Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sex and Suitcases

Imagine the traditional first night of marriage. The bride and groom schlep their baggage to a romantic location and jump into bed. They don’t just bring themselves to bed though; they each bring all their previous relationships and the input from their parents and their parents parents (h/t Dr. Roger Moss). Of course it’s a magical night. How much more magical was it for Adam and Eve pre-fall?

They are the perfect soul-mates as she is made from his rib. They have no parents; this cures a number of potential problems! No hang-ups from the way they were raised, no demands for (insert Jewish mother voice) ‘a phone call to your mother; eight hours I was in labor with you might I remind you.’ Their relationship is 100/100 since there is no sin to make either one more selfish. Finally there was no Kama-Sutra so they got to invent everything!

Sadly someone crashed that party and both Eve and Adam chose self over God. Our parents made the same choice often choosing to save self rather than lose it. Nature and nurture taught us well and we followed in their foot-steps.

We still hear echoes from that first love. Like the happy honeymooners that aspire to true love we want that perfect synchronicity. Since that crash in the Garden we have to work at not being selfish. We have to work at taking time for the romantic jump into bed. We have to nurture relationship that is static free. We’re carrying a lot of baggage. Let us lay aside that which so easily entangles us and pursue whole hearted relationship. We can almost touch Eden.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Expecting From God

If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!" -St. Teresa of Avila

We expect more from our prayers because we know the God we pray to. God and I had this discussion today about prayers that were not answered as I’d hoped. I still do not understand the answer to many of my prayers. I suspect God and I will continue this discussion tomorrow.

In my mind I keep coming back to a book review I read in World magazine. In Sifted, author Wayne Cordiero tells the story of how ‘he spent a day wrestling with God’s question: “Would you serve Me in obscurity for the rest of your days?” If not, of course, then the question is, “Who are you really serving?” This and John Piper’s emphasis on knowing Christ above all else echo in my brain. If God answered my prayers in a way that brought me closer to Him then isn’t the answer the best answer?

The prayer I keep coming back to is twofold: To trust Christ and to want Him more than all the other things I want. I’m not even close to being there. Knowing He hears and knowing He is I pray expectantly for that’s the promise in Hebrews, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vizzini Was Right

Vizzini was right. There are times you have to go back to the beginning. Peter says the same thing in his gospel, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them…” I’ve been a Christ follower a long time. There are times when joy and wonder are lost and I feel like I am doing it by rote. There are days lately when I wonder about the efficacy of prayer. It is at these times that I have to go back to the beginning.

Peter goes on to say, “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder…” I go through seasons, or ruts, when I am not stirred up, not passionate and not hungry. I flash back to walking across the Cal State Northridge quad thinking, “Is this all there is?”

The answer was no. This isn’t all there is. Christ isn’t doldrums, He is “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” So I go back to scripture. I force myself to meditate on being stirred by majesty. I make myself sing hymns (which sounds as if its an act of attrition but in the singing and meditation is joy and refreshment) that focus on Christ; How great thou art.

The most common mistake men make in similar circumstances is to run from God. We must run to God and cry to Him for revival and refreshing. In the running toward God we are already experiencing the answer to our prayers. He will draw us; we must be willing to be drawn.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grocery Stories

Working in a grocery store one sees all sides of people. The unique, crazy and cranky can ruin a morning but interactions with them make for great story.

Customer: “I want a six-pack of eggs”
Cashier: Sir we are out of six packs. Why don’t you buy a 12 pack? They are cheaper and you get twice as many eggs.”
Customer: I live alone. I won’t eat 12 eggs. I only want 6.
Cashier: Why don’t you buy the 12 pack and give 6 to your neighbor?
Customer: I am not that generous. How can I get a 6 pack?

A customer was screaming at the Service Deli employees because they had run out of tri-tip. He said that whenever he went to our other store, in the next city over, they always had tri-tip. The employees tried to calm him down but he screamed louder and louder. When asked if another meat would do he insisted only on tri-tip. Toward the end of his rant he indicated that the tri-tip was for his dog.

Specifically working a coffee kiosk has its share of unique individuals ordering unique drinks. My still favorite is the customer that ordered a non-fat, decaf, latte served tepid. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies And White Vans

Girl Scout cookies make interesting contraband. We were teenagers racing a white van along the back roads of the San Fernando Valley a friend and I were pulled over by a police officer. Forcing my friend out of the van with a gun, the officer shined a flashlight in his eyes and screamed, “Why are your eyes dilated?” My friend responded with the obvious, “Perhaps it’s the flashlight,” which didn’t settle the officer down at all. I left the van (a bad, bad mistake) to see if my buddy was going to get gunned down. The officers then asked about the boxes in the back of the van. They were girl scout cookies of course.

What better scheme for two teenage boys than to join a Girl Scout Troop? I can’t remember the why but I do remember that the particular troop we joined was co-ed. This of course meant we had to sell cookies.

What is it about Girl Scout cookies? I’m a fan of Thin Mints and Caramel Delites which according to Wikipedia makes me perfectly average as these two types of cookies account for 44% of all sales. I’ll buy a minimum of four boxes though I can go to the local grocery store and pick up a box of Keebler Grasshoppers and satisfy my Thin Mint addiction anytime but not those Caramel Delites.

So it is that next week will find me blowing out my budget to buy boxes and boxes of Girl Scout cookies. I don’t think it counts as an addiction if it happens only once a year. Of course they freeze well…

Friday, January 25, 2013

Woman On The Front Lines The Wrong Policy

We’ve now given the green light for women to fight on the front lines. Everyday I wake up and read the news and everyday brings news that is in conflict with views I’ve had since childhood; logical, sane views.

Jerry Boykin writes in USA Today that, “It is the wrong policy because it ignores fundamental biological differences between the sexes, and the natural implications of those differences.” It was 1994 and we were living near Northridge, California. The earthquake came at 4:31 in the morning, a long roller not a shaker like previous quakes I’d been in. Everything came loose from the walls; glass, mirrors and knick-knacks. I dove to cover my wife. That was my instinct. It wasn’t her instinct to dive and cover me.

There are historic norms and there are fundamental differences. Living in an age of relativism we seek to deny absolutes even those as obvious as the shape of our bodies and the working of our minds. “So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Breaking down the wall doesn’t assure equality it destroys one more bulwark of society.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trusting God When Trust Is Difficult

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on"--If, Rudyard Kipling
If a pillar’s going to fall it will be this one. It’s the easiest target for Satan to shoot at. Three words will do it, “Didn’t God say…” It’s the same three words the Tempter used in the wilderness, “Didn’t God say…” It’s those three words that spring to mind when as we wrestle with trust in God.

Didn’t God say ‘by His stripes you are healed?’ So why are you still sick, why is she dying of cancer, why does your child have special needs? Didn’t God say He would meet all your needs? Then why are your finances a wreck? The attacks come, fiery darts piercing the darkness. With tired and shaky arms we lift the shield of faith. We seek to imitate Christ’s example and quote scripture in context. All the while the fight is to believe the character of God despite the groans of this world.

It would be easy to jot down some simplistic solutions to solidify trust in God. At the center of each issue and the core of each question is the person of Christ. “ For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words,” it says in Romans. So it is in the seeking solace in Christ that we cry for understanding at a level beyond mental processing. Then we wait for the Spirit to meet us with word and assurance.

As our head hits the pillow rest comes in knowing the pillar still stands. It is trust that we cling to, “keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs.” It is the waiting, the holding on and the pressing on that will prove out trust in the long run. Longsuffering is the old word which describes well the night but it is written elsewhere ‘Joy cometh in the morning.’

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's All About Me The Pharisee

On most days God gives me enough grace to do one or two unselfish things. I feel everything else is all about me. My selfishness scares me; really it does. It’s difficult to see the depth of my own selfishness but easy to see it in others. Today at work we found out that the girlfriend of a member of nightcrew passed away so a condolence card was sent around. Walking into the Break Room I heard someone say that in the whole time (two or three decades) that they’d worked for The Company they’d had three or four people close to them die. They adamantly stated that they’d never received a card.

I sense that there was still hurt there for never getting consolation from The Company or from fellow employees as a group. Oddly it also seemed they were belittling the fact that a card was going to the nightcrew guy. It’s difficult to get past ourselves and love others. It’s near impossible to care more for another than for yourself. I know from experience.

That’s the tension we live in. That seems to be the point Christ makes in Matthew 18. It’s easy to make it about me. It’s easy also think I’m better than ‘those people,’ than the lady in the Break Room. Jesus spoke to that as well. He had no kind word for the Pharisee that gave thanks for not being “like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

You remember the rest of the story?
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Most days I’m all Pharisee. May God ever give me the grace to be humble.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caps and Tats, Baristas And Bartenders

There’s something about a coffee house or bar; baristas and bartenders in caps and tats, Celtic folk music streaming on the radio, wood everywhere and the strong smell of roasted bean or fermented hops. Beside the aesthetic there is lurking a sense of hidden adventure; guy gets girl, robber gets dragon, individual finds heart.

This is the setting where hero meets his sidekick; Hans Solo and Strider, music blaring, ale flowing and adventure just outside the door. As I sit and drink roasted coffee in heavy mug it is easy to dream that there is more than my mundane life.

No surprise that folks flock to the local brew house looking for Wi-fi so they can connect up their media and escape the world outside. There is a magic in these places which even cast it’s spell on my wife and I during courtship. Most dates concluded in a coffee house as we imbibed hot coffee and shared heart to heart waiting for the furtherance of the adventure.

So I still am ensnared by the magic of the Public meeting house. For I know that a heart warmed here by beer or brew is now ready for the adventure that waits outside. The missing heart will be found, the dragon slayed and the princess married so I put my two dollars in the jar and kick back with my coffee.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Finding Fulfillment In Being Wired Differently

If I used EPO or resorted to blood doping I would still be the slowest of all cyclists. Genes and nature have given me terrible lungs and a bad blood delivery system. I do still have a big ego though so when I am passed by fellow cyclists I want to give chase. I know though that I am limited by asthmatic lungs and unresponsive muscles.

I am wired differently than other cyclists. On a larger scale I am wired differently than every other human being. Which is why it’s great when authors and teachers give you tools but don’t tell you what you have to do. It’s what my favorite books on walking with Christ have in common: they lay groundwork but encourage you to listen to the Holy Spirit for direction. He will work differently with each unique person.

When I go out riding with friends I set this parameter: I am slow. If you want to race or ride fast do not ride with me. It is a truth I’ve had to adjust to my whole life that in any athletic event my asthma and my genes keep me slow. My head and heart say to push, go all out, fight to win but physically it’s not realistic. I must know myself and my own parameters.

When seeking God’s will for my life it must be within the boundaries of my distinctive strengths and my unique weaknesses. God will guide but it helps if I work within my boundaries (which according to Psalm 16 have fallen for me in pleasant places). Ego or not I am not an Annie Dillard or John Steinbeck. In moving forward in my unique giftedness I will be most profoundly fulfilled.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Echoes Of Laughter In The Trinity

The central picture in my friends’ office is a picture of Jesus laughing. Like Jesus laughter should flow out of us. Growing up I was part of a second family, that of two good friends. I ate dinner at their place often. Many a night was spent in sidesplitting laughter. We got together a year ago with a close circle of friends and the same gut breaking laughter ensued.

I’ve said before that I’m remarried. We have an evening debrief before we go to bed. On nights to countless to count we end up laughing. It’s a deep overflow springing from the insanity of life and the richness of the relationship. My friendship with my daughter is like that as well. A day doesn’t go by without a smile, guffaw or outburst of laughter.

Those closest to me know my heart best. When my guard is down it is easiest to laugh at myself and at life. I am fortunate. Laughter flows from time with my friends. Humor is never far from any sentence we utter.

When I look at the relationships in my life laughter echoes through the good ones. In the camaraderie that is life, in the trenches and in the blessings there is always a head thrown back in laughter. It’s a rich gift given by Him who spoke the world into being, maybe laughing with joy when He saw that it was good. For if we are created in His image laughter may have echoed from eternity in the person of the Trinity.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Graces God Gives

It’s a terribly wonderful feeling. You are sitting in church and you start laughing and then your best friend starts laughing and there’s no stopping it. The daughter was over tonite and we were recounting childhood memories which she dramatically elaborated on. Laughing with family is one of the greatest joys God gives.

I didn’t have many of those experiences with my own dad. It’s a good thing that my daughter will. That’s one of the wonderful things about being a dad. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. Being a good father shines bright compared to many mistakes or bad choices. This is one of the graces God gives.

Time to crawl into bed. It’s been a rough week. Laughing out loud and sharing stories I feel a bit of bounce back in my step, a hint of promise planted alongside the seeds of doubt. This is one of the mercies God gives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

President Obama's Personal Agenda

I believe that politics is important. As a result I follow all kinds of political news. The election of President Obama to one more term was a sobering and gut wrenching blow to me because I know the effect this will have on the country and on individual freedoms. As he enters into the second term the headlines this week have been equally sobering.

George Neumayr writes on Disinviting God to the Inauguration which emphasizes the president’s anti-God and anti-Constitution beliefs. Having a leader in power who is opposed to the principle documents that establish and maintain our individual freedoms is frightening. What is there to restrain power grab and Machiavellian pursuit of personal agenda?

Two articles appeared this week in response to Louie Giglio’s invitation and dis-invitation to give the benediction at Obama’s inauguration. Mohler points to a “moral McCarthyism” while Russell Moore writes on Giglio and the New State Church.

The second term will be marked by further expansion of government and a decrease in the rights of the individual. If that individual is a Christ follower his rights are even less as his views will be in opposition to both the president and the state. I pray there remains a press free enough so that the truth-tellers still have voice. I hope these next years are only a blip on the radar and not a consistent, conclusive movement against God and man.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stick Close, Stay Tight And Speak Truth

“He lied,” a friend texted me tonight. The sources state that Lance Armstrong told Oprah that he doped. One more hero gone, one more role model bites the dust. It gets more and more difficult to find good role models these days. Perhaps it’s always been that way and feels worse today. Don’t know. Truly though Lance wasn’t a role model anyway; just a focused dude with great genes.

I find heros help me with mental perspective and friends help me in the daily trenches. It’s difficult to laugh out loud with John Calvin or C.S. Lewis; not so much with my guy friends. There is something about having the freedom to call somebody 24-7 that lifts your heart even before picking up the phone.

It hurts to hear that Lance lied to us for twenty years, twelve of those regarding his Tour wins. Proverbs says that there is a friend that sticks closer to a brother. Reading between the lines I gather that those close friends stick close, stay tight and speak truth. That’s what real role models look like.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Good Night For Anything But Blogging

Perhaps it’s because my fingers are dry and cracked due to the cold weather and a job that requires them to be constantly in water. It would seem that cold dark nights are conducive to blogging but I’m not feeling it. It’s not about feeling I remind myself. It’s about, “The War of Art” and the commitment to sit down and type. Still there are so many other options.

It seems a good night for wine, tea or liquor; basically any drink that you can imagine being advertised in front of a fire in a big wooden room with a white bear rug laying perpendicular to the Moose antlers. Of course the question in the current political climate is whether or not there are guns displayed or locked inside the glass case of our outdoorsman. The fire crackles as the woman enters the room and---well, yes, I guess that’s another option.

Cracking a book (do you crack a Kindle?) open is a good idea. The wife is currently going through Lord of the Rings. I tend to reach for a good mystery on a cold dark night like this. Music is an option as well. This reminds me of a mix of the two which I do not advise. One time in high school I was reading Helter Skelter and not thinking I put on the Beatles White Album. I went to bed late that night with all the lights on.

I’ve still not ruled out watching a television show or a movie. This is always good entertainment. The only problem with it is that they advise you not to watch for an hour before bedtime. They also advise you not to drink alcohol or coffee prior to bedtime. This rules out many options for us and our outdoorsman friend unless he enjoys chess or checkers which is perhaps why the lady entered the room after all. It is difficult to play a board game without company.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Small Graces

In our prayer group some weeks ago one of us prayed for, “a day without pain,” for certain ones of us that struggle with chronic pain issues. God gives us those daily graces seemingly so we can catch our breath. The wife and I noticed today that we felt ‘unburdened’ and a sense of joy that’s been lacking lately. Another friend related Wednesday how God has changed his days in 100% back pain to 50% off and 50% on. God gives little graces that renew perspective.

Small graces give us hunger for more of God. Being in pain or depression distorts your vision of reality. Periods of peace restore clarity of the Heaven we are heading to and the God that is in control.

Our part is to never give up. How easy it would be to give up on God, to simply ‘curse God and die,’ as Jobs’ wife insisted he do. How much more valiant to pursue Him with everything so that when the clarity comes we are already facing the target.

I am reminded of Jonah who had to be thrown overboard and eaten by a large fish before regaining perspective. How much better had he been on track the whole time? Certainly he would have been without a good fish story but how much greater would have been both his joy and his testimony.

“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”---James 5:11

Friday, January 11, 2013

Masquerade Of Sexual Brokenness

Some are satin some are steel, Some are silk and some are leather They're the faces of the stranger
Billy Joel, The Stranger

I work in a city with men of silk and leather. Brokenness hides in many guises while parading around as normal. Sometime strutting flamboyantly the brokenness is no different than the brokenness we all encounter in ourselves. Against that backdrop of hiddenness and black it seems beauty would make a difference.

I think of the one who is beauty in fullness. How is it that we are not drawn out of our frail and fake covering into relationship with Him? How is it that in hiding our scars we are not drawn to Him that hid nothing? Why would we not be drawn to touch that heals not touch that degrades? How is it that we don’t turn and worship?

I have no easy answer. I know the joy of living shame free. I know the touch of one that loves me unconditionally. I know the voice of one that called to me in the fullness of my gender, in the certainty of my sexuality. Why turn from Him who is all we really want?

My heart cries at times. Other times I hide behind my own walls and wear my own mask. If I am still and walking in Spirit I long for Him to touch others in their brokenness and bring them into reality. More come to the masquerade daily. They celebrate in the streets. They speak of love and deny Him who loved them with His life; loved me with that life. How do they miss Christ?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Margin Is...

Margin is…having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.

Marginless is not having time to finish the book you’re reading on stress; margin is having the time to read it twice.
Marginless is fatigue; margin is energy.
Marginless is red ink; margin is black ink.
Marginless is hurry; margin is calm.
Marginless is anxiety; margin is security.
Marginless is culture; margin is counterculture.
Marginless is reality; margin is remedy.
Marginless is the disease of our day.
Margin is it’s cure.-----Richard A. Swenson, M.D. “Margin-Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives”
Live with margin and the world will call you rigid. You will constantly be turning down good things for the best things. There will be many things that just don’t get done—but the important things will. Living with margin means leaving room for ministry and for Sabbath rest.

When the world screamed for me to do something I would jump. I’m no longer like that. It is difficult at times because I like people to like me. I want them to be pleased with me. In my fifty-two years of living I’ve realized that most things can wait. There are few decisions that must be made ‘on the spot.’ The reality is usually if you act fast you will end up waiting for the other person. People pound on you because they want control. That’s the way the world works. The other truth is if you don’t make the decision right away circumstances will lead you in the right direction. Take a deep breath and wait.

Jesus certainly lived with margin. There were a bunch of people He didn’t heal. There were many towns He didn’t visit. It is said that He set His face like flint toward His single goal. In the midst of that He did stop to chat with people. He made choices based on mission. He went to a quiet place when He needed to. He told us to not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. Move forward face focused yet not overwhelmed.

Life is one constant balancing act. There is the wife and the kid, the bills and the blog, work week and Sabbath rest. Margin means being deliberate about each. Margin means knowing which are the most important. If you set your face like flint on one thing what would it be? Diligence demands forethought. Margin is making room for what’s important. The reality is not that we’ve arrived but that we keep pressing on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Life Isn't Like A Game Of Cards

Skill and Luck

Life isn’t like a game of cards. In a game of cards there’s a certain probability that you will get a certain hand. God deals differently. I sat next to a friend last night as he shared of the continuing fallout from his divorce; his kids are drifting away, his (ex) wife is in full rebellion and he longs for God to step in with a new romance and a new plot. Then it hit me.

I have some significant issues in my life that I would like God to change. On the inside I still feel like a whitewashed sepulcher. On the outside I’ve got money issues and job issues. As we were talking though I thought to myself, “I’ll stick with this hand.”

I sought God when my first marriage ended. Then I sought another mate. It wasn’t a necessity only a preference. God wasn’t bound one way or another. Still He chose to grant me a great companion to finish out my life with. Rather than diminishing my life He added to it.

I have a daughter with my first wife. She is a ton of fun and we get along famously. Since she was old enough to laugh at jokes we’ve gotten into trouble for outbursts at the wrong time or in the wrong place. She’s a teen now and we are still close. We share deep things and funny things. She’s with me often. She gets along well with my current wife and all three of us click well together.

I’ve no idea why God blessed me with wife and daughter. It’s not because of what I bring to the table. God gives out of an abundance that is bigger than the house. Playing probability I would have bet small with small expectations. God gives big beyond asking or imagining. I understand the stakes and I’m sticking with the hand.

Photo; 'Skill and Luck' by Bob Owen

Monday, January 07, 2013

Dead In The Meat Department

Which of the following are not hints for the game Clue: Dead in the meat department, waiting for a liver, and, in the coffee kiosk with kidney failure? All three are stories of medical issues which I heard about in the last two days at work. My boss (the one I cussed at) is out waiting for a liver, one of our meat managers died while working, and my coffee tech was just diagnosed with failing kidneys. Each of these guys is under fifty years old. It reiterates the tension we live in and the platitudes we often hear about life and death.

“Nobody on there deathbed ever said I should have spent more time at work,” is the saying. We get near-sighted and lose focus of the important stuff like family and Sabbath rests, play and laughter. As I engaged in conversation today in the context of health and death it became apparent that many people don’t diffuse stress well. Work is their family, their paycheck and their ego. When the stress gets high there they have no place to go.

Humanity has always lived with financial tension. There is always difficulty on the home front; emotional, physical and spiritual. God established safety nets and watersheds for us to let go of these burdens. Granted there are times when like Job God is all you have. Those times are rare. In the broader context we have close friends and family to debrief and cry with and to bounce ideas around with. Laughter is always our best ally as well.

A co-worker said that the meat manager died because of too much stress in his life. The coworker was incorrect. Ruling out the physiological, the meat man died from lack of wisdom.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Current Christian Music

Why does some current Christian song go mainstream while others die? Everybody can sing along with “I Can Only Imagine.” Townend and Keith Getty’s “In Christ Alone” just celebrated it’s 10th anniversary and has gone on to being recorded by such greats as Ricky Skaggs and Allison Krauss. Obviously there is a difference in the musical quality. Is there a difference beyond that?

The songs that ring eternal speak to our deep cry as broken human beings. “This Cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm,” meets me amidst a life of darkness and focuses my eyes heavenward. Listen to a line from Sanctus Real’s I’m Not Allright: ‘Burn away the pride, bring me to my weakness til everything I hide behind is gone.’ They catch the plight of humanity since Adam---hiding behind whatever we can until hiding doesn’t work any longer. When we give up running away where do we run to?

Songs that seep into culture have a root in scripture and magnify Christ as God, “Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall, Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all I can only imagine.” Or from Matt Redman’s ‘You Never Let Go
”And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on A glorious light beyond all compare And there will be an end to these troubles But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth…” Our hearts find solace in a future hope found in the pages of scripture and secured by Christ in Heaven."
The airwaves are filled with many good Christian songs. There are some that are set apart by great music. The best rise above them because they echo the longing of broken hurting humans for redemption and escape from this ‘veil of tears.’ That hope has been sealed for us through the blood of Christ. The songs that will be sung through eternity celebrate these truths.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Children Are Worth The Gamble

Now I hear them as the saddest words. Saddest still because it’s choice not circumstance. “We don’t want to bring a child into this world,” or, “We didn’t want children anyway.” I thought that way in my youth; a mixture of selfishness and unknowing. I will probably step on toes here. I know too that it’s tough too for those that wanted but couldn’t.

It’s hard to have them and be selfish. People do it obviously, but for those of us in two or three standard deviations of normal children pull our hearts out of selfish and into loving. I remember one night, my sick little girl. She couldn’t get comfortable in her bed or our bed or anyplace but being held. Longest most wonderful night of my life as I laid her on my chest and let her sleep there.

The Bible tells us that they are like arrows and the man that has a full quiver is blessed. I only have one; couldn’t have more though I wanted it. Grace was being able to have the one I’ve got.

An understated blessing of following God is that the Word sets you right. The evolution in me was from selfish me-only to wanting a full house. The love returned and the love you get to give are worth the gamble.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Catacylsm and Choices

A year is comprised not only of single cataclysmic events but hundreds of small events of our choosing. Our choices are twofold; create events that are positive and react to unforeseen circumstances with joy and hope. This year my wife established a ‘memory box’ into which she placed notes of key events (“Daughter gave tutorial on how to use Facebook”), ticket stubs, travel brochures and notes from others. Looking into that box this week we can say that 2012 had some serious tough things happen (forced to purchase a car) but that we had great opportunities to have fun and enjoy people.

Looking forward this year is filled with big question marks. There is a possibility for a mission trip to Central America, a vacation to Sequoia and the prospect for loss of financial investment. In the mix we are making plans for barbecues with friends, small group bible study and time with family. God can surprise us at any turn.

We set our goals and plan our days. It seems wise to live each one aggressively and joyously. Beyond that it seems wise to heed the words of Jesus when He said, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Five A.M. Radio and God's Faithfulness

 I drive to work before the sun is up. I’m not awake so I don’t listen to radio. It’s just quiet. I’d left my radio tuned to the local Christian station this morning. I was in a bad frame of mind. I had the thought that I should leave it on; that I needed to hear something positive.

Joni and Friends airs at five a.m. Today she talked about Stephen Saint, son of Nate Saint, whom was martyred in 1956. I’d just watched a series put together by Stephen Saint, Walk His Trail, at my church. Crucially, I’d been connected to his story going back to Elizabeth Elliott’s book, The Shadow of The Almighty. That book changed the way I thought about God and missions; changed my life really.

Turns out that Mr. Saint was in an accident in 2012 and became a paraplegic. He’d been through plenty already, a murdered father, the death of a daughter and now this. If anyone should be bitter he should be---but he isn’t.

Three personal takeaways from this:

• God knows that Stephen Saint is a hero of mine as is Joni Eareckson Tada. So He knew the radio program would have an effect. He is faithful to encourage me even if I’m not faithful to have the right thoughts or attitude.

• God uses people but doesn’t keep them from terrible trials.

• I must be willing to trust to be used according to His choosing.

“My motto has been, ‘Let God write your story,' and that's what I have always done. Opportunity comes in strange formats,” Saint said. “You have a lot of people, nowadays, who want to write their own story and have God be their editor, when something goes wrong. I decided long ago to let God write my story.”

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Listening To The Holy Spirit

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.---Hebrews 5:14

I wonder if it happens often but I just don’t listen. Today I was talking to a Marine that is stationed at ’29.’ We got to talking about how employers have lost sight of tradition so that everybody is open for business New Years Day and Christmas. He’s been serving in the Marines for 14 years with 6 to go. Out of nowhere the thought came to me and I blurted, “What’s your name?” He told me it was Edwin. I told him that I would pray for him to which he responded that he needed it and that it was good to have, “the prayers of fellow Christians.”

Years ago I was driving home from work. Being single I contemplated the fast-food dinner options and realized that I was really hungry for a burrito. My mind and stomach told me they wanted Baja Fresh but on a different level I had a sense that I should go to Mannys. I had this inner discussion with myself but decided that maybe there was a reason to go to Mannys though Baja Fresh was my craving. The girl that took my order that day was wrestling with knowing about Christianity but she had no bible to read. Serendipitously I had one in my car. Though used and tattered I gave it to her trusting it would be read.

Hebrews tells us it is through practice that we train our senses. I am not certain how that works but certainly I can be willing and prayerful. I must also be willing to have my plans altered to respond to these promptings. My wish is that the Holy Spirit would shout louder but I suspect I just need to listen better.