Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God's strength

It's only 4pm and yet I've had one of the best days and one of the worst days in a while, all rolled into one.

This morning, when I arrived at work, I was able to see and hear Coblie Caillat and Five For Fighting live. At work. That was cool. They are so extremly talented that I am in awe of how God has created such beauty in a human voice. I was elated.

After that, I returned to the real world of work at my desk and received the final straw that broke the camel's back (in this story I am the camel and that back is mine). I was furios and contemplated what it would feel like to yell, "That's it! I've had it!" and storm out the door. But I didn't.

How is it that God has created me to have so many emotions all in one day? I know he is at work here, but I'm having a hard time hanging on to just that. I need more grace and more hope here. Father, help me.

So often, when God places a call on one of His children, it requires a separation between the old life and the new life. There is a time of being away from the old in order to prepare the heart for what is coming. It can be a painful and difficult separation. Joseph was separated from his family. Jacob was sent to live with his uncle Laban. Moses was sent to the desert.
- OS Hillman

I am hanging onto the hope that God has placed a special calling on my life. That he has a plan for me and this is just a tiny spec on the map that will be my life. In order to make it through this desert time, I must press into him. That is the key.

Psalm 105:4 - Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Yet another detail I wouldn't have thought to include if I were in charge of creating the universe

Monday, November 23, 2009

Broke of Soul

By request, here is the "call to worship" that I wrote for Nov. 22:

Broke of Soul

I am surrounded by poverty.

I hear it in the clank of the coins in that old man’s can. I feel it in the woman’s wrinkled, scaly hands. I see it in those big and youthful, starving brown eyes.

These images form a single bleak picture that hangs on the walls of my heart. But if this picture is reality, then I do not know poverty. For this picture is Xeroxed from my world; it is not my actual world.

My poverty is not “out there.” It is “in here” … and it is abominable. I taste it in the bitter bite of apathy. I smell it in the stench of my stale heart. I drown in its waves of raging indifference.

Oh, Lord! I gasp for Your presence!

Would You save me from cheap, hollow distractions? Deafen my ears to the beckoning snap of the dollar bill; I want instead to hear the crack of my own heart as You reposition it rightly before You. Would You blind me to gold, glitz, and glamour? I want instead to see Your peace, justice, and faithfulness. Would You restore feeling where I am numbed by self-preservation? Oh that You would melt me with the wildfire of Your compassion!

You give me air, life, and breath that I might receive growth, promise, and hope. These lifesprings well up and bubble over. They tickle. They shine. They last. You, oh God, pour out your riches without measure. And I? I receive them without hesitation. For it is the treasures of Your abiding presence, oh Lord, that make whole my broken soul.

Live and learn

I heard the sermon on Sunday. And afterwards, I thought to myself that he was right. Poverty cannot be solved just by shoving material goods at people. The definition of poverty is not a lack of stuff, but a lack of a Savior. That good deeds without the Word is not effective. We must also tell people about King Jesus, not just offer them stuff. I was inspired! For about ten minutes. Then I said to Kevin, "I really want to have matching plates for Thanksgiving. Right now I have 5 blue plates and 4 white plates. Plus, they're ugly and chipped. I would like to get some new plates." My smart husband reminded me of the sermon we had just heard, and I cringed. How is it, that I can learn something, just to loose the lesson five minutes later?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What are your overheads?

You know how the grocery stores rearrange their stock every now and then, just to make you wander around and look at things? It's so disorienting, walking down the aisle to exactly where the shredded wheat lives, to suddenly come face-to-face with nothing but creamed corn and that soft, over-salted asparagus in the skinny cans. Certainly this isn't a customer-friendly practice, but they keep doing it, so I assume it generates some revenue.

I wonder if God doesn't do the same thing with us sometimes, when we start heading for the cereal aisle every time we walk in the door, because he knows that if he doesn't shake things up, we'll completely miss a lot of the great things he's made available for us.

This is not to say you should buy the creamed corn; it's just a reminder to be aware of God's bottom line as we attend to our routines, because he has so much more in store for us than we realize.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Have you ever noticed how practically everything is "like crack"? I'm going to apologize ahead of time for being hopelessly cliché. I just had this realization, though--sugar really is like crack!

Observe: common refined sugar.
Now, when I say it's like crack, I'm not referring only to its alleged addictive properties (though it is a convenient parallel); mostly I was thinking of the fact that the street drug and the sweetener share an uncanny resemblance as white, powdery substances, and the unfortunate truth that both provide a happy little "fix" while ultimately serving as a detriment to your health.

Crack, of course, is an illegal narcotic, but while sugar is getting some bad press lately, it remains deeply entrenched in our culture. Consider the phrase, "American as apple pie," for example. What makes an apple pie? A good crust, fruit, and lots of sugar. The stuff is all over the place in our traditions, our artistic expressions, and our everyday life.

Now, before this turns into an anti-sugar essay, let me say that sugar represents a common trend in America and in my own life, where we pursue things simply because they taste so good. We even, from time to time, try to convince ourselves that it's healthy. But we only try to do that because we know it's not. Meanwhile, our society is so wrapped up in a hedonistic paradigm that turning away just seems weird.

Enter Dr. Jerry Sittser. I had the opportunity to hear Jerry speak briefly yesterday, and he reminded me of a phenomenon that I hadn't thought about in awhile. Back in the day, (we're talking fourth century A.D., not the 1980's) droves of people ditched civilization completely and went to live in Middle Eastern deserts, where they battled demons, ate dates, and sat on pillars in isolation, all ostensibly with the goal of seeking God. I've always been a little skeptical of the "desert fathers" myself, but I think we can learn a lot from them about the value of discipline.

Asceticism was highly regarded in that time and region as a means to escape corrupt culture and foster spirituality; it seems strange to us, what those people were doing, and accordingly we as the church in America have largely turned our backs on the materially spare lifestyle they modeled. We don't even really use the term "asceticism" anymore, at least not for normal people. It's more the domain of hairless vegetarian Tibetans and extreme protesters.

This all might be another symptom of the somewhat misguided quest for cultural relevance, but it might also be due to our own purchase of the line everyone is trying to sell us--you should try to "get yours" (it's the American dream! The American way!) as long as you don't, you know, go overboard with it (everything in moderation!). We're blessed and God wants us to be happy, so the only limit to our excess is our own ability to justify it.

At this point I've written well past my intended stopping point, but suffice it to say that my life is probably built around the pursuit of superficial gratification more than I realize, and it's probably doing me less good than I think (and I suspect that I am not alone in this).

As a friend of mine once said, "I had a hatchet in one hand, and a drink in the other; it really was all about pleasure." It's an apt metaphor, I think; it's just what we do, and unfortunately it's hard to work for God when your hands are so occupied.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

God transforming my attitude

I just read this and thought it was an AMAZING story. God is so powerful and is always working around me. I believe I have the job that I have because God has a purpose in it. Maybe that's why you have the job you have.

I hope it inspires you.


Transforming Your Workplace By Os Hillman
November 4

This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9-10).

What would your workplace look like if this prayer were answered today where you work?

"Transformation" is a powerful word. Just hearing it, you almost automatically think of radical conversions and incredible change. But is it possible to transform your workplace into something Christ-like? Jesus thinks so.

One example involves a story told in Ed Silvoso's book, Anointed for Business, about a Filipino business man who owned a hotel chain. God saved this man and began an amazing transformation in his life and his large scale hotel.

The man owned a 1600-room hotel that covered three buildings. Because of its rates and location, the hotel had become a haven for prostitution, with the rooms being used as much as five times a day. There were over 2000 employees, and the primary clientele were more than 3000 prostitutes.
One of Silvoso's associates shared with the owner a formula for winning the lost, so he hired 40 pastors and told them to follow these instructions: a. Speak peace to the wolves. Bless those who curse you. b. Eat and drink with the sinners. Become their friends. c. Pray for them and their needs. The pastors were not to share the gospel until they'd met these three requirements for two years. What an investment. But ultimately, it paid off.

The pastors followed these three rules and saw every single one of the 2,000 employees become saved. The hotel was upgraded to an executive level, raising the rates and forcing the prostitutes out because they could no longer afford it. They even added a prayer chapel with 24/7 prayer available to anyone by dialing '7' on the telephone. Two years later, 10,000 guests had received the Lord on the property.*

That's transformation! And that's the kind of transformation we can see in our workplaces. We just have to find the vision and the willingness to ask God, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?"

*Adapted from story in Anointed for Business, Ed Silvoso, Regal Books, Ventura, CA 2006.

Contact Os Hillman at marketplaceleaders.org

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pulling a Rachelle

Re-reading this book that I love this week called Messy Spirituality: God's Annoying Love for Imperfect People by Mike Yaconelli, I came across this bit that I thought was also pretty relevant to last Tuesday's HC.

What keeps many of us from growing is not sin but speed.
Most of us are going as fast as we can, living life at a dizzying speed, and God is nowhere to be found. We're not rejecting God; we just don't have time for him. We've lost him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don't struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. It's not that we're too decadent; we're too busy. We don't feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for our spouses, our children, or our God. It's not sinning too much that's killing our souls, it's our schedule that's annihilating us. Most of us don't come home at night staggering drunk. Instead, we come home staggering tired, worn out, exhausted, and drained because we live too fast.

Speed is not neutral. Fast living used to mean a life of debauchery; now it just means fast, but the consequences are even more serious. Speeding through life endangers our relationships and our souls.

Voices surround us, always telling us to move faster. It may be our boss, our pastor, our parents, our wives, our husbands, our politicians, or, sadly, even ourselves. So we comply. We increase the speed. We live life in the fast lane because we have no slow lanes anymore. Every lane is fast, and the only comfort our culture can offer is more lanes and increased speed limits. The result? Too many of us are running as fast as we can, and an alarming number of us are running much faster than we can sustain.

Speed damages our souls because living fast consumes every ounce of our energy. Speed has a deafening roar that drowns out the whispering voices of our souls and leaves Jesus as a diminishing speck in the rear view mirror.

Spiritual growth is not running faster, as in more meetings, more Bible studies, and more prayer meetings. Spiritual growth happens when we slow our activity down. If we want to meet Jesus, we can't do it on the run. If we want to stay on the road of faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area, and stop. Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us; it's about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop.

While the church earnestly warns Christians to watch for the devil, the devil is sitting in the congregation encouraging everyone to keep busy doing "good things." I just received a letter from a woman minister who was on the edge of crashing and burning. She and her family had joined a growing, active church and quickly volunteered to help. But two years later, she realized that her entire family was speeding by each other in unrestrained zeal to lead one activity or another at church every week.

"Run faster!" this woman's church bulletin screamed, but the only way she could save her soul from death was to slow down, which meant finding a new job.

Sin does not always drive us to drink; more often it drives us to exhaustion. Tiredness is equally as debilitating as drunkenness. Burnout is slang for an inner tiredness, a fatigue of our souls. Jesus came to forgive all our sins, including the sin of busyness. The problem with growth in the modern church is not the slowness of growth but the rushing of growth.

Jesus came to give us rest.

We know we are ready for God to work in our lives when we're tired. When our lives begin to weigh us down, God is present in the heaviness. It turns out that it's weariness that's next to godliness, because when our souls are tired, we are able to hear his voice, and according to Matthew 11:28, what he's saying is "Come. Rest."

The ugly truth, however, is that many of us do not know how to rest.

Actually, we do know how to rest; we simply refuse to rest. Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: "No!" Rest is the ultimate humiliation, because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God's work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Why Guys Aren't Asking You Out"

In light of discussions around dating and relationships at home community and in last week's sermon, I just wanted to post a link to my friend (well, friend of a friend-i've never met the guy) Andy's blog. He's a single late twenties or early thirties guy and he wrote a series on his blog titled "Why Guys Aren't Asking You Out", now there's a catchy title... It was supposed to be one or two posts long but it ended up stretching into nine posts as the discussion got going (the link to each part is in the upper right corner of his blog page), but I would recommend reading one or two or all of them. My eyes were opened to other perspectives and reasons for why we are the way we are and why dating gets so dang complicated sometimes. He talks about verses that many look to to support singleness or marriage as well as social and cultural reasons for lack of dating in many church communities. And, he's hysterical and fun to read.

Since the whole topic of dating and relationships can't possibly be covered in two home community meetings, I thought I'd stretch out the conversation into the blogosphere...I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on Andy's blog. Check it out!

Oceans from the Rain

Ok, this video is, well, it's, um, special. However, I love this oldie-but-goody song, and so does my iPod lately, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's a great rainy morning listen, if you're into that whole "literal" thing. :)


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Your gift to Golda

Proof that I delivered your gift to her without stealing any of the candy, although I was sorely tempted. She gave me a pack of Skittles, because she's cool like that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Note: Again, these are not words of my own, but dang are they good and worth sharing. At Refuge last night, Ben shared his testimony and some words from this book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I just ate it up and had goosebumps by the end of the story.

In our culture, I think we've learned to hide ourselves and some of us are all too good at it..it's time to get found.

In the early dry dark of an October’s Saturday evening, the neighborhood children are playing hide-and-seek. How long since I played hide-and-seek? Thirty years; maybe more. I remember how. I could become part of the game in a moment, if invited. Adults don’t play hide-and-seek. Not for fun, anyway. Too bad.

Did you ever have a kid in your neighborhood who always hid so good, nobody could find him? We did. After a while we would give up on him and go off, leaving him to rot wherever he was. Sooner or later he would show up, all mad because we didn’t keep looking for him. And we would get mad back because he wasn’t playing the game the way it was supposed to be played. There’s hidingfinding , we’d say. And he’d say it was hide-and-seek, not hide-and-give-UP, and we’d yell about who made the rules and who cared about who, anyway, and how we wouldn’t play with him anymore if he didn’t get it straight and who needed him anyhow, and things like that. Hide-and-seek-and-yell. No matter what, though, the next time he would hide too good again. He’s probably still hidden somewhere, for all I know. and there’s

As I write this, the neighborhood game goes on, and there is a kid under a pile of leaves in the yard just under my window. He has been there a long time now, and everybody else is found and they are about to give up on him over at the base. I considered going out to the base and telling them where he was hiding. And I thought about setting the leaves on fire to drive him out. Finally, I yelled, “GET FOUND, KID!” out the window. And scared him so bad he probably wet his pants and started crying and ran home to tell his mother. It’s real hard to know how to be helpful sometimes.

A man I know found out last year he had terminal cancer. He was a doctor. And knew about dying, and he didn’t want to make his family and friends suffer through that with him. So he kept his secret. And died. Everybody said how brave he was to bear his suffering in silence and not tell anybody, and so on and so forth. But privately his family and friends said how angry they were that he didn’t need them, didn’t trust their strength. And it hurt that he didn’t say goodbye.

He hid too well. Getting found would have kept him in the game. Hide-and-seek, grown-up style. Wanting to hide. Needing to be sought. Confused about being found. “I don’t want anyone to know.” “What will people think?” “I don’t want to bother anyone.”

Better than hide-and-seek, I like the game called Sardines. In Sardines the person who is IT goes and hides, and everybody goes looking for him. When you find him, you get in with him and hide there with him. Pretty soon everybody is hiding together, all stacked in a small space like puppies in a pile. And pretty soon somebody giggles and somebody laughs and everybody gets found.

Medieval theologians even described God is hide-an-seek terms, calling him Deus Absconditus. But me, I think old God is a Sardine player. And will be found the same way everybody gets found in Sardines – by the sound of laughter of those heaped together at the end.

“Olly-olly-oxen-free.” The kids out in the street are hollering the cry that says “Come on in, wherever you are. It’s a new game.” And so say I. To all those who have hid too good. Get found, kid! Olly-olly-oxen-free.

Robert Fulghum – All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Only You Can Love Me This Way

So I think last time I posted, or maybe the time before, I was "pulling a Shannon." This time, I'm totally "pulling a Mike."

We talked a couple weeks ago about how or where we experience God in our daily lives. I didn't quite get around to mentioning another big God place for me: my car. As much as I hate driving, I tend to have major God moments in my car. More specifically, I tend to think that God is speaking to me through my radio.

I realize that God using the radio to communicate with Karyn is crazy people talk, but haven't you ever been stalked by a song? You get in the car and the song is playing. You change the station, and there it is again. You leave your car and enter a store - there's the song. You leave the store and get back in the car only to catch the DJ announcing the next song... surprise surprise... same dang song. This happens to me more often then I care to admit. Today, I'm being stalked by Jesus and Keith Urban.

I'm pretty sure that Keith Urban doesn't know he has a worship song out. But this song of his, the latest one, it breaks my heart. The lyrics are simple, and lovely, and the melody is perfect and pretty and sing-a-longy. It has become my mantra and my prayer today, and I thought I'd share the chorus and second verse with you:

You're always in my heart
You're always on my mind
And when it all becomes too much
You're never far behind
And there's no one that comes close to you
Could ever take your place
'Cause only you can love me this way

I could've turned a different corner
I could've gone another place
But I'd a-never had this feeling
That I feel today

Cause you're always in my heart
You're always on my mind
And when it all becomes too much
You're never far behind
And there's no one that comes close to you
Could ever take your place
'Cause only you can love me this way

Right? Dude. It's my new favorite thing. Go get it stuck in your head too.

How awesome is it that no matter how alone or unlovable we feel, we are loved completely by a God who knows all of our darkest parts? To be loved this way... wholly, selflessly, magnificently loved... we are lucky, lucky kids. I'm grateful today for God FM, Keith Urban, and agape love.

Oh, wait, here's my last "pulling a Mike" bit:

Cool? Cool.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prayer = direction = more prayer = revival

I recently signed up for "daily workplace insirpational" emails. They are called "Today God Is First" and it's a good reminder to me that I should make God my priority, even at work.

Today's inspirational nugget was about this man in 1857 who prayed a simple prayer, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" He basically had a mid-life crisis and didn't want to keep pursuing money like everyone around him. So he prayed. And God answered his prayer.

He began a noon prayer meeting in the middle of New York City. The first day, no one showed up for the first 30 minutes. But 35 minutes past the hour, three people came. This noon-day prayer event lead to 10,000 people meeting for prayer 6 months later and one of the greatest spiritual revivals in US history.

Some days I don't know what to pray. And I think I'm going to start with "God, what do you want me to do?"

What if we all prayed that prayer? To quote Leisha, "I'm just sayin..."

Below is the whole article. To sign up for daily workplace inspirational emails visit marketplaceleaders.org

Staying the Course By Os Hillman
September 23

"Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD" (1 Chron 21:18-19).

In 1857, an American businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier was sent out by his local church to begin a noon-day prayer meeting on Fulton Street, right around the corner from Wall Street in New York City. A simple prayer, a willing heart, and an act of obedience resulted in city transformation throughout the United States.

However, at that very first meeting, no one showed up in the first 35 minutes. But Jeremiah waited. Gradually, six people wandered into the room at 35 minutes past the hour. Six months later, 10,000 people were meeting for prayer throughout New York City. This led to one of the greatest spiritual renewals in the United State's history.

What would have happened if Lanphier had decided to abandon the idea after 30 minutes?
In a small, darkened room, in the back of one of New York City's lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" He was a man approaching midlife, without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He had made a decision to reject the "success syndrome" that drove the city's businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City's commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen's prayer meeting on September 23, 1857.

The meetings began slowly, but within a few months 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. This was an extraordinary move of God through one man.*

It only takes one man or woman who is willing to be obedient to be used by God to impact a workplace, city, or even an entire nation. Simple obedience can lead to things you cannot imagine. Are you willing to be used by God?

*John Woodbridge,., More than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life
(Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), p. 337.

Contact Os Hillman at http://www.crosswalkmail.com/ueqjddwmdc_hgbywwkbdwj.html.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some thoughts from Clive Staples

This is one of my favorite pieces from C.S. Lewis; it's in The Weight of Glory. Evidently, he was not a hard-line Calvinist. Anyway, I like the way he imparts significance on every person, and all of our daily interactions, with an eternal perspective.

"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat--the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gifts and me

I've been thinking about this whole spiritual gifts and the body of Christ thing. Every now and then I get a person (usually a young person) who would love to be in my shoes, and asks me "How did you know that this is what God wanted you to do?" I usually tell them that I came into work one day and the Holy Spirit had left a memo on my desk outlining what I was meant to do, but they don't usually think that's as funny as I do (which equals the story of my life, just ask Mike P).

In reality, for most of my life I had no concrete concept of a larger plan for my life. I believed that God had a purpose for my life, and I always hoped that it was more than just a paycheck and working in the church, but I really had no idea what that might look like or how I might get there.

I've taken several spiritual gifts tests over the years, but there's no "spiritual career path" for a combination of leadership, administrative helps, and compassion. I was frustrated at the lack of direction in using my gifts effectively, so I started saying yes to a bunch of different opportunities as they came up, regardless if I could say "I'm gifted in this area" or not.

As a result of that, I am now in a position that uses all of my gifts, and in saying yes to all of those little things, I see how well that prepared me for where I am now. I can look ahead at a job of dealing with kids of all ages, and see how God was preparing me to appreciate every stage of child development through saying yes to those opportunities.

All this to say that being faithful in service to the body of Christ may be how God is preparing us for an opportunity to serve in that area where we are perfectly designed to affect the lives of people around us.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Ok, I'll say it here for the last time: Matthew 6:21 does not by any means instruct Christians to give their money to worthy causes.

In fact, it says nothing about our use of money at all.

It seems clear from the two preceding verses that Jesus is contrasting "treasures on earth" with "treasures in heaven." He is not particularly excited about the earthly ones--such as money and anything it can buy. So, the refrain "where your treasure is, there you heart will be also" is not a budgeting dictate, because Jesus is telling us to invest in eternal treasures and to abandon sublunary ones. Unfortunately, some Christians like to use this verse as an slogan for financial management and charitable donations. These are wonderful things, obviously, but such thinking entirely misses the point of the verse; instead it ironically encourages us to be even more concerned about our money, putting us in danger of doing precisely what Jesus tells us not to do in the verse. Please stop misusing scripture. That is all.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Geography of Redemption

Again, falling upon words that are not my own...but wow, good.

"There is a geography to redemption, a way in which the ideals of
grace and renewal make themselves real in this world. All of creation
is groaning for its redemption, and we join in that chorus. We are
surrounded on all sides by the forest of our failures, our dirty feet
fighting the thorny underbrush. Or we wander the used-up cities of
cement dreams and strip-mall seductions. This is where we live. But to
us who are weary and broken, the God of redemption gives the plains,
and a view of the land we have yet to claim, yet to sow, yet to reap.
Here, there is space, and a chance, to make all things new...The land
of redemption, where signs of promise abound, where the reptiles
witness, where the rocks cry out, and where hope stretches as far as
the lazy eye can see. This is where we, with trembling hands, toil and
subdue. and where the rain of grace pounds the dirt until life breaks
through the mud and reaches for the sun..."-Caedmon's Call

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm not sure how this happened

...but I've turned from the sour, pseudo-depressed and confused man of high school and college into someone who is legitimately happy.

Thanks, God

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Setting your mind on the things of God"

I was reading in Mark where Jesus famously rebukes Peter with the famous "Get behind me Satan!" line. However, it's the second part of this sentence that hit me: For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.

Why have I never noticed this before? I think there's a tendency to equate Satan only to the really, really capital-e Evil things of the world. Fact of the matter is, whenever we're setting our mind on the things of men, we're listening to Satan.

(Sidenote: does anyone else feel weird capitalizing the S in Satan?)

Every day I pray to be a better man. What that probably means is setting my eyes on the things of God. One of the best things I've done this year was to fast on Good Friday this year. It was the first time I ever fasted and helped my faith tremendously. Whenever I felt hungry, there was a simple solution: think of the Lord. Every single time, the hunger went away.

Set your mind on the things of God...let Him put your hunger (or whatever) away

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Interesting Article

Hi all,

Here is an interesting article from USA today. It talks about the Portland Season of Service.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Your anti-self

Karyn and I were discussing this a bit ago, based on a question from the game "Would You Rather". What would your anti-self, your nemesis, the photo negative of who you are be like? Would your nemesis be evil or good, dedicated or flaky, dirty or clean, rich or poor? Would he/she be a loner or not? What would be his/her motivating principle, goal, or world view?

See comments for my nemesis' description and leave your own.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From Oswald Chambers

An excerpt from My Utmost For His Highest (I'm cheating and using the one for May 25). I'm not so sure about the "good" and "best" part, but overall I like his train of thought.

"If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."
Genesis 13:9

As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these things are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the right and proper thing to consider if you were not living a life of faith; but if you are are, you will joyfully waive your right and leave God to choose for you. This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.

Whenever right is made the guidance in the life, it will blunt the spiritual insight. the great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. It would seem the wisest thing in the world for Abraham to choose, it was his right, and the people around would consider him a fool for not choosing. Many of us do not go on spiritually because we prefer to choose what is right instead of relying on God to choose for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eye on God. "Walk before Me."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nothing to say

Why doesn't anyone appreciate silence anymore?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Standard Operating Procedure

This American Life was about "Fall Guys" this week, and one of the stories was about Lynndie England, the woman who was in the most publicized of the photos that came out of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The interview of Lynndie England was taken from material gathered for the movie "Standard Operating Procedure", a documentary that came out last year.

I always tried to avoid thinking about Abu Ghraib too much. The photos repulsed and enraged me, and made me ashamed to be an American. After hearing the interview with Ms. England, I decided to watch the film, get a little more perspective and understanding. I suppose I got both, but I also ended up with a lot more questions.

The filmmakers interviewed most of the people who appear in the photos, as well as a civilian contractor who was in the prison at times and a few other people.

It's gut-wrenching to hear these people, some of whom it's easy to have sympathy for, describing what happened in each photo. They can all justify what happened, especially as they were "just following orders". They saw the detainees as criminals and terrorists at best, and sub-human at worst. They saw themselves as defending our freedoms as Americans, as watching the backs of their "battle buddies", as protecting their own lives in a war zone.

I wish I could just write them off as psychotic villians or hapless victims, but they're neither. If I put myself in their shoes, can I reasonably say I would have protested? I can say with confidence that I would not have participated, but to hear them explain "I was just taking the picture" or "they just told me to jump in the photo" or "I didn't really know what they were doing, so I didn't say anything"...can I really say that I would be stronger or braver than that?

When I see injustice around me on a less dramatic scale, am I strong and brave enough? Or, as Derek Webb sings, "I don't know the sufferings of people outside my front door, and I join the oppressors of those I choose to ignore. I'm trading comfort for human life, and that's not just murder, it's suicide, and this too shall be made right."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Redoing it

Sometimes on Facebook, people will write things on my wall, or comment elsewhere after me, and then delete the post. It disappears, but the funny thing is that I still get an email telling me what they wrote.

I empathize with those people. I've long wished for the ability to take mulligans in life--I did as a two-year-old when I dropped my water pistol off the front deck just to watch it fall, then later when my brother and I were kings of the Tandy Color Computer, and getting it right in a game often entailed multiple restarts, and later again in college as I tried to figure out how to run a good cross-country race. And yes, most of the time in between, I had the same wish. But the problem with reality is, even if you ignore it, it doesn't go away; and the reality is,
whatever happens can't be taken back. It's just history. Granted, I like history, but this principle of irrevocable linear reality still frustrates me.

The crazy thing is that God forgets my sins, thanks to Jesus' death and resurrection. God forgetting sins hardly seems possible, much less probable, in the context of our lives and given that He's omniscient and holy and all that good stuff. But it's true. "'This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.' Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.'"

There, mind-blowingly, is my mulligan. I aim to make the best of it.

p.s. No, I will not reveal the contents of deleted Facebook posts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Forks, Flies, and Not Having Vertigo

I had a rough time in the kitchen yesterday. It was going to be a very late lunch, this salad I was preparing. Then a large fly charged in, all buzzy and full of going nowhere, raging against the glass with vim and vigor until I opened the window and shooed him out. I cast secret aspersions after his hairy insect rear into the yard; you see, it's the same fly every time, I know it, he finds his way in somehow and comes into the kitchen like this just to, well, bug me (but then again, they all look the same to me).

Moments later, I set my fork down for a second, and it catapulted out and onto the floor, cascading salad in its wake. Faugh! More aspersions; this particular type of flatware has been designed with disproportionately heavy handles. Switching to a decidedly better fork, I pondered balance.

Good balance isn't about everything being equal--I think we know that, most of us anyway, but sometimes we like to say otherwise when it's funny or convenient or appealing--no, balance is about the impact of things, the forces they exude. So eating equal amounts of spinach leaves and Funfetti cupcakes doesn't constitute a well-balanced diet (sure, you could say that this is due to an inequality of "things," i.e. nutrients; but we don't need the same amount of every nutrient, either, because they work differently in our bodies, which is my point); and having psychotic thoughts half the time and happy thoughts the other half doesn't give you a well-balanced personality.

What about personal balance, anyway? It seems like so much of the time, I have this superficial "balance," but really that just means I'm all over the map (once again, diversity isn't always ideal; but that's an essay of its own). Part of the problem is that not everything is meant for equilibrium--things grow, they progress, and too much or the wrong kind of balance can hinder, stagnate, preclude forward motion.

So, ironically, if I want to be well-balanced I actually need to pursue some things constantly, recklessly even, and abandon others altogether. (Not the easiest task for people like me, who always want it both ways) Or perhaps it's the other way around: stability is required for all that pursuit and prioritization. I think it's both (see, there I go again), but rather than trying to formulize stability, I want to emphasize the importance of equanimity, specifically, to point out that it's hard to get anywhere without a composing force. An anchor, if you will. A Rock. When you're running circles around yourself, you pretty much stay in the same place, and getting upset over flying forks and flies is just wasting energy.

Speaking of going in circles, I need to put an end to this. So here are some verses:

Philippians 4
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Disturb us, Lord...

Sir Frances Drake, the first Englishman to navigate the globe spoke these words in prayer:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too well pleased with ourselves

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

With the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wider seas

Where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land

We shall find stars.

We ask you to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push us in the future

In strength, courage, hope and love.

Sir Francis Drake, December 1577

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Really, I'd rather you judge me

There is a question I hear periodically, dealing with our interpersonal relations--we say, "who am I to judge that person?" This is rhetorical, of course, usually indicating an effort to not be judgmental (yes, I realize it is Biblically based, but I do have issues with the way this question is applied). Considering this phrase, it occurred to me recently that I never hear people ask who they are to judge God, though this question seems to be, dare I say, even more solidly founded in scripture, and much weightier, too.

What I do hear is a great deal of concern from people considering Christianity, or monotheism generally, over the rampant and haphazard presence of evil in the world. They find evil to be, well, bad, and reasonably so. But I'm struck by the frequency with which I hear questions like, "why did that happen to them?" or "why is this happening to me?" and the way that people assume these questions are a natural response. They aren't, I take it, rhetorical, but they do carry implications. Specifically, they often suggest that God simply shouldn't allow such things to
occur, i.e., "Why would God let this happen to me; that is wrong." What? Who? Oh, you mean God, the one who spoke the universe into existence, molded the intricacies of your body and the depths of your soul, sustains you with the breath of life and gives you every other good thing you ever had? Yes, how terrible of Him to do something that you neither approve of nor understand.

Now, I'm not trying to be heartless and hopelessly calloused; I just think that it's terribly out of perspective to say that other people can do whatever they bloody well please, but God needs to preclude all unhappy incidents in the lives of "good" people. Someone could say, well, people are people, but if God is perfect and powerful, etc., then we hold Him to a higher standard. This is poor reasoning; in fact it's because of who we are and who he is that talk of us holding him to any standard is nonsense. Sure, there are plenty of practical issues to be taken care of on the ground, but for starters, at least, if you're going to take God seriously, please. take. God. seriously.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shameless plea for help

The Africa organization I work for, Lahash International, is having an epic cleaning event this weekend to begin to prepare a house that has been offered for our use as an office and hospitality house. It's in wretched shape, and needs a lot of help, so we're calling on all of our friends to come help us "muck it out" and clean.

I'm in charge of this specatular event, which means that my entire weekend will consist of wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves. Won't you come be so stylish alongside me?

The house is at 4850 N Vancouver Ave, Portland, and we'll be starting at 9am on Saturday. Another shift starts at 1pm, or we'll be working again Sunday afternoon starting around 2pm.

Thanks, friends.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Caring for your introvert"

I can't help myself when it comes to personality tests and learning the personality types, the quirks and the ins and outs of the people around me.
It's fascinating. It's like candy.

So out of curiosity...what are all y'alls personality types?!
There should be a facebook application for the Myers-Briggs or you can take it here.

But this was the article that got me thinking, it's all about introverts (joy!).
"Caring for your introvert"

"I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

Friday, May 22, 2009

In The Eye of the Beholder

I am pulling a Shannon and copying this blog from my personal blog onto the NW blog because I like it and I can. I am also recommending that "pulling a Shannon" be the official term for this action, in honor of her 26th birthday.

Note to Rascal Flatts: I understand that, after reading this story, you'll most likely want to write a song about it. I think it's right up your alley. Feel free.

It's been that kind of day today.

I struggle, sometimes, with the superficiality of my job. It's loads of fun, but in the end I am still expected to close the deal. I've always done well in sales and always felt a little funny about it... I mean, it's not like I'm saving lives. I'm selling dresses. Important dresses, sure, but dresses. I'm working for the man and the empire. I'm not really doing anything all that meaningful.

Today, what I do mattered. Today, I was humbled and smacked upside the head for being short-sighted and cynical. Today was a good day.

You see, we have this dress. It's an old, old dress that's been hanging around the sample sale pile for at least six or seven years. The edges are yellowing and the beadwork looks like it has narrowly survived a natural disaster. The neckline is cut remarkably high, a look that screams 1994 and would make most conservative grandmothers rather happy. There is a giant, cliche, borderline farcical bow that snaps (yes, snaps... biggaudymetal snaps) on just above the badonkadonk. It's not a very pretty picture, this dress in its sorry old plastic bag.

I've been mocking this dress. I've been whining about it, threatening to donate it, and claiming that its presence alone was a threat to our credibility as a retail establishment. I've implied, nay, insisted that it could not possibly serve a purpose on this planet, ever. As you can imagine, I haven't done so subtly. I've been a big jerk to this dress.

Today. Today, the sweetest bride arrives with an army of annoyed looking women who practically vibrate around the store, exchanging unhappy phrases in Japanese. They are skeptical of price, have only so much to spend, have been treated poorly. They are protective of the bride, and they are fierce. Somehow, in the frenzy and the yelling and the buzzing, they emerge with the dress. I cringe, subtly (I do at least that much subtly), and obligingly hang my nemesis in the fitting room.

It isn't until the bride is undressing that I see the scars... the open, new, painfully raw scars that are freckled across her torso and neck. They huddle in with the lumps of small tumors, bruises, and unnatural indentations. The cancer, she says, took her hair... she had beautiful hair. I, for once, have nothing to say.

I know I don't have to tell you how this all went down. You are smarter than me, and you've seen it already. That dress, that ugly, forgotten, embarrassing dress, covered those scars perfectly. It will take work to make it beautiful, but the work will be done, and the beginning is there. She had a thousand dollars to spend, and bought my least favorite dress at $125. It will be rebeaded, restored, refinished, and it will cover her scars. She had been looking for quite some time for a dress that would make her feel safe and beautiful on her wedding day, and that dress will be the one. She has an impossibly wonderful smile.

There was joy, today. They thanked me, and hugged me, and left happy. I sat in the back room for awhile and let myself cry.

We are short-sighted. We look so often at something, someone, and fail to see the potential through the missing pieces, the stains, the broken parts. We forget that God is in the timing. We forget that He takes broken edges and fits them together like puzzle pieces, creates something beautiful from something tattered, harbors a perfect plan for what we have rejected. Often it is the smallest of things that remind us. I am reminded today.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Imago Dei

A friend of mine from college is now student-teaching an english class in Seattle. They just had a guest poet speak in her class to the students and it proved to be a powerful time for both her and the students as his words were piercing. When one girl asked if there was any one experience or thought that showed up in almost all of his writing, he admitted that religion did. Although he didn't get specific, he DID say that he had been told once that he was going to go to hell for being himself, and he stated adamantly that he didn't believe THAT anymore. It was clear that he had been shown a face of religion that all too many people are shown-- that of judgement, anger, and condemnation, rather than love, welcome, and grace.
I have heard similar versions of this same story over and over in several conversations lately with people who have been hurt and wounded by the church and its people. After the Imago prayer night and praying that we would truly be image bearers of Christ, I just found this poem to be so pertinent, chilling and true. May we all be the Imago Dei.

Note: This is NOT my poem (though I wish I had written it!) This is the poem my friend wrote after hearing the poetry of a man who had walked away from the church with battle-scars. I just wanted to share it.


"There are no scars on His hands or His wrists," he says"
But my heart is clenched like a fist," he says"
What else could it be, when they shouted out 'Hell!' to a boy who was only being himself? And these sinners, these speakers, they unfurled floods of anger, they sneered while condemning their own vice and dangers, they steered their church across my knees, I see train wrecks, I see ship wrecks, I hear them speak, 'You: fault line, no straight lines where you come from,' they said, they said, they said to me.

"Angels make wings, right? They fly, right?
"But the feathers I found were only rubbed-out eyelashes for wishes made upon,
"Wish for light,
"Wish for wholeness,
"She put me to bed, said 'Sweet dreams son,' but running is all I dream about.

"I want wishes, I want light,
"And she pulls out her lashes to get me through the night.
"She says, 'One of these days, we'll both wake up with grace on our pillows.'

"I tried to follow.

"They said flames, they named names, but when I offered up mine,
"They said, 'Beast, away,'
"I looked for light, I looked for freedom, I tried to fly but hit the ceiling,
"There was no light switch, there was no quick fix, I said the prayer, I said, 'Pick me then!'
"But what I found was cold religion.

"'Do as I say, not as I do.
"'He forgives sinners, except sinners like you.
"'Toe the line kid, and do it our way
"'Take up the cross or rue the day
"'You didn't.

'"Just myself," he says.
"I was just myself
"And they said that that
"Was plenty hell-worthy."

I take it in.
I ache within,
I've said those words,
I've dug a hole for burials of lesser souls
I've nailed the lid on the coffin.
I confess. I confess.

I confess, I did.
And I look at a man with residue
Of religion gone wrong, of God misused.
He cried out for help, and he got abuse, and I'm sorry, I'm sorry

I'm sorry, I did.

We should have said, come as you are.
Should have said, right there too.
Should have said, I'll just listen
Since speaking is so over-used.
And no shaking fingers,
No skeptical foreheads
The face He had
Could not have been the face you read
From us.

Where do I begin?

Is there water to wash the damage, to clean off the face of a Lord we've mangled, to wipe the eyebrows to clean the nail beds, are there waves to recreate the music we've savaged? Is there water to make the sunrise, to send up steam for reflective cloud skies shape them in angels, shape out the feathers, send down a real one to a boy still asleep, send it to the boy who is running through dreams, send it then, send him grace, send him grace on his pillow.

Rouse him gently.

Show him a face of kindness first.
Don't speak, don't hurt, just deepen eyes,
Soften your breathing,
Just show him a sigh, show him healing.
If you open your mouth, you should only sing something lullaby,
Just quiet-like.
Let the light creep in through the window
And let that soften the harsher corners,
Let that ruffle the dusty curtains,
Let that chase away the spiders,
Let that reach into monster corners,
Let that blow the cobwebs and ashes,
He is just a boy, he is just


And that is loved. And that is worth holding.
Let the dawn break
On the heart that he's clutching.

I can't begin to apologize
For the lies the lies the lies the lies
That said you weren't acceptable.

Those words are damnable.

Should be a safe place to land
Should be a strong weathered hand
His face
Should say, "I understand,
"And I love you, I love you, I love you,
"It's love
"Like sand on the shore
"Like rain from the sky
"Like poppy weed buds that fire burst bright
"I love you like this
"I love you right now
"I love you running and aching and braving and shaking and falling and breaking again, and I loved you then
"And I loved you then
"And I loved you then, even then."

It's kindness
We missed it
It's mercy we forgot.
Instead of His words,
We sang funeral songs.

I confess,
And I'm sorry.
And I pray with my lashes,
That His face in the sunrise
Gives you grace
And not ashes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I love being a Christian

I don't know how people get through life without Jesus. When you're stretched too thin, when you don't no where your strength is going to come from, you can rely on Him.

(not to mention the whole afterlife thing)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The wherefore of whining

I like to complain about our health care system--it just has so many problems--and I'm not the only one. I'm sure it's surpassed baseball in the nation pastimes rankings. In truth, though, the health care around here is astonishingly effective. For a knee/shin problem, I got to take a 20-minute nap and listen to classical music. Afterward I was handed dozens of pictures of the inside of my leg. The inside. And now we know what the problem is. How is that not fantastic? I could go on and on with other examples, but I won't.

This all reminds me of a study I read about once, one that involved cyclists riding many miles over a course of multiple days, sort of a Tour de France type idea, except it wasn't a race or in France. Anyway, they found that when the cyclists were made to undertake moderately taxing rides, and provided with lots of amenities (food, nice sleeping arrangements, etc.), they
complained a copiously. After all, it was still a difficult endeavor; they were putting in long rides, and undoubtedly suffered numerous aches, pains and inconveniences. However, when luxuries were stripped to a minimum and the riding was made to be more taxing, the riders' whining nearly ceased. They were too busy focusing on the task in front of them. It makes sense that when life is easy, you can afford to address all manner of imperfections, and when it's hard, you just deal and survive; but it makes an odd situation where the more pleasant life becomes, the more whining takes place.

It makes me wonder: do I complain because things are so terrible, or because my life is normally so soft and plush? Perhaps it's time for an attitude check.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A thought for today based off of two days ago's thought

I heard a Duke University professor give this analogy in reference to the chaos regarding the current frenzied stockpile of antibiotics to fight "swine flu".

He told this story:

Imagine that you go out to buy a suit. You're really excited about this suit, and you go all out. You buy all the accessories, from the socks to the cuff links. You spend upwards of $1,000 on this outfit, and wear it out of the store to show it off. As you are walking across a bridge, you look down and see a man drowning. You don't have time to take your nice clothes off, but you don't hesitate and jump in the water to save the man's life, without even thinking of your clothes, even though they're going to be ruined.

So often we get to an emergency situation and spend without question. When confronted with need, we work something out to meet that need. What if, instead of having a $1,000 suit ruined to avert a tragedy, we wore simple clothes and built a guard rail? What if, instead of spending billions in a moment of panic to fight this specialized flu, we were spending a few dollars a day to wipe out malaria and TB and leprosy and cancer and diabetes? We could save millions of lives a bit at a time or wait until the tragedy is unavoidably present and spend lavishly. I wish we, as a culture and as individuals, were better at planning long-term and being consistently generous and preferring others.

(Also, I think it's weird that some of our blog post labels include Ace of Base, ice cream, and the Yukon. Sounds like the cards you might have in Apples to Apples.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

And another one

This time from Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, Georgia:

"We’re ALL created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). If you are prejudiced, that’s like looking at God and telling Him that you don’t like His work."

Thought of the day

Courtesy, Without Wax:

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thought of the day

As Jesus once said (roughly), if you love only those who love you, or if you are kind to only those who are kind to you, you're not much different than anyone else. Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

I'd say the same goes for weather. Anyone can be happy on a sunny day...but can you feel joy and God's love on a rainy one?

And the same goes for good fortune. Anyone can say "God is great" when they've won the lottery...but can you do that when you hate your job?

God is great all the time, not just on sunny days (though I prefer those). Here's hoping we can give Him glory at all times, not just the best of them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

on love and presence

"This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds. It struck me that I have spent so much time trying to pump my way into feeling the solace I used to feel in my parents' arms. But pumping always fails you in the end. The truth is that your spirits don’t rise until you get way down. Maybe that's because this-the mud, the bottom-is where it all rises from. Maybe without it, whatever rises would fly off or evaporate before you could even be with it for a moment. But when someone enters that valley with you, that mud, it somehow saves you again." -Anne LaMott

my prayer for our community...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Beautiful Day Rambling...

I feel it's worth mentioning that it is raining flower petals outside my apartment. For the third day in a row, when I open the windows, tiny pink petals flutter in, littering my floor and dog and kitchen table. I find them irresistibly, impossibly beautiful.

I love days like today - Katherine and I were out walking and talking about how easy it is to see God in the springtime, how compelled we are to offer up kudos to Him for the flowers and the sunshine and the trees. We spend so much time in darkness, literally and figuratively, trying to find our way. On days like today, when it's so easy to appreciate the simplest joys, we feel free. I love that. I love that we have a Creator who recognizes how hard things can be, and offers us entire days of undeniable beauty, where He is obvious, His creation is fantastically peaceful, and His love rains in through the windows.


Friday, April 17, 2009

On being known

-I posted this on my other blog, but I thought I'd open it up for the hc blog :)

I LOVE knowing people’s names. I really do. I love it when people know my name, even if I still blush a little when I tell people my full name, or when people give a hearty chuckle when they hear my name. I feel like people know me when they know my name. It makes the world a little smaller, community a little more real. You could go all around town all throughout life without having anyone really know you, and the idea of that forms a pit in my stomach. We are wired to be relational to be with people, to be known. This is why isolation is the greatest punishment. We NEED people.

Complex pathways of the brain and regulation of certain functions of our limbic brain makes expulsion from the company of others the cruelest punishment humans can devise. Studies were done a long time ago on orphan children, finding that children NEED affection and emotional attention. Feed and clothe a human infant but deprive him of emotional contact and he will die. We are born with the innate need and desire to be known.

It’s not easy to be known; it requires vulnerability and risk. It’s not always something that comes naturally. We hide ourselves for fear of truly being known and on the other end of the spectrum we have within us a deep desire to be known. We need it but we fear it. What does one do with that? I find myself hiding myself away at times for fear that people won’t like the real me and trying to be vulnerable hoping that people will like the real me, so much of life is lived somewhere in the space between.

I value community and that place where everyone knows my name. I like feeling at home with people. Take for example, my place of work, at the coffee shop; someone can come in everyday and we quickly stack up fleeting moments of interaction and all the while have no idea who the other is, but one day, a moment is taken to ask the name of the other. Once names are exchanged, it’s a whole new interaction as if the name is your “in” this allows you to ask questions, see who the other is. At least this has been the case with me, maybe I am a little nosy or curious, but I can’t help it. For me, it has that feeling of “yeah, we go WAY back.” Like an old friend. And even though that’s not the case, I like that feeling of seeing an old friend when they walk in the door.

I like going for a run in the neighborhood and passing my favorite old couple on the street with a smile and a wink. Or running into Steve who is giving his son a pep-talk on how to ride a bike even if it’s scary, or passing Lee and his co-worker out for a run along the riverfront. It’s the hellos I’m after, the community, the recognition of knowing and recognizing the we are all tied to one another.

We are all fellow travelers in this life. We’re all in this together.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Growing Up In A Muslim Country

I wrote this article for Relevant Magazine sometime in the spring of 2002, so thought I'd share it with everyone since it tells a little bit about myself.

Friday evening the army truck pulled up to the mall in Karawaci. Nondescript, except for the load of men crammed in the back, it came in behind the other vehicles entering the parking lot. The men in the back quickly piled out and streamed into the mall, smashing windows and merchandise, looting stores and wrecking havoc. Caravans of trucks were right behind the first, each loaded down with angry men. The scale of the destruction wouldn't be known for several days, but a couple hundred looters died in the mall as they set fire to the stores. The synthetic textiles of the clothes on the racks burned hot and fast, filling the mall with deadly smoke before the looters themselves could escape.

That was just one of many riots that occurred in Indonesia in the Spring of 1998. The riots grew out of hand, and within 36 hours, over 1500 people died, many others were raped, robbed and injured. It would be easy to think that Indonesia suffers from religious and ethnic intolerance. But I think it simply suffers from ignorance.

I was born and raised in Kalimantan, formerly Borneo, one of the islands of the largest Muslim country in the world. Life in the country has not been easy since the riots. A severe depression swept through and left the people in hardship, including my family.

I lived in Borneo for 15 years. When I was in the 9th grade, I applied for a scholarship at an international high school and got it. I moved to Java, until I graduated. I was a nominal Catholic when I moved to Java and some of the friends I hung out with were either Muslims or strong Christians. Together with the Muslim friends, I would make fun of how the Christians praised and worshiped God. I was rebellious at school where I lacked the limitations that my family set for me at home. The fact I was away from my family made me feel free to do anything I wanted to do.

I knew at that time there were a lot of my Christians friends praying for me, but I ignored them and assumed they were just freaks. A couple of weeks before school was over, a friend invited me to go to a service at school chapel. I had never been to any of the chapel services before, so I thought it would be a good idea to just go and see to make fun of it. But something about what we did, and then, what was talked about affected me, moved me. Much to my surprise I found myself on the other side of a line I thought I’d never cross.

The real challenge came afterwards. My Muslim friends started to look at me differently; some of them even threatened me. It was a hard time. I was new to what I had gotten myself into. The only thing I was graciously conscious of was that Jesus was somehow always with me so things would be fine. I saw some incredible things happen at my school, others who were very closed also found themselves drawn into a relationship with Jesus, and people were healed of some serious stuff both mental and physical. Personally, I learned my faith had more to do with my will and my attitudes, two things I had great difficulty in changing. I found I could be changed only through constant surrender to Jesus.

I think the same goes for my country. There is supposed religious freedom, but obviously Islam is favored and Christianity is set with some substantial roadblocks: no sharing of your faith to anyone who is not already Christian, no real recourse if a church is burned down or you are persecuted. It is a great challenge to be a Christian in a Muslim country.

After graduating from high school, I wanted to go to where I could learn about how to live God’s way. I had heard about some of the universities in America, and wanted to go to school there. Because of the financial impossibility, my family didn’t agree at all. They also did not understand my interest in going to a Christian university. I trusted that if I could at all go to the States to a Christian school it would have to be a miracle, so I left it up to God and kept hoping. Eventually, thankfully, my parents changed their minds, and worked with me on how to get there.

I could not believe at first I was in the United States. No one in my family had ever been here before. And to be able to study here was something I didn’t even waste my time fantasizing about a year earlier. I thank God everyday for this opportunity. Life here is very different. Everything seems so easy and comfortable. You have the freedom to do almost anything you want: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of expression, and more.

The first year of college wasn’t easy at all. I have normally been an outgoing person, surrounded by friends, but here it was really hard for me. I have made many great friends since though, as I have not given up on trying to meet new people and try new things.

Last summer I went with a teen missions group to Panama. I had an amazing time. I learned to be proactive for the first time in talking to people about what I have experienced in getting to know God. And I have not stopped thinking about something that happened during our debriefing after the trip. The leader of the organization I went with spoke before all the groups that had gone around the world that summer, saying something like, “You have had a great experience with God, you are closer to him. Now, when you go back to your homes, continue to read your Bible and pray. Also, if there are people in your lives who are not Christians, or friends who are not as committed, don’t hang out with them anymore.” After the debriefing my team had its own meeting. The first person to stand up and talk said something like, “I am going to go home and stop hanging out with all my friends who aren’t Christian or not as committed.”

In Indonesia, I know a family who is half Muslim and half Christian. They don’t agree with each other, but they love each other very much and live together in community as most Indonesian families do. I also know a family who has one son who is gay, and although they don’t agree with his lifestyle, they still love him and he is welcome always. It has never occurred to me to shut someone out of my life because they are not as committed as I am, follow a different way, have serious problems or anything like that. Friends are friends, family is family regardless. It is pretty much a part of my culture. Sometimes I wonder which way is right as I hear this a lot. I think that if I do not hang out with these people, who will? And if they have to be better people to hang out with me, am I good enough and what kind of message am I sending?

This summer I will go home. I haven’t been home for almost two years now. I try to keep up with everything going on in my country. But I think everything will be really different when I go back. The way my perspective has been shaped and the things I have learned over these two years in America will change the way I think and look at my home.

Life is still hard in Indonesia, depression is still going on and only God knows when it will end. I want to be a light in the ignorance. I cannot talk in public, but I can share love through the way I live. I can change someone’s life with my own. My family has been expecting my return for a long time. I hope I am going home a better person.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yeah, that was productive . . .

What does it mean to make good use of your time?

I pondered this briefly today at the gym. This morning I spent three-and-a-half hours in a medical clinic, saw a doctor for maybe ten minutes of that time, and walked away with no x-rays, no real action plan, not even a tentative diagnosis. They simply informed me that I would get a phone call, after a few days, from someone about seeing some radiology lab somewhere that could do something for me at some future date if I paid them some uncertain amount of money. Fortunately (providentially?), during the hundred and fifty minutes that I spent in the waiting room, I discovered a copy of Richard J. Foster's Prayer and was able to mow through a few chapters. It was a good morning, I think.

At the gym, I at least "did something" (on a Precor EFX 576i, to be exact), and it was a decent workout, notwithstanding the time I irrevocably devoted to watching "Commando," a Schwarzenegger film where the hero throws around heavy objects and scowls a lot. In my partial defense, I had been watching the Miami (OH) RedHawks take out Bemidji in the NCAA "Frozen Four" semis, but it wasn't close in the third period, and there's a strange magnetism about indestructable people that drew my eyes to the silent film on the big screen. Anyway, despite the impressive feat that suplexing an occupied phone booth is, I felt palpably less intelligent even after viewing probably less than half of the movie.

Then I went over to the weights area to sculpt my guns.

Just kidding. Seriously, though, I like to get things done, and today was a good reminder that productivity isn't always what it seems.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On listening

As anyone in the Facebook generation knows, losing your phone is tragic. No more numbers, no more ringtones, no more texting, no more contact with the outside world. It can be quite a nice thing to be without a phone -- it's like fasting, but with technology -- but that's not always the easiest thing to remind yourself in the moment.

I bring this up because my phone was gone, gone, gone the other day. I went through the classic thought process: where was the last time I saw it, did it ever leave my room, etc. I knew it was in my bedroom somewhere. I flung the covers off my bed. Nothing. I checked the insides of shoes. Nothing. I checked places it couldn't possibly be, just to feel like I'd done a thorough search. No dice.

Then I heard the phone vibrate. Is there a moment in my life where you listen as intently as when you're listening for your phone? I bent over, my chest parallel to the ground, contorting my head so as to move my ears as close to the ground as possible. Then it hit me --

If I really want to hear God's Word in everyday life, if I really want to hear Him give instructions on my life, I need to listen intently for Him...not for the vibration of an incoming text message.

Darn it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Long December

Consider this scenario: you're out in a public place--a gym, a restaurant, Wally World--just going along, doing your thing, when you have a sudden realization. "Hey, I know this tune!" And then you are happy. I think, in a way, God does this for us, too; in common places, sometimes when we least expect it (Wally World?!), His presence, His imprint, His melody manifests for us to witness.

It's a beautiful thing. It also usually requires two conditions on our side of the equation. First, we must be open and receptive. You won't hear the background music well, if at all, when you walk around bumping your Ace of Base mix on the iPod. Likewise, it can be hard to take in God when we're busy gorging ourselves with as many other things as possible. I believe that there is a real danger for Christians in America to become the thorn-choked plants of Matthew 13, and we do just that when we drown out His voice with cacophonic pursuits.

Our second need is knowing what to listen for. Because you won't recollect a song if you never learned how it goes in the first place, nor will you recognize the divine love symphony if it's unfamiliar to the ears of your soul. Knowing the Lord is paramount.

My prayer is that you will be so sensitized by the Spirit and learn His identity so deeply that even His faintest notes will captivate you in profound and unquenchable ways. And then you will be more than happy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who am I, and where am I going, and am I being redundant?

I saw a doctor in my late high school and early college days; I guess he was all right medically, but in general he was a bit pessimistic. When I told him I was majoring in history he said, "Ah, looking for a career at Baskin-Robbins scooping ice cream!" We laughed at the time, but it was true--with all the time I spent analyzing the past, I hadn't the foggiest idea of what direction I'd take in the future. Even today, my life is peppered with unanswered what-are-you-going-to-do queries. But lately, I don't think I care. At least, I've been learning that who you're becoming trumps what you're going to do. The reminders just keep popping up. I particularly like the old motto that Richard J. Foster cites (in Latin no less): actio sequitur esse, "action follows essence." In other words, take care of who you are, and that will flow from there. I see it in the Word, too. Psalm 25:12 is awkwardly phrased, yet to the point when it says, "Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose." Additional verses, sermons, conversations, and experiences, they all corroborate the same idea, and I suspect that it really is this "simple." I'm not saying that it's quick or easy--in fact, it hopelessly complicates matters for task-oriented individuals such as myself--but I'm convinced that the key to my future endeavors, and even to "finding God's will for my life" (as if it were lost), lies not in external factors as much as in my own identity, an identity that must begin and end in Christ.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hey team,
I was fortunate enough to be chosen to read the call to worship at church on Sunday. The text is below. Thanks to those whose ideas influenced mine --

I’m worn down by words sometimes. I think this is one of the devil’s better tricks. I talk so much, I read so much, I hear so much that words lose their meanings.

So I’ll read a psalm where David thirsts for the Lord, and his thirst seems like no big deal.

Yeah yeah, he’s thirsty, I’m thirsty, we’re all thirsty. I get it.

Then I’ll read about how God is the mighty rock and that won’t matter either.

I’ll read about the river of God being full of water and no, that meaning won’t connect with me either.

Then a day will come where the meaning does hit me. One day I’m spiritually in the desert, this hopeless middle-of-nowhere place where I’m starving and dying and a million other intense adjectives and there’s nothing I can do about it…Nothing that is, except long for God.

And those are the moments when my mind and heart rediscover their ability to feel, taste, and live in truth. Suddenly I understand that when David says his legs are in clay without God it’s because he literally cannot move without God. That when Jesus says He is the light of the world, it’s because He is the only thing that can be seen in an eternity of pitch black. Suddenly the idea of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, of hungering and thirsting for God…suddenly I realize that the desert is teaching me a thirst far better than any earthly quenching; the desert is teaching me that, in my deepest parts, I was made to crave--and to know--the Living God.

I’m not talking about yearning for God only when the chips are down. I’m talking about voluntarily entering the desert, being on my knees, sprawled out and asking to drown in His love every single day. It's about learning to live in longing for Him, and knowing that whether my day is good or bad, He saves me. Everyday He saves my life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pretty much the best thing I've ever read

From Brian "Head" Welch's Save Me From Myself, page 218:

"While I was in Korn, I had people waiting on me left and right. Anything I wanted, I got. Anywhere I wanted to go, I went. All I had to do was give the word and it happened. I had the world in the palm of my hand, people, and I have to tell you one last time: there's nothing there. I promise you.

Jesus Christ is the only one that can make you complete."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Question: How Can Guys and Girls Be Friends?

I have always had loads of guy friends. My best friend growing up was Gabe, my best friend in college was Matt, and one of my best friends immediately after college was Ben. Right now my closest friends are mostly guys, with a few notable, BFF-type exceptions.

A female friend recently marveled at the series of close, platonic relationships I have with guys. I can't explain why it is so easy for me to relate to guys, but those male friendships have been the most loyal and consistent in my life.

At the women's sexuality forum they mentioned how sexuality is the longing for togetherness, and that sexual intercourse is only one aspect of sexuality. Non-genital sexuality, or social sexuality, is how male and female relationships are important outside of sexual intimacy. I know that those relationships with men have made me a more well-rounded person with a better understanding of myself and my God.

On the flip-side, in college I had friends who believed, in the tradition of Harry Burns, that guys and girls could never be friends.

Here are my questions for you all:
- Can men and women just be friends? If so, what are the benefits to those relationships?
- What factors are required for men and women to be friends?