Thursday, October 29, 2009

Save Us From Ourselves:

Genesis 11:4
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth”. 

I remember hearing this story as a child.  I remember listening as I tried to imagine a group of people trying to build a tall tower brick by brick.  I remember picturing a tower that was so high its peak reached far into the clouds and into the heavens.  I remember envisioning God, looking at this tower that was gaining in on Him, and getting angry at his people for building a tower so high that it invaded his heavens.  Getting so angry that with one flick of his finger the whole tower collided: bricks crumbling, people falling to the ground.

Sounds silly, eh?  A twisted combination of The Tower of Babel and Jack and the Beanstalk.  It sounds silly, until we realize that there are many who still view God in this way, even as adults.  Silly, until we realize that maybe we are the ones, still misunderstanding the intentions of our God, still questioning His love for us. 

You see, more than a cruel story about a controlling God, the tower of Babel is representation of love…God’s love to a misguided people.  It’s the story of God’s love to a people who had forgotten His life-giving role in their lives.  It’s the story of God’s love even in the face of blatant human idolatry.  It’s the story of a God that loved so much, that He so mercifully turned their faces to Him.  I suppose sometimes His mercy can only reach us when it is severe.  Sometimes, in it’s sweet severity, He will take all the towers we have built in our lives, one by one, until the only tower that is left standing is Him. 

He knew the pain that would eventually come as a result of their self-righteousness.  He knew the struggles that would follow their child-like, stubborn, independence.  He knew the grave responsibility of allowing them to become the center of their worlds.  He knew that if He truly loved them, He had to save them from themselves. 

And in an effort to do so, He shattered their worlds.  God will do that sometimes- step in and save us from ourselves.  Save us from our misinterpretations.  Save us from our arrogance and self-centeredness.  Save us from giving glory where glory is not due.  He’ll do that sometimes, by shattering the things we thought good and replacing them with what‘s better, or even what‘s best.  By taking the things we have so wrongly placed before Him, and giving us the chance to seat Him at the rightful throne of our lives. 

It may be painful sometimes, but it will always bring peace.  It may be tainted with confusion, but never without a lasting comfort.  It may cause sorrow, but in time, it will always bring salvation. 

Lord, forgive us for the towers we have built in our lives.  Forgive us that we have sought a name for ourselves and have forsaken your name.  Remove those things in our lives that eclipse our vision of you.  Save us from our Babel.

Save us from ourselves.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pizza, Beer, and the Glory of God:

1 Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

Since listening to John Piper’s sermon last week, my perspective on things has begun to slowly transform.  He challenged Christians to live this life with one focused pursuit- doing the work of God; pointing others to Him through our love.

He reminded us that this life isn’t for “vacation“, that in fact, we will have eternal vacationing- or as he put it, “eternal TV watching” when we enjoy that which we were made for one day: reveling in the presence of our Lord. 

Ironically, the week after I heard this message- John and I were headed for some of our own “vacationing” in San Francisco.  Don’t get me wrong- I don’t think there is anything wrong with vacationing, in fact- I believe we need it.  I sure did.  We need time built into our lives to enjoy relationships, to enjoy our surroundings, and to simply rest.

But, I believe the underlying question John Piper was addressing in his message is this:  what do we live for?  What do we spend our lives in pursuit of?  Unfortunately, too many times the answer is not the glory of God, but rather a long list of meaningless things. 

So for me, this week, I asked God to change my perspective.  I had asked Him to give me a renewed desire for His glory, and a preoccupation with His work.  And here’s what happened:


The streets of San Francisco are always in a hustle.  It’s a beautiful city, filled with beautiful people.  On our last evening there, John and I decided to have a picnic at Union Square, the park in the center of the city.  We got our Blondie’s pizza, found a table to sit, and sat to enjoy one another’s company and take in the sights of the city.

As we were eating, I noticed a man sitting in a bench beside us.  I couldn’t help but observe that he looked somber.  He sat alone, and every few minutes, he would pick up his wrinkled brown bag, and take a sip of the drink inside.

I couldn’t get his sad look out of my mind.  No matter what I tried to do to distract myself, I found my eyes would keep wandering back to him, wondering what was causing this man to look so serious.  I felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit getting stronger and stronger, the nagging preoccupation that I had asked God for was being birthed inside of my spirit.  So much so, that I couldn’t make it go away even when I tried. 

I turned to him and said, “Sir, are you hungry?  Would you like a slice of Pizza?  We’re going to have plenty left over.”

“I’m not really hungry, but sure, I will take a slice.”
And so our conversation began.  With one simple slice of pizza, Howard entered into our worlds, and we entered into his.

“Are you from the area?” we asked.  “No, I am from Manhattan, visiting San Francisco because my mom is very sick.”

Through the course of the conversation, we learned many things about Howard.  We learned of his deep concern as he watched his mom suffer through a merciless bout with cancer.  We learned of his many regrets- regrets that he had never invested in her life until now.  We learned of his deep worries, worries that she would soon be gone from his life, though she was the most important thing he had.  We learned about his struggle with religion, knowing a God who only loves when we are good- when we obey the rules.  Howard had broken the “rules”, many of them, he said.  In fact, he even said that he was breaking one of the rules in that  very moment, as he sat there with us, washing the last bite of his pizza down with his beer. 

We learned a lot about Howard that day, and then we shared with Him about the love of the God that we knew.  A God who deeply hurts when we are hurting.  A God who cares greatly for our loved ones.  A God who has the power to heal bodies and repair broken relationships.  A God who forgives us even before we ask.  A God who’s lavish love alone brings us to repentance…not the other way around. 

We prayed with Howard that evening, before we said goodbye.  It was a wonderful moment, and afterward he looked up and said, “Wow, that was a powerful prayer”.  God knew exactly what Howard needed to hear that day, and He gave us the words to convey those things. 

I learned a powerful lesson this week.  First, I learned that I am not diligent enough in doing God’s work.  How many Howard’s have I interacted with- not giving a moment’s thought to their spiritual needs?  How many days have gone by where I have not asked God to give me a preoccupation with His work?  How many opportunities have been missed because I frankly didn’t care enough to take the time. 

Secondly, I learned the important truth that no matter what we are doing- we can be used by God.  We don’t have to be at our Saturday morning church ministry.  We don’t have to be at a homeless shelter feeding the poor.  It doesn’t have to be a special moment.  We don’t have to have special words.  And we certainly don’t have to be a special person.  In fact, He is glorified more because we are not.

The truth is, God can and WILL be glorified in every part of our lives- whether or not we take part in that is our decision.   So this week, friends, whether you eat, or whether you drink, whether you work or stay at home, whether you go for a run or to the grocery store, whether you attend a church service or visit a friend, whether you meet a Howard or an old friend- remember this: do it all for the glory of God.  Amen. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

True Life (in the face of death):

Philippians 1:21
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 

This week I experienced this verse more powerfully than I have ever experienced it before.  This week, the reality of life and death were staring me in the face.  This week, I witnessed the brevity of life, powerless against the impending pledge of death.   You see, this week I said goodbye to a beloved man, as he passed from life into death. 

My Uncle Abe, or Hemo as we affectionately called him- unexpectedly passed away on October 14, 2009 at only 57 years old.  It was a sudden loss and it took us all by surprise.  We were left with feelings of sadness, confusion, regrets, and denial as we faced this hasty new reality.  The pangs of pain and sorrow were so real in those moments.  They still are.  But eventually, the loud noise of sorrow began to part for just a moment- and God began to whisper truth. 

As my husband John and I were traveling the 13 hour trek to the funeral this weekend, we happened to be listening to an old John Piper sermon.  The sermon was regarding the sanctity of life, and John Piper spoke truth that has not stopped ringing in my ears:

Eternal life is more important than temporal life.  But the effect of really believing that we have eternal life in Jesus Christ is that we spend ourselves in this life, not maximizing our comforts here, but showing His love here- especially for the weak and helpless.  

Piper went on to challenge Christians today, to truly live their lives for Christ- remembering that our eternal vacation awaits us in heaven.  For in that is true gain.  We forget that sometimes, don’t we?  We forget that this life is not meant for earthly gains, but rather, passionate, infatuated, obsessive service for the love of Christ.  We forget that this life isn’t meant to be lived as though it is the only, but rather, whole-hearted preparation for the next.  We tend to spend our lives investing in the here and now.  The salary, the house, the cars, the toys, the fun.  Our life begins to represent that we believe that “to live is self” rather than “to live is Christ”.  But, hear this, to live is Christ…. 

Do we really understand what that means?  Do we really understand what it means to live for Christ?  To live in Christ?  To live IS Christ?  What an important fact to face with the cloud of death still hanging over our heads.  As my late college chancellor used to always say: Only one life, will soon be passed.  Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

To live is Christ, to die is truly gain.  This is life.  True life.  What a sobering reminder.

R.I.P. Hemo: We miss you...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


In case you're wondering why I have an apple emblem, read on.  The following post is about temptation.  I was originally looking for a picture of an apple, or some sort of fruit to represent this theme...and then I realized that my searches were pulling up this icon instead.

But you know, there is something truthfully ironic in this.  It makes sense.  In this era, modern technology has become our door to many temptations that we wouldn't otherwise have had.  Things that occupy our time and our minds.  From pornography to IM, facebook, email...end yes, even blogging.  Whether your temptations and addictions stares you in the face as you look at your computer, or whether they come in the form of actual food...we are surrounded by temptations, aren't we?  Take some time today to take ownership of your own.

Genesis 3:4-5
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”

I have come to realize that the most difficult sins to combat are those that come through the softness of subtlety.  Those that are so in line with our natural longings and desires that they sneak their way into our lives.  Those that are so delicately disguised with the taste of truth that our moral pallets can barely tell the difference. 

It makes sense to me that this is how sin entered the world.  It makes sense that the serpent chipped away at a natural, God-given desire, slowly turning the hard stone of truth into a chiseled lie. 

“You will be like God”, he explained.  There is blatant truth in that desire.  You see, to be made in the likeness of God is our highest calling, for we were made in His image.  True obedience, then, is to give oneself to total transformation into His likeness.  God has birthed that desire within us, to draw us to Himself.

And then the subtle lie slipped in.  The lie slipped in, so quickly replacing the desire of being like God, with simply being God.  How easily one can relate to this lie.  A lie that sets the stage for pridefulness and arrogance, blinding us to our true depravity.  A lie that nurtures the seed of control, deceiving us into believing we hold any sort of power.  A lie that quickly shifts our priorities, moving us from Christ-centered to self-centered.  Oh how quickly the lie takes root.  How quickly it misleads. 

What may have started out with good intent led down the path of destruction.  Subtlety.  Delicately.  Dangerously.  We, too, are in the same quiet battle.  Everyday the subtlety of the enemy seeps into our lives, shifting our focus, filling our time, occupying our minds.  He comes quietly, slyly, like a gentle serpent.  If he came with a crashing roar, we would certainly run and hide.  This way, we may never see him until he is there.  Whispering the chorus of temptation into our ears.  Wooing us with words that hold distorted truth.  Nagging on the vulnerability of our natural desires. 

Daughters and sons of God, may we be challenged today, to either look back, or to look forward.  May we be challenged to sift through our day, taking responsibility for where we have strayed.  May we be challenge to shine the light of God’s full truth- exposing the subtle lies that have bled into our lives.  And may we come running into the arms of our Abba, in full restoration and repentance.  There we will find protection.  There we will find safety. 

Thank you, Lord, for your open arms.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pro-Life: What does it REALLY mean...?

If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed a recent entry on "the least of these".  That concept seems to be following me everywhere this week, in what I read, the discussions I have, sermons I have heard...God must be trying to get my attention about something.  Maybe he has always been, and I just finally started listening.

Either way, there was a profound portion in the book I'm reading by Brennan Manning that I had to share.  He is talking about the concept of pro-life, and those who claim to be activists in this area.  It's a challenging thought for anyone who claims to believe in the sanctity of life.

The way we are with each other is the truest test of out faith.  How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car. 

We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death.  We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others; to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no "others".

For others.  All others.  That is the vital truth that comes though loud and clear in what Brennan is saying, but more importantly, in what Jesus Christ himself is saying.

Take some time to think about your "pro-life stance" today.  Are you living up to your beliefs?  With your neighbors?  Coworkers?  Enemies? With the poor and the broken right in your city?  With the irritating and the annoying souls you run into everyday?  With the difficult and argumentative?  With the least of these.

Former post regarding the "least of these".

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fear of Rest:

Genesis 2:2
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

There was a time when this little morsel of scripture could have been identified as the bane of my existence.  I could hardly fathom the idea of rest, much less find time for it.  In fact, the seventh day had become the day to catch up on the things I had failed to do during the week.  I had to keep up.  Always fighting to get ahead.  I would have never believed you if you’d told me that there would be a day when I would actually go so far as to enjoy it. 

You see, for me, the concept of rest was synonymous with laziness.  The word was loaded with negative connotations and unrealistic expectation.  For me, rest was the polar opposite of what I believed to be the definition of diligence: working hard for the Lord.  There was no place for it in my equation of life.  There was no place for it my equation of Christianity. 

Looking back, I remember the day that God got a hold of me.  I remember that day because it had profound impact on the rest of my life.  I remember hearing God’s voice, barely audible, shining through like a piercing ray of sunshine in the midst of my haze.  “What are you afraid of?”

He called me out.  Just like that.  Not with a diplomatic, “Are you afraid?”, which leaves room for error on the part of the one questioning.  A convicting what.  After working through my initial self-righteous and defensive responses, I came to the conclusion that He was right.  He was right in calling me out.  He was right in identifying my deepest fears.  He has such a beautiful way of getting to the roots of who we really are.  Exposing the truth.  Challenging us to be real with ourselves, real with Him. 

I was truly afraid.  Afraid of rest.  Afraid of the stillness.  Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the reality of being alone, alone with myself.  Afraid of facing my true worth- without the accomplishments and the endeavors and the successes.  Afraid of being vulnerable, of having the things that I had worked so hard for stripped completely away in those moments.  Afraid to just be.  Afraid to rest. 

The Lord has accomplished a great healing in my life in the area of rest.  In fact, He has transformed the equation of my life.  He has revealed himself more to me in those moments of rest than in any other moments, reminding me that only when I rest can I really be free to trust Him.  Trusting Him with my accomplishments, my endeavors, my successes.  Trusting Him to be the source of my worth and security.  Trusting Him to protect me from the brutal expectations that this world has placed upon me.  Trusting Him to strip away the things that I have worked so hard for, and instead clothe me with His gracious works. 

Yes, I have learned to find my God in the moments of rest, and meeting Him there has had divine impact on my life.  Meeting Him there continues to have impact on my life, exposing the truth, allowing me to come to terms with who He truly is, and who I truly am.  So I leave you with the same question that so challenged me: What are you afraid of?  What is keeping you from rest?

Lord, even with our masks of denial you expose our deepest fears.  Grant us the courage to walk out of the demands of our life, but rather, to walk into the demands of yours…to walk into your rest. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Everyday Jesus:

Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

The real question is, do we really believe this verse?  I mean, really?  Do we truly believe that the seemingly insignificant interactions that we take part in throughout the day are a real life encounters with the person of Jesus Christ?  I believe it may just be easier to say that we don’t really believe this.  For to say that we do would require a lot of action.  It would require a complete change of life.  I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of adjustment, are you?

That’s a question worth some real time and consideration.  It is a question that will have a vital impact on the way we live our day to day lives.  It is a question that will challenge our priorities and reveal the true state of our hearts.  It is a question that will absolutely transform and redefine our interpersonal relationships. 

You see, according to this scripture, we meet Jesus everyday.  It’s easy to forget that.  It’s so easy to compartmentalize Him to the early morning moments of waking, the prayer times at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if even that), the moments of bible-reading, prayer, and church attendance.  For some of us “holy ones”, our compartmentalization of our Lord may even span into what we call “ministry”…a time allotted to service.  It’s funny how we somehow believe we have the authority to decide what part of our lives to give him, and what part of our lives to refrain from giving him. 

According to this scripture, we no longer have the authority.  According to the words of our Lord our interactions with Him no longer have their time and place.  According to these words, those whom Jesus calls his own are the ones who have recognized him all throughout their day.  They have acknowledged the everyday Jesus. 

How have they acknowledged him, you may ask?   We find the simple truth hidden in the words of this profound passage.  Our Lord always seems to appear where we least expect him.  Just like He did two thousand years ago through the form of an infant child, He again comes to meet us in the most unexpected ways: through the least of these.  We will find him through the least of these.  We will interact with him through the least of these.  We will serve him, only through the least of these. 

This calls for a true reordering of our worlds, doesn’t it?  For most of us, if we truly come to terms with the our priorities throughout the day, it is not the least of these that we are diligently working to serve.  It is not the least of these whom we strive to impress and awe.  It is not the least of these with whom we spend our time, give our money, and invite into our homes.  It seems as if we have truly missed it.  And in the process, we have also missed our Lord.  Are you ready for a transformation?

Forgive us, Lord, for we have failed to encounter you in the day to day. Instill in us a renewed passion for the least of these, for you yourself came in that form.  Give us the humility it takes to find you there. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Transference.  At times, it can be a therapist's greatest enemy. 

Wikipedia lists the definition of transference:  the unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another.

Redirecting feelings for one person, to another...usually, the feelings are negative.  And usually, those they are transferred upon have not an ounce of responsibility for the feelings.   Transference happens all around us without our even realizing it sometimes.  In fact, I believe it even influences our relationship with God.

I was thinking a little about that today.  Some thoughts on that:

Exodus 3:14

I Am who I Am.

We’re always trying to figure out God.  Always trying to wrap our boundaries around his boundlessness, to tack our names on his namelessness.  Always trying to fit Him into our preconceived notions and small ideas.  Putting him into our little boxes.  I suppose that makes us feel safe, keeps us in control.

But in order for God to be God- He has to shatter our tiny molds.  And that is exactly what He does when we allow Him to.  That’s the beauty of our Lord.  He has no need for pushing and shoving His way into our lives.  He meets us where we’re at.  Moses came to Him with his own reservations, allowing his own inadequacies to taint his perspective of God.  Concerned with the recent mistakes that he had made, and fearful of the rejection he might receive when he approached his people, he had allowed his own short comings to influence his view of God.

I’m beginning to realize our human tendency to follow in that pattern.  Painting God with the colors of our own fear, shame, doubt, insecurity, and unforgiveness.  Allowing the mistakes that we have made or the pains that others have caused us to influence our perspective of who He is.  Taking the faces of those around us- the good, the bad, and the ugly- and transplanting those faces onto Him.  Placing Him in our tiny worlds.

I am thankful that our God does not take our names, though we push them on Him.  I am thankful that He does not allow us to determine who He is.  He is who He is.  Nothing short of that will do.  He is the embodiment of all that is good and the sustenance for all that we need.  The answer was simple: I am who I am.

Even with such an encompassing answer, it’s hard to stop trying to make sense of Him.  It’s hard to really believe that He is the I AM.  I AM the answer to all your problems, the comfort through all your fears, the joy for all your sorrows, the healer of all your injustices.  I AM.  How drastically our worlds would change if we truly believed this.  How infinitely large our tiny worlds would become.  

Today, take some time to consider the perspective you’ve developed.  Take some time to assess the human inadequacies that you may have transferred onto your God.  Take some time to obliterate the deficient definitions you have so hastily cast upon Him, asking Him to reveal His true name to you.

Lord, we have placed you in the prison of our feeble prototypes.   Forgive us that we have not understood your greatness.  Forgive us that we have not lived as though you were truly the I AM.  Regain your rightful place in our lives.  Reveal to us the boundlessness of your name. 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

He Still Speaks:

It's been a busy week.  I've taken a little break from writing.  Though God still speaks even when we take our breaks.  Listen for Him.  I'd love to hear what you've heard this week.  Please, share your thoughts.