Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Psalm 20

Psalm 20

On this beautiful morning, watching as the rainbow fades, I see a bright figure bouncing along one of the many paths tracing their way across the meadow. I have trod them well, and know the heartbreak that is at the end of many of them, but I have never met this particular individual that I spy on her way toward my garden. I would have thought it a chance happening, but the way she barreled directly toward my garden told me this was no mere chance: she was heading for my garden, both eyes firmly locked upon me. Even from a distance I could hear her humming something cheerful to match a perfect morning. My spirit was lifted by her mere presence near my garden. I moved toward the gate to welcome her.

“Good morning!” She didn’t so much speak as sing her words, a voice as beautiful as I have ever imagined.
I opened my mouth to reply, but she did not hesitate to hear my words and instead carried on.

“I have no garden of my own; it is my destiny, it was explained to me, that I traverse this swath of God’s creation and notice how the gardens here are tended. I expect you do not recognize me; neither do I recognize you, but I know this garden well. Perhaps I should say that I know this place well; the garden I do not know well. I have passed many times by this meadow, always pausing to drink in the rich beauty that God has planted here. It is magnificent. Unfortunately, I never found you tending to the beauty planted here, and I merely assumed you were traipsing around the chaos that lurks everywhere. I cannot say how delighted I am to see your gloves stained with earth, how wondrous it is to see a pile of weeds beyond the boundary of your garden, how it makes my heart leap with joy to notice upset soil along the fenceline.”

I again moved to interrupt her to explain my journey, but was once again reminded that my part in this conversation was not a speaking one.

“Seeing you here, I will say this to you: May the God of our fathers bless this place with more sunshine than it could hope for. May the God of our mothers send gentle rains to nourish the beauty within this fence. May your days in this place be fulfilling and tiring. May you explore with wonder the depth and breadth of the love of God. May you learn the path to your faithful neighbors’ gardens well, and may they trod upon the ground to find and support you. May your hours of labor in this place be well-spent, leaving you breathless, exhausted, and thrilled with the chance to garden in the presence of such beauty. May the sun upon your back warm your soul, and the bench beneath your back grant you rest. May the Lord hold the forest at bay as he has promised, sending blooms to the wildflowers in the meadow to remind you that his love is abundant, and there is more grace than you can use. May the weeds come up easily, and may the roses here bloom with such wild abundance that you never forget there is a God who loves you freely, fiercely, wildly. May you know that each whispered prayer is heard by the ears of God, and may this sanctuary be your dwelling place forever, wrapped in the arms of God.”

Had I wanted to respond, only my heart could have begun to speak in response to such wondrous words. Instead I merely listened to her words, time and time again as they played within my mind. I felt them reverberate from every part of my being as she retreated by another way. My heart burned within as I thanked God for this tremendous blessing. May all my days remind me of such grace and wonder.

Jet Lag

Rachel and I recently returned from a trip that involved a 5 hour red-eye flight. On said flight, I slept a grand total of about ten minutes. When we finally arrived at home on Sunday evening, I made it for about another hour before collapsing into bed and sleeping for ten hours. Even now, days later, I still feel the effects of jet lag.

In my weariness-induced state, I got to thinking about how the church needs to develop some church-lag. Wouldn't it be great if the effects of worship stayed with us, like the effects of an overnight flight on which one didn't sleep? Wouldn't it be awesome if we woke up on Wednesday morning, still buzzing from a worship service days ago?

We believe that we are the church in the world--throughout the week, we are God's hands and feet in our homes, our jobs, our schools. Being a Christian is not something we only do part of the time, but we are 'Resident Aliens', as William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas put it so well in the book of the same name--our true home is in God's kingdom, even while we live in this one.

So how do we, as the church, worship in a way that stays with people throughout the week?  How do we live together, connected, as reminders to one another that our hearts should be focused on Christ alone?  How do we live as the baptized children of God each and every moment of our lives?

Tuesday Morning

Dear God,

On this wet and rainy day, I pray that I might remember your baptism. Advent rolls on, growing closer toward Christmas, and I hope that I will remember, and prepare. May I remember the incredible sacrifice Christ made for me, and the kingdom of God of which he spoke so often. Yours is the power and the might, the love and the mercy, and I pray that all I am is offered to you on this glorious day.


Monday, November 29, 2010

And we're back...

Just got back from vacation last night, including no sleep whatsoever on a red-eye, holiday traffic, and four hours in LAX.  An awesome vacation, and worth every travel hassle, but we'll get back to blogging tomorrow.  Until then...  I heard this for the first time today.  Love it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Morning

Holy God,

  Your hand sustains creation.  Your voice creates.  Your love overflows, and the beauty that is inherent in you stuns me.  In my wildest dreams I cannot imagine the depth of your love, and if the entire world lifted up its voice in praise, we would still fall woefully short of describing your glory.  How great is your name!

  May the words I speak, may the deeds I do, bring praise and glory to you, Lord.  I pray that my humble efforts to glorify you might be seen as my heart's attempt to show you how I love you.  You are worthy of every ounce of energy I have--I love you, Lord.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/11 E-News

Thank a Veteran Today!

Sunday Night—movie night! Come and join us at 6:00 to watch a movie and discuss what it has to say about life in Christ. No food will be provided, but feel free to bring your favorite movie snack to share. $1 donation is asked for the Newton Center.

Next week—6:00 on 11/21 will be the greening of the church! Come and join in this festive occasion.

The PW will be going to the food bank on 11/16 between 9-11. Carpool will leave from the church at 8:40 if you’re interested.

Strengthening Committee meeting this Sunday after church.

Pray for…
Be thankful for all who have served…
And pray for the safety of all who currently serve.

New Hope News
Eleanor Hall had a procedure done this morning.

$11.2 million? Who needs it? Not this couple—they won it, and gave it away!

A great read on the dangers of humanitarian aid.

We have a new way to publish sermons now. Check it out if you’re interested!

Couple of things about this video: 1) I’m fairly certain these girls should be wearing helmets. 2) At what point do you recognize this as your talent and begin to practice things like this?

Meditation Moment

Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for Him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than His love and the desire of pleasing Him. (John Wesley)

Text for this Week

Luke 11:5-13
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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Can you imagine Mario without the mustache? Hulk Hogan? Einstein? Of course not! Movember has decided to raise money for prostate cancer research through the growing of mustaches. So far they've raised over $600 (I think it's the currency in Singapore, but it's not the amount that matters). They put their efforts into making a difference.

How easy is it to convince ourselves that we can't make a difference in the world? That the world's problems are too big, too complicated, and we're too small? And yet, each of us has the capability within us to change ourselves, and also to change the lives of those around us. It could be as simple as raising money for an event in which we are participating. Perhaps it's a conscious effort to change the circumstances at your job. Maybe there is one individual whom you would like to work with.

We can all change the world, one person at a time. We just have to decide to begin, and recognize that any small effort is one step on the journey. In today's world, people might ridicule Christ for choosing to work with only twelve people. Yet look what he did with that number on Pentecost... the world has never been the same since. God can do amazing things through us if we step aside and let him work!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Ridiculous Car Trips

No ridiculous car trips from Martin Lang on Vimeo.

Psalm 19

Somehow, in the midst of the storm, I managed to fall asleep. Sheer exhaustion must have washed over my body and I wake, hours later, on the same bench within the garden. My first reaction is fear; surely sleeping all night in wet clothes in a wet landscape will wreck havoc upon my body. But my body is strangely dry, and before I can contemplate more deeply on the subject my jaw drops in wonder.

The sun is rising over the tops of the trees and a broad rainbow races from one side of the world to the next, complete in its beauty and brilliant in color. I stand, transfixed, mezmorised by the effect it has on the sky. My sight begins in the center and travels earthward, tracking the graceful arch until it meets the forest canopy; what once threatened chaos now seems to sing in peaceful glory to the one who has created all. Peace has descended upon this place, and I look down to see dewy beauty surrounding this bench.

Everything in this scene testifies to a beauty far greater than each possesses; it is as though a master painter has come and spent decades perfecting each blade of grass, each gentle flower and branch, every corner of the perfect sky to create a scene as lovely as one could dream. Every ounce of sky testifies to the wonder of God, as though this creation is stretching to pass itself off as a dwelling place for God. It knows of the transcendant wonder of God and yet tries regardless to house God.

My heart rejoices at such a scene; surely this moment in time is sweeter than the freshest honey. I would not trade the world’s riches for a second of this inspiration, for my heart and soul sing out as one, crying out to the wondrous God whose finger traces the beam of the rainbow. I feel as though colors have never been so true as they are in this moment, and I shudder in fear at the fact that I have some rule over part of this creation.

I look down at my unruly garden, much of it still awaiting my attention, and I wonder at how the God who paints rainbows after storms would let me determine the fate of one plant in this place. Should not God paint each corner of the world, since God is the master artist? Who am I to pick up a brush and pretend to emulate God? Who am I to even allow my humble feet to disturb the glorious grass that points to God?

I stand in awe of what God has done on this morning, and I can only pray that the work I do in the garden might be acceptable to God, my rock and redeemer. May the efforts of my feeble hands somehow testify to the love I have for a God who is able to freeze the breath within my chest at the sight of such wonders that I stand before now.

Wednesday Morning

Dear God,

  I don't have the strength or wisdom to follow you.  The choices I make on my own are sinful; they lead my feet away from you.  You have promised the gift of your Holy Spirit--teach me to listen, Lord, that I might not be an inactive follower but a dynamic leader for your kingdom.  Open my heart, that fear might not rule, but rather hope and joy and love might pour forth as you have so freely given them to me.  The sun rises each morning and gives light to this world--may my life do the same, reflecting the light of your Son, Jesus Christ, back into the world through my actions.  May the world know you better through my life.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Psalm 18

Psalm 18

The sun begins its nightly descent as I continue on my labors. I have spent much time in thought today, and did not accomplish as much as my heart desires. It is well, though, because the Lord is my strength, my rock and my deliverer. The time spent laboring in the garden is not adding to some running total in the hopes of winning my salvation; it is an offering back to the God who has offered me so much more than I can repay. I have no dreams of re-creating such beauty as exists here; I merely want my time to be used in such a way that God knows how grateful I am for all that God has done.

As the darkness of night begins to infiltrate the day I notice something else racing in on the wings of darkness. I notice clouds, gray as death, moving swiftly in my direction. My head swivels instinctively towards the forest, an innate reaction to seek shelter from the storms in the shadowy canopy offered there. My foot turns, leading my entire body to begin to shift when I cry out. Surely the first sign of rain shall not drive me from this place. Rain must come to nurture the garden, to offer the gift of life to all that grows here. Am I included in that?

I nervously glance at my tools, some of them glowing in the evening light, others with exposed wires reminding me of the delicate electronics that exist within. Am I to abandon this place and seek shelter from the rain in the forest, where chaos abounds? Or do I remain exposed to the elements and trust in God that I will persevere.

I cry out in my distress. Surely the Lord will save me from this storm. Surely I will not be left exposed, uncovered, unsheltered as the winds blow, as the rain beats, as the thunder shakes the foundations of my life. Surely there is some hope.
The clouds race quickly, being chased by the coming night, and I remain frozen in place, my foot turned towards the forest, my spirit twisting in the rising wind. Do I run in fear? Or stubbornly, steadfastly remain in hope?

In that wavering moment I feel the first rain drop alight upon my hand. I look down and see its broken self, shattered upon my hand, pulled down by gravity. I turn my hand and it balances, frozen in the moment, before it is joined by a brother, and then another, and soon my hand is covered in droplets interrupted in their path toward the ground. I hear them colliding with the earth, nestling into the grass, being caught by the fence, shattered upon the bench. I watch as they regroup and form pathways downhill, running with speed from where they have landed. I watch as my clippers and shears are soon covered in drops, then the weedeater, too. I am afraid, and cry out.

In that moment, I have a dream of the Lord racing down. It is matched with a mighty roar of thunder and a flash of lightning unlike another I have seen. In my wonder I clasp my chest, certain that it has been rent in two by the mighty roar or the terrible flash. My ears ring as light permeates the darkening world, the forest illuminated for a moment before returning to shadowy twilight. In that moment, I am no longer alone.

The Lord abides. He reaches down through the mighty rains, now thrashing around me, upon me, within me. As my clothes become saturated and my spirit downtrodden, he extends his victorious right hand and grasps my soul within it, assuring me that I am not alone. He does not halt the raindrops from pummeling my existence, but every cell of my being cries out that in that moment, standing in the garden of my soul, waiting for my deliverer, I am not alone.

The Lord has rewarded me for my loyalty. Perhaps my cries in the wilderness did not go unheard, but I have never felt this overwhelming power in my heart before. Not once did I gasp for air like I do now, uncertain of my next breath but sure of everything else. Never has my entire body tingled in the grasp of the Almighty like it does now, held by the perfect Lord who leads me in his paths. I am aware, more than ever, that it is the Lord who empowers me to tend to this garden, to resist the forest’s lures, to hurl weeds from my presence. It is God who trains my hand to plant and pluck up, just as it is God who sets me in this wide meadow and ensures the forest does not overtake me. They cried out to the skies, but my enemies found no help. It is the Lord who delivers me, and as my clothes and my being soak up the evening rain, I no longer shudder in fear or uncertainty, I shudder in awe of who God is. The Lord delivers me, not from the rain of the evening, but from the eternal storms that threatened to swamp my soul. Every fiber of my being knows its Creator is, and that being cries out once more, this time in praise to its Maker, even in the storm.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Psalm 17

Psalm 17

Here in the garden of my soul, I thrill that the work of my hands testifies to the direction of my soul. I am no longer held captive to the whimsical desires of the flesh, but recognize that the labors I pour out in this sacred space testify to the love within my heart of my Maker. From time to time, here in the afternoon sun, as the sweat slips from my brow and treks earthward, I cry out to the Lord to ensure that He knows the direction of my heart.

I have watched as aimless individuals have crossed this meadow, in hot pursuit of whatever emotion is ruling their heart. For brief moments our eyes will meet and they will wordlessly beckon me to join their hunt, but I resist. My feet remain rooted to this fertile soil, my hands wrapped with satisfaction around the neck my enemies, grateful that the Lord hears my cry and gives me the strength to resist. These weeds are devilish enough for my efforts; were I to run and throw myself back into the wilds of temptation, perhaps the Lord would continue to watch over me, to guard me in His righteous right hand, but I know the fate of those who run so, and I choose to remain in this place where my life might glorify God.

From time to time they will come and lurk at the garden gate, toying coyly with the latch as they tempt me to return to the chaos from whence I have come. They speak words of arrogance, hatred directed toward my current labors, callous words of misunderstanding, hoping to lead my heart astray once more. Lies and mistruths pour forth from their hearts as they hope to lure me away from my sanctuary.
Rise up, O Lord, and with those mighty wings with which you shield me defeat these wicked ones who torment me so. Beat them back to the forest, where they may run in their wicked paths and laugh in their foul ways. Their lives are fulfilling in their empty ways, and only too late do they realize the hunger still rests, deep within, and cannot be filled by the feasts in the forest.

You alone can provide a feast from the fertile soil your hands have made. I am in your grasp, safe within your arms, and I toil with satisfaction, knowing that whatever plans you have for me, I shall not stray from your eternal rest.

Ice Scrapers

  I cleaned out my trunk last week for the trunk or treat at the church.  I found three ice scrapers in there.  For the life of me, I can't remember the last time I needed one ice scraper, let alone three.  We have a garage, and it rarely is cold enough that I need one after work.  Certainly I don't need them in the summer.  And yet I've been carrying them around.  (I'm sure my gas mileage will improve without the extra two pounds to lug around!)

  It got me to thinking about what else I carry around with me.  We were talking last week in Bible study about forgiveness--mostly about how we have such a hard time forgiving ourselves.  We don't surrender to God's grace and mercy, rather putting up a resilient fight with all the resources we can muster to hold onto our sins.  I wondered aloud if there was some benefit to remembering sins, that we might not be doomed to repeat them, in a take on the Santayana quote that has been bandied around often lately.  Surely, though, we would do ourselves a grand favor in allowing our sins to melt like the newly-fallen snow on a sunny winter day.  I can't imagine how much junk I'm dragging around because I'm too stubborn to accept God's grace.

  I was reading over the questions for baptism, and I keep wondering how much I truly trust in Christ's grace and love?  Do I still foolishly believe my own strength is enough?

Monday Morning

Holy God,

  The frost remains thick on the grass, yet the sun shines brightly in the sky.  Remind me once more of how your glory shines, even in the darkest of nights, even when my face is turned from you, even when I am content to live without you.  Remind me of how your love burns brilliantly in the air, in my heart, surrounding me with overwhelming arms of grace that encircle and ensnare me, and may I delight in your love in such a way that I never desire to leave the warmth of your presence again.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Hope E-News for 11/4

Sunday School—The next two weeks, during adult Sunday School, we’ll be focusing on ‘What do Presbyterians Believe?’ Come and join us at 9:45!

Red Bucket Offering—totaled $794.20. On behalf of the Newton Center, thank you!

Potluck on November 7! We’ll pack shoeboxes during the potluck! (Please bring 2 canned goods to worship—these will be taken to East Brainerd Elementary to help needy children) Also—we have a opportunity to spend some time with our neighbors at The Lantern down the street. It is an Alzheimer’s community. We will go at 1:30 and lead a short worship service, than stay and spend some time with them. Speak to Lloyd if you are interested in joining us.

Pray for…
Linda Brandon

New Hope News
Jacob Geerlings is engaged!

Who are you becoming?

Interesting thoughts on why we call it ‘9/11’ and why that should change

A New Houdini Exhibit

$2.8 billion made this news item a certainty

The Poverty Paradox

Extending the Riverwalk

Meditation Moment
Praise God for all you have and trust him for all you want. (John Wesley)

Text for this Week

Luke 11:1-4
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

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The Invisible Man

  It feels like it's been forever since I talked about a book on here.  I recently got a Kindle when they lowered the price, and have been downloading all the classics I never made time to read.  I recently finished The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells.  I thought it was a fascinating look at what often happens when the wildest dreams come true.

  The book is based around an individual who thought it would be great fun to be invisible.  He was a chemist, and eventually he created a formula that allowed him to do just that.  He had so many wondrous plans for invisibility that he was eager to begin.

  However, almost as soon as he had done so, the problems began to arise.  He could barely walk anywhere where people were, for they would run him over.  He was unable to have interaction with others, and startled them when they would collide with him.  He was cold all the time--he hadn't reckoned on the effects of being naked in England in winter.  In short, it was a complete disaster, although he couldn't figure out for the life of him how to reverse the process.

  While reading the book, I wondered how many others in the world had their wildest dreams come true, only to discover how many downsides there were later.  I remember talking at length in Psychology class in college about how most lottery winners end up less happy after they win large sums due to all the problems money causes.  We often don't see the negatives until it's too late.

  It got me to thinking about what my wildest dreams are, and the downsides of that.  I am often guilty of allowing the world to define success for me, and I forget that the world's success will probably lead me away from the person God wants me to be.  I don't think about the way that wealth and fame would corrupt and change my nature.  I am guilty of believing that renown comes with no negatives.

  When we dream big dreams, may we do so listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, ensuring that our dreams match up with God's dreams for us, so that we don't end up simply allowing the world to corrupt us through the lies of money, wealth and fame.

Psalm 16

Psalm 16

Here in the beauty of this blessed place, I bow my head in worship. Only you, O Lord, can protect me from the chaos that lurks beyond this place. Long moments pass as I consider all that it means for me to spend my time in this blessed garden. I have no idea what the future holds, but I trust that in the Lord I will be safe from what lurks beyond this place. In choosing to join in the destruction of the weeds, in choosing to feed the beauty within, in choosing to spend my days ensuring that the garden of my soul is a well-tended place, I have cast my lot here, in this pleasant place, where I am content to let my soul run its race.

I have no interest in what lies beyond, as often as it may call. I cannot say for certain that I will never chase that siren’s song again, but my heart is here, and even when my feet carry me elsewhere, I shall return to this place, the only home I have.

With that in mind I bow once again, in worship, yes, but in toil as well. No longer shall I pretend that beauty will care for itself and that gardens shall tend themselves. My hands do not fly with careless speed, but rather move delicately along the fencerow, plucking weeds by their base and considering them before discarding them; they are made to resemble things of beauty, and they flower regularly, but they are not what God has intended to be in this place. For me to encourage them would be as careless as those others who choose other than the beauty God has planted. I once was foolish, but now recognize the errors in my ways. My heart is glad to cast out these invaders, to run my gloved hands along the now-smooth service near the fence. It is not a long surface, and much more labor awaits, but it begins to resemble what it once was, and for this brief glimpse into innocence, into holiness, away from the chaos of sin, I thank my blessed Maker.


To learn more, go to Charity:Water

Thursday Morning

Holy God,

  Many of the leaves have fallen and the sun's trek across the sky is far shorter than it once was.  The weather has turned colder and the wind cuts a little deeper these days.  The seasons change once more, and still you remain, faithful and true.

  Faith has seasons, and yet I struggle to accept them.  I want every day to be summer, every responsibility to be carefree.  Even your Son, Jesus Christ, went through winter, so that spring might arrive.  Remind me of this truth, that I might be led by you in this time, that I might learn and grow, and emerge more faithful in the spring.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter XXI: The Sacraments

The Sacraments

As the fathers under the Law, besides the reality of the sacrifices, had two chief sacraments, that is, circumcision and the passover, and those who rejected these were not reckoned among God’s people; so do we acknowledge and confess that now in the time of the gospel we have two chief sacraments, which alone were instituted by the Lord Jesus and commanded to be used by all who will be counted members of his body, that is, Baptism and the Supper or Table of the Lord Jesus, also called the Communion of His Body and Blood. These sacraments, both of the Old Testament and of the New, were instituted by God not only to make a visible distinction between his people and those who were without the Covenant, but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of these sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the chosen have with their Head, Christ Jesus.

And so we utterly condemn the vanity of those who affirm the sacraments to be nothing else than naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by Baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered and remitted, and also that in the Supper rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls. Not that we imagine any transubstantiation of bread into Christ’s body, and of wine into his natural blood, as the Romanists have perniciously taught and wrongly believed; but this union and conjunction which we have with the body and blood of Christ Jesus in the right use of the sacraments is wrought by means of the Holy Ghost, who by true faith carries us above all things that are visible, carnal, and earthly, and makes us feed upon the body and blood of Christ Jesus, once broken and shed for us but now in heaven, and appearing for us in the presence of his Father. Notwithstanding the distance between his glorified body in heaven and mortal men on earth, yet we must assuredly believe that the bread which we break is the communion of Christ’s body and the cup which we bless the communion of his blood. 

Thus we confess and believe without doubt that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s Table, do so eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus that he remains in them and they in him; they are so made flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone that as the eternal Godhood has given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which by nature was corruptible and mortal, life and immortality, so the eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus does the like for us. We grant that this is neither given to us merely at the time nor by the power and virtue of the sacrament alone, but we affirm that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s Table, have such union with Christ Jesus as the natural man cannot apprehend.

Further we affirm that although the faithful, hindered by negligence and human weakness, do not profit as much as they ought in the actual moment of the Supper, yet afterwards it shall bring forth fruit, being living seed sown in good ground; for the Holy Spirit, who can never be separated from the right institution of the Lord Jesus, will not deprive the faithful of the fruit of that mystical action.

Yet all this, we say again, comes of that true faith which apprehends Christ Jesus, who alone makes the sacrament effective in us. Therefore, if anyone slanders us by saying that we affirm or believe the sacraments to be symbols and nothing more, they are libelous and speak against the plain facts.  On the other hand we readily admit that we make a distinction between Christ Jesus in his eternal substance and the elements of the  sacramental signs. So we neither worship the elements, in place of that which they signify, nor yet do we despise them or undervalue them, but we use them with great reverence, examining ourselves diligently before we participate, since we are assured by the mouth of the apostle that “whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”


 May we trust in the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit may come and dwell with us, in us, and guide us as we try and live out the mysteries of our faith.  Our feeble minds cannot understand all that God sees, yet with faith we come forward and are joined with Christ through the sacraments, the 'visible signs of invisible grace.'  They are not magic, yet they should stir up some deep emotions, deep gratitude, within us, that afterward we go forth into the world as a people filled with passion for Christ.  It is never easy to step aside and let the Holy Spirit work, yet it is my prayer that, as I continue to come before Christ as an unworthy sinner, His grace will fill me and send me out to testify to the goodness and grace of Christ.


I'm sure I'm not the first to have this thought, but as I was thinking about Halloween and the fascination with zombies, the thought occurred to me--isn't that what Christians are?

When we were baptized, we died to ourselves, that we might live for Christ, right?  So, technically, aren't we the walking, talking, living dead?  Well, dead to ourselves, alive in Christ. 

Just as zombies have an insatiable desire for bbbbrrrrraaaaaiiinnnsss, aren't Christians supposed to have an abundant passion to see God's justice rolling down?

While zombies stroll the streets and strike fear into the hearts of anyone who sees them, shouldn't Christians inspire the world to hope, and to love?  (Sometimes it seems like Christians are more interested in devouring one another than actually demonstrating Christ's love to the outside world.)

I suppose if there really were zombies the world would be a very different place.  I also suppose that if the church followed the footsteps of Christ and pursued justice and love with every fiber of our beings than the world would also be a very different place.

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

There are many gardens in this forest. In my wanderings I have traveled far from this place, and I have stumbled across clearings just like this one. In each one there is a garden the exact scale of my own, and in each there are roses, beauty embodied, some in full bloom, others covered in carpets of buds, others weary, unwatered, beaten by the elements, crying out to the emptiness.

I have even had the fortune to meet some of the gardeners of these places. Some have been hard at work, calloused hands continuing to ply the ground, pleading for the earth to give up the invaders, the pests and the weeds. Others have been seated comfortably before immaculate gardens, grateful for the time they have had toiling in this place, admiring the beauty that God has planted there and unbothered by the tiny, unplucked sprouts near the path. They have labored long hours in the garden, and will not rise to tend again. Many of these gardeners speak of their delight at their garden; some even inquired as to the state of my own. It was with shame that I could not reply; I often had little awareness of my own garden or the condition of it. I was content to distance myself from it and assume the best.

However, there were two types of gardens I continued to stumble upon that shook my soul. The one contained a gardener with a set of immaculate shears in their hand, the sharp blade glistening in the sunlight, hacking away at the beauty of the rosebush. I would cry out on its behalf, pleading with them to stop, but they would insist that this garden is not suited for roses, gesturing to the plantings they had found that would suit such a space far better than the roses. I offered my meek protest, aware that I was not tending to my own but certain that the gardener could not re-create such beauty on their own, but to no avail. They insisted on hacking away at the thorny shoots of the rosebush, but lamented that it kept growing back. Some had tried to dig away at the roots, but they found no locus. Unable to kill it, many contented themselves with hacking off whatever appeared aboveground while they tended to other inferior plants of their own choosing. They refused to acknowledge that God had planted the roses, and while I worried of the terror they would confront in their mistake, there was no conversing with them on the subject.

The other type of garden was abandoned, overgrown. Many gardens have multiple paths emanating from them; the best tended have well-beaten paths that lead to the gardens around them, indicating the frequency of visits and the availability of aid. These gardens existed in communion with one another. Another type of garden, like my own, had many paths, none well trodden, as the inhabitant searched wildly for the best path. The path to the gate might be well marked, but the latch was rusty from idleness, the inhabitant often pausing at the gate before returning to the chaos of the forest. This last type had no well-beaten paths, only the soft imprint of old footsteps leading away from the garden they fled many years ago in their youth. They have gone astray, forgetting entirely the beauty within and distancing themselves from the very existence of the garden. Perhaps the memory is too painful, but they prefer to roam the darkness of the canopied forest, opting for the temporary beauty they find, the fleeting sustenance of chaos before shifting to another locale. They have gone astray from the fertile soils of the garden, planting and plucking up wicked weeds, caring little for the impression they leave upon the earth. Their gardens still emit shadows of beauty, from deep within the overgrown chaos of the place. Fences have often collapsed, and while God sustains the barrier between the forest and the garden, there is little else to demarcate the place from the outside world. Perhaps soon God will remove such protection and the place will slip forever into chaos, along with whoever was designed to inhabit the place. Shudders slip south down my spine, and I retreat from such places, searching for joy away from these icy locales.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


So there I was...

Standing outside my car, peering in, looking at my car key sitting on the passenger seat.

But I can honestly say that it wasn't my fault.  Well, mostly.

What happened was that the keyring broke.  At least two of them--they were those cheap little keyrings you get from the mechanic when they affix the tag to the key so they know which car is yours.  They broke yesterday afternoon, so while I had the keychain with me, it was missing the most important key.  (A big thanks to my wife for saving me!)

How often do we entrust ourselves to something flimsy, that we know won't stand the test, but serves the purpose for a little while?  Before long, we stop thinking about how inadequate it is and just go on with life, ignoring the problem until a storm comes up and everything falls apart (literally, sometimes) and despair sets in.

I have been thinking about how we do that with our spiritual life.  We establish some inadequate practices, often just doing it to get by for a period until we can get to a better place, when we'll change then.  It's that whole 'life-will-be-better-when' thing.  But whenever we do get to that other place, some other crisis arises, or by then we're so accustomed to our crisis coping skills that we don't bother to replace the cheap keyring with something sturdy--we don't sink our roots deep into the soil, we don't ensure the foundation of our lives is rooted squarely on Christ.  Then, when the storms come, we are battered and in despair.

What practices in your spiritual life have you replaced with something inadequate?  What crisis coping skills have become permanent?  What promises have you made about your relationship with God that you haven't begun to fulfill?

Let's ensure we're centered on Christ, that in all times, good and bad, we'll be centered on what matters most!

Tuesday Morning

Holy, Holy Lord--
  You have surrounded me with such love.  I see your love each morning, when I arise and greet another day.  The way you sustain my life should amaze me, yet I take it for granted, as though it was a universal privilege that I deserve.  Teach me to be humble, Lord.

  Teach me also to appreciate the love I receive from others.  May I reciprocate that love, offering back out of what I have been so freely given.  May Christ be a model for me, that my feet might not stray from his steps, that my life might be given back for your glory.

  I love you, Lord, and I thank you for loving me.