Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Cell Phone

Does your cell phone convince you of the existence of God? Sunlight Community Christian Reformed Church in Florida has created a number of videos to introduce concepts in a fresh, new way.

Check out some more on http://www.sunchurch.tv/discipleship.html

Toy Story 3

  We went to the movie theater!  I am trying for the life of me to remember what the last movie we saw together in the theater was--could have been Four Christmases, since I think that came after The Dark Night.  Perhaps I am forgetting something, but it's been a while.

  We went to see Toy Story 3 this weekend, and it was wonderful.  Pixar seems to have this down to a science--I saw somewhere that they had made around $6 billion since the first Toy Story.  I went in expecting to love it, and wasn't disappointed.

  But I was surprised.  I had expected a story written for kids.  This is not a kids' movie.  There are things in it for kids, and most kids will probably enjoy it, but it is an emotional, action-packed, intense movie, filled with moments that find you gripping the seat, as well as bringing tears (Yup, I cried).

  The overarching question in this movie revolves around Andy going off to college, and what to do with his old, favorite toys.  They have been packed in a crate for years now, and a debate swirls about their future, be it a box in the attic, the trash can, or a day-care.  Woody believes their purpose revolves around being there for Andy--others are tired of resting in a box and want to be played with, while some are just ready to give up.

  The movie is well worth watching to see how this all wraps up.  They meet Lotso, the seemingly lovable bear that runs Sunnyside Day Care with an iron fist.  He's had his heart broken once, and sets up a system to ensure that he is never hurt again.  The intense escape scene brings out one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Just when you're ready to give up...

  The movie has surprising depth for Christians, too.  It deals with growth, with change and the tough decisions that revolve around that.  Andy is moving on to college, and in the midst of his transition, how does he deal with the things of his youth?  The toys are dealing with transition, too.  What is their purpose?  We all come up against these questions in our time--as life changes, we have to discover new purpose.  As we grow, we have to discard some of the things of our youth.  We have to keep growing, keep changing, always with Christ before us.  It means we are called to make tough decisions, to cast off habits or things from our youth.  It won't be an easy decision, but for each new day, we have to be ready to follow Christ, wherever he leads.  If we stay in the same place, however comfortable or happy we may be, we are in effect choosing not to follow Christ.  Where does he lead?  Where is he calling you?  Are you listening?

  It calls us to a discipline of listening.  Do you have any silence in your life?  Do you pay attention to what God is saying, what God is doing around you?  Are you ready and willing to change for Christ?  Will you seek the prize?

  There will be moments that will be fun and delightful, and there will be difficult moments.  But Christ is worth everything! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Lord of Heaven and Earth,

  It takes thousands of years to make a diamond from carbon in the ground.  Yet I expect to change the way the world works in decades...  Teach me to slow down, to breathe deeply, and to work as faithfully as I can, trusting you in all the rest.  May my efforts be pleasing to you, and may they be an offering to the world, that I might change the lives of those around me.  May I accept that only true power comes from you, and that you can use your servants to do amazing things, but only through you.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Morning

Holy Lord,

  Speak in thunderous ways this morning, that your voice may echo from the dawn to the sunset, that I may stand in awe and listen with a captive heart, certain of your presence, of your grace, of your love.  Remind me, in the midst of all our pain and suffering, that we are in the palm of your hand, that nothing escapes your love, that you are constantly working to redeem us.  Renew me by your Holy Spirit, that my life may be an offering to you, one filled with moments of grace and offerings of joy.  I hope I show how much I love you today.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Dream

  I had a dream a few weeks ago.  It's one of those dreams that sticks with you, that reverberates inside your soul, that demands attention and makes you very uncomfortable.

  In my dream, I was asleep, in my bed, and directly beside the bed was a Ugandan family.  There was a mother, and a number of children, reaching out towards me.  The reality of their presence was startling.  There were no words spoken, only their presence.  For some time I continued to sleep, until finally the disturbance caused by their presence roused me to wake.

  Such was the reality of the dream that when I opened up my phone for illumination and directed it towards that side of the bed, I was shocked to discover they were not there.  For some time after my phone had gone dark I stared into the darkness, wondering about it all.

  Then I went back to sleep.

  For weeks I have been thinking about this dream, about what it means, about whether it means anything at all.  I find it hard to believe that it does not.  Perhaps it is some broad metaphor about how the children and the poor of Africa cry out in need while I, while most of America, is asleep, comfortable in our warm beds in our spacious houses, ignorant to their desperation.  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, for most of my waking hours, they do, indeed, disappear while I go on about my life, about my business.  They are invisible while I am awake, only shattering the serenity of my slumber on rare occasion.  Even then, I can lay my head back down and return to the comforting arms of sleep while they continue to wait for the world to turn their attention to them.

  So what do I do?  That has been the question these past few weeks.  I have no solid answer, and have had no more startling dreams like that (well, except for the one last night about spreading mulch... which may not have as many metaphors waiting).  It is so easy to go about life and forget about those crying out around the world for help.  I can so readily turn off the radio when the reports come from faraway places like Uganda, like Kyrgyzstan, like the Gulf Coast.  They do not intrude upon my life, and so I push them off.

  And yet the Gospels I read call us to aid, to help, to love, to serve.  They call us to pick up our crosses, to follow the Way, the narrow way, the road that leads to eternal life.  Where does this road lead?  What is the next step?  How does the light illumine my mind so that I might see the path before my feet?  So many questions from just one dream...

  The world is waiting for my, for our, response.  Shall we continue to slumber?  Or shall we go forth as Christ's disciples?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Morning

Holy Lord,

  May I love you more than I love myself on this day.  May I worship and adore you as my Lord and God, crying out for you to hear that you are my Savior.  May I find some integrity between my words and my actions, that everything I do will be an offering to you.  Take my life, Lord, and use it today, for Your glory.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Lost City of Z

  I recently finished The Lost City of Z, by David Grann.  I'm not going to pretend that this book is filled with deep, theological underpinnings, but it's a great book about Percy Fawcett's search for the mythical lost city of Z, and the ensuing search for Fawcett!

  If you're looking for a fun read, that will also scare the daylights out of you and probably keep you from ever entering the Amazon jungle, this is a great book.  The description of the insects and various other animals & diseases that will kill you is pretty discouraging, in my opinion.


Dear God,

As the rains water the earth, may your Spirit continue to water my soul, bringing forth new life, green hints at the roots that are buried deep within. May this new life remind me of your life-giving and sustaining love, and may it lead me in new directions, down the path of faithfulness, doing all in your glorious name. Amen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday Evening

Holy Lord,

Teach me to set down my sinful burden, that I may pick up my cross and follow you, striving after footsteps I cannot fill, following a path I cannot pursue without you, living a life that can only be complete if it is covered in your grace, filled with your mercy, surrounded by your peace, and led by the Holy Spirit.


Thurs. Morning

Beloved God,

It seems as though I live as a child in a candy shop, constantly distracted by something new, something shiny, something bright. My attention is lured away from you, and I make little effort to drive it back before you. I say that I love you, but so little in my life reflects a passion for serving You. Where is my love? Where are my actions?

Forgive what I have been, Lord, that I might start anew, refreshed by your mercy on this new day, filled with hope at the possibilities that await as I go into the world as a servant of God.

I love you--Amen

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Morning, 6/9/2010

Dear God,

The grass grows, lush and green, because you have created it and called it forth that it might cover the earth. It knows the sound of your voice and stretches toward the heavens, that it might glorify you. The rocks and the trees and every living thing does the same, reaching skyward, offering you their very best, living for you.

We, somehow, have learned to reach inward rather than heavenward. We have taught ourselves to worship so many graven idols, so many false gods. We have forgotten that all glory and honor and love comes from you. We have sinned, repented, and sinned some more.

Help us to be humble, Lord, that we might learn from the grass and the trees, from the rocks and the flowers, and simplify our lives, that we might glorify you in all we do.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Morning

Dear Lord,

On this day, may the children know that you are Lord. On this day, may their faith inspire me. On this day, may your grace strengthen and sustain us, that we may know and understand your Lordship in our lives. May we serve you this and every day.

We have found so many idols to try and place in our hearts, but you alone reign there. Forgive our wayward hearts, that in our fleeting time on this earth we might serve you with joy and gratitude, offering up every part of ourselves to praise your name.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Reason for God

  The Reason for God, by Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller, just sounds like a book that one should read.  Who doesn't want to hear the reason for God?  Don't we all spend time wondering about whether or not God exists?  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we knew a reason for God and didn't have to wonder anymore?

  For some reason or other I've been reading a bit of apologetics lately.  Maybe the questions I have about God are guiding my reading list  Maybe I want to prepare myself for theistic debates.  Maybe I just want to be more knowledgeable about God.  I'm currently working on John Stott's Basic Christianity, another in a long line of books seeking to explain why belief in God is a good thing.

  I truly appreciate these books.  C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity will always be at the top of my list.  In my opinion, it's the greatest apologetic book written, and so I always compare others to it, which probably isn't fair, but, well, life's not fair. 

  I appreciate this book.  It's well-written and well thought out.  I think Keller makes a great case for Christianity, tackling the arguments against it in sound arguments, using real-life examples and people to illustrate his points.  He doesn't hide from tough questions or pretend that he can prove Christianity to be true.  He leans heavily on Scripture, and I enjoyed reading this book.

  Keller lays the book out in two sections.  In the first, he tackles what he feels to be the biggest reasons for doubt.  In this section, suffering and evil, hell and exclusivity all make their appearances.  I feel like Keller does a fair job of presenting the arguments and strains of thought that captures many, if not all, the reasons that people do not or can not believe in God.  The second section moves forward and presents the reasons to believe in spite of all the reasons not to believe.  Chapters include The Clues of God, The Reality of the Resurrection and The (True) Story of the Cross.  Each is a well-reasoned argument for the reality of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

  The only advice I would offer the reader is to be prepared to read a highly intellectual book.  As a reader, I found many of Keller's arguments to be on a high intellectual plane.  This isn't a bad thing--in fact, I think it's a great thing, as long as the reader is prepared and ready to meet that challenge.  This book can get a bit deep at time--if a reader is looking for something a little more basic, there are probably better books out there.  As I said earlier, Mere Christianity is the ultimate book in apologetics.  I wouldn't recommend this book over Lewis', but I would recommend that those who have read Lewis and enjoyed it move on to this book.  It's from a different perspective, and it will deepen one's understanding of faith. 

  The strongest part of this book, in  my opinion, is the end.  I think Keller's conclusion is phenomenal.  The Epilogue is entitled:  Where do we go from here?  I usually skip epilogues, but in this case I think it is well worth reading.  Keller doesn't offer some easy life, filled with economic blessings and happiness, but rather encourages the reader to take up the cross and follow Jesus.  I thought Keller did a great job of outlining a life of faith and how important the decision for Christ is.  He doesn't encourage emotion-driven decisions that may fade with the evening light, but rather urges the reader that, if this book or some other working of the Spirit has lit a fire within, one should examine their own motives and, if they are true, commit oneself to a life of faith, accepting that one will not lead a spotless, perfect, doubtless life, but that a risky, wonderful future awaits.

  The prayer Keller writes is one of the best I have read:

Father, I've always believed in you and Jesus Christ, but my heart's most fundamental trust was elsewhere--in my own competence and decency.  This has only gotten me into trouble.  As far as I know my own heart, today I give it to you, I transfer my trust to you, and ask that you would receive and accept me not for anything I have done but because of everything Christ has done for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


In the northern part of Guatemala City, the downpour created a giant sinkhole that swallowed up a space larger than the area of a street intersection. Residents told CNN that a three-story building and a house fell into the hole. 

A local newspaper reported that a private security guard was killed when the sinkhole opened up, but authorities had not confirmed the fatality. Residents said that a poor sewage drainage system underground was to blame for the sinkhole. A similar hole opened up nearby last year, they said.(From Cnn.com)

Yup--A sinkhole big enough to swallow a three story house.  That's pretty terrifying.

This Thursday I'll be conducting a funeral for Jennifer Yi, a 26 year old who died way too soon.  Her wedding was scheduled for July 23, 2011, and she couldn't have been more excited about it had it been this weekend.  She was one of the most consistently happy people I have ever had the joy of knowing.  On Sunday morning I received a phone call, and seeing this picture reminded me of that phone call--it was unexpected, and it feels like the bottom of the world has just fallen out.  I have so many questions, so much confusion, and can't figure out why something like this would happen.  It just doesn't seem right.  It isn't fair.  And yet, just like this sinkhole, I can't actually do anything about it to change it.  I can't undo it.

Sinkholes are miserable.  I can't see the bottom of the one in this picture, and sometimes I can't see the bottom of the ones in life, either.  I know that Scripture teaches me that Christ is always there, that he has been lower than I can ever be, but that doesn't stop me from asking the questions, and it doesn't stop me from being angry.  The landscapes of all of our lives are littered with these sinkholes, devastating moments that we can never erase.  Some happen far away, some just next door, and some seem to form beneath our feet, swallowing us whole.

So what to do?  I'm never sure.  I know that we gather as a community, for our individual strength is never enough in times like these.  I know that we pray a lot, for we have a faithful God, one who is trustworthy and true, who never abandons us.  I know that we look forward with hope, knowing that God will some day redeem all of this pain, all of our suffering.  We remember with joy, and we look forward with hope, even in the midst of our suffering, even when it feels like we are plummeting into the abyss--God is there, arms wrapped around us, loving us still.

Thanks be to God for that!

'He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’ (Rev. 21:4)

Memorial Day

Tuesday Morning 6/1/2010

Holy, Holy Lord,

  You are the God of this and every day.  You have watched and surely wept as I have selfishly hoarded my time and my gifts.  You have seen me search for more for myself, rather than others.  You know the depths of my heart and every thought of mine.

  And yet your love carries on.  Still you provide a new day, that I might love and worship you, that I might seize the opportunity to use my life to praise your name.  Still you offer grace. 

  Thank you, Lord.  Cover me in your love, and show me the path, that I might walk in your love.