Embracing grace, a couple good books, & other musings…

I’ve been slowly reading a newly published book I was gifted with called “Embracing Grace” by Daniel Brown. I say I’ve been reading it slowly because I have intentionally avoided trying to power through it, in that I don’t just want to “get ‘er done,” I want to “get it.”

Grace is a hard topic for me – not because I don’t like it/want it/need it – but because I don’t easily receive grace for myself. Grasp it mentally? Yes. Process through it as it relates to others? Sure. But do I truly embrace grace in my inner being? Nope. Not so much. The first time I became painfully aware of this ‘grace struggle’ was when I read through Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, & Burnt Out.” Ended up going through that a few pages at a time, weeping with joy at the thought that this amazing grace was mine & there was no sin I had ever committed, was committing, or would ever commit that could separate me from the infinite grace of God, poured out on me.

I have wrestled for most of my life with a nagging feeling of a need to perform well, to do things right, & to avoid the things that are bad so I can be a “good” Christian. In my head, I know that my standing before God isn’t based upon any of my own actions – and I can quote “grace scriptures” with the best of ‘em, like:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8,9 English Standard Version

And yet there was still that sense of God’s displeasure with my performance, that somehow I hadn’t measured up; that my myriad sins, wrongs, & stumbles had marked me in an indelible way, a way that was unfixable. It sounds silly when I write it out. And to read it out loud.

And in the face of the rich mercy shown to humanity (& Louie!) by God in the gift of His grace, the grace that brought us (me!) from death to life, this sense of God’s displeasure with my performance as a Christian is an affront, a mockery, a bold-faced lie challenging God’s character… it’s a lie of the same variety which has been whispered to humanity for all time by our enemy, beginning with “Did God really say…?” Part of the battle to embrace grace comes from my ‘flesh’ (a.k.a. the part of me that opposes the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.) Part of it is being an unwitting yet involved participant in the accusations, manipulations, negative thoughts, lies, & shame lobbed at me (all of us) by the enemy of our souls.

And part of it is needing to exercise faith – the kind of faith that pushes through, perseveres, & overcomes to tenaciously embrace grace, while refusing to give time, energy, or brain power to anything that stands in opposition to the truth of God’s Word & what it (& He) says who I am, in Christ, because of Christ. It’s living in grace, thinking in grace, & walking out in grace towards others (& myself) because that is what God does with us.

Saturday morning musings, over coffee & spoonfuls of skippy crunchy peanut butter

Sitting in the quiet of the morning enjoying my hot foff (coffee for those of you that don’t speak Isaiah Scofield,) & my occasional breakfast of spoonfuls of Skippy Crunchy Peanut Butter. Peanut butter tastes best solo & from a spoon, though I would not mind it on toasted bread. Right. Now. Thinking deep thoughts this morning, and random ones as well.

It would be possible to never add to the collection of what I call “my” music – which usually means the stuff I listened to when I discovered the radio in middle school (Huey Lewis & the News, Journey, & the Talking Heads,) & the oh-so-sophisticated “New Wave” sounds that I gravitated towards in high school (New Order, Tears For Fears, U2, INXS, the Hooters, & several other now-too-obscure-to-drop-as-a-reference groups.) They even occasionally play ‘my’ music on BOB 97.3, & on 103.7 (OLDIES? My music is on OLDIES?!) & Pandora, the “Music Genome Project” (which sounds so hi-tech its funny) makes it so that I can get what I want musically, when I want it.

Music provides cultural insight, so years ago I determined that I’d at least try to stay up on what my kids preferred, & anything else that might serendipitously drop into my ears. On that note, a couple of bands I’ve come across that have held my ear: Mumford and Sons and Burlap to Cashmere . Both have hints of Simon & Garfunkle & the Hooters – thought provoking lyrics, simple (& yet intricate) musical arrangements. Good stuff.


Haven’t had a Bible study in our home for 2 years now – after close to 20 years of just about every Sunday night, theBean & I decided to take a hiatus that got extended longer than I thought it would. I’ve missed it, especially the people in the living room, over food, good coffee, & lively conversations about the just-read-aloud-Scriptures.

Missed it, did I, so I decided to tag-team with Katy for a study through Revelation, & to have it in the main office of the church. Revelation came & went, but the desire for study didn’t, so we invited the group that had come to Revelation to keep coming Wednesdays as we decided to go through a collection of other Bible books… Finished Esther a couple weeks back; now we’re in Daniel.

My favorite parts of being in a Bible study, long-term, are the relationships that develop with the other people that participate. Looking over the last 6 months, a perspective of life & growth emerges, & I can see where each person has not only grown closer to the others in the group, but also has grown in their understanding & love for Scripture, & in their relationship with God. And then there’s the power of the Scriptures, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, to transform lives – inevitably our discussions begin on something we’ve just read out loud, & somehow end up on an area from the depths of our hearts that is being plumbed, challenged, & healed. Its water for my soul.


Somehow, it doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I make in the morning; if I sit here long enough, the whole pot manages to disappear. Like clockwork.

Heading into our first weekend as a family of 4 since theWeez was born. Pasty is in Knoxville, hitting job interviews & preparing to move into his quad on Monday. I’m noticing that I miss his routines; he definitely isn’t a loud person (especially in the morning – because being loud in the morning is wrong. The Bible’s against it. See Proverbs 27:14 if you don’t believe me.) No, Pasty’s routine meant that no matter how caught up he was in school, work, MissAlexandrea, or ESPN, he always managed to be in the same places, doing the same things, at about the same times each day. And when his alarm didn’t go off 24 times this morning, alerting him it was time to call his girl, I noticed. And missed it. Sigh.

It’s Eddy Dueck’s birthday today – he’s the pastor of our sister church, TPLF, in Frankfurt, Germany. Please join me in praying blessing & favor for Eddy & Laura today – he’s a good man, husband, father, friend, and pastor. My life is richer because he’s in it.

Time to take on the day.

feed the hungry bird, & other musings on a Friday…

I’m amazed at how God can use the most mundane of life activities to bring people together. The Apostle Paul left Athens and headed to the booming metropolis (and wide-open mission field,) of Corinth. Left with the question of how he would support his gospel spreading and church planting campaign, Paul fell back on the trade he knew, tent making. And it just so happened that two members of the local ‘tent-making guild’ were Aquila and Priscilla, a couple of refugees from Rome that had fled to Corinth at the order of Emperor Claudius because they were… Christians. And, just like that, Paul had a team.

Paul’s followed his pattern of testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, His promised Anointed One. Here at Corinth, the message was soundly rejected, complete with threats of violence against Paul by the Jews. With the non-Jewish Corinthian audience, however, the response is drastically different. They believed. In large numbers, people in a city famous for sexual immorality and wild living flocked to the gospel of grace and the message of justification by faith.

Even though the Jews continued to threaten Paul, he knew that unlike Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica, he was to stick around Corinth for a while. The LORD Himself confirmed this, saying something to the effect of “Keep it up. You won’t be hurt. I’ve got lots of people here, and you’ve got lots to preach, teach, and train.”

I often think about how the Apostle Paul wrestled through the dichotomy of the two responses to the gospel at Corinth, where one group soundly rejected and strongly opposed the Good News, and the other joyfully embraced and applied it. I think that this contradiction was at the forefront of his mind as he wrote letters back to Corinth:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1Cor 1:18, 22-25 ESV

One way I like to think about this is that my role in sharing the gospel and investing in discipleship is “looking for the hungry bird.” What I mean is this: when the mama bird comes back to her nest after a morning of worm digging and bug grubbing, the baby bird that gets to eat is the hungry one, the one with the open beak! In the same way, I want to be looking for the “hungry birds,” those people that eagerly hear and respond to the Good News. This doesn’t mean ignoring others, but rather is a picture of looking for where God is actively at work, and then intentionally partnering with the work He’s already done in preparing the ‘soil’ of their hearts.

I pray that we would have eyes to see the hungry birds in our lives today.

home for Christmas & other musings…

My Pasty Gangster will not be home for Christmas this year. It will be the 1st Christmas in 19 years without him… as he is headed to Cookeville, Tennessee to spend the holidays (& then some,) with his girl Alex & her family. For me, it isn’t hard to deal with him being gone; it’s just… different. I am very happy for him being able to have special time, & even happier that he gets to be with the one person in the whole world he’d want to be with.

What I’m pondering is the most visible acknowledgment of the very real transition that he is in… really, for me, this is much more of a transition than his high-school graduation ceremony was. He’s making many (most? All?) of his own choices. TheBean & I have & continue to trust our #1 son to Christ. Believing that as he makes his own choices, & lives his life, he will live in a manner honoring to Christ. It reminds me of when we dedicated him as a baby. And in retrospect, I see that we didn’t just have a fun ceremony, but instead we were making a lifelong declaration of faith, trust, & purpose: He is Yours, LORD. Now we’re getting to see him live it.

So, it’s new & its different. Most notably, theWeez is already missing her brother, the protector; as is iDoey missing the one that he’s consciously or unconsciously measured himself against.

In 20 minutes we’re heading to get “Christmas Picture 2010” taken – quite possibly the last Christmas picture of us with our nuclear family all living at home, all looking this way.

Sigh.


Pondering 1Timothy 4:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life & also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy & deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil & strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Training up in godliness – what’s does this mean? What’s it look like, lived out?

I’m confronted by areas where I’ve shied away from a ‘strict spiritual regimen’ – maybe because it seemed that the focus was on the ‘performing’ of the regimen or workout, & not on the desired results of the workout.

Hmm. I’m confronted & convicted… there’s a bad heart attitude lurking in there… in the name of not falling into a rut, or a stale routine, instead I fell into something worse: a hit & miss haphazardness.

There’s a picture in my head – me & my kettlebells. The focus & goal of the workout isn’t to be able to brag that I did 25 minutes & 7 different exercises – its to increase strength, flexibility, stamina, cardio, & overall physical condition; that’s only going to happen if I regularly exercise, & simply do the workout faithfully – whether anyone knows about it or notices.

Read. Study. Pray. Repeat.


Hard to believe theBean & I are celebrating our 22nd Christmas season together – when I look at her, I can’t believe that she isn’t 22. And I’m blown away that after 21.5 years of marriage, 3 kids, & living with me, she is even more beautiful than she was when we met.

And those legs. Oh goodness.

Habakkuk & some thoughts on ‘How Longs’ & ‘Whys’

Habakkuk 1:1-4


The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw – O LORD how long shall I cry for help, & You will not hear? Or cry to You “violence’ & You will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity & why do You look idly at wrong? Destruction & violence are before me; strife & contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, & justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted.

It’s the ‘How Longs” that get me. They stand out as a disappointed cry, laments even, bordering on indignant anger. Habakkuk sees injustice, wrong, violence, wickedness all around him, & he’s been crying out to the LORD for help with no visible or audible response.

The WHY’s also get me; why do You idly look at wrong? As though Habakkuk incredulous at what he is seeing… wondering how the LORD God he knows could NOT be acting on behalf of him & his people Israel considering what’s happening to & with them.

Part of the how & why this is at the forefront of my thoughts likely is the book I’m sloooowly reading through, Disappointment with God. Lately, I feel especially sensitized to the laments, sighs, suffering & disappointments in the world around me.

Its kinda like when you get a new car, say a white Ford Explorer. Then, it seems that everywhere you go, you see these white Explorers all over the place & wonder how you never saw them before.

I recognize in my own heart quiet echoes of these ‘How Longs’ & ‘Whys…’ & I wonder if the reason that I don’t stop coming back to God with prayer & expectancy, & I don’t blame Him for my issues & problems, &/or the tragedies around me is because of what I had to learn through my own ‘dark times of the soul,’ like when my brother Johnny had cancer & ultimately died.

In his last day, I vividly remember visiting Johnny downstairs at my parents – seeing the very obviously approaching death in his declining body. It was overwhelming, so I went upstairs & ran outside into what I think was early evening…

Remember standing facing the Alpers’ house & the familiar West Carson horizon… & looking to the twilight sky – praying, crying, asking, pleading in desperation for God to heal my brother, to take away this cancer, to restore his health that he would live.

It was a surreal experience that I think, I know changed me… I still remember the sense I got at that moment of God’s Presence. It may have been just my impression, but I also sensed a sadness greater than me. I wondered if it was Him, & He was sad. I thought so. And while I wanted more than anything that God would heal Johnny, I also felt comforted, & at peace.

The circumstance hadn’t changed. Johnny died. But God stood with me, & I knew it. He was WITH me, & I was aware.

Made me thinks that the nearness of God isn’t always tangible, but it is a fact. He will never leave me or forsake me.


And then Habakkuk gets an answer – the LORD will respond. Is responding. Has responded.

There will be vengeance; there will be chastisement. Intervention. There will be a revelation of His Presence so strong that ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD just like the waters cover the sea’

And Habakkuk praises – gives thanks – asks for mercy.


LORD, I pray for mercy… & I thank You for never abandoning me, for Your Presence, & for Your nearness. Work in me the things You want to see be true of me – thank You for Your patience with me & my questions, for not getting angry at the How Longs or the Why’s. That You love me through it by standing with me. Help my unbelief, fill me with faith.

Green Stuff, Hezekiah, a new coffee gadget, & other musings…

Last week, theBean decided to try to cook a couple more times than usual – & found her inspiration in the Rachael Ray magazine. This has meant trying to marry the ‘adventure’ of new foods (& familiar ones prepared in the not usual way,) with being economical & wise with the food budget. (Cause really- is it really gonna break the recipe to not use the organic ingredients? Really? But I digress.)

Normally, I’m not a big fan of change when it comes to food – & I must admit that I have been known on occasion to resemble the proverbial stick in the mud. However, it’s amazing what a good attitude & a ‘setting of the will’ can do. And the meals theBean is creating have been amazing. Last night we had Jalapeño Bacon Avocado Burgers, with a cheesy-Jalapeño ‘sauce’ (the ‘ ‘ around the word sauce are because I have no idea what it really should be called. It was sauce-like. But thicker. Saucy even, about the consistency of ketchup, but white. Ish.) Between the burger & the sauce was Green Stuff. Cilantro. Diced avocado. Not sure what else.

I’m not usually a fan of Green Stuff (other than lettuce & broccoli,) but I set my will to eat the food, & I didn’t taste the Green Stuff, at least in a negative way. You know what I mean – like when you taste a food & just wait for the punch line… the moment when the ‘yuck’ taste hits the taste buds & one has the OK to spit the food into the trash. It never happened. I must be growing. Hmm.


Got to watch a great Giants/Dodgers game last night. Not a pitchers duel, or a great performance by Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum – but a victory for the Giants. Over the Dodgers. And Giants victories over the Dodgers are worth about 3 regular victories in my mind.

Brother got an Aeropress. I think it was for his birthday last week. More than just Another Novelty Coffee item, it makes a great cup of coffee. And is fun to use. And easy to clean up after using. Unlike my French press, which is so messy that I have to psych myself up to actually make coffee in it. Not that the coffee in the French press isn’t good; the mess is a big deterrent. And there aren’t many sights (& smells) worse than finding the still-messy French press 2 weeks after the last time it was used. Trust me on that.

Over the last week, I’ve been reading in Isaiah, 2Kings, & 2Chronicles – today was the ‘perfect storm’ – all 3 passages I read dealt with the same story & events: the Assyrian threat against Israel & King Hezekiah, & Hezekiah’s response. (FYI: the passages are Isaiah 36 & 37; 2Kings 18 & 19; & 2Chronicles 32.)

What really jumped out at me was the Assyrian attempt to incite Israel to leave their land (God-given inheritance) through threats, fear, & intimidation. Threatening all sorts of mayhem. Promising that they (the Assyrians) would do such damage to Jerusalem that there would literally be nothing for the Israelites to eat except their own waste & filth. Trying to intimidate the masses with booming broadcasts of doom & gloom to all within earshot. Writing letters to the king, detailing the coming destruction.

And Hezekiah’s response? He took one of the letters he’d received & went into the temple. There he laid the letter out before the LORD & prayed:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

And the LORD delivered Hezekiah & Israel.

I felt gently convicted… knowing that my response to real/perceived lack, threats of doom & gloom, & even the unknown, can be to worry. Be anxious. To run through all the potential bad things, worst case scenarios, that could happen.

Hezekiah prayed. Reflected on God’s promises for provision. Protection. Hope. Deliverance.

In my minds eye, I get the picture of Hezekiah in the temple, kneeling before the LORD with the threatening letter on the ground in front of them – & Hezekiah crying out, “LORD, have You READ this? Have You heard what they’re saying about us? About YOU? What are You going to do about this?


God hears. And responds. And He still does today.

SOAP, Isaiah, family, & other musings…

A few months ago, I felt impressed to amp up (increase, broaden, deepen, expand) my Bible reading. I started adding ‘reading breaks’ of a few minutes several times during the work day, times when I might normally be checking my email, or practicing my vuvuzela… & then followed up each reading with reflection. Thinking on what I’d read. Asking the Holy Spirit to apply it to my life. To seek out all the places in my heart, mind, & life that need a touch from Him. To transform mindsets, attitudes, & behaviors that subtly (or not so subtly) stand against, resist, or even oppose God’s purposes for me.

And I’m seeing LIFE. I’m getting woken up before 5, no alarm necessary. Waking up feeling rested & restored, excited to take on the day, looking forward to my reading & reflecting. Looking for opportunities to interact with others about the stuff that God is stirring up in me. Feeling a renewed love & hunger for the Word.


Reading through Isaiah 25 this morning – a prophetic passage talking about the end times. These chapters of Isaiah have a definite Revelation feel & sound to them, with familiar themes like the fall of the nations that have resisted/opposed God’s redemption; judgment; the fall of Babylon; perseverance; salvation.

A section of Chapter 25 really jumps out at me:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; & the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, & the reproach of His people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice & be glad in His salvation. Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV

Very cool – God throws a feast to celebrate, with the best meats & wines, specially chosen & prepared by Him! And the recognition that this is God’s favor, His salvation come to humanity, to those who waited for Him.

Reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 40 that talks about ‘waiting on the LORD’ – & that those that wait on the LORD will renew their strength… And that waiting isn’t passive inactivity (like sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.) No, its consistent, active obedience to the things I know to be doing. The confident expectation that God is at work, will be at work, & is acting on my behalf. Sweet.


Pasty has been in Cookeville, Tennessee with Alex & her family since 7/1. Kind of a senior trip, complete with a houseboat trip & a Florida vacation – before he comes back & starts college in the fall. He’ll be back 7/26. And I miss him this morning.

TheWeez is at Middle School Camp in Sonora, meaning theBean & I are down to 1 kid – IDoey. He’s got summer weights & football every day, so life for him revolves around sleeping, playing, & eating whatever he can get his hands on.

Last night before bed, he came to tell us goodnight. He grabbed both theBean & I & said, “Family hug!” He looked at both of us while he hugged us & exclaimed, “Isn’t this great!?”

I’m pretty sure IDoey enjoys the life of an only child.


For some reason I was thinking yesterday about the Christmas song “Away In A Manger”… there’s a part of the song that says:

the cattle are lowing/the baby He wakes/but little Lord Jesus/no crying He makes

That never made any sense to me – the cows are making a bunch of noise & wake up the baby… but the baby doesn’t cry. Of COURSE the baby cries. That’s what babies do when they get woken up, especially by cows.

I think we like the idea of a baby that isn’t like other babies; one that doesn’t cry when woken up suddenly… in the same way we like the idea of Jesus being a man that wasn’t like other men – who wasn’t subject to the same feelings, thoughts, temptations & frailties that we are, yet who persevered through them to be obedient to the call on His life to be Redeemer & Saviour to the world.

I think we’re uncomfortable with Jesus’ humanity.


NEWSFLASH! U2 has published the dates for their rescheduled North American tour. June 7, 2011. Oakland.

Magnificent!

Man Night, home, & other musings…

Sitting in the coolness of my office with a fan blowing on me drinking an iced-coffee. All to try to avoid the heat of the day, the heat that has been turned up to “11.” Thinking over the soon-to-be-happenings of Man Night. Proverbs 27, especially verse 17.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another

Got me thinking about the ‘act’ of sharpening… & how in order for a tool (like an axe, a knife, or a sword – c’mon, it’s Man Night, so I’m thinking of wielding Manly tools) to be sharpened, one has to strike the item to be sharpened, skillfully, in just the right places with an item or implement that is stronger & harder than the item to be sharpened.

So how does ‘iron sharpen iron?’ One way for this to work is for the ‘sharpening iron’ to have been tempered – or put through a process of controlled reheating to harden & strengthen the implement. Interesting….

I wonder how this ‘tempering’ translates to people, to me. What does the heating process do? I don’t think of getting heated to red-hotness being something that is desirable.

But the process makes the forever-changed implement useful. To shape other implements. Hmm.


Regret raises her head occasionally, usually at times where I’m most pensive & introspective. Kinda like when I’m doing the deep cleaning of a room at home… opening up ALL the drawers, going through the corners of the closets, making sure the lights are on in order to see just what is in there… & then I discover a Mess. A big Mess that I distinctly remember thinking that I’d eventually get around to cleaning up. A big Mess that was forgotten, due to the forgetfulness caused by falling into routine busyness. A big Mess that begs to be addressed. But it’s such a big Mess. The only way to deal with the Mess is to put on the special gloves & head into it. A little bit at a time.

Even if it hurts.


Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home. Erwin Raphael McManus – Soul Cravings – Entry 8

That resonates with me – I think its because when I think about home, I don’t think about a place. Granted, I live in Sparks, Nevada, & have been a resident of Northern Nevada within 35 miles of my current home, all of my life. But instead of Sparks, I think of people. Faces flash through my minds eye. People that are intimately associated with being ‘home.’ Home is people, & being in a place without those people would be unbearable. No matter how ‘cool,’ elegant, spacious, or desirable that place is.

I see that I have changed. I’m changing.. Will continue to change. At one point in the not so distant past, home was being in my Cave. The place where I could be by myself & get lost in a book, a TV show, or a good movie. Alone. Where I didn’t have to be WITH people. Looking back, I can see times where even in the presence of people I’d try to be apart from them, to be by myself, to isolate & withdraw in the name of my (very real,) introversion. I regret that. The lost opportunities to discover “home” with others. With myself. Where I’d been so focused on my own discomfort that often comes being around people that I missed the joy & wonder of being WITH people.

A hard thought: in not being WITH people, I missed out on things that God wanted to do in & around me THROUGH people.

I don’t want to ‘miss’ God & ‘miss’ others in the name of a misguided self-sufficiency. Fear has stolen enough from me: fear of rejection. Inadequacy. Pain. Being unloved & unlovable. Of making a mess. Saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing. (like the lyrics from REM’s “Losing My Religion” “oh no, I’ve said too much; I haven’t said enough…” ) How many things, friendships, experiences I missed out on because of fear. Knowing that if I couldn’t do it perfect, I wouldn’t try it at all.

Heavy sigh.


So I’m thankful for the process & act of redemption. That as long as its still called today, its never too late for things lost to be regained, restored, healed, & transformed.

Walking through Philippians, thinking about life…

Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.

The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)

The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.

One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.

Huh?


Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.

Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.

That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.


I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.

Preparing for the Spring…

Looking out across the valley, the last rays of sun leap out from behind the Sierras. Dark clouds streak the sky as a whistling wind rises & falls, reminding me that though this is the 1st official day of Spring, Winter hasn’t packed his bags & moved on. Yet.

The tease of the last few warm days have almost wiped away the memory of 2 feet of snow just 1 month ago. The ‘new-ness’ of life that comes with Spring definitely makes me think about change & transition. Wondering what new things are headed my way. What ‘new mercies of the LORD’ are coming towards me? Where am I going to be challenged to grow, develop, & lean into God in a new way…? To be taken beyond what I can see & know to the place of utter dependence. The place of “I don’t know about 2 weeks from now; though I’m fairly sure about today. And I know where to look tomorrow.” If that makes sense.

There is a temptation to stay where I am. In the familiar, the comfortable, the known. The places where my feet have marked a worn path, where I can almost walk with my eyes closed. A place where I feel competent. Strong. Secure.

To me, walking with God means being led. Not being the one in the drivers seat of my life, dictating what I’m doing & where I’ll be doing it; rather, looking for where it seems He’s at work in & mostly around me, & seeing how I can jump in in those spots. It means humility, a willingness to not “know” with certainty the plan for the next 3-5 months, let alone the next 3-5 years. To invite the Holy Spirit to shine a light into my life, even into the dark corners where we’ve hid the dirty laundry, that escapes even the most well-trained eye. But not His.

Practicing repentance. Realigning with God’s purpose, plan, & direction.

Laying down the right to be offended. To put aside (not deny, but not hold onto) hurt feelings. False accusations. A character that has been assassinated yet again, leaving the defense of me to the One who knows me best. Even if it means appearing weak.

The last several months, I’ve been reminded that I need to be planting God’s Word in my life, heart, mind, & spirit. To read, listen to, & meditate upon the Bible. To get it ‘in me,’ so that it can bring about the life God desires for me, & to provide fodder for the Holy Spirit to apply as the Spirit sees fit.

Entering Spring, I reapply myself to the Process, to say “Yes,” to what God has for me & mine in this next period of my life. That His purposes, His mission would be my priority. That love for others would overflow in my life; that I would grow in knowledge & discernment, to know what is REALLY important; to be fruitful in Christ-likeness, living pure & holy in His sight, bringing praise & glory to Him.

Yep. Here comes the Spring. And I’m looking for the new.