don't forget His love

I was driving around today, overlapping errands with more errands while the next few weeks ran circles in my brain. The breeze picked up as I accelerated little Eddie down the road with the windows wide open. My arm reached out as Ellie Holcomb came over my radio and I had a moment there on George Washington Carver Ave. I started smiling to myself because I was strapped in and my brain couldn't run away without my body. I was stuck in my car for a stretch of minutes - confined to enjoy the wind and the sun and the melodies in my speakers. I was stuck and I loved it. With my hand out the window, I thought about those times in our lives where we feel we are holding on for dear life. I pictured my hands clenched around a vine with knuckles white. Then, the picture in my mind zoomed out and I knew the vine could take all my weight. I also realized I was not only holding on for dear life - I was enjoying the greatest rush as I swung over lakes and rivers and treetops in the jungle. "Holding on for dear life" might feel desperate, but it is also feels exciting and unafraid.

Today, I am praising the Lord and forgetting not His benefits.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!

Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul! (Psalm 103 ESV)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoZ4i3820h4]

parody, tarp surfing, learning to teach, and open heaven

It's been awhile since a "this & that" post. There's plenty to look at, click on, hear, watch, and do. Do as little or as lot as you wish, but whatever you do - let knowledge be something that produces action. It's my hope that the more I know, the more I can translate that knowledge into love actions in a way that pleases my Lord. Just like all Truth is God's, all knowledge is possible only because He's allowed it to be so.

  • Andrée Seu is a woman I'd love to meet. This piece, "Under an Open Heaven," seems to be a page right out of my heart. Here's a taste, now please go read the rest!

My lover is the fresh wind of the Spirit, blowing through the rafters of my melancholy. My lover speaks of God "in season and out of season," like Jesus at the well in Sychar, in his fatigue and hunger. There is no difference between his "religious" talk and his regular talk. He does not sound one way in church and another at the mall.

Walking with him I feel no sides, no floor, no ceiling, and everything all new: No past, no future. No rules but God's. No servitude but to Him. No man-made impossibilities. We do the adventure called "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Let me be blunt: This is fun!

  • Wanna know what makes a great story? Seems like this post would answer it, "1+1=3 Ken Burn on what makes a great story" but it may not answer your math questions.
  • If I could choose a conference to go to this summer (in addition to the Muslim Missions Conference in Dearborn, Michigan), it would be the gem of a conference in Florida - The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. The next best thing, of course, is to read/listen to everything. Carrie Sandom, hailing from the UK, will be speaking and here's an introduction that makes me excited to hear more from her. "Learn the Bible to Teach the Bible" makes a bunch of sense.
  • Do you doubt that a landlocked country could surf waves? Doubt no more. This is really sweet. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/17298096 w=500&h=369]
  • Not to be "that kind of fan," but Metaxas has proved himself as a brilliant writer and historian (Amazing Grace and Bonhoeffer). This article, "Spirituality as Parody" is definitely worth the read as well (and a lot shorter than Bonhoeffer).
  • What does your view of Scripture have to do with your view of God? See what J.I. Packer has to say about that, "Your View of Scripture and Your View of God."
  • If you haven't noticed, I've been grooving to the new band Citizen. They're cool enough to spend $3 on, for sure. [bandcamp album=2679071235 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Okay, friends. That's all for now. Click, read, listen, watch, and... then DO something.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

sought

In tenderness He sought me Weary and sick with sin And on His shoulders brought me Back to His fold again While angels in His presence sang,
until the courts of heaven rang

Something about being sought in tenderness. Something about being shown grace and favor while sick with sin. Something about the vantage point of His shoulders and the heavenly accompaniment that swelled.

I imagine when Jesus chases after those prone to wander, his pace is not frenzied and his voice does not growl. I imagine His eyes set like flint (just as they were for the cross) and joy filling the creases in His face. I imagine He knows just where to look - all the best hiding places and dark corners. I imagine His touch tender as He cradles the fragile soul in the arms of His grace.

Oh the love that sought me! Oh the blood that bought me! Oh the grace that brought me to the fold of God Grace that brought me to the fold of God

Oh the love.

It makes no sense and I'm the more grateful for it. He sought me out in my favorite, darkest corner and then swung me up on His shoulders and carried me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And with tenderness He sought me.

What a glorious and merciful Savior!

This new song by Citizen is a beautiful reminder of how we came to know our Savior.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kpXqd8pGFw]

heaven's my home, anyhow

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.(Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

I used to think heaven was a far-off, mysteriously cloudy place with a full orchestra on loop. I understood my "heavenly citizenship" to mean I had a ticket to get into some gloriously holy, underwhelming theme park where all the rides would be safe and all the fun would be clean.

Man, was I ever wrong.

No, I don't believe that heaven is full of unholy and unsafe rollercoasters with unruly people. Rather, I realized that my knowledge of heaven was incomplete because I believed an incomplete description. It's hard work to find out what the Bible says about heaven, true. But, it's work that allows us to live like the Gospel is invaluable. What we think about heaven and eternity completely informs what we think about today, what we think about life, and what we think about the message of the Gospel.

When we share the Gospel like this, "Believe in Jesus because otherwise you'll go to hell!" we are not doing justice to the message. If you were a sought-after artist, it would be like telling someone you would paint a masterpiece and then only covering a corner of the canvas with paint. Is it a part of what will be the bigger masterpiece? Yes. But would someone admire that little corner of the masterpiece as he would the whole? No. They would call it incomplete (actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the art community would seize the unfinished and project meaning anyway). I would call it incomplete.

And this is what I think we do with heaven. It's that place somewhere that I'll be someday because I believe that Jesus died for my sins, according to the Scriptures - because I believe that Jesus took on all the messes that ever were and ever will be and stood in the place of their consequence. But, why?

Because of Christ's work on the cross, we are brought into right relationship. This is what eternity is about. This is what heaven is about: right relationship that I do not deserve. And it's not as mysterious as we've been content to think. A more robust view of heaven and eternity means a life blooming with gratitude and joy. When we have eyes to see God's plans for heaven, we have a heart to reach out and pull others in to gaze at the wild beauty.

Randy Alcorn says, “If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it’s because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you’re making choices that conflict with heaven’s agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.”

Heaven is not an escape from this earth. It's not where we will finally run where no evil can find us. Heaven is God's idea of complete restoration - a peace between God and man and all of creation that hasn't happened since the Garden of Eden. This gives perspective to our momentary troubles, but it also brings a passion to live absolutely abandoned for God's purposes.

This song, "Heaven's My Home" is another among the many that focus on a distant land, another home, a forever refuge. Featured in the film, "Secret Life of Bees," this song captures some of the reasons why we hope for something beyond right now. The brokenness we see and feel in this world is unsettling. That little piece of eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) is uncomfortable thinking this is all there is. But, I hope we are not content with simple descriptions of harps and clouds and mystery. I hope we dive into the Word and trust that the Lord knows best what eternity is made of... and that He might want us to know a thing or two.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/1146654 w=400&h=225]

Sam & Ruby Live- "Heaven's My Home" from sammy b on Vimeo.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

pictures, poetry and punctilious illustrations

I know I haven't done a "this & that" post for a long while. It's overwhelming, okay? That's the bottom line. There is just too much to share! Here are a few bullet points for you to click on, read through, think on, look at. But, just so you know, it's always the hardest thing to narrow it down!

  • I loved this article, "Poetry and the Common Good," from Qideas. Here's a little sneak peek: "Learning to love poetry could prove a valuable counter-practice to scientism’s language of certainty and its assault on the wholeness of the human. Truth, whether scientific or other, needs beauty to keep it from becoming harsh and dogmatic. There is a mysterious depth to the art of poetry that is designed to pierce the illusion that we see the world directly, and it does so by sinking into the deepest depths of consciousness, into the kardia of our being, showing us how imprecise our certainty can become."
  • Do you LOVE the snapshots of life - especially when they're done well? Then you've got to check out these photos from March from around the world. The Big Picture from Boston.com lets us travel around the globe through a bunch of camera lenses.
  • Sometimes we don't call a spade a spade - which is pretty silly (I mean, how long can we kid ourselves? Spades will always be spades). Idols are that way often in our lives - we don't call them what they are and then we're upset when they don't give us what we want. Read this article by Justin Buzzard, "That Idol that You Love, It Doesn't Love you Back" and you'll be blessed. Promise.
  • I'm becoming more and more a fan of illustration. I think because I recognize the power that it has in our culture and the strong messages it can convey. Here are some great examples from graphic designer/illustrator Mike McQuade.
  • I could probably write a hundred posts on the new music I've been listening to, but I'll just post a few here and hope that you can fill in the blanks.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOCQQQ7-GQI]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rzWjHuwS4k]

[bandcamp track=2428737317 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Okay, friends. Now let's all go out and

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

satisfied

I am satisfied in you. It's a hopeful statement, yes, but it very much ends with a powerful period. This morning, I am forgetting not His benefits and I am satisfied.

Psalm 103:2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits

When there are ripples of discontent or rumblings of doubt, God reminds me that He responds to my questions with an answer always as full and lush as Spring.

He satisfies. He satisfies. He satisfies.

[bandcamp track=3404963214 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

So, today I'm hoping that I will...

"Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest Let my losses show me all I truly have is you"

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

free now

Only Christ. I've been thinking a lot lately about what power we have to relieve the suffering in this world and I've come up with this: none.

I know - it's deflating.

I won't ever tell you that you can change the world or that you will change the course of history, but I can tell you about someone who can; who has. 

We will never be perfect in our plans to bring peace. Our methods will never be airtight and our tactics will always have flaws. We will always, in this life, be human.

Our efforts are so often misguided because we believe the result rests on us. Never does God say, "If you disobey, my plan fails."

The glory of the Gospel overwhelms our efforts to fix things - to redeem the world with our own two hands. Justice doesn't make sense without the cross. There is no relief from suffering without Christ and no endurance through suffering without Christ.

In Christ, we are heirs to a throne and not a grave. He broke us free from the chains of darkness and bound us firmly to His love. This song by Kurt Scobie made me run through the mud tonight, willing myself to fix my eyes on my eternal inheritance. I actually don't know if this is what Scobie intended, but this is what my heart heard.

As long as I am remembering Christ's completed work on the cross, I am free to live with reckless abandon. There is nothing to lose and the greatest story to share. When Christ paid my ransom, set me free, and woke me up like the sunrise wakes the morning - what else would I ever do but live that others may know?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaNOEIq3Dac]

Download the song for free here: http://noisetrade.com/kurtscobie

Wake up We’re getting out of this place I’m breaking you out of these chains You’re no slave You’re an heir to a throne not a grave

Stand up Wipe off the dirt from your crown I’ll carry you I’ll take you out Don’t be afraid I know the way out I know the way

Free now I am breaking you out Don’t look down Come, leave this hell

Eyes wide This is where you come alive This is where it all turns around There’s no shame Whatever the ransom It has been paid

Free now I am breaking you out Don’t look down Come, leave this hell

Free now Come awake and be found Run unbound Come, leave this hell

to let go

Lately, the songs on my ipod are making me go the distance (in preparation for the Dam to Dam 1/2 marathon). Jars of Clay, Leagues, Mark Scibila, Jenny & Tyler, and (always standard) Josh Garrels are helping me pound out the paths around Ames. People keep asking me if I like living in Ames and I'm always a little thrown off, "I... I love it here. But, then again, I can't remember living in a place I didn't love." Even for those 6 months of couch hopping, the days were simply too full of blessings to have room for anything else. I've realized I need to have some tangible things in response because people expect a tangible take-away in these kind of exchanges.

Here are a few I've found:

  • running paths (I take a new path almost every time I go)
  • college campus (I dive into deep conversations because people will just assume I fall into the 'collegiate and questioning' category)
  • friends (I know - it's the whole state of Iowa - but it's been SO easy to meet new, wonderful people)
  • family (after living in Michigan, Texas, and Honduras, I'm back in the home state and counting my many family blessings)
  • everywhere is close (after the capital city of Honduras and then rural southwest Iowa, Ames seems "just right" for now)

Those are some tangibles, but Josh Garrels was reminding me last night to "let go of all the things I can't hold onto, for the hope beyond the blue" and man! it was making sense to my soul. With adrenaline pumping, I'm convinced my mind and heart syncopate their rhythms - like my knowledge and emotions merge for those 40 minutes. Sometimes (with earphones in), I sing out loud and pretend no one will hear. Last night, I felt moved to affirm Garrels' words with emphatic arm gestures in the middle of the forest path. I'm not proposing this is normal or that you should understand, but I am certain your soul will be refreshed at the reminder: 2 Corinthians 4:18, "Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal."

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[bandcamp track=1539623097 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Stand on the shores of a site unseen The substance of this dwells in me Cause my natural eyes only go skin deep But the eye’s of my heart anchor the sea Plumbing the depths to the place in between The tangible world and the land of a dreams Because everything ain’t quite it seems There’s more beneath the appearance of things A beggar could be king within the shadows, Of a wing

And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn To listen, to love, and to pray and discern And to do the right thing even when it burns And to live in the light through treacherous turns A man is weak, but the spirit yearns To keep on course from the bow to the stearn And throw overboard every selfish concern That tries to work for what can’t be earned Sometimes the only way to return is to go, Where the winds will take you

And to let go, of all, you cannot hold onto For the hope, beyond,the blue

Yellow and gold as the new day dawns Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long To dance and rejoice and sing her song And rest in the arms of a love so strong No one comes unless they’re drawn By the voice of desire that leads em’ along To the redemption of what went wrong By the blood that coveres the innocent one No more separation Between us.

So lift your voice just one more time If there’s any hope may it be a sign That everything was made to shine Despite what you can see So take this bread and drink this wine And hide your spirit within the vine Where all things will work by a good design For those who will believe

And let go, of all, we cannot hold onto For the hope, beyond, the blue

Said I let go, of all, I could not hold onto For the hope, I have, in you

we can burn brighter?

There's a popular song out right now by a band named "fun." That's right - the (.) is in their band name. It must be some kind of hipster thing to make the name of your band a whole sentence. I bet somewhere right now there is a new revised urban dictionary being written where one word sentences are all the rage. I came across their song, "We Are Young" during one of my radio "seek" adventures. I haven't yet programmed the presets in my car, so I just press the seek button until it lands on something interesting. NPR, classical, TobyMac, talk radio and Kelly Clarkson's latest girl power anthem get equal airplay on my short commutes. When I landed on this song, I'll admit I liked the beat (and the Queen-esque feel of the whole album). It's hard not to if you have a sunroof and it's 72 degrees in late February.

Then I listened to the underbelly of what all the hipsters are calling an "epic" sound:

Tonight We are young Let's set this world on fire We can burn brighter Than the sun

Wow. My culture is making strong claims with this anthem and all the 35-year-old radio DJ had to say is, "Hey, gotta love this one. I just heard it last week and, man, I've got it on replay."

I stopped bobbing my head and started asking questions. This is not some adolescent kid shaking his fist at the air - not some collegiate rabble-rouser stumbling in and out of bars spitting speculation. This is our Tower of Babel.

English: Tower of Babel

In Genesis 9, God told Noah to disperse after the flood - to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The people decided it would be better to cluster together - to make a name for themselves by building a tower to the heavens and building a city around them for protection. John Piper (in his sermon "The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ") preached that, at the Tower of Babel, "The two sins are the love of praise (so you crave to make a name for yourself) and the love of security (so you build a city and don’t take the risks of filling the earth)." With the flood still fresh in their memory, did the people really think they were powerful enough to reach heaven and strong enough to remain disobedient to the Lord?

Apparently, yes. The people decided they were both powerful and strong enough to complete the task and live prosperous in disobedience. They tried to outdo the God who had delivered them from sure death and preserved them for life.

As I listened to this band break "new ground" on the radio, I heard an old, familiar story. I heard a story where WE are the center, where WE decide our fate, where WE can build our own destiny, and where WE can make ourselves immortal. Call it "youth" or "foolish," but don't call it a joke.

I wonder if there were people in the days of the Tower of Babel who shut themselves in their homes, silently disapproving of the monstrous building project. I wonder if they thought it was a fleeting fad that would pass when the builders grew older.

Does my generation really believe we are powerful enough to set the world on fire? Does my generation really believe that we are big enough to shine brighter than the sun?

Even taken metaphorically, these claims are concerning. Everyone can tap a toe to the anthem (about losing your troubles at the bar and promising to carry drunk friends home) that makes you think you are capable of anything - for no other reason than "we are young." I'm not sure how the logic works out - something like this, perhaps?

-We are young. -Young people have cultural authority (to set the world on fire). -Authority governs earth/sun/moon. -Young people can supersede sunshine.

Hm. Lots of holes, it seems. The stranger thing might be that the song weaves destruction in with delight. I'm pretty sure we all still think burning alive is one of the worst ways to die. So, they can't be serious about setting the world on fire and burning brighter than the sun. Yet, they choose this clearly destructive imagery to represent the ultimate thrill - the greatest delight. The whole thing is about bumbling barroom mistakes, but the song repeatedly declares (like Charlie Sheen and Courtney Robertson) that it's all canceled out because in the end, we're "winning." Even as we all light up in a burning ball of gas, the thrill of burning brighter than the sun is somehow worth it.

Left to our own devices and given the right amount of authority, I don't doubt we'd light a match to the world - crazy as it sounds. I am so grateful we aren't walking around with that kind of power. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of this generation as well. He is so gracious to call us to salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, and rescue us from self-destruction.

.

Sorry to dump this on you all. My grandpa recently reminded me that I should stick to simple things on this blog. I can already tell you what he'll say in response to this one, "Agh! I didn't understand one word of it." Well, maybe tomorrow I'll write about how I forgot to close my sunroof overnight and drove on damp seats in the morning.

I simply want to encourage us all to think critically about what our culture claims about who we are and why we are here because it is shaping our generation (whether or not we've got our hands covering our eyes).

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

couches and cardigans

I stood there staring at the beaded bristles for probably five minutes.I don't think I've ever purchased a brush in my life and I hope I don't have to return to the hairbrush aisle for a long time. But, as I was standing there, in the middle of my rare grocery run, I realized the weight of receiving.

Since returning from Honduras in June, I've tried to stay out of the giant aisles of excess in supermarkets. It was a mixture of solidarity with a country I loved and a complete necessity to spend nothing (unemployed for 6 months) that kept me a safe distance from materialism... or so I thought.

The real reason I rarely ventured inside Walmart or Target (or stores in general) might explain why I got a bit emotional when I shrugged into my sister's rust colored cardigan today after work.

I've done a lot of receiving since June.

I've crashed on couches and crawled under comforters and cozied up in cardigans that are not mine. I've talked a lot about the a la orden philosophy - how God asks us to make every bit of our gifts, talents, and treasures available to Him in our service to others. What I haven't really talked about is how many times I've been the recipient. For six months, I lived under my parents' roof once again, but this time as an adult. I ate their food, used their washer/dryer, drove their cars, and kept on receiving. Never did I see a tally or hear what I owed, but I kept on receiving. I made almost every Christmas gift with my grandparents, using wood and tools and raiding the refrigerator. The conversations were even more delicious than the meals; and I kept on receiving.

Every day I look down at my outfits and realize how much I've received. Boots from my mom, sweater from my sister, coat and jeans from my dad... every day I wear blessings. Every day I receive.

Last week, right when I realized scruffy skater shoes from high school may not be "work appropriate," my co-worker plopped a paper bag at my feet. "See if you can find anything in there you like," she said. (wide eyes) I couldn't have picked a more work-appropriate pair of clogs if I tried. That afternoon, I wore a new striped sweater home from work and ran in a fancy Nike running shirt before going to my second job.

And I keep on receiving.

Generosity has a fine aroma in the house where I now live. From dinner conversations to the open cupboard, it's hard to spit out thanks as fast as the gifts pile up. So many times, I don't know how to say it - don't know how to speak my thanksgiving for all the blessings I wear around. From the bed to the thick comforters, the sack lunches to the family meals, the seat in a familiar row at church to the books on loan...

and I keep on receiving

Truly, too much.

Last night, I got back from work and my brother had pizza ready to go into the oven. Later, my sister walked in the door with several things on hangers. "I brought these for you. I thought you might need something new in the rotation."

and I keep on receiving

Truly, too much.

I put on the beautiful, rust-colored cardigan today and almost wept. God is so good to care for us so completely... even down to couches and cardigans.

oh that I would let LOVE fly like cRaZy

my Saturday sountrack: Josh Garrels, Love & War & the Sea In Between (download for free)

[bandcamp album=2172528119 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

this & that

It's raining/snowing and the murky sky suits this Thursday.I don't mean that today is despairing, but I do mean that today seems like one of those days where weighty thoughts find a rightful place in the front of my brain. Maybe it's the ushering in of the Lenten season or perhaps the strange, brown winter we've been ambling through... but today is full of weight and maybe you'd like to carry it with me.

Honduras never left my heart, but these past few weeks it's been intense with two huge fires. You might have heard the news stories about the prison fire and the central market fire. The fire in the market was 5 minutes from where I lived a few short months ago. My sister in Christ tells me to pray for open doors so ministries can reach out during this time. My heart is heavy.

As I try to reflect in prayer during Lent, this blog post by Brett McCracken with Lenten Prayer requests is especially helpful. Oh, that my heart would be situated in a place where I can hear from the Lord.

Now that I'm living in the States again, this whole season feels different. There is something about a Catholic/Latin culture that surprised my spirit around this time. Apart from soccer, the religious traditions surrounding Easter always caused my heart to slow and consider the cost. This blog post by Russell Moore, "Always Mardi Gras, Never Easter" reminds me I must readjust my cultural lens to understand how to engage in conversations with Catholics/Protestants here.

I thought this article "Give up the Gimmicks, Youth Pastors" was an excellent read. I struggle seriously with all the games/programs/bells/whistles that make up our youth outreach programs in the US (and to Christian youth in general). I just don't know what the best method is to effectively "speak their language" without sacrificing the content they are more than ready to receive.

I know I've certainly wrestled with "Why?" questions when it comes to God's sovereignty. Just last night, I met up with some friends and before I could sit down they told me they were arguing about reincarnation. Before the conversation got too far, I found out the one guy's mom was a Jehovah's Witness and he knew his theology. At one point, he looked at me cynically and said, "Oh, sure. It's about "sovereignty" isn't it? Right. God is "sovereign" and that's why it's okay to say He created everything only to let it go to crap so that He could save it?" Whew! I tried to meet him where he was at and encourage his questions, but when I read this article from DesiringGod.org, "Why Did God Let Paul Become a Murderer?" I thought about all the answers that are foolish to those who don't believe in the cross. I need serious grace and faith to believe God will give the words that make sense in the right time to the right people.

Well, folks, that's a lot of reading. I'll repeat the challenge from my last "this & that" post: How can my knowledge of God inform my obedience in a way that leads to actions full of love in reponse to these things?

Last night, I spoke with one of my dear friends who is still living and working in Honduras. She shared about a time recently when she was so full of sadness - days of heavy, unrelenting sadness because of the brokenness she sees. We agreed that sometimes - precious, painful sometimes - God responds to our prayers to, "break our hearts for what breaks Yours," by allowing us a sliver of His pain. We couldn't handle any more than that, but if we are fervently praying, we shouldn't be surprised when our hearts start to swell inside our chests. We shouldn't wish it away either. Those moments are precious - gifts to draw near to Him and grieve all the ways we've mangled his magnificent design. And then, to pray for His purpose to be realized through us - that every nation, tribe, tongue will hear the glorious news of the Gospel. The news that sets the crooked straight and the broken mended.

even with heavy hearts, in the power of the resurrected Savior, we can

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mas35Cw1pxE]

this & that

It's been awhile. There are simply too many things to read. I'm hoping (in light of yesterday's post) that whatever knowledge we add to our heads today means adding obedience to our hearts. How can we use knowledge to result in obedient actions full of love?

In light of religious turbulence in the UK (see this recent radio interview with leading atheist Richard Dawkins that making more than airwaves), I strongly urge you to read this article, "No secularism please, we're British."

Oh, Martin Luther. Do you know that Luther died on February 18, 1546? Maybe you need a little refresher about what this man contributed to our religious heritage. Read, "The Forgotten Influence of Martin Luther" from the Gospel Coalition blog.

Josh Garrels is an artist who is not afraid to do things differently. His most recent album is completely free to whoever wants it, because he said he has been overwhelmed by the blessings of his musical journey. Wow. He's not a musical mess-around, either. What he makes is beautiful. Anyway, now Garrels is partnering with Mason Jar Music to make (what appears to be) a really incredible film.

http://vimeo.com/36848457

Lastly, I wanted to mention (again) the film Tree of Life. The first time I watched it, I chewed on it for days but I missed SO much because I was scribbling notes on journal pages. The second time I watched it, tucked into an attic room with several beautiful folks, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Put it on your list and sit through it, if nothing else then for the music and cinematography.

Challenge: Choose one thing on this list and then ask how learning can lead to obeying and  actions full of love. The whole idea of "this & that" is to keep informed, but cannot be just that. I realize there are blanks that need filling in, but this is the kind of thing we're made for, right?

What does it mean that I now know England is wrestling with the religion of secularism, or that Martin Luther almost single-handedly changed the course of modern church history, or that Josh Garrels believes there is power when we invite others into our joy?

How can learning things in this life lead me to knowledge of God and produce acts of obedience full of love? I hope the answer is a treasure hidden in this day!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

yet

If it doesn't break your heart, it isn't love. I know - weird to bring up breaking hearts on a day like today, but I couldn't resist. There are so many hearts flying around I couldn't get the image out of my mind. Truly, this day is a beautiful one for too many reasons (see last year's Sweet Dinner). I've kind of got a love affair with this celebration and I'm missing the ladies I've spent it with for the past three years. It's a time when I remember how beautiful it is to be made in God's image and that His image is relational. So beautiful!

It also means that today I'm reflecting a bit on how we're a broken reflection of Christ. Our relationships aren't the way they were designed to be.

And that'll break your heart. But, I love the bold statement in this song: I'll sing until my heart caves in. And I will - even though there are oh-so-many reasons to lament the brokenness, God hasn't let go of His purpose to pursue people with His love.

Oh that my heart would break for what breaks His! And that He would sing songs on my heart to overwhelm the pain.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/rfNo4Nvkfyw]

If it doesn't break your heart, it isn't love.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

tethered

I think sometimes my heart sings when my words are confused and silent. Sometimes those songs my heart sings are a welcome tether to a soul too-often floating on the breeze. I don't love the idea of tethers, but with a heart prone to wander, I'm well aware of my need. In the middle of Monday night, a wretched 24-hour flu monster attacked from underneath my bed. My body ached. My head pounded (partially due to caffeine withdrawal). My gut wrenched. Sick. Sick. Sick.

Tuesday was a blur.

Wednesday I prayed God would show strong in my weakness and He was my tether. I shared with some beautiful ladies about God's design for us as women - something He had planned from the very beginning to showcase His glory. God is so gracious to let me see Him in these faces - to let me watch Him move in my near-nauseous state. What a gift to be tethered.

And when my soul drifts away, He is my tether.

I hope these songs encourage you today, reminding you of your need for a tether. Don't fight it, friends.

Home by Ginny Owens [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaspLnq6fzU]
 
Pilgrim by Preson Philips
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_l-HcCrxzo]
 
Washed by the Water by NEEDTOBREATHE
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuOs3x94Wos]
 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

abide

Today, the Sabbath. Today is a deep breath - to shed the strivings of six days toil and put on the Savior's rest. Return, my friends. Return to rest.

Even if this day finds you in front of a screen, screaming for grown men in tight suits... even then, my friends, won't you return to rest?

Today, I pray we abide in our Savior - in His love. I pray we regain our sight for the Kingdom of God - for the glorious already and not yet promises fulfilled in Christ. Because our eyes too often settle on a predictable horizon and we miss what lies beyond.

Our toil for this day - the Sabbath - is to trust the Savior is every bit of what He claims.

Trust. And return to rest, friends.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftt1RX93bzk]

notes & words

Here are some of the tunes I've been loving on lately. I think there's a little bit for everyone here, but probably not all of it will suite you. If you don't listen to anything else, at least check out Josh Garrels today and I promise your Monday will dance. Josh Garrels [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IctD9l4F-ag]

Jeremy Larson [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcwJD00QhOQ]

Sugar and the HiLows [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvU5PNGnyn0&feature=related]

William Fitzsimmons [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbQ7g18IGZs]

High Society (this is rap - fyi) [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6juP1xvu27w]

Jenny and Tyler [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G3tQKA2GSI]

Lighthouse and the Whaler [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J00ZPwJcGw]

it's a good, good morning

I just wanted to send this off before the day runs away from me. Christianity Today named Love & War & the Sea In Between by Josh Garrels Album of the Year for 2011. You owe it a listen. Oh, and you can download the whole album for free on bandcamp.

[bandcamp album=2172528119 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Nothing like a good soundtrack for naming blessings today. The tree outside the window, begging for snow, the slightly sore muscles after a workout, the Christmas gifts I'll be packing up before I head to southwest Iowa after work today. All gifts, these.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMaXzRZw3Ok]

Occupy Life: This Day Happened

This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Read here or here or here or the original post here for more. The sun sets on another night and the rusty colors fading ripe in the night sky fill my heart with ... wonder.

Today, I didn't uncover any philosophical gems or scientifically disprove gravity. I didn't speak to hundreds with a riveting account of the Gospel or sacrifice all of my North American excess.

This morning, I wrestled myself free from my many blanketed cocoon to meet the day with haphazard hair and a neutral temperament. Most days, cheeriness escapes before I can even take a breath (which makes for verrrry interesting encounters when I spend nights with my sister, who requires an hour at the least before conversation - not to mention my incoherent, cheery ramblings).

Today, I ambled around ... folding laundry and showering and getting ready in a somewhat alien morning stupor. And then the day happened - every last waning moment of it, filled with ribbon tying, table decorating, record-keeping, and averting the small catastrophe that would have been the tablecloths.

That's it.

Nothing spectacular - just walking with the rhythm of life and being available to respond to oh-so-practical needs in oh-so-unromantic ways.

And sometimes - precious MANY times - this is what is required of us. No, not ribbon tying - living. But, really, really living where life is the most mundane things, not the exception to those things. If I had held my breath, waiting for this Friday to spark with out-of-the-ordinary light, I would have made the Guinness Book of World Records (or be dead).

Humming some tunes while I finish my time at my temp job; climbing into "my own little world" while I sort and organize and live.

I've always got a song on my heart - a soundtrack for living alive. Today, that soundtrack is this song by Sojourn, "Lead Us Back."

Today, this is the sound of life in the ordinary and extraordinary leading to the place where we must return to see its true glory.

[bandcamp track=2145639666 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Lead Us Back Falling down upon our knees Sharing now in common shame We have sought security Not the cross that bears Your name Fences guard our hearts and homes Comfort sings a siren tune Weʼre a valley of dry bones Lead us back to life in You Lord we fall upon our knees We have shunned the weak poor Worshipped beauty courted kings And the things their gold affords Prayed for those weʼd like to know Favor sings a siren tune Weʼve become a talent show Lead us back to life in You

Lord Youʼve caused the blind to see We have blinded them again With our manmade laws and creeds Eager ready to condemn Now we plead before Your throne Power sings a siren tune Weʼve been throwing heavy stones Lead us back to life in You.

Weʼre a valley of dry bones Lead us back to life in You. Weʼve become a talent show Lead us back to life in You Weʼve been throwing heavy stones Lead us back to life in You.

singing with the angels

I love December. I love everything about it (if I stay away from malls, television ads, and wear many layers).

I especially love how every year something that should never be in my periphery moves into full focus. I'm always a bit surprised that it hasn't been there the whole time; always a bit ashamed that it has to move into a place of higher importance; always a bit sad when I realize what I've been missing.

Christ.

Christ comes into focus and I take it all in with big eyes like He might vanish. Though I know He won't, I revel in the anticipation and wonder of this season because Christ as my focus means being living fully alive.

December reminds me I have an open invitation to sing with the angels and this song says it well,  Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

[bandcamp track=1263242955  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Have you unpacked these words, friends - these words that reclaim what we've been so cavalier about the rest of the year? These are the lines my heart is singing today. These are the melodies that come into focus and fill my December with gratitude, longing, and the most beautiful joy.

My favorite verses may not be what the carolers are singing at your door , but they are so deep and filled with wonder.

Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Can you hear it? Can you hear the longing - Christ is the Desire of nations, the fulfillment to many, many years of longing, the salvation and only hope over evil? We are ruined by sin, but restored by His might and work on the cross. With Christ as my righteousness, I am now joined forever with my Savior!

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man: O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

There is a rumbling in my soul that bursts out in song and celebration proclaiming these truths! Everything that Adam failed to do as the first man, Christ accomplished with perfection. We are reinstated to a place where we have no right to stand. With a holy cry, I pray today that Christ's image is stamped in place of my flesh - that all may hear and see and wonder at the mighty work of the Lord!

Sing, friends! Sing, today with the angels this song of praise and glorious joy!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this & that

Another lovely list for a bunch of lovely folks.

  • This is just plain, good sense from Paul David Tripp about how Anger is Essential.
  • I referred to David Schrock yesterday, but if you didn't jet over to see his series on Gospel Logic, then you should DEFINITELY check it out!
  • I keep loving the excerpts I am reading from Jared Wilson's new book "Gospel Wakefulness," so I keep sending you to check it out for yourself. Here's another snapshot from DesiringGod.org and Crossway that seems to connect to my recent thoughts on Occupying Life!
  • Do you like music? Do you think about music a lot? Do you analyze why you like certain music and not other certain music? There is a great article (Zombies, Wine, and Christian Music) written at the gungor (that's a band, by the way) website that I hope will prompt a lot of discussion about music... specifically Christian music. They just put out a new album, by the way, "Ghosts Upon the Earth."
Hm. Well, that's about it for now.
Oh, and I'm still listening to this:
[bandcamp album=748307140  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]