Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Daily Office

Learn more here: Creating a Rhythm with God

I'm going to add this one to my reading list:  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality:  Unleash a Revolution in Your Life with Christ


Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

In most surveys, a majority of Americans believe they are above average.  I will freely confess that, asked the same question, I would probably consider myself above average.  Meaning that I am, well, average.  Strange...

And yet, in the eyes of God, I am perfectly unique, treasured and secure.  I am not seen as another faceless entity in a sea of humanity--I am known by name, created with a purpose.  I am loved, because my Creator is love, and can be nothing but love.

I do have to remind myself of this from time to time, when I get down on myself and beat myself up for all the idols I create.  God loves me not because of what I do but because of whose I am.

At this point you may be wondering, that's great, Keith, but what about the baby?  I'm getting there, I promise.

By now, our child has its own unique set of fingerprints.

That's right--it is now possible for our child to leave evidence behind at the scene of any crime.  Just imagine those fingerprints all over freshly washed windows!

No two sets of fingerprints are alike--and so our child continues to develop as an individual, unlike any other (and obviously above average!).  Its heart continues to beat, it continues to grow and develop as a beloved child of God.  It is my prayer that it will never doubt God's love.

Per day, there are between 300,000-400,000 babies born every day in the world.

Each one is knit together in the mother's womb by God, and each one is treasured, perfectly unique, and beloved.  Christ rose upon the cross, stretched out his arms and died for every single one of them, and all are rose for them, too.  I cannot imagine or understand how God can love each one uniquely, separately, but I'm not God, so I don't have to figure it out.  I just have to be grateful that I worship a God who can and does love like that!

Monday, March 28, 2011


"We desperately ask to be remembered, fearing we are nothing." (Hauerwas, in The Cross-Shattered Christ)

  I will freely confess that one of the things my heart longs for is for my life to be remembered.  To be known.  I think this desire falls safely into the realm of idols, for I cannot say that I am always hoping to be known so that I can bear the light of Christ to others, but I often wish, to be truly honest, to be known simply to be remembered, to feel like I matter.

  I could probably go on for pages about this desire and modern society, how the number of twitter followers and facebook friends and pageviews are so easily calculated and compared in our often narcissistic society, but it really doesn't matter how I compare to the rest of the world and how it might be society's fault--what matters is that it's an idol that needs to be torn down and replaced with something of God.

  And God seems to be trying to do that, both in the message from Hauerwas I came across in some devotional reading, as well as in the beginning of Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, which I have recently begun, with great anticipation.

  While being 'known' in the eyes of the world is, perhaps, pleasing for a while, God keeps reminding me that what truly  matters is that I am known, treasured and beloved, in the eyes of my Creator, who will remain forever, far beyond the length of time the kingdoms of this earth will reign.  My eternal God holds me in the palm of his hand, and I matter immensely to Him.  I will not be forgotten, even in my darkest hour.  Somehow, through the miracle of Christ, all of my sins are forgotten, but I never am, and for that reason alone, I  matter.

  So perhaps I can get off this treadmill of worry about being forgotten by the world after I am gone, and remind myself that in the eyes of my Lord and Savior, I shall never be forgotten, and that is all that matters.

  I imagine that Jesus would then suggest that I take all that energy I put into worrying about this and invest that in spreading the Good News of God's Kingdom.

"...we can live with the hope and confidence that the only remembering that matters is to be remembered by Jesus." (Hauerwas)


  Week 13 is here--the last week of the first trimester, or so I'm told.  Supposedly I can breathe easier now, as though I could actually stop worrying about this baby as an act of will.  If it were that easy for me to stop worrying, I'd have a lot more free time!

  The child is now roughly the size of a peach, nearly three inches long and 4/5 of an ounce.  Hopefully there's no pit!

  Do you know how, whenever you eat a peach, the juices run down all over your hands and wrists, forcing you to go wash your hands afterward?  Even with the mess, though, you're still thrilled that you got the chance to enjoy that peach.

  I think having a child is somewhat like that.  You go into the process really excited about it, and then just as you begin you realize how messy and unprepared you are.  It's invading every corner of your life, and you realize that, if you had known everything you now know, you might have tried to be more prepared going into the process.  But it is so joyful, such a sweet process, that you are so glad you did it, so certain that your life is enriched, that you don't mind the mess.  You're simply grateful that you have the chance at all.

  That's where I am--just grateful for the chance to be a father, to celebrate the gift of life and pray for the wisdom and courage to try and be the kind of father my heavenly father is to me.  I will fail, but I will strive, and that makes all the difference.

  (Don't forget to vote for the names in the sidebar on the left!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Pilgrim's Regress

  What a journey!  I just finished C.S. Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis' retelling of John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, which I read about a year ago after much procrastination.

  Lewis' tale is a far different read than Bunyan's--I found Bunyan's easier to understand.  Lewis had fewer characters in his story, and the conversations were deeper and more philosophical.  Lewis' tale was enjoyable, but if I had to recommend one or the other, I'd probably lean toward Bunyan's, simply because the lessons were plainer, though similar.

  Both remind me that the life of faith is a quest.  While the cover of Lewis' book is an epic picture of a knight fighting a dragon, most of the book is comprised of a psychological battle against the temptations to stray from the course, and I find that lesson to be far more pertinent to my situation--the constant, niggling distractions lead me from the narrow way bit by bit, step by wayward step, rather than big, dramatic battles.  I need to be reminded that my life of faith is a quest, one that demands my energy and commitment, one that asks much of me.  I need to be reminded of what a grand adventure this life is, and I should not forget that my goal is the glory of God, rather than the 'success' that the world so often elevates as our goal.  I am not striving for a kingdom made of worldly things, but rather one filled with light and glory that belong only to God.

  How easy it is to forget that we are on a grand quest!  The world's comforts, I believe, so often soften our resolve and lower our defenses.  We grow comfortable, and while many comforts are a gift from God, they also ensnare our souls and entrap us into believing that comfort itself is a goal.  Lewis and Bunyan both long for Christians to live unfettered and free to live boldly for Christ.

  How might we live if we viewed ourselves on a quest, on an adventure?  How might we view each day differently if we remembered that we have a goal, and it is God's kingdom, not the enlarging of our own kingdom?  How might we make decisions differently if our goal was life with Christ, not our own glory.

  I will be praying that I see myself as journeying towards life with God, all the while remembering that God is with me every step of the way.

  Here's an old video of an old song, but it captures the spirit of both books.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Father and the children

  Always by my Side, by Jim Nantz, was a book I looked forward to reading, and it had been sitting on my bookshelf for many moons.  In search of lighter reading, I picked it up and made my way through it.

  The book is subtitled The Healing Gift of a Father's Love, and its appeal to me was that it would be a book focused on the relationship between father and son.  And while this relationship was certainly evident in the pages, I felt like this was mostly a book about Jim Nantz and his friends, many of them very famous, where he squeezed in moments about his father.  The book was entertaining, and many of the stories were fascinating, especially ones that involved George H.W. Bush, but it left me wanting more from the aspect of the father-son relationship.  (In a sign of how quickly the world changes, perhaps having Don Imus quotes on the back of the book is not viewed the same as it once was, just as Nantz's view of Tiger Woods towards the end of the book reads somewhat differently in light of recent events)

  I grew a little frustrated at this, but then I realized that I do the same thing to my heavenly Father--I try to make my story about myself, squeezing him in a little around the margins and when it is convenient.  Is my life truly about Him and His glory, or is it centered on me and what I can accomplish?

  I know what the right answer to that question is, but my self-centered worldview gets in the way, and I live my life in casual ignorance of the grace that sustains me every moment of the day.  I continue to pray for the strength to focus upon God, making him the center of my universe, so that every thought and every action is in orbit around God.  I believe this is possible, and I pray for the courage to empty  myself, that the grace and love of God might be my strength and my nourishment.

  Below is a politics-free interview I found with Jim Nantz by Sean Hannity.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3/24 E-News

Bridge Refugee—On Wednesday night (3/30) they will be here to lead us 
in a conversation about the work they do.

Laundry Detergent—Still collecting on the last Sunday of the month.

Newsletters—These will be in the Narthex on Sunday.

Pray for…
The Newton Center
Our Garden Project, that it be an effective outreach


A great article for our distracted times

A testament from a martyr.  Well worth the short time it will take to read it.

Text for this Week

Luke 14:1-14

Jesus Heals the Man with Dropsy
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy.And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this.

Humility and Hospitality
 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
 He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’


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Christian de Cherge

  My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, and even in that which would strike me blindly. (From the testament of Christian de Cherge, OCSO, martyred in 1996)

  Ten minutes ago, I had no idea who Christian de Cherge was.  I cannot pretend to have a complete grasp on who is.  But I can say that his testament, written in anticipation of being martyred, is worth reading and can be found here.

  When we think about those who oppose us, can we do so with the same grace he does?

  Can we recognize that we all play a part, we all share the blame, for so many things that are twisted and distorted in this world?

  Can we focus on what truly matters with the same intensity?

Tape Measure

  My baby is the size of a small tape measure this week. Considering the rate at which I lose tape measures, this doesn't offer much consolation to me!  I have three of them, and at any one time I usually have no idea where at least two of them are.

  In related news, (All news in my life at this point is somewhat pregnancy related...it's interesting that in every conversation I have, the second question is always "How's Rachel?"  She's great, by the way.) Rachel is starting to notice the child growing inside her.  I suppose this is a good thing, as this is a visible reminder of the impending change in our lives.  I can't imagine what it's like to deal with this change--my body doesn't change a bit, and there isn't too much I can do for her, to relieve any struggles with a changing body.

  I continue to pray for the child.  I wish I could know that it would make every proper decision for its life.  I think every good parent wishes that for their child, all the while hoping they make slight stumbles along the way, in order to gain character as they grow.  (If I had a nickel for every time my mother said 'it builds character', let's just say that the numbers on my recently completed income tax return would look a bit different!)  I know that kids are resilient, and I believe that they learn as much from how we handle mistakes as they do from our care put into not making them, but I simply want to do everything in my power to live in a Godly way, in the hopes that this child will grow into a relationship with God from the first day.  I long for them to have an intimate relationship with their Maker, with the One whose love is infinite, who cradles them their entire life, and to live out of gratitude.  I continue to pray.  Once I have done all I can, it's the only thing that's left!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So that

"I received mercy, so that in me, [...] making me an example to those who would come to believe."

"I am giving you these instructions [...] so that by following them you may fight the good fight."

In scanning through the first chapter of 1 Timothy, I'm caught by this phrase.

So that.

I think about how we are blessed for a purpose--not simply to enrich our lives, but with the goal that our blessings might go forth into the world, so that Christ might be revealed through us.

So that.

So that the world may know Christ.

So that the world might know God's love.

So that the church might not be filled with empty actions to enrich ourselves, but rather be busy occupying ourselves with the proclamation of God's Kingdom.

So that every thought, word and deed might be an offering to God, in the hopes that the passion with which we live shows how much we love the world, because we love Christ, who made the world.

So that.

What are your gifts, your blessings?

And how are you using them to bless others?

Eugene Peterson

Catalyst West 2011: Eugene Peterson from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Rethinking 'Greatness'

Michael Frost on "Who is the greatest?" from Parish Collective on Vimeo.

"The great people in your neighborhood are the ones who come and stay"

Lord Jim

 I have no idea where some books in my life come from.  Some I set out to purchase, some are passed along to me by others, while some seem to appear on the wind, depositing themselves into my life until I have read them.

  Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, is one of those books.  I don't know where it came from or how it appeared on my bookshelf, but being short, and non-churchy, I decided to dive in.

  And how complicated it is.  Not that I expected anything else, but I was surprised at the theme that arose--our inability to forgive ourselves.

  Lord Jim is based around Jim, a sailor who commits a massive mistake, abdicating his responsibilities in a time of need.  Jim is never able to forgive himself, and spends the rest of his life fleeing from this mistake, allowing it to haunt everything he touches in the future.

  How often do we live like this?  I have long believed that the hardest part about forgiveness isn't asking for it, but accepting it--we believe that the blood of Christ has made possible our forgiveness, and yet we are singularly unable to forgive ourselves.  We can forgive others almost anything, but when it comes to accepting the cleansing and renewing power of forgiveness, we seem to clench up, unable or unwilling to accept the grace that is offered.

  How differently we might live if we allowed the things of our past to remain there, and we were free to live unfettered and free, far from the transgressions of long ago, deeds we have asked forgiveness for, deeds for which we have been forgiven.  May we live as sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, free from our sinful pasts and free from a fearful future!


So there I was...

I was working out in the Y yesterday and HGTV had a show on about nurseries. I usually keep an eye on HGTV, mostly because the televisions in the Y have, well, interesting channel selections. One has that show on where the guys make the motorcycles,the history channel always has something odd on (lots of apocalyptic stuff, and yesterday a show about a mass murder), ESPN is tuned to some obscure baseball game, and FOX & CNN all make HGTV look pretty good.

So the lady visits a couple that just had their second child, and I realized that someday, soon, I'd have to design a nursery.

I kinda panicked. Maybe it's because the reality began to set in, the total change. Maybe it's because this is the first real way that the child is imposing on our life, that we have to change for the kid (Well, except for the fact that Rachel doesn't change the kitty litter anymore). Maybe it's simply the fact that I'm about as prepared to put together a nursery as I am to assemble a fully working cold fusion reactor.

I know that I won't be alone in this step, and that the nursery will come together (although I have no idea what will happen to most of the stuff that is currently occupying this room), but for some reason a typically harmless, entertaining show suddenly made life seem a lot more real yesterday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Unreal. And yet so very real, all too real for the tens of thousands who perished, for the countless more who mourn, who weep, who cry out for meaning in the depth of night.

Weeks later, life in the United States goes on as normal. Bombings in Libya have pushed the tragedy from the headlines, and how easily I forget about my brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet, suffering and trying to find a way forward, day by precious day.

I feel as though I have no words to say to bring meaning out of this. I have no explanation, no grasp of how complete this tragedy is.

God can speak over watery chaos. God's words have creative power, are filled with love that knows no depth, offer grace and mercy in times of need.

In Missional Renaissance, Reggie McNeal takes the church to task for spending so much time in prayer for ourselves, for those in the pews. Are we praying for the world, for those in our community, for those we'd love to see the light of Christ? Are we spending time lifting them up before the throne of grace?

I watch that wave, over and over, sweep over the car. (The driver is ok, amazingly enough) I think of my baptismal promises, to trust in the grace and love of Christ, to follow wherever he might lead. Am I willing to invest time on my knees in prayer for Japan, that God might show me how best to serve them?

Or am I too interested in returning to 'life as normal'?

Imaginary Jesus

Ever wonder how you create God in your own image? Matt Mikalatos did, and so he penned an interesting tale called Imaginary Jesus, an adventure through Portland and one man's willingness to declare all the ways he had designed a Jesus that fit his expectations.

This book is meant to be fun to read--many may cringe at some of the images of Jesus in the book, but to react to the idea of political Jesus or New Age Jesus is to miss the point--Mikalatos is trying to help us all see how we shape and design our image of Jesus to be safe, not to reflect the God of love, grace and mercy we find in the pages of Scripture, in the world around us.

Are you willing to explore the ways you have rounded off some of the sharper edges of Jesus? Are you willing to admit that perhaps you spend more time thinking about how you are unworthy of his love than you do remembering that the God who knit you together in the womb is the same God who died on the cross for you?

It's a fun adventure, but one with great depth--and hopefully it will get the wheels turning, forcing you to think about just who Jesus Christ was, is and forever shall be, and how your life is lived as an offering to Christ.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Plum!

This week we have our own little plum for a moment! Approximately 2.1 inches long, and weighing in at the grand total of almost half an ounce, this week our child continues to grow. As we draw nearer to the end of the first trimester, the child shifts from development into growth--amazingly, almost everything major is in place as the ears shift into their final location, and so we will soon enter the second trimester with the same amazement and wonder that saw us enter the first!

I can't tell the difference between the size of a lime (11 weeks) and a plum (12 weeks), but I know that October draws near, and we wait, unprepared, humbled and awed.

We went daycare shopping last Friday. We visited four separate daycares, each well-qualified, and each deserving of consideration. But when we wandered into the relatively new Best Beginnings on Hickory Valley Road, we were amazed at the wonders that awaited us beyond the doors. Rooms set aside just for painting, another just for dance and play, and little details set at the eye-level of a child! It seems that not a detail was overlooked, and as we toured the place and heard of the multi-cultural focus we knew that this was a place that would not only be suitable, but a place where we could be excited to send our child each day.

And yet, we still struggle with the very idea of daycare. We are going against thousands of years of nature, sending our child in its fragile and vulnerable days to be cared for by others. We are setting aside our heart's desires and trusting it to the care of perfect strangers, although we trust that, in time, they will become friends. We have done our research, and know that this is what must come, and while we love the daycare, we do so with heavy hearts, despite the fact that they know far more about how to raise children than we do!

I will freely admit that I bear some trepidation about the days to come, dropping off such a treasure to be cared for by others, worried about missing special moments, about not being worthy as a parent, not making enough sacrifices. Perhaps this guilt will disappear with time, but in the meantime I wonder and I worry, hoping that we are doing the right thing, and yet wondering if there is not some other, better way.

Perhaps things will change, but until they do, we will go forward with plan A, hoping that we are doing the right thing.

Soul Feast

Athletes, musicians, writers, scientists and others progress in their field because they are well-disciplined people. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to think that in matters of faith we should pray, meditate, and engage in other spiritual disciplines only when we feel like it. (William O. Paulsell)

Strange, I know, to begin a book review with a quote by someone other than the author of the book one is reviewing. Marjorie Thompson uses this quote in the final chapter of Soul Feast in hopes of encouraging the reader to see the importance of not reading this book and setting it on the shelf, having found it interesting and little else. Thompson closes this book with the hopes that the reader will develop a 'rule of life', a plan to invest time and energy into the soul in hopes of growing as a Christian.

In the book, Thompson explores different spiritual disciplines: spiritual reading, prayer, worship, fasting, self-examination, spiritual direction and hospitality. Each chapter is well-written and offers an in depth exploration of what the discipline might look like in the believer's life. I appreciate how Thompson acknowledges that different demands weigh on us all, and so prayer in my life and prayer in your life might not be the same, but the hope is that each of us will delve into prayer in the hope of growing in Christ.

Thompson has done her homework in this superb exploration of the spiritual life. It's well worth your time and will offer some insights into the spiritual life, as well as being packed full of ideas about how to grow closer to Christ in all things.


Gracious God--
Thank you for setting us free. Thank you for liberating me from the powers of sin, even if I do keep trying to enslave myself once more to them. Thank you for shattering the power of my idols, even if I continue laboring to piece them back together again. Thank you for setting me free, even if I do peer over my shoulder, longing for the comfort of sin over the frightening commitment you demand.

You have set me free, and yet you know that true freedom can only come with a life centered in you. I pray, dear Lord, that you might strengthen and convict me, that I will be filled with passion for you and your love, that my life might be an offering to you, a thanksgiving praise song for your mighty love. Thank you, Lord.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Golf Ball

Currently, our baby is about the size of a golf ball. The next time I'm standing over a golf ball, trying my best to hit it as hard as I can with a metal club, I'm going to be thinking about this, and it's probably going to mess up my golf swing even more than I thought possible. (Sorry, those of you standing in fairways for nearby holes)

I suppose it probably doesn't have so many dimples, or fit so neatly on a tee. It still amazes me to think about, though.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day, explained


3/17 E-News


Game Night—this Sunday night @ 6! Bring your favorite board game to share.

Habitat For Humanity—this Saturday morning. Call me if you’re interested.

No Wednesday Night—that’s right—next week, Wednesday night will not occur, but just be skipped and we’ll go straight into Thursday morning.

Session Meeting—this Sunday @ 12:15.

Pray for…

The people of Japan. Those in charge, and the nearly ½ million living in temporary shelters.


Wow—this is incredible—Before & After photos from Japan

Applause…at what price?

Food for thought—one man’s opinion on the difference between Christianity and other religions

A fine point—you can’t eat an iPad

Text for this Week

Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


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A Lime

Apparently, my child is as big as a lime this week. Perhaps I'll go find a key lime pie to celebrate its momentous feat of growth.

Do you wonder if the baby has any sense of itself growing? Do you suppose it notices that it can move its joints, that its finger are no longer webbed, that hair follicles are forming? I suppose the kid won't be keeping much of a journal while it is in utero, but I have so many questions...

Just think--in 28 weeks, it will transition from a place of safety and total isolation into a loud, bright, and strangely terrifying world. It may not be nearly as thrilled about this as I am. It is a lime this week, but later it will emerge, the size of a watermelon, completely dependent on the love of people it doesn't know to care for its every need and desire.

What an act of faith! I think I would come out kicking and screaming as well. From total serenity it emerges into our world, and we, for strange reasons, expect it to act like us, to keep our schedules, to fit in perfectly. It has literally exchanged one world for another, not of its own volition, and we get upset when it cries. We know it is best for the child's future growth and prosperity, but all that child knows is that the total peace it once knew has been exchanged for a loud, demanding world. No wonder it cries...

Do you suppose we do the same in heaven? Do you suppose we, having exchanged one world for another, cry constantly in our uncertain surroundings? God knows what is best for us, but that doesn't mean we always accept God's plans for our lives.

I suppose this may all be a little deep for an infant the size of a lime, but you know what they say...

Put the lime in the coconut, you drink 'em both together  
Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better  
Put the lime in the coconut, drink 'em both down  
Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Open Hands

In other news, the baby can now open and close its fist. Stop for a moment and picture a child, two inches long, opening and closing its hand.

I have been stuck on this image for a while, and I continue to pray that the child comes into the world with an open hand.

How much time do we spend with our fists clenched, grasping, holding onto the promises and blessings we have received? We hoard, out of fear or insecurity, and our tunnel vision narrows to the point that we cannot view the world around us as beautiful and wondrous, only as intruders, trying to take what we have.

When we live with open hands, the blessings that pour into our hearts and lives are then poured into the hearts of others, and the world is a more beautiful place because we are in it. We are passing on our gifts to others, and living the Gospel as I understand it. It's not about our life and amassing gifts--it's about enriching the world and the others with whom we share it.

So I pray for a child with open hands, that it might not spend its life grasping, but rather giving.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just for Fun

The Pastor's Ass

The pastor entered his donkey in a race and it won.

The pastor was so pleased with the donkey that he entered it in the race again, and it won again.

The local paper read:


The Bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity that he ordered the Pastor not to enter the donkey in another race.

The next day, the local paper headline read:


This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the pastor to get rid of the donkey.

The pastor decided to give it to a nun in a nearby convent.

The local paper, hearing of the news, posted the following headline the next day:


The bishop fainted.
He informed the nun that she would have to get rid of the donkey, so she sold it to a farmer for $10.

The next day the paper read:


This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the nun to buy back the Donkey and lead it to the plains where it could run wild.

The next day the headlines read:


The bishop was buried the next day.

The moral of the story is--Being concerned about public opinion can bring you much grief and misery & even shorten your life.

So be yourself and enjoy life.

Stop worrying about everyone else's ass and you'll be a lot happier and live longer!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rob Bell

Watch live streaming video from lovewins at livestream.com

Here's a video of an interview Rob Bell did in reply to some of the questions he's received about his upcoming book, Love Wins.

What is the Bible really about?

The Bible is not about you.

11 Weeks

11 weeks down, 28 to go.

We went to a class on Saturday called FAMU, led by First Things First, a local organization that offers all sorts of classes encouraging and teaching families how to be good families. They offer classes for parenting, for couples and singles, hoping that we can grow up as Christians.

And in it, a profound lesson was offered.

Kids don't understand sarcasm.

And kids imitate their parents.

In other words, 95% of the things I say now need to be monitored, screened and carefully considered before they escape my mouth. My child will learn how to speak based on the way I speak, and if I (ok...there's no 'if' here) speak sarcastically, that's how my kid will speak.

Except it will take a while for them to understand sarcasm. So in the beginning, they'll just be mean.

I never considered that I'd have to watch my sarcasm.

In other news, the child's skin is still transparent, meaning that many blood vessels can be seen through the skin. I believe this is the coolest thing ever--our kid is see through! (Hopefully, this will change at some point in the next 28 weeks. Otherwise, they might get picked on a lot. Chewing with your mouth closed doesn't make much sense if everyone can see through your cheeks.) Tooth buds are starting to form underneath his (or her) gums.

Life continues to develop in amazing and astounding ways.

28 weeks to go...

Parenting has taken a turn for the more difficult, and I haven't even started yet!

Prayers for the World

"The Israelites came to know God through his Word. In this case Moses brought it, and he brought it right into the middle of Israel's trouble.
That's so often where God speaks. IN trouble. God's Word addresses us when we are trapped in one way or another." (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Beyond Doubt)

I've been struggling with the news of the earthquake in Japan. When I first began to hear the news, it seemed as though the death toll was surprisingly low, in the double digits, even. Not that the loss of a single human life is not heartbreaking, but I was shocked at how low the numbers were.

No more.

Now I hear reports of up to ten thousand perished due to tsunamis and earthquakes. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak as the earth opens once more to receive those it has claimed by its quaking. I cannot begin to imagine the mourning cries of those who cannot even find beloved ones to entomb.

I wonder why, but I have been over that question so many times, and the answers are so unsatisfactory, like eating nothing but chicken broth in fine restaurants--it fills a need, but leaves me strangely empty inside. I know that evil runs amok, that life is fragile, that disasters happen and people perish and that God abides in the midst of the disasters of life, and yet I want more.

I long for the Light of Christ to shine so powerfully in painful times that we do not doubt that God is there, that my fears are overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring healing touch of God. I long to have God show up on the scene is such ways that none doubt that God is still God, even in the midst of disaster.

I must remind myself that I worship a God who went meekly to the cross, whose resurrection happened in a garden early on the first day of the week, when there were few, if any, witnesses around. God does not depend on my observation to be at work. He does not need my affirmation to work wonders in broken human hearts.

God has promised that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. God has promised to send the Holy Spirit, and I trust that the Spirit is at work, pointing to the light of Christ, pointing to God's sacrificial love, the love that knows death, that knows mourning, the love that knows pain. Throughout the Gospels, God spent time with the broken hearted, with the pained and the grieving. Only God can restore hope in such times, and so that's where God was.

God will be God, and God will be present, active, working. The church must do its part, through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and other organizations, that will be Christ's hands and feet in action, on the ground. But God will always point to hope in Christ, even in the darkest of nights, even when I fail to look for that light.

I will continue to pray, continue to hope, for the people and nation of Japan.

Will you join me?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gospel as Bread and Water, or merely dessert?

Matthew 4Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ 4But he answered, ‘It is written,

“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

It seems to me, the more I think about it, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be everything to me. It should be the very food and water I
take in, the sustaining nutrients to fuel my day. I should begin each day rooted in the word, and the last thought I think before I fall asleep at night should be a
word of thanks, uttered from exhausted lips, offered up to my sustaining and creating God.

It seems to me this is how life ought to be. This is what my heart desires.

And yet, in my comfort, it seems like I am often guilty of making the Gospel of Christ little more than dessert. It is a delightful treat in which I indulge, rather the core of my being. I am grateful to God for my blessings, but my gratitude doesn't guide my heart and my mind throughout the day.

This dichotomy frustrates me completely. I pray and I pray and I pray, and yet my heart still wanders far from thoughts of my Savior. I long to live with passion for Christ, and yet, in my comfort, I am guilty of forgetting that I have a Savior, living for myself and my own glory.

This is my confession, and my heart's cry for a life centered on Christ, driven by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Measure of a Man

I just finished reading Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man. I don't think I have much to say about the book itself--I guess the practice of it is what I would recommend. Poitier explores his past, in the hopes of learning something about himself, and offers this to the world, in the hopes that we, as readers, might learn something about ourselves, about life, through his experiences. It's a generous effort, one for which I am grateful, for it forces me to think about my own life, to examine myself and my motives, the things that lie deep beneath the surface and bubble up in various ways. I'm not sure that Poitier's experiences captivated me, but the willingness to set it out for the world just in case it might benefit the cause of others is a risky and generous move, and perhaps it might lead us to consider how we might offer our experiences to the world. What have we learned, and how can we share that with others?

And just in case you're curious, Sneakers isn't mentioned in this book. I love that movie.

Guest Project -- Dragon Tails {sewing tutorial}

Guest Project -- Dragon Tails {sewing tutorial}

We will soon have a child--and I think it needs a dragon tail. I need to figure out how to make this happen.


Good morning, God.

It's a still and peaceful morning here. I thank you for that, for the glimpse of sunshine that bursts through the clouds and illumines the room. I thank you for the work I have to do today, for the chance to serve you, and I pray for the Spirit to work within me, that I might follow where you lead.

Lord, on this morning I pray for the people of Japan. I pray for the country, that you might protect those in danger, that you might heal those who have been harmed. I pray that you might bring order into their chaos, calm into their turmoil, and the assurance of your presence into the midst of their questions.

I cannot imagine their fear as the earth quakes, as normal life screeches to a halt and uncertainty reigns. I pray for the country, for the leaders and the citizens, that you might make a way in this sudden wilderness, and that your love might shine brightly. May the church take this opportunity to proclaim your name through works of love, and may we reach out to one another with compassion and grace.

You reign, Lord, and I trust you, even though I wonder why such things must happen. I've thought it out, reasoned it out, but in the midst of worldly chaos I must wonder why. Help me to see the way you see, Lord, that my faith might grow, that my knowledge may increase, and that I may serve you more faithfully.

In Christ,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

COURAGEOUS Movie Trailer

Remember Fireproof? They're back with another movie, this time for all the dad's out there. As a soon-to-be father, I'm pretty interested in what they have to say.

March 10 E-News


Movie Night—We’re watching Toy Story this Sunday night at 6. Come and join us as we talk about spirituality in the movies! It’s free to come, but a $1 donation to Newton Center is appreciated, if possible.

The Gifts of Women—On display in the Narthex—stop by and see how talented the women of New Hope are!

UTC workday—If you’re interested in being involved with the campus ministry, stop by the house tomorrow morning around 9 and lend a hand to some of the work being done there.

Pray for…

The people in Wisconsin. All of them.

John & Peggy as they travel home.


Are you willing to be dangerous?

An eye-opening game about how easy it is to end up homeless

Number of homeless families skyrockets

The Samaritan Center has a new website

A story of grace that probably shouldn’t be in the Bible

Men and women are equal now, right?

Text for this Week

Luke 13:18-30

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them,“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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Keith’s blog

Money, Sex & Power

Money, Sex & Power...these three issues are at the heart of so much corruption and brokenness in our country. They eat at our homes, our churches, our hearts--they corrode, and they do not stop once they gain a foothold--rather they seek to dominate, and in dominating, they destroy.

Thankfully, we serve a redemptive God, a God who uses such things for good. In Richard Foster's book Money, Sex & Power, each is seen as good and bad, depending on how we use them, or on how they use us. Each is tempting, a way to gain control over others, a way to be famous, but in giving in, we seek to gain the world while we lose our soul.

It's hard to believe this book was written twenty five years ago. It seems like it could have been written yesterday, although I would say things have only gotten worse--and yet at the heart of so many of our problems, we have the same issues. Money, sex and power... Foster tackles each, shows us how they corrupt, and talks about how each can be used for good. We do not need to fear them, only control them.

It is said that in naming things, their power over us is broken. This book is helpful in taking off blinders and helping one see how money, sex and power loom large in life, and in seeing, perhaps we can be drawn closer to Christ.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Pacific

Last night, Rachel and I finished watching the 10th episode of The Pacific, HBO's follow-up to Band of Brothers, the mini-series they did which focused upon the experience of a battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in Europe during WWII.

The Pacific was centered around the experience of two, or maybe three, different individuals in the Marine Corps during WWII. It's hard to say exactly--there were at least three central characters, but the series jumped around so much, from
island to island and person to person, that I never felt much of an attachment to any of the specific individuals.

I can't even say for certain what I was supposed to have learned from this series, what the goal of the producers was. While Band of Brothers certainly left one feeling like there was a noble goal of defeating the Germans and liberating Europe, there was no such impression in The Pacific. Perhaps it was meant to be that way, meant to portray a lack of purpose... I don't know.

What I do know is that it was overly gruesome, and some of those mental images may stick with me for longer than I would like. It forces me to think about some of the things human beings are capable of doing to each other, the violence that wrenches our society apart, touching us all. Do we recognize the cost of violence?

I recently opened a Twitter account, and have been following the local news stations here in Chattanooga. I'm amazed and appalled at the number of stories about local shootings, gun crimes and the like that I see. And it's not just here--in every city in every country around the world, there is violence of some sort, be it in the streets or hidden behind the close
d doors and drawn windows of the home down the street.

As we begin our Lenten journey, I think of Christ, hanging on the cross. A violent act, put on display for all to see. The Savior of the world, another victim of society's violence.

How odd, how strange, that God would use such means to bring about the redemption of all of creation. We see crosses everywhere, and we have tamed them of their violence, and yet, beneath that polished woodgrain, is a history of violence, of countless souls crucified on a cross. It was the cruelest form of death at the time--Romans wouldn't crucify their own citizens, because they didn't want to get their own hands soiled with crucifixion, this dreadful scourge.

And yet the Savior, hung upon the tree to die, does so in order that we might live, and have the abundant life.

As I ponder the Lenten journey, and how easily I push it from my mind, I wonder how these next forty days might be different--I wonder how I might pray with a grateful heart, how I might live in passionate awe at what God has done. Through the violence of the world, God showed true power, true love, and showed us a better way, a higher way, that leads to life, rather than death.

May Christ's church seek to spread this message of peace, this message of life and hope, into our communities, that through our love we might demonstrate that God has defeated the powers of sin and death that seek to hold the world hostage. We have no need to live in fear--we have hope, a better hope, and a love that has conquered all.

Thanks be to God!