14 December 2012

in the wake of it all: a prayer...

father, send us to the broken tonight.  keep us from seeking to give easy and shallow and wearying answers to questions that are bigger than us, stronger and more frightening than we can comprehend. give us the courage to allow our hearts to break alongside those whose lives have been shattered in the passing of a singularly eternal moment. fill us with the strength we need to keep our mouths closed and our hearts and arms and homes and souls open. above all else, send your peace to us, that you might send your peace through us, that we may hasten the day when all tears will be wiped away.  by your spirit, may we be to each other the grace we so desperately need. through Christ our lord, amen.


seasons: if i stand

i'm thrilled to be guest posting over in Mary Hess's corner of the interweb today, as part of her ongoing series on seasons.  i originally set out to do a hard-hitting expose on autumn, but, as is so often the case, things did not go as planned.

not really.  enjoy...

if i stand

the thing is, nothing has turned out like i thought it would. it took me the better part of two decades to finish my college degree, i spent ten years in ministry and when i left i had exactly nothing to show for it, and after leaving the ministry the best job i could get (at first, anyway) was setting appointments for dishwasher repairs across the southeast. i had given God a third of my life and what he gave me in return was a two bedroom apartment next to some college kids and a frequent wheeler and dealer card at the local pawn shop.

and so i began to think that God was testing me, purifying me, disciplining me, maybe even flat out punishing me.  over the past four years my views on some things have begun to evolve, and it occurred to me one day that maybe i was becoming a heretic, and maybe God was allowing me to experience hell on earth to help me avoid experiencing hell in, well, hell. and so i prayed.
click here to finish the post over at Mary's...

20 November 2012

a prayer while I find my voice...

yesterday i read marc driscoll's blog post about the twilight movies* and immediately felt this urge to tell the world that he doesn't speak for me.  the urge subsided, though, and i have since that moment been left to ponder how best to speak for ourselves in a world where Jesus has something like a million spokespeople.

frankly, i'm still working on it.

this morning, though, i came across a prayer i wrote at the time of the troy davis execution, and while it doesn't necessarily answer the questions with which i'm currently wrestling, i think it at least reminds me that the center of my sanity resides not in the sum total of my opinions, or in my ability to disseminate them, but in the immutable reality that Someone entirely outside of myself is in control.  though God deigns for us to speak in his name and give voice and action to his love, this is not to say that God (ultimately) needs us, or that he feels the same sort of confused disquiet i do when one of his kids gets their crazy on.

as i work through everything, then, this is my prayer...

father,
teach us afresh what mercy is,
how it smells,
what it looks and feels like.

we so easily forget who we were,
where we’ve been,
what we’ve done.

while we celebrate the forgiveness you’ve lavished upon our wicked hearts,
help us to be ever mindful of the evil of which we remain capable.

comfort those who mourn tonight.
mend broken hearts, and break hearts hardened by accomplishment and self sufficiency.
heal our wounds, strengthen our legs, that we may stand;
that we may speak for the mute, defend the defenseless,
and be a hope to those who are lost and alone and afraid.

make us to be people of the cross, father, and not people of the sword.
create in us clean hearts,
and with a new day let us rise to the call of living and loving and serving and dying in your name.

amen.


*i don't agree with his thoughts on the twilight stuff, but you're all smart enough to figure that whole business out on your own. which in some way is kind of the point.

09 November 2012

what's your dream?

between the lunacy of the presidential campaign and the everyday ups and downs of life/work/etc it's been a bit since our last video.  we're back this week with a wee chat about dreams. 

be sure to stick around for the end of the video, and to interact with us, head over to Lori's page... - s.

06 November 2012

of presidents and Kingdoms...

my friend wrote a really good post today about politics and being political in today's socially networked culture.  after i read it, i happened to head over to facebook and stumbled upon a post by a friend from college in which she made a slightly political comment in regard to her vote, couched by the disclaimer that she was aware her honesty might cost her some 'friends'. i internally applauded her boldness, but at the same time lamented the fact that the simple act of being straightforward might cause people to dislike her, think differently of her, or make negative comments in her direction.

my wife and i often discuss the merits of using facebook to attempt to accomplish anything of real import.  even more specifically, we often talk about the silliness that is trying to convince someone else of something on facebook.  in the early days of my social network life, i remember attempting to wade into political and social debates, only to find that people i hadn't talked to in years were all too ready to not only disagree with me - that's fine, isn't it? disagreement is an important ingredient in the casserole that is life - but to disagree with me in a way that called in to question my discretion, my intellect, and above all else, my faith.

at first i was flummoxed, and then i was mad, and then i was tired, and then i was quiet.

and generally speaking, that's okay with me.  i don't believe facebook is the place for genuine, healthy, and life-affirming discourse.  on the other hand, though, there is some part of me that bristles at the idea that i might not say for whom i voted because i don't want to deal with what others might think or say about it.  isn't that giving them more control over my life than i should? as a citizen of this country, i'm proud of the fact that i can vote at all.  as a person with a brain and a conscience and a desire to contribute to my society, i'm also proud of the man* (in this case) who, in my estimation, best represents what matters to me most.

as a Christ-follower, i believe that good things and bad things will continue to occur, irrespective of who becomes the next POTUS.  i also believe that i have a call to declare the way things will be in the Kingdom which has already made its presence known, and which will one day be the reality under which we all live.  in that Kingdom, there will be no one who thirsts or hungers, no one will be afraid, and no one will have the need or the drive to hate or use fear to control.

in this in-between place, though, i'm content to be civic-minded without being civic-centered, and i'm also content to let everyone else attempt to do the same thing - or not, if that's what you prefer - without feeling the need to attack or judge or disparage. you vote in the way you want, and good on you for doing your best.

in all things, peace - s.
 

*Barack Obama

29 October 2012

me, too...

if you find yourself somewhere between what you thought would be and what you hope will be and what it looks like it will probably be, i just wanted to tell you that you're not alone.

much of the material in christian media/literature today focuses on either the beginning of a journey or, more typically, the end.  it's easy to find tips on breaking through, winning big, finishing strong. the net effect of this focus on winning and overcoming and getting better and bigger and faster is that those among us who find life to be a bit less "Jesus Rocks!" and a bit more "are you kidding me?" feel isolated in the starkness of our reality.

so today i don't have catchphrases, or lists, or bullet points, or the secret to overcoming whatever it is coming over you just now. in some respect, i don't have anything to give, really.

but if you're confused or tired or frustrated, if you have way more questions than answers, if it seems that you heard God wrong, or that he's late, or disinterested, or otherwise engaged...

me, too.

you're not alone.

22 October 2012

vlog #3: winners, losers, and sour grapes*...

as you get ready to watch the video me and lori did for this week, all you really need to know is this:

 i win...





 *lori interprets things differently.  you can get her take here.




16 October 2012

this post** is long and mostly pointless...

last winter, the wife and i felt as if we were being called to return to a town in which we had lived for the better part of a decade to start a church. to dispense with any suspense, let me tell you first that it didn't happen. we didn't move; we haven't planted a church, and the prospect of moving back north now seems as likely as me opening for coldplay. but that's not really the point. for now.

as we considered the possibility of a move, and the nature of what we felt was a clarion call from God, we attempted - and still do, but i suppose to a different end - to discern what God was saying to us, how he was leading us, and above all, what he wanted us to do. the idea of walking by faith and not by sight became more than something we said, or something we knew Christians should try to do, but it really did become the way we tried to live every day. we weighed decisions against the backdrop of this new faith walk; we thought not about what seemed to be most practical or popular or easy, but rather we attempted to do things that seemed to us to be pointed in the same direction we felt God leading.

a good example of this is the fact that we began, albeit haltingly, to pack for a move we had no visible means of executing. we were convinced God had called us, that he would provide for this call, and this being so, why not go ahead and get ready for what lay ahead? lori packed up things we weren't at the time using, storing boxes in closets, under beds, and generally out of view. (we knew what we were doing was a bit unconventional, and we didn't want to have the "oh, you're moving? when?" "we don't really know" conversation with anybody.)

fast forward a few months. as i mentioned above, we haven't moved. doors we thought might open didn't; jobs for which i applied didn't pan out, and we eventually parted ways with the group we had thought to plant with. hopes turned into frustration, and more than anything, faith gave way to questions.

did we hear wrong?
are we not waiting right?
should we keep waiting?
are we dumb?
are we crazy?
where's the spatula?

that last one, or one like it, nearly put me over the edge one day.  i was looking for something - it may not have actually been a spatula, but you get the idea - and lori told me that it had been packed away for the move that never happened. all at once i felt foolish, a misled dreamer who thought he was being called but instead had just failed.

by God's grace, i didn't dwell there. frankly, after my initial reaction, i didn't think much about it at all. stuff we needed had been packed for a move. we didn't move. we need the stuff, so let's unpack it.

and then earlier today*, as the cooler weather outside crept inside, i began to wonder where all of my winter clothing was. and then i remembered it had probably been packed away. i began rummaging through one of our closets - there's no need to hide now, is there? - and found... my. favorite. sweater.

that which was lost to me had been found, and i was happy.  i actually took the sweater outside and set it on the ground about a block from our apartment just so i could run out to meet it and put a ring on its finger and sandals on its... anyway, i love this sweater, and i was thrilled to have found it.

so now you've wasted like six minutes of your day reading this, and you're thinking, 1) this post has no point, and 2) it's just a sweater, weirdo.

but i think that in some way, it's about more than a sweater.

i believe God knows everything, and i believe that when we were dreaming and hoping and packing for a move that ultimately did not happen (yet?), God saw and knew that on this day i would find my sweater, and find some small joy in it. God knew we'd be frustrated and confused, and for some reason he was okay with that. he knew our season of waiting and expectation would lead to a season of hardship and stretching and head-scratching. he knew that on this quiet, cool saturday i'd open a closet door, rummage through a box, find a sweater, and think of him. he knew, too, that i'd ask him about it all. and absolutely, he knew i'd find him waiting, not with an answer, per se, but with a gentle reassurance that life is less about answers and more about presence than we'd like.  no, God has not explained last winter to me, but he's with me now, as he was then, and for now, that's going to have to be enough.

in a way this post really is sort of pointless, at least as compared to how we want our 'God stuff' to normally be. we love it when plans come together, when stories run full circle, when the ends of our journeys shed light on the way those same journeys began. but that's not how it always is, is it? sometimes you try to follow God, and it doesn't go the way you thought it would. sometimes you hear God telling you to do something, and then you do it, and then nothing else changes. sometimes you believe God for provision, and that provision hurts, confuses, stretches. even still, i say follow.  listen, yield, obey, follow, trust.  i was believing God for a house and a church and a new ministry, and instead i got a cardigan.

for now...


*this post was written on saturday, 10/6

**re-posting this in a link up with Emily Wierenga and Imperfect Prose today...


15 October 2012

the world has failed me in every way*...

i don't even have the energy to comment on what transpired over the weekend.  you can find all the sordid details - and even photos - over at lori's page.

i'll be here attempting to cover the nakedness and shame of my upper lip...














*not really.  it's totally cool.  i realize that i look good no matter what.

11 October 2012

06 October 2012

hello world...


the captain and tenille. tom and jerry. wilma and fred. woodward and bernstein. hall and oates. kool and the gang.  peaches and cream. starting now, you can add another powerhouse creative pairing to the list...

lori and steven.

together we've launched a new YouTube channel, and you can look for videos from us each week.

enjoy...





03 October 2012

imperfect prose: fighting for the right thing...

when i was younger, i viewed disagreements as a challenge. when someone thought differently than me, or held an opinion i found unacceptable, i would get excited and start thinking of things i would say to change the way they believed. i am the opinionated son of an opinionated father, and i've never struggled with uncertainty, at least when it comes to my convictions.

strangely, though, something is happening inside me. i no longer view a difference of opinion as an opportunity or an opening or a challenge. i view it as a bane, a drain of emotion and energy, a winner-less non-starter. yet i know i can't withdraw from society, and i can't in good faith ignore those who would say (or do) things with which i disagree.  i remember telling churches i served that the call is for us not to be peacekeepers but peacemakers, and sometimes making peace is hard work.  it's just that ten years in the ministry, along with the opinion-fueled pugilism that is modern social media, have completely drained me of my will to fight, to debate, to attempt to convince.

even still, every time i witness someone acting or speaking or posting in a way which to me evinces a worldview based in hate rather than love, there is still this spark ignited within me, this sort of righteous anger (made righteous not by how i am, but by the fact that love is always in the right), which seeks to, in the words of steve brown, 'speak truth to power'. with each passing day, i become more convinced that i am complicit in all the 'wrongness' i see, so long as i keep quiet in its face.

and so here i have a bit of a conundrum. on the one hand, i'm tired of fighting.  i'm tired of trying to convince people that love and grace can really do what Jesus said they can do, and i'm tired of trying to explain why i believe this way or that, or vote this way or that, as if somehow orthodoxy is affirmed or denied in the voting box or in the posts i choose to like on facebook.

on the other hand, i'm also tired of seeing people hate other people in Jesus' name; i'm tired of watching the church become so entrenched in the political process that we think Jesus cares about who wins the presidency as much as we do; i'm tired of being told that Christians should support this war over there, engage in this other sort of war here at home, and support the sanctity of life in the womb, but not the sanctity of life on the gaza strip.

and then it hit me. i'm not tired of trying to convince, i'm tired of trying to convince the wrong people.

instead of trying to convince the christian friend on facebook that Jesus doesn't hate right-handed people, i should instead spend my energy telling right-handed people that Jesus doesn't hate them. instead of fighting with old college buddies about whether or not the poor in america are to blame for their own poverty, i should be talking to, going to the poor, and telling them that Jesus knows their name, and doesn't blame them for anything.

i'm not called to debate the hater; i'm called to love the hated.
i'm not called to convince the attacker; i'm called to protect the attacked.
i'm not called to eradicate marginalization; i'm called to stand with the marginalized.
i'm not called to win (anything); i'm called to lose (everything).
i'm not called to be right; i'm called to love, even when the world says it's wrong.

this is not the beginning of an agenda for me. i don't hope to convince you that this is how you should view life. the Holy Spirit is well able to guide you and direct you, to show you the path in which you should go. if anything, i would hope, as you read this, that you might feel emboldened to follow through on the decision you've already made to love, even when those around you would rather fight; to show mercy, when the world tells you that vengeance is the answer; to gather in even when society, or the church, or even your friends, tell you that casting out is the only way to salvation.

may we all feel brave and bold and battle-ready, and may we all realize that the fight worth fighting is the fight to love.

to love.

no matter what...

29 September 2012

slow-motion saturday...




the other night i took the kiddos over to my mom's place to hang out for a bit, and my son wanted to show me how the camera on mom's phone had a slow-motion feature.  the footage below is what he captured.  

originally i posted the video on facebook, but the wife thought it'd be even funnier with some music.  after some fiddling around with the iMovie app on my phone, and with special thanks to the White Stripes - as you may have read, we're very close to Jack White now - i have a new finished product.

enjoy...


video


28 September 2012

when words fail...

i've been trying to think of a way to summarize the re:Write2012 conference the wife and i attended last weekend in san diego. unsuccessfully, i might add.

it's not that i'm having trouble coming up with good things to say. from start to finish, each session was replete with pointers, tips, and actionable advice. the speakers were knowledgeable, well-spoken, and, most wonderfully, humble. 

and i think this is the problem: the speakers did more than just 'a good job'.  the conference was more than simply 'informational'. i had more than just 'a good time'. the weekend was all at once, for me, something purer, simpler, and more complex than these things.

and so it was i was standing outside just now lamenting the fact that i had reached this impasse when it occurred to me that maybe the best way to show how the conference impacted me was to chronicle - albeit briefly - my reaction to a couple speakers as i heard them. to wit, i've included below my tweets from a few of the sessions we attended over the course of the weekend.  after these, i'll close with a comment or two and leave any further reviewing to others...





and so it was that for me, the re:Write conference was more about living than writing.  and because so much of what was talked about was related to how writers should live, the business of how writers should actually write was addressed without anybody having to really try. i've been fascinated to notice that as i've returned to the real world and regular life, i've heard the speakers' voices in my head, not so much talking to me about how or when or why i should write, but about how i should speak to others, face my fears, love my family and, above all else, trust the love of God.

(for a full review, the wife's blog can't be beat, and you can get a full look at the conference here)


26 September 2012

of course, i'm listening. mostly . . .

my wife, lori, and jen ferguson from finding heaven recently asked me to be a part of a series on encouraging those close to us, mainly our spouses. below, you'll find the beginning of my post for close enough to forget.  


of course, i'm listening. mostly...

on a day-to-day basis, i try to interact with my wife in a way that is informed by empathy. i want my actions toward her, and interactions with her, to be grounded in an ongoing desire to understand not only where she's coming from but why and how i can relate to her in a way which allows her to feel safe, loved, and above all, heard. 

heard. and therein lies the rub.

because frankly, i've gotten lazy. one of the bittersweet realities of life together is all at the same time we should seek to develop, and subsequently enjoy, the comfort that comes from knowing and being known on the deepest level. we should also be ever-vigilant against the tendency to become too comfortable. honest discussion, absence of pretense, freedom of expression: these are all hallmarks of comfort, even safety, if you will. on the other hand, presumption, assumption, dismissal, and ignorance are the hallmarks of a relationship wherein one or both parties has become too comfortable. in fact, when this happens, it's not about comfort at all; its' about valuation. that's not true. if I'm honest, i would admit it's not about valuation at all; its' about devaluation. 

(Click here to continue reading . . .)

20 September 2012

what good may come...

a couple days ago, the wife wrote about a trip we're getting ready to take - we actually hit the road in a couple hours - and a little bit about the reason for the trip and how it all came to be. as she so well iterated, we're immensely excited about the opportunity to 1) learn from those who have cleared a path in the world of writing and publishing, and 2) see someplace completely new to us!

there's no need for me to do here what she has so ably already done, but i've a thought that won't let me go, and sometimes the only thing for it is to let it breathe.

it's funny how God uses life to prepare us for life. i'm a man who is often given to great expectations. and while i do have wonderful, lofty, exuberant expectations for the next few days, i can feel the Spirit gently reminding me that i'm not called to chart a course, i'm called to follow it; i'm not called to harness or to be the wind, i'm called to go where e'er it blows.

looking back, i can recall countless moments in my life when i was sure i understood what was happening, when i knew that A was happening because B was sure to follow. B almost always represented (and it still does, a great deal of the time) what i had become convinced was what God should do next, what he ought to do, because it made sense.  and, looking back, i can see now where all those A moments led not to B, but to C, sometimes D, and every once in a while, Q. when that would happen i would rail against the injustice of a God who couldn't, just this one time, do things the way i told him to. now i see, though still dimly, darkly, that A had to lead to C, that K was meant to come before R, that my view of the future and how it should play out is limited in scope and diminished by brokenness.

which is all to say that yes, i want, and i want to expect, that good things will come of this weekend.  but i'm relying entirely upon the power of the Spirit to let go of my need to tell God - or anybody else for that matter - what those good things should be.

this, then, is my prayer:

Father, i come to you tonight with a mind full of thoughts and plans and fears and questions, and a heart full of doubt and uncertainty and the beginnings of a fragile hope, hope that i can allow myself to believe that what you want for me is for good, and not for ill.

though i cling to the way i believe things should be with a tenacity that belies a deep-seated, pride-fed fear, i pray that, by your Spirit, you would give me grace to let go. 

cover me and mine in the shadow of your wings, and allow us to find the joy of knowing that we can trust your character even when we cannot discern your ways.

above all else, hold me, Lord. 
hold me in your goodness
hold me in your grace
hold me in your strength
hold me in your patience
hold me in your faithfulness
hold me in your wisdom
hold me, Lord
in your love.

through Christ our Lord, 

amen.

15 September 2012

this post is about a headless bird...

that's not a euphemism or a metaphor. it's not symbolism or allegory. what you will find below is a picture of a bird without a head. (and be warned: pictures of headless birds are pretty much as awful as you might imagine)

I was sitting at a picnic table while the kiddos played on some playground equipment. while they were swinging on the swings, I heard a thud just a few feet away. initially, I thought it was a rock that some small children who were also at the playground had thrown. as I gazed over in the area the noise came from, though, I realized the sound hadn't come from a rock, but from a bird. I thought that was kind of strange, to be sure, but I kept on doing what I was doing.

and this is the part that gets me.

at the time the bird - I didn't at this point know it had been beheaded - fell, I had been praying. the sum of my prayers was something like: I get that I'm supposed to trust you, God, but nothing is going the way I want or the way we need or the way I think it should. why aren't you doing anything, Lord? how can you let these things happen? and why won't you let other things happen, things for which we've been yearning and praying and dreaming and crying?

and so the other small kids left, the sun began to set, and I told my kids it was time to go. as we left, the daughter exclaimed, "this bird doesn't have a head!" incredulous, I went over to get a closer look. and for some reason, I laughed. actually, I think I gasped and then I told the daughter to move back because I've been raised to believe that dead birds are easily the dirtiest thing on the face of the planet, and if you touch one you'll not only get black death but you'll spread it to the rest of the world with every last wheezing breath you take. but after all that, i did laugh, the sort of quiet chuckle one does when one realizes things mean something more, or something different, or something else, than you thought.

I had this reaction, I think, because I was in that moment reminded of a couple things. I remembered how the bible tells us that not even a bird falls out of the sky without God knowing. seeing that once living, once flying thing, I thought about how I mattered to God, but I also thought about how trusting him sometimes means that I'm going to fall, too, not because I've stopped trusting but because I've decided to trust him no matter what.

I also in my mind's eye thought of God, sitting in heaven, growing tired of my constant grousing, thinking to himself, "that boy has gone on long enough. maybe this'll do the trick." cue headless bird dropping from the sky. and it worked. (for awhile, anyway.)

I know God knows me. I know he sees me. I know I matter more to him than the birds of the air, and just as he knows when one of his birds falls from flight, so too he knows when one of his kids has just about had enough.

tonight, remembering that he remembers, knowing he knows, noticing that he takes notice, is exactly what I need.

the headless bird I could have probably done without. but then that's not my call, is it?

05 September 2012

blog repost: i woke up feeling blue, then angry... (Imperfect Prose)

a while back, some friends and i started writing a blog under pseudonyms, on a bit of a lark really, just to have some fun and see what would happen. the answer is that not much happened. we wrote for a bit and then sort of let it go. what you will find below is a re-post* of something i wrote about a year ago under my pseudonym (st isidore), but it's interesting to note how i still experience days like the one i describe. life is, as they often say, a marathon and not a sprint.

i'm thrilled to be linking up with imperfect prose today...

---

i fear i've been a bit mopey of late (see post title above). and this isn't false humility, or self-deprecation. i've been mopey. more than anywhere else this sad, somewhat sardonic disposition comes out in the things i write. so up front, ahead of the poem which follows this, which is definitely mopey, i apologise.

i was laid off two months ago, and this exciting bit of personal history has served to fuel whatever natural tendencies toward fear and doubt and insecurity i already had. not completely, mind you, for the flip side of my somewhat depressive state is a nearly preternatural tendency to believe everything is going to be okay. that's weird, right? this morning, for example, i woke up and without even trying, before i'd even had time to take a pee and put my glasses on - in that order, to my wife's chagrin - i felt depressed.

yet sitting here, typing these words, wondering what you'll think of me and the poem i've written, i somehow feel hopeful, nearly cheery, at how it's all going to work out. i see all the wee drops of grace falling before my very eyes. the way the wife writes poems and stories that make me want to read them more, and be a better writer, husband, and father all at the same time; the way the son and daughter attempted to learn how to knit together last night, and how they really did try to help each other, and how the son had the good sense to take a break when he started getting frustrated; the way my bacon tasted this morning, and the way the coffee tasted, oh God, the coffee, the way it tasted and warmed and worked its way into my belly and my veins and my soul.

God is ruining me and saving me all at the same time, and all at the same time it's wonderful and it hurts like hell. God is teaching me to revel in my impotence while i learn to trust in his omnipotence. it sucks and it's stupid and i don't get it and i know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that i can't get him to move any faster than he is because his love for me does not work on my schedule.

his love for me is killing me and giving me new life, all at once, every moment of every day. he is my God, and i am his child. he is God, and he is love, and i am love's child. enjoy the poem.

*as you may have deduced from some of the references, the original post had a poem, too.  you can find it all here.



03 September 2012

for every furnace...

i originally posted the following thoughts on google+, but thought i'd share them here as well...
---

there are things for us to learn about ourselves and about God that we can only learn in places of hopelessness. we have become averse to the dark moments on our journey because of the truths to which they bear witness. we have become so enamored, so convinced of our potential, our ability, we forget our life in him begins in death, and the resurrection to which he invites us begins at a place of (repeated) mortification.

we have become those who don't want to talk about where we come from, though where we come from is inextricably tied to where we are going. our journey began in the valley of dry bones, in Lazarus' grave, in the borrowed garden tomb in which Jesus was placed. our victory begins in defeat, our bright shining light is berthed in the song-less night of despair.

it stands to reason, then, that we should not hurry past the moments, the seasons, of darkness in our lives now. we ought not flee our hopelessness, or worse, deny it. we should, i think, embrace it, and ask Jesus to meet us there. in so doing, we give him the opportunity to remind us that our inability to change an impossible situation, cure a terminal illness, or cross an impassable sea, is not the end of the story.  here him tell you, tell me, that for every desert there is manna, for every sea, dry land underfoot, and for every furnace, there is one walking with you, whose face is like the Son of God.

in our hopelessness, in our inability, in our daily death, let us remember that we have been buried with him, yes.  but also, with him, raised up anew...



02 September 2012

3 word challenge...

i saw this first on from tracie, and i thought it'd be fun. the folks over at trifecta, as part of their weekend contest, issued the following challenge:

Robert Frost one said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."  We want you to do the same.  Sum up anything you want, but do it in three words.  Your response should mirror Frost's quote by beginning, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about--."  And the last four words are yours to choose. 

herewith:

in three words i can sum up everything i've learned about parenting: just be there.


 

01 September 2012

still, not stuck


we are a people of action.  we love to be doing.  social network updates are rife with declarations of activities, causes undertaken, places visited, life goals accomplished.  there is nothing inherently wrong with getting things done, i suppose, but i wonder if, and here i turn my eye to the church, to Christ-followers, we haven’t become so addicted to acting that we’ve forgotten the importance of being acted upon.

certainly God calls us to do things.  the great commission is about going, and there are numerous exhortations to feeding hungry people, clothing the naked, and so on.  love, as dcTalk reminded us, is a verb.  yet that’s not the whole story.  God is also the God who, though he didn’t really need to, took a day off.  Jesus was always trying to get away from the crowds, and when that didn't work, he got up before anybody else so that he could be alone with God.

i have found myself of late repeatedly asking God what he wants me to do. there are times when i feel like i'm living out the U2 song, completely stuck in a moment i can't get out of.  but there's stuck, and then there's still. and i feel like God isn't so much telling me to do something, but waiting for me to allow something to be done to me, in me.  something only he can do. it's like when the dentist or the doctor tells you to lay still so they can work.  to extend the metaphor logically, i don't mean to say that God needs me to stop moving around or else he'll make a mistake. rather, i think he wants me to be still because in my stillness i am confessing one of the great and most difficult truths of our faith: God knows better what i need than i do.

we do because we think we know. we act because we're convinced we've charted the right course, made the best decision, formed the surest plan. we are, however, to paraphrase the late rich mullins, not as right or sure or strong as we think we are.

it may not be for always, and it may not be for now, but when you hear the call, i encourage you to heed it: be still.  cease to act, and ask for the courage and the grace and the good sense to allow yourself to be acted upon.

it is God who has begun the work, and God who will keep it...