07 October 2012

Far, far better things ahead

I read that quote today, by C.S. Lewis. The one that reads, "There are far far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

It is as if we have knocked out a part of the living room wall, (don't mind the mess), and there is light again. I think he says what Paul the apostle has said, about pushing forward toward the prize, and leaving behind the sin that so easily entangles. It does, doesn't it? Sin, that is. A soldier is not to be caught up in civilian pursuits...let's remember that there are far far better things ahead. It is one of the reasons we cry "Maranatha, come Lord". 

04 October 2012

Humility in the E.R.

Admittedly, I am an impatient, prideful person. I like to accomplish a list of goals, and maybe one or two bonus goals, every day. If those self-set goals are not attained, I feel like a failure. I see only my inability to excel and begin berating myself and imagining the criticism of others. When others step in and mention, "perhaps those goals were not wise/reasonable/attainable/important," I allow my pride to roar. Not only have I failed to obtain my goals, but these people are now questioning the goals themselves!

I bet the Pharisees had this inward fight. A fight not worth the blood and sweat and tears. It is a fight between sin nature and sin nature. A fight between pride and self-conceit and...the conviction of Gospel humility.

I was in the Emergency Room today. After two days of dizziness, loss of concentration and coordination, and the sporadic numbing of my arm, a friend brought me to the E.R. I felt sick, but I also felt stupid. Because I thought I could overcome the physical symptoms my body was experiencing. I thought I could fight through it, get on with my life, and be none the worse for wear, as they say. But I could not get through it. I was at the mercy of the doctors, the lab tests, the needles, and the grace of God.

Tonight I lay reading a book of letters written by Fenelon, a believer in the 1600s, to one of his friends. This is an excerpt (The Seeking Heart):

"I hear that you are sick. I suffer with you for I dearly love you. Still, I cannot help but kiss the hand that allows this illness. I pray that you will lovingly kiss it with me. You have abused your good health and this is the result.

God will not only show you how physically weak you are, but how spiritually weak you are without Him. How strong you will be when you see that you are completely weak. Then you will always be able to believe that you are mistaken. Open yourself to the insight of others. Do not be dogmatic. Speak the truth simply."

I read those words, and though not Scripture, they convict me. I praise the Lord that the CT scan and EKG, not to mention the other lab results, came back clear. And I kiss the hand of the One who has tonight, once again, revealed the pride in my own heart. May he continue to show me that I am completely weak...and may I rejoice in his strength that saves to the uttermost those who are perishing. He has saved me from my sin; may he continue to chisel out the ruts sin left in my heart.

25 September 2012


Is it irony or grief that makes me grimace? I am reading a book whose stated intent is to help me "live life nearly free of fear". The author says we know violent acts by the subtle signals preceding, and we know the subtle signals because we, too, are human. In other words, we understand violence because, deep down, we are capable of it. I am not saying that the knowledge to be gained from observing human behavior will not have practical implications for daily living. But will I really live a life nearly free of fear simply because I know a little more of the depths of human depravity?

-- --

A man sat in the chair across from me,
speaking of a pain that leaves you
on your knees,
on the ground in public places, even.
It leaves your chest constricted, and you
no longer wonder if you'll make it.

This man, older than my grandfather,
looked at me.
This man with three times my life's years looked and said,
you have to help me.

I look him in the eye and wonder at my own mortality.
I am not free of fear, but I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that as deep as darkness goes, grace is there to meet it.

Maybe tomorrow, I can meet the next person's plea with a bit more courage.
And the day after that.  

17 September 2012

Spaghetti and Coffee

Transitioning to graduate school is not necessarily the glorious hop skip and jump that it was thought to be back in high school. (Graduate school--for the nerds--was the holy grail of higher education, an endeavor rarely spoken of, and from which few ever returned.) As I went from a traditional undergraduate degree program to a graduate program, I found myself easing into the life of a college student turned....college student. This was highlighted by my first purchases for a"nother" new apartment--coffee and spaghetti. On a budget, these seemed the essentials. Two months later, I still think great wisdom went into that buy.

A professor spoke, "it only gets better." A man in Kroger could say the same six syllables, and I would catch his cynicism by the third. The professor reawakened in me a hope of which I was once convinced. It only gets better.

I told you a story, once. Maybe twice I've repeated it. There was a man and a woman in a garden. There was no 'organic this' or 'organic that'. Labels do not matter where the FDA and pesticides are not involved. The crops grew easily and the animals did not fight the work.
The man and woman had no communication issues--stereotypes had not formed barriers between the two, and it was never an issue as to who would take the trash out at night. The maker of the garden and of the creatures walked with humanity, guiding and teaching and speaking and loving. The fruit of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not to be eaten.

A serpent came, a servant of darkness who had once been light. He spoke to the woman, questioning the words of the maker. Did he really say not to eat, the serpent questioned the woman. And pride grew as belief vanished.

The day you eat of it, you shall surely die.

The man was with her, and she ate. He ate. The earth shuddered into a bondage not yet felt. With crops, weeds. With communication, conflict. With God and man, separation.

A seed will come to crush the serpent's head.

Years passed. The earth grew dark and men's thoughts were only evil continually.

I will send hope, Abraham.

I will send hope, Isaac.

I will send hope, Jacob.

The son of David will save his people from their sins.

A son was born of the line of David, in a town called Bethlehem. A carpenter's son, a virgin's son, the son of God. Without sin, without rebellion in his heart, this image of the invisible God was hated by the leaders of the day, the religious leaders.

The light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.

He reflected the sin in men's hearts, and it seems one can only do one of two things--fall to one's face in light of one's deadness and filth, or rise in pride and deny one's fault. This God-man was judged and killed by men--only to rise from the dead, crush the serpent, and return to heaven until the day when all will be made right.

This summer, my vegetables were choked by weeds, and I struggle to be in fellowship with God. But what I have seen and heard gives testimony to the hope that is in me. He is coming quickly, and it only gets better.

26 June 2012

We are not sufficient

The concrete steps behind the house are cracked and rough,
perfect for prayers.
The altar of your choosing displays your understanding of God,
and of yourself.

Do we consider our role as advocates a sufficient role?
Do we weep for a world under the hand of a just God?

I wondered today whether a paradigm shift would happen, if we thought of the homeless as survivors, rather than more mouths to feed.

27 May 2012

Winter, Psalm 20

You ignored the dishes, crumbs
standing barefoot, cold
the metal sink-edge bit into your exposed belly
as you pressed, leaning over the window pane,
looking for a neighbor, a stranger, a deity.

You sank to the yellowed linoleum,
looking for a deity in the cracks.

He has come,
and is in the winter wheat's sprouting.
You are on your knees in the kitchen, asking and knowing
the answer.

16 March 2012


I think we find this fleeting hour sufficient for our labor,
    in the wisdom of your reckoning,
    you set your grace on us,
    in not one, but many,
             We shall be better for it, when we wake. The
              laborer needs rest,
              this, too, reckoned since the first.
Why would you lower yourself,
    for us? Why bear concern for us, the dust, 
    take our shoes and walk, not a mile, but
    build a road? Nay, do so and heal our legs,
              We shall be better for it, when we wake, to
               be sure.
               And you? Blessed be you for your patience,
               and glory reflected in our faces.

26 February 2012

"Chemicals" by John Mark Mcmillan

"But I want to love you/When the blood of my veins/Don't know how to call out your name"

23 February 2012

"May God bless the reading of His Word"

21 February 2012

With a sunset like this, I start to understand the groanings of a creation longing for redemption's process to be complete.

16 February 2012

Stream of Conscience

I drove, willing my thoughts to be absent,
noticed you in loose clothes, a smudged white t-shirt—
like the one you get for donating blood,
only, maybe ten years ago.
I was about to make a mental note about your life,
and its hardship, when you yawned.
I yawned, too, swallowed my thought, and continued driving. 

14 February 2012

Consume me Lord, else I die.

I called myself a runner. I admire the fluidity of the human structure when it functions well, with a toe, heel, breath. Sweat to cool and blood to warm. Muscles taut then lax, and tomorrow's strength worth the pain. I used to be a runner.

My spiritual life was inseparable from my running life. If I ran well, I prayed well. If I was angry, I ran...so that later, I could pray. In running, I had definite limits--so I would work until I saw those limits, until I would nearly pass out, was injured, or plain had nothing left. Reaching my limits did not humble me. It did not destroy me. Seeing my finite nature and weakness made me push harder, run farther, prove that I was not the weakness I saw. If I conquered myself, showed that my effort was nearly killing me, I could present myself to God. (See, God? I am desperate for you. Use me. I am useful.)

I was desperate to be used by God, to be sure. The sincerity was present. But, as most of my peers knew at the time, I struggled with rest. Resting in God, being still and knowing who He is.

I used to be a fighter, too. My opinions were known throughout school. I approved of the person whose words are so crafted that passion was evident. Comebacks and sarcasm were my tools. Who knows how many people I made bleed.

There came a time when tendonitis in my hip flexor became severe enough that I could barely walk. When I began running again, the panic attacks began. I had to learn to pray without running.
As I learned pain from the divorces, deaths, suicides and burdens in this world, I had to learn to speak without adding to the pain. It was not the running that made me desperate for God, it was the resting. In my search for skilled words, it was not wisdom I ultimately sought but compassion. However, a joining in the experiences and pain of another really takes pain to know. It was not the fighting that kept me whole, it was the breaking.

Recently, I told a friend that I was afraid. I have not been accustomed to much fear, and seeing my will and decisions shaped by an emotion that cripples is shaming. She asked me to name the source of my fear, and I blurted out, after having spent over two weeks trying to name it, "I think I am afraid to disappear in Christ."


I am afraid of becoming nothing. Hence the running and the fighting.

Quickly and soon, I was set right through words of my pastor, who said that having Christ as our treasure means love for Him drives us, is our motivating force, is what consumes our choices, our lives. My thought, which can only be from our God, was "Consume me Lord, else I die."

Christ, if I do not die in you, I die outside of you. With the first, there is resurrection, with the second, eternal loss.

Consume me, Lord, else I die.

12 February 2012


That boy, “Abraham’s son,”
I don’t think was ever rightly called.
                  There is that flame,
that kindling, in the story of
the son-that-should-have-died.

Fate played no part. God himself
came down. There is no surer word.
The covenant could stand
and Isaac die and Abraham knew it.

He spent three days knowing it,
each step a mustard seed
to fell the mountain in his heart.

The knife. Did he shudder as he lifted it,
                  the sinews, muscles tense
Did he calm himself with words as shallow as his breath
                  I’ve done this before
                  a goat, a dove, an ox,


An old sinner,
longing to obey.

And Isaac died to Abraham. In between the knife’s up and stop,
Isaac became a son of God. 

"You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it" -G.K. Chesterton

I have been thinking. We are commanded to love our neighbor.
What if I do not love my neighbor?
Well, then. I must choose to love anyway.
I must purposefully,
           intentionally choose actions that will demonstrate love toward my neighbor. Sometimes, this will come at great cost to myself, either in the form of time, money, or pride. If time or money, do not worry. Neither our time nor our money is our own. If it is our pride that will be lost when love is demanded...praise be to our Lord and Savior. "We know our blessings by their cost" (Wendell Berry). To lose one's pride is surely blessing.

But listen. I have heard an excuse, as of late. "How can I love someone I do not love? How can I change what I see or how I see it? I cannot, for I cannot change what I feel." I've heard the excuse, but I've also been reading about virtue and the cultivation of virtuous action. I have been in some of the best educational systems my whole academic career, and yet the idea that courage and love are things to be practiced, not merely bestowed, was shocking. If a person must strive to be courageous, is he less honorable and more in sin than another man? Less honorable because, "well, the fact that he had to work for it means he didn't have it in the first place" and more sinful because, "he is trying to do it on his own! this fool is trying to better himself on his own power!"

Listen. I have heard these things. Some in what I have read. Some in my own heart and mind. The logic does not even follow. Tending to our spirits, tending to our virtues, this is not usurping Christ's rightful place in our lives. His pure blood flowed onto our stained soil in substitute for my lifeblood. I should have died, like Icarus, a fool in my foolishness. But in His death I died, and in His life I live.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
          (2 Peter 1:3-8)

Make every effort, my friends. I think it is probably true, that one cannot love a thing without wanting to fight on that 'thing's behalf. But, perhaps it is more true that one cannot love a thing without needing to fight for that love itself, at times. Put on the new man, as Paul has said in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3.  Pray for God's intervention to change your heart, while you act in such a way that says you expect your heart to change.

More later. I realize my thoughts are disjointed. 

28 January 2012

"Only God with His shovel could dig us out"

I have not written in a long time. And when I refer to writing, I mean the kind that comes like breathing—at times, labored, but mostly as a blessing. I imagine this is the manner in which the artist paints and the runner runs. I imagine this is how we live—at times, with pain, but mostly in blessing.
Between the dreaming and the coming true (Bebo Norman), I think we forget what we signed up for. This forgetfulness can emerge in schooling, a workout program, a friendship, a marriage, or a life. One always begins with an image of the future, a goal, however nebulous, and determination enough to put cheerleaders out of business. From the beginning of these endeavors until their conclusion is a gap we can call life, the valley of the shadow, or even sanctification. The larger and longer the gap, the more we forget. I propose, however, that we do not forget our goals while in this valley of the shadow of sanctification, but rather, we forget the process. We forget what we signed up for—which was, yes, the end, the goal, the objective, but also the painful process of getting to the goal. No wonder we are a confused and at times, joyless, people. We mourn that we do not see God as we used to, but forget that we saw from a mountaintop our destination…and are now in the valley striving toward that end. We grieve to see our sin, and rightly so, but it depresses our souls because at that moment, we have forgotten the grace that brought us thus far. As of late, I have been hearing the moans from this valley, of myself and of others. Just the other day I heard from a mentor:
“Our society is in such a deep mess that only God with His shovel could dig us out.”
Aye, we are in a deep mess. What else does one call a place that roils in anger against a God declared nonexistent each time an earthquake hits? A place whose people are terrified to die, and do not know how to live? What is a mess if not the church who turns away from this dying world and acts as if she, too, denies God? Hm. This world is in quite a “mess,” but you know? In the valley, in the living, in the opacity of existence, I think we often forget that (forgive the seeming irreverence of this statement) God has a shovel, and has dug us out. When, in this mess, we declared God’s Son the chief threat to our existence and sacrificed Him to our desires…we were pulled out from where we had lain, self-buried, dead. Only God and His shovel could dig us out, indeed. Between the dreaming and the coming true lies hope for the future.