Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of year ramblings

  • Walking by cell phone talkers, I can’t help but notice the drama in their voices. Or maybe I should say in our voices. Person A is always talking about Person B, or Boyfriend A and wondering why they can’t act differently, why does he say this, etc. I wonder if we create our own drama so we don’t have to focus on True Importance: our relationship with the Lord.
  • One of the traps into which I continue to fall is the one where I feel badly about my life because of something that happened in high school, because I wish I had handled a situation differently, haven’t been able to lead friend X to the Lord, etc. These are not bad things to notice. The fact of the matter, though, is that none of my past alters that which is truly important: I am loved by the Lord.
  • The more I learn about the Lord, the less I care about other things. I never thought I’d reach a point in my life where I went five weeks without watching football.
  • With that said, there’s a lot of life to enjoy that isn’t explicitly a “Christian” activity. But I do think you should be seeking the Lord in most everything you do.
  • Pretty much everything that happens in your life is a miracle, not a coincidence. I’ll probably (maybe) expand on that at another time.
  • The moments where my instincts scream at me to control are the moments when I most need to be still.
  • The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I realize I had no idea what I was getting in to. At an especially overwhelming moment last week, I remembered a quote I’d once heard: being a Christian isn’t just hard. It’s impossible. Thankfully, all things are possible with Him who gives me strength. Sorry it took me so long to understand this.

Interesting thought

So part of the Presidential Inauguration is having the president choose a Bible verse on which to be sworn in. It's not required of the president; it's just that every single one has chosen to use a verse.

Imagine having the entire Bible from which to choose, but you can only go with one verse. Which one would it be for you?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pray for the Lamberth family

My friend Heidi posted this on her blog, my heart is breaking for this family.  Our prayers are powerful, please join us in lifting this family up:

Heidi said:
A family in my sister’s small group has experienced an unbelievable tragedy and they are desperatly in need of prayer.  Mark, the dad, was in a terrible dirtbike accident before Christmas.  He suffered severe injury to his brain and has been in the ICU ever since.  The odds are not on his side.  His wife, Angie, and his son, Nolan, are clinging to the hope that our God can and does perform miracles.  To read about his accident and the daily updates on his condition you can go to their blog, Pray For The Lamberths.  This family needs all the prayers they can get.  Please lift them up and pass the word along.  Their family needs a miracle. Angie needs her husband.  Nolan needs his father.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fall on your knees

Ever take the time to really listen to Christmas song lyrics? My friend Mari and I especially like the ones from "O Holy Night." 

Specifically:
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Think about that for a second: and the soul felt its worth. The soul felt its worth. We can do that every single moment, every single day. Think about that.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's snowing in Newberg, too.

These are just some photos from my walk home from the coffeeshop this afternoon, and I thought I'd share some photos of my little town with you all.




(This last picture is of my parents' house where I live.)
I think that some people in Beaverton and Portland (and Wisconsin) should upload some pictures of how things look in your neighborhoods. Do it, do it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus"

In my day job, I work with students. Something I try to communicate is that you're always interviewing. So, even though you might not be in a constant state of answering a direct "why should we hire you?" question, you are in a constant state of preparing for the interview. That might mean you're doing an internship or volunteer work. That might mean you're struggling with a personal issue which will later turn into an interview answer. Or it could just mean you're maturing as a person; this maturity will be reflected in an interview. Whether you're aware of it or not, you're always interviewing.

I was thinking about this in terms of being a Christian. It occurred to me that we should always be witnessing (note: feel free to include similar Christian buzzword). Whether we're overtly talking about Jesus or simply being thankful in all circumstances, we need to be aware that we're always representing our Lord and Savior (scary as that may be). Again we turn to Colossians 3:17 for our reference:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beauty

Greetings from Portland, Oregon!

...Where two inches of snow has effectively shut down the city. I love days like this, not just because they allow for all sorts of self-indulgent "you call this a storm? Why it snowed 33 inches overnight when I lived in Boston" type comments, but also because if you wake up early enough you can see the snow before anyone else does.

In some slow, peaceful way, being the first one out the door, making the first snow print makes me inch closer to understanding Creation. Looking out the window, the snowflakes slowly descending on trees, the wind gently making me feel more alive, I'm inspired to think of how beautiful Heaven must look.



"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good." - Genesis 1:31

Friday, December 12, 2008

I love when this happens

With "this" in the above meaning "when your friend Sarah convinces you to substitute carob for chocolate, then you learn that carob is Biblical."

Don't believe me? Check out wikipedia:

[Carob] is probably also mentioned in the New Testament, in which Matthew 3:4 reports that John the Baptist subsisted on "locusts and wild honey"; the Greek word translated "locusts" may refer to carob pods, rather than to grasshoppers.

Giddyup!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Equal rights to verbs

My roommate Zac just went downstairs "to study." As he's not in school or studying for any school admissions exam, I was a bit perplexed. For what else do you study?

Then he said he was studying the Bible. "I would have used the verb 'read'," I told him.

Then we both realized that wasn't fair to the verb "study." Why does it have to be confined to school stuff?

So yeah, we think you should be able to talk about studying the Bible. Or a particular drink recipe. Or fantasy football statistics. Or the history of Batman's sometimes tenuous relationship with Nightwing. Or...whatever.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Love the Lord with all your heart

I’ve been haunted by Deuteronomy 6:5 recently, both in its original place and when quoted the New Testament –

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

What haunts me? The fact that I don’t do that. Sure, I have my quiet time with God, I read a Bible chapter or two and sometimes meditate on the Word. But there’s no way I can say I love God with all my heart when I spend so much time in thoughts not about Him. Somehow it’s easier to love a girl, friends and even animals than it is to love my God. I wish this were not the case.

I was thinking about this as I read the tale of Zacchaeus the tax collector today. Zacchaus, a wealthy tax collector who (at least by today’s standards) might not need to meet Jesus was absolutely desperate to do so. Luke 19:4 says Zacchaus “ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”

Zacchaeus was desperate to see the Lord, so desperate he climbed a tree to do so. He wasn’t climbing the tree out of obligation, habit or because he was monetarily bankrupt. He was desperate for Jesus.

Can I say that about myself? Am I desperate for Jesus? Would I climb a tree (metaphorically) to see Him? If asked, my answer would probably be “sometimes.”

So do I always love the Lord my God with all my heart? Absolutely not…but I’m trying. It's easy to fall into the trap of self-pity based on that answer. I'm not going to do that. Personal transformation -- from loving the world/yourself to loving God -- does not happen overnight. I mean, it's taken me seven years to get to this point. Here’s hoping tomorrow brings me one step closer to loving the Lord with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The gospel is everywhere, part 1000


One of my all-time favorite books is Michael Lewis' Moneyball (pictured above). While nominally about baseball, in reading the book you'll realize it's actually about being efficient in life.

One of the themes that stuck with me is that of a decision being evaluated not on the result, but on the process involved in making the decision. So, if you trade for a bad player who coincidentally sets the world on fire upon his acquisition, that does not mean the trade decision was a good one. To use a real world example: my friend Wesley once survived a car accident only because she wasn't wearing a seat belt. Just because she survived, however, does not validate the decision to drive without wearing the seat belt*.

I always thought this "the value of the decision is not in its result" philosophy extended to the gospel as well. Like, if I talk about the Lord with a stranger but it does not result in the stranger coming to the Lord, I shouldn't feel like I made a bad decision**.

Reading Luke 4, I found my scriptural reference. Here, Jesus is tempted by Satan, who offers Jesus authority and splendor over all the kingdoms in the world. One problem: while the result would make a certain amount of sense, the process by which He got there would be, well, a bit troubling.

I think Christians can be similarly tempted by the allure of a seemingly positive result. What I think we need to remember, though, is that the result we ought to always be seeking is not one of worldly pleasure, or even one which looks good to other Christians. The result we should simply, unequivocally be seeking is the approval of the Lord. After all, it is He, not men, who ultimately judges us.

* = I know this sentence is a double negative. If you have a better idea of how to phrase it, please do let me know

** = same thing

Friday, November 21, 2008

Phone calls with God

Every few months, the CEO of my company will open up an hour from his schedule to host calls from employees from throughout the country. If your request is received early enough, he’ll spend five minutes on the phone only with you. This is seen as an impressive gesture from someone who presides over 37 different branches of the company.

Now let’s think about God: the Creator and presider over all the universe. The one who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. Must be a busy guy, right? Yet we have access to him not every few months for five minutes, but all the time.

Think about that for a moment. All we have to do is talk to Him. The thought absolutely blows my mind. Wow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Faith

How dictionary.com defines it: confidence or trust in a person or thing

How I tend to define it: the belief that, however improbable the situation, God is in charge

Not bad, right?

Here's what the Greek word pistis (which appears as "faith" in our Bibles) is actually defined:
reliance upon Christ for salvation

Kind of changes your view of things, right?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring Jesus to work day

One of the things I sometimes have trouble with when "spending time with the Lord" is that I can't actually see him. Even though I conceptually know He's there at every second of every day, if I'm not actively feeling His presence I easily forget about Him.

My friend Kevin suggested picturing Him on my shoulder, or picturing Him walking next to me. Would that affect how I proceed through my day? Would I stop putzing around, stop procrastinating, stop finding ways to shirk responsibility?

What if I took Him to work with me? Would that affect my effort? Something tells me I wouldn't be spending time on so many websites, sending so many emails to friends and doing anything besides what I'm being paid off to do.

So I'm thinking that should be my attitude throughout life -- not so much "what would Jesus do?" but more like "what would you do if Jesus were right next to you?"

(which, of course, he kinda is)

Scriptural reference:
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On fear (again)

I was talking about this with my men's group the other night:

A conclusion we reached is that much of fear is generated by free will. As an example: when you were a kid you didn’t have the option of not playing prison dodge ball. It was prison dodge ball week in P.E., so you had to play. Now that we’re older, we can hand-select which activities in which to participate and suddenly we’re terrified of failure.

(insert any of a million different variables for prison dodge ball, i.e. other sports, foods your parents made you eat, etc)

Obviously I’m simplifying it a little; probably you did have some fear of prison dodge ball, but you got over it because you had to. Later in life, you don’t have to. You can choose to stay scared forever.

Makes sense, right? Free will is what brought us original sin, fear is maybe Satan’s greatest weapon…and this is why I think Jesus is always saying “do not be afraid.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Self-unreliance

The other night I didn't feel like doing anything that required firing more than a minimum of brain synapses, so I went down to browse my roommate's DVD collection. There I noticed a title I'd never heard of, a sort of kung-fu action movie called "Hero." It features Jet Li and had some good-sounding reviews on the back (but don't they all), so decided to watch it. I don't think I had ever watched an entire Chinese or kung-fu film before, so I won't try to write a full review of this one. I would like to comment on the fantastic fight scenes, though. Most of the main characters were very thoughtful and reflective, and this heavily colored the way they fought. In one part, the combatants even stopped, closed their eyes, and continued the contest in their minds for awhile. Ok, so that might sound a little weird, but the battling was just so poetic, and it occurred to me that, not only does the 90s hit video game "Street Fighter" make a lot more sense now, but also people seem to desire the transcendence achieved by these fighters, the ability to rise above our human nature. We want to repel arrows like flies, to face life's challenges with spinning, leaping, soaring duels on top of a quiet mountain lake without getting more than our feet wet. Of course, I'm not saying everyone, or even most people, are consciously entertaining such thoughts, but I'd wager that these sentiments are ingrained in more than just Asian assassins. Maybe it's a desire to be gods, or perhaps a longing to be with Him; in either case, it has long been recognized across the globe that there is more to this life than the eye sees or reason infers, but sometimes as present-day Americans we forget this as we scurry about pursuing our happiness. So our innate longing for transcendence manifests in strange places, like subtitled movies. Fortunately, as a follower of Christ I know that I don't have to bank anything on perfecting that killer swordstrike, or performing any other kind of extra-normal shenanigans. I don't even have to be an ace at the regular stuff. As Paul reminds us, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Cor. 12:9) And again, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13) It's quite a relief, if you think about it. Sure saves me a lot of hours at the dojo, anyway.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Quick and simple

In the midst of dressing like Waldo for the company Halloween contest, I said a bothered "hello" to a co-worker.

Then I found out this co-worker was one of the judges. My spirit perked up. Suddenly she had more value to add to my life.

As you're certainly well aware, that's not really the way to treat people. In fact, a line that's always stayed with me is that "every single person is someone for whom your savior died."

Pretty much I should treat everyone like they were a judge. After all, even corrupt tax collectors can love those who love them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thoughts on fear

Like God, blogs where you aren't the only contributor are easy to return to, even if you've
ignored them for a very long time...

And fortunately for all of us, that isn't the real reason I'm posting here.

Yesterday, I more or less participated in a discussion about fears, and at some point it struck me how irrational our fears often are (you might say that fear is an emotion, and so by definition
is not rational, and I guess I'd have to give you that, but hopefully you get what I mean). Fear is a natural reaction to danger; thus if you find yourself in an active minefield, it would make sense for you to be afraid of death or injury by underground explosives. So many of our fears, though, aren't in response to a present danger. Reality is twisted and shadows elongated in our minds until we become scared of all kinds of things that might be, but aren't. And not just things like, "there might be a mine there, because this is a minefield." I mean stuff like "this isn't a minefield, but there might be a mine there..." when of course there is no mine, because you're in the Yukon and no one lays mines there or ever will. Spiders, hot cooking oil, and probably most other phobias don't warrant much worry either. But still, we carry these things around all the time.

Ironically, faith is frequently deemed irrational, a belief in uncertainties, and juxtaposed against reason. This is a misleading dichotomy, though, because in so many instances faith sides with reason, and these oppose fear. This is the formula I tend to see in the Bible. No wonder the most common command in scripture is to not be afraid.

Here is where I would insert an incisive conclusion, but I don't have one yet, so I'll just encourage you to explore the topic yourself. Here's a start:

Hebrews 13:5-6
God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Granted the Sox season is over now, but...

Actual text message exchange between myself and my friend Julie before game 7 of the ALCS on Sunday night:

Me: Don't stop believing Jules
Her: I can't...they won't let me...

I thought that was perfect -- not as a description of the Red Sox, necessarily, but of God. Every time I've wanted to stop believing in Him, He's done something that keeps me from losing faith. I can't stop believing in Him...He won't let me.

(and sure, the Sox lost...but that seems a bit irrelevant, now doesn't it?)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm blogging, as promised

So I'm actually blogging my trip over at leishainafrica.blogspot.com.

Also, Mike or someone needs to update the header for our HC blog to reflect the fact that we now meet on Tuesdays.

Kwaheri,
Leisha

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keep the faith


Several months back, I used the 2004 Red Sox as a metaphor to illustrate my point that "the fun is in the faith." The point was that, as the Sox began their incredible, never-been-done-before comeback from a 3-0 deficit, I couldn't be bothered to believe it possible. Same thing happened in 2007 when they came back from 3-1. It's like I believed I'd somehow be rewarded for dropping my faith. Instead, in each case, I ran from my faith. In each case I wound up feeling silly. The Red Sox came back from waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back and I found myself wondering why I'd bothered doubting them in the first place.

This behavior also surfaced in my walk with the Lord, of course -- those times where I really wanted to believe, but found it somehow too risky to believe in the improbable, in His power.

* * *

Probably the biggest thing I learned in the past year was a corollary to that last bit: if I'm going to say I believe in an all-powerful God, I need to act like it. I need to believe it. For the past several months, I did that. Even if things didn't wind up the way I wanted them to, I believed they could. I believed that all things were possible through the Lord.

Earlier today I was thinking about the 3-1 series deficit the Sox were facing this year. I was tired of reading the pundits talk about past Sox comebacks. As far as I was concerned, they were cooked. Everyone on the team looks tired and the difference between this year's situation and past years, I was quick to point out, is that this year's team is less talented than their competition (unlike 2007 vs. Cleveland and 2004 against the Yankees). Between injuries to several key players and generally being not as good as Tampa Bay, I figured this season was over. I didn't even plan to watch the game.

But Mike, I internally dialogued, doesn't this contradict your newfound belief, in, well, belief? If you believe all the crazy, improbable things in the Bible, if you truly believe that all things are possible through Christ...I mean, is it so hard to believe a baseball team can win three games in a row, even with inferior talent?

For more than two hours, there looked to be no reason to believe. Through six innings, the Sox were down 7-0 and had two (2) hits. My friend Meg and I just wanted the game to end early enough to be able to see The Office. Then, despite my lack of faith, I was rewarded: the Sox, down to their last seven outs, scored eight runs to win game 5 and complete the greatest postseason single game comeback in 79 years (!)

Winding down afterwards, I couldn't help but think about how this again mirrors my walk with the Lord. After the 2007 baseball season, I promised I would never again stop believing. Obviously that didn't happen. Again, I feel silly for ever doubting. It will, I'm sure, be the same thing with my relationship with God. I'm sitting here, trying to convince myself that I'll never stop believing in Him. Thing is, someday I will doubt him again. It might not be an overt thing where I actually say aloud "I doubt you, God," but my actions, my inner beliefs will say those words.

But you know what the greatest thing is? Even when I have trouble believing, God loves me, and cares for me and prays for me. I'd love to be able to say "I will always believe, with all my heart," but it's probably not true. Even when it's not true, though, I know He is there for me. In my absolute weakness, when I have lost all belief, when I cannot find even a glimmer of hope, that's when He is strongest. And for that, my friends, I am more thankful than anything else.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What people really want

I once heard where the perfect government would be an omnipotent dictator. That thought has stuck in my head as I've watched these debates, which have essentially boiled down to:

Candidate A: You were wrong about this
Candidate B: You were wrong about this other thing

OR

Candidate A: You flip flopped your views on this
Candidate B: You flip flopped your views on that

That's fine. That's politics. Maybe we can argue about it sometime.

Here's something else I've noticed about politics: People do want an omnipotent dictator. Why else would they expect someone to be right about everything?

Or, let's look at the flip-flopping bit:
Sometimes it's a result of being easily swayed. Other times it's because a new situation has presented itself and now the person has to react to it. Situations change and sometimes the strongest thing to do is change your opinion, policy or whatever.

Try as they may, politicians are not omnipresent or omnipotent, much as people want them to be. There's only one person I know who fits that description...whether people realize that's who they're longing for is another matter altogether.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Decent chance this post ticks you off

The Presidential election is I believe one month from today. I cannot wait for it to get here. Sure, I’ll miss the endless partisan YouTube and email forwards telling me that Candidate X is stupid, doesn’t know how many states there are, claims to read every newspaper, etc. It’s going to bring a tear to my eye when I can no longer hear friends argue with each other on issues about which they don’t actually know that much. Believe me, all of this is going to bring a tear to my eye.

Here’s the thing: I can’t help but wonder why Christians start freaking out when their party looks like they won’t win. To me, the subtext of this mindset is something along the lines of “everything is going to go wrong if Candidate X is elected.” I know it’s easy to fall into this trap with anything you care about. I’d imagine there’s a more productive mindset to have.

Which is:
God’s power is big. Huge. Beyond adjectives. Regardless of what political party is elected, He can handle it. I don't know much, but I know that.

Call me crazy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I love gum.

I found a dusty pack of Fruit Stripe gum on the bottom shelf of a convenience store last week, and I've been chewing my way through the pack. (Remember Fruit Stripe has the zebra and the temporary tatoos?) Fruit Stripe is simultaneously the most amazing and most repulsive gum ever. It's intended fruity flavor lasts approximately sixty seven seconds, then becomes disgusting and leaves your breath smelling like ass until you spit it out and put another piece in. That's why I've already chewed five pieces of gum today, and it's only 1:30pm.

On an entirely different note, here's an excerpt from an email from Home Community friend, triathelete, Maine resident, med student, and general Renaissance man Will Boylston. If you weren't a tiny bit jealous of him before...well, just read this.

"I also just moved to a new house that has a small river as the border to the back of the property, and got to celebrate the move by canoeing from my backyard, through some riffles, out to a major river, all at night with a full moon."

Amazing, yes? Only a little more amazing than the first ten seconds of a stick of Fruit Stripe gum.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beware the friend collectors

So it may seem like I’m just universally unaccepting of anything mainstream. I won’t deny having that as a portion of my personality (though I promise I’m not always countercultural). With that said, my hesitance towards Facebook (and before that, My Space) had legit foundation:

  1. I never wanted my students to be able to see too much into my personal life; and
  2. I was always a little worried about friend collecting.

Here’s what I mean about that last part:

One of the most important sermons I ever heard was one wherein the pastor talked about how “every human you pass on the street is someone for whom your savior died.” I loved that not just because of its impressive grammar (notice for whom) but also because it put into words what appealed to me about Jesus. To Him, every person on this earth – friend or foe – was someone who could be saved. Everyone was someone of value.

Meanwhile, my whole thought about Facebook is that it causes us to devalue other people. One of my favorite series at Imago was about the core idols. Specifically, I remember how someone with the power idol was described: someone who uses other people as commodities. That, in my opinion, is exactly what Facebook promotes. Accept friends just to bolster your friend count. Invite others for the same reason. Post a note on someone’s page so that someone else sees it. And so on. This is not how we’re meant to live. Jesus had twelve people he directly influenced (and from what I understand, you can argue that number is more like three). Now it’s two thousand years later and we’re meant to believe that we – mere humans, mind you – are intended to have 367 friends?

(Note: Don't get me wrong, there are benefits to the site as well. I'd hate to sound like one of those Christians who decried the advent of TV as the devil's work. I'm just saying is all. I'm just saying)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Segue ("seg-way") required

(I think there should be a requirement for segue between posts. They don't have to be good. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7RyqHs79l0 for inspiration.)

Speaking of injustices like Favre's back-stabbing "return" to the Jets... (I told you it didn't have to be good.)

I've been watching this show called The Pretender on hulu.com. My love for TV on the internet and eternal appreciate to Jon So for pointing me to hulu are well documented on Zloop. The premise of The Pretender is that this genius named Jarod can learn pretty much anything in a tiny amount of time. After being used by an evil corporation to do evil for many years, he escapes, and while on the run from said evil corporation, he travels around learning different vocations and righting injustices.

I used to love this show, but this time around, something has been bothering me, and I couldn't put my finger on it until the last episode I watched. Jarod was posing as a CDC investigator to expose another CDC scientist as a murderer. At the end of each episode Jarod arranges some event that exposes the murderer and forces them to confess. In this episode Jarod makes the murderer think he's been exposed to the horrible Ebola-like virus that he used to kill his victim. Jarod leaves the murderer trapped in a glass decontamination booth thinking that he's dying (although he isn't).

What I finally identified as bothering me is how ugly justice can be without grace. It can definitely be argued that this murderer deserved the terror he experienced, thinking he was dying the same way he had killed another person. Indeed, some would argue that he deserved far worse, but it just served to remind me of what I deserve and how grateful I am for grace. I'm even more grateful that God's grace isn't half-assed grace that makes us suffer part, if not all, of what we deserve.

Right now he's doing the same thing to a doctor who went back and paralyzed, then autopsied her own hit and run victim. ugh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Couldn't Have Said it Any Better Myself




I don't even think I need to add anything. So I won't.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I also say "munce" instead of "months"

When I was a kid, I figured I'd go to Heaven as long as I got through life without cursing 100 times or more.

What I never counted on was an inability to properly pronounce words with "sk" in them,
An overwhelming ability to pronounce "sk" words as "ss" onces,
And that "asked" would be one of those words I say 78 times daily.

So here's hoping I was wrong with that >100 curses = eternal life hunch.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's not that I particularly like the Olympic announcing, but...

For whatever reason I'm really into the Olympics this year. Maybe it's a good year, maybe I've changed, maybe I'm just looking for a reason to not write my thesis. Point is, I've been watching as much China '08 as possible. For the first time ever, this includes gymnastics.

The thing about watching gymnastics is that it all looks amazing to me. Were it not for an announcer telling me about degree of difficulty, deductions, et al, I wouldn't have any idea what's going on. Not surprisingly, this reminded me of my walk with the Lord. I'd like to think I know a bit more about life than I do about, say, the parallel bars, but the fact remains: I have to look to him to guide me. He has to be the one telling me what's right, what's wrong and what path I should go down.

It's hardly a novel thought...but it is one I should always keep in mind.

Also, it's like 127 degrees in my house.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"These are not the droids you're looking for"

My roommate Dane says that all of creativity originates somewhere in the Bible. I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell him otherwise.

It's funny because on some level I've always thought of the gospel in terms of Star Wars. Like, "the force" is the holy spirit, that invisible current of power running through God's chosen people. Then there's the way Obi-Wan Kenobi died but warned Darth Vader that his death would only make him stronger. In my (admittedly warped) mind, this parallels Jesus dying and coming back stronger in resurrection.

Then there's the famous jedi mind trick Obi Wan uses in the first/fourth Star Wars (those stupid prequels make it difficult to reference the right movie. I'm talking about the very first Star Wars ever in a theater, from like 1977). Remember it? Guards all over the Tattoine Desert are told to be on the lookout for two droids. As they venture over to inspect R2 and 3PO, Obi Wan waves his hand in front of them and tells them "these are not the droids you're looking for."

I was thinking about this as I read 2 Kings 6, where Elisha plays the role of Obi Wan:
As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.Elisha told them, "This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for." And he led them to Samaria.

Do you hear what I hear? Jedi mind tricks in the Old Testament? As Dane said, all creativity originates from Scripture. Makes sense to me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What asthma has taught me

Sometimes I think my whole life was ruined by growing up with an inhaler. I mean this not because the inhaler is representative of asthma, asthma has made me weaker, etc, but because the inhaler works so darn well. Two puffs of medicine and my breathing problems are gone. It’s an instant fix.

Problem is, I’ve been using an inhaler since I was eight and somewhere along the lines I think I expect all results to be so instant. All medication should work that fast, I should be able to prepare for a marathon in a third of the time it takes everyone else and why do I have to keep waiting for this job promotion?

Plus, what takes my prayers so long to work? Will they ever work? Can’t God just snap his fingers and make things happen? What is taking so long?

Look, it’s hardly news that Christians can be impatient. We’re not immune to that problem (or any earthly problem, for that matter). But as I’ve written before (and I will doubtlessly write again), we need to think of things in God’s time. He’s the God of patience, who wants everyone to come to repentance. We just need to remember it happens on his time, not ours…which is a good thing. Sometimes the result of prayer is immediately obvious. Other times it takes a while. Thing is, as impatient as I can be for things to happen right now, I think it’s cooler when it takes a while. Like, I’m praying for growth in a certain facet of life and as I’m seemingly not growing at all, He is building me up. How awesome is that??? Like, I’m sitting at my desk not feeling any growth, but I know He’s working on me. Man, I love that.

All of which is a long way of saying:
1. I need to be more patient;
2. When I’m not patient, I need to remind myself that God is working on it; and
3. I needn’t worry about the result…He has a much better idea of how to do things than I do (smiley face)

Friday, July 25, 2008

What I learned from The Dark Knight (non-spoiler edition)


Like so many others before me, I thought of the Jersey shore during Batman: The Dark Knight. One of the movie’s major themes is that evil fights hardest after it’s been challenged. The moment you try to bury it, evil shifts into a new gear that’s more intense than ever. Noticing this, I thought of the Jersey shore –

See, I was at my parents’ beach house in Brigantine a couple weeks back. Rinsing the sand off my feet, I for the millionth time noticed the difference between the white sand (which comes off really easy) and the black sand (which has to be scrubbed off and sometimes doesn’t rinse off at all). Something hit more during this rinse off: the sand was like sin. The white sand is the sin you can clean up just by adding a little focus and prayer to your life. But the black sand…this is the sin that cuts deep. This is the stubborn sin, the kind to which you have to pay complete attention. You have to meditate on it, pray about it, work with your Christian brothers and sisters to hold you accountable. It’s not going to easily go away.

I think that’s what I saw in Batman. Without giving much away, I’ll tell you that the good guys thought evil would vanish away like white sand: it’s gone after a light brushing or a quick rinse. Turns out it they were dealing with black sand, that deep-seeded stuff that won’t go away without extreme effort. Oh, but when it does disappear…that’s the best thing ever. Evil can fight back harder than ever but what’s worth noting is that good is stronger than evil. You just have to be obedient and have faith in that. As it says in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Let’s make that devil flee today!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quote to start your week


From Free Byrd, a wonderful book I've just begun reading:
The truth is, my love was considered so valuable by God that he gave his Little Boy over to a torturous death in hopes of getting a little back from me. A friend once told me that if I were the only sinner on the planet God would still have sent his son down here for me in order that I might come home to him one day. (p. 20)
More to come...love this book

I just need to know

Let's say you're seated in the middle of the row.
Let's say you wish to get up to take communion.
Let's say you wait until the second song to do this.
Let's say the two girls next to you are thick in eyes closed, exalted arms raised worship...

What's the procedure here? Are you supposed to tap them on the shoulder, break their meditation and ask to be let out? Slide by them without touching? Hop down two rows -- not an easy task -- so as to avoid disturbing them?

These are the things I wonder about.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Does this man look like God to you?


My feeling is that, whether they realize it or not, people want God in their life. They want someone to point them in the right direction. Problem is, people also want the glory seized from having gone in said right direction.

Take what happens to this guy Matthew Berry, for instance. He writes a column on espn.com in which he advises people on what players to start, sit, pick up, trade for, etc in fantasy sports. For the unaware, “fantasy sports” are those in which regular people – myself, your Spanish teacher, whomever – draft real life players to compete against each other in a variety of statistical categories. As dull as that may sound on paper, people get really into it. Your fantasy team becomes a major source of conversation and, for a disturbing percentage of the population, it’s even an impetus for bragging rights. Hey, whatever works for ya.

Anyway, Matthew Berry – or “The Talented Mr. Roto”, as he’s apt to call himself – will occasionally publish letters from his readers. Typically there will be a few people blaming Berry for that week’s fantasy league loss. “Why did you tell me to trade for Carl Crawford? You’re such an idiot. How did you get this job anyway?” and that sort of thing.

You’ll probably notice this phenomena in other walks of life as well – blaming Clark Kellogg for erroneous NCAA Tournament picks, wanting to wring Jim Cramer’s neck for a stock suggestion gone awry. Had the result been in their favor, somehow I doubt the blamer would credit Berry or Kellogg or Cramer. In that case, of course, they would accept the glory sans reference to their advisor. I’ve seen it a million times. People talk about winning a fantasy league when all “they” did was follow the advice of some internet writer.

I think that anyone falling into this category secretly wants to believe in our God. They all want someone who will provide guidance through life, someone to follow. They don’t necessarily want to do a lot of independent thought – just someone, someone please tell me what to do! I don’t want to have to think for myself!

It's like the dog thing all over again: people will thrash about looking for answers, they'll ask their friends, Wikipedia, whatever. But the real peace is only through the Lord...and knowing that is pretty much the best feeling of all.

(and my guess is that, if He really wanted to, He would help you with your fantasy football team as well)

A little preposition goes a long way

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Notice it's not just believing Him -- it's believing IN Him? Demons, satan...they believe He's the son of God as well. It's the fact that we believe IN Him that matters.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unskinny bop

In 10th grade I liked the song “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” so much that I worked its lyrics into an English paper. Having read today where the lead guitarist has since become a Christian, it’s reminding me that the song’s title is also about the problem of man.

(that was Poison...right?)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another dog/person comparison

My dog Foster was a restless puppy. Actually, “restless” doesn’t cover it. He regularly jumped on the dinner table. He attacked lawn mowers, slippers and vacuum cleaners as if they were satanic objects. He was probably the only dog ever banned from the Springfield Township Dog Hotel. Eventually it reached the point where we had to take him to a trainer.

From the beginning, I felt badly for Foster. Whereas he’d had free reign over the house, the second the obedience trainer opened the door it was a brand new ballgame. The second he jumped on the table, a Coke can filled with coins went flying his direction. Attempted vacuum cleaner murder resulted in him being yanked backwards by his choke chain. Watching “obedience school” was like watching torture.

My family expressed concern about this torture effect. What the trainer said stuck with me. Left pseudo-trained, Foster was going to be restless for the rest of his life. Providing him with training, calling him towards obedience – this was the only way he would ever be at peace.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

It strikes me that this same advice applies to our relationship with the Lord. He will allow us to thrash around and waste energy fighting unimportant battles. Some of us will go our whole lives doing that sort of thing. The only way we’ll ever reach a genuine level of peace – of freedom from disturbance – is to be obedient to what He tells us to do. After all, “The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"I need you so much closer"

One of my favorite things in the world (along with outdoor naps) is when you've heard a song a million times,
And you love it,
And you think you get its meaning,
And then you hear it one day with an even deeper meaning.

Case in point:
Death Cab's "Transantlanticism", specifically the chorus --
I need you so much closer
I need you so much closer
I need you so much closer
I need you so much close-er

So come o-o-o-on
So come o-o-o-on
I need you so much closer. I need God so much closer. Maybe not what Ben Gibbard was writing about. Certainly what I think about now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm down with this

My very first week (or possibly my very second week...kinda can't remember) at Imago featured a speaker named Shane Claiborne. As he lived in Philadelphia -- my original hometown, even if I more readily identify with Boston -- I talked to him after the service, asked where he was trying to make a difference, etc.

I've seen Shane's name pop up here and there over the past two and a half years and just yesterday found him on cnn.com endorsing Jesus for President. Czech it out here. My favorite excerpt:
"This is not about going left or right, this is about going deeper and trying to understand together. Rather than endorse candidates, we ask them to endorse what is at the heart of Jesus and that is the poor or the peacemakers and when we see that then we'll get behind them."

Claiborne says the movement of younger evangelicals is growing and looking at the Bible in more holistic terms. He is quick to say the call of Christ has more to do with how people live their lives on November 3 and 5 than how they vote on November 4.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Visual of the week

Step one: Picture Scrooge McDuck's Money Bin.
Here's some help if you're having trouble doing so:


Step two: Recall that God is rich not in terms of money, but in terms of mercy

Step three: Instead of picturing Scrooge swimming in his money...


...picture yourself swimming in God's mercy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Are you CCing God on your emails?

Sometimes I CC my boss on emails. Usually it’s because I want to make sure she sees certain information. Sometimes it’s because I need to use her authority to elicit a response from the person I’m emailing. Other times I CC her simply on emails showing what a good job I’m doing.

I was thinking about this in regards to how we treat the Lord. Am I CCing God on an email to the world? Am I CCing Him on an email just to show how great I am? Where do my motives lie?

Much of Scripture relates back to this idea of motive, to this idea of what’s in your heart. Matthew 5:8 tells us that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Here’s to hoping He is the intended recipient of my emails, with the rest of the world CC’d. I’m meant to live as a vessel for him, to live as a living sacrifice. So my prayer today is for my heart to be guarded against pride, and for God to be the subject of my life, not just another audience member.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Heaven

Was talking to my friend Sarah about this recently --

You know how the classic argument for going to Heaven says you'll make it there if you're a "good person"? And it has nothing to do with serving the Lord, believing in Christ as the savior, etc? Let's just say for a minute that such a view is accurate...what would those "good people" do in Heaven? Like, literally, what would their activities be? Continue with self-motivated activities? What would they do?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I knew this was going to happen

In December I wrote this post detailing both my pseudo-obsession with Jennifer Nettles and my hope that nothing happens to her. I love her without actually meeting her but I'm scared she's going to wander down the dark road of fame and fortune. In short, I said, "we're only about six months away from google searches where half the results for her name bring back sites called "Jennifer Nettles is hottttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It appears that particular prediction was, unfortunately, right on the money. Sugarland's "All I Want to Do" is the top music video on iTunes, ahead of slightly more famous acts like Michael Jackson, Mariah, Carrie Underwood and others.

Why is it so popular, you ask? Well, the whole thing starts with JN surfing in a bikini, then dancing in bikini, then...you get the picture.

So this is how it's going to be. Jennifer Nettles the hot girl. Sigh. Lord, please don't let anything happen to her.

Or, more accurately, please let her seek you when it all comes crumbling down.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Less people, more Bible part iii

As "luck" would have it, I was just directed to Matthew 12:36. I'd say it's fairly relevant to the two posts below:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Let's make sure we know what the heck we're talking about, okay?

Less people, more Bible part ii

There’s a great line in The Usual Suspects that says something like “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

Let's take that a step further:
Sometimes I think the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us we know what the heck we’re talking about. We’d be a lot better served echoing The Word than our own words.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Less people, more Bible

In a bizarre sequence of events, I wound up on the phone last night with this guy Eric. I didn’t – and still don’t – know the man but he got my number from the Imago website and suddenly we were chatting for 42 minutes at 10:30 at night.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll tell you that Eric is pretty freaking bitter towards Christianity. He’s obviously been burned by Christians before – I believe his quote was “I don’t know how you can associate yourself with other Christians” – and isn’t too fond of preachers either (“All preachers are crooks”). It stinks to hear someone say these things.

This was hardly the first time I’d heard complaints like these. Notice anything about Eric’s complaints? They were about people. They were not about Jesus. That’s quite a difference. People will disappoint you. Jesus will not.

Even once we become Christians, we need to remember this. Instead of continually being tied down in what my Christian friend thinks or what s/he advises me to do, we need to consult God. As my friend Josh says, we need to focus more on the Bible and less on people.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Confession time

When I took flights as a kid, I used to look out the window thinking I'd be able to see Heaven somewhere in the clouds

Friday, May 23, 2008

When in doubt, write about country music


For those of you who somehow missed the news, Sugarland – pretty much my all-time fave country band but whose summer tour I will torturously miss – won two American Country Music Awards this past week for “Stay.” I’m ecstatic. No, no, that doesn’t even cover it: I’m like a proud parent.

But the song I want to talk about in this here blog post isn’t “Stay.” It’s “Settlin’.” This song is basically my new life mantra. Why settle, in relationships or in life?

I don’t have a particular Bible verse to reference, but the gist of today's thought is this: God has plans for each of us. Those plans probably involve feats and duties of which we think ourselves incapable. Thing is, what significant Biblical figure ever feels ready for what God calls them to do? I think – and I’m talking from experience here – a lot of us tend to settle for our comfortable little world instead of obeying what God wants for us to do. Kinda communicates a lack of faith, don’t you think? As my friend Jennifer Nettles reminds us, we shouldn’t settle for “just getting by”; instead, let’s listen to God, “raise the bar high”, stop settling for comfort and make a difference in this world.

check it.

http://www.dear-god.net

Friday, May 16, 2008

Words that are overused in prayer

"Just"

Listen for it and you'll hear what I'm talking about

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Worship and why


I've written something similar to this before, but it bears repeating:

From birth I've been a "why" person. I think it was like my third word, and I've never really outgrown it. Remember how you used to ask your parents "why does ___ happen?" I still do that. The mindset never left me.

To be clear, everyone is looking for meaning at some point. But other types of people also wonder "how?" (as in how the process works), "what?" (what can be done) and so on. Those questions never concerned me. I just want to know why. Give me meaning or give me death.

I was thinking about this in regards to worship recently. I'm not sure if there's a specific definition of worship outlined anywhere in the Bible, but I'd imagine it's something along the lines of looking past yourself, focusing on Him and saying thank you. It's totally submitting yourself to God. To me, then, a large part of worshipping is removing my penchant for asking why, submitting to His will and simply accepting events without the need for meaning.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

God and the canines

Sometime during the boring drudgery of Mr. Marinell's high school English class, I taught myself to be dyslexic. Most people try to avoid this learning disability; I sought it out. True story. Hey, I've never been accused of being conventional.

I sat in the back of the classroom reading words from right to left (note: this is why I excel in the Cranium "GNILLEPS" category). Most of the results were fairly unproductive. For every "TARA is 'A RAT' spelled backwards" revelation, there were a hundred "INSTANT is 'TNATSNI' " types.

Every once in a while I'd read something interesting. DENNIS is SINNED. EVIL is LIVE. And, most importantly, DOG is GOD.

For a long time I thought of the dog-God parallel this way:
My dog loves me. He's never, ever sad or indifferent towards me. All I feel from him is love.

Now I'm trying to learn more from Dog = God:
Anyone who's ever seen me drive knows I'm not a patient person. It applies to other walks of life as well. Why is this taking so long? don't you want to get there faster? Why is Aspect X of my life taking so long to develop?

But now I'm trying to think of it in God's time. To Him, the time I have to wait for a job promotion is no time at all. Three more years to get my PhD after graduate school? Also not a long period of time (though it sounds like a small eternity to me).

So how can an impatient, I-want-results-and-I-want-them-now person like myself come to grips with God's time? I can think of my dog. See, to him (or any animal), time is moving faster than it is for us. We've all heard it: one human year is seven dog years. You know that feeling when you return from work and your dog treats you like he hasn't seen you in years? And you can't understand why he's so excited, because it's not like it's been that long? That's with a seven to one ratio. Now imagine God's ratio with us: eternity to one. Here's hoping that thought can (mind) (mind) me of God's timing.

Monday, April 28, 2008

From me? Or from God?

If you’re like me, you often have trouble discerning whether your motives are derived from yourself or from God. Of course, if you’re like me, you’re still eating PB+J three times a week at age 30.

The question of motive is a difficult one. Am I walking with God or walking with myself? I’d imagine everyone has asked this at some point.

Too often I allow this crisis of motive to paralyze my decision making. I’m always “waiting to hear from God” or “praying about what He wants me to do.” On some level that process is a good one. We should seek the Lord when making significant (and even minor) decisions.

Yet this method of decision-making can also present a lack of faith in Him. Ultimately I should trust that He has “trained” our hearts in such a way where we can follow our instincts. Revelation 3:7 tells us that Jesus has “placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” That’s the sort of thing we (or at least I) always focus on. Depending on His will, we can do anything. We've heard that before. What deserves equal focus is the second half of that verse, where we’re told “what he shuts no one can open.”

The "what he shuts no one can open" part of the verse is one we should focus on once we make our Great Big Decision. This is when I should ask for God to make obvious if the decision was based on the God – Mike partnership or on the Mike – Mike one. If it’s the latter, I have to trust that He’ll close the door. Once He does that, no one can open it.

(especially not someone who still relies on peanut butter and jelly to get him through his day)

Friday, April 25, 2008

A tiny taste of Heaven

Have any of you ever been walking through life, casually minding your own business, when a tiny bit of Heaven just drops on you?

Sometimes for me that has been a shaft of light through storm clouds or a sunrise or something like that.

Last Wednesday it came on NW 21st Ave on my way to happy hour through the inconspicuous guise of NPR.

Apparently this last Monday something virtually unprecedented happened at the Metropolitan Opera House. An audience was so moved by a performance that Peruvian tenor Jose Diego Florez gave an encore. They played part of his aria and my heart caught in my throat.

I have no idea what the premise of the opera 'The Daughter of the Regiment' is, or what Florez was singing about, but I think I may have come to a complete stop on the sidewalk while I just basked in the sound of that song. The sound felt like tangible beauty, and has been haunting me since Wednesday night.

You can listen to his performance here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89884693.

I have no idea why this song made me feel that way, but moments like that remind me that the Kingdom of God is pressing in all around us, if we are only aware.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The "freedom of religion" illusion

One of the things you'll hear all the time from people is "I think it's cool that you have religious faith. I think everyone should have freedom of religion." This is probably true -- to a point.

People love to pretend they're open to all religions. I have my doubts. I think what they're really saying is "I'm open to all religions the media tells me to be open to."

(note: if the person saying that were a grammar snob s/he would probably avoid ending in a preposition and instead opt for "I'm open to all the religions to which the media tells me to be open)

Think about it: do you ever hear people or "the media" defending Mormonism? Christian science? Scientology? Absolutely not. I certainly can't ever remember hearing it, anyway.

The term "freedom of religion" exists a) so people can avoid offending other people; b) to protect the powerful religions; and c) so people can use this as a way to justify not coming to Jesus (i.e. "I believe anyone who believes in a religion goes to Heaven" and that sort of thing).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quote of the day

From a man whose 14 year old, Swahili-speaking American daughter saved the lives of his family and others who would otherwise have died on a burning plane:

"I think we'll keep praying about [whether or not to move to the Congo]. We know that the safest place in the world to work is where the Lord wants you to work."

Amen, my man, Amen!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Speaking of Judges 7

Instead of commenting on Mike's previous post, I felt I had to create a new post. You see, I love Judges 7. For some reason, it is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. Seriously.

I think the main reason I love the story of Gideon and his little army is that it does seem so preposterous. Which is why we know God had to have a hand in it. I mean, God actually told Gideon his army should be smaller so the odds were so incredibly against them, they could only give credit to God.

Probably my favorite part of all is the dream the man in the Midianite camp had involving the barley loaf coming in and destroying everything.



One, because the mental image of a loaf of bread being that powerful and actually causing fear is just a bit funny. Two, because the meaning behind it is quite fascinating. A loaf a barley bread was considered not the greatest food of the time. Perhaps the Ramen noodles of the day. And it was an interesting way for God to show Gideon to trust Him, that his army could win this battle as they were the equivalent of a little barley loaf. So often throughout the Bible, God uses people/ things the rest of the world sees as insignificant. Really, no glory can be attributed to anyone but God because nothing could be accomplished without Him.

(A side note on the cartoon: I realize the barley loaf is saying "Midians" when the correct term would be "Midianites". This is actually intentional as a barley loaf would be uneducated. Yes, I have thought too much about this.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

What would Gideon think?

I was reading Judges 7 and 8 recently and thinking about how improbable it was. Gideon's army of 300 men defeating one of over 120,000??? How? Is it my Christian duty to believe this?

(Sidenote: I'd never seen this movie 300 but got all excited because I thought it was about this section of the OT. Apparently that's not the case. Woulda been cool though)

(Especially since multiple people have told me I look egg-zactly like one of the main characters)

Soon thereafter, I started thinking about whether I actually believe every word of the Bible. Ten foot tall giants felled by a slingshot? A man hanging out in a whale's mouth for three days? Every living organism crowded onto a single ark? Seemed pretty improbable. Did I really believe in ALL of it?

Then I mulled it over from the other person's point of view. Would Gideon believe that I could sit here at my dining room table, typing on a white box that could somehow transmit my words to every corner of the globe? Would he believe there are faster means of transportation than walking or riding donkeys? I mean, just think of all this stuff. Driving in cars. Watching movies. Flying across the country in five hours. Taking a pill to help your headache disappear. Pressing a few buttons and being able to unfreeze food.

Point is, I know I tend to view these events from thousands of years ago as being completely unlikely and borderline false. But what would Gideon (or any Biblical character) think if he were reading about my life? Would the technological age make any sense to him? Somehow I'd imagine this seems improbable as well.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Too Busy to Notice

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

I heard about this story on NPR the other day where, as an experiment, they placed a professional violinist in the Metro station posing as a street performer to see how people would react. Obviously, the music was beautiful, but the overwhelming majority of people did not stop or take any notice. After a stellar performance, a grand total of $32 was all he made. The main observation was that most people were just too busy or focused on anything else to pay attention.

This reminded me of awhile back when we were discussing the homeless population and the majority of people refuse to even look them in the eye. We've become apathetic and ignore the poor, the street performers, the people begging on the street. But just like the people at the Metro station missed an amazing, beautiful performance I think there's so many times I miss something really beautiful too. Each of these people has a story, has a life, and is loved by God. I should take more time to listen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I wonder if the Rose Garden was in 2 Samuel somewhere

You know that feeling when you were a little kid and your school was on the local news? I think I found the church equivalent. There, I was, innocently reading Judges 4, when I stumbled upon verse 6:

She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Napthali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Napthali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor.'

If you don't think I said "Mount Tabor" aloud while exaltedly lifting my arms over my head, you don't know me very well.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

There are three things which Leisha hates, yes, four which are an abomination to her

ABOMINATION NUMBER ONE
my own lazy assI've been convicted consistently over the past few weeks that I need to get my butt up in the morning in time to spend some quality time with God. Yet, consistently I wake up when my alarm goes off, and talk myself into snoozing for ten more minutes, sometime like, twenty times! What is up with that? One the one hand I think "just try harder!", but that's just not what God wants from me. He wants me to desire that time with Him, to look forward to it as a precious part of my day. Unfortunately, Pastor Pillow is sooo seductive, which leads me to...

ABOMINATION NUMBER TWO
My addiction to comfort
This is something I've been battling for ages, this addiction to making my life as child-proofed as possible. No sharp edges, no places where I might fall and get a boo-boo, no discomfort of any kind. It reminds me of this Archie comic tract thing I saw one time where Archie's car breaks down and he and Jughead end up at this creepy mansion (all Dracula-slash-Hotel California style) where all of their desires are offered them. Archie is sent to this room full of cushions and beautiful women who feed him grapes, and Jughead is sent to this room full of food, all of his favorites. Eventually they come to realize that it's a prison, and escape by the power of Jesus somehow. (I'm a little fuzzy on that part, although the owner of the house was called Beelzebub.) Anyway, I see my life very much like that prison cell full of pillows and cushions where the more I settle in and get comfortable, the more isolated I become from the real world, and more resistant I am to change, especially change that attacks...

ABOMINATION NUMBER THREE
How cool I apparently think I am
A couple of weeks ago in church I was struck by the amazing potential God has put in me. I mean, if I were wholly submitted to God, He could do phenomenal things through me. I think of the incredible work that He's done through truly humble vessels, and I marvel that He could do amazing things in and through me as well. Even my imagination of what that could be is only a tiny fragment of God's imagination for me, but that fragment astounds me. As I was envisioning that, I was struck with the thought "What is it about me now that I think is so cool that I'm fighting to maintain this current state?" Apparently there's something about me now that I am so impressed with that I would rather preserve it than to abandon all and just run hard after Jesus, but in reality, that something is nothing. There is nothing about me now that I can boast in, because what is good is already a gift from God, and what is bad is ugly and petty.

If only knowing these things in my head was enough to make them active in my life, but alas, it's not.

Oh, yeah, the fourth abomination:

ABOMINATION NUMBER FOUR
Eating a supposedly healthy snack, a fruit cup, then finding this on the back



Seriously?! It's the fifth ingredient behind the chunks of fruit, but AHEAD of the cherries! Also, this pre-packaged serving is not, in fact, one serving, but two. Why? What the crap is the point of putting two servings in one un-resealable package?! (Who knew fruit could enrage me so much?)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The curse of asking why

I was talking to my friend Katie tonight about death and why it happens when it does. Then we wondered if asking questions, searching for meaning....are these really the right things to do in that situation?

We're humans. At some point we train ourself to ask why things happen. Might we be better off otherwise? Instead of hearing how Person X died from a heart attack, then mourning because if we'd only kept him from eating so many cheese fries maybe he'd still be with us today, it's probably better to simply know that Person X died.

Rather than searching for a cause of death, maybe we should read death as more of a statement of fact, a statement of trust. The Lord took him from us at this time. That much we know. Instead of wrestling with why Person X died at this time and what we could have done to prevent it, we should implicitly trust the Lord's plan. Isn't that a real form of worship?

"At least you're not homeless"

I've been in a funk recently. There's a huge burden hanging over my heart, but I don't know what it is. I feel like I'm in the middle of some great big riddle or something.

I was having a whinge about this yesterday at Powell's. I must have been loud (no surprise there) because the guy next to me stood up to leave and muttered "at least you're not homeless."

A part of me wants to rebut that statement. Ultimately all of our worldly possessions fade away, right? And the most important thing -- more than my iPod or MacBook or Posturepedic pillow -- is that I've accepted the Lord in my life. Really, it's not the most important thing; it's the only important thing.

On top of that, "at least I'm not homeless" asks me to feel better based on comparison to someone else. Something about that doesn't feel right. Couldn't I easily go in the other direction, feeling badly because I don't have more?

Yet somewhere in there I guess there's an element of truth. I have stuff. I live in a house. I needn't worry about running out of money (I don't think). My major issues usually involve avoiding the urge to self-destruct. Somewhere in there I need to be thankful. I guess I just don't know how much. In some ways, it seems like the more thankful I am for Stuff, the more I start relying on that Stuff.

Friday, March 28, 2008

maybe they didn't have health insurance?

Parents Pick Prayer Over Docs; Girl Dies

This will probably add more fuel to the faith vs. science war that's not going anywhere but south..

It seems like the family still has a tremendous amount of peace? It's sick but I kind of like that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Inspirational Country Music Lyrics of the Day

Feeling down? Like life on this world is a bit overwhelming? Let's allow Faith Hill to inject some hope into your life:

It's not easy trying to understand
How the world can be so cold, stealing the souls of man
Cloudy skies rain down on all your dreams
You wrestle with the fear and doubt
Sometimes it's hard but you gotta believe

Chorus: There's a better place, where our Father waits
And every tear He'll wipe away
The darkness will be gone,the weak shall be strong
Hold on to your faith
There will come a day, there will come a day

Wars are raging, lives are scattered
Innocence is lost, and hopes are shattered
The old are forgotten, the children are forsaken
In this world we're living in Is there anything sacred?
There will come a day, there will come a day

The song will ring out, down those golden streets
The voices of earth with the angels will sing
Every knee will bow, sin will have no trace
In the glory of His amazing grace
Every knee will bow, sin will have no trace
In the glory of His amazing grace

There will come a day, there will come a day
Oooh there will come a day
I know there's coming a day, coming a day

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stunning realization of the week

There's a colloquialism (is that really spelled correctly? or is it just not in the blogger dictionary?) saying "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know." It strikes me that this is the complete opposite of the Christian faith. As opposed to trusting the "devil we know", we are basically called to step out on a limb especially when we don't know what's out there.

Thanks to tonight's group members Kristin and Hilary for combining on this thought

Monday, March 24, 2008

Avoiding the temptation to plagiarise

Ordinarily, I'd just take this thought and make it my own, but I decided against that course of action since the author is one of my old roommates from Wyoming. But I love love LOVE these thoughts regarding God and children. Czech it out.

Tiger and Orange Fest

Virtually anything (and anything, virtually) can make it onto the Internet; it's kind of amazing. Sometimes I wish there were inherent online standards that would keep things up to snuff and generate a "Rejected from the 'net" message as it deflects unworthy material. But I realize that such standards are very hard to set and apply, and this blog would probably be a lot shorter and less interesting. Intermittent protests would erupt across Portland, and our bumper stickers would blame Dick Cheney for our lack of freedom. But everything on the Internet would be fantastic.

Anyway, all I wanted to do here is share a couple stories I found recently. First, according to Golf.com, Tiger Woods has verified his golfing greatness by defeating God by one stroke in a round of 18. In case you still haven't caught on, that Tiger Woods guy handles the clubs pretty well. I've never had a tee time with the Lord, but the story makes me think: how do my own endeavors relate to God? What would I do differently if I could see Him walking there next to me? And am I trying to outdo Him at anything?

Secondly, there is this Italian town that holds a festival each year, in which participants hurl oranges at each other, three days in a row. The International Herald Tribune mentions a "civics lesson from annual orange battles," but in reading the report I found no such lesson (there is an implied lesson, but it's about the value of protective eyewear). There's a bit of (questionable) history to it, but the celebration is mostly one of pointless modern excess. Still, I like it. I like it, not just for its humor, but as an example of how something can be utterly useless, yet still be worthwhile. Of course, lots of things are that way (it's called "fun"), but I know that I sometimes dismiss things for not being useful or pragmatic enough, when really there is nothing wrong with them.

Oranges are still in season, right?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

God and how to answer a basic job interview question

One of my favorite things is when I’m minding my own business, another day in the working world and then God says “Hey! Look! I’m right here in front of you! In the middle of your work day!” Here’s the latest example:

Part of my job is to advise students on interviewing. The flaw of interviewing is that most people assume they’re good at it; after all, it’s not difficult to talk so how hard can it be to interview? That’s why I try to prepare them for some of the more difficult interview questions. My favorite is the “what are your weaknesses?” question. This question is actually asking upon what you need to improve. The best way to answer is a three step process:

1. Identify the weakness;
2. Explain why it’s a weakness; then
3. Tell me what you’re doing to fix this weakness.

Simply identifying the weakness is not enough. As I tell students, employers are not in the habit of hiring someone who has a weakness without any inclination to mend it. Imagine someone who is content in his/her lack of organization. Would you want to hire that person?

It strikes me that this process should be part of my walk with the Lord as well. It’s not enough to merely know areas of life where I sin. I need to do something about it.

For example, I know I have a problem with loving in sincerity (as in Romans 12:9). Is it good enough for me to simply tell people “I struggle with sincerely loving people”? Absolutely not. It’s a starting point. I’ve identified the problem. I’ve identified why it’s a problem. But I haven't done anything to improve upon the problem. If I’m not meditating on the sin, praying for the Spirit to overcome it, I’m not actually helping the problem. In that scenario, I’m allowing sin, rather than Jesus, to act in me…and I’m willingly living by its dictates instead of asking the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness.

Imagine a person who knew s/he was weak in one part of his/her faith, but was content in that weakness. Would you allow that person into Heaven?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life simplification, gas price style

My guess is that the escalating cost of gas won't actually change lifestyles to any great extent. I'd love to think it will persuade more people to take public transportation, bike from place to place, etc. but those who do so will likely be in the minority.

My mind likes to play all the possibilities, though, and today I was thinking about what might happen if gas prices actually caused people to stay in more, avoid driving from Beaverton all the way in to Portland just to have a drink, stopped going out of their way to do things that are costing $8 in gas mileage.

What if the cost of gas caused people to slow down? Sit at home reading a book instead of running about at breakneck speed? Walk around your community noticing things rather than treating it only as an area in which to live? Focus on a few close friends rather than trying to catch up with 32 different ones at the Lucky Lab?

I know I'm romanticizing the whole simplified lifestyle, but I can't help wondering if the gas prices could actually pull us closer to the Lord. We're in this Facebook world replete with faux relationships. Were we designed to be that way? As my friend January pointed out months ago, Jesus only had 12 disciples. Realistically, the core group of those disciples was only three deep. Sure, he talked to others, but he focused on a very small number of people rather than trying to gather a huge social network. He always kept his closest people with him. Might we be better off doing the same?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mystery Question of Life

When an atheist's sneeze is followed with "God Bless You," does that bother them? Always wondered that.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

david stern is kind of playing god

On Saturday night (3/15), the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat will replay the final 51.9 seconds of their Dec. 19 overtime game.

The Hawks believed they won that game 117-111, but commissioner David Stern overturned the result because Atlanta's stat crew incorrectly disqualified Miami's Shaquille O'Neal after his fifth foul (you foul out after six).

Miami will have the ball when the game resumes, trailing 114-111. After the replay is completed, the teams will get a 15-minute break, then return to the court for their regularly scheduled contest at Philips Arena.

-----------
This is really cool because if the Heat win, it will be a good story on justice and redemption. Life is not always fair and it won't wait for you to pick yourself up, but for the Heat.. the world will rewind itself and let them rewrite some history.

If you could relive 51.9 seconds of any point in your life, what point in time would you pick? And no, you do not get Mike Bibby or Shawn Marion to help you out.

I guess if you do have an answer to that, my question is if that point in time is holding you back from being your best?

And if you can even answer that, then how the heck do you live with regret?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is anxiety a sin?

Is anxiety a sin? I had this conversation with a friend a couple weeks back. The thought was that anxiety stems from worry; as we remember from Matthew 6:25-27, worrying “cannot add another minute to this life.” During times of worry we should look to the Lord and find our security in Him.

I was thinking about this at my insane 6 AM Bible Study today. Statistics show something like 1 in 3 Americans being depressed…and when does depression kick in? When you’re thinking about yourself, wrapped in your own mind, acting out the lyrics to U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” It’s the same basic thing as worrying about your life – when we’re feeling depressed, we need to remember the words from Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

When we’re feeling down and alone, as if there’s no one else to help us, we need to look closer. The Lord our God will be with us wherever we go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ode to #4

As I'm sure everyone knows (because they follow such things) Brett Favre announced his retirement from the Packers on Monday. Funny thing is, I think this helped me understand what the apostles must have went through when Christ left them. Exclamations of "No, we're not ready! Just a little while longer!" can be heard throughout the state of Wisconsin (pertaining to Brett) at this moment as I am most sure the apostles exclaimed as well (pertaining to Jesus, not Brett Favre). But the thing is, the impact had already been left. Jesus had equipped the Apostles to carry on in His absence and even left that Holy Spirit to really move things along. And as we can see, it clearly worked because from that rose the early church and from that, we were able to know Christ too. All that to say, I have hope for the future of the Packers. Will it be the same? Of course not. But, Brett has left his impact on his team; they have to carry on in his absence.

Of course, if I listen to what Jesus says here, I should give up football all together.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Holding on to it

Lying prone by the curb outside my neighbor's house today is a brown, tinder-dry, five-foot-long fir: a Christmas tree. It looks kind of sad, and I wonder how often we, as Christians, leave the weight of Christ's incarnation by the curb when it's not the "the holiday season."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Things going through my head at 5:30 in the AM

As I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was supposed to attend to my Wednesday morning Bible Study. Any 5:30 wake up call is intimidating. It’s even worse when a) you know you’re going to be running on less than five hours sleep; and b) you habitually fall into a pit of despair when your sleep is this limited.

With that in mind, I had divided loyalties this morning. A part of me wanted to go to church. A part of me wanted to grab an extra two hours sleep. I asked the Lord what I should do. No particular response.

Then something my roommate Dane once told me popped into my head: When you feel the urge to talk to someone – a friend, complete stranger, whomever – about Jesus, you shouldn’t doubt that urge. If every decision you make is motivated by either God or Satan…well, I think it’s pretty safe to say the idea of telling others about Jesus does not come from Satan. I can’t imagine that’s his strategery.

With that thought in my head, I knew I needed to suck it up and get out of bed. Like the idea of telling others about Jesus, the idea of me going to church could not have been prompted by Satan.

Examining this thought process further, my internal struggle is reminiscent of that described in Galatians 5: 16-17,

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

My sinful nature desired another two hours in bed. Obviously being fully-rested for work – as my “sinful nature” desired – would not have been a bad thing in and of itself…but it also would have kept me away from what the Spirit wanted me to do (attend the morning Bible Study). I’m pretty sure the Spirit is the one I want to continue following. Call me crazy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why I love country music

1. Because country music reminds me of open roads, mountains, rural areas, places where you glance out the window and see for miles and miles. In short, country music reminds me that I am very, very small. When I’m at my wits end worrying about [insert issue here] it’s comforting to recall that there is there is an enormous, all-knowing, all-powerful God who controls everything. We miss out on that feeling when we live in cities, a mere bowling ball’s throw away from our neighbors. Country music reminds me how big God is.

2. Because, as my friend Las Frijoles once said, San Antonio in country songs is always just San Antone. I love that.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mystery question of (after)life

When you sneeze in Heaven, do people bother saying "God Bless You"? Or is it a bit redundant by that point?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bible verse to start you on your week

1 Corinthians 2:9

However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"

Romans 15:13
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jesus, Light of the world

The sun was out yesterday; it was warm, enjoyable, and intoxicating (without the fizzy bite or bitter taste!). It also got me thinking about light, which I'm going to chalk up as yet another obvious thing I probably would have taken for granted, or otherwise overlooked, had God contracted me to build the universe (breathing; fingernails; sex;... yeah, it's a long list). I know I take it for granted now. With its abundance and convenience (and yes, the sun), light simply happens, and often I only need to respond to its consequences. Sure, I'll switch or clap on a lamp, and I'll notice when the bulb in the fridge goes out. But that's to avoid tripping and breaking my hand in the dark, and to find my cold one. Light is a mundane tool.

So? Does this matter? Maybe not... Although, the concept of light seeps into scripture frequently. Jesus claims to be the Light of the world; Christians are admonished to be light to the world ourselves, and to live "in the light." I wonder how often we take this spiritual light for granted too, using it to deflect hurt and find our cold ones without embracing its true significance. As a sermon reminded me this morning, the gospel isn't essentially about us fixing what we perceive to be wrong around us; Jesus is an end unto Himself. His "I Am" statement is especially important, no doubt, and we ought to inspect it if we are to take Christ seriously (and I don't mean that we should hyper-interpret His metaphors, but that we should explore who Jesus really is).