one night stand

I know what you’re thinking…well actually I don’t. This is kind of a weird title, but you will see how it fits in a bit; at least I hope so. A week or so ago we had an amazing service with our students and several of them went to the altar to pray. My wife and I both went and prayed with several students and afterwards she remarked about how awkward it sometimes seems afterward. You have had this amazingly intimate moment with someone, possibly even someone making the most important decision in their life and yet for some reason shortly after it becomes awkward. Not that either of us have ever experienced it, but it kind of sounds almost like a one night stand. Let’s all be honest for a minute…even though hopefully most of us have not experienced a one night stand we at least understand the concept. Guy meets girl or girl meets guy, intimacy ensues and then is shamefully broken off the next day. You can see how wrong and messed up that is without me even spelling it out. And yet for some reason I think that’s probably the same way I feel about those spiritual moments that somehow turn into a weird tension.

In his letter to the church in Galatia Paul puts this into a little better perspective. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently…Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1a-2) Now granted, Paul is referring to walking in restoration with someone, but I think the same can be applied for those intimate spiritual moments we have with others. The word for “carry” each other’s burdens is bastazō and the connotation behind it is a sustained carrying. A continued laboring with. Often times we pray with someone and think the matter settled. Or because we all of a sudden have this intimate knowledge of someone’s spiritual journey we feel as if we can’t be normal around them anymore. But truth be told we should actually become more intimate with them.

In reference to the above analogy of one night stands the reason these are so broken is because of the lack of sustained intimacy…it’s just awkward. But you look at those healthy marriages and relationships of those who have enjoyed marital bliss for years and the key to the health in the relationship is sustained intimacy. They walk closely with each other and there ultimately is nothing in the way. If we could understand/model this behavior in our accountability with each other in the Kingdom perhaps there would be a lot less stumbling, falling or failing and a lot more community. I for one am trying to eliminate the one night stand and begin the whole life journey with those around me. May we be so courageous as to get up from the altar and walk with those whom we are called to bastazo life’s burdens with.

a happy ending

Once upon a time this morning…

At least that’s how I would like for it to begin. As is sometimes the case my daughter and I began the breaking of the day with the viewing of a Disney Princess movie. However today was unlike any other because she had made up her mind that she wanted to watch it differently. She did not want to watch all of the adversity and drama, but rather skip to the very end when the bad guy is beat (Mother Gothel) and Rapunzel and Eugene get to live happily ever after. She said the bad person would give her nightmares (although this has never happened) and she just wanted to see her “get beat”. And of course I found an excellent opportunity to argue with my 3-yr-old about the reward of seeing adversity overcome and the persistence to chase after your dreams whatever hardships come your way, but I got the feeling it was falling on deft ears. Yet I think we all kind of share my daughter’s sentiments. We all want a happy ending and if it’s all the same we would like a happy beginning and middle as well. The problem is this isn’t really life.

One of my favorite versus of scripture to see quoted is Jeremiah 29:11. And a lot of people quote it, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And this is great. It speaks of hope, “a future”…in essence a happy ending. But if you’ve ever read the rest of the book of Jeremiah you realize that this verse is the exception rather than the rule. You see, Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah was of destruction. Babylon is coming and they are going to destroy you. Life for you will literally become hell on earth. And yet in the midst of all of this there is this silver lining. God promises that even though all of this tragedy is coming there way that he will never forsake them. So it kind of looks weird when we live off of the promise alone and don’t understand the circumstances out of which it was spoken.

Life is hard. Look around you. There are people dying from cancer, war, disease, hunger, etc. every day. There is poverty, violence, oppression, slavery, injustice like there has never been before. And yet, God has not abandoned us. He is actually with us in the midst of all of this. I read a quote today from Dr. King’s sermon A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart , “God is neither hardhearted nor soft-minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” That is the God in the midst with us. Powerful enough to give us a hope and a future and compassionate enough to walk through the tragic with us.

I hope for a happy ending. I hope for a happy beginning and middle as well. But I take comfort in the fact that even if the beginning and middle are rife with life’s difficulties that I have a God who walks with me in order to bring me into His glorious future.

friday feature

This week’s friday feature come’s to you from the front man of the band Switchfoot. Jon Foreman did a side project a few years back called Limbs and Branches and it really is phenomenal. This is one of the tracks off of that release called “House of God Forever” and it really just gives life to Psalm 23. I hope you enjoy it. The video below was pretty neat as well.

House of God Forever
God is my shepherd
I won’t be wanting
I won’t be wanting
He makes me rest
In fields of green
With quite streams
Even though I walk
Through the valley
Of death and dying
I will not fear
‘Cause you are with me
You are with me

Your shepherd staff
Comforts me
You are my feast
In the presence of enemy
Surely goodness
Follow me
Follow me
In the house of God, forever

temporal vanity

I hate being late. I’m not entirely sure where that sense of punctuality came from (my dad), but I have always hated to be late. But then I got married…and then we had kids…and now I sometimes find myself not necessarily being on time for a lot of things in my life. Some days I handle that well and some days my wife threatens to stab me with a horse tranquilizer. But my life for some strange reason has always been about time management and focusing on that therein. (This may be as a result of my constant procrastination) I always wear a wrist watch and have even toyed with the idea of a pocket-watch in the past. And I usually know about how long it’s going to take me to get to my next destination regardless of where I am in the day. Ask any of the parents of my senior high students as to whether or not we arrive on time from any trip and their response will always be yes (with the exception of one bathroom pit-stop just this last weekend). All this to say that you might even call me time obsessed…I don’t even have to use an alarm clock to wake-up in the morning. For those of you unfamiliar with this ability I offer up Kramer: (Only I never hit the snooze button) 

But it’s strange isn’t it. We have devised seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years based on the Earth’s tilt, rotation and revolution around the sun and this dictates every avenue of our life. It dictates our coming and our going. Our being and our doing. And it seemingly becomes soooo important. In fact, we get down-right obsessed with the tasks that effect our existence in this realm of space and time when if you stop to thing about it is….well, meaningless. The teacher in Ecclesiastes puts it this way, “For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:16-17) Vanity…chasing after the wind. This life is literally a vapor. And in the case of the teacher it is an extremely pessimistic view, but I am not sure that is what we need to have.

You see this life is really life lived into eternity. The problem is that if we simply focus on this life and the things in this temporal space then it does amount to vanity. But the apostle Paul has another take on the vanity of life and where it is corrected, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2) By focusing on the eternal in the temporal we not only validate the things we do, but they take on eternal significance. Or rather, those things that truly have no bearing on the eternal take on less significance. Setting our minds on Christ allows us to place the temporary trials, frustrations and even tasks of this life in their proper place…and sometimes it becomes vanity. But sometimes we find ourselves in those moments where we truly encounter each other and it is as if heaven itself is breaking in. So I seek out these moments instead. And I try not to focus so much on the watch on my wrist. And maybe if I am late, it is for the right reason. May we find significance in the time we’re given as we walk into eternity together.

friday feature

I don’t know what song it was for you, but growing up there was always one song for me that let me know Christmas was coming. Whether it was coming through on 8-track or vinyl (yes I was born in the 70′s) “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters was my signal that Santa was on his way. Still today it just brings the warm fuzzies of Christmas home. I hope it helps brighten your day a little as well:

Merry Christmas Darling

Greeting cards have all been sent
The Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make
A special one for you

Merry Christmas, darling
We’re apart that’s true
But I can dream and in my dreams
I’m Christmasing with you

Holidays are joyful
And there’s always something new
But every day’s a holiday
When I’m near to you

Oh, the lights on my tree
I wish you could see
I wish it every day
The logs on the fire
Fill me with desire
To see you and to say

That I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year too
I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you

Oh, the logs on the fire
Fill me with desire
To see you and to say

That I wish you Merry Christmas
And Happy New Year, too
I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you
I wish I were with you

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, darling

a bit wordy

There is a scene in the 1998 animated feature “The Prince of Egypt” that I absolutely love. And I think it’s because its also a scene in scripture that I absolutely love. Moses stands before the burning bush i.e. the very presence of YHWH and starts to make excuses for going before pharaoh and the response of the Spirit of God dramatically comes out of the flame, “Who made man’s mouth? Who made the deaf, the mute, the seeing and the blind? Did not I?” Moses cowers under God’s declaration but is eventually comforted by his reassurance. (Seriously if you have never seen this movie you need to. Or at least check out this scene on YouTube: One of the most awesome parts about this movie is it’s Biblical accuracy. Here is the actual text taken from Exodus 4:11-12. “ The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” And Moses goes and according to the story never once struggles with what to say…except when it comes to hitting rocks.

But I am reminded that speech, our very ability to form words, comes from God. I even love that speech is what gives power to God’s actions throughout scripture. The following will be a paraphrase form the gospel according to Andrew…but hopefully you will get the gist. In the beginning God said light and there was light. God calls Samuel as a boy and the nation of Israel is forever changed. God’s still small voice comforts Elijah in the midst of his turmoil. God’s voice shakes the temple in Isaiah’s revelatory experience. Then the voice of God en-fleshed, Jesus himself, gives sight to the blind, chases out demons, stills storms, restores the broken and raises the dead. God’s voice, God’s speech, God’s very words are words of life giving action.

And so today I am reminded, “Who made man’s mouth?…Is it not I?” How am I honoring the creation of God in me? How am I honoring the Spirit that lives within me that is declared by the writer of John as “The Word”? May we honor God, the giver of speech, with what we say today and always as we walk the very earth he spoke into existence.

friday feature

In the spirit of Advent, I offer up another Friday feature. I am not sure there has ever been a Christmas song that has captured the prophetic voice as much as Happy Xmas (War is over). What I mean to say is that this song almost takes the exact the words spoken in the prophet Micah before the birth of Christ when he spoke saying,

“Many nations will come and say,                                                                                                                                                                                                           “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.” – Micah 4:2-3

This video, although a little more graphic than what I would normally post, vividly displays the prophetic hope embodied in the prophet Micah and in the return and redemption brought by the Advent of Christ. I hope you find the message of hope as real as I do.

Happy XMas – John Lennon

So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Xmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)
For weak and for strong (if you want it)
For rich and the poor ones (war is over)
The world is so wrong (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
For black and for white (if you want it)
For yellow and red ones (war is over)
Let’s stop all the fight (now)

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)
And what have we done (if you want it)
Another year over (war is over)
A new one just begun (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
We hope you have fun (if you want it)
The near and the dear one (war is over)
The old and the young (now)

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Xmas


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