words written on it, "God is Awesome."  No doubt, the love that endured the cross for me, the absolute brutality for me, was fueled by the Awesome love of God.  Pure love, that I won't ever know fully this side of heaven.  And come to think of it, probably won't ever know fully.

"Don't snap that rubber-band Phil."

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Cinnamon Toast"

"He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."  Psalm 23: (something)

My five year old, Teya, smacked her lips, put down her cinnamon toast, leaned across the table from me and whispered with menace in her voice "cinnamon toast."  I was prepared for anything but not the cinnamon toast threat.  No!!!

I don't know why my daughter threatened me with cinnamon toast this morning, but as I'm getting older, I'm learning that we don't have to know everything.  In fact the more ignorance the better I say (not really, but in some areas yes).

When it comes to God being our Shepherd King, the fact that he "leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" is a source of great comfort and satisfaction for me.  I don't have to know exactly where I'm going, but I know he's leading me in a good direction.

Just as Teya's thoughts and actions are tied to mine since she's my child (though they involve inexplicable threats) I rejoice because she is mine.  May she threaten many people today with cinnamon toast for my name's sake.

I believe Teya's weird threat is yet just another hint of how God loves as he leads us.  It's a family thing.


Friday, February 3, 2012


"Jesus wept."  - John 11:35

I heard a friend relating his frustration with his past today.  He just wished he could let it go and forget about it.

Another friend piped up and said "I don't think God wants us to forget our pasts."

I agree.  In the story of Lazarus, Jesus took time to mourn even though he knew the outcome.  Jesus had to mourn, for he was "deeply moved" (it says this twice in the passage) by his friend's death.

God wants me to remember my past mistakes and heartaches so that I can go through appropriate mourning. Harder said than done right?

But appropriate mourning, moving through my past while deeply troubled, is a step I must take to see God's "glory be known."

Jesus want's his glory to be known in my life.   And in the Lazurus story I see that I am not only to mourn my past but more importantly that God mourns with me.

This for me is a great comfort.  To know that not only am I being made knew, but the God who is remaking me, is also "deeply troubled" and weeping with me over my past mistakes.

May I weep with Jesus today that I might see his glory tomorrow.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Face to Face

"Though he slay me, I will hope in him;  yet I will argue my ways to his face."  - Job 13:15

Can we take our most troubled troubles to God?  Can we beat our fists on his chest?  Can we argue our ways to his face?  Job thinks we can.

A few days ago, I was really having a hard time.  I had been reading a book on creative writing and thought I'd try my hand at 4:30 on Monday afternoon (note to writers everywhere, never attempt to be creative on a Monday, EVER).  I was feeling a little off, but I had no idea the demons I was about to exercise.  

I ended up ranting wildly for about an hour.  It was scary to see the depths of darkness emerge in my writing.  So much rage, anger and frustration.  I was violent in my rage. I was so angry I ended my entry with "Don't tell me to pray!  Don't tell me to pray..."  

It is in times like these that I don't need quaint answers with tagged on verses, since they often act more like salt on the wound than balm for the soul.

What I needed to be reminded of is that I can and should as a Christian take my darkest rage to God.

Have it out with God.  He can handle it.  That's what I needed.  That's what I craved.  Not only did Job remind me of this but I found the same sentiment in Numbers 14, as Moses was tying the people's cause to God's cause.  Here Moses reminds God of his reputation, and what the Egyptians will think if he wipes out his people for, and this is really important, the Egyptians have heard that "you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people.  For you, O LORD, are seen face to face..."

What?  The only person that's quoted as seeing God face to face in the OT is Moses.  So what's this?  Moses is expressing the personal aspect of God's nature.  He's right there with his people, dealing.

This God, with whom we get to deal "face to face", is such an encouragement to me.  For if I couldn't take my hurt, rage and big "Why?" questions to God, I'd simply explode.

So here's to not exploding.   And here's to being real with God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


"It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."  -John 9:4

At the office I can feel the eyes boring into me.  As I walk my neck gets tight, hands shaky and my palms sweaty.

I walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and try to understand what's going on inside.  Maybe just by looking into my own eyes I can see it, I can find it and fix it.

For me it's just another day living with the specter of depression.  It never leaves fully.  And when it's gone, it leaves scars.  Scars that always make me ask the same question, "What is wrong with me?"

The past couple of months have been on an emotional roller-coaster that has my head spinning and my feet groping for some solid ground.

I've wrestled with depression nearly my whole life (not always knowing that that was what I dealt with), but still no matter how many times I've been down the road to Funky-Town, as I like to call it, I never get used to it.  I've broken my arm, separated my shoulder multiple times, had a number of concussions and nothing hurts like depression.

Those who suffer from depression suffer from an internal bleeding of the soul.

Now I don't want to be too dramatic, but when you're in the middle of the Town of Funk, you can't help but be desperate.  And I find that spiritual fixes don't work either.

Don't tell me "This will all work out in the end" or that "This is for my own good."   Don't ask me if I have any "unrepented sin in my life."  Are you kidding me?  Who doesn't.

That's why this verse above has always been a bandage for my soul bleeding.  To hear Jesus defend the blind man with these words, whispers, no shouts, his compassion.

It also speaks of Jesus' hope.  God is in Funky Town.  God is in my life.

No matter how much I prod and poke my soul in my desperate search to find out and fix what's wrong, He's here.  He's never left.

Not only is God close in these moments of desperation, but he pleads my case.  And my guess is he argues something similar to the passage, "It's not that Philip or his parents have sinned, but that God's works might be displayed in Philip."

This is the other side of soul bleeding, that my internal pain and suffering can result in God's work being done.

As I look one last time in the mirror and wash my hands, I think, "There is hope, I will see.  You will see Philip, just hang on."

"My soul clings to God, his right arm will lift me up." - somewhere in the Psalms