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.

musings on a quiet Wednesday night..

Sitting at theGiant table with theWeez. She’s currently paying the price for having missed several days of school. She was suffering in Hawaii with a friend & her family. Paying the price, you ask? Catching up on HomeWork – 9 days of accumulated Stuff. I’m trying to mind my own business, but she’s trying to take advantage of the fact that I’m sitting here to pick my brain to attack her History. Science. Algebra.

History, maybe. Science, occasionally. Algebra? Please.

Really, honey. I’m doing my best.

In the blah. The day started so well, up early, 5ish, ready to take on the day. Then, I hit the wall at 3, feeling like 5 day old helium balloon. Pushing through.

One of the things that I’ve been occupying my free time with has been the video podcasts from Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley – most of the teaching by Francis Chan. I’m greatly enjoying it.

The series I’m listening to/watching now is from 2Peter 1… which is where I’ve been studying through for our Thursday Night Live Series, “Knowing God.” Which of course caught my eye. Ear. You get the picture.

He’s talking about verses 8 & 9 – about being near-sighted. Getting so focused on the immediate wants, cravings, desires, & needs that any potential consequence of our choices is forgotten or treated as being unimportant, compared to ‘being in the moment.’

Makes me ponder. I’ll be coming back here again.

Dinner time arrives, & the smell of chicken fajitas wafts throughout the house. Smoky pepper seasoning hangs thick, drawing everyone to the kitchen. TheBean strikes again.

Which is hard for her to do, esp. considering that she somehow found a way to make dinner & have it ready at a time she isn’t even here – Wednesdays are ‘double-days’ – where she works a split shift. And it turns out that in the 90 minutes of her ‘break,’ she made a great dinner for us.


wandering in Ecclesiastes on a slippery Tuesday…

Took theWeez to school this morning & slipped & slid all over the road, which had been deceptively hiding its icy-ness from me, causing me to think all was good, right, & safe in the world of driving this a.m. Thankful for AWD Subaru, & for no one in my way when the ‘slipperies’ attacked my tires. Goodness. Tricksy road.

Home again, looking at my 18 year old son this morning, watching him wrestle with the weight of the day – preparing to go to school while not feeling up to par… but pushing through just the same. For some reason, it inspired me to ponder the “meaning of life” stuff… which of course ends up sooner or later in Ecclesiastes. Read through. Tried to pretend it was my first time through it, to read & receive it fresh. Without the years of familiarity coloring the words, categorizing the ‘writings’ as that “bitter & negative” book in the Old Testament that says life sucks & most of it is a waste of time, energy, & resource.

And so I prayed for new eyes. And read. And noted what stood out to me.

The writer, “The Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem,” writes that “everything is vanity.” Some translations say, “everything is meaningless.”

And by everything, he means EVERYTHING. And then he tells us about it, as though we are supposed to learn from him & his experience, his attempts to find something, anything of substance in the world that we live in.

So he sought after wisdom & knowledge, only to observe:

For in much wisdom, there is vexation, & those who increase knowledge, increase sorrow. 1:18

Then he pursued pleasure & the accumulation of stuff.

Whatever my eyes desired, I didn’t not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, & this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had spent in doing it, & again, all was vanity, & a chasing after wind, & there was nothing to be gained under the sun… the lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth with gain. This also is vanity. 2:10,11 & 5:10

Makes me think of different things that people live for, focus upon, chase, even. Education. Wealth. Status (or even the appearance of it.) A title (or 10.) The perception of respect. Entertainment. Pleasure. Accumulation of stuff. .

Might be just that I’m feeling incredibly rich these days, the George Bailey, “no man is a failure who has friends,” kind of rich. Watching some crashing & burning of people who’ve been living the Ecclesiastes-life… looking for something MORE than they have, pursuing it as hard & fast as they can… finding vanity. Emptiness. Discontent. Pain.

Makes me want to wrap both hands around contentedness. Thankfulness. Check, & double-check to make sure that I’m chasing, looking, & paying attention to the important stuff – the stuff that lasts.

Knowing Christ. Deep & real relationships with the people in my life.

Not comparing myself to others – what they have accomplished. The stuff they have. Or bemoaning difficult, negative, or confusing life circumstances.

Embracing a life-focus & life-investment that is worth every penny.

Last week in LA, we opened our meetings with worship. Simple, 1 guitar & 1 keyboard, with familiar songs. One of them, a blast from 1980, was O Lord, You’re Beautiful from Keith Green. I’ve been singing it over & over, as a prayer… which is how I think it was written.

Thanks Keith.

Rain goes with coffee.

So say we all.

Monday afternoon musings…

Brother & I hit a new spot for lunch today – Beto’s – Guadalajara style Mexican food, on Ralston & 5th, right next to JJ’s Pie Co. Met with some other brothers & ate Wet Burritos… the Wet referring to the salsa that is slathered all over the insides of the burrito. Good stuff. Made me crave JJ’s wings though.

Ellie learns all kinds of new stuff at the office – today, it was how to recognize U2: Bono. Edge. Larry. Adam. Yes.

You can thank me later Ellie B.

The snow of last Tuesday, & the abomination of the Broken Irrigation Valve threw a wrench into my Well-Laid Plans. So this week will be IKEA week- to get the bookshelves that are necessary for the reorganization process of the office & LY-berry. Oh yes. It will be done.

TheBean celebrates her birthday on 24 April. As I type this, I’m looking at 2 of the pics that she gave me her Senior year of High School… back in the day when she was 17. I still have to pinch myself sometimes – thinking, “This girl really likes me. Still.” Wow. Who’d a thunk it?

Brother got as giddy as a school boy today – if you’ve read of his frustrations with our lot-lurkers HERE, you’ll be glad to know that we had some ‘visitors’ today.(NOTE: the lot-lurker visitors are easy to spot – they park in the furthest parking spot in the lot, under the trees. All windows up. Usually tinted.)

Brother decided he wasn’t going to take it anymore… so he called RPD… and they showed up! First one car. Then shortly after, another (BACKUP! They called for BACKUP!) Got the people out of the car – multiple guys. 1 woman. Cuffed the guys. Loaded the back of the two cars.

Then, out of the blue, a big RPD paddy-wagon showed up – & all the cuffed humans were put into it. Excitement up on the Hill. Don’t come here & break the law, man.

Something that I’ve been mulling over… Reading through Exodus, what is jumping out at me are the smells, specifically those that God instructs Moses to make & to prepare a place for – using the finest smelling oils & incense… so that every time people would come into God’s presence, they would be met with a fragrant & memorable smell… Hmmm.

Think I’m sneaking out at 1 on Wednesday for my first Aces game. Esp. with the weather we’re supposed to be having… goodness.

Independence & Freedom…

Maybe its the reading of historical documents (that’s a Galaxy Quest shout out for the uninitiated. If you haven’t seen it, if you don’t yet own it, I heartily recommend that you rectify that ASAP…) that has prompted this train of thought…

I’ve been pondering the quest for “Independence” & what it means, especially in comparison to the concept of “Freedom” discussed in the Bible, esp. in the book of Galatians. (WARNING: This is a plug for a book. I’d recommend you pick up Traveling Light. I have a couple of extra copies if you’d like to borrow one. And discuss it :).)

It seems with both “independence” & “freedom” there is an understanding, albeit a misguided one, that to be independent & to be free means to cast off all boundaries, restraints, government, authority, & responsibility towards… kinda like the Soup Dragons & their lyrical declaration:

I’m free, to do what I want, any old time…

This thought process came up yesterday while I was sitting with the fam watching Hancock. The theatre was 1/3 full, but the noise during the movie was incredible. I’m not talking about the responses to the movie; I’m speaking of people on their cellphones – talking out loud. The steady stream of “you just got a text” phone beeps. The three crying baby/toddlers whose parents wouldn’t take them out of the theatre to ‘hug it out’. And why is all this ok? One person’s response to a request to please keep it down: “It’s a free country!”

The John Adams book has given me a pretty vivid picture of a man who, for the desire to be able to govern himself (& for the people of his state/country to be able to do the same,) spent parts/most of 10 years of his life separated from his wife & children – living in often hostile European nations attempting to negotiate with foreign governments for the right to be free. To self-govern. A sacrifice that he was repaid for with scorn, slander, libel, & public mockery… All so we could live in a ‘free country.’

Independence & freedom don’t relieve us of responsibility toward or for our interactions with other people – it actually reminds us that we ARE connected to others. And that our decisions & choices have consequences for us & for others, consequences that the “independent” & “free” have to think through, because to be truly free, we need to freely exercise self-control, self-restraint instead of majoring in self-indulgence & selfishness. Otherwise, its not independence or freedom we experience – it’s people insisting on their own rights to the violation of others. It’s people pushing their own agendas, without regard for how what they want will affect others…It’s living as virtual children, focused only on our own desires for immediate gratification, & not understanding why anyone else has an issue with it…

Happy Independence Day.


With apologies to John Cusack & the re-PRESSED scene from “The Sure Thing…”

I’ve been pondering this for the last couple of days –

Proverbs 11:25b …those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

It’s counter-intuitive… it’s taking our eyes & focus off our our own needs in the desire to be a blessing & a help to others… & then while doing that, receiving the very thing that we’d been needing to receive in the first place.

My pondering has led me to try to think of ways to practically live out what it means to be a “refresher of others” – that thought process starts by 1st examining the ‘opposite’ of being a refresher – a life-sucker, a weight, a burden. What’s that look like?

To me, the opposite of ‘refresher’ means being selfish… Self-focused. Insisting on getting my own way. Getting my own needs met. Using others to do so. Complaining. Being contentious. Antagonizing. Nit-picking.

Refreshing means sharing. Paying attention to others & what they’re experiencing. Being willing to listen. Gentleness. Kindness. Self-control.

And in that, God takes it on Himself to be a refresher… and who does He refresh?

Isaiah 57:15b I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts.

The humble & repentant. The one who is in need of refreshing, & looks to God to do it.

Amen. & Right on.

Why Do Bad Things Happen…? #1

For the last couple of months, I have been planning on teaching on the topic above at our Sunday, 3/30 – 9:15 Learning Community. I had no idea that we’d be experiencing tragedy, crushing loss, & this kind of pain so up close & personal within our church family.

“Why do bad things happen?” is a tough question – one that usually gets answered with one of the trite statements or religious cliches that are so infuriating to the people that they get bequeathed to. Things like:

  • Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways…
  • God took (fill in the blank with a loved ones name) because He must have needed (loved one’s name) more than we did..
  • God is trying to teach us to depend on Him in hard times…

    My personal favorite, which was passed on to me by several well meaning people after my 17 year-old brother had died from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that starts out in the lymph system.

  • God must have known that your brother was going to fall into some terrible sin in the future, so He decided to take him now…

    Huh? What the fat? Are you serious?

    These & other statements have caused me to spend a lot of time pondering – to me, here’s what some of the above statements are saying:
  • Mysterious ways? What does this mean? That God is unpredictable & just might SNAP when we least expect it, killing loved ones in the process. “Sorry. My bad.”
  • God kills our loved ones because He “needed” them more than we do? Hmm. I read in the Bible that 2 people were ‘translated’ into heaven by God: Enoch & Elijah – He wanted them with Him, & He didn’t kill them to get them.
  • God is trying to teach us something by killing our loved ones? The lesson today will be “you need me.” I’m going to illustrate this by killing your brother.
  • God killed my brother in a preemptive strike to prevent his future falling into sin? Hmm. I had always thought that God dealt with our sin through the cross…

    God is good – & is predictably good – everything that we need to know about the person & nature of God is wrapped up in Christ Jesus – not just the “good” stuff. All of it. (Check out Colossians 1:19,20 & Colossians 2:9,10 He thinks good thoughts towards us, likes us (not only loves us,) & is dependably the same yesterday, today, & forever. We can rest assured that He is & will be our ever-present help in time of trouble, & is not the one capriciously causing our pain to drive us to Him.

    Next time – we’ll examine the cause of all things bad…

  • Easter musings, & a few other things…

    Something changed in the way I think about Easter – I noticed it in my preparations for the speeching… Can’t quite put a finger on what the change was exactly, but I can describe the absence of something… no angst caused by approaching a familiar topic – at various times coming up on past Easters, I’ve had a tension in my gut, a feeling that I needed to have a good speech for the day, or a gooder speech than I would normally bring (it sounds silly when I read those last sentences to myself, but they’re staying in.) This time, not so much – it was a very simple preparation time – born out of some Bible reading at a time when I wasn’t even “ON” (translation – phishing or studying for speeching material…)

    Spent the afternoon with dear friends – great pizza, wings, & french dips – chocolate fondue, & a great Bordeaux. A fitting way to celebrate the Risen Christ.

    On that note, I had the most amazing realization – I am a musical kind of guy – goodness. Who’d a thunk it? Looking back, I should have known – My Fair Lady, the Sound of Music, & even Doctor Dolittle (Rex Harrison Version please) etc…

    Had an answer to prayer this week, specifically on the issue of pain I blogged about before… And I can see the glimmer of hope -not because the situation has changed, but probably because of my perspective. Approaching life with pessimism & realism can be such downers, esp. when it’s HOPE that is needed to carry the day. I’ll be revisiting that idea – that I need a HOPE infusion as a part of my Jesus life is a surety.

    I wish to be more proficient on the guitar – that I would be able to play with my fingers what I hear in my head.

    Last week, while in conversation with a friend, I heard him speak almost apologetically (ok, no almost about it, he was seriously qualifying…) about some nice things that he had. It wasn’t like he got them from any illegal or illicit activity – he was blessed – he bought a nice car – & a nice home. Had some disposable income. And felt like when talking to me (& others) that he needed to give a disclaimer as though a Christ-follower shouldn’t have nice stuff. He’s definitely not the guy that is trying to get people to sow their “RESURRECTION SEED into his MIHN-uss-tree” – not a charlatan – but it was still there. I’ll have to ponder that.

    Blessed are you…

    You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

    You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

    You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

    You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

    You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.

    You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

    You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

    You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

    Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. 12You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
    Salt and Light

    Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

    Matthew 5:3-16, The Message Bible

    When Chief Sinners Become Moral Guardians…

    I’ve been reading a book by Gregory A. Boyd called Myth Of A Christian Nation. It addresses how the (largely evangelical) church has attempted to use political power in order to advance a ‘christian’ worldview. Boyd, a pastor, challenges the idea that America is (& was) a Christian nation, & points the Church towards Scripture to find out & to reclaim what our real mission is: the message of the cross (not the sword,) & the message of Christ’s love for us. AND every other human being on the planet.

    Today’s reading was from the chapter “When Chief Sinners Become Moral Guardians” – it addresses the problems that result when the church takes on itself the role of being the “moral guardian” of a nation, community, or culture…

    A few highlights in the form of quotes from this chapter:

  • As people called to mimic Jesus in every area of our lives, we should find it significant that Jesus never assumed the position of moral guardian over any individual, let alone over the culture at large.
  • When we assume the role of moral guardians of the culture, we invariably postion ourselves as judges over others.
  • When the church sets itself up as the moral police of the culture, we earn the reputation of being self-righteous judgers rather than loving, self-sacrifical servants.
  • When people assume the position of moral guardians of the culture, they invite – they earn! the charge of hypocrisy, as all judgment, save the judgment of the omniscient & holy God, involves hypocrisy
  • Throughout history, the church has proven itself to be a very poor moral guardian. Whenver the church exercises the power of Caesar to enforce its doctrine & convictions, the result has usually been at least as bad as any non-Christian version of the kingdom of the world.
  • An interesting & thought-provoking read, for sure…