Monday, May 20, 2013


When I was a kid, BMX or bicycle motocross was on the rise.  It was the eighties, and these stunt bikers, their helmets, and the crazy colors of their uniforms were calling to me.  I wanted a bike.  And I got it.  I still remember its sleek chrome lines, its rubber smell, its black and white checkered grips.  I remember imagining jumping it and all the tricks I was going to learn.  I learned how to stand on my seat.  

Sure I spent a ton of time thinking and lusting over my buddies super-awesome blue bike, but mine was pretty sweet too.  Oh and I learned to do a stoppie, which is where you slam the front brake and go into a sort of front-wheel wheelie.  Man I was so cool on that bike.  Or at least I was going to be cool when I grew up.

But we moved from that land of BMX to a new land, the land of suburbs and team sports, a land of conformity and video games.  Sure I still rode my bike and stuff, but it wasn’t the same and I felt a little saddened by the fact that I never learned to actually jump a bike, regardless hop off a curb.  As a boy turning into a man, I felt like something in me had chickened out.  I just had never jumped my bike.

Years go by.  I’m 25, and we’ve moved to a new land.  I’m walking with my wife, holding hands and I see a kid setting a board against a fence about 4 feet off the ground.  “Oh boy I think, he’s going to jump his bike off that.  Awesome!”  The little boy in me was about to jump out of my old boy skin.  “Me want to do!”  I thought. 

To make a long story short, “Me did” even getting to know that kid and hang with his bike gang.  And at 36 I still do.  I can really ride a bike now.  There’s super-sweet-awesome candy colors, wheelies, and jumping, lots of it.  Even as I write I’m about to go ride.  There will be colors, there will be tricks, there will be speed.  And even maybe a front wheel wheelie at the end. 

I don’t think we ever grow up.  Our bodies just slowly retire.  So here’s to that boy in me.  He likes the color of my sweet gloves, he likes my bike, he marvels at what a suspension fork is and most of all he thinks, I can see him walking around my bike and saying, “This is so totally rad.”  You got to love impressing kids, even if that kid is yourself.  


Echoes, footsteps, hushed voices.  Candles, choirs, eerie melody.  Dark and blackened wood and shadows.  Heavy stone carved and stacked past my minds comprehension.  So many shapes, curves and forms.  Too many to grasp.  So I gape. 

And light as I’ve never seen it.  A playful dance between sun and glass - red, blue, green and all the in-betweens, mixing, colliding and rolling in rays and patterns, lighting the dust.   Here is the real magic. 

This place, this sacred place, is made to hold the weight of time.  Filled with awe I stand, surrounded by history.  Noble bones lie beneath my feet.  I walk, gaze and wonder.  Who were these people?  How did they create all this?  Were they flesh and bone like me?  Surely not.

Look at the bigness and the robustness of it all!  And then the minuteness and the attention to detail.  Have we grown as people, with our cars, cameras, tv sets and computers, or have we shrunk?  I stare at statue after statue, saints with fingers poised in blessing and knights entombed in honor, hands crossed on swords with loyal and lean dogs at their feet.

I walk past legends, both the traitorous and the courageous, past all the laughter and tears.  Life of threshold, throng, market and all the busy life of the in-between were swallowed up in here.  They must have needed this place.  The sacred stillness and astonishing grandeur helped them make sense.  But even for them time moved forward, putting them in their place.  But they left this and it is spectacular.

What will they think?  Those who walk the halls of our times.  It’s depressing to wonder.   Our sophistication seems paltry in comparison to this.  How can an iphone compare to thousand-ton chiseled rock and carved oak that has withstood wars, famines, disease and all the mess of humanity? 

The wood is carved, stained, varnished, and aged with years of use, aged by oils from hands as frail as mine.  I suspect the wood is even more solid now, even more weighty. Then there is the fine smell of dust and incense, the robes and colors and stuff of the divine, and all my senses are coming undone. 

The answer to the mystery lies in these halls.  These halls that were crafted to take the breath and house those who no longer breathe.  These mortals may no longer speak but they echo louder than our generation ever will, regardless of all our noise and perhaps because of it.  Through history they speak to something larger, a time when God was bigger.   A life that was closer to real, and to a right sense that more in life was sacred. 

These halls were made to shrink us, to make us feel the weight of our insignificance but also to woo and woe us, to pull us out of ourselves and our trivialities.  They were made precisely to reflect the God who inspired them.  And as I realize they are a shadowy reflection, I run my hand along the smoothed stone and whisper  “Woe am I, for I live among a people of unclean lips and damned iphones.”     

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


"I just can't convince myself to believe in God."

I hear this all the time from young people.  Why are they so stuck?  Why do they feel the need to convince themselves?  How do they propose to do it?  And if God is real, what's the point?

When Jesus asked his disciples to come and follow, they had little knowledge of what they were stepping into.  They didn't know that they were following God.  They didn't feel they needed to convince themselves of anything much more than, "Hmm, this should be interesting, let's go check it out."

Why don't kids feel that freedom today.  Where is the "gospel confidence"?   By this I mean, have they heard that the gospel is attractive, that it's good, that it makes sense of the world and us, and that it is apparent to those who are tired, weary and down-trodden.  They wear themselves out trying to believe in something and they don't even know what it is!

Have they heard that the gospel is about hope?  Have they heard that it's not about joining a club or a clique?  Have they heard that it's not just another self-help program?  Have they heard that it's actually real?

A friend of mine used to say that the gospel is headline news everyday, the headline news that "JESUS IS ALIVE!"  I hope that I can step away from my own posturing and mind-games long enough to consider this news.

We all need to consider this reality.  This reality that Jesus is alive changes the game.  If it's true, everything changes.  Explore it.  Search it out.  Live it.  And hope in it.  I believe this is the Christian mandate - whatever mandate means.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Monster

I just read an email/article on "Telling Better Stories with Our Lives."  I shouldn't do stuff like this to myself on Mondays.  It's masochistic.

When and if I get out of bed on Monday mornings, I don't typically see the bright side of anything.  It's got to be hard on my family, but I try to grunt myself to the pantry, grab some cereal and hide behind my bowl and allow the sound of my crunching echo out all the eager or not so eager noises of my 4 and  6 year olds.

Sometimes Melissa, who I'm suspecting really is from a really distant planet, will venture into my inner life with financial questions, plans for the week, reminders, etc.  She's pretty daring, but she's learning that these sorts of quests she takes are doomed.  Totally doomed.

That's why I'm a little befuddled by the article I had handed to me by a friend as I entered the office.  Can't a Monday under-achiever have a little peace without being reminded by (OK I'll name him) Donald Miller telling him that he needs to be living a better life?!  That living a better life could effect the lives of thousands who are waiting for him to step up to the plate, swing and become the super-star that the needy world needs to today.  On Mondays I'd rather bunt and pray I get to first.

It doesn't help that we have 5 day work weeks here in America.  I know there are places where the most that's expected of a male is to squat in place and tell hunting stories and doodle in the sand until the women ask him to move.  That may be where I belong, at least on Mondays.

Walking into work I was greeted by the security guard with a cheery salute and the innocent question, "How's it going?"  I put on my best manic smile and gave my standard bare faced lie, "GREAT!"  I wonder if said greeter ever suspects that an individual could be experiencing that much greatness that many days in a row.

And then I get here and read this article and depression begins to set in.  "Welcome back" the article seems to say.  "Welcome back to a week of guilt, with generous slabs of "you should be doing something meaningful with your life" and a side of pressure from great author who used to not take himself so seriously.    

But all of this kind of leads me nowhere.  Especially on a Monday.  God does good and even great things through people just like me - monday monsters who see the gray in everything.  People who just can't seem to find the right pants.  I did find the right pants today, so I guess my week is off to a better than normal start.

I need a savior today as with every-day, it's the only way through.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Re-imagining Jesus

It's been a while since I last posted anything.  I've sort of been overwhelmed with thoughts.  So much so that I haven't have the clarity to put any down in a post.  Forgive me whoever you might be, as I feel I have much to share, and we are after-all in this life thing together.

In my current state I'm reminded of something my Aunt caught my Uncle saying to himself, in his deep country/southern accent, as he was walking through the house, "So many thoughts running through my head."

I really dig that.  But I am grateful that a lot of the thoughts I have running through my head these days are positive ones.  I am a cynic with a propensity towards melancholy, so it's a weird joy to be having thoughts of gratitude, encouragement and hope running through my head.

And I believe that my current state has much to do with my parents, wife and friends praying for me.  Prayer does change things.

In fact I've been pondering how the author of Hebrews describes Jesus continually praying for us before the father.  I'm often suspicious of Jesus.  I often see him with blond hair, effeminate gestures and the pompous philosopher style of someone that was too good for this world.  It's been bred into me by all the artistic renderings we have of him here in the west.

But I believe those artists must have been demon-possessed.  Jesus is all-together earthy.  He is all-together for the empty and down-trodden.  And I believe he is someone, that if I met face to face today, I would not want to let go.  I'd be inviting him over to have dinner, see the kids, meet Melissa, and he'd probably be treating us all to our new favorite frozen yoghurt place for desert.

I believe his thoughts on life would be challenging but not judgmental.  I believe that they'd be fueled by a real playfulness and joy that would make chasing his thoughts attractive.  I believe that his thoughts would create in me more thankfulness, more joy, more hope and I believe I would be undone by his kindness and earthiness.  I also believe he would do a lot of listening, the kind of active listening that shows when someone really cares.

After all, in Jesus God became small and insignificant.  He became one of us.  He ate with us, played with us, challenged us, healed us and ultimately invited us to live a full life.

I take myself way too seriously with "So many thoughts running through my head."  And I think Jesus would encourage me to slow down, fill me with new thoughts and help me relearn how to think about this thing we call life.  And I imagine he'd  be good with jokes.  So good indeed he'd have me snickering snot all over the place.

Perhaps that would be the most profound thing Jesus would bring.  His humor.  That's why I think he would like the painting above.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Again, Again and Again

"The bible is not a book of virtues, it’s a book of gospel, It’s not a series of moral exemplars, it’s a record of God’s intervening grace into the lives of people who don’t deserve it, who don’t seek it, who continually resist it and even don’t appreciate it after they’ve been saved by it."  - Tim Keller (from his sermon, "Real Freedom and the Listening Lord")

Since I quoted Keller yesterday, I thought it would only be fair to quote him a little more in context of his view of scripture.  It's such a refreshing take for me, because I know that I am just like the folks of scripture he goes on to describe:

"The very best human beings in the history of the world are moral and spiritual failures, that can’t rise above their own culture.  They can’t rise above the brutality of their own times, and they can’t escape the self-centerdness of their own hearts."

So where is the hope for these folks that are so like me, the selfish and the hell-bent?  It is only in the reality of a God who breaks into their world, a God who condescends, a God who becomes flesh, a God who becomes weak, a God who suffers, a God who meets individual meanness, and a God who takes all that selfishness, hate and hellishness on his shoulders and suffers so that I might have life.  This is humanitys' only hope.

Keller continues about such folks like me:

"... but God continues to come to them, continues to not give up on them, continues to patiently speak to them, to help them, to aid them, to save them and to rescue them again and again and again…"

How has God changed since the time of the "great" men and women of scripture.  He hasn't.  He still continues this reckless pursuit of rebels.  

Most people think just the opposite about God and scripture.  Keller again:

"You may think that the message of the Bible is you give God a righteous life and God will bless… but the message of the Bible is that God always comes to us by sheer grace and then we owe him.  In other words 'Is bible mainly about you and what you should be doing or is it about him and what he has done?'"

The bible, this whole Christian life thing, is radically rooted in what God has done and what he is doing.  This is the truth that gives me a taste of humility, and at which one day my knee every will bow with everyone on earth and proclaim that his ways are good and just.  It is this reality that gives the weary, shaky, broken-down soul like mine hope and blissful rest. 

Finally it is the reality of what God has done that gives Christians true grit to face life's challenges.  It is precisely and only because Christ faced every challenge there is and now he lives in us, his children, that we have the joyful challenge to extend the grace of God's work to this hurting world today. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gospel Order

"Unless you have said, 'Whatever I discern as your (God's) will I will do unconditionally, you're not a Christian."   - Tim Keller (in sermon on Abraham)

Maybe it's just me but statements like these make me want to pack up my office bag, go home, get back in bed, curl up under the covers and give up on this whole Christ-following thing.  When have I ever experienced unconditional surrender to God?  All of my surrender seems so riddled with fear, control, manipulation and self-interest that it's a miracle God calls me his child.

Or does he?

This question is the question that drives me into despair.  It is this insecurity that produces the fear of my life.

The gaping gulf between me as I know me, and me as a fully surrendered child of God, leads me to despair.  Who am I really?  Am I a child of God?  Or am I just pretending?

I am just pretending if my security lies in my actions or level of surrender.  But, and I realize this may be a  stretch, if my security lies in someone, say Jesus, and his obedience and his full surrender, than I am such a child.

Grace precedes faith.  Salvation precedes obedience.  The gospel order.  I guess it's important to remember even if you're listening to Keller.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reality Check

As I stare at the blinking cursor on my laptop, I'm thinking, in this whole world of wonder, what should  I write about?  I just got finished reading about God's perspective on time from Ann Voskamp.  She was saying that the creator of time wants me to slow down, notice the good around, and give thanks.  When  I do this, I'm really, really surprised.  My world is full of things to be thankful for.  Here's a brief list off the top of my head from this morning:

1.  Dear friend/brother who's flying across the nation to meet me.
2.  Children who greeted me with smiles this morning.  One was a less toothy smile as she's losing them - a whole backstory full of tooth-faries, longings, imagination and childhood.
3.  A building and place to go to to work.  Something to pour my energy into that brings God joy.  
4.  A warm cup of coffee and a inside joke between friends.
5.  15 minutes with a friend to sit down, pray and encourage him in his intense pre-engagement worries and fears.
6.  A book that opens my eyes to the world around me, and enables me to plagiarize what I see into a blog post.
7.  My own frailty, tiredness and background fear that lifts my eyes heavenward in a plea for divine rest.  Divine rest granted.
8.  A spouse at home caring, nurturing, teaching and loving my children.
9.  A two day work week (since my brother's coming into town).
10.  The ability to write this stuff down, nail it in, and feel the "soul-holes" of my heart being filled and healed (burrowed again from the book).

As I look at this list, just ten in ten-thousand un-thanked for blessings, I am encouraged.  Life can be full of so much hurry, worry, loss, pain, dread and death, that I must, I simply have to become a creature of thanks.  Thanks for God's gifts open me up to him.  And in this intimacy I believe I am really alive.  So here's to thankful living, toast it with your favorite beverage.


Monday, February 4, 2013


Wow it's been a long time since I posted anything on my blog.  I've missed writing and watching my thoughts scroll across the screen of my monitor.  And I don't particularly enjoy them banging around in my head and making a mess of my headspace that would make the sternest psychologist cringe.

I've given up writing for the past couple of months simply because I've been discouraged.  Nothing outwardly has changed all that much, but I've just felt an inner disillusionment with life and God.  I'm tired of hearing I need to change and I'm tired of waiting to change.

I struggle with all sorts of things, feeling like I'm coming up short in so many areas of my life.  But there's something that this process (of seeing my shortcomings) has enabled me to do.   Even while I've felt sad and discouraged I've dared to hope.  So I guess I'd say I've been both discouraged and encouraged.

With hope I was reading on Abraham and I noticed just how much of his story is God's story.  God is the main actor in Abraham's life.  And it's not ego-centric activity, it's beautiful activity of selfless love.  God's character traits pop out as if from behind a curtain in these OT accounts.

Just check out his first address to Abraham: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

This blessing makes me think that it's a very, very good thing that God is a "covenantal" God.  I've heard that term batted around a lot, and I frankly often don't know what it means.  But in God's covenants I see both a God who is willing to condescend in his dealings with man but also a God who privileges man with absolute undeserved devotion.

A lot of people talk about there's or others' devotion to God.  But really, God is devoted to himself I know, but his devotion to himself comes through us and is towards us.  We are super-loved.  

Now that I think about it, that may be the defining characteristic of the Christian - that a person is super-loved.

So as I seek to pick back up this experiment in blogging, or wandering thoughts making there way into cyber print, I'm hoping in this God's super-love.