Dec 31, 2009


A thought for this New Year:

"Somehow our welcome into the Kingdom of God is tied to our welcome of others." Matthew 25, Luke 12 ~ Christine Pohl

Dec 30, 2009

Lonely. Depressed. Sick. Addicted. Stressed. Find Rest in Jesus

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.

Jesus says:

"Come. Come all of you who are sick and tired and stressed out. Those of you weighed down by life, those of you weighed down by your sins. Hey! You over there! Yeah, you who are spinning your wheels but find yourself only deeper in a rut. Hey Mr.! Hey Miss! I can see you're exhausted because of your rebellious child and are paralyzed by debt. I know that you lost your job and you're worried sick that you won't find another one before your bills and collectors swallow you up.

Lonely singles, come to me.

Those of you anxious to fit in at school, who feel disliked and misunderstood, come.

College student--you can't sleep because you're about to graduate and you're not dating anyone. You wonder about marriage--you don't want to live alone the rest of your life. You worry about finding a job in a bad economy along with the others who have been laid off. Come to me.

Addicts, addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, shopping, or approval, come to me. Come to me, all of you who feel trapped by your sins, who feel like life is a noose around your neck.

If you're depressed, even so bad that you can't get out of bed, come to me.

Those of you sick, fearing the diagnosis, come to me.

You may ask me, 'Jesus, why should we come to you and not go to a self-help book, money, careers, our drugs of choice, or someone else's arms?' And I tell you because I am gentle, not violent. I won't kick you when you're down or suck the life out of you. You get what I promise you--peace and rest. Everything else is just a mirage, an illusion in the desert. I am the oasis in the desert. I am real. I am Faithful. I am True. My peaceful ways are but a light burden, easy compared to the ones you are now carrying."

If you wonder what it means to come to Jesus, please reader, cry out to him. Find a Christian you trust. He or she can help you come. Ask for prayer and seek him out. He will not disappoint you, although his ways of bringing about peace in your soul may be different than you expected.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you, too. I leave you with the Message version of Matthew 11:28-30:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Dec 29, 2009

Does a Large Congregation Mean a Church and Pastor Are Blessed by God?

"On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

John 6:60 (NIV)

"From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." John 6:66 (NIV)

As we traveled south on I-75 in western Ohio, my husband Shawn and I wondered whether or not the following was true: huge church = blessing of God. A comment we heard by a popular preacher sparked the discussion. She said something like, "Small churches of 80-150 are that small because they're not being Jesus to others." She is the pastor of a very large church--a church with thousands upon thousands of people.

I get what she is saying. I believe she would say that Jesus attracted people to himself, so people (who are hurting and searching) would want to come to our churches if we were being Jesus to them. If people aren't coming to our churches, it's because we're not being Jesus to those around us.

I grant her point. But then I think about some mega-churches with thousands attending. It is probably true that these pastors are charismatic, good at amassing followers, and good at telling parishioners what they want to hear. Yet perhaps they're more in love with money, fame, and prestige. Because it just is the case that in some of these churches pastors don't share the gospel and good news of the kingdom; they share and spread heresy. The Old Testament indicates that the nation of Israel was full of false prophets who told people what they wanted to hear. Consequently, it should be no surprise that false prophets infiltrate our churches today (and they're not just in mega-churches!).

There are pastors of small congregations who are wonderful people and powerful preachers--who follow Jesus daily and still have tiny congregations. What gives?

Well, I am not completely sure and the answer to that question isn't within the scope of this little post. I will just say that Shawn and I concluded the obvious: huge church does not necessarily = the blessing of God. A corollary is: small church doesn't necessarily = curse of God.

Jesus had huge crowds following him. His popularity threatened the religious rulers of his day. However, in John 6, when he told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, many turned away. The number of followers shrank because of the offense of the gospel. The gospel is offensively good news.

If we are preaching and living the truth in our churches--following Jesus with our hearts, souls, strengths and minds, many will be attracted but some will be repelled.

Dec 24, 2009

Most Blessed Christmas To You! Take A Look Around

May the wonder of God with us invade your soul and the entire earth! We have perpetually good news!

Hey, please take a look around the up on some old posts. Perhaps you'll find something worthwhile. I'll be away from computer technology for several days up to a week. I'll post some time before the new year.

Thanks for stopping by!


Dec 23, 2009

God's Will

This is a snippet from Reverend Robert Arbogast's 4th Sunday of Advent Sermon at Olentangy Christian Reformed Church in Columbus, Ohio. He is a humble and gifted preacher and a wonderful person. If you would like to read more of his sermons, and I highly recommend it, just go to:

". . . people are always quoting Micah 6:8 about doing justice. But the whole set of verses there in Micah 6 are instructive for today's purposes. 'What should I offer to God?' That's the question. 'What should I offer to God? I'm not sure what God wants. A burnt offering of a thousand rams? Rivers and rivers of olive oil? Is that what God wants from me, something expensive like that? How about my own child, my first born? How about I do what Abraham almost did? Is that what God wants from me?'

That's the question and here's the answer: 'He has told you, he has told you what is good. He has told you what is required. You already know. Just do it!' Are we as ignorant of God's will as we sometimes tell ourselves we are, protesting the lack of a sign or clear signal from God, when we already know? Say I have a spare $150. I may think about buying a new "stompbox" for my electric guitar, even though I don't need one. Another option would be to send the money to the Open Door ministry in Kalazmazoo, Michigan, a ministry that helps vulnerable people get on their feet and take their place in society.

Well, don't I know what God wants me to do with my $150? Isn't it less a question of knowing what God wants than wanting what God wants? That's sure how it is for me. I know you can supply your own examples. Times in the past when you knew what God wanted but you didn't want what God wanted. Times in the past--and maybe you have an example right now, something that is haunting you because you know what God wants. And none of the excuses you've tried have worked, none of the attempts to forget what you know, what you know better than you want to. You know what God wants but you don't want it yourself. And you're ready to turn your back. Mary could have turned her back . . . . Mary could have said, "No!" But she said, "Yes!" She decided in faith to want what God wanted, whatever the price. A sword would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). You and I? We'll turn our backs because of inconvenience. We'll turn our backs because we have other plans, plans for the evening or plans for our lives. But Mary is our model, as is everyone who makes herself a servant of God's will.

Advent, the patient season, is nearly over. The time is upon us, the time to welcome the Lord. For you, for me, for the Church, the time has come. Time to do what we know. Time to put ourselves and what we treasure at risk. Time to trust God enough to welcome and to serve what God wants, and to learn in time to want it, too. Amen.

Dec 22, 2009

Joy Unspeakable

You give me joy that is unspeakable
And I like it, I like it, yeah
Your love for me is irresistable
I can't fight it, I can't fight it yeah,
You carried the cross and took my shame,
I believe it, I believe it, yeah
You shine the light of amazing grace,
I receive it, I receive it yeah . . . .

Lyrics above from the song "Joy" by the Newsboys

I throw my head back in laughter
as inklings of the divine
reverberate throughout me
I'm enraptured,
full of joy because of the implications
and benefits and glories of Christ's
incarnation, death and resurrection.
Immanuel, God with us! O the joy!
O the goodness of God.

My Magnificat.

May the divine inklings find you this Christmastide.

Dec 21, 2009

Perception Determines Theology

"Yet a time is coming and now has come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kinds of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and this worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:23,24 (NIV).

If our perceptions of God are inconsistent with his own revelation of himself, then we do not have an accurate understanding of him (granted, we will never completely be able to perceive him). If we worship the God of our fancy, we do not have an accurate understanding of him and our spirits are not worshiping in truth. Instead, we are worshiping a false image, an idol. Our view of God, in other words, our theology, will determine how we live. However, our perception determines our theology. And our theology will determine how we respond to God, ourselves, the world, others, and ideas. Thus, it seems that it is of utmost importance that we have the most accurate understanding (perception) of God that is available to us. All else turns on this.

Until Jesus touches our eyes again and again, we are like the blind man in the Scriptures who saw trees. His perception was skewed until Jesus touched his eyes a second time. Each time Jesus touches our eyes, truths, like the faces of the people in the gospel story, come into clearer focus. As Jesus touches our eyes, through his word, through creation, through others, through beauty, through the wisdom of the ages--we start to see God clearly and consequently, everything else clearly.

Dec 20, 2009

Reflections On Scripture - Fourth Sunday of Advent

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)

"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. . . . He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.'" Luke 1: 46-48, 52 Part of Mary's Magnificat (NIV).

What does it mean to walk humbly with God? I can think of a few things. We shouldn't promote ourselves and our agenda. Jesus said that the greatest ones in the kingdom of heaven would be the servants of all. We are not the ones who call the shots in our lives.

Walking humbly means that we patiently trust him and believe in him to work things out for good in our lives, even when we can see no good in our circumstances or in the circumstances of those around us. It means that we place our confidence in him and wait without striving, even when we are itching to take action on our own behalf despite God having forbidden us from doing so.

Walking humbly means that we assume people besides ourselves have words of wisdom to offer. We listen to others who disagree with us without dehumanizing them or clobbering them with our beliefs. It also means that we listen to ancient wisdom, not assuming that our denomination or stripe of Christianity represents the full breadth of God's wisdom.

It means being full of grace and truth like Jesus. And only Jesus can cultivate grace and truth in our lives. We need only be open to him (a disclaimer: God's cultivation of fruits in our lives such as grace and truth is often painful as he must till the hard and unplowed ground of our lives in order for us to flourish).

God elevates those who do not elevate themselves but elevate him.

We see how he elevated Mary. She was blessed among women for carrying and raising our Savior. As pastor Bob said this morning, God chose a girl in a backwater town--not (these are my words) a girl from the royal court. She had no connections, nothing to recommend her. But God observed her and chose her.

God observes us--our quiet and secret obediences--our struggles and doubts. Nothing before him remains unseen.

Are you struggling with waiting on God to promote you, to work in and through you? Wait on God. He promises to lift up those who humble themselves before him--in due time.

Do you have insights on what it means to walk humbly? If so, do share them with me and any others that stumble across this blog! We have much to learn from you.

May God's blessing rest upon you.

Dec 19, 2009

Head Into the Wilderness this Season

The wilderness in the Bible is always seen as the antithesis of society. It is the barren place where people have to go to hear God's word because there is just too much noise in society that drowns out God's voice. We know that John spent a lot of time in the wilderness, and that is why he knew about God's word. If you really want to hear the word of God, you too have to withdraw from the noise. That is why we keep inviting you to worship. Here you can hear sounds the busy world doesn't make. As your hurried life is calmed, at last you are prepared to hear the still small voice of God's word.

Craig Barnes

Dec 18, 2009

Inner Peace

The Holy Spirit kneads peace into our souls as we continually give up our worry and self-reliance--as we cease striving. Indeed, even though quietness is an unnatural state for most of us, those who place their utmost confidence in God find that the Holy Spirit, among other things, produces a spring of inner peace and tranquility that continually bubbles forth throughout their lives. And therefore the unnatural thing is unrest.

Dec 17, 2009

At Play In the Fields of the Lord!

I think about a lot of serious issues. I care deeply about the worldwide body of Christ. I want to be Jesus to others. Those who read my blog might ascertain a few things about me, like some of the issues I care about and think about. Perhaps some might think I am a killjoy 'nary ever allowing laughter to escape from my mouth. However, what you may not know is that I laugh a lot, that I find people, including myself, funny. I know God laughs a lot. He celebrates. One day there will be a great wedding feast, where entire nations and people groups will celebrate. I am sure there'll be singing and dancing and much laughter and much horseplay. I'll never forget what my pastor in Rochester, NY, Russ Palsrok, said on Sunday morning. He said that we could be sure that Jesus danced at weddings. Jesus did partake of the wine that wasn't mostly water. Up until that time, I had never pictured Jesus dancing. But that is what they did at Jewish weddings.

I think sometimes we forget that Jesus enjoyed himself in the midst of his calling. I wonder what Jesus found funny? The first question and answer in the Westminster Catechism calls us to love God and enjoy him forever. And an implication of loving and enjoying God is that we will love and enjoy others and life. That's part of being fully human. So, if those of you who do not know me personally have found me to be dour, I apologize. Those who do know me know that I am not.

Blessings this day!

Dec 16, 2009

Fighting Against Abortion Is Working For Social Justice Too!

I believe we will be judged for our casual indifference toward the children we allow to die through abortion. We're horrified at the WWII German people for allowing the Holocaust and the South for allowing slavery. We're nauseated by our massacre of Native Americans. But here we are, amusing ourselves to death in the midst of the abortion massacre. We are as guilty as the German people, the South, and those who oppressed and murdered the Native Americans. May God have mercy on us. May our children not ask why we Christians, collectively, didn't do more.

Dec 15, 2009

Preaching, Origen, and Arrows of God

"In his commentary on Psalm 36 Origen is talking of Christian preachers under the metaphor of arrows of God. 'All in whom Christ speaks, that is to say every upright man and preacher who speaks the word of God to bring men to salvation--and not merely the apostles and prophets--can be called an arrow of God. But, what is rather sad,' he continues, 'I see very few arrows of God. There are few who so speak that they inflame the heart of the hearer, drag him away from his sin, and convert him to repentance. Few so speak that the heart of their hearer is deeply convicted and his eyes weep for contrition. There are few who unveil the light of the future hope, the wonder of heaven and glory of God's kingdom to such effect that by their earnest preaching they succeed in persuading men to despise the visible and seek the invisible, to spurn the temporal and seek the eternal. There are too few preachers of this calibre.'"

From Michael Green's book Evangelism in the Early Church p. 245.

Oh that my words and life be an arrow of God!

Dec 14, 2009

Greedy Church Staff, Power, and Poverty

A friend of mine recently related some exceptionally disturbing details about her church. It has over a million dollar budget but spends 99.9% of it's money on itself (salaries and building). None of the money is going to missions. That's right, zero dollars in the budget for missions! Close to $25,000 is allotted to the phone plan. And under $15,000 is going to help those in the local community. $3,000 goes to the youth group. Are other outreach ministries in the church eating up the budget? Nope. They get nothing either.

My friend is wrestling with whether or not she should give to the church or just donate to ministries outside of her church. It's my opinion that she should not give to her church. Her money, and most of the parishioners' money, is going to salaries and a building. Don't get me wrong, I believe the worker should be paid her or his wage. But in this case, from what I understand, the workers are getting rich off of the church. They've forgotten the poor. In my opinion, giving to her church is like giving money to a corrupt organization or government. The whole situation is nauseating.

She confronted the pastor and staff about the complete lack of missions funding. They said they probably could find money for missions somewhere. Hmmm.

To me it looks like the staff doesn't want to give up their salaries and expensive lifestyle. My friend is convinced of the same.

In his book, Power and Poverty: Divine and Human Rule in a World of Need, Dewi Hughes makes a statement that makes me tremble. I provide the context and then highlight the statement:

"the creation of humankind in the image of God is reaffirmed and seen as the basis for a very high view of the value of human life, so that murder opens an account that can be paid only by the blood of the murderer. Cain was indeed Abel's keeper (Genesis 4:9b). Many Christians believe that this text means that capital punishment is the just response to homicide. To discuss this is beyond the scope of this book, but if poverty is primarily the result of oppression, then whose who cause the death of the poor through oppression are guilty of murder. The way we live in luxury in the minority world while millions die in poverty could well make us liable for the blood of the poor before God. Ignorance and a lack of intent can reduce culpability, but there could still be blood on our hands.

May God have mercy on us and may we, may I, in the name of Jesus, do what is right (not just say what is right) on behalf of the poor and powerless.

Dec 11, 2009

Beautiful Assurance From The Heidleberg Catechism

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Dec 10, 2009

There is Life

There is life in the desert. God brings life in the least likely places, even in the desert wilderness.

Dec 9, 2009

Howard Thurman on Hatred

Jesus and the Disinherited is one of the best books I have read. We were required to read it in seminary. I highly recommend it.

Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment. The urgent needs of personality for creative expression are starved to death. A man's horizon may become so completely dominated by the intense character of his hatred that there remains no creative residue in his mind and spirit to give to great ideas, to great concepts. He becomes lopsided.

~ Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited page 88.

Dec 8, 2009


Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives--healing, teaching, and guiding--we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention.

~ Henri Nouwen in Making All Things New

Dec 7, 2009

When Despair Grows In Me

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be -- I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

A quote from Wendell Berry

Dec 6, 2009

Prepare For The God Who Comes - Second Sunday of Advent Meditation

Luke 3:1-6

1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "[a]

Prepare the Way for the Lord!

In ancient times, inhabitants of cities built wide, straight, smooth roads when kings were coming into the city. The king had to have a special entrance. Craig Barnes tells us that:

One of the most exciting archeological digs going on in Israel is in Beit Shean which is uncovering a great Roman City. If you go there today you can see the main entrance into the city which is a wide, straight, even road, with magnificent columns on either side. That city is located at the juncture of the Jezreel and Jericho valleys. John the Baptist must have been by it all the time. Anyone traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem would have seen it. Everyone knew that a long straight road was what you made when a king was coming.[1]

The Romans spent a lot of time building good roads so that they could expand their empire. Roads were used as trade routes, for foot travel, and to move armies from place to place. And as I said earlier, the best roads were built to welcome the royal entourage. It is said that at the height of the Roman Empire, there were 53,000 miles of good road.[2] Of course the roads fell into disrepair when the empire crumbled. But some of those ancient roads are still used today, although they’ve been paved and repaved over and over again.

During Advent, we wait in joyful expectation preparing for the God who comes, for the God who is always coming as Carlo Carretto so beautifully put it. We need God to come because we are inclined toward destruction. Left to ourselves we make straight paths crooked and smooth places rough. We throw booby traps onto the road, make pot-holes or manholes that people fall into and can’t climb out of. Left to ourselves, we cut paths that depart from the way, the truth, and life without even knowing it, ending up God-knows-where. Left to ourselves, we become destroyers of the road and destroyers of all who pass by—robbing them, beating them up and even killing them. We pollute. We corrupt. We devalue the valuable and value the worthless. So you see, we desperately need the God who comes and is always coming and will eventually come to redeem all things.

I love my husband and daughter infinitely, but at times I say and do things that can destroy, things that mar the beauty of our marriage and family. I cringe as I think about a time when words that I meant for good, had an evil effect in the church, on a friend, because I didn’t think more about how to say them. And you know, as Coldplay sings, sometimes I wonder if I am part of the cure or part of the disease, the destruction. So you see, I desperately need the God who comes, who is coming.

John the Baptist has been considered by some to be the last Old Testament prophet. Although he wasn’t the Messiah, he paved the way for Jesus the Messiah. He was filling religious valleys and excavating spiritual hills and mountains. But his road construction didn’t just affect and threaten the gospel-less religious institutions, his message paved socio-political and economic roads that some didn’t want paved. He both intrigued and threatened Herod in the political establishment. However, neither Herod nor his wife would allow John the Baptist to build inroads. So eventually he lost his head, beheaded on the road to Zion. Sometimes that happens when you make ready the pathways for the Lord. And God will reward those who sacrifice their lives to pave the way for his coming.

John the Baptist still speaks. He speaks to us in the words of Isaiah the prophet in Luke chapter three and calls us to prepare the way for the Lord, to make straight paths for him so that every valley is filled in, and every mountain and hill is made low. Then the crooked roads will become straight and the rough ways smooth. But we’re going to have a hard go of it, a hard time making straight paths for others if we are all crooked inside. And all of us are crooked in some way.

It is said that the phrase, “I am stumped” comes from back in the day when tree stumps were left on wagon trails.[3] Apparently, when the trees weren’t completely taken out, when stumps were left, sometimes wagons got hung up on a stump, thus the phrase, “I’m stumped.”[4] Are we stumping Christ, stumping others or are we currently stumped?

This Advent, Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts asking if he can come in to make the rough places in us smooth. Are we going to be hospitable to God? Are we going to allow him to get to work and fill in the valleys and bring low the hills and mountains in our souls so that we can do the same in the world? We must. For as Saint Teresa of Avila says (as quoted in A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants):

Christ has
No body on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes
Through which is to look out
Christ’s compassion on the world;
Yours are the feet
With which he is to go about
Doing good;
Yours are the hands
With which he is to bless now.[5]

Missing His Coming

We know Christ came, is coming and will come again, but we need to remind ourselves that it is possible to miss his coming. Many who looked forward to his coming, missed it because he came unexpectedly. Most of the educated religious people of his day missed it. And today, we can miss him because we’re too busy. Too busy paving our own roads while claiming to be doing his work. Notice that the word of God came to John the Baptist in the desert. The desert wilderness was a place where people went to hear God.[6] Sometimes God sends us into the wilderness to get us away from our busy lives, so that we can hear him. Sometimes, we have to pack up and head there ourselves if we are to hear him. What I mean is, we have to have silence and solitude to hear God. It could be in our rooms or in a park in the city. But we have to make time to hear him speak.

Why? Because our incessant busyness puts us in grave danger of missing Christ when he comes. We want to advance ourselves, sometimes in the church or in Christian institutions. So we miss him as we play church or play at Christianity. It is a very real danger. In Matthew 25, at the end of the age, when Jesus rewards those who were hospitable to him, who noticed him when he came, he says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”[7] We can’t say, Oh Jesus, I wanted to, but I was too busy doing things (or paving my own roads) to welcome you when you came. He’ll tell us to depart, that we never knew him. May that never be for anyone here. May we not miss Jesus when he comes.

I close with a poem written by monk John L’Hereux reprinted in the book, Monk Habits For Everyday People by Dennis Okholm:

Christ came into my room
and stood there
and I was bored to death.
I had work to do.
I wouldn’t have minded
If he’d been crippled
Or something—I do well
With cripples—but he
Just stood there, all face,
And with that d—ned guitar.
I didn’t ask him to sit down:
He’d have stayed all day.
(Let’s be honest. You can
Be crucified just so often;
Then you’ve had it. I mean
You’re useless; no good
To God, let alone
Anybody else.) So I said
To him after a while—
Well, what’s up? What do you want?
And he laughed, stupid,
Said he was just passing by
And thought he’d say hello.
Great, I said, hello.
So he left.
And I was so d—ned mad
I couldn’t even listen
To the radio. I went
And got some coffee.
The trouble with Christ is
He always comes at the wrong time.[8]

Christ is coming this Advent, may we be prepared for his coming and pave the way for him to come into the lives and institutions and the world so that all humankind will see his salvation. Amen.


[1] Found online at:
[2] Found online at:
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ruben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants, (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1983), 22.
[6] Found online at:
[7] Matthew 25:34-37 NIV.
[8] Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits For Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2007), 88.

Dec 4, 2009

Cynicism To Joy ~ From Henri Nouwen

For me, it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental. They sneer at enthusiasm, fervor, and despise charismatic behavior. They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by "escapist emotions." But in belittling God's joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other's wounds, forgive each other's offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God's glory. Every moment, I have the chance to choose between cynicism and joy . . . . Increasingly, I am aware of all these possible choices, and increasingly I discover that every choice for joy in turn reveals more joy and offers more reason to make life a true celebration in the house of the Father.

From The Return of the Prodigal Son page 109.

Dec 3, 2009

Hunger for Fame and Power in the Church/ Obscurity

Speaking of John the Baptist, Scripture says,"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." Luke 1:80

In the December 1, 2009 issue of the Christian Century, Andrew Finstuan, in an article entitled: Where is Reinhold Niebuhr when we need him? This American mess quotes Niebuhr as saying, "men want power and glory as much, if not more than material possessions." I think Niebuhr was on to something.

Even in Christendom, within every church community, within every heart, there is the temptation to promote self instead of God. Our flesh and the devil and his minions can take a good desire, a desire to serve God, and twist it so that it becomes self-serving. At times we're so hungry for fame and recognition and power (control) that we are willing to act in our own strength, do whatever it takes, to achieve the ambitions of our hearts. Perhaps unknowingly, we seek to overthrow God by seeking the glory and power and honor that he alone deserves. It is a subtle temptation because our ambitions, our wills are cloaked in righteousness. However, should we be stripped of that cloak, we find that we are not purely righteous for we want to be superstar writers, pastors, monastics, social-justice activists, priests, servers, moms, fathers, musicians, holy men and women because we seek glory and power for ourselves. The church is merely our venue for glory and power grabbing.

As I mentioned, we're often not aware of our sometimes sinister motives, but let us remember Jesus' words in Mattew 7:21, ""Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." If we are to enter the Kingdom, we have to be obedient to his will, not our own. And sometimes we equate our own will with his. So how do we know the difference? We must be careful to listen for his voice and direction (through Scripture first and foremost, tradition--the Christian community now and throughout the ages, reason and experience).

And we must remember that the Lord often forges his vessels in the fires of obscurity. Abraham away from his people, Joseph in prison, Moses in the desert for forty years, David in the wilderness fleeing from Saul, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus for the first thirty years of his life.

Obscurity--God's school of humility and purification, transformation, renewal, and wisdom. In obscurity we grow and become strong in spirit as did John the baptist.

Perhaps we'll leave obscurity and enter public ministry. Perhaps not. Either way, God is the one who decides. God is the one who promotes. And God is the one who alone receives the glory. It would behoove us, behoove me, to remember that the person who would be greatest in the Kingdom will be servant of all. Our God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another.

Dec 2, 2009

The Gospel Isn't General, It's Specific

Here is short excerpt from Eugene Peterson's commentary on 2 Samuel 12:7 "You are the man!" from his book: Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians (another book I recommend!)

This is the gospel focus: you are the man; you are the woman. The gospel is never about somebody else; it's always about you, about me. The gospel is never truth in general; it's always specific. The gospel is never a commentary on ideas or culture or conditions; it's always about actual persons, actual pain, actual trouble, actual sin: you, me; who you are and what you've done; who I am and what I've done.

It's both easy and common to lose this focus, to let the gospel blur into generalized pronouncements, boozy cosmic opinions, religious indignation. That's what David is doing in this story, listening to his pastor preach a sermon about somebody else and getting all worked up about this someone else's sin, this someone else's plight. That kind of religious response is worthless: it's the religion of the college dormitory bull session, the TV spectacular, the talk-show gossip. It's the religion of moral judgmentalism, self-righteous finger-pointing, the religion of accusation and blame.

With each additonal word in Nathan's sermon, David becomes more religious--feeling sorry for the poor man who lost his pet lamb, seething with indignation over the rich man who stole the lamb. Pitying and judging are religious sentiments that can be indulged endlessly, making us feel vastly superior to everyone around us, but they're incapable of making a particle of difference in our lives. David, pitying and judging, becoming more religious by the minute, absorbed in a huge blur of moral sentimentality.

And then the sudden, clear gospel focus: you are the one--you . . . . David is now in the gospel focus. Addressed personally, he answers personally: "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). He abandons the generalities of religion. He quits giving out opinions on other people's lives, good or bad, realizes his position before God--a sinner! A person in trouble, a person who needs help, a human being who nees God.

~ Eugene Peterson in Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everday Christians page 185.

Dec 1, 2009

No Dream World In Christian Community

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but of the truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner the shock of this disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

The very wise words of Bonhoeffer in Life Together page 27. I am pondering them yet again.

Nov 30, 2009

C.S. Lewis On Pride..And A Little Comment From Me.

For Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.

Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, "Well done," are pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, "I have pleased him; all is well," to thinking, "What a fine person I must be to have done it." The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight in the praise, the worse you are becoming.

~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity page 112.

And I remind myself and my readers that it is much easier to see pride in others than in ourselves. We're astonished to find that this cancer dwells in places within us that we have never dreamed it would exist. When we discover it in ourselves or God points it out through someone else, may we call it what it is and ask God to cleanse us. It is a painful process.

Nov 28, 2009

Thoughts About How God Views His Children

We have returned from visiting Shawn's family for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time at his brother Chris' house. Chris and his wife Michelle hosted. I realize that food, fellowship, and ease are not things everyone here or throughout the world enjoy. I thank God for the blessings of food, shelter, and a loving family and hope to do what I can to help those that do not have these.

Just tonight I found a few thoughts I jotted down two days before my daughter, Iliana, turned two months old. It was on a scrap of paper so I am glad for the chance to record it here. Could it be that God sees us this way?

I hover over her face watching her as she sleeps.
I'm enamored. I gently kiss her cheek, startling her.
She's almost two months old, too little to understand
my good will. She cannot comprehend the depths of my
delight in her. My beautiful, beautiful child. Her lack
of knowledge doesn't affect the truth. My joy, my delight,
my child. You sleep peacefully while tears of love burst
forth from my tear ducts.

Angels declared peace on earth, good will to men.

Oh, we are so young, too young to understand the eternal
implications of God's love for us. But our lack of understanding
does not change the truth. As we live on in eternity, more and more
we'll perceive God's love. And such perceptions will gladden and comfort
our souls. And we will respond in great love and praise for our one God, Father,
Creator, Savior, Holy Spirit.

Nov 23, 2009

On Humility Trust and Stability

Here is a nourishing excerpt from Dennis Okholm's book: Monk Habits For Everyday People

Such trust that accompanies humility must characterize not only our relationship with God but our relationship with those in whose company we are being sanctified . . . the Benedictine vows of stability (staying in the community which God has called you) and conversatio moralis (daily turning to God) come into play. Whether the community is a monastery, a family, or a church, by remaining in the same community day after day, we are nearly forced to become humble. I cannot continue to wear the mask that hides my true self if I am with the same people on a regular basis. (Said differently, church-hopping is a useful practice if you want to nurture your pride.) When a group of folks are committed to mutual spiritual development, we can be transparent and vulnerable because we can trust that others will have our best interests at heart as they speak the truth in love to us. They will know us as we are and will lovingly force us to arrive at the same knowledge.

Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits For Everyday People pp. 77-78.

Nov 22, 2009

The Discipline of the Routine

Monotony. How we'd love to escape it. Cleaning our rooms, making our beds, doing dishes or laundry--none of these are very exciting. Yet, in the last several years, I've learned a thing or two about routine chores. For me, they are spiritual disciplines that fight against the sin of acedia. At least in my case, that is what laundry has come to be, an antidote to acedia (or sloth). When I do laundry, I do what I do not want to do, what I would rather put off or have someone else do for me. I should clarify--folding and neatly putting away the laundry is what I dislike doing. I have often contemplated hiring someone else to do my laundry and neatly put it away. Of course, I'd wash and put away the undergarments. But there is something about laundry in my life, it stacks up and has to be done over and over again, there is something about it that I find very tedious. I'll wash dishes or clean the bathroom or pick up...but laundry for me is a spiritual discipline.

At the end of her book, Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life, Kathleen Norris shares a collection of definitions of acedia. One that I found particulary helpful was by Jean Bethke Eishtain who has this to say about it:

I take sloth to mean not simply inactivity but acquiescence in the conventions of one's day: a refusual to take up the burden of self-criticism; a falling into the zeitgeist unthinkingly, and, in so doing, forgettng that we are made to [citing Karl Barth] "serve God wittingly, in the tangle of our minds." . . . Pride and sloth may seem to be antitheses but there is "profound correspondence"
between the Promethan and the "unheroic and trivial form of sloth" . . . Sloth is a type of escapism, an evasion of responsibility. . .

Yes, I'd like to flee the responsibility of laundry and do something that I find more interesting. But in doing laundry, I combat sloth or acedia, which is good for my soul.

I appreciate this book. And the above is but one definiton of acedia. I recommend that we read the book, for in reading it we see ourselves and learn about a sin that is prevalent but rarely spoken of.

Nov 15, 2009

Gone for the Week!

Dear Readers,

I'll be away from the computer for the rest of this week. I'll resume posting when I get back!

God's peace to you!


Nov 12, 2009

Restoration in the wilderness
God will make us new.

“I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten . . . . ” Joel 2:25a

Do past failures have such a grip on you that they define who you are today? Maybe like Israel you said, “It is no use! I love foreign gods and I must go after them” (Jeremiah 3:25). But now, yesterday’s bad decisions will not leave you alone. You are haunted by memories of what you did or failed to do. No one knows the pain you endure as you weep bitterly every night before you fall asleep. You lie dreaming of who you could be, but awake as the same person you were when you went to bed. Other Christians are too busy to listen, or they seem indifferent. For fear of rejection, you‘re not even sure that you want anyone to know who you really are. So you keep wearing the same old smile – the one you’ve worked so hard to paste on. Alas, you conclude that no matter how hard you try, the course you have set for yourself cannot be changed.

Dear one, maybe like Judah you are barren with nothing to offer. The locusts in your life have eaten up your joy, dreams, and purpose. According to the prophet Joel, the locusts had eaten up everything in Judah: “The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley because the harvest is destroyed” (Joel 1:10-11). The farmers and vine growers were told to wail because of what had taken place. The land was barren with nothing to offer its inhabitants. Without food for their animals or themselves, they would soon die. The Lord had allowed his judgment to fall on them because of their sin.

But, Ahhh! Let your mind and heart receive what the Lord says to Judah in chapter two, “ I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25a). What a beautifully refreshing promise! God was going to restore the land for his people although their suffering was the result of their own choices! He was going to repay them for what was lost!

He has proclaimed that he is, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin . . .” (Exodus 34: 6,7a).
He forgives you, so loosen your clutch on the past!
Let your compassionate and gracious God, the one abounding in love and faithfulness, instill truth into your heart and mind. In Jeremiah 32:27 he says, “I am the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?” Of course, the answer is, “No!” If nothing is too hard for him, then neither is your transformation . As well as restoring for Judah the years the locusts had eaten, God promised to take pity on his people and send them new grain, new wine, and new oil so they would be fully satisfied (Joel 2:18-19). He will do the same for you. Believe his promises.

Nov 9, 2009


You used me
and then
You treated me with contempt
Like a cigarette butt
you flicked me onto the ground
then delighted in slowly and
methodically grinding me into
the pavement.

Nov 8, 2009

Do I measure Things Like Jesus?

A Snippet From The Good Preacher Robert Arbogast's Sunday Sermon!

Mark 12:38-44 (The Widow's Mite)

It was festival week in Jerusalem. Large crowds of pilgrims had gathered, coming from near and far. Jesus and his disciples,fresh from Galilee, were among them.

I wonder what would happen if we measured things and if we measured people, including
ourselves, the way Jesus does. I’m guessing that we would be far less impressed with the rich and the famous than we are now. And isn’t it high time that we stopped listening to them and to their publicists, totheir constant reminders to us of how important they are, what with their academic credentials? Or with their financial credentials? Or with their political credentials? Or with their white teeth, clear skin, and big boobs credentials? We don’t seriously think any of that impresses Jesus, do we? And he’s probably not as impressed with us as we are either.

In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, young Greg Heffley is pretty impressed with himself. He thinks he’s one of the cleverest, kindest, sanest people around. But he’s a bit generous in that self-evaluation. I wonder how much of Greg Heffley is in me. Am I as generous as I think I am? Am I as thoughtful, am I as devoted, as I think I am? Am I even remotely aware of how little the Gospel has shaped my values? Aware that I have had a thousand teachers, each with their own
agenda? Aware that I am better at dropping Jesus’ name than at dropping everything to follow him?

But what would happen if we started to pay attention to people, like Jesus watching the people at the Temple treasury? What would we see if we dared to look a little deeper than the outward action? What would we see if we dared to look closely to discern the heart? Who would impress us then, especially if we tried to see the way Jesus sees? Would we be impressed by the person with the most money? By the woman with the longest legs? By the man with the fastest time in the 100? Or would we be impressed by the young man with multiple handicaps, sitting in his wheelchair, taking our tickets at the movies? Or by the illegal immigrant from Mexico who juggles three jobs to take care of her children? Or by the overworked, underpaid social worker who just won’t give up on kids?

And what would happen if we wanted somehow to impress Jesus ourselves? It’s probably too late for this year, but Jan and I were talking about this the other day. What if we decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner here, a dinner for people who have nowhere to go or nothing to eat, certainly not a feast, on Thanksgiving Day, a dinner not at some less-than-optimal time, but at prime Thanksgiving dinner time, so that our Thanksgiving Day is all about our neighbors who need a feast, and if we want a feast, we can eat with them, and if we want a family feast we can do it on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving Day? What if we decided that that was a good way to use this building and a good way to use our money and our time and our love? Of course, to get there, to get anywhere near any of this, we would have to change the way we measure things and change the way we measure people, including ourselves. And that’s no easy thing to do. It’s like trying to adopt the metric system.

But change the way you measure things, and you change the way you see the world. And the Gospel has everything to do with that.

Nov 7, 2009

I Am Too Busy To Love Others

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

John 13:34-35

Are we too busy to love other people, to busy to genuinely ask, "How are you?" and then listen patiently for a response? As I read through the gospels, it seems like Jesus was never in a hurry. But we seek to hurry our ministry, to hurry our loving--so we can check it off of our lists and feel good about ourselves, about our Christianity.

But God calls us to be truly present to those around us, not to everyone, but to those he brings along our paths. I am not saying we are not called to love those in other parts of our city or country or even those across the earth. Often, we send our love to those far away through prayer and giving. We send an emissary, it could be a missionary to them in the name of Jesus. Sometimes God calls us to go in person to Judea, Samaria, or the uttermost parts of the earth. And if he calls us to do so, we dare not disobey.

But if we are failing to even love those around us, to be present, because we are too busy, are we really obeying Jesus' command to love one another?

Of course loving others means we will take the much needed Sabbath rest and daily moments to commune with God. But if we are always running here and there, always over committed, always exhausted --just plain too busy to love--that means there is something intrinsically wrong with how we are living.

Nov 5, 2009

The Way of the Cross

"Jesus' life has a general narrative direction. We call this general direction the Way of the Cross. Jesus understood from the beginning that his was a life of sacrifice. His life flowed toward the cross at all times. He never climbed any first century ladders of success. The devil showed him plenty. The people begged him to climb them. Jesus rejected ladders and consistently chose the downward road of sacrifice."

From the Art of Pastoring by David Hansen

Nov 4, 2009

Something I read by Scot McKnight Meant So Much...

I read this on September 9, 2009 on Scot McKnight's blog: Jesus Creed. You can find it at

"The message of life threatens some in powerful places. Those who proclaim this message are not always in positions of power, and as such the powers that exist are threatened by the gospeling power of the insignificant ones empowered by God to preach and declare God's wonders. The apostles are in God's hands and protected by God's hands. A piece of theology very important in missional theology. There is nearly a pitiful irony in this: those in power are outdone by the power of God; those who deny resurrection are challenged by those who do; those who control sacred space can't control the space where God seeks to work." He was commenting on Acts 5:17-26.

This quote encouraged me because it reminds me that even though I am a woman, the gospeling power is at work in me to preach God's word and declare his wonders. I don't have to be in power for God to work mightily. The disciples were unknowns and regarded with contempt by the religious establishment. But, God still used them to speak his word and change worlds. Whoever you are, whatever your status, God can use you mightily for the good of those around you...including sinful institutions within your sphere of influence. Your gender, race, and economic status matter not to God. He gives grace to the humble.

Nov 2, 2009

Fully Alive In The Kingdom of God - This Is Me Now! I Re-posted This!

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” — Revelation 21:5

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
— 2 Corinthians 5:17

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. — John 10:10

Before the awakening I was doped up, anesthetitized — all senses numb to the world around me. Half-dead, like someone in a deep depression. Confused about what’s real, what’s not, who I am. The world, really my gross misconceptions of it, consisted of all that related to me — all that I deemed important. I believed reality corresponded to my own deadened perceptions. I was near-sighted. The world, mostly black and white, laced with grays. I saw shadows, but not the things themselves.

Colors — I lacked the sheer joy of seeing and experiencing their brilliant tones, their finely distinguished hues. I didn’t notice inimitable details in a flower or in a painting or in a face. I didn’t see particular shapes and trees and lives. On walks, I was concerned only with starting and finishing; I didn’t observe the distinctive playfulness, personality, and face of the dogs exploring the world. All ran together. All blended into a glob of gray. I had only heard about the goodness, love, incomprehensibility, mercy, grace, immanence, transcendence, salvation, and glory of God. I hadn’t tasted it. I’d get excited to taste test some new experience and found all I tasted to be dull — bland, bland, bland.

Unsatisfactory. In the end, meaningless — no richness or lingering taste in my mouth. Many times it was bitter, yet sometimes it was honey to my lips and poison to my system. Nothing was as tasty as it was made out to be.What I touched had no texture. If it did, I didn’t really feel it. Jagged edges, the furry, and the fluffy, hot or cold, soft and rigid — all pretty much the same. No fine distinctions. The touch of the Divine Presence upon me, upon the earth? His glory was muted. Yes, I thought the touch of the Almighty Presence was muted throughout the world, in some places non-existent. I smelled stale, polluted air. Coughing racked my lungs. Where was the pure fresh air?

But ever since Christ set me free from hellish captivity he has given me, as Henry Drummond writes, “the liberty to stop sinning, to leave the prison of my passions, and shake off the fetters of my past.” Ever since, I have been redeemed from the prison, saved, forgiven, I have been made and continue to be made fully alive, new. He has awakened me from the dead. Life, the world, is no longer about my interests. But he’s not doing that for me alone. He does that for all who allow him and for creation. The book of Romans tells us that animals, plants — all life forms groan for that redemption too. He is making all things new. He is redeeming me. He wants to redeem you — to show you what it is like to be human, the way he intended you to be. And he is redeeming creation. I see reality for what it is: it is about his motivation, his interests, his Kingdom — others. He is in the process of making all things new — people and this earth. I was blind, but now I see.

Now, I am continually silenced by the glory of God. My mouth hangs open in gaping wonder as the Great Almighty Presence, the one true God, through Christ, haunts my every waking moment. He clings to each of my thoughts. Holy Spirit Wind, Pneuma, kisses my face, rustles through my hair and I see evidences of the Spirit blowing through, touching the lives of peoples and institutions and creation. God, in the Spirit of Christ, calls me to love my neighbors, all those around, and he wants to redeem peoples and earth through me and through those in the kingdom.Ah! I inhale, I breathe pure Holy Spirit air. My lungs are made strong. I see colors, particularities, details, God seeping through all things — he’s not the same as his creation, but his fingerprint is everywhere. He captures me, vivifies me with his presence. I’ve tasted his love and goodness and transcendence, and immanence, and salvation. God’s pleasures and sorrows are mine.So now what? He hasn’t called me to live for myself, but for his pleasure and sorrow. I have an assignment in the kingdom. And so do you. He wants to make you fully alive. He wants you live for his motivations, interests, pleasures and pains. In short, he wants to make you like Christ. This is the God of the universe, who calls you to have life in Christ. This is the God who calls you to love him, enjoy him, and enjoy all that emanates from him forever. He has your best in mind. Too many Christians and those who know little about him see him as stingy and harsh and overbearing — not as the God he claims to be. See him for who he is. See reality for what it is. Live in him — be fully alive.

Oct 31, 2009

Quotes From Edward John Parnell

I am reading through an old journal, my journal from late 2007 and 2008. Apparently, I read a book called The Kingdom of Love and Pride of Life by Edward John Parnell. I don't remember reading it, but I found some lovely quotes and now I want to read it again. I think the book was written in 1960. I imagine I plucked it off of my mother-in-law's book shelf. She has saved all of her college books and textbooks and also those of my now deceased father-in-law. It pays to write down quotes and their sources. Now I can go back to the book!

"A happy life is a shared life." p. 44

"Fellowship is a vital sharing of lives." p. 46

"A person's secrets remain hidden until he chooses to reveal them, and he will only reveal them when he is treated like a person." p.47

"The more we love a person, the more we know him." p.48

"A child is . . . content to accept things as they are." p. 49

Also, today I headed an hour 20 minutes west to Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana for a Writing Colloquium. I really appreciated the seminars I attended and the people I met (many from Ohio, not all Quakers, but I did love the many Quaker brothers and sisters that I met). Also, Julia Kasdorf's talk (she is a poet) gave me a lot to think about. When I go to a writer's conference, I see and feel that I am truly a writer. I thank God for that confirmation.

Two things that I like about Indiana: St. Meinrad's Monastery and Earlham School of Religion's Writer's Colloquium. Yay!

Oct 30, 2009

Jesus Asleep In The Boat

"And a great storm developed on the sea so that the waves began to swamp the boat. But he was asleep." Matthew 8:24

I always wondered how Jesus could sleep on the stern of the boat with water spraying his face, in the midst of howling winds and rain, thunder claps, and bolts of lightning that threatened to electrocute anyone or anything within striking distance. I am sure the disciples were shouting instructions over the howling wind, instructions for keeping the boat afloat. It seemed humanly impossible for him to be sleeping. But, if I think further, than I think "not necessarily." I know girls who have slept through fire drills. Jesus was probably so exhausted that the weather conditions didn't rouse him right away. And also, he didn't fear the elements because he knew that his Father was in control of all things.

The more mature our faith, the more trust and calm we exhibit in the midst of the most terrifying storms in life. But maybe not at the onset of the storm. At the outset, we might have little faith like the disciples. But as we are open to God's infusion of grace into our lives, as we read Scripture, and pray, and commune with the body of Christ and remember all the times that God has been faithful to us in our lives, we'll exhibit a calm, a confidence in our God, despite the hell around us or in us (by in us, I think of diseases or mental illnesses, or fears that rise up).

We shouldn't be overly upset if the storm initially strikes terrifying fear into us. But when that fear comes, we need to go to God, go to his word, go to the body of Christ, that we might be reoriented. As time goes by, we'll be astounded at God's grace that brings about the peace that is beyond all comprehension, a peace in the midst of humanly terrifying conditions. Temptations not to trust God will come, but let us remain steadfast in our trust.

When we do, it shows that we have matured and continue to mature.

Oct 29, 2009

Genuine Fellowship

There is no truth towards Jesus without truth towards man. Untruthfulness destroys fellowship, but truth cuts false fellowship to pieces and establishes genuine brotherhood.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Oct 28, 2009

I Have Engraved You On The Palm Of My Hands

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands: your walls are every before me" (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Be nourished by the word of the Lord. I do not need to write anymore.

Oct 27, 2009

The Discipline of Waiting

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

I think one of the hardest things to do is wait on God. We might start off confident in our waiting, but when God takes longer than we dreamed possible--we start to fall apart at the seams. Do we realize that the saints in Scripture spent most of their time waiting on God?

Think of Noah. God told him to build an ark. He built it by faith. I believe Scripture says it took him 400 hundred years to build it. I wonder if at any time during the building process he doubted? I think he must have. I think he must have wondered if he was out of his mind, a lunatic. I am wondering if the taunts and scoffs ever became almost unbearable for him? He believed that God told him to build the ark, however, he had no proof that it was going to rain, no proof besides God's word to him. I bet you at some point he wondered whether it was his own voice that told him to take on the building project or whether it was God's. But he didn't turn back. He kept on, even if he did have some doubts. God fulfilled the promise. And like I reminded all of us in an earlier post--Abraham had to wait 25 years for Isaac. David had to wait between 14 and 20 years to become king after Samuel anointed him as king. Job waited for God to answer him after everything was taken away. Jesus waited 30 years in obscurity before commencing the public road to his death and resurrection.

Waiting is a spiritual discipline. During our wait, who we are comes to the surface: our doubts, our impatience, our lack of faith. But also, good things come to the surface like our ability to persevere in the midst of trials because of the grace of God.

Most of the time we feel we can't wait another second for the Lord to answer. We want to take matters into our own hands. That is spiritually ruinous. And some of us have been ruined by our impatience. And so we need to be redeemed. Others of us know that to take matters into our own hands spells spiritual death on a certain level, but we're chaffing at having to wait.

I know it is hard to wait. I myself am waiting now for several things. But I want to encourage you, encourage myself, encourage a friend that I just spoke with of this truth. God acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

Do not do anything rash. Don't give up. In time (I am not sure how long though) you'll see the answer to prayer--you'll see God's salvation on the horizon. If you are weak or doubting, turn to the body of Christ for support. If you cannot pray, let others pray for you. God gives grace to the humble, a bruised reed he will not snuff out!

Oct 26, 2009

In Our Good Behavior We're Liable to the Baddest Sins

Here is an excerpt from Eugene Peterson's very good book Under The Unpredictable Plant (page 31).

"Here it is again, one of the oldest truths in spirituality, with special variation ins pastoral ministry: it is in our virtuous behavior that we are liable to the gravest sins. it is while we are being good that we have the chance of being really bad. It is in this context of being responsible, being obedient, that we most easily substitute our will for God's will, because it is so easy to suppose they are identical....When we are being obedient and successful pastors we are in far more danger than when we are being disobedient runaway pastors. To give us proper warning, the story of Jonah shows Jonah obedient far more unattractive than Jonah disobedient: in his disobedience he at least had compassion on the sailors of the ship; in his obedience he has only contempt for the citizens of Nineveh."

While Peterson is talking to pastors, how might this apply to us? Here is one is when things are going well, when we are successful, that we have the highest chance of developing hubris--pride --arrogance. We more easily become enamored with ourselves and our own ventures. I am not going to give anymore away, but I'll let you think about it.

Your insights are welcome!

Oct 25, 2009

Your Kerith Ravine

In I Kings 17, Elijah the prophet tells Ahab that there will be a famine in the land and that it won't rain again until Elijah says so. Immediately following his proclamation, the Lord sends Elijah into hiding in the Kerith Ravine. There the Lord sends ravens to feed him and has Elijah camp by a brook where he can drink water. When the brook drys up, the Lord sends Elijah to the house of the widow in Zerapeth.

Perhaps you feel as if you're in a spiritual dry place, like there is a famine in your soul. You believe in God and trust him, but there is nothing--you sense nothing. You worry that you won't be provided for, that your soul and your life will wither. All your attempts to help yourself have been in vain. You are exasperated. You fear that you'll fall into despair.

Tonight, it is close to 12:30 a.m. as I write, I want to encourage you to cease striving. Do the next thing in front of you. If you can read Scripture wonderful, but if you cannot even do that, if you cannot even pray--allow God to minister to you as he did to Elijah. He will feed you through friends, speak to you through creation, and in many and often unforeseen ways, he will provide for you. He will meet your needs.

Elijah didn't really do anything in the Kerith Ravine. He just rested. And that is what you need to do right now. Cease striving. Perhaps the most godly thing you could do right now for yourself and those around you is get rest. Take naps.

If your life and circumstance allow, participate in holy leisure. Allow God himself to minister to you.

Oct 24, 2009

As Kingfishers Catch Fire...(Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places)

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim and roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad it's name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the feature of men's faces.

Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Oct 23, 2009

Musings of a Wannabe Author

So I am a writer ( alot more than that of course). That is what God has called me to do. I've spoken my writing on radio and it has been well-received. I have spoken my writing at churches and retreats and it has been well-received. I have spoken my writing at seminars and it has been well-received. I've sent my book proposals to two major Christian publishing houses and they've said I am an excellent writer, like the best in my field...but I am a nobody (those are my words), I don't have an audience built no go on publishing. The content and quality of the writing aren't enough. I have to have an audience before I write the book.

You know, I don't fault the editors, and I thank them for highly commending my writing. Their commendations are a beautiful, beautiful, gift since I didn't go to school to be a writer. I am sure there are books these editors want to see published. But they are thwarted in their recommendations because the publishing houses don't want to take a risk on a new author. The bottom dollar is what counts. You could be a bad writer and have bad theology but be well-known and people will buy your stuff because they know who you are. This whole thing, it is a business. However, I am still sad that the content and quality of my writing don't count, don't count for enough just now. Am I to be inauthentic in trying to garner an audience and notoriety just to get a book deal? Do I spend time into inauthentically trying to make myself into a Christian superstar just to sell a book? I don't think I can do that. Understand that I am not saying that everyone who is published is doing that but some are.

God is taking me through the wilderness of his calling on my life. Hopefully, that'll make my writing better and enable me to pass on what he is teaching me.

And I say to you, take courage in whatever God is calling you to do or be. He tests our callings. David was anointed by Samuel as king of Israel. However, it would be 14-20 years from the time he was anointed until the time he took the throne. You'd think that his ascension to the throne would quickly follow on the heels of his anointing. But it did not. He was in hiding, pursued by Saul, hounded by others. I bet you he wondered, "Were Samuel or I out of our minds? Did God really call me to be King? If he did, he sure has a funny way of going about it." That is how I feel right now, "Did God really call me to write? To pass on what he has taught me? He has a funny way of going about it." I'll keep you updated on the developments. It is completely a faith walk in the wilderness--on the journey through this life. But know that what I am going through and what you are going through as far as our callings being tested is nothing new. Joseph went through it, Moses went through it, David went through it, Jesus went through it, and many other people in history have gone through it.

In the mean time, until God fulfills his author plans for me, I hope to write on the blog more frequently. The lapses in blogging are due to me sending out book proposals or working on my drafts. Both take a lot out of me and a lot of prayer.

Peace in the name of our Lord.

Oct 7, 2009

Obey First...Know Later?

"If anyone chooses to do God's will, then he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." John 7:17.

This is a very interesting verse. Jesus is basically saying, "You want to know if I am who I claim to be? Then obey God's will, choose to obey in thought, word, and deed, and you'll find out if I am who I claim to be." But perhaps someone will say, "I don't know God's will." I'd say read the Scriptures to find out the basics. Consult church history, tradition, and a wise community. We know that ultimately God desires us to love him and love others...not one or the other. So then our next task is to do that.

But perhaps we have a specific question about his will not addressed in Scripture like who should we marry or are we going to get married or what job should we take...such questions can take us right back around to what Jesus said in John 7:17 though not as a direct application. We can flesh this principle out from that verse: Obey God in what you know he wants you to do for today and then he will cast light on the next step, so that you know what to do next. The Lord doesn't usually write down our future like he did on the wall for the Babylonian King Beltshazzar. He says, "Obey me first, trust me first, and I will reveal the next step." Rarely does he reveal his plan without our obedience and trust. In the Christian life it seems to be Obey Then Know. It is the Christian Epistemology.

Sep 30, 2009

New Blog

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their faith, struggling with following Christ, please go to

Sep 21, 2009

Sermon Info.

If you would like to read or listen to good sermons from Robert Arbogast at Olentangy Christian Reformed Church in Columbus Ohio, go to: Robert Arbogast is a wonderful shepherd.

A Personal and Peripheral Faith Only? No Way!

This was from a sermon by Robert Arbogast at Olentangy Christian Reformed Church in Columbus Ohio. The sermon was delivered September 13th and entitled: Satan's Stand-in:

"In so many ways, we have reduced the Christian faith to the merely peripheral and personal. Not that the peripheral and personal don't matter. They do matter. But they are not the point, the main point. You don't think, do you that Jesus died so that you would be nice to your neighbor? Or so that you wouldn't look at internet porn? Sure, those things matter. But they're not the main point. Here's a clue about that. Will being nice to your neighbor put you on a cross? Will abstaining from internet porn put you on a cross? Of course not! But get caught hiding your neighbor from Nazi occupation forces, and you will feel a cross on your shoulder. Stand with Martin Luther King Jr. to announce a biblical vision of justice and to demand it for all, and you may wind up on a cross. Or a cross may wind up on your front lawn, in flames. I wonder how Jesus wants us to deny ourselves today. And I wonder what crosses we may have to carry. Can we avoid those questions? Aren't they essential questions for people who follow Jesus, or claim to follow Jesus? Aren't they central questions? Self-denial and a cross certainly were central and essential for Jesus."

Sep 16, 2009

A Servant of All

Last year, I asked the Lord to make me a servant. I just ran across these words from Edward F. Markquart's sermon entitled: Having the Heart and Hands of a Servant. You can access it online at:

"A servant always has a loving heart and working hands. Both the heart and the hands. Not just the heart of a servant who sees the needs of others. Not just a heart who feels the pain of those who lost their homes to the hurricanes. Not just a heart who empathizes with those who have lost their jobs, income and insurance. Servants always have good, loving and generous hearts, but they also have hands to do the dirty work. Hands that clean up the tables. Hands that do the dishes. Hands that actually help people in their needs."

God has begun answering my prayer by making me more of a servant and showing me how I would rather be the Master and call the shots rather than take orders I don't like. God always mortally wounds my pride--pride I don't know I possess until I am awakened to its presence by its shrieks of death that result from it receiving God's death blows. If you were to peek behind the veil of my soul, you'd see pride splattered all about and the Lord cleaning up the bloody mess. The Lord, who is truly the servant of all, is cleaning up my mess. He is cleaning me. Here I see the Lord again, being the servant of all, serving me, a most undeserving child.

Sep 12, 2009

When Discouragement Sets In...

It is imperative that we recall God's goodness to us throughout our lives. Otherwise we'll focus on the negatives, on the negatives in the life, on the negatives in our current situation. When we are discouraged, our eyes are quickly drawn to the darkness. Amazingly, it is the human way (sin) to be discouraged or discontent even when in paradise. If we find ourselves in that situation, it means something is off spiritually. But we can give ourselves to God, prayerfully read Scripture and prayerfully recall all the ways in which he has blessed us, never abandoned us, and it will give us perspective. If we are in a slump, such recollection will reorient us. Also, we should let friends or godly people know what is afflicting us. That way they can speak truth to us, pray for us, and help to give us the right perspective. Do not dwell in discouragement alone. May you be encouraged by God dear brothers and sisters.

Sep 8, 2009

On intolerance

"It's difficult to argue with a straight face that Christians are unfairly accused of intolerance when I so often see the very attitudes of diseased intolerance . . . . Suspicion, mean-spiritedness, aggressive ignorance, close-mindedness, primitive anger, and refusal to dialogue."

Daniel Taylor as quoted in the CRC Banner pg. 20

Sep 5, 2009

Words From A Friend...

Marlena, I wish I could find more Christians in the Church.

Aug 30, 2009

Some Words From Carlo Carretto

God is always coming, and we, like Adam, hear his footsteps. God is always coming because God is life, and life has the unbridled force of creation...God comes because God is light, and light may not remain hidden. God comes because God is love, and love needs to give itself. God has always been coming; God is always coming.

~ In God's Footsteps

Aug 28, 2009

A Good Quote From Frederick Buechner

"There is the slow poisoning of what we call 'the environment' of all things, as if with that antiseptic term we can conceal from ourselves that what we are really poisoning is our home. It is no wonder that the books and newspapers we read, the movies and TV we watch, are obssessed with the dark and the demonic, are full of death and violence. It is as if the reason we wallow in them is that they keep our minds off the real death, the real violence. And God knows the Christian faith has its darkness and demons too, so discredited by religious crooks and phonies, so distorted for political purposes, and in thousands of respectable pulpits proclaimed so blandly and shallowly and without passion, that you wonder sometimes not only if it will survive but even if it deserves to survive. As a character in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters puts it, 'If Jesus came back and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.'"

Aug 27, 2009

The Way of the Cross

"Jesus' life has a general narrative direction. We call this general direction the Way of the Cross. Jesus understood from the beginning that his was a life of sacrifice. His life flowed toward the cross at all times. He never climbed any first century ladders of success. The devil showed him plenty. The people begged him to climb them. Jesus rejected ladders and consistently chose the downward road of sacrifice."

From The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen

Aug 26, 2009

Jesus' Temptations and Temptations We Face...

Soon I will begin contemplating Jesus' temptations in the wilderness and how we are similarly tempted. I know much has been written about this across the centuries, but I too would like to reflect on it as I read what others have written. As I preach to myself, perhaps you may gain some nourishment from it. I did a quick google search on it and found this short gem from the Rev. William D. Oldland at: Speaking of the temptation for power he says:

Another name for this temptation is control. We want control over everything around us. We want people to notice us. We want the accolades. I call this the E.F. Hutton syndrome. When we walk into a room or say something our desire is for people to notice us. This temptation is very powerful. It occurs in homes and families. It occurs in business. It takes place in churches. Look at me. Look at all the things I do in the church. Look at how important I am in my own world. Another way this temptation rears its head is in addiction. We think we can control alcohol, drugs, sex, the compulsion to make money, or any other addiction. We are in control and nothing can control us.

Aren't we all guilty of this? At one time I didn't think power was a temptation for me. Ha! Usually when I don't think that I struggle with something I soon find that I do.

As I reflect and hear from God on this topic, I hope to post my reflections. I am open to hearing from you, too.

Thank you.

Aug 24, 2009

Isolation, Sickness & Spiritual Health (Re-published)

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25

What happens when we are isolated from the body of Christ (even other denominations), or from people in general? Mal perceptions. In the absence of healthy others, ill-informed emotions and opinions emerge. We desinegrate into neurosis, perhaps without even knowing. It is impossible to be spiritually, emotionally, or physically healthy when we spend our days alone because there's no one to tell us we're wrong, in left-field, no one to encourage us when we need it most.Life-giving nourishment comes from being immsersed in the body of Christ. Probably the only reason that we would withdraw from the body is if we're homebound for one reason or another. Otherwise, let us not merely attend church, but immerse ourselves in the body. Our health depends on it.

Aug 23, 2009

Truthfulness, Untruthfulness, & Brotherhood - Bonhoeffer

There is no truth toward Jesus without truth towards man. Untruthfulness destroys fellowship, but truth cuts false fellowship to pieces and establishes genuine brotherhood.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship

Aug 22, 2009

Jaded By Christians (An Oldie But Goodie Re-published)

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." ~ Isaiah 42:3a

You’re in a swirl of darkness. You experience soul-searing pain. Open wounds. Not only from your own pain, but from the countless injustices and atrocities around you. Numb. Your soul is numb. Your faith fragile. One wrong move and you’ll fall to pieces. You can’t see God through the fog of his people. Jesus said that people would spot Christians by their love, if that’s the case, then you couldn’t be surrounded by Christians because these people are selfish, stubborn, mean and angry. Grinding all sorts of axes. Tunnel-visioned. You’re disillusioned, don’t know what to believe or if you believe. “Is God who he says he is? Is what I’ve been taught about him true?” you wonder. Moreover if God is good and loving why so much evil, pain, and suffering? Why so many professing Christians who are nothing like Jesus? What can be done for you? Is this all there is? You fear falling into the bottomless abyss of unbelief. What you don’t want, what you don’t need is someone to quote Bible verses to you. Giving you pat answers. You bristle at the thought. You know what? Jesus isn’t that way. He doesn't kick you when you're down. But he asks, “What can I do for you?” Jesus came to reconcile you and all of creation to God. He wants to show you how to live, to make you whole--fully human. And he will walk with you as you heal. He knows the pace you can manage. He will sharpen your perceptions of reality through his word, through Christians who behave(d) like him, and through creation's graces. He'll answer many questions, and make you okay with not knowing the answers to others. He'll pour his life into you as you follow him. In turn you'll live your life to serve God and others. It's not the end for you. Right now, the best thing you can do is trust him and relax in his arms even if you can't pray or go to church or serve (he knows all this). He'll bring you around to truth and life and comfort.

Aug 21, 2009

From The Spiritual Life By Evelyn Underhill

"So those who imagine they are called to contemplation because they are attracted by contemplation, when the common duties of existence steadily block this path, do well to realize that our own feelings and preferences are very poor guides when it comes to the robust realities and stern demands of the Spirit. St. Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops. Nothing was farther from their intention. St. Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his hermitage on the Farne; but he did not often get there. St. Francis Xavier's preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St. Ignatius. At a few hours' notice he was sent out to be the Apostle to the Indies and never returned to Europe again. Henry Martyn, a fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual life to which he was so perfectly fitted for the missionary life to which he felt he was decisively called. In all these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life. Yet in all we recognize not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement. Thing like this--and they are constantly happening--gradually convince us that the over-ruling reality of life is the Will and Choice of a Spirit acting not in a mechanical but in a living and personal way; and that the spiritual life does not consist in the mere individual betterment, or assiduous attention to one's own soul, but in a free and unconditional response to that Spirit's pressure and call, whatever the cost may be."

Aug 19, 2009

Taking Up My Cross (Republishing A Few Oldies But Goodies"

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39

I daily pledge to follow Christ closely. But now that he has given me a heavy cross, I balk. I realize that I wanted to pick and choose my cross. The cross that I am currently bearing isn't the one I would've selected. It's unbelievably harder than I imagined. I left all to answer this call, I sacrificed my Isaac, but now I'm complaining daily about it. I have a bad attitude.You know, I always thought I would've been Caleb or Joshua in the wilderness. Yet upon reflection, even though I never would've dreamed it possible, I am convinced that I would've died in the wilderness with most of the Israelites. Why? Because I've treated God with contempt by complaining which displays ugly unbelief.

When we ask God to give us our daily bread, one thing we are asking for is the nourishment that will provide the strength for us to carry our cross to our death. After he puts to death in us what he will, he'll raise us to new life. That's what I believe. That's what I remind myself of today. I need strength for today, tomorrow has enough evil of its own (Matthew 6:25-33).

"When we follow Jesus, it means that we don't know exactly what it means, at least in detail. We follow him, letting him pick the roads, set the timetables, tell us what we need to know but only when we need to know it . . . . When Jesus says 'Follow me' and we follow, we don't know where we will go next or what we will do next, that is why we follow the one who does know."--Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way p.240

Aug 18, 2009

The Art of Being Poor

The art of being poor is to trust in God for everything, to demand nothing--and to be grateful for all that is given.

John Chrysostom

Aug 17, 2009

Near Death Again...

I'm 31. But I think about death a lot. I am not morbid; what I mean is that I often think about the fact that every hour, every minute that goes by brings me a moment closer to my physical death. And I think things like, "Lord, what kind of life have I lived, and won't you live through me that I might make an eternal difference in this world? I am but dust, a passing breeze that does not return." I thought about death again Saturday night 8/15/09. Shawn and Iliana stayed home that night, because Shawn was preparing for a trip to Europe.

It had been a very full two weeks, as it is every year in preparation for students. I packed in four weeks of work into two weeks. On my way back from church on Rte. 72 a white chevy pickup truck stopped in front of me to turn left. As I waited for it to turn, I looked in my review mirror and realized that the old blue Suburban behind me, filled with four young people (in their late teens or early twenties that I had passed on a two-way earlier) didn't realize I stopped. I thought, "I'm a goner. I'll be smashed to a pulp into the rear end of that pickup." I estimated that they were traveling about 65mph. When they saw me and the truck in front of me, they swerved right to avoid me and oncoming traffic. They careened into the cornfield going very, very fast. As soon as the pickup swerved into the cornfield, I found a good spot and pulled over. I started to dial 911 and then heard the engine reving. Before I hit 'send' on my cell phone they backed out. I asked them if they were okay and they gave me a thumbs up sign. They drove away. Shawn and I drove by later on and he noticed that they barely missed being wrapped around the telephone pole. God spared my life and he spared theirs. I don't know anything about them. But I prayed for them. That Christ would be made real in them if they don't know him. And I thought about how God protected me again. It wasn't my moment to die. May Christ live his life through me, may his streams of living water flow through me into the lives of others. And I pray the same for you. We know not when we'll breathe our last. Amen.

Aug 8, 2009

Forsaking Everything For His Own Prestige

"In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, [Lucifer] could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige."

~ C.S. Lewis in A Preface to Paradise Lost

Jul 30, 2009

Fellow Believers: Our Brothers and Sisters and Enemies

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they're generally the same people."

G.K. Chesterton

Jul 25, 2009

Thought Provoking Words from George MacDonald

"Never did she question the truth of what she heard, and she became skilled in its arguments and forms of thought. But the more familiar one becomes with any religious system, while the conscience and will remain unawakened and obedience has not yet begun, the harder it is to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Such familiarity is a soul-killing experience."

~ from The Lady's Confession p. 62.

Jul 24, 2009

Watching the Clock Tick Away

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." Luke 16:10

This is a Repost from 7/2009

Last night as I lay in my warm bath, I was again wondering when God would fulfill a promise he made to me. I wonder about this promise much of the day everyday. And while I trust God that he will bring it about, I also do what is in my power to move towards this calling. But the waiting is diffcult and I wait in anticipation for the day when I'll no longer be waiting.

As I continued to lay there and ponder, the Lord brought this thought to me. "Marlena, your incessant pondering about this is like a student who sits in a classroom just itching for class to be over. All she does is glance up at the clock without really listening to what the professor is saying. Although present in the classroom, she is disengaged and learning nothing, all because her attention is on the clock--waiting for class time to wind down because she'd rather be somewhere else."

While my eyes are on the fulfillment of his promise, they are not on him. And I am therefore disengaged or not fully engaged with the rest of life. I am not fully paying attention to life right in front of me -- as if everything else in life doesn't matter as much as the fulfillment of the promise. That is idolatry, for I am loving the gift more than the giver. And I am missing out on so much. I must live the blessed life, not just ponder a future blessing yet to be revealed.

Who knows? God might take 25 years to fulfill his promise to me as he did with Abraham. Or it could be much sooner than I think. Only he knows when the fullness of time will be. Until then, I repent and ask God to give me the grace to be fully engaged right now. For as Jesus said, if he can trust me with the little of the everyday, he can trust me with very much. Can he trust me?

Note: This prayer is still unanwered and yet I seek to live in the sacrament of the present moment.