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To God be the Glory

What is the meaning or purpose of life? What are we here for? The Westminster Confession of Faith addresses this aeons old question this way: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Notice there's nothing there about self esteem or success or "victorious living." Those things might be part of your specific package deal, but for the Reformers, the purpose of our existence is to bring glory to God and enjoy His presence. This is undeniably personal, but it is also undeniably theo-centric (God-centered).

This week I and others praised the Pennsylvania Amish community for their radical grace in response to the most heinous of murders. This humble community of Jesus followers demonstrated an openness and an obedience and a willingness that puts most of our feeble attempts at Christlike living to shame. But that's sort of beside the point. Because as much as the Amish are due honor for their granting forgiveness, we must be careful that it is not the Amish who are glorified. What they did would not have been possible without the work and power of Jesus Christ.

So the media -- including some Christian bloggers -- is providing analysis that is deceptively inaccurate. The Amish deserve kudos, but God deserves the glory. What happened in Pennsylvania in the wake of that tragedy is not only or primarily a testament to the humility, faithfulness, or meekness of the believer; it is a testament to the inestimable grace of the Almighty God.

We Christians today are accustomed to commenting on the strength or size of our faith and the faith of others. When someone overcomes impossible odds, we may say, "She had so much faith." When someone fails -- maybe it's ourselves -- we are tempted to think, "Maybe he (I) didn't have enough faith." I won't discount the necessity of faith. How could I? It's all over the Scriptures. We are justified through our faith. But did you know even your faith is a gift from God? That's right. Your faith, big as a mountain or small as a mustard seed, is there because God willed you to have it.

Last week I shared with my church small group and with the readers of BCC is Broken a message by John Piper called Sustained by All His Grace. An excerpt:
[W]e really do work, but all our working is the fruit of enabling grace. Paul explains this in Philippians 2:12b-13:
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

We work, but when we have worked by faith in God's enabling future grace (rather than for the merit of the law), we turn around and say about our work, "My work was God's work in me, willing and "doing his good pleasure."

So when we say . . . that we are "sustained by all His grace," we do not mean sustained like friends sustaining a broken wheelchair while we do our own independent work. We mean that everything in this spiritual dynamic is sustained by God's grace. "Treasuring all that God is" is a work of grace in my heart. I would not treasure God without a mighty work of grace in my life (Acts 18:27; Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8f; 2 Tim. 2:25). "Loving all whom he loves" is a work of grace in my heart (1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; Phil 1:9; Gal. 5:22). "Praying for all his purposes" is a work of grace in my heart (Phi. 2:13; Heb. 13:21). And "meditating on all his word," is a work of grace (Psa. 119:36).

Why has God set it up this way? Because the giver gets the glory. God has established the universe in such a way that it magnifies the glory of his all-sufficiency. You can see this really clearly in 1 Peter 4:11:
Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies [that's grace]; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

God gets the glory because he gave the grace.

But who gets the glory in our lives, in our day, when a great faith is exercised? Is it ever God? Maybe. Is it always God? I don't think so. The Bible talks about "heroes of the faith," and therefore so should we. But we should never make our heroes into idols, and at no time is that more tempting than in our culture of celebrity Christianity. Who gets the glory in the megachurch or the minichurch? Wh gets the glory in Christian publishing or Christian music? Who gets the glory on our blogs and in the blogosphere?
Who gets the glory in your church, in your family, in your life?

Whose reputation are you trying to further?
If you say it is Jesus Christ's, are you ready to apply to your own life, whatever it takes, the fact that He had to go through shame to get to glory? However monumental your own work for the Lord is, it is not your doing, but His. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus is the starter and finisher of your faith, and that to get to "enjoying God forever," he endured the scorn and shame of the cross. In your life, are you too busy planting your flag to take up your cross?

Your faith has made you well, but God is the healer. Your faith has saved you, but He is the Savior. When you do good works so that men may see, is it to further your career, your public perception, or your renown? Or is to glorify your Father in heaven? If we were to put a spiritual magnifying glass over your house, over your church, over your office, over your personal portfolio, over your promotional website, over your heart -- who would be magnified? I think like most people, I find myself crying out to God when I feel weak but tooting my own horn when I feel strong.

But if I am a real follower of Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life I live with flesh and blood I actually live in He who loves me and died for me. I hope my life of faith is lived with the explicit and implicit acknowledgment that both my life and my faith are gifts from God and that therefore it is He who gets the glory regardless of what I achieve or don't achieve.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God -— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
-- 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
-- Romans 12:3


You Can Never Go Down the Drain

Mister Rogers occasionally sang a song that went "You can never go down, Can never go down, Can never go down the drain" as part of reassuring his young audience they need not fear the bathtub drain. I don't recall ever having that fear as a little one, and neither of my little ones have ever feared getting sucked down in the gentle tide of the draining tub, but I recall an episode of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" where Rogers sat on the edge of a bathtub and calmly explained that people were too big to go down the drain.

That's a good word. As I said, I don't know what it's like to feel afraid of the bathtub drain, but I can imagine what it's like to be a small child watching the spiral of water over a mysterious hole and worrying it might take him down too. It's an irrational fear, but an understandable one. It was wise of Mr. Rogers to tell children that, despite appearances, they can never go down the drain. It just can't happen.

Do you remember the story of Joseph and his brothers? You probably remember the part about the flashy coat and all that, but if you fast forward through all that -- after Joseph's jealous brothers throw him in a pit, then sell him into slavery, tell their father Jacob that wild animals ate Joseph, enter into a severe famine, become ignorant of all of Joseph's travails in Egypt, wind up in front of Joseph (unbeknownst to them) to beg for food, and have to go back to their father and tell him they're supposed to return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin -- Jacob reflects on all that has befallen his family and says something like "Everything's against me!"

I don't know about you, but I've been there, done that, and threw away the T-shirt a few years ago. The weight of the world comes crashing down, and I just want to throw up my hands and say "I give up." Maybe you've been there too. There's a lot of people living a lot of lives in the world; the potential for pain and suffering and trials and tribulations is infinite. We've got financial problems, health problems, career problems, relationship problems, personal problems.
Maybe you feel like you can't catch a break. Maybe you're at the bottom of a pit so deep you can't even see the light at the opening. Maybe you've been there so long, you've lost all hope you'll ever get out. Maybe the tide has swept you up, you've been waving your arms for help to no avail, and you just know it's a matter of time before the downward spiral drowns you.

Don't lose hope. Don't give up.

You know Jacob, the old man who moaned "Everything's against me"? His son Jospeh, who he'd given up for dead, really did have everything against him. His own brothers try to kill him, then sell him to slave traders. He ends up in wasting away in a prison for years because of the lies of a seductress he refused to be seduced by. And after all that mess he was later able to stand before the very people who started the whole downward spiral and forgive them. He was able to say "You meant all this for evil, but God meant it for good."

Look, just 'cause you're paranoid, doesn't mean nobody's out to get you. There's some people who are in intense pain, both physical and emotional, right now, and it's pain that has gone on for years and years and will probably go on for years and years. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but not everybody gets that super-magical TBN-powered spiritual pixie dust that makes you rich and healthy because you "trust in Jeeeeeezus." The strongest Christians are the ones who are hurting and have been hurting and keep trusting Jesus and will keep trusting Jesus even if their hurt never goes away. That doesn't sell books, I know, but it's the truth. God is omnipresent, right? So while he's perfectly capable of delivering you from your pain and suffering, he's also capable of redeeming you in and through your pain and suffering.

Know this: You cannot go down the drain.
You are in your Father's hand, and nobody -- not even yourself -- can take you out of there. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. No thing and no person can do it. All things work to the good of those who are called according to His purposes. Who's called according to His purposes? If you are a believer in Jesus, you are. So what things work to the good? All things. Not just some things. All things.

This world may be in the proverbial handbasket. It may be circling the drain. Our bodies are indeed winding down. (And more than a few of us have bodies widening downward. ;-) But our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Our redeemer lives. And one day, he will descend with a shout, and this old earth will get an extreme makeover in an eternal splash of glory the likes of which will make the aurora borealis look like a Lite Brite. And our sagging flesh and aching bones and slowing hearts and diseased cells will be taken from us, and we'll get fresh legs, a freshly purified heart, fresh lungs to breathe the fresh air of the new heaven and the new earth. We'll get fresh eyes to finally see Him face to face.

Child of God, you have been rescued once. And it was a promise of glory to come. So someday you will be rescued again in such a way you may laugh at all the things that make you cry today. Your anguish over this world and your hurt from your experience in it will become joy over the new world and the worshipful pleasure it brings.

The great thing is that we can taste that joy now, in the midst of our sins and sufferings. We have a mighty God who is strong to save, and He loves us so such. If the birds and the flowers are under his care, how much more do you think he cares about you and me? Most of us know Jesus cried out from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". But many of us don't know Jesus was quoting Psalm 22. Go read it.
Do you see that it's not a psalm about God forsaking anyone? It's actually about God delivering his people. Kinda puts Christ's lament in a more reassuring context, doesn't it? Here's verse 24:
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

Wherever you are, whatever you're going through and may go through (perhaps for the rest of your life), know that your salvation lay not in your circumstances or situations, but believe that God is strong to save, and that even his Son suffered torture and death to achieve it for you. You do not hurt alone. Your road may be hard, but despite where it appears to be leading, it is the road to glory. God's will for you will not be disappointment or destruction. The "everything against you" is working toward your good. You will stand renewed, redeemed, and ready to prevail at the last day.
Whatever it looks like, whatever it feels like, you can never go down the drain.


The Hard Stuff of Real Lives

A week or so ago on Thinklings I conversed with a guy named Matthew who said he had done the whole Christianity thing with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and didn't get anything out of it but an empty silence and a failed marriage. He poured out his story of devoting years and years to faithful pursuit of a relationship with Jesus, of studying his Bible and believing wholeheartedly in what it said, of praying daily with a fervent and devoted heart, of attending church with commitment and openness. Of begging God to take away the same-sex attraction that had been plaguing him since as long as he could remember. Matthew believed his desires were sinful and out of faithfulness did not act on them, and day after day for years and years pleaded with God to take those feelings away. He tried counseling and community. He even tried marriage to a woman. When he was finally able to come clean about his inner struggles, almost nothing he had committed himself to survived the fallout. His marriage was over. And so was his faith.

Matthew says he trusted God and tried truly, sincerely, honestly to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He says he was repentant and obedient. But God never kept up His end of the relationship, so Matthew gave up. In his mind now, there probably is no God, but even if there is, He ain't worth having faith in. You can't have a relationship with someone you can't see or hear, he says. He tried.

What do we say to someone like Matthew? He's not alone. There are millions of folks like him. What do we say to the Matthews of the world? To the pre- and post-Christian skeptics?

I tried to say a few things as respectfully and helpfully as I could. He was asking questions, and I felt obliged to offer some answers. But I was way in over my head. I was humbled not just by the difficulty in finding "the right words" for an experience like Matthew's, but just by the very idea that a few paragraphs of "insight" in a blog comments section could adequately address, much less honor, his decades of pain and struggles.

This week, at Common Grounds Online, pastor/author Les Newsom posted about his conversation with a seeker-skeptic who wanted to know why God was hiding. Newsom is a very intelligent guy, one with a great pastoral spirit, and he was able of course to work some philosophical ju-jitsu and turn the tables on the asker. Using sound biblical insight and practically flawless logic and rhetorical eloquence, he spoke the truth that it is not God who hides, but us. It was as perfect an answer as one could provide.

Yet I'd be willing to bet it did not suddenly make the skeptic go, "Oh, yes, I see. You're absolutely right."

Words can be very, very cheap. Even the best ones. Even the truest ones. Yes, it is true that God's Word will not return void, but oh how inadequate even our best words can be in "making someone believe." The Bible says that faith cannot come without hearing, so the Church must be dedicated to preaching, but isn't it humbling -- or, at least, shouldn't it be humbling -- to know that it's not our words that work faith in a person, but God's grace?

I'm a words guy. I'm big on words. I want to make a living with my words. I try to get my words published and have had a little success. I fill up too many blogs with words. I fill up a computer file with fictional words. I speak words when I'm teaching. I speak words when I want my wife to know how I feel. I speak words when I'm caring for, instructing, or disciplining my kids.
The world is not short on words, and some of us are trying to speak as many as we think appropriate in the best way we know how.

But words don't save. The Word does.

I'm a fan of apologetics, by which I mean the system and study of providing answers and evidence in defense of the validity and truth of the Christian faith. Apologetics are helpful in evangelism. But I've never heard of anyone argued into or really even intellectually convinced into the kingdom. That can often be the first step, but it's never the only one. Jesus doesn't require we love with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength by only changing our minds. He changes the rest too.

So how do we do this? For the Matthews of the world, and for everyone else? People are looking for sound words, for true words, but mere words aren't working. That there's a new "religious" best seller on the New York Times list every few months certainly proves that. Clearly not everyone was driven to a purpose that ultimately satisfied or they would not have then latched on to finding their best life now. The Church has an abundance of words.
What else we got?

This week Michael Spencer highlighted a post from the Internet Monk archives. It is called To Know We're Not Alone, and I highly recommend you read it. Here's an excerpt:
His face comes back to me across the years, and as I think about my own brokenness, failures, and the desire for common humanity that drives me to nail my thoughts to the door of the world, I wonder if he wasn’t showing me the face of every man and woman I’ve ever met.

You see, the invitation concluded, and that preacher began talking. His words were nervous, not the sure and confident tones of the sermon, but the halting, breaking, fearful tones of the guilty confession. He wasn’t in preacher-speak. He was speaking differently. Humanly. It bothered me.

In my church, our pastor seemed super-human. He was God’s man. A Spirit-filled man. He was different than all of us. He spoke differently. He dressed in suits all the time, even on hot summer days when he was doing yard work. He knelt behind the pulpit when he prayed, even though it was a very large church. He cried and shouted in the pulpit. He declared the Word of the Lord, and pled with sinners to come to Jesus. He was an embodiment of heaven’s man on earth.

He was not like the rest of us, and we knew it.

He did laugh, but not in the same way or at the same things. His wife was saintly, and always dressed like royalty. He could be tender, but he could also be frightening. You knew he spent hours with God, and was different as a result. He was a holy man.

As a young preacher-boy, I wasn’t a thing like him. I’m not sure that I wanted to be. I had walked the aisle and “surrendered” to preach, but could I ever be like that? Holy and separate? Anointed with power? I did believe, I am sure, that being a preacher meant I would be different. God would give to me…..something. The mantle of the prophet. The fire of the preacher. A light in the darkness. I wouldn’t be like other people. I would be safe and protected.

But this evening I was looking at another preacher, not my pastor. And he was not supernatural or holy or other-worldly. He seemed small and frightened. He was talking about his wife. He’d come home, and found his wife with another man. He just said this, to the whole church, as if they must know. He wept. His fear and self-loathing oozed out of him and into the atmosphere of that revival. Everything changed.

His wife was not present, though we all looked around to see her. I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one. I wanted him to stop talking. He was scaring me. Real humanity, and the mess of a broken marriage, weren’t welcome in this revival, or in my world.

He said he and his wife had a lot of trouble, and he’d been taking medicine. But the medicine hadn’t done any good. Now his wife was with another man, and he wanted the church to pray. We did not know what to do with this. It was too much. Too much. Too real . . .

. . . I did not realize until many years later what had happened that night. The preacher was calling out of his darkness, calling into a room of other people, looking for something. What? He was looking to know he was not alone. He wanted to know if anyone else knew and understood what it was like to be human, to hurt and be a failure. To have failed at marriage and now, to have failed at being a “good Christian.” Did anyone care that his life was a wreck, or would they just condemn him? Would they pray for him, or did they just want him to go away?

I have no idea what he found. In me, he found the shock that comes from being confronted with my illusions. I wanted this to be a freakish exception to the rule that God makes us all better and makes everything all right. I wanted this to be a bad dream that would go away, because I did not want to think about the waking realities of infidelity and mental illness and desperate, despairing people. I did want to think that the man standing in the pulpit with the answers might not have all the answers for himself.

My faith rejected such a vision. I thought of that preacher as a sick fool. Today, I know better. He was a window into my own soul. A picture of the human race. A representative of the our true nature. And even more, he was, for that moment a sacrament of honesty in a religion of pretense. He stood there, falling to pieces, asking, “Am I alone? Am I the only one?” But we couldn’t let the secret out. We had to say the “amen,” and go home to a religion that protects us and makes us better.

Some twenty years later, that preacher took his own life. I do not know his path, I only know that in the end, he could not live with himself.

How many times did he stand and tell others to trust in a God of love, mercy and grace? And what did we hear? Did we hear the truth….or did we hear, instead, the invitation to paint ourselves in colors of self-deception and denial, and pretend another week, another year?

Over and over, Jesus reached into the lives of people like that preacher. The last, lost, least, losers. The unacceptable, the unreformable. The failures and the frauds. Those whose lives could not be tidied up with a little cultural religion. And from that, we have constructed a Jesus who prefers the “good Christian.” A Jesus who wants moralizing and religious superficiality. A Jesus who hardly needs to die for us, because a little exhortation to do better and keep on the straight and narrow are more our style. A Jesus without a cross, but with smiles and blessings for our homes and marriages full of “Christian moral values.”

I couldn't have said it any better, and coming as it does as the result of a severe life lesson grounded in personal pains (and not just mental ruminations), I am content to have provided a lengthy excerpt of his piece at the expense of more of my blathering. ;-)

This is why the Jesus + nothing Gospel is vital. This is why a works gospel is worthless, whether its coming from a Pharisee in 1 BC, a fundy hellfire preacher in 1975, or a pomo pastor-buddy in 2006. Jesus must be the point of our work and words . . .

. . . and we must mean them. I don’t mean be sincere about them or speak them well. I mean we must mean them. And that is the missing ingredient in all of these real stories of real hurt in the real world. The real hope. Hope that is real. Not just words of hope. Yes, those too, but the authenticity, the pure religion that makes the words real. What is missing, then, is the living witness of the church. The community cannot just be about dispensing kingdom words but about living out the kingdom life and doing the kingdom work.

Will we respond to the Matthews of our community with just good advice? With some clever apologetics and airtight theology? Or with grace and relentless support and a consistent witness that we still believe this stuff and know it makes a difference and are going to keep trusting Jesus is faithful even if they won't? Will we carry on with love? Or with resentment or dismissal or avoidance? Will our testimony be desertion? Or the bearing of burdens?

The people who enter our doors and “test drive” our churches had better get more than words for their trouble. Some of them can subsist on good words for a while. But the substance of lives troubled by broken families, broken hearts, substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, adultery, pornography, grief over lost loved ones or prodigal children or prodigal parents, lost jobs, lost joys, secret sins and secret shames, doubt and hurt and need and guilt will not be healed by words, but by the living witness of the Body of Christ being the body of Christ to them. The friends of the crippled man didn’t just tear the roof off the sucker so their friend could hear Jesus better; they lowered him down into the middle of an astonished audience so he could be healed.

Jesus Christ came to preach the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God, and everywhere he went, he testified in word and deed to the freedom life in the kingdom gives to the hurt, lost, and lonely. If we, the community the Bible calls the Body of Christ, will be true to our namesake, we will do no less. Our open door must be like the hole in the roof of that house – the place of dramatic entry into a place of real hope for real people with real hurts.
Our churches cannot just be about giving people good advice to live their generic lives more successfully; we must be about living the Gospel in a world of hard stuff.

But prove yourselves obedient to the Message, and do not be mere hearers of it, imposing a delusion upon yourselves. But be ye doers of the word...
-- James 1:22


What's the Point?

Rather, who's the point?

I don't believe in this day and age the Church can stress enough that the "point" of Christianity is Jesus himself. The point of Scripture, the point of prayer, the point of faith -- all Jesus.

We have not done a great job at making Jesus the point of the enterprise of faith. We take the Gospel notion of "faith alone," a belief many Reformers died contending for, and make it about us. We turn perseverance into personal empowerment and sanctification into self-improvement. We've made religion a bad word by turning Law into legalism and grace into license. We make Jesus our buddy, our co-pilot, our sidekick. We don't have sin -- we have "issues." We say we have bad habits rather than admit we have sinful hearts. We look to Scripture in general as a toolbox of pick-me-up quotable quotes and to the Gospels specifically as a chronicle of warm-fuzzy behavioral aspirations.

But if the point of any of it is not Jesus, it will not, cannot, and does not work.

Let's look at a few highlights from the Gospels, how 'bout?

Last week at BCC is Broken, someone critiqued my understanding of the story of the woman caught in adultery. (Doing so is fine, of course. I make no claims to be the end-all, be-all of biblical interpretation. I'm just a dude trying to do my best to make heads or tails of stuff that convicts and challenges me daily.) My understanding of that story is that "don't be a hypocrite" is not the main point. It is an application and implication of what Jesus said, but I don't see it as the point. If you want to know what I think the point of that story is, it is this: Jesus forgives adultery.

Here is my guiding principle for reading the Gospels: The point is Jesus. Every saying, every story -- Jesus. If the main point you're getting out of the story doesn't center squarely on Jesus, I respectfully suggest your aim is off.

Some examples:

Lots of people look at the story of Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the temple and think this is about how it's wrong to sell stuff at church (or some variation of such). As I've pointed out in an earlier post, that cannot be the main point, as at that time, foreign Jews needed to exchange currency to be able to make the required sacrifices in the temple, and they probably needed to buy the objects of sacrifice, since very few packed animals for travel. So the point of that story is not "commerce and temple don't mix," because up until that point, commerce and temple had to mix for the temple system to work. No, the point of that story is that Jesus replaces the temple system.

Similarly, people look at the Beatitudes and see a list of behaviors to aspire to. That's all well and good, but Jesus didn't come to show you how to be a better person. He came because you can't be. The point of the Beatitudes is that that list is what the kingdom of Jesus looks like. Those are the promises of Jesus to those who will enter his kingdom.

The point of the parable of the man who built his house on the sand is not "be prepared" or "have a solid foundation" or "think ahead." The point is that building your life on anything but Jesus is making rubbish of your life.

The point of the parable of the lost son is not some generic "God allows u-turns" sentimentalism; the point is that Jesus brings reconciliation to sinners.

The point should and must be Jesus. In all we say and do. In our churches we can have the best quality presentation, the most dynamic speakers, the greatest list of helpful tips for successful living (in convenient alliterative format), the most talented musicians and worship leaders, the nicest greeters, the most enthusiastic congregation, and the best coffee in the fellowship hall -- but if the point is anything other than Jesus, we've all missed the point.

Jesus cannot be periperhal. He cannot be merely included. He has to be at the forefront of our message and ministry. It's not everything and Jesus; it's Jesus, and everything else will be added unto us.
Look, provided you are far enough south, you can be charting a measly 2 degrees off due north and still end up a thousand miles from your destination.

N.T. Wright, who has revolutionized my exploration of Jesus more than anyone, says this:
But since orthodox Christianity has always held firm to the basic belief that it is by looking at Jesus himself that we discover who God is, it seems to me indisputable that we should expect always to be continuing in the quest for Jesus precisely as part of, indeed perhaps as the sharp edge of, our exploration into God himself.

As individuals and as the Church, we have to commit ourselves to "continuing in the quest for Jesus as the sharp edge of our exploration into God himself."

It's Jesus + nothing, folks. It really is.


Such as These

As the family sat down to dinner the other night, a couple of us (Daddy and Gracie) were poised to dig in, when Macy said, "Aren't we going to pray?"


Kids, eh? They are such a reliable barometer of my spiritual priorities.

"What are you worried about, Dad?" Macy asked me yesterday.
"Huh? Why do you think I'm worried?"
"You have a worried look on your face."
"Oh. I didn't know."
"You should put a happy smile on!"

I'll tell you what, the times I remember to not think of my girls as little religious projects of mine, to stop thinking in terms of making sure they "turn out right," and start seeing them as reflections of my own religion, are the times I most have a handle on what it means to raise kids in Jesus' kingdom. (Gary Thomas's incredible book Sacred Parenting was a great help in this regard.)

I have known and still know, that in all of the challenges in my five years of stay-at-home dadding, the biggest challenge has been to see my parenting as refining of me as much as of the girls. I desperately want them to grow up loving and following Jesus; but they have worked this ministry in me as much, if not more than, I have worked it in them. Sometimes I believe their healthy discipleship occurs in spite of my parenting as often as it does because of it.

Like marriage, parenting is not a project -- it is a spiritual discipline.

How Jesus-y my girls become is not a result of the effectiveness of my techniques but a reflection of the quality of my own Christlikeness.

Macy writes and tells a lot of stories. Lately they are more and more retellings of Bible stories. Grace has taken to evangelizing all her stuffed animals and talking so much about "the Lord Jesus" it makes even me uncomfortable.
These activities are colored by childishness. But I take them as indicators their parents are doing something right.


Anybody left reading Shizuka Blog may have noticed a couple of new menu features.

First, I have expanded the blogroll to belatedly include some very worthy links.

And perhaps more noticeably, I have added a reading list feature under the heading "Influences." This list is a representative sample of the works that have most influenced the thinking and style that direct the unique approach of Shizuka Blog. (Thanks, as always, to Thinklings web-shaman Bill for working the code that makes the list possible.)


Your Worst Life Now --> Abundant Living

I encountered this quote for the first time this morning, and it rocks my world.
Abundant living is sometimes on account of, but more often, perhaps, in spite of. When circumstances are against us, we must be able to set the sails of our souls and use even adverse winds. The Christian faith does not offer exemption from sorrow and pain and frustration -- it offers the power, not merely to bear, but to use these adversities. The secret of using pain and suffering and frustration is in many ways life's greatest secret. When you have learned that, you are unbeatable and unbreakable.

The Christian "can take it," because he can take hold of adversity and use it. Christ bore the cross, for he could use the cross. You cannot bear the cross long -- it will break your spirit, unless you can take that cross and make it serve higher purposes. The stoic bears the cross; the Christian makes the cross bear fruit.

Any movement that has learned the secret of making the bitterest tree -- the cross -- bear the sweet fruit has learned the secret of abundant living.

-- E. Stanley Jones


The Scandal of Grace

Imagine you are one of the early church's first members. You are sitting in a home with a few other believers, sharing a meal. You pray together. You sing a few Psalms. Someone recites a bit he's heard of Jesus' biography. Then someone gets up to read a letter to you from some guy named Paul.

Paul is a guy who used to go by the name Saul. It's possible he is responsible for the murder of someone you know, perhaps even your parents or one of your children. Now you have to sit and listen to someone read not just words from this guy, but instructions from this guy. Since his conversion from Christ-hating enforcer of the Law to card-carrying Jesus freak, he's not just one of your fellow Christians. He's an authority over all Christians recognized by nearly everyone.

It is possible this arrangement would not have sit well with you.

Imagine you're attached to Peter, a guy who has his problems, but who has been with Jesus from the beginning. And this newcomer Paul actually exerts authority over Peter! He seems to wield power over apostles who were actual disciples!

What in the world can explain the rise of Paul's recognized authority in the primitive church? The first explanation that comes to my mind is the authority over all authorities himself -- Jesus. If you were an early church member tempted to dismiss or disregard the teaching of a guy who used to push the killing of the ones you love, maybe you thought of something you heard Jesus said from the cross. In that excruciating place where Jewish officials like Paul had taken him, Jesus hung there dying and wished forgiveness even on the unrepentant revelers carrying out his execution.

The difference between Saul the persecutor and Paul the apostle was Jesus. The very road Paul was taking to kill Christians became his road to becoming one, because Jesus put up a roadblock and intervened. Revenge became repentance.
The difference between an early church member despising Paul's leadership and embracing it was Jesus. The same Pauline letter that might have irked became an encouragement.

Isn't that completely illogical? What weirdos this following Jesus thing makes us. C.S. Lewis was once asked what the main difference between Christianity and all other religions was, and he answered, "Oh, that's easy -- grace."
Grace isn't just amazing; it's ridiculous. It's revolutionary to our thoughts and feelings. It humbles the powerful and empowers the humble.
Jesus didn't die so you could learn how to be a better person. He died because you can't be. (That's grace offending your sensibilities right now.)

The grace of Jesus is a foolishness that, when believed, brings power to save (1 Cor. 1:18).

Grace is that bizarre missing ingredient that mucks up all human foibles, flaws, and fears. Grace is the thing that turns lives upside down. It is a sweet, beautiful irritant.
Grace is scandalous. It makes murderers into apostles, it makes victims into forgivers. It takes "never the twain shall meet" and makes "reunited and it feels so good." ;-)

Have you been scandalized by grace lately? Has Jesus shocked you through someone's granting grace to you?
When was the last time you offended someone's expectations by extending grace to them?

(Shamelessly lifted, but slightly altered, from a recent post of mine at BCC is Broken.)



I don't mean to be scarce here just as I've ramped up the posting again. The truth is that, in addition to general Dada-type busy-ness, I am a bit caught up in the dealings with our church.
If anyone is interested in info about that, I have set up a (I hope temporary) blog to reflect and comment on the conflict. You can reach it at BCC is Broken. I know several Shizuka Blog and Thinklings readers have been through situations like this before, so perhaps your insights, and for certain your prayers, will be valuable and instructive.

I do hope to post some things here enough to keep the site "active." And not just quotes either. ;-)
But please forgive the silence when it occurs. Thanks!



In order to be a church, the people must assemble in the name of Christ. In so doing, they attest that he is the determining ground of their lives; in him they have found freedom, orientation, and power. They come together first of all to call upon him as Savior and to bear witness to him before each other and before the entire world. They hear the proclamation "in his name" (Acts 5.28), call upon his name in faith (see Rom. 10.13), are baptized in his name (see Acts 2.38), and in this way are "washed," "sanctified," and "justified" through this name (1 Cor. 6.11). He is the source of their lives.

Second, people gather together in Christ's name in order to profess faith in him as their Lord and as the Lord of the entire cosmos. He determines the fundamental conditions of their individual and communal lives (see 1 Cor. 1.10; 5.4); they gather together "under his authority and with the intention of acting in obedience to him." It is he who gives their lives binding direction.

Third, by assembling in Christ's name, Christians acknowledge him as the power in which they live. The "power" and the "name" are intimately connected. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, the God who is with them, and in the power of his Spirit they are able to do those works that are commensurate with the new creation and that allow the new creation to shine in the midst of the old.

-- from After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity by Miroslav Volf

The Church is Broken

My church here in Middle Tennessee began this weekend an ugly split. (Actually, I'm learning it began almost two years ago, but the congregation has just learned of and engaged in the conflict this week.)

I attended the service in which our elders, supported by former elders and the entire ministerial staff (minus one), read a statement announcing they had removed our senior pastor from office. The representative reading the statement did so with visibly trembling hands, choking back tears. There was not a dry eye on the stage.
Anyone who thinks these men and women came to this decision lightly, enthusiastically, or with lust for power is either incompetent or heartless himself.

I also attended a rally of sorts held by our pastor and his wife at a nearby park, where he offered to tell his side of the story. They feel betrayed, humiliated, and blindsided.
There were more tears here, much shock and concern.
And lots of anger. Lots.

Please pray for our church if you think about it. There is an opportunity here for a parting that is God-honoring, but unfortunately I am not optimistic about that. There is a lot of hurt and a lot of personal zeal involved. One side has vowed to "fight tooth and nail," and I know both sides are standing firm in their convictions.
And thus may we crucify His Body all over again? I don't know.

I do know, though, that in the same way damaged bones must sometimes be rebroken to be set, that sometimes breaking something is the first step to fixing it.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
-- Hebrews 12.11

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
-- Romans 14.19


Gospel Helps Self


Call me slow, but when I first encountered the idea that believers ought to be preaching the Gospel to each other -- and to themselves! -- in (Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together), it was like a lightbulb switched on in my head at the same time a sucker punch rocked my gut. What a transforming truth that was.

Here are some neat words along those lines from Tim Challies's recent review of the Jerry Bridges classic, The Discipline of Grace:
Bridges continually takes issue with the unbiblical view that the gospel is solely or even primarily for unbelievers. Rather, he says, the gospel must be the foundation not only of justification but also sanctification. The believer must preach the gospel to himself every day. "To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God's holy wrath is no longer directed toward you."

He later says, "This is the gospel by which we were saved, and it is the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives...If you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness."

Good stuff.

Some of us have come a long way through guilt trips and tours of techniques and alliterative outlines and workbook curriculum designed for maximum holiness, through cult and kitsch, through hoakum and hooha, and only relatively late in our Christian walk do we realize that what we need today and tomorrow is what we needed that blessed day Jesus "came into our hearts." We needed -- and still need -- the Gospel.

Shall Not God Have His Own?

As a follow-up to the post on Contentment, here are some words from William Penn:
In him, his humble, sincere disciples find more than all that they lose in the world. All we have is the Almighty's; and shall not God have his own when he calls for it?

Discontentedness is not only in such a case ingratitude, but injustice. For we are both unthankful for the time we had it, and not honest enough to restore it, if we could keep it.

But it is hard for us to look on things in such a glass, and at such a distance from this low world; and yet it is our duty, and would be our wisdom and our glory to do so.

I appreciate that irony there -- that we who suffer trials and setbacks often wish for justice, as if our trials and setbacks are injustice.
Rather, all that God wills is just, because God himself is just. Better to give thanks for God's amazing grace, which, given our sin and God's holiness, is injustice "at such a distance from this low world."

Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.
-- Job 13.15a (KJV)



The real devil in the details of the prosperity-type teaching overtaking evangelicalism is not really that it skips over the stuff about sin. Sure, it does that too, but the pernicious paradox of this stuff is that it champions "victorious Christian living" yet does not equip believers for sustainable discipleship. It emphasizes feelings and "outlook," not the power of the Spirit, which is hard for some folks to notice since the latter is often conflated with the former (so that being optimistic or a go-getter is ipso facto being Spirit-empowered). The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship -- what Eugene Peterson calls "a long obedience in the same direction" -- involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazingsupercolossal breakthroughs.

There are a couple of Laws of Raising Children active in my house. The first law is that no item in the universe is more interesting than the one a sibling is currently holding. The second law is that no matter where you are (and it could be Disney World), there is some other place you'd rather be.
Getting what we don't have, being somewhere we aren't. That defines the childishness of the children in our house. But they are children, so they have an excuse.

Prosperity gospel then, ironically, breeds discontentment. We are never abiding with God where we are, because we always consider what we have less than what's available (or at least less than what our neighbor has). We always think of today as less than tomorrow. But you cannot get to resurrection day without going through the cross.

There's a fine line between contentment and complacency, also, and I think this implicit confusion is why contentment is rarely spoken of these days. It implies stagnation or laziness. But complacency is about not caring. Contentment is about caring for the needs of the moment. It is about obedience and faith. Paul was not complacent about his repeated imprisonment and torture. But, amazingly enough, he was content.

Contentment trusts God to be God. Discontent evidences our fear of everything but God -- it fears for safety, for financial solvency, for what others might think of us, for even "spiritual maturity." The content soul, however, fears God.

So the great irony of prosperity gospelism -- and more people teach and believe this stuff than the walking cartoons on TBN, trust me -- is that it actually cultivates its own need for itself. It is built on discontentment and greed and desire and accumulating (whether stuff or "spirituality"), and therefore it turns in on itself, self perpetuating, continuing to create the needs it promises to fill. We all know what happens when you try to fill a God-shaped void with anything not God-shaped. We all know that money doesn't buy happiness, etc etc.
But contentment! Being content with what we've got, with where God has us, whether it be on top of a mountain surrounded by beauty or down in a valley walking toward a pit we cannot see -- now that is true gain!

But there are no easy steps to contentment. The word "content" evokes feelings of peace and tranquility, of being carefree. And those things are true, in a sense. But the way to contentment is difficult, and the place of contentment itself may be in a harsh and barren land. That is, after all, how you know you've reached contentment anyway. Being content involves the tough stuff of trust and discipline and obedience and biblical love. As Chesterton said:
True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.

And to quote Mark Galli, we believe that "God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life."

So how do we get it? How do we reach contentment?
We start where we are, not looking ahead to what is next. We begin with a hope for deliverance, provided we are really in need of it, but also with a trust that God is refining us through the circumstances in which He's presently placed us. It just that -- being present. Show up, in this moment, for submission to God. Trust that the cross you are bearing is not the end of His story, but accept that cross as necessary and get everything out of it that is there to get.

There are no steps or strategies. Just the Spirit and the power He gives by His good pleasure. You cannot achieve being discontent with achievements alone.
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
-- Philippians 4.12-13



Now that "sin" is not spoken of much in churches anymore, and now that inspirational self-help has influenced the church's prescription for our troubles, it occurs to me that the Gospel is now a truly radical proposition in the very community it birthed.

What I'm saying is, we shouldn't necessarily look at the American evangelical predicament and bemoan its state or get into hopeless Critic Mode. Rather, we should be thankful that the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone has regained the revolutionary power it never really lost. We are in a strange -- but, dare I say it?, exciting -- place where the Gospel continues to scandalize even those sitting in the pews next to us or in the chairs across from us in small group.


Grace and Service

Can I tell you that I hate the folktale of "The Little Red Hen"? I do not like it, for although I know the morals it hopes to teach are good ones (against laziness, for work and cooperation), the climactic delivery actually teaches a very unChristlike selfishness. It's sort of a "one bad turn deserves another"-type thing. Here's the story to remind you:

One day as the Little Red Hen was scratching in a field, she found a grain of wheat.
"This wheat should be planted," she said. "Who will plant this grain of wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
Soon the wheat grew to be tall and yellow.
"The wheat is ripe," said the Little Red Hen. "Who will cut the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was cut, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will thresh the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was threshed, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She took the wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour. Then she said, "Who will make this flour into bread?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She made and baked the bread. Then she said, "Who will eat this bread?"
"Oh! I will," said the Duck.
"And I will," said the Cat.
"And I will," said the Dog.
"No, No!" said the Little Red Hen. "I will do that." And she did.

What a graceless twit the hen is. I would like to rewrite the story so it ends like this:

She made and baked the bread. Then she said, "Who will eat this bread?"
"Oh! I will," said the Duck.
"And I will," said the Cat.
"And I will," said the Dog.
"Come on in!" said the Little Red Hen. "We can eat it together." And they did.

Of course that doesn't work if you're wanting to teach children if they don't work and don't help, they shouldn't expect to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor. But it does work if you want to teach children that the world is full of people who don't deserve their charity or help but that we should give it to them gladly anyway.

What graceless twits we are. (Okay, what a graceless twit I am.)
One point I have tried to make to some of the newly married couples in our small group is that they must really work on getting to know the difference between doing good for their spouse in order to get something in return and doing good for their spouse simply because it's the right thing to do. I think lots of the stuff out there on his-and-her needs, love languages, etc. can be very helpful, but too often it somehow sets us up to be yinning and yanging each other. I do this and you do that, and then we will bring balance to the force. I wonder where sin and grace come into play.

I didn't (and don't) know these things intuitively. I've only learned them from realizing I didn't know them. The truth is only Jesus can fill the reservoir of needs inside of us. The language of love we all (sometimes unknowingly) have is redemption, and only Jesus can speak it perfectly. As long as we are looking to anyone else to respond correctly to our good works, thereby energizing us for or enabling us to continue doing good works, the thing won't work. For followers of Jesus, the ideal for service is giving without anticipating receipt. Of anything. I don't know that it's even possible for us to give without thinking of receiving, but I do know we should believe that such thoughts are anti-grace.

Grace leaves results up to God. Grace leaves "what people deserve" up to God. Grace leaves the thanks and the reciprocity for your good works up to God.
Because grace is the virtue that, when embodied in us, best enacts the Great Commandments -- it is about God and others and only lastly, if at all, about us.

The painting above is Washing Peter's Feet by Watanabe Sadao, a 20th-century artist who used the katazome stencil method to recreate biblical scenes, combining traditional Christian iconography with a Japanese folk art style.
That's Peter the graceless twit. Peter who sunk, Peter who slept while the Lord wept, Peter who lashed out, Peter who denied. That's Jesus washing Peter's feet. Peter whom Jesus said He'd build His kingdom on, Peter who went to his own crucifixion.

When we serve others without expecting a favorable response, we are actually being the Gospel to them. And we are being the Gospel to ourselves, really, because the Bible says we love because He loved us, not that we love because others will love us back. The Bible does say to love one another, but it doesn't say love one another because you love one another (if that makes sense).

How far our sin separates us from God! And from our neighbors too. It seriously screws up everything we touch, everything we get involved in. It's right there in the beginning, right at the first screw-up -- enmity between man and God, enmity between man and woman.

And that's how radical grace is, how revolutionary the gospel is. It covers us screw-ups and the things we screw up. It is not blind to our laziness, but it might as well be. It welcomes us to the table even though we've done nothing to earn a right there. In our sin we say "Not I" to God's requirements every day, but in our clingy, needy way, we say "I will!" to His offers. It is grace that reserves a place for us at His table and says, "Come on in! We can eat together."

A Tao of Scripture

Dan Edelen has a good post today touching on the recommended bloggy allowance of Scripture. It's for people who count verse citations in posts like the raisins in Raisin Bran.

I link to it not just because it's a good post, but because it reminds me of this one from over a year ago on Shizuka Blog. It's about the difference between wielding the Word and living it, between being a toolbox biblicist and being a lifeblood one.


Predestination Anxiety

Katsumoto: "Do you believe a man can change his destiny?"
Algren: "I believe a man should do what he can until his destiny is revealed."
-- from The Last Samurai
God has given Scripture to us so that we can know what we should and shouldn’t do. He expects us to act on this knowledge. What we cannot know, we should leave to God. We should stick to our responsibilities, vocation, and position in life. God and God alone knows what his predestined. You aren’t supposed to know.

Take for example the time when Joab was being attacked both in front and from behind by
his enemies. He didn’t say to his brother Abishai, “Wait, let’s see what is predestined, and then
we will act accordingly.” Rather he said, “If the Arameans are too strong for my troops, be
ready to help me. And if the Ammonites are too strong for your troops, I’ll come to help you. Be
strong! Let’s prove ourselves strong for our people and for the cities of our God, and the LORD will do what he considers right” (2 Samuel

So we should also concentrate on our duties, not whether or not something is predestined. Because we have no word or light from God on that matter, we don’t know anything about it.
Therefore, we should put the thought of trying to find out whether something is predestined or not out of our mind and heart. Let the future remain in darkness. Let it stay secret and hidden.
In the meantime, we should do what we know we ought to do. We should live by God’s Word and the light he has given to us.

-- Martin Luther, Faith Alone: 365 Devotional Readings


Stretching My Legs

Two weeks ago, the couple who lead our couples small group at church said they were going out of town, and they asked me if I wouldn't mind filling in for them. Feeling a bit put on the spot, I said yes. I'm glad I did.
So last week I facilitated our group study. It was no big deal, really -- just going through a Bible study guide, nudging folks to answer some questions, cracking a joke here and there, offering a few meager insights when the silence grew too long. You know, being my normally winsome self. ;-)

Honestly, though, it wasn't a big deal, but every time I go so long without doing something like that, it feels like a big deal. After the session, I received many thank-you's and smiles. It was very nice and, again, to be honest, good for the ego. (Not quite as good a stroke as when I was leading a trak in our church's new members seminar and one participant told one of the pastors, "I could listen to him all day." But still pretty good.) It reminded me that exercising my spiritual gift(s) can and should be energizing, fulfilling. Not that you don't get tired; but that it's not a "going against the grain" of sorts. There is validation, even in the fatigue.

If you have gifts or talents you haven't used in a while, for whatever reason, take them for a brief spin sometimes. I know there are seasons in life where we need to just sit a spell, and I think that's okay. I didn't used to think that, but now I do. But even if you're in a sitting down period, get up every now and then and stretch your legs.


On a Sabbath day during one of the Jewish feasts, Jesus went to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate there was the Bethesda pool, which was said to heal all manner of infirmities if entered when the water stirred. The place was big enough to require five roofed colonnades. All around the pool waited a multitude needing healing. The blind were there, and the lame and paralyzed. One guy waiting by the pool had been an invalid for almost 40 years.
Jesus saw him lying there and knew he’d been there a long time. “Don’t you want to be healed?”

The man said, “Yes, but I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool when the water starts stirring. And when I try to get in by myself, people push their way in front of me.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
And at once the man was healed and he obeyed.

-- paraphrased from John 5

I love that story. It means the world to me for reasons I can’t fully explain. That the man was too weak to help himself resonates with me. That he needed help but nobody would help him resonates with me. That he’d been waiting 38 years for healing resonates with me. That everybody was pushing in front of him to get theirs in the pool resonates with me.
That all it took was Jesus resonates with me.

I am finding it harder and harder to put up with self-helpy preachers. I don’t get it. I want to be charitable — and for once I won’t name names, but you know who I’m talking about — and part of that is because these guys at least carry the pretense of evangelicalism. They aren’t all-around discounted like the Armani-clad cartoons on TBN. They still maintain supporters as long as pragmatism, Church Growth Movement ideology, and feel-good spirituality entertainment holds sway in American churches.

But that only makes them more gross. For the life of me I can’t figure out what makes them so appealing. Because when I watch some preacher talk about the power of me and about being positive and speaking blessings into existence, I have no idea who he’s talking to. Am I the first person to say I can’t do it? I can’t do it by myself. I’m incapable. I’m cynical, sure. Negative, yes. I’m a pessimist. But those aren’t my problems.
Sin is. I’m being honest with myself. And until they can be honest about themselves — and until they can be honest about me — I have no interest in discovering the champion inside of me. Because he ain’t in there. I checked.

I consider myself fairly spiritually mature. I trusted Jesus for salvation, and I keep doing that every day. But spiritually speaking, I’m a lame dude watching everyone else push their way into the foamy waters, waiting on something I can’t manage on my own. No amount of rush or maneuvering or special pool-entry techniques are cutting it. I’m waiting on Jesus to show up, to make the pool irrelevant.

Look, either grace is sufficient or it isn’t. Either the joy of the Lord is my strength or it isn’t. All the rest is b.s.
I wish I was living my best life now, but I’m not. I’m wandering (as if you couldn’t tell just by reading this post). And I’m wondering how to continue, day in and day out, loving scavenged manna. I mean, I’m scraping the stuff off the side of rocks and whatnot. But I know the dude in the gigantic arena saying he’s got lobster and caviar for me to eat is a liar.

Knowing that is no consolation. But knowing Jesus is.

(cross-posted at Thinklings)


I hope to resume regular posting here.
We'll see . . .


There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You

The girls were doodling on some paint sample cards on the way to church yesterday morning. Here's a little chart Macy made:

The first box reads "Macy's Love." The next boxes read "Draw a Picture, "Clean Your Room," and "Give a Present," concluding with "I Love It."
Macy said that this was a chart of ways someone could say I love you. She also said that these were all things she was going to do for Mommy and Daddy.

I'm so blessed to have such sweet girls.

(Macy provided some helpful interpretation: The "Clean Your Room" illustration has a dark scribble under the first door, indicating a messy room. The "Give a Present" illustration depicts Dada giving a necklace to Mama.)


Not Humanly Possible

Be kind to me
Or treat me mean
I'll make the most of it,
I'm an extraordinary machine.
-- Fiona Apple, "Extraordinary Machine"
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.

-- 1 Corinthians 13.4-8a


Insipid Lie

I'm inside outside upright downright happy all the time
I'm inside outside upright downright happy all the time
Since Jesus Christ came in
And cleansed my heart from sin
I'm inside outside upright downright happy all the time.

What a crock.