Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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


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


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.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


"Touch was stolen from me.

It was stolen from me by the American story.  It was stolen from me by our puritanical religious roots, and by and entertainment culture that turns affection into sensuality...

Society and religion have bedded together to relegate touch to either the sexual or the inappropriate, with little in between."   - Tony Kritz in Neighbors and Wise Men

I wonder at this.  I think that one of the core evils in "American maleness" is the lie that touch between men is something gross, something to be avoided.

A friend of mine once confided that to be a single man in America, and especially in church, is to never be touched.  Did you hear that?  NEVER touched!

I'm sure he gets handshakes, or an occasional awkward side-hug from a woman.  But do these touches  say more about distance than grace, more about culture of aloofness than kindness.

I love it that I see young men beginning to hug again.  Touch is good.  Touch speaks where words often can't.  I see young people fighting the homophobia of our culture with a faith that says, "Let people think what they think,  I will love."  

I imagine that the cultural taboo of touch among males has devastated America more than I've thought.  Just look at the debate last night.  Romney and Obama need to hug each other close for a long time.  Ha!

I hope that Christians in America will one day touch again.  That will be a good day, a soul melting day and a day when finally we give our fellow human beings the value we now reserve mostly for our pets.

If someone hugs me today, I promise not to push you away.

Let me share one more quote from Tony Kritz:

"That year (speaking of his time in Albania) I started to read my Bible in a new way.  I started to see touch everywhere, particularly in the Gospels: fathers embracing sons, secretive contact by a peasant woman, a disciple leaning on Jesus' bosom, hands washing and drying feet, heads anointed with oil, 'Put you finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put int into my side.'"

Now if someone tries to put their finger into my side today, I will push you away.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Surrender: Part 3

"Now he was.  If he had stayed in the community, he would not be.  It was as simple as that.  Once he had yearned for choice.  Then, when he had had a choice, he had made the wrong one: the choice to leave.   And now he was starving.

But if he had stayed...

His thoughts continued.  If he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways.  He would have lived a life hungry for feelings, for color, for love."  - "Jonas" in Lois Lowry's The Giver

Surrender involves pain.  I don't like it.  But it's what I need.  My soul starves for "feelings, for color, for love" so I too must have pain.

I just finished Lois Lowry's The Giver which has hit the reading lists of high schoolers across the States.   Now that I've read it, I'm not surprised, and I'm extremely grateful.  I don't want to ruin the book (which I highly recommend), but I do want to unpack some of it's insights in regards to surrender.

In The Giver, Lowry writes of a dis-topia in which everything is safe, everything is controlled, and everything that involves real feeling is extracted.  The undergirding philosophy behind the society is that if something is painful and dangerous, it should be avoided at all costs.  With a little imagination, Lowry writes of a horrifically cruel society.  Sound familiar?

It's all too familiar.  The world I live in, at least in middle-class suburban America, seeks comfort and safety as it's god.  This (which I realize is a narrow class) is designed to create the most freedom of comfort for the most individuals.

Even our religion is watered down into headology, personal enlightenment, self-help, "health and wealth" and empty ritual.   Sadly, knowing better, I've bought into all of these to a certain extent.

And the disturbing thing is that if our end is comfort, we will become sub-human.  Dead.

Interestingly, Jesus teaches that if we are to live, we must die.  He knows that we are addicted to self and pleasure, and will resist risk and love at all costs.

He knows that we don't have true feelings, see real color or know real love.  I believe this is why he speaks of us being brought from death to life.

So where does this leave the Christian?  The Christian is faced with a extremely difficult choice.  Should he continue down the path behind Jesus, where pain is a promise, but so is life and joy - all that makes up reality.  Or should he go back to the ways he knows, ways that are safe, not so risky and a lot more comfortable.  Should the Christian trust his master, or trust his old sub-human instincts?

Grace is given to the Christian, supernatural freedom to follow, supernatural strength to obey.  Obedience involves a death, but it's far, far better than turning back.  What I don't realize is turning back means going back towards horrors unimaginable.

Safety, comfort and pleasure are gifts, but as I observed in The Giver, if they come from the wrong source (ourselves and our resources) they bring evil and degradation of all that is most human.

Basically the Christian only has one choice.  For "Now (we) are.  If (we) had stayed in the community (we) would not be.  It was as simple as that."

May we face our fear of pain and follow.  May God give us the strength.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Surrender: Part 2

"The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.  I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God." - Jonah 2:5,6

Jonah was a sneaky, mean-spirited prophet.  He hated God's call.  He absolutely hated the call to share God's judgement on Nineveh, for he knew it would come with God's mercy.

The irony about Jonah, is that he was so grumpy and mad precisely because he understood the nature of God.  He knew that God would save even the worst of the worst, Israel's horrific enemies, the blasted Ninevites.

But what I see in Jonah, is that even after his prayer quoted above, even after he'd been saved from certain death, he still had room to hate his enemies.

My dad's studied a lot of Jonah, and he likes to point out God's last words in the book: "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more that 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle."

"and also much cattle."

Why would God throw out that last line?  Dad thinks (at least I think he thinks) its because Jonah's conscience is so seared, so blind, so hard towards the Ninevites, that he throws out a plea for the cattle. Perhaps Jonah really liked beef.

It's sad, but when it comes to surrendering to God's will, I'm a lot like Jonah.  Sometimes I've got to get tossed in the ocean, swallowed by a fish, spat up, preach the most effective sermon ever and sit under a plant whining until God just paints it in bold print YOU ARE BEING A BRAT.  Even the cows don't like you.

Now God is ridiculously patient with me.  Just as he was with Jonah.  He knows that surrender is really hard.  But he knows its what's best for me.  In fact he knows its the only way for me.

God knows that left to myself, I'd just whine myself to death.  So the words that Jonah prays ring true again and again and again for the Christian.  In fact they are the Christians hope:  "Salvation belongs to the Lord."

Between whinings, this cheers me up, and I think is a step in the direction of surrender.

Surrender: Part 1

"It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever." - Psalm 136:23

A few posts back I mentioned how I've been asked to write on surrender to God.  I'm afraid I don't know much about it.  My initial response was to write a snarky post, full of my usual critical and sarcastic approach, but this is my first attempt at processing what God-induced surrender is really about.

(There's a little irony here as I write, as I've snuck away from our Campus Crusade for Christ day of prayer, and am sitting in Dunkin' Donuts.  I'm a little like Jonah, but perhaps like Jesus, I'm not sure.  I know I need to get away from the crowd a lot, its the way I'm made.  I just hope I don't get caught.)

In Godly surrender, I believe the first thing to recognize is the one who brings about surrender in our hearts.  Oddly, when I think about surrender, I think about examining my heart, searching my heart, repenting, seeking my first love and a lot of other spiritual mumbo-jumbo.  I don't think any of this is wrong, I just think it comes in the wrong order and something profound is lost.  Namely there's a huge army that I need to surrender to, so its not a good idea to take time self-reflecting.

In fact for me, Christian surrender often only comes about when I have exhausted every other opportunity, every strategy, every whim and idol I can think of.  I've lobbed every grenade, am down to my last clip and have long since lost my buddies.  I am sitting in a ditch I've dug out against God.  And finally I peek my head over the top, cringe through the smoke, toss my last dog-eared cigarette (in my rebellion I've definitely taken up smoking) and wave my homemade flag of surrender which consists of my boxers tied to my rifle.  Hey war ain't pretty.

As I paint this image in my head, I'm realizing the reality and futility of war I wage on God.  I wage it.  I lose it.  Every time.

And as a Christian, its a truly amazing grace that I lose.  Losing is the beginning of winning.  Losing is the beginning of living.

So hear ends part one on my ramblings about surrender:  God sees me in my ditch, my low estate, and lifts me out again, yet again, because of his steadfast love which endures forever.