every promise, always kept

We suffer the sale of cheap words, but we buy them still.Every day their consequence cuts afresh the wound of our failure and exposes all the ways we fall short.

"The hill I'm walking up is gettin' good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep."

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzIab7WI7-E&feature=related]

Brandi Carlile can sing. She can sing and boy! can she write. Her song, "A Promise to Keep" has been rolling around in my soul since she released a free EP on Noisetrade. When I listen to this song, my shoulders slump with sadness - a kind of resignation that wraps me in and weighs me down. The words are heavy bundles with long, painful sighs because the notes sing the melody of hurt.

Carlile sings hurt... maybe because she has suffered the sale of cheap words, but she buys them still. Maybe because she feels the consequence of fresh cut failure-wounds and is exposed to all the ways she falls short. It's a humanity kind of failure - a shortsightedness that presumes another promise spoken, believed, and broken.

My shoulders fold in and my lip shakes a little and I hurt with her for the insufferable exchange - the buying and selling of promises.

I still talk to you in my sleep I don't say much cause the hurt runs too deep I gave you the moon and the stars to keep but you gave them back to me

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

I still lay on my side of the bed I dance alone when the last bottle's spent memories like a river runnin through my head I'll have me an ocean before I'm dead

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

I still whisper sweet words to you and when I'm busy, or have nothing to do I pray to god, that my words ring true and that your words might reach me too

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep I can't keep it...

My hearts in pieces so please understand I've tried to jump, but I've nowhere to land so give me your heart and I'll give you my hand and I'll try as goddamn hard as I can

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

She is desperate for an impossible promise and her grief is filling up oceans, recklessly hoping there is someone better than she. I get woven in to her grief like I'm knit right into the melody's sweater. I croon it out my car windows and sing it to the silent roof.

Why can't I find someone who keeps a promise these days? Why can't I keep a promise?

And with my heart freshly beaten, my soul cast down at our dreadfulness, I hear sweet words proclaimed from the pen of Paul.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:19-22 ESV)

For the promises of God find their Yes in him (Christ).

Through Christ I can utter my beaten, battered, folded-in AMEN to God for his glorious promises kept to a suffering and obstinate people. Not one of us can sing Carlile's song and not know her hurt. But, oh! that we might claim the AMEN in Christ - who was the fulfillment of God's promises and evidence of God's faithfulness.

God establishes us in Christ, anoints us, puts his seal on us, and gives us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

The hills we walk up will get good and steep and full of suffering. But, even as we sing of our despair in broken promises, let us glory in the God whose promises are all Yes! in Christ. Every promise, always yes. Every promise, always kept.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the destruction of dillydally

"Don't dillydally, don't load up on video clips and music, don't trust the power of your community service programs, don't rely on marketing. Preach not yourselves, or you will veil the gospel. Preach what, then? The word. What word? The gospel word in the Bible word. Get your Bibles out and share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is amazing the lengths some preachers will go in order not to preach the Bible! We labor week in and week out for years and years to craft the most dynamic, most exciting, most relevant, most creative messages, fitting in some Bible verses into the points we think are really important, and then we wonder why we've gotten loads of decisions but made no disciples." (Jared C. Wilson, p. 193 in Gospel Wakefulness)

Wow.

What an altogether perfect word for what we're doing in Christian circles these days: dillydally.

We eat up the facebook snippets, read the books, tweet the deets, post the newest viral explosion and search for songs with the most emotional moving typeface. No one is immune. We all seem to love knowing the good news. We love the controversies created by differing doctrines and debating the color of the carpet in the fellowship hall. We love to throw down the name of the newest book or sermon or method of sharing the gospel to prove we're keeping up with the Christian Joneses. I don't know why we do it, but I do know that dillydally is an altogether perfect word for all the acrobatics we use to get around preaching the gospel.

Wilson quotes 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (emphasis mine) before the excerpt above,

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Paul writes about the way the gospel came to the people in Thessalonica - in word, in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction. I can't speak to what kind of theatrics surrounded their speech, but it's pretty clear that the gospel was explicitly shared with the people. Paul makes it sound like this is obvious - to preach the gospel in word - but we are not so sure these days (the shorter the Sunday sermon the better - seriously, what newcomer wants to listen to a stranger ramble on and on and on about blood and sacrifice and propitiation?).

But how can people believe the gospel unless they've heard the gospel? Explicitly, unashamedly preached with full conviction. The conviction piece is important because our role is not to convince another of the gospel's merit, but to fan the flame of our own conviction that gospel is true. Wilson writes, "My brother, pastor, don't worry about bringing the heat. Just be hot. Fan the flame in yourself to full conviction." I like that: just be hot.

Yesterday, I was reading Gospel Wakefulness poolside and a man asked, "What are you reading? Like, what's it about?"

A little sun-weary and caught off-guard, I fumbled before I found, "It's a book about the gospel... about waking up to the reality of what Christ did on the cross for those who believe."

"Oh, yeah, I believe that," he said, "I used to be really bad, like drinking and smoking and s---, but it was f----- up. I mean, I was hospitalized and I been sober since I got out. They gave me these new meds and I'm like s--- this is living. I mean, I can go out to the forest and be like, that's a f------ tree. It's like what I thought was normal was really screwed up. I mean, I feel like I'm finally awake after a life of hearing voices and s---. Like schizophrenia and all that s---. So, yeah I got out on Monday and it's been f----- awesome."

"Wow, that's really crazy." I didn't really know where this was going, but I was stationary on a lounge chair and it seemed like as good a place as any to discuss what is/isn't the gospel and how it relates to his hospitalization. "So, do you think it's the medication or something spiritual that happened?"

"Oh, yeah, totally that medication. It's crazy - the doctors had me on all kinds of s--- growing up and I was f----- up bad, but I just thought it was normal. But, seriously, there's no side effects to this drug I'm on. I sleep for 5 hours and I'm like gettin' s--- done before I go to work at 9 am!"

"Well, what this book is really talking about is the gospel (the good news) that we read about in the Bible. Jesus suffered the punishment that we deserve for our sins so that we can be free. He took on all our messes on the cross and gave us relief and joy in this life and forever in eternity with Him--"

"Yeah, I believe that."

At this point, I'm thinking 1) I should really brush up on my 'how to share the gospel when caught off guard in a lounge chair' skills and 2) does he really believe that?

"Yeah, it's like everyone believes," he went on, "You know, in a higher power. I mean, I believe Jesus is in all of us. Don't you believe that?"

I won't give you our whole conversation, but this guy was persistent, inquisitive, and interested. Granted, the situation was less than ideal - laying on sweaty plastic lounge chairs in bathing suits - but I suppose this is what it means to "always be prepared to give an answer."

I asked him some hard questions, mentally thanking Tim Keller for all those chapters in Reason for God that wrestle with doubts. We bantered back and forth and I was careful to not blink an eye with all his cursing. I'll confess I got kind of casual with my language, as we talked about who would populate heaven. He told me, "Well, I mean the good people. Like I believe we all put out vibes. I mean, if you're a b---- you're not going to be in heaven, but if you're good you will."

"But who determines who is good and who is a b----? I mean I might think I'm good according to my standards, but someone else might think I'm a b----... so who's going to heaven?"

More than ever in that conversation I needed explicit words. I did not need games or videos or pictures. I needed to speak the good news of the gospel into the chaos of crowded beliefs Joseph had assembled. And even when I spelled it out in all it's offensive glory, Joseph persisted with more questions and stories about his life.

I told Joseph about church on Sunday and he said he would come. He said it didn't even matter how early because the medication has him up by 5 am.

I pray he does come and I pray my pastor preaches the gospel because I need it just as much as Joseph.

Because we are all on the verge of destruction by dillydally... the painful beat around the bush game of kind of the gospel. We are all in danger of believing and speaking and hearing a gospel that is less than Jesus' words on the cross, "It is finished" and less than the glorious result of his work.

St. Francis, evangelism, reliable research, sexual identity, and the 99% I'll support

I was gone last week in Michigan, but I tried to stay up on my reading. I slipped away a few times to work and inevitably ended up perusing Twitter and the blogosphere to find out what's going on in the world. I think of my twitter account like one of those tickers that talk about the Dow Jones or Wall Street (I guess all that information flying across the screen is about the economy or something). Twitter is more my cup 'o tea because it's an aggregator of information of news in theology, arts, crafts, foods, and popular headlines. I don't find everything there, but between twitter and blog posts sent to my email, I read a lot of content from a computer screen. Here are some of the things I've found.

  • How well do you know the saints? You know, the ones that get their soundbites memorialized on those inspirational posters with landscape scenery. How well do you know about their lives, their ministries, and their beliefs? Do you know them well enough to recognize when they are being misrepresented? St. Francis of Assisi is famous for saying, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." There is one huge problem with this inspiration - it didn't happen. Check out this great article, "FactChecker: Misquoting Francis of Assisi" by Glenn T. Stanton to find out more.
  • This short article, "No Such Thing as the Gift of Evangelism" by Ed Stetzer exposes the excuses far too many believers use to 'get out of' sharing the gospel with others. I'm interested to know your thoughts - especially if you've taken a Spiritual Gifts Inventory that said you are not gifted in evangelism. Stetzer shares four proposals that I think are very helpful.
  • Have you ever wondered where the statistics come from that say a child in the foster care system requires 40 square feet to live in the state of Iowa (true story, I checked)? Where does research come from and why do we trust it? Who is checking and double checking the methods of the researchers and how many re-writes of the results happen before the public sees it? Here's the biggest question: when we don't agree with what research finds, is it bad research or just disagreeable results? A professor at UT conducted research of children of gay parents and came up with some very UNpopular results. A blogger wrote a letter and now the University of Texas is looking into his "questionable" ethics in the study. Check out this article from Denny Burk, "The Witch-Hunt for Mark Regnerus" and see if you can make sense of it.
  • This article, "The New Sexual Identity Crisis" from Jeff Buchanan (Executive Vice President of Exodus International) writes about the identity fragmentation that we see in regards to sexuality. Too many people have chalked it up to progress or trend or fad and not enough of us have taken a deep look at what it means for society and culture that we are a people so sexually confused. This article gives great insight.
  • In this video, Jonah Lehrer shares that "grit is the stubborn refusal to quit." I love that. I can support 99% when it stands for good, old-fashioned perspiration. If you've got the time, his insights on creativity and how we get there are really refreshing. [vimeo http://vimeo.com/45162748]
  • I am a huge fan of the arts. HUGE. My mom is a music teacher, my dad's family of 10 grew up performing, and I grew up on the stage with my siblings in church and school productions. This story in the Huffington Post, "Grace, Love, Courage: on Art, Artists, and Patronage" talks about one particular person and her support of the arts.

As always, I could give you more, but these should keep you pretty busy. Enjoy, folks, and don't forget: knowledge is useless if it doesn't result in acts of love. Even knowledge of what's going on in the world should point us back to ways that we can serve and share the hope of the gospel.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

Trip Lee, teaching children, Andy Griffith, and Isaiah 42:21

Here's another round of interesting articles, videos, links, and things. Enjoy, friends!

  • Trip Lee has had some serious press. No matter who is listening, the way he can fit so many words in such a short space is commendable. Here he gives us the Gospel in 2 minutes. Take a peek - you'll be BLESSED! http://vimeo.com/44541665
  • I love Sally Lloyd-Jones. If you ever run into her, you can tell her so. I know she is just being faithful to use her gifts, but there are a lot of people benefiting from her diligence. This article reminds me of so many Sunday School classrooms and so many "moral of the story" endings to Sunday School lessons. God never meant for the Old Testaments characters or New Testament letters to make us more honest or better sons and daughters. God gave us the Word because He wants us to know Him. We can only "be holy as He is holy" when we know Him and that's why the Bible is not about us. The Bible is all about God. Read the article here.
  • My Grandpa is an Andy Griffith fan. I'm a fan of most things that claim my grandpa's affection, so I'm an Andy Griffith fan by default and I hope I still have some of those black and white videos around when I have kids. Griffith died today and this article seems a fitting tribute.
  • This past week I happened on this reflection, Meditate with Me on Isaiah 42:21, at Desiring God Ministries. “The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.” (Isaiah 42:21). At first glance, we might only take away that God loves His law. But I am grateful that Piper dove in deeper and took us with him in his reflections.
  • There are over 5,000 students in New Orleans for the Challenge Conference right now. If you are not there (like me) but you want to hear some of the AMAZING teaching going on, take a look at this video from Bryan McWhite. http://vimeo.com/45113235

That's all I've got for now, other than the sweat dripping off my nose. I couldn't find a way to make that a bullet point.

why words will never go out of style

In the beginning, God spoke; at Mount Sinai, God wrote. God's relationship with humanity has always been understood through words. God very intentionally used language to communicate who He was, what He required, and the consequences of disobedience.

He did not merely paint a striking sunset followed by an unsettling thunderstorm. He spoke.

Yes, His words carried the weight of canyons and oceans and galaxies far, far away. What came out of his mouth was not paintings, but real, vivid, breathtaking landscapes. God's words wove intricate molecules together and held them there.

And then God reached his finger down and wrote a book, etched on two tablets. He did not draw a picture or send an instagram photo to the people of Israel who had just been rescued out of slavery. He wrote words.

What gives?

Words, it seems, are going out of style. My generation is being romanced into image-only relationships where words are subliminal (if a picture is worth a thousand, why write at all?).

It is not that images or photographs or illustrations or cartoons are poor ways to reflect our Creator. Au contraire! This is exactly how we reflect God, because he's given us the desire and ability to create in a way that points to His perfect Creative hand.

But God did not leave us to figure out His plan for redemption by viewing only his perfect and miraculous creation. He spoke to the people. He wrote out the law.

The redemption story jumping out from Genesis to Revelation is not a mystery because God used language to explicitly communicate His plan for salvation. We are not left standing in front of an abstract piece to interpret its meaning. He gave us Creation - beauty beyond belief - and then He spoke to us and explained the significance of our existence, the despairing end of our freely chosen separation from Him, and the hope of restored relationship in Christ.

He wrote it out.

And that is why words will never go out of style. God speaks with words.

Are we listening?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These thoughts come from my reflections on the book Lit! by Tony Reinke. Check it out for yourself if you want to understand why reading is so important.

o love that will not let me go

"How did Jesus have power to do miracles?" The question was like extracting one drop of water in a massive wave off the coast of El Salvador - marvelous and impossible.

I sat across from Anna and considered the fireworks in my heart. Oh, how I love my Jesus. I got flustered and stumbled over my words in excitement. My haphazard words fluttered out like they would if I was trying to explain that I'd found a key to a secret garden in the center of the city, where hydrangeas and peonies and lilies bloomed year-round. It's too good to be true and my heart knows it.

The more we study the life of Jesus, the more willing we are to stand in awe - to marvel at the mystery. Anna's question came from our summer Bible study, "Walking as Jesus Walked" by Dann Spader and my delight came from the response: digging deeper. My delight is not that I have answers, but that through the Spirit we have strength to comprehend the love that surpasses knowledge.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

As the weeks go by, my encouragement to these girls is to go digging - to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) over and over and over again. Nothing bad can come of studying the Word and asking God to give us insight. The Word never returns void. When we've uncovered verses that we think don't make sense, it means digging deeper to uncover why they do.

The more we read God's Word, the more we want to read God's Word. As we study the life of Jesus, I am holding on to the love that will not let me go - the love that allows me to grow in wisdom and stature, in favor of God and man (Luke 2:52), just like Jesus.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS3o_160OhE]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Until the Dawn Appears

Well the man of sorrows walked the shores of Galilee And his eyes were cast with joy towards the crystal sea Well the shadows will be gone and all these bitter tears And my heart will hang on that until the dawn appears

Matthew Perryman Jones is one of those folk singers. He croons with a heart outside "mainstream" and his new album makes me emotional. Every time I hear, "Until the Dawn Appears," my heart hangs on the last verse because without it the song would be only sad. Jones has a way of singing sorrow. It kind of seeps out slowly and settles in deep. The last verse (above) transfers all the sorrows of this world onto the shoulders of one man. One man who will bring the dawn that banishes the shadows.

One man who will never let me go.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40319898 w=500&h=281]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Bible literacy, Must-see films, short-term missions, and Micah Project

Hey, friends! Here's another short-list of things you should read/click/watch/do. I hope this Monday is anything but manac and everything wonderful!

  • This series on short-term mission trips from the Gospel Coalition is extremely helpful in giving some understanding to a really hard topic. Short-term missions is just something Western churches do, even if it doesn't need doing. Read the first article, "Celebrating the Short-Term Missions Boom " and then the second, "Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Missions Trip ." There is a third on the way.
  • So, my favorite film critic Brett McCracken, has a list of Best Films of the first half of this year. Take a look and see what you think.
  • How many of you start books and never finish them? How many of you are "reading" 5 books at the moment and a few of those you've been "reading" for 5 years? This article, "Biblical Literacy Begins with Reading," reveals a problem we may have thought little about. It's not about getting the Bible into the hands of more people. It's about teaching those people to obey (Matthew 28) by actually reading and understanding the Bible in a way that translates into life.  But not the kind of reading that we do haphazardly - intentional, focused reading with accountability.
  • There are a lot of Christian books out there about how to be radical today - how to live simply, be significant, make a difference, and all that jazz. Micah Project, an organization I worked with while I lived in Honduras, is not a tagline, but a transformational ministry. Take a look at this video to see their story (narrated by a boy who went from street kid to professional through the power of Jesus).
  • And, just because I don't want your Monday to drag, check out this article on the "awe of God." It puts theology and Mondays in their rightful places.
  • Here's some background music for your morning: [bandcamp track=3338549774 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Have a great day, my friends!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

I asked the Lord

Oh, friends. What happens when you reach the end of your rope? What's after the end - another rope?

Today, I'm asking the Lord. Actually, I just kind of sat for a few minutes and let space pass between me and the Lord. I let this song do all the asking, because it seems to write the kind of lyric my heart is singing. Hymns pack a pretty hearty punch when it comes to expressing what feels hidden too deep for language. John Newton first penned these words in 1879, so their strength does not surprise me. What does surprise me is how accurate his description is (after 133 years) of the woeful condition of my heart. Even as I seek the Lord in earnest prayer, I often ask for what most benefits me - what most quickly satisfies or appeases or quiets or calms. I am earnest, but I am disappointed when what He gives is abundant in every opposite way.

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part

My conversation in quiet moments with the Lord that started with an honest desire to grow in grace and faith ends with frustrated confusion. God must not have understood - I wanted to grow in grace and faith. 

And here I feel, again, the guilt and weight of my sin - the hidden evils of my heart that lead even my prayer life away from the Lord. O, how gracious to set me free from self and pride - again and again so that I might seek my all in Him.

Lord why is this, I trembling cried Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death? “Tis in this way” The Lord replied “I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

[bandcamp track=1751705126 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Captivated, Prometheus, Eugenics, and Yosemite

It has been a LONG while since I posted links for "this & that." I'll just trust you've been doing your own sleuthing. In the chance that you haven't, here are some things you should look up.

  • Friends, please watch this trailer for the documentary, "Captivated." The lure of media-saturated living is so great and happened so subtly that we barely realize our bondage.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/31105929 w=400&h=300]

  • I mostly get my movie recommendations from the blogs I read and this post by Thabiti Anyabwile makes me want to look up listings for Prometheus right away. Now, for finding the time to go to the theatre...
  • Oh, did you think eugenics was a thing of the past? This brilliant piece in the NYTimes, "Eugenics, Past and Future" reveals where the idea (because things like public policy always start with ideas and end up with society-altering implications) originated and which great minds were involved in its inception. Now, what does the conversation look like today? I wish there wasn't one.
  • This timelapse video of Yosemite is breathtaking. Such beauty - really unexplainable beauty. If you've got 4 minutes, you won't be wasting it by watching this video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeQo-Rl9VFc]

  • This is a hard story to read, so don't click unless you are ready. It's not one that is filled with hope in the last lines or rings of redemption - this story is streaked with pain.  This freelance writer (and blogger) writes about her very real and frightful struggle with a daughter who has acute mental illness, "In the never after."

Now, can I make a shameless plug? Um, I'm trying to ... well, I'm trying to "be" a blogger. I guess I mean that in the sense that I'd love to have more "hits" and "pings" and all those things that make your readership grow. Not because I have something to say, or maybe it is because of that. In any case, I've been told one of the ways to find more readers is to have them "like" you on facebook. There is a facebook image on my sidebar and if you click on it, you can "like" my blog on facebook. There, I said it and I can't give you anything for doing it. Just do it if you want to and don't do it if you don't.

Okay, friends. Please

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

longing for a home

On my 15 hour trip across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, I finally had time to process Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The lyrics to the new Matthew Perryman Jones song, "O Theo" have accompanied many of my night runs, but I hadn't realized they were so old. They date back to intimate correspondence between Van Gogh and his brother and one such letter inspired this especially earnest and confessional song. There's something magnetic about the words - something that pulls you in and makes you listen to what was painfully penned from a brother to a brother of a dreadful waywardness.

Under the silence of water, Into a sky full of birds Out from the land of our fathers, I am falling on your words, Oh...

Dark as the night of a preacher, I made a bed out of hay They paid me a handful of money, I gave it all away... All away...

And the righteous raised their stones And the devil threw his arrow That was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

In the half-life of the city, She took off all of her clothes I flew from the height of the mountains Into a valley of dry bones All alone

Then my heart was still unknown I was drunk and full of sorrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

So, I set fires of starlight, To burn up against the despair I was caught in the tangles of midnight's Long, unanswered prayer: 'Are you there?'

And the light of morning grows On a field of fallen sparrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

Are you pulled in to Van Gogh's plea for a home? Does something deep inside turn over when you read about his waywardness?

Van Gogh describes his desperate and failed attempts to cure himself of loneliness. He reaches out and lays all things bare, longing for a home.

In a phone conversation the other night, I heard the same longing - a beautiful soul captured by grace who longed for the security of "home" without the fear of abandonment. I heard her confession of sin and her fragile hope of new life. I heard fear drip from every excuse as she listed reasons why now is a hard time to turn from sin.

And right there we called spades "spades." We agreed about her sin and the fear that made her cling to it. We agreed that her life looked like Jesus hadn't accomplished anything on the cross - that He wasn't capable of holding her up when her world crashed.

We agreed that Jesus wanted a complete turn from sin so that she could look Him fully in the face and hear the words, "Child, you are mine."

I remember sitting on my friend's porch a cool, August night in high school. I remember trying desperately to convince my friend that I had sin to deal with. I remember my friend saying, "That's it?"

We all get desperate and blinded by sin. The only hope of redemption we have is to believe that Christ willingly stood in the place of that sin (because it is sin) and continually sits at the right hand of God interceding for us, not that we would continue in sin but that we would enjoy the freedom that comes through repentance.

And it is with this honest, repentant heart that we do find a home that is secure.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQGU0LMJLQ]

on guilt in life

No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me.

These lines from "In Christ Alone" make my bottom lip tremble. Now more than yesterday and tomorrow more than today. More and more I feel the power of Christ in me conquering the death in me.  Because, with awful dread in my bones, my guilt grows as my soul expresses all the ways it's prone to wander. And I hate it.

I hate feeling schmoozed and stunted by temptation, knowing I can look back and see my own willful footsteps led me to the place I despise.

Jared Wilson writes in his book, "Gospel Wakefulness,"

The gradual dawn of gospel wakefulness is occurring for you as the Spirit brings your sin to mind, pours more grace upon you, and bears more fruit of good character and good works in you. To this end, then, you should read the gospel, listen to the gospel, sing the gospel, write the gospel, share the gospel, and preach the gospel, all the while asking God to administer its power more and more to your life.

As my sin comes to mind (and there's never a shortage), I pray the gospel quickly follows to fill in all that's empty and mend all that's broken.

The gospel is news like the tsunami was news and the presidential race is news and the fall of the Berlin wall was big news. The gospel is news because it happened.

But, if the gospel is going to transform the way I wake up, the way I look at the night sky, and the way I grieve after a funeral, then the heavy joy of the gospel news must come from my heavy and agonizing awareness of what it accomplished.

"No guilt in life" is not so simply stated. The power of Christ in me reminds me of my guilt, of the weight of it. Christ overcame a world of guilt in my life - a world of growing, messy guilt that weighs more than I can bear.

Christ did not die for my sin. Christ died for me, a sinner.

And there is sweet, sweet joy for broken spirits. Sweet, deep, beautiful joy for those keenly aware of the power and depth of their rescue.

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

*This reflection will be one of many as I read through Jared Wilson's "Gospel Wakefulness." 

let us never grow weary of God

Paul Tripp shared his frustration in this post, "No Longer Amazed by Grace" after hearing the director of a national ministry claim nothing excites him anymore. He shared something from B.B. Warfield that has my heart all in rumbles with agreement. Read the whole thing, but here's the last bit where Warfield sums up his warning to the seminarian who has become numb to divine things due to his constant contact with divine things.

Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world's work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore: they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!

O, that we would never lose our awe of God. No matter how many books, studies, conferences, or personal devotions at sunrise - may we never get bored of meeting with the Creator of the universe. May we always hold this gift of communion with tender gratitude, knowing we have no right to know anything of His mysteries. Every little bit revealed is pure gift.

Several weeks ago, I was babysitting a 6-year-old and his 4-year-old sister. Moments after their parents left, Connor found his sister and I in the middle of a stuffed animal introduction. He picked up some silver Mardi Gras beads and said, "Let's play a game. Here's what we do: I drop the beads on the ground and then we see what shapes we make." He let the beads fall to the carpet and then we all just looked at the squiggles until shapes emerged. Our observations overlapped, "I see a heart!" and "Oh, there's a butterfly" and "Do you see the snake?"

Once we'd exhausted the shapes, it was someone else's turn to throw the beads to the carpet. The whole time, I was absolutely giddy with excitement. How many adults would think of such a game? This 6-year-old is brilliant! I loved how matter-of-fact he was about the game and about spotting shapes and about including his sister. I mostly loved the rasp in their voices right before they found something wonderful "..Oh, oh! Look at this flower!" The shapes came alive in those silver dots in a mess on the floor.

And if we can get excited - even giddy - about silver dots, then how much more should our excitement soar at the wonder of creation? How can we be amused by far lesser (yet still wonderful) things, and bored with the greatest and most wonderful things?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

practice resurrection

So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.

. .

Practice resurrection.

(snippets from Wendell Berry's 1973 poem, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"from The Country of Marriage)

I've been meaning to read more of Wendell Berry and summer seems like a good time to "get around to it." The vibrant green leaves and the smell of blooming peonies seem a fitting backdrop to his poetry. I map my runs to intentionally include the rowdy peony bushes on S. 3rd Street. I always "stretch" long enough to fill my lungs with peony air before putting my race face on again.

The smell of peony makes me sad for people who don't lean over to breathe in their beauty.

And that's why Wendell Berry's advice to, "practice resurrection" is nestling nicely somewhere deep in my soul. We are so forgetful. We live like we don't know we're resurrected. We live like we're not sure how this day will end. We live like Christ's resurrection was too long ago to rearrange my daily toil. We live like all the wonder in the wind moving through the trees is something not everyone has the time to admire.

We live like we've forgotten how to practice resurrection.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead. Gone. Lost. Limp. Lifeless. Stuck. Trapped. Suffocated. Dead.

There's no way to make that sound nice or easy. But if that were the end, I would have a hard time getting you to stop and smell the peonies.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

(Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)

But, God...

What a beautiful interjection! What an altogether unexpected and undeserved display of mercy! What glorious gratitude is birthed when life displaces death!

This is our resurrection. We are made alive together with Christ. We are raised up from the grave to sit with Him, to search out the immeasurable riches of His grace, to seek all the beauty of His face reflected in the glory of creation. This is our resurrection.

Practice resurrection today, friends. Practice resurrection and do not forget. Practice resurrection because, in Christ, life has displaced death.

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

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]

to wait and to hope

It's like finding the door to secret garden or discovering a hidden cave or tapping on the right rock in an Indiana Jones movie. No matter how many times my pride tries to convince me otherwise, studying the Word never gets old. Sure, I have my seasons where the words look like black text on a white page and little more. But, go ahead and tell a child that there is no cave or secret garden or hidden passage while they are inside it and see what kind of response you get. Laughter seems most fitting. This is the joy of the Scripture - to be inside a mystery that never grows old.

As I was reading Psalm 130, I crawled inside this mystery and stared out in wonder. The urgency leaps from the misery and clings to the Lord's forgiveness as the only hope against His righteous standard. My thoughts drifted toward Spanish again and the word, "esperar." It means both "to wait" and "to hope" and, though I don't know the original text, the interchange in verses 5-8 makes all kinds of sense.

1,2 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3,4 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5,6 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7,8 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130 ESV)

Our waiting is hoping and our hoping is waiting. And it all rests on the Lord - the waiting and the hoping - not on our willpower to do it. The Psalmist makes certain we understand the intensity of his waiting. I'm sure watchmen assume the highest form of vigilance, filled with the gravest kind of hope. Twice the Psalmist says his soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. How closely a watchman must hope for the dawn to break the darkness, for the sun to shed its light on the sky. Even more than a person whose purpose it is to wait and hope - he waits even more than him. What great expectation!

What a rush of beauty, to wait and hope in the One who offers steadfast love and plentiful redemption! Redeemed, restored, renewed... and we find these things in abundance!

Fo what else could we hope, my friends? For what else should we wait?

go ahead, dive in to the mystery and

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

you are not enough

What a funny word."Enough" means sufficient, even if it means barely squeaking by.

I wonder what happens when enough is a challenge. Are you man enough? Are you strong enough? Are you brave enough? Are you mom enough?

These questions issue a challenge to those places in us that can't resist - those places in us that say, "I'll show you..." in response. We might even get a little carried away in proving that we are, indeed, enough of whatever quality is in question. We might even, on the wild proving grounds of this challenge, reveal just how great is our need. Because when we start to think that our adequacy is found in what we do, we're beat from the start.

We were never meant to rise to the challenge of enough. We were meant to see our not enough and recognize our need. We were made to find our enough in Another who is always sufficient, always abundant, and always.

This little excerpt (thanks, Tim Challies) from John Piper's book Pierced by God gives helpful perspective. I realize it's a bit much for this morning, so if you don't read the excerpt below, just know that you are not enough.

You will never be brave enough, strong enough, smart enough, or mom enough. You can't reach down deep and muster up the willpower. It's not in you. And it's not failure to admit that - it's just recognizing that you are not God. You are made to depend on God's enough-ness (if you will) and bring Him glory.

We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Our existence is secondary and dependent on the absolute Reality of God. He is the only Given in the universe. We are derivative. …We were. He simply is. But we become, “I Am Who I Am” in His name (Exodus 3:14).

Nevertheless, because He made us with the highest creaturely purpose in mind—to enjoy and display the Creator’s glory—we may have a very substantial life that lasts forever. This is why we were made (“All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16). …This is why we eat and drink (“So whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”, 1 Cor. 10:31). …This is why we do good deeds, (“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”, Matthew 5:16).

That is why we exist—to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. When we fulfill this reason for being, we have substance. There is weight and significance in our existence. Knowing, enjoying, and thus displaying the glory of God is a sharing in the glory of God. Not that we become God. But something of His greatness and beauty is on us as we realize this purpose for our being—to image-forth His excellence. This is our substance.

Not to fulfill this purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth by enjoying Him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make.

This is a great tragedy. Humans are not meant to be mere shadows and echoes. We were to have God-like substance and make God-like music and have God-like impact. That is what it means to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But when humans forsake their Maker and love other things more, they become like the things they love—small, insignificant, weightless, inconsequential, and God-diminishing.

Human life is all about God, isn't it? So, why do we love being enough more than the One who is enough? Piper continues,

Listen to the way the Psalmist put it: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes but they do not see; they have ears but they do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 135:15-18: see also 115:4-8).

Think and tremble. You become like the man-made things that you trust: mute, blind, deaf. This is a shadow existence. It is an echo of what you were meant to be. It is an empty mime on the stage of history with much movement and no meaning.

Dear reader, be not shadows and echoes. Break free from the epidemic of the manward spirit of our age. Set your face like flint to see and know and enjoy and live in light of the Lord. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). In His light you will see Him and all things as they truly are. You will wake up from the slumbers of shadowland existence. You will crave and find substance. You will make God-like music with your life. Death will dispatch you to paradise. And what you leave behind will not be a mere shadow or echo, but a tribute on earth, written in heaven, to the triumphant grace of God.

In God, we find all our desire for enough so that our lives can be a tribute on earth to the triumphant grace of God. You are not enough, but in Him we have more than enough to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

brown sugar vanilla cappuccino

I know what you're thinking: this is either me taunting you about a delicious drink I bought for $5.00 OR me taunting you about a delicious drink I found on Pinterest that you would never make. Surprise! It's neither.

This delightful little number will make your morning, noon, and/or night taste like comfort. And, just so you know, the directions are about as simple as they come (which is good, because I spend a lot of time trying to make things in my life complicated).

Here's what you do:

1) Throw some of your best brew in your coffeemaker (nothing fancy, but make it on the strong side) 2) While your java's brewing, fill your mug halfway with skim milk 3) Add a capful of vanilla to the milk and a few lumps of brown sugar 4) Heat the milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds 5) Place a wire whisk in your warmed milk and slide your hands back and forth to create a good, stiff foam 6) Pour your hot java into the foamed concoction 7) Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top to make it look like someone else made it

ENJOY!

This is how my morning started today - with a coffee that looked like it was ordered off a hip, chalkboard menu. If that doesn't put a person in a good mood, I don't know what would.

*My cousin Vince told me yesterday that my post was, "weird." I guess I'm trying to take a little break from the long-winded posts as of late. I'm sure my grandparents will thank me. 

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]

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

let LOVE fly like cRaZy