Sunday, May 31, 2009
I love this book. One of my all-time favorites, and the book I turn to when Christianity seems to become too academic and threatens to set my head spinning. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest books written about the Christian faith.
Lewis doesn't set out to uncover new pages in faith, or to say outrageous things that will inspire some and enrage others. Lewis simply lays out why he believes Christianity makes sense and how a Christian should behave. He points out the traps along the way and the obstacles, namely ourselves, that we must overcome in order to be faithful Christians. He never claims moral or intellectual superiority, instead simply offering his opinion and suggesting that the reader subscribe to it if it is helpful, but otherwise, to drop it in favor of something better. Lewis writes humbly, beautifully, brilliantly, and has managed to craft a work that I keep coming back to; it reminds me of how simple and beautiful, yet how demanding and complete, faith in God should be.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
You are my everything. From the time I wake to when I sleep at night, your grace sustains me. Even while I slumber, it is you and you alone that keep me. Grant me the wisdom to recognize this, and to sing out my praises to you. You are God, from before my birth until time has passed away, and I pray that each word I speak, each thought that passes through my mind, will bring honor and glory to you. I love you with all my sinful heart, and pray that you will wash me clean yet again, create in me anew, so that I can be the child you have planned me to be, praising and glorifying you with each and every moment of my days.
I love you.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
When I do not have the strength to stand, grant me the wisdom to kneel before your holy throne. Every resource I will ever need I can find in you. Teach me to be wise and humble, kind and gentle, ferocious and passionate in your service. I have been made by your hand, guided by your Spirit; now may I go into the world filled with your wisdom and love, pouring myself out so that I may be filled by you. May my each and every word bring glory to your holy and eternal name.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I've been reading for a class I'm taking in July. The latest assignment was Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary Schmidt.
It's beautifully written. The language makes it hard to turn the pages, for I so enjoyed the way the sea breeze was personified, the way metaphors and similes turned a simple sentence into a sweet dessert. Each story is well-crafted, and Schmidt must have turned the words over in his mind before allowing them to spill out onto the paper, where they would be carefully arranged to suit the task.
As for the story, it's heartbreaking. It's the story of a minister's boy, Turner, who is moved to Maine with his parents only to discover everything is different there, including himself. In his efforts to find peace, he stumbles across a girl from a local island, an African American girl who is fascinating to him, only unwelcome to everyone else because of the color of his skin.
Turner is caught in the middle of a battle far bigger than himself as the town residents want to relocate the Africa-American residents and claim their land for a resort hotel. Turner believes this is wrong, but has little influence over the town, or even his own father. This is a story of relationships, of sorrow, of hope and of community. It is a short read, but do not make the mistake I did of assuming it would be easy. It speaks to the soul, calls us to question who we are, the company we keep, and where we will stand when the time comes for us to stand up for what is right rather than what is popular. This novel may break your heart, but it will also urge you to make sure you have all the pieces before you put it back together.
Know that I love you. You are the God of creation and covenant, you are the God who liberates and redeems. You are so much bigger than what I can dream and so much deeper than I can dive. Know that I love you. Even when I am turning from you, turning inward so that I might console myself, know that I love you.
I sin out of weakness, out of selfishness, out of forgetfulness. I start to believe that I am self-sufficient, self-enabling, self-capable, and I strike out boldly on my own. Forgive me, and remind me, that I am your child and depend upon you as a faithful parent. I cannot do this on my own, and if it comes to that, surely I will perish. You are my sustaining God.
I love you more than my words can say. I love you more than my actions admit. I love you, O God, like I cannot love anything else, and I pray to your holy name that I might live your will.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I was tired, and you gave me sleep. You led me to rest, and now I wake, rejuvanated, ready to serve. Holy God, may my soul echo this movement. When my soul is weary, lost and confused, may it find its rest in you. When it wakes, may it hear your voice calling it from slumber and move forward in the world, ready and willing to serve you by loving others. You are my God and my love, teach me to follow your footsteps, to reach beyond where I am to dream like the God of tomorrow you are, to treasure today's moments for you are the God of today as well. You are every good thing in my life, and you are working on every bad thing. Teach me patience and wonder, so that I might share my awe of you.
I love you.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Make me not afraid to be your child. I am surrounded by the things of this world, and my heart leaps with sinful desire when the lures of this world try to steal my heart away from you. Keep me on your path, the path that walks in faithfulness and glorifies you. Help me to see each day of life as an opportunity to live as your child, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. May I not be unafraid of the Gospel or too timid to cry out to the world that I am a precious child of God and will not be moved because of the rock that I stand upon, the Word of God.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
We finally saw Fireproof, months too late, and yes, it really is that amazing. I didn't have many doubts, after crying my way through Facing the Giants, but life gets busy. It had been sitting on the shelf for two weeks before we finally sat down to watch it, and I am so thankful that we did. I will freely admit that I got something in my eyes in this one, too. It's a great movie.
Fireproof focuses on the marriage of Caleb and Katherine. There is a marriage, but upon looking inside, there is simply dust and the remains of what once existed. There is little left inside, and each believes that the other is to blame. They believe there is no hope for a common future.
Caleb's dad asks Caleb to make a promise. He asks him to commit 40 days to this marriage. If he is willing to take the love dare, working every day, in big and small things, then perhaps there is hope. Caleb's dad also points him towards another love, the love of Jesus Christ, without which we cannot truly love, because if we don't know Christ, then we don't truly understand love.
As the movie unfolds we see Caleb's feeble efforts to shatter the bonds of their broken history and Katherine's struggle to see Caleb as a new man, rather than the old. It is a beautiful tale of what a relationship can be, should be, and gives each individual in a relationship something to aspire to.
Teach me to love you. I am under the delusion that I have managed to find my way to you on my own. I seem to have myself fooled that I know how to worship and glorify you. I often foolishly believe that, left to my own devices, I would choose to live for you.
Break down my defenses, my weak and human pride. Mold me into something new, something beautiful, something wonderful, living for you. I have been beautifully and wonderfully made by you; may this fact linger in the air around me like a sweet perfume, reminding me of your grace and glory, pointing to you, always. I am not so strong, not so smart, not so faithful. I am a leaf, blown by the prevailing winds. You are the rock I need beneath my feet, the Spirit within my heart and the vision guiding me. Be thou my Lord, each day of my life, so nothing is lost, and I love you always.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson is one of the books that makes me crawl into bed half an hour late and apologize to my wife, telling her that I need to find less interesting books so we can go to bed on time. Set in rural Pakistan, it's the story of how one man's broken dreams gave rise to something new and incredible. It's a story about keeping promises despite obstacles and the capability of one determined individual to transform the lives of thousands through hard work, little sleep and the support of others.
Greg Mortenson was a climber who became lost on his descent from a failed ascent of K2. He wandered into Korphe, the town that would change his life and change because of his life. It was there that he dedicated himself to building schools in rural Pakistan, with a special focus on educating girls. The book is well-written and capture the passion Mortenson has for his schools. Despite language obstacles, cultural obstacles and the difficultly of getting Americans to understand the urgency of this, he succeeds in raising the funds and helping these villages have educations for their children, the most precious commodity any village has. By giving them balanced educations in these schools, the students do not end up in the extremist Muslim schools, where hatred and intolerance are often taught. Mortenson helps provide a future, and he gives hope to so many in desperate need of it. I'd highly recommend this book. More can be learned at threecupsoftea.com
Your Word remains. When everything else in my life is collapsing around me, your Word stands faithful. It is your strength and your consistency that draws me back to you; I have seen how my own efforts, my own meager attempts at wisdom have, time and time again, failed under the burden of my humanity, while your wisdom and power, the willingness to be foolish, the strength to be weak, is better than my own. Your Word stands, in the winds and the storms, in the rain and the breeze, you remain. Give me the wisdom to cling to you, the strength to hold on when I am tired and weary, and the power to spread the Good News of your eternal reign.
Monday, May 11, 2009
As I begin to creep into the future you have set before me, remind me of the past that is behind me. You never abandoned me, not for one second. You sustained me in the darkest hours and laughed with me through my greatest joys. Your tears have colored my grief-drenched vision and it is your arms that kept me upright when nothing else could have done the same. Do not let me now, in this place, forget all you have done and selfishly believe I am capable of sustaining my own journey. Remind me that you are not merely a pit stop for refueling once a week but you are the life within my veins and the peace within my heart. My only true joy can be found in you, and when I open my eyes with wonder it is because you are there. Thank you, O Lord, for the laughter in my heart and the love in my life.
O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
May 17--The Lookouts play Sunday @ 2:15. Sign-up sheet is in the narthex, but we can either meet down there or ride down together!
VBS is nearing: the dates are June 8-12, for your calendars.
On Wednesday Nights in June we’ll be studying Philippians. 4 weeks, 4 chapters. God is good! The Community Kitchen will join us next Wednesday!
Church History Quiz
Q: Who was the leader of the reformation in Scotland?
A Reading from the Confessions
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION 5.001-2
We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures. And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.
Text for Sunday, May 10
”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Church History Answer
A: John Knox, born in 1515, was made preacher of the Protestant community against his will and from that time on was the main spokesman for the cause of reformation in Scotland
(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s "The Story of Christianity," Volume II, pg. 81)
What are your feelings on Twitter in Church?
If you're going to buy books (And I certainly am), why not support global literacy at the same time?
The latest on Van Gogh's ear
An article on the origins of Hospice
Want to buy an island?
Early Star Trek reviews
You whisper in my ears, day after precious day. You are flowing around and through me, causing my heart to stir with restless when I am not praising God. I forget your grace and your love. I forget how you sustain my every day. My mind wanders freely to selfish thoughts, sinful thoughts.
Continue to dwell in my heart. Do not give up on me, O Spirit, and convert me once again. Change my mind and my heart, so that everything I do, I do it in the name and presence of my gracious Father in heaven. I love you, O Lord.
Friday, May 8, 2009
All we lack, now that life has become so speeded up, is the will to slow it down so that we can live a little while life goes by. We need to want to be human as well as efficient; to be loving as well as informed; to be caring as well as knowledgeable; to be happy as well as respected.
It’s not easy. (Joan Chittester OSB)
Each day is a new creation, and yet it carries forward marks of the old. You never forget, O Lord, the history of your people, and yet you cast a vision for us, one that is big and bold, and you invite us to live into it. May our eyes be open, and our dreams big enough, for your hopes for us. May we invite one another to live in love, to treasure this life, the company of one another, your wondrous blessings, your endless gifts. May we rejoice and sing out our praises, knowing that your love is something wider than the ocean, higher than the mountains, and kinder than we can ever know. May we be empowered this day to serve and love one another.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Teach me how to bloom, or help me to recognize it when I do. I admit that I forget how awesome you are, how beautiful your world is. I fail to see the beauty you have placed in me, focusing instead on the ugliness that I so often fall prey to. You are my God and King, and you have placed beauty inside me, not for my own glory, but for yours, so that I might shine forth with beauty, illuminating the world and pointing to you. This is all about you, O Lord, and your ultimate glory. May my passing shadow upon this world be one that points to you and your beauty, your grace, your endless love.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I cannot begin to imagine what Noah felt when the door to the ark closed. For months he was trapped inside that wooden contraption, unsure of what tomorrow might bring. He had no idea when his imprisonment would be over. He had the faith to trust you and it carried him through the flood.
Grant me the faith of Noah to trust you in the floods of life. May I not grow so anxious for tangible results that I turn from you and seek security elsewhere, for only in you do I find the rock of my foundation. May I understand your will for my life, treasure your abiding presence, and look for ways to continuously grow closer to you, God my God.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I have read so much about you. I know how you watched over Moses and Paul, Jeremiah and Peter. I know of the love you have for your people, for I have read about it in Exodus and Acts.
Help me to read it in the pages of the world around me, and in the pages of my life. May I take a moment to read the reality that surrounds me and understand your deep and awesome love for me. You are holy and amazing, and you love more fiercely than I could ever know. Even when I do not understand, O Lord, teach me to respect you, and to live in wonder and awe of all that you are. I adore you, O Lord, and pray that my wandering heart will focus on you, and you alone.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I read The Kite Runner last week and was not surprised at all by all the acclaim it had received. It was an engaging, eye-opening story, one that swept the reader up in its fast paced plot and forced you to ask questions of yourself and your background. The author, Khaled Hosseini, takes you back to the Afghanistan where he was raised. He tells of his childhood, detailing his highs and lows in a way I would be comfortable doing, then discusses his flight from Afghanistan during the political uprising.
The author's brutal honesty with his failures as a child is brave. I am not certain I would have the capability to write such a memoir. He exposes himself in a raw and uncensored way, and through him we learn about a country where children grew up no different than our children today. However, with the Taliban, everything changes. The freedom that they had was crushed under the Taliban, and they are forced to flee to America, where the author goes about rebuilding his dreams, brick by brick.
It is a story of reconciliation, of love, of heartbreak. The author is searching for redemption for an act he committed as a child. His journeys have a universal element to them; while we each have things in our past we cannot change, we also have a future that is left open for us to find motivation from our past to fuel our journey forward. We cannot change our past, but we are free to live for God in the future. It is an emotional journey into the heart of a land I previously knew little about. It is a great ride, and I am better for having read it.
My feet have hit the floor, and I'm standing. Disoriented, still half-asleep, wondering what comes next, but here I am. Waiting for clarity, for purpose. But there is one thing that I know: you love me. I am a treasure to you, clay jar that I am. You hold me within your arms, watch me as I grow and stretch and reach for faithfulness, even those things that are beyond my reach. You love me as you love each of your children, and while I can never grasp just how awesome you are, you have filled my heart with a sense of purpose and I am forever grateful. May my life always be pointed to the eternal, to the reality of God among us. May all I do be one continuous praise song to you, my King eternal. I love you.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Storms rage outside my window. I watch as the rains pour down, as lightning flashes, the heavens open up and send a deluge upon the ground. I wonder, O Lord, when the sun will shine again. How quickly I forget your grace and love. How rapidly I mourn and weep for myself. Remind me of your grace and love, O Lord. Teach me to find the assurance I need in the pages of Scripture, in the history of my life, for you are there. You have woven yourself throughout the pages of my life, and I give you thanks and praise for all you are and all you have done. Even on the darkest of days, Lord, your love abides. Hold me tightly, Lord, so that I may not doubt, but believe.
Friday, May 1, 2009
I received this book at the Teen Challenge dinner I went to last night. I sat down and stared reading it casually this afternoon. I just finished it. It's that good. What's it about?
Basically, this book is the beginning of the Teen Challenge ministry. It centers around David Wilkerson's call to gang ministry in the roughest, toughest most violent places in New York City. He builds relationships by courageously going to the gang members and witnessing to the presence and love of God in their lives. He goes where Christ would have gone and proclaims the love that Christ proclaimed on the cross.
The book goes on to highlight the beginning of the ministry of Teen Challenge. It is extraordinary the way the Holy Spirit worked in the ministry to enable them to meet their spiritual and personnel needs. Just when the night was darkest, dawn broke. The Lord provided, for David and his family as well as the boys and girls who came to recognize themselves as sons and daughters of God. The story is not without lows to go along with the highs, but the presence of the Lord fills this story. It is inspiring and amazing to read about what God does in the lives of David and those who cross his path. I would highly recommend this easy to read testament to God's presence in every place.
Lula Lake outing this Sunday, May 3, just after church! Bring a friend, bring a covered dish, and come enjoy God’s good creation with us!
There are three weeks left in the sock & underwear drive!
VBS is nearing: the dates are June 8-12, for your calendars.
I’m trying to find something different to spotlight about Honduras each week as we draw nearer to the mission trip. This week: The CIA’s report. (I’d never been to the CIA’s website before. Who knew they had such helpful stuff? Makes me feel better about my taxes)
Next Wednesday night program: Deborah Phillips, the Hunger Action Enabler, will join us
Young Adults: Game Night! Derby Party! Tomorrow @ 5:30. Let me know if you’re interested.
The country, that panic doesn’t ensue after the constant flu reports
Green Living from the PC(USA)
Sustainable homes, just down the street!
An update from Presbyterian missionaries in Zimbabwe
Church History Quiz (Answer Below)
Q: Who most famously opposed the king when the Church of England broke from Rome in 1534?
A Reading from the Confessions
THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION 5.188
WE ARE BAPTIZED WITH WATER. And therefore we are baptized, that is, washed or sprinkled with visible water. For the water washes dirt away, and cools and refreshes hot and tired bodies. And the grace of God performs these things for souls, and does so invisibly or spiritually.
Text for Sunday, May 3
4Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3he left Judea and started back to Galilee.
4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
The Monastic Moment (from The Monastic Way.)
There is a widely accepted misconception among us that when one becomes involved in work at home or in business, immediately one steps out of the godly realm and away from God-pleasing activities. From this idea, it follows that once the desire to strive toward God germinates, and talk turns toward the spiritual life, then the idea inevitably surfaces: one must run from society, from the home—to the wilderness, to the forest.
Both premises are erroneous!
Homes and communities depend on concerns of daily life and society. These concerns are God-appointed obligations; fulfilling them is not a step toward the ungodly, but is a walking in the way of the Lord.
(Theophan the Recluse)
Church History Answer
A: Sir Thomas More. He refused to swear loyalty to king Henry VIII as head of the church and was imprisoned. His answer to his daughter’s beg for him to recant: “I never intend to pin my conscience to another man’s back.”
After his trial, where he was condemned to death, he wanted to be certain that it was clear he did not believe a layman capable of being the head of the church. He was executed in the Tower of London.
(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume II, pg. 73)
I have watched as you have changed lives. I have listened as they told their stories about pain and suffering, darkness and struggles, and yet they can say that Christ was their, somewhere in the midst of all of that. I have heard stories about jail, and about prisons of drugs, walls constructed of lies by the Devil. I have heard you in these stories, for just as you have promised, there, in the darkness, you were there.
Convert my heart, O Lord, so that there is nothing but faith left in me. Mark out the selfishness and the greed, the lies and the wandering. Cleanse me, O Lord, and transform my life, so that I am white as snow, and my actions point to this truth. May I be filled with you, O God, and point to your eternal grace and goodness in all I do. May your power to change be true in my life so that all I do is offered to you in thanksgiving and praise.
I love you.
Last night I attended the Teen Challenge dinner at the Convention Center. Never having been to one I wasn't sure what to expect, but I know that I didn't expect to walk into a room with 1200 people, many of whom had heartbreaking stories about how the Devil has worked in their past. But, as one put it, 'When the Devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.'
They told stories about drugs and alcohol, abuse and prison, but each story ended the same way: with transformation through the power of Jesus Christ. It was heartbreaking, and yet there was so much hope I found myself with goosebumps half the night. It was exciting to hear how Christ was working in their lives through individuals who were willing to love and support them, even in the darkest of nights. THe power of drugs, the power of alcohol, had been shattered by the power of love, and their lives were transformed by the HOly SPirit. It was humbling, and it was convicting. Teen Challenge doesn't work for everyone, but those whom it does work for are witnesses to how Christ is with us in our darkest hour and is working, constantly, to illumine our lives with the everlasting light of love that shines only from God.