Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Moving sites...

I've made the jump!!  If you are looking for more posts from this blogger, check me out at my new location: To Live and Love God on Wordpress!  Thanks!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A God named Fluffy....

I have a lot of books. When my husband and I moved into our first home after packing up the last trinkets of my childhood leftover at my parents' house, he couldn't believe how many boxes stacked up in our little study. "You've found another one?!" he would exclaim, when in our unpacking I would discover a box marked "toys" only to find a single layer of stuffed animals sheltering another trove of ideas penned by far better minds than my own. A few of those boxes, mostly empty, still sit in our study, as the volume far outstripped the shelf space.

Among these is a shelf of my "to-do" list: books I picked up here or there for a creative title or interesting cover page or because "a friend of a friend read on a blog" that a book was worth the read. They stare at me accusingly every time I enter, as though the green corners of bills stick up from their bindings, reminding me of the groceries they could have been. Some of these books have made their way to my office, clustered full of ideas that could potentially solve my next crisis but have yet to even have the binding bent.

Today, in a surprising show of resolve, I picked one up: "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis. The dust was thick enough I couldn't even remember how I came to have it; certainly because his name on the cover means it's worth the read, but whether I bought it, received it, or snitched it out of a library recycle bin, I can't recall. Whatever the situation that brought it to my possession, in one sitting, I had read it all.  Of the pages I marked, I will share two with you now:

"Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off - waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he's not in a  cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound close at hand - a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound...I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in." (p. 64)


"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that." (p. 69)

Every day I stand in front of God and demand He prove Himself. He must prove He is loving. He must prove He is good. He must prove He is trustworthy. In arrogance I place God in the defendant's seat, grasping for myself the gavel and the law, seated above Him in judgement of His character and actions.

The truth is I would much rather be getting on without God. I would much rather define that which is morality. I would much rather go about doing what I plan to do and like to do without His interference, and certainly without all the mishaps I blame on Him that are really due to my own sin and the sin that has broken our world asunder.

The truth're this way.

We all are.

Certainly we have always been, though post-enlightenment we no longer ask those questions behind closed doors but brashly scream our demands from the mountaintops of the Internet, the television, the speaker's podium... Christians, eager in their defense of God, have sought to answer those demands, to rationalize God down into a box the culture can manage. With the best of intentions we have taken the "wild lion" of God (to borrow another Lewis metaphor from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"), and made Him a house cat. To make Him more manageable we have shaved His mane, put a food dish in the corner, and collared Him with with "Fluffy" on His name tag.

Yet God declares of Himself:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)


"You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, 'He did not make me'; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'"?

We seek to rationalize and explain something so far beyond our capacity, that as Lewis puts it, we are like a person in total darkness trying to explain what is going on around us. For a God who can claim the heavens as the work of His fingers (Psalm 8:3) must certainly be far beyond our comprehension. We create, but only based on what is already known. God created everything without prior inspiration. Creativity in its purest form is represented in the mind of God, who made everything from nothing. There was nothing for Him to base this all off of.

This is not to say we should not think or question or discuss in order to understand Him better, but we should have far more humility in doing so than we do in present America. As Lewis put it, our grand theological discussions and arguments are arguments over nonsense. We cannot even understand that over which we argue, as though two residents of ancient Egypt were to stumble upon a computer tablet and seek to explain it. Even that is only a pale comparison to the difference between God's actions and our understanding.

Lewis was right. We sit in the dark, and hearing the wind through trees, we think we are free, even though the darkness might hide the bars of a cage. Praise God who, just as He knows all things, knew we would always seeks to live life on our own terms and sent Jesus:

"Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11 NIV)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Not worth fighting for....

I sit in a coffee shop; I listen to the music of a softly played piano coming in over the speakers; I watch people come and go, their footprints an invisible pathway into a thousand doors, a thousand conversations, a thousand roads... These roads trail into lives, into stories of lives that will never be told to the world at large but irrevocably shape us all.  One set of footprints follows a man with long, gray hair, big boots, rough hands.  He sits alone.  He reads.  He crosses his arms and hunches over as though he might somehow protect himself from prying eyes that would trace back along his path to an empty house echoing an empty heart.  Another set follows a young couple, rings on their fingers so fresh their skin has yet to take the shape of the promises they made.  They laugh.  They scroll through their smartphones.  They sit in confident conversation, sunlight streaming into large windows, a whisper of the hope they have as they start this journey together.  Theirs is not the only story.  

As I watch these stories... I wonder what pasts shape the people I see.  I wonder what the future holds and how much that unknown past will shape the future they allow themselves to have.  I wonder how many of them walk this road unsure of their own value, unknowing of how precious and unique and priceless they are.  I wonder how many of them fit these statistics:

50% of American youth will experience the divorce of their parents.
40% of American youth will grow up without a father figure.

How many of them walk this life overshadowed by fatherlessness, whether conciously or unconciously attempting to fill a void that should have been brimming over with love and affirmation?  How many of them unconciously believe the lie: your own father didn't think you were worth fighting for, so why should anyone else?  

But we all have a Father who thought we were fighting for.  We all have a Father whose face isn't turned away, His back the only fading memory we have of what should have been a breaker against the storms of our lives.  We have a Father who doesn't look at us with disappointment or shame or rejection on His face.  Rather, our Father looks at us with compassion, with love, with hope, with sorrow for us and the pain we are experiencing.  This Father is a Father of courage, who in the face of hardship didn't pack His bags to walk out, but to storm into our lives.  In the midst of Hell, He chased after us as we stood in a howling storm, screaming to be heard above the tempest.  As the hurricane grew in power, He cast Himself over us, shutting out the wind and the rain and the debris, taking the abuse, taking the pain, taking the death that storm intended for us.  

And in the silence afterward, in the brokenness of His body that continued to sheild us even in death... His eyes opened, and they looked into ours...and there was not accusation and blame.  There was... there IS... LIFE everlasting and LOVE neverending and HOPE never failing and PURPOSE and MEANING and BEAUTY and all those things we believed life could be when we were young and small and soft and sheltered.

Who is this Father, who would give up all things that we may have all things?  Who is this Father who will never deny us, never walk away, never quit, never be content to leave us where we are and wash His hands of us?

He is known in His Son... the Son who sheltered us in the storm.  The Son who looks on us with His Father's eyes... our Father's eyes.  His son, Jesus the Christ.  Jesus the Messiah.  Jesus, our Immanuel.  Jesus, the Light of the World.  Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus, the Son of man.  Jesus, the Lion of Judah.  Jesus, the Beginning and the End.  Jesus, the Alpha and Omega.  Jesus, the First and the Last.  Jesus... who has made Himself known to us so we could know His Father.  Our Father.  The Creator of the Universe and the lover of our souls.

"God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins." - 1 John 4:9-10(NRSV) 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A desperately neglected one....'s a word that carries layers of understanding and expectations.  When someone tells you they are "married," it immediately calls to mind a wealth of information.  In it's ideal, God-given state, saying this means, "I am committed to someone outside myself.  I love and cherish another human being above my own well-being and happiness.  In fact, my happiness comes from putting this other human first in my life.  Every decision I make impacts directly and intimately another human being, and so every decision I make necessarily takes into consideration that person and the potential impact on them.  Everything I do takes into consideration that other person, their wants and desires, their joys and sorrows.  This inherently means I will not do things I might have done as a bachelor because my relationship with that person has realigned my priorities.  My desires must be tempered by the knowledge of the other person in my life."

In the same way, the word faith is not a word that stands alone.  Faith is not an end in itself, nor the object of our attention.  Faith describes a relationship, a relationship that is deeper, longer-lasting, and more powerful than even the relationship contained in the word marriage.  When you say "I have faith in Christ" or "I am a Christian" or "I am growing in my faith," you are saying, "By the grace of God, I am committed to someone outside myself.  I love and cherish this man/God, Jesus, above my own well-being and immediate happiness.  In fact, my happiness is defined by putting Him first in my life.  Every decision I make directly and intimately reflects upon this object of love and passion, Jesus.  Therefore, every decision I make necessarily takes into consideration Him and the potential impact it has on our relationship.  Everything I do takes into consideration my Savior, His wants and desires, His joys and sorrows.  This inherently means I will not do things I might have done before I found out about His love for me because our relationship has realigned my priorities.  My desires must be tempered by the knowledge of Jesus' presence in my life."

So in the church, when we say that being a "Christian" is about more than checking your name on the metaphorical attendance roster for Sunday or simply paying lipservice by saying, "I'm a Christian," that's what we mean.  We aren't saying your lifestyle and priorities in any way determine Christ's love for you or provide for your salvation; what we are saying is they say a lot about whether there is a relationship.  Remember what I said about marriage?  How long will that be the definition of your marriage if that other person is the focus of your life for a mere hour a week, no matter how desperately your neglected spouse continues to pursue you?  It will end, not because they walk away... but because you did.  People should be able to tell if you're married.... and they should be able to tell you are in love with Christ.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
 -Galatians 5:22-25(NIV)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I'll give you everything....

In the events of Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus was hungry, starving, exhausted and hot, wandering the wilderness of Judea.  For forty days, he had nothing to eat... and in that moment of absolute physical weakness, Satan believed he had an opportunity to derail Jesus.  He wanted to cause Jesus to stumble, to sin.  After all, it would take only what we would think of as the "smallest of sins" on Jesus' part to annihilate any hope for mankind.  The only reason Jesus could die on the cross and take away all our sins, and the punishment that came with them, is because He is sinless.  One misstep and humanity has lost salvation and the chance to be defined, not by our failings, but by God's perfection.  It had worked with Adam, so Satan thought he could swing it again with Jesus.

I find his third, and final, attempt to cause Jesus to sin particularly interesting:

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me.'" 
- Matthew 4:8-9(NIV)

Satan promised to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world - that means he offered Jesus Rome in the height of its power, the Chinese empire under the Han dynasty, the Kushan Empire, the 3 Kingdoms of Korea, Yayoi Japan, all the tribes of Africa and North America... essentially, Satan offered the whole of the world to Jesus, just for the "teeny-tiny" price of worshiping the Father of Lies.  

What I find interesting is that Satan offers Jesus something that is not his to provide.  Genesis 2:4(NIV) states that "the LORD God made the earth and the heavens," i.e., God made everything.  That means everything is His and all that we might perceive we "have" is something God has given to us.  So how can Satan offer the kingdoms of this world?  Jesus, who states "I and the Father are one" in John 10:30(NIV), already possesses all the world.

But isn't that how Satan always works?  He offers us ANYTHING and EVERYTHING so that we will go along with his little whispered suggestions in our ear.  He offers you FUN; he offers you JOY; he offers you LOVE; he offers you SATISFACTION; he offers you PEACE; he offers you MEANING; he offers you PLEASURE... he suggests that a life in Christ can't give you this.  "Jesus is boring; Jesus isn't fun; Jesus can't give you the love you need; if you follow Jesus you can't HAVE what you really want and need; Jesus only makes demands, He can't give you peace..." Satan whispers... and over and over again we buy it.  With our words and actions we bow down and worship the things of this life, convinced they will give us fun, joy, love, satisfaction, peace, meaning, pleasure... but these are things that are not Satan's to provide.

"Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
- James 1:16-17(NIV)

This world can never provide you with the desires of your heart.  The things that are offered here are pale, weak imitations of the life God wants to give you, of the life Jesus died to give you.  You know what Jesus said to Satan's offer?

"Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 
- Matthew 4:10(NIV)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Life is darkness....

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
- Genesis 1:2(NIV)

Formless... empty... darkness... When I read these words, the thought that comes to mind is: isn't this the human condition?  Let's look at each word:

Formless: without a clear or definite shape and structure.  Isn't this often what life feels like?  You get up in the morning earlier than you want, try to wake up before you get to work or school, spend all day trying to learn something new or be effective at your chosen activity, try not to upset your friends or coworkers or teachers or coaches or bosses, finish school or work and go to the next activity until you finally get to go home, where you have to try to maintain your relationship with a family you may not entirely get along with, and if you're a student you STILL have school to do in the form of hated homework before you can go to bed to start the process over tomorrow.  In the middle of all this process, as you're trying to be the best worker or student or athlete or musician or performer of WHATEVER you do... you may find yourself wondering what the purpose of it all is.  What is really the purpose and meaning of your life?  It all seems to just be BUSY, without any direction.

This may lead you to the sense that life is EMPTY: having no value or purpose.  You may think, "I do all this stuff, but what does it really do?  Is all of life just to work to eat, so I can work and eat and work and eat until I eventually retire and die???"  The author of Ecclesiastes frames our thoughts well when he laments in chapter 2, verse 17:

"So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me.  All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." 

Ultimately, though, I think the thing that tatters the corners of our thoughts and eats away at our hearts is the tiny, little voice in the back of our mind that whispers so convincingly, "Life is darkness.  There is nothing but darkness inside of you and other people."  And we find ourselves believing it, being filled to vomiting with darkness, because we see darkness all around us.  We see friends contemplate suicide and can't help but admit we've been there, classmates cut their bodies because they don't want to die but they can't deal with the pain inside anymore, we fight with our parents to the point we wish we didn't know them, our so-called friends whisper lies behind our backs or spit disrespect right in our faces, our parents walk out on their marriage and shatter our families, our boyfriends or girlfriends promise us love but leave us empty or just plain leave, our coaches or conductors or teachers or bosses abuse us emotionally no matter how hard we work to earn their approval, friends and family are eaten from the inside by cancer... and that's just in our personal lives.  Then we look into the world and see starvation, the threat of nuclear war, children shot in schools, girls raped at parties, children molested... and how can we see anything but darkness?  It clouds everything with despair.

But what happened next in creation, in the very next verse, in fact?  Genesis 1:3(NIV):

"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."

The first thing God did to a formless, dark, and empty nothingness... was to infuse it with light.  What does that sound like?

"the people living in darkness have seea great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
- Matthew 4:16(NIV)


"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
- John 1:14(NIV)


"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
- John 8:12(NIV)

Just as the spoken WORD of God into the EMPTINESS before creation brought LIGHT and LIFE... so did Jesus ("the Word of God") when He came bursting into our world as an infant in that cave in Bethlehem.  So does Jesus when He comes bursting into your heart and life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now... that doesn't mean there won't be hardship in your life.  As the world descended into sin under the influence of Satan, despite the light that God had given to it, so you will face trouble in your life, even as you walk in faith:

"Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
- 1 Peter 5:8(NIV)

But in your suffering, remember the following verses 9&10(NIV):

"Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

The darkness, remember... is only part of the story, and a temporary part at that.  The ending is "eternal glory."

"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
- Revelation 21:1-5(NIV)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A nod to the month: Knowing Love

For Americans, February is the month of love.  However, in a culture where love seems so quickly labeled and disposed of, I want to dig through the pile of candied hearts and remember what God intended love to be.

1 John 3:16a(NIV) states, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

If we want to find out what real love is, we need to look at who Christ is and how He loved.  We need to not only look at His death, which is overwhelming for anyone to think about, but before that, before even His birth as a man.  To begin to understand His love, we need to understand our beginnings, when with mere words, God brought life rushing forth from nothingness.  In this time of humanity’s dawn, it was through Jesus that all things were made (John 1:3).  Imagine that power, that authority, to send whole galaxies spiraling out of the darkness, to light the cradles of stars in the expanse, to send the waters of the earth rushing forth in their millions of gallons, to rear mountains up from the plains with a crack and roar… to weave together the form of man from particles of dust, and with a breath give life through his nostrils. 

Now imagine what it was for him to become a human being.  Imagine lying aside the power to shape the universe and then coming screaming into the world in the cold of the night, into the care of two flawed human beings who did not even have the authority to protect their children from the sword of their government.  Imagine going from the object of worship, to the object of scorn: the questionably conceived child of a teenager from a region of the world that caused others to wonder, “Can anything good come from there?”(John 1:46a)  He would later be called a lunatic, a blasphemer, and even Satan, himself.  Eventually, the very people to whom He had been for centuries promised… would turn Him over to the government they hated to be brutally beaten and hung on a tree to die… a significant act, as in Jewish society a man killed this way was “cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

And yet, as Jesus hung dying on the cross, carrying the sins of all mankind personally, alienated from God and tortured physically, Luke records Jesus saying in chapter 23, verse 34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Love, then… is more than a feeling of passion.  It is treating others better than they deserve.  It is acting lovingly, even when it is not felt.