Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Morning

O Lord,

In your Word I find comfort. I am reminded of the depth of your love and the wealth of your wisdom. I know I am written in the palm of your hand and loved more deeply than I can imagine. I am treasured, safe and beloved.

In your Word I find challenge. I am confronted with the image of Christ, calling me to leave the trappings of the world behind and follow him. I come face to face with prophets throughout the ages who speak a difficult word to my comfort and ease. I am a follower, asked to pick up my cross.

In your Word I find community. I am not alone in my struggles to rise to your challenge. I am not the first to need comfort. Peter and Daniel, David and Paul all had their struggles, and you blessed and loved them still. Their stories are a part of mine, and I praise you for your infinite wisdom, endless mercy, and compassionate love.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Jacob Geerlings’ blog from Kenya

The Pope lets a thousand liturgies bloom

Atheist vs. Theologian

Boldly humble: discussing our dependence (or lack thereof) on God

Squeezed between misery and hope

How viruses invade

Queensland has just been added to the list of places I won’t be visiting anytime soon

Monastic Moment

October 28 (From The Monastic Way)

Prayer is a heart that overflows with joy, thanksgiving, gratitude and praise.

It is the abundance of a heart that is truly awake. […]

But [our prayers] can only bear fruit when, much deeper within us, our heart comes to awakening and they, fed by the flame of this spiritual fire, themselves begin to glow. (Andre Louf OCSO)

The Scots Confession, Chapter X

Chapter X

The Resurrection

We undoubtedly believe, since it was impossible that the sorrows of death should retain in bondage the Author of life, that our Lord Jesus crucified, dead, and buried, who descended into hell, did rise again for our justification, and the destruction of him who was the author of death, and brought life again to us who were subject to death and its bondage. We know that his resurrection was confirmed by the testimony of his enemies, and by the resurrection of the dead, whose sepulchres did open, and they did rise and appear to many within the city of Jerusalem. It was also confirmed by the testimony of his angels, and by the senses and judgment of his apostles and of others, who had conversation, and did eat and drink with him after his resurrection.


It fits that I'm preaching the resurrection this coming Sunday, which also happens to be All Saints' Day. You'd think I planned it that way...

In the resurrection we find our life and our hope. Without it, and the conquering of death, there would be no hope, only a tomb waiting to swallow us.

However, because of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Author of Life, we have hope. Love that sacrifices itself on a cross is powerful beyond words; love and power that defeats death so that we might have life is beyond our understanding. God had been trying to help us understand His gracious will for centuries; in Jesus Christ we see His power revealed among us in the most jaw-dropping way. It was indeed witnessed to by many, and we are left in awe of what God has done.

What of our doubts? How do we understand this? How do we grasp such an action?

I'm not sure we truly can. I think we have to leap forward in faith, trusting in God. "I believe, help my unbelief" was the father's cry in Mark. I, too, often utter that statement, unsure of how to grasp such a strange and wondrous event. It is through faith, not knowledge or certainty or any other thing, we are saved and transformed. Through faith we recognize the resurrection as an event we join with in our baptisms, as Christ defeats death for all who believe. Thanks be to God!

Too busy?

What are you missing because you're too busy?

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Want to be cheered up? Feeling down? Don't read A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini's follow up to The Kite Runner.

Hosseini again transports us to Afghanistan, where two women with different backgrounds, both of their lives laced with tragedy, find themselves sharing a household, a husband. The story of each of their lives has heartbreak so deeply woven into the fabric of their beings it is hard to expect anything good.

This novel certainly opens one's eyes to other worlds, where violence is not a surprise but rather a surprise when it doesn't touch you or your loved ones. It isn't always easy to turn the pages and often you don't want to discover what is on the next page, but the strength of the human spirit in the face of suffering is inspiring. Love will take us places we never thought possible, and this book shows us what life looks like with and without love. An interesting read, and a book that will broaden one's horizons, but have some Calvin & Hobbes available afterward!

Wednesday Morning

Holy of Holies,

Your throne is too majestic for words. For years I have been trying to come up with the proper words, and my efforts will not end here. Words are a craft, but they simply cannot contain you. For thousands of years we have been trying to define you, and we are no closer despite the advances of our society in technology and medicine.

Your power and your majesty are simply too great. You are beyond us, before us, behind us and sustaining us. We cannot describe you who are completely other.

All we can do is offer our very selves, our souls, our time and our thoughts, our actions and our words, so that you know how grateful we are, how much we love you, and how much we long to serve you.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From Baghdad, With Love

I recently picked up this one on sale without knowing what to expect. Puppies and Iraq are not the most strongly connected images in my mind, so I was curious as to what was going to occur in the story.

From Baghdad, With Love is the story of Jay Kopelman and how his heart was stolen by a puppy this marine found in an abandoned building while on patrol in Iraq. It's a story that broke all the rules of the Marines about keeping animals found on the streets. It's a story about finding some way to remain human, to stay sane in the midst of war, which drifts farther and farther from sanity the longer soldiers are exposed to it. It's a story about the strength of love and how far people will go to ensure that love wins.

I'd love to be able to say this book is all heart-warming goodness, but it's a book about war, so the reader is confronted with some difficult images. Iraq is a long way from here, georgraphically and in the way everyday life is lived. Life and death are each constant realities, and the line that separates the two comes far too close for comfort. Lava (the puppy) is under constant threat--if detected, Lava would be shot. Jay Kopelman cannot let that happen, but sneaking a puppy from Iraq to southern California is quite an adventure, and this book is well worth the read to join in that adventure.

Catalyst Video

Catalyst 2009 Compassion Moment from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Some of you may wonder what I do with my continuing education time and allowance. This year I spent part of it at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. This incredible moment happened, and I never thought I would be able to describe it to anyone. Fortunately, I don't have to. I will freely admit that I cried. I'm not sure anyone in the entire arena had a dry eye. Simply amazing

(At four minutes the interview about ten minutes the crying begins)

Tuesday Morning

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

Speak in the yellows and reds painted in the trees. Speak with hushed tones of wonder and brilliant moments of majesty.

Speak in the soft embrace of a lifelong friend. Speak with compassion and love beyond words.

Speak in the joyful art of meaningful work. Speak with quiet devotion and gratitude.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening, hanging on every moment to hear.

And Lord, please open my ears so that I may hear
the words you are already speaking clear.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Dead? I Don't Think So

John 11:28-44

28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Dead? I Don't Think So

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

I hear that line all the time. Before jokes and stories, usually. But I never actually stopped someone. I always feel like it would be rude to actually stop someone, even if I’ve heard the joke. Besides, by the time I realize it’s repetitive, they’re too far into the joke or story for me to say something in a way that’s tactful and polite, so I just let the story or joke go on, even though I know the ending. Usually it’s funny, so I laugh, although not quite the same way I did the first time, because I know what’s coming. It takes some of the fun out of it.

In my family, it was a high crime, akin to stealing, if you flipped to the back of a book. We’re all pretty big readers, and it was sacrilege only to read the final few pages of the book. This week I read Dan Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, and even though I had a pretty good hunch of how it would end, I refused to flip forward despite every temptation to check my intuition. It just seems wrong, like it spoils everything.

Someone asked me once if I would want to know the future. I don’t think I would. Wouldn’t it take a lot of the fun out of the present if we knew how it all turned out? Can you imagine living in dread of something for years, simply waiting for a terrible thing to happen? Even a great thing would be difficult to wait on—we’d simply be waiting and waiting, letting so much of life pass us by until we got to the good part. Our joys and heartbreaks wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic, because we would know it was coming and wouldn’t be able to do a thing to avoid it.

I can’t imagine what God feels like. God is all-knowing. We have to be careful how we draw this line—we can say that God is all-knowing, that God knows the choices we will make and, even though they may break his heart, allow them to happen. Or we can say that God controls the future, that God has his hands in our daily world and is the one steering us in the directions we choose. I believe that God knows the choices we will make and the outcome of them, and lets them happen, even if they are the wrong choices. I don’t think God ever makes any of us sin, but simply works to redeem our sin.

So we have Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God, here in John’s Gospel. Jesus, because he is fully God, is all-knowing. He knows what is going to happen and knows he has the power to do it. So why does he weep?

Here it is, right in the middle of our reading—the shortest verse in the Bible. He wept. Or Jesus began to weep.

Why does he weep?

He knows he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, right? There is no doubt that every tear Mary has shed will be turned into rejoicing with a word. He is not hoping that Lazarus will be raised from the dead—he knows it! So why does he cry?

He weeps because he is watching his beloved cry. He weeps because that’s what we do at funerals. He weeps because he sees the raw emotion pouring forth from raw wounds. He weeps because he loves us.

Let us not skip over this short verse and jump to the conclusion, the raising and the unbinding. Let’s sit a minute, here in the weeping, and marvel at what is happening.

Jesus Christ, the one who can make all things new, is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knows how his children will react. He knows the fear and pain they are in is about to be transformed into rejoicing; he knows that this funeral site will soon become one big celebration.

But when he sees the pain and the anguish on the faces of those he loves, he weeps. Jesus is so deeply connected to each one of the mourners that he cannot help it but shed tears with them in their agony. Jesus knows us so well that he cannot imagine standing by while we weep, waiting for us to notice the miraculous presence of Jesus with us. Jesus sheds tears with them, and those around notice how deeply he loves. The miracle here is not that Jesus wept; it’s that he didn’t weep every day he was alive.

It’s easy for us to read this story and recognize that Jesus should cry when Lazarus dies, when he sees the pain on Mary’s face. But do we take the time and place ourselves in Mary’s shoes, understanding that the Lord of the universe weeps with us? Do we truly recognize the love of our Savior as a deep reality in our life, that we are worthy of Christ weeping with us, or do we believe this only happens to other people, more holy people?

Jesus weeping with us is just as important as what happens next. “Take away the stone,” he announces.

We might say, of course the stone must be rolled away—how else would Lazarus get out? It wouldn’t be a very good miracle if all we got at the end is Lazarus beating on the inside of a stone, hoping someone will let him out!

But remember what we talked about last week. This is the Jesus who walked on water. This is the Jesus who rules all of heaven and earth. This Jesus could have simply commanded the stone to roll itself away.

But instead Jesus invites the disciples to join in the task. Jesus asks them to play a part in revealing the miracle that is unfolding before their eyes. Jesus could do this on his own, but he wants the assistance of the disciples.

Did you get that? It’s not that Jesus needs our help—it’s that he wants it.

That’s how deep the love of God is. God will come and walk among us. God will stop and join us in our pain and our suffering, even though God knows that it will all be healed. God doesn’t leap forward to the end of the story and leave us struggling on our own in the valleys. God also gives us a task. God invites us into the story, asks us to play a role in revealing God’s glory and power here on earth. God could do this on his own, but chooses to involve us. Why? Because he loves us and wants to see us live as a faithful people. Because he wants us to be busy serving him. Because when our hands and feet are busy serving him, they can’t be put to use by the devil.

God mourns with us, but then God gives us something to do. God has a task for each of us, a role in helping to reveal the glory of God here on earth. Have you discovered it? Have you spent the time in prayer and meditation listening to the voice of God? If you have, bless you. I pray that each and every day of your life is directed to fulfilling the task God has placed before you. Continue to pray for strength and focus so that you may fulfill God’s calling for your life. If you haven’t, you, too, have some prayers to say! You have some meditating to do! There is some silence that needs to happen in your life! I cannot say what the task is for each of us, but I can say that God invites each of us into the task of revealing God’s glory here on earth. For some it may be as close as comforting a co-worker, while for others it may involve mission work in far off lands. God invites each of us to a different task.

Never forget that God abides with you in these tasks, just as God abides in the depth of our sorrow and our pain. God’s love is thicker than we can imagine, and we spent our lives wading through it, covered in it, only to discover there is always more, an infinite pool in which God invites us to dive and swim for the rest of eternity.

Let us pray.

Monday Morning

Prepare me for this day that awaits.

Calm my mind so that my thoughts will be centered on you, and in the midst of turmoil and strife I will take refuge from the storms in your abiding love.

Open my heart so that the love you have shown in Jesus Christ will overwhelm me and inspire me to love more deeply than I have thought imaginable.

Open my eyes in the hopes that I will see this world as you see it, filled with people needing love and help.

Open my mouth that my lips shall declare your praise and speak words that bring honor to your holy name.

Fill my soul with your Spirit that I may not doubt your abiding presence.

Guide my feet that I may not wander far from the path but rather make my home in your love and not stray from it.

Make me a window to the cross, that all who peer at me may see not myself but your son, Jesus Christ.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Lost Symbol

I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. I've read three of his other books (Deception Point, Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons), and this one was like the others: it was entertaining, it was page-turning, and the story was exactly the same.

Well, not exactly the same. Some of the characters had different names, the devious ideas were different, the symbols were different and required knowledge of different time periods to solve them, but the plot was the same: symbol expert has knowledge of multiple languages and historical facts that are required in order to prevent secret society/person from unleashing chaos on the country/planet. Symbol expert has female companion and escapes death /capture very closely, constantly surprised by others who help/hinder his cause. Insert names and locations, make millions of dollars.

Re-reading that paragraph makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book. I did. I debated staying up until 3 in the morning to finish it in one day. I ended up going to bed, but picked up the book as early as possible the next day to finish it. I truly enjoyed the ride, but I can't say that my life is enriched or that I would highly recommend this book to someone. If you liked DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons, you'll probably like this book. It'll make for a fun few days. If I was Dan Brown and found a formula that made money and sold books in the quantities this one undoubtedly will, I would re-use it time and time again as well.

I'll be curious to see if churches get upset about the things in this book. I hope not. It's a fictional story. I'm not going to use this book to preach out of or to base my belief in God upon. Sometimes, I simply want to sit down with an enjoyable book and get lost in the adventure. I'm grateful that there are authors out there who write books that provide me with the experience.

Thursday Morning

The cedars are shouting with joy. The leaves are dancing during their graceful descent. The dew is sounding the trumpets as it slowly fades with the coming light. The birds are traversing the face of the earth to make sure all of creation hears their songs of glory. The sun itself beams with peace.
All of creation is singing your praises, O Lord. All of your beloved world is shouting with joy at the wondrous things you have done. May my life be a part of this blessed chorus, singing with joy and dancing in love, so that you see my love for you and your beautiful earth.
I love you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Morning

Lord God,

Make me an instrument of your love. Fashion me in such a way that my life may be used for your glory. I spend so much time focused on myself that I feel opportunities slipping by to glorify you. I want to praise you, and while my intentions are good, I struggle to know how best to proclaim the goodness of your holy name. I want my life to be about you and your incredible love, but I get so caught up in who I am and who I want to be that I forget about your will.
Sharpen my dulled edges. Hone my vision, prepare my life, so that I will not miss the opportunity to reach out in love, to sing your praises, to proclaim your goodness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God's Love is Like...

God's Love is like...

A Good Book

How is God's love like a good book? I know what you might be thinking--books end! Books have to have endings to make sense--if they didn't end, we'd never read them, because we would never have any great endings! How can this be?!?

As I have said before, these analogies aren't perfect. Since God's love is perfect, and we are not, all of them will fall short. This is just for fun.

When I sit down and read a good book, I get so wrapped up in the book that I can barely do anything else. I do not want to do anything else but read that book. It is the single most important thing that I have to do. Maybe this is just my personality, but I become focused on truly good books. I sat down to read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and did nothing else for four straight days because I was engrossed. Dan Brown? They're not the greatest books in the world, but he can write an entertaining yarn, and I get sucked in. These are just a few examples.

God's love is like that. When we start exploring how deep and how wide and how amazing it truly is, we cannot focus on anything else. Unfortunately we get turned around and lose focus, but when we are centered on that amazing love, why would we want to do anything else? How could we turn away from love that is so selfless it is willing to die for us? How can anything in this world tempt us away from such love?

It takes work for an author to write something amazing that will suck in the reader and keep the pages turning. It takes dedication and a love of writing. I have heard God described as an author who created the story of the world, fell in love with the characters, and wrote himself into the story. There are a lot of holes in that comparison, but it also serves to remind us of how great the love of our God is.

Treading Lightly

John 6:16-21 (The Message)

16-21In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.

What are your comfort foods?

Mine’s macaroni and cheese. We’ve got about five boxes of it at home—we stocked up a few weeks ago. I didn’t eat that much macaroni and cheese as a child, but for some reason when I’m mixing up cheese powder and noodles it matches some rhythm within me and I feel at peace; I’m not wondering why I’m eating cheese in powder form, I’m simply settling in and feeling all the stress disappear.

Think of the safe places in your life—what comes to mind? Is it a certain room in your house? Or maybe a favorite spot in the forest? A treasured memory from the past you conjure up in times of stress? Or a vacation spot you return to time and time again?

What is safety? When we think about life, we aren’t truly ever safe, given the state of the world and our lives. I was saying a prayer at a funeral some time ago and as I was concluding my prayer a man came up and started reminding us all that while we may have all the assurances in the world right now, we could be gone tonight. Sobering, but true. We never know just how safe we are, despite the fact that there are places, people and things that can make us feel safer than others.

So what makes you feel vulnerable? Could be anything—it differs for each of us. For some its public speaking, while for others standing up in front of a room and talking is second nature. For some it might be large crowds, while others may thrive in wild, raucous crowds. Talking to strangers, new cities, new jobs, uncertainty—each event in life stresses us all in different ways. I could ask everyone in this room to stand up and move pews, and while some may thrive on that chance, others may shrink back in terror. Don’t worry, I won’t do it, but you get my point—being vulnerable means something different for each of us.

And yet the feeling is the same. It’s a terrifying feeling, as though someone or something has reached inside us with an icy hand and grasped our very souls to try and squeeze the life out of them. We are afraid and our heads are on a swivel, constantly in search of some way out, some way to escape our vulnerability and flee back towards safety.

We have safety and comfort, and we have vulnerability and fear.

I wonder where the disciples were on this scale on this evening.

They had just seen Jesus feed thousands on the mountain with five loaves of bread and two fish. What they had once thought impossible was now possible in Christ. Their eyes must have been as wide as the dinner plates it would have taken to hold all that extra food as they got into the boat, leaving Jesus up on the mountain alone. Maybe they even took some of those extra baskets of food with them, to provide food for their journey. I doubt they could refrain from speaking about the day’s events.

Many of the disciples were fishermen in their previous life. They doubtless would have felt very comfortable on the water, even at night. Some, perhaps not all, but for many this may have been the safest place in the world. They were away from shore and whatever could trouble them there, sailing across the Sea of Galilee, the wind propelling them forward. Me? When I’m on a boat, I’m constantly wondering how big the fish are that I can’t see underneath the boat. I was the kid who used to peer into the deep end wondering if they got all the sharks out before they let the kids into the pool. Jaws has had a profound impact on my life, not for the better. But for the disciples, they were simply sailing along.

Then things began to change. The wind came along, churning up the sea. They were three or four miles out, a good distance from shore, probably trying to figure out what kind of storm this might be. Were they in danger, or was this simply some passing shower in the night?
Suddenly they see him.

Jesus Christ, walking on water.

Their reaction is included here in the Gospel: They were scared senseless.

Who wouldn’t be? It’s not something we’re used to seeing. It’s not something we’ve ever seen. I’ve never once looked out from a boat and seen someone walking on water. I’ve never even seen someone hesitate before plunging beneath the surface. One simply doesn’t walk on water.

But Jesus did.

And in doing so, he indicated that with him, everything changes.

He does get in the boat, but he’s made his point. He’s done so in the most dramatic way possible. Feeding the masses was one thing; turning the water into wine was another, but this was entirely a new level. He wasn’t converting one thing to another; he wasn’t multiplying anything. He was showing a total mastery over the natural world. He was indicating that there was clearly more to Jesus Christ than these disciples could even begin to understand. He didn’t do this just to show off; he wanted the disciples to begin to take every conception of him they had formed and explode them. Jesus Christ was bigger and wilder than they had even begun to imagine, and they were following him. Choosing to follow him wasn’t about following a guy who knew great party tricks; they were invited into a reality where they were no longer comfortable, where they weren’t necessarily even safe. Jesus Christ was bidding them to come and follow, and in doing so Christ was turning their worlds and their understandings on their heads and showing them that in Christ, everything changes.

I’m not sure we always grasp this. We like our comfort and our comfort food. We like Jesus to be comfortable, too. We like to hear about the grace and mercy and peace of Jesus Christ. We take great comfort in knowing that when we affirm that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior we are saved, we are safe in the arms of Jesus. And we are.

But Jesus invites us into a new understanding of life in this world as a follower of Christ, and it involves far more vulnerability than it does comfort and safety. To be sure, let us not lose sight of the fact that we are safe and secure in the arms of Christ, more safe and secure than we could be in any other place in this world.

Christ does invite us into a deeper world, where we have to be willing to be vulnerable, to take risks, to allow our view of this life and discipleship to be radically changed by the One who has made it all. Christ invites us to throw overboard society’s ideas of success and pick up Christ’s ideas of faithfulness. For when Christ walks on water, he is indicating that he has power we cannot grasp with our normal concepts of society and humanity.

So I want you to take your ideas of safety and vulnerability and drop them over the side. They may make us feel safe, and macaroni and cheese may make me feel comfortable, but Christ is calling us to a far deeper reality than one where safety can be found as easily as a couch in the sunlight. Christ is asking us to abandon all our ideas of safety and throw ourselves completely upon him, for he is truly the Lord of this world; he has made it, and he rules over it.

Christ is calling us into a new kind of vulnerability. Not only are we to let go of our false ideas of security, but also we are to follow a Lord who is going places we are unable to go. What it means to follow this Lord is radically different than we can understand, but we have to begin to dream beyond what we are dreaming now. We have to come up with new ways to serve, with new ways to love, with new ways to reach out and show this love and power of God to others.

The text invites us to think deeper, differently, than we have before. We are called to allow ourselves to be transformed by this radical Savior. This week, think about how we are living, and how we go beyond, how we can go deeper, beginning to dip a toe into the deep waters Christ is walking upon. What are new ways we can live together, serve together, follow Christ together? We are a community committed to following this Lord of heaven and earth—how are we witnessing to that? Are we too comfortable? Or are we willing to be transformed by this Savior?

Christ calls us to be vulnerable, to come to new understandings of what life is like when it is lived in Christ. But we are not doing this on our own. Christ comes to us, even across the water, in the midst of the storms in the middle of the night, and abides with us, taking us to the exact place we are headed to, even if we cannot see it. We are called to be different, to be faithful rather than successful, and in each step of our walk, in each bit of our sailing, Christ is with us, challenging us while loving and redeeming us all the same. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray.

Tuesday Morning

Fog covers the world outside, and I feel it within, as well. I will soon head out into that world, and the fog will surround me, entomb me, as I fight my way through it.
Shine a light in the fog of my mind and my heart, so that I might see clearly to worship, so that I might begin to show the love I have for you in my words and my deeds. Lift the veil that separates my heart from yours, so that it will beat only for you, in rhythm with praise songs that are being sung around the world. Carry off this fog, so that I might see clearly to worship.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning

Holy God,
Mirrors reflect back the image before them, while windows show forth the glory that shines on the other side. Help us to be more like windows to your glory, rather than searching for mirrors to reflect our own humble humanity. Vanity is temporary, while your eternal majesty is forever.
Cleanse our surfaces, so that people may clearly see, rather than having dirt and grime obscure our surface. May your light shine in us and through us, in all that we do, so that those who see us will not see us, but rather see your love and your mercy, your peace and your power. May all we do be a window to you, so that others might worship you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Morning

You are awesome and wonderful and majesty. Our words cannot describe your power or wisdom, yet I continue to try and assemble some combination of words that will adequately give praise to you. I love you and your amazing grace, and I am so grateful for what you have done on the cross. May I have the wisdom to submit to your will and be humble enough to simply listen for your voice. I love you, O Lord, and offer you my life, so that all I do and am may glorify you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Morning

Holy Lord,
You alone are the source of true wisdom. You are good and gracious, pleading with us to follow you in the midst of our daily lives, but it is as though we prefer to wallow in the mud and confusion of our own wisdom. You sent your Son to die for us, to rise for us, to live for us so that we might know what true community is, and yet still we remain glued to worship of ourselves and our path.
Thank you, God, for your grace that breaks through our hardened hearts and shows us true love. Thank you, Lord, for your love that conquers even when we do not realize that we need a Savior. Thank you, God, for hope and life and love and mercy and grace and peace and Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wet Wednesday Morning

Dear Lord,
I cannot imagine the thoughts of a raindrop. Plummeting earthward from thousands of feet skyward, it must wonder what fate lies beneath it. Does it know what awaits? Hard concrete or oceans? Soft soil or fresh cut grass? Surely it must be curious to know its fate.
I, too, wonder. I wonder what today holds. I wonder what waits for my efforts and my energy. I wonder what lies below. As surely as you use the raindrop to water the earth and restore it to new life, you do the same with me, using me to water the earth so that your Word may grow, restoring me to new life. May my words and works today testify to this faith in your abundant love.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Morning

This is the day the Lord has made.

And what a day you have made. It is filled with possibility and hope, and as my trembling foot steps forward into it, I pray that your confidence will fill me and your Spirit will overwhelm me so that my steps on this day make you joyful. May this day be one where your kingdom draws near, where your will is done, where your peace reigns. May this day be a day where my life proclaims your kingdom. May those who are sick be well, those who are lonely be at peace, those who struggle with deep questions find their answers in you.

May this day be blessed by your name.


Monday, October 12, 2009

A Case of the Mondays

What's really lurking in the depths of Loch Ness? The answer may surprise you.

This past week I was at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, along with 12,000 of my closest friends. I had no idea it was going to be so big, but I must admit I enjoyed the conference and many of the speakers that were brought in, even if I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times due to the sheer volume of people. I'm not used to crowds that size, and I will freely admit I don't always do well in large crowds.

One of the speakers there founded a website called Kiva. Turns out Kiva (I have no idea where the name came from) is focused on bringing together those with extra money and those in need of micro finance loans. If you haven't heard of micro finance, it's a fascinating concept. Basically, it is focused on those whose financial needs are measured in the tens or hundreds rather than the thousands like many financial services in this country. Often the amount requested for a loan in Central America or much of Asia is $50 or $100. This small amount can allow a woman to start her own business and support herself, rather than depending on charity of others.

It's that whole thing about the difference in giving someone a fish and teaching them how to fish (I forget who said it: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish, and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day, or something like that. Kiva is a direct link between those in need of these small amounts and those with small (or large) amounts of money available.

I tried it out, and I'll let you know how it goes. I loaned $25 to help a woman in Cambodia build her house. She will pay it back over the next year, and then I'll be able to lend out that $25 to someone else! She needed $500, and 20 people from around the world, from Belgium to Norway to the US, lent $25 to help this woman's dream come true. It's amazing to think I could be a part of that with a few clicks of the mouse. Check it out, see what you think!


You have made the seasons change. It is your Word that set the earth in motion, your mind that dreamed up such a world. It is all of you and your amazing love. We watch as leaves change from green to orange, as rains water the earth and remind us of the changing seasons of our lives.
Abide with us, Lord, that we may treasure what is now, and what comes next. Hold us tightly, Lord, that we may celebrate the life you have given us and walk with you in your garden. May your love sustain us this day, that we may be grateful for your eternal love, a constant in the midst of our changing lives.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday Morning

Holy Lord,
The heavens tell of your glory, but I seem to be unable to hear their cries.
The rocks and the trees shout your name, but I am tuned to a different channel.
The lilies of the field are dressed for your glory, but I am not watching.

My attention is turned elsewhere, inward, as I fret about myself and my future. Thoughts of your kingdom are far from my mind. Forgive me, O Lord, for my selfishness and pride. Forgive me and teach me to be aware.

Help me to see, Lord, your hand in my life. Help me to understand that you have called me to a life glorifying you. Stretch my vision, so that it includes the eternal, rather than simply this life. May my goals be joining in your kingdom, rather than entrenching my own. May all that I do be an offering to you.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Morning

It wasn't easy to drag myself out of bed this morning. I held onto the last bit of sleep, hoping against hope that there would be another hour there somewhere. I wanted to close myself off to the world in the hopes that it would delay this new day.
Now that I am awake, remind me of the path you have placed before my feet. Open my eyes so that I may see the world as you see it. Open my heart so that I might love as freely as you do. Open my mind that I may meditate upon your Word.
You are the author of all of life, the redeemer of all creation. You speak, and the world is transformed.
Speak to my heart, Lord, that I may follow your voice, discarding all the competing voices from the world. Forgive my sinful heart, and set my vision upon your will in my life.

Monday, October 5, 2009


We had Into the Wild for a few days before we finally sat down and watched it. We didn't realize it was 2.5 hours long before we started it--only when we hit the two hour mark and it felt like there was still a lot of movie left. This movie feels long, but it raises some very interesting questions. (It also has some language and nudity--not recommended for children) It's not the cheeriest movie, and I don't have a great compunction to head to Alaska having seen it, but the inward journey is fascinating. If I do go to Alaska, let's just say I will pay attention to what kind of plants I'm eating, if it comes to that.

The story is based on a true story of a young man who graduates from Emory University and then decides that Harvard Law is not a very appealing option. His home life growing up was tumultuous, and he heads west to seek solitude and peace in nature. He meets some interesting characters and tells some great stories, but there is a sadness wrapped around all of it. He is lost, and searching for answers to the emptiness he finds within himself.

The part of the movie that hits the hardest is towards the end, when he realizes that true happiness cannot be found alone. Unfortunately, by that point he has left his relationships behind, believing that what he sought could be found within.

I have been thinking about this ever since we turned the movie off. It's tempting, at times, to run off and be alone, and it can be good for short periods of time. But ever since the Garden of Eden we have known that it is not good to be alone. We are a communal people, and we thrive in community.

It's beautiful to watch the church work together, be it at the yard sale, preparing for it, gathering around those who are sick or mourning, celebrating together; those moments are snapshots of the body of Christ, coming together as a community, supporting and loving one another. We are accountable to one another, we depend on one another, we trust one another. Alone we can find ourselves lost, but together, we have others to help us find the path, or at least to sit and weep with us while we mourn our lack of directions.

We are the church. Christ has assured us that He is there when we gather in His name. True community can only be found when we gather together, honestly, relying on one another to forge a path forward. It takes varied experiences for each of us to realize how valuable the love and support of a community can be, but I know that I would be lost without this treasured community of saints.

Monday Morning

Holy God,
My heart beats for you. It is filled with a love that wants to jump out of my chest, and yet I have found ways to keep it inside. I have built fences where you want love to roam freely. I have penned in the beauty of love and forgiveness, rather than watching them run wild. I have kept so much inside for myself.
Forgive me, O Lord, and help me grow. Just as the flowers twist toward the window, may my life lean toward your Son, bending in gratitude and reaching in praise. May praise of your holy name be forever on my lips.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


John 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.


I think we all know the look. The one you get when you have done something not very wise, the one that is disapproving and reproachful and can make you feel two inches tall. The one that most of us spend quite a bit of time trying to avoid. I have received the look many times in my life, and not once did I enjoy it. Every time it sears straight to the core, leaving me wishing I could find a hole in the ground to crawl into and disappear for a few days while things cooled down. I cannot say how comforting it is to know that Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, received the look.

If there were ever occasion for it, here it is, in the second chapter of John’s Gospel, right before he performs his first miracle.

Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, enjoying one of the greatest celebrations that we have. A wedding is a wonderful thing; two souls are joined together and family and friends gather around to celebrate and support the happy couple at the beginning of their marriage. Rachel and I spent over eighteen hours in the car last week in order to be a part of such a celebration, and we were happy to do it. Weddings are wondrous celebrations.

In Jesus’ time they were even bigger celebrations than they are now. They would last for days, so it is no surprise they ran out of wine. Thankfully, Jesus was there, and somehow his mother knew that he could solve this problem without any question. I would love to know the history that comes before this, to know just how his mother knew that Jesus could solve this particular problem. Was this a habit of his? Or did she just know, the way mothers do, that he could solve this dilemma?
Jesus, however, didn’t seem to agree. And he spoke quite strongly. His mother approaches and says, “They have no wine.” And Jesus replies with, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

Oh, to have seen the look upon her face when she heard him say this. Her son says to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” In other words, “Woman, why do I care?” I cannot begin to imagine saying that line to my mother or to my wife. Surely everyone around Jesus must have swallowed those words in shock as every head turned to his mother to see how she would respond. According to the text, no more words were spoken to Jesus. She merely turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” The rest must have been communicated to Jesus very clearly with a look saying, “Son, it is of every concern. And don’t ever talk to like me that again.”

So Jesus does what she asks; the water is turned into wine, which turns out to be the best wine of all. Perhaps this is making up for his hesitance, perhaps it is simply how God works; when God creates something, it is good to the core, the best that can be made. It was the first of his signs, revealing his glory.

But why a wedding? Why wine? Why not have it be some grand display at the gates of Jerusalem, or perhaps floating through the air in the city to show his divinity? I don’t know, but I, for one, love that it is a wedding.

As I mentioned earlier, a wedding is one of our greatest celebrations. It is human and divine, a joining of two lives and two souls, a covenant between two people to seek to live out God’s love by loving one another. It is a communal event, a gathering of family and friends to offer support and love to the new couple. It is a festival, a celebration.

And Jesus, the Son of God, was right in the middle of it.

We can often be guilty of removing Jesus from the midst of our humanity. We can forget the part about his life and simply focus on his passion, his death and the resurrection. We get so caught up in the blood and the cross and the nails and the tomb that we forget that Jesus was entirely human as well as completely divine. He lived and breathed and walked among us. He was the perfect human, but he was still human. He sat down and ate, walked along the dusty roads, slept in a rough bed and sailed on a boat on the sea. He lived like you and I do, enjoying a sunset and marveling at the stars. Sure, it was probably a little different, seeing as how he made the stars, but I’m sure he still enjoyed their beauty and mystery.

Jesus knows what it is like to be human. When we gather to celebrate a wedding, Jesus knows our joy. When we gather at a funeral, he knows the pain of loss. He knows hunger and thirst. He knows friendship and disappointment. He has walked a mile in our shoes.

As you go about your week, remember that Jesus knows your feelings and emotions. Don’t lock Jesus away and confine him only to experiences like Bible Study and our hour of worship this morning. Open your heart and allow yourself to experience worship throughout the week. Remember that Jesus is your companion as you work and eat and sleep and laugh and cry. Don’t be guilty of thinking Jesus isn’t worried about the problems and struggles we each encounter in our daily lives; instead lift up each moment in prayer, asking Jesus to help you through them, for Jesus knows how you feel, and abides with you in every moment of every day. The Christ of the cross is the same Christ of the wedding ceremony, and the God who can turn death into life can turn ordinary water into exceptional wine.

Let us be grateful that the God of the universe abides with us in all we do, and may all we do be offered up to God as worship. May we remember in our celebrations as well as in our hours of need that God is with us, walking with us, praying for us, and offering his strength and his love so that we may never be separated from the eternal love of God through Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Holy Lord,
Thank you for your steadfast commitment to life. You are the rock upon which I have built my life, and I praise you for sustaining me for yet another day. May this day be oriented around your Light, Jesus Christ. May this day not be another testament to self-serving actions, but rather one that depends on the grace of God and thinks of loving others first before the self. May this day be filled with words of thanks and grace to your holy name.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday Morning

Holy God,
You speak, and worlds begin.
You listen, and save your people.
You love, and death is defeated.
You have such awesome power, such amazing grace, such deep wisdom. Surely the stars testify to your greatness. Surely the width and breadth of the heavens are a testament to your creative powers. Surely the smallest tree is beloved by you.
You, O God, are bigger than we know, and yet you have created and love each one of us. Your love extends from before the moment you have called us into being to well after our death.
As you hold us in your hands, empower us to love one another. To truly love one another with the kind of selfless love you show. TO be your people and speak a word of grace, live an act of love and come together to worship you.
I love you.