Archives For faith

Sawdust and Scolding

April 22, 2014

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I read a short story once about a man who died with a pile of sawdust in the corner of his bedroom. They said if he had seen the sawdust he wouldn’t have ended his life. The mystery was why.

In the end it was revealed his livelihood required the use of his wooden leg and his short stature. Someone had been sawing away at his wooden leg while he slept. Every morning when he woke, he seemed an inch taller. He feared being worthless and so ended his life.

. . . .

There are things gnawing away at our souls that lie to us or debilitate us. We don’t know to go hunting for the pile of sawdust, for the places our lives have been swept up, sitting in a corner, so all the while hope is shriveling up inside of us.

Misinformation about us is so deep inside that sometimes we can only identify the gnawing pain, but not the source of it.

Tim Keller tweeted, “For some people, the reason why they can never change is because all they do is scold their heart.” Oh, how my soul knows that well. Someone called me a spiritual masochist recently, and another friend challenged me that maybe my issues aren’t from sin as much as suffering.

Those words play over and over in my heart and mind these days. I champion in scolding my heart, sometimes all I do is scold, from waking until sleeping.

A friend told me the other day that in the Old Testament God’s children are usually called sinners, but after Christ, they’re called saints. Yet who among us feels that saintliness?

I don’t. Do you?

There are piles of sawdust everywhere in my life, lies the enemy tells and sometimes truths he exaggerates. But the real truth is that I am Christ’s, and what is Christ’s can never be snatched out His hand, and if I am held and His, I am a saint. Not because I feel like one, but because He has said I am one.

The nearer we draw to the culmination of all things, the coming of Jesus Christ to reclaim what has been His all along, the more it seems people despise clarity.

If we think the Bible is clear on one matter there are ten thousand others who think our clarity is prideful at best and historically inaccurate at worst. See, they point to generations before who walked in unenlightened truth, they thought the Bible was clear too—and see how wrong they were?

I have been reading Colossians over and over again in the past week. Colossians has always seemed the simplest book to me, clear, concise, easy. It’s a book that I point new believers to, and it’s a book that is deeply comforting to me in moments when my own faith seems complicated.

Today I read the section under the title, Paul’s Ministry to the Church. Would you read this? Read it slowly, read it as best as you can in Paul’s pastoral voice to the Church in Colossea, but also to the Church here today (boldface mine).

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

A few years ago I walked out of my local church with a new and powerful sense of trust in what God had worked in my life through the way I was parented. I don’t talk often about my family here on Sayable, but bear with me here. No family is the ideal, mine included. If you were to ask my parents, they would (and have) confessed a litany of regrets—and trust me, each of their offspring bears the scars of their unfortunate choices. But.

But.

But God.

Hebrews 12:10 says our fathers “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them.” That short phrase set something free in my life, something I wasn’t aware even existed inside of me. A nagging unbelief that God would use the sinfulness of my parents to do a deep work in my life—and the subsequent unbelief that all my mistakes would be used in the future of another.

God takes what seems foolishness and works in us a great maturity.

Our job is to simply proclaim what seems true—with great humility—in the great hope that what IS true will be seen one day face to face, in full glory, in absolute clarity.

Did churches and men and women proclaim partial doctrine through the years? Did teachers through the ages get it wrong sometimes? Did they have opinions on slavery, gender issues, baptism, and the creation of earth that were wrong? Did they say something was clear that later seemed less clear, or perhaps more clear? Yes. But did they do the great honor of standing before the Lord in clear conscience and proclaim what they thought wisest? Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. But it is done and it has worked for us and in us a greater maturity.

Here is one thing the Bible is clear on: Christ is coming back to claim His own, He is coming back to see us face to face, with no dim glass between us, and I can trust His clarity in that.

And if He is certain in this one thing, He is certain in others, and so I will continue to proclaim and teach, with great humility, great hope, and great wisdom, what I trust He has said clearly.

The Promise of Place

December 29, 2013 — 5 Comments

Grey Texas days are my favorite. Because they are so rare, or because I love grey more than blue, I don’t know. Back home trees enclose me and so I feel safe. Here there are no towering pines or old maples, so I take the clouds instead and find a haven in them.

Being away for a month was good for me. I did not miss Texas, but I missed place.

The truth is I feel misplaced these days. Misplaced by God, misplaced by men, misplaced, mostly, by myself. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin, but these past months I have felt a foreigner even to myself.

Who is this person? I ask as I roll over awake in the morning, when I hug a friend, when I try to explain myself, excuse myself, examine myself. I feel a stranger to her and estranged from her. As though I’ve forgotten how to take my own pulse, as though I am unsure I have a pulse.

That sounds hyperbole and I know it, but I feel it all the same. The creeping darkness of discouragement snatches away courage, not its opposite, affirmation, as it might seem.

It is a dark day outside and there are dark days all around us. Have you felt it? I am not prone to pessimism except when I am.

I am reading Hebrews this morning, about Abraham and the promise, and I remember the promises God gave him: land, east and west and north and south; descendants as many as the stars; a son, a babe, just one. Just one.

God put Abraham in his place and gave him place and then gave him a place in history. We know him because of his son, and his son’s son, and his son’s son’s son and so on. Because God took a man on a mountainside, an old man, and gave him place.

I wonder sometimes if Abraham knew the gift of place on that day. If he knew he was destined for good things, a forefather of faith and many mentions in the canon. Or if he only stood there and just believed what God told him.

Romans says that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness (Rom. 4.22). The truth is my righteous anything has felt like a failure this year, but faith? Faith, not in the promise itself, but the giver of the promise? The promise of place, not for place’s sake, but for the promise-giver? Faith I can muster up, if I try.

He said He’s prepared good works for us (Eph. 2.10) and I have to believe that. When good anything feels very far off and very impossible today. He has prepared a place for us (John 14.2) and whether that is here, in this home, or in a new heaven and new earth, God said it.

Father, help me to know my place. That the very safest place for me is at the foot of the cross, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as your daughter, as a discipler and learner, a friend. Most of all, help me to see Christ in His place, high and lifted up, seated on the throne, parenting a world, and following the direction of His Father, wholly unconcerned with His place even while He prepares a place for us.

Silent Sanctification

August 1, 2013

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I’ve written here for 13 years, about doubts, fears, concerns, questions, deaths, divorces, heartbreak, joy, moving, lessons, and learnings. In many ways this place is the very public working out of my salvation. Were you to peruse the archives you would find much poor theology and even more straight up narcissism. This page was my heart splayed out for anyone to read and I bled myself dry for it.

Last night I said to one of my closest friends that sometimes silence is the best sanctification, and I gave her a numbered list of all the things happening in my life right now that I can’t talk about publicly. At least not this publicly.

There’s so much of the blogosphere that lauds transparency and authenticity, but even that is rife with trophy stories and humble brags and I am strangled by the fear that I will join their ranks if I so much as whisper the numbers aloud. The truth is that even good things bring with them deep breaths and open palms. I do not know how this or that will turn out and I can’t even guess. And I don’t want to give you the opportunity to guess. Because I am selfish? Perhaps. Because I am fearful? For sure. But also because some things are best worked out in quiet, gentle, and still ways. Sometimes our rest is found there, in the stillness, in the mind’s sleep.

Sometimes writing in this place has been the best sanctification for me. But today silence might be my best sanctification.

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

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“Every morning, when you wake up,” he used to say, “before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say I believe for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind and then see if you can honestly say it again.” He was a fool in the sense that he didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t resolve, intellectualize, evade the tensions of his faith but lived those tensions out, torn almost in two by them at times. His faith was not a seamless garment but a ragged garment with the seams showing, the tears showing, a garment that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.

—on Union Theological Seminary professor James Muilenburg by Frederick Buechner in Now and Then, pg. 16

A hedge of doubt

June 24, 2013

I woke this morning for the first time in weeks without the heaviness of condemnation on me. I haven’t been able to shake those feelings lately, no matter how hard I’ve pressed myself against the robe, no matter how much I’ve bent my face over Jesus’ feet. I’ll be honest, I began to doubt some things. Even now, writing this, my mind is replaying a litany of doubts. Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe you’re worth something to Him? Do you really believe that anyone could love you at all? What makes you think He’ll be happy with you?

They pile up and attack what I know to be true. And so this morning when I woke up gently, quietly, I held my breath for a moment or two, waiting for the doubts to assemble and charge. But they didn’t. And I couldn’t figure out why.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of the greatest gifts God gave me was the gift of doubt. I doubt that many of us would see it as a gift, but I know it to be the deepest grace to me. He gave me the wide pasture of doubt and pleasant boundary line of truth. He wounds me with my doubt, but heals with me with His truth.

Like most who grew up in the church in one manner or another, I bought the lie that a fortified moralism would lead me to paths of great joy—purity until marriage, marriage by 22, children by 24, ducks lined up before me and behind me, I got them in a row. I organized my life to make sense.

And then life didn’t make sense. Life dealt me, as one person called it, a bad hand. I’ll never forget walking away from that conversation wondering how to play these cards. What do you do with a handful of threes and no partner in this game? I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

You fall full into it, bathe yourself in it, wash your soul with sin and shame. When the answers you’ve been given by well-meaning people fail, when the theology you believe (that God responds when we pray harder, give more, seek deeper, and repent faster) proves you the fool, and when God does not seem good, I’ll tell you what you do: you doubt.

And here’s the thing about doubt: it is a seemingly endless plateau. God has given us the gift of reason and logic and thought, and so doubt will take us where nothing else can because there is always another question, another possibility. Even if we bump up against a wall of truth, we are like little squares in Atari games, bouncing for eternity.

Doubt doesn’t seem like a gift.

This morning I read the first chapter of Job, the righteous man who we might also say was dealt a bad hand. But today I noticed a word: hedge.

“Have you not put a hedge around him and all that he has?” The enemy asked God before he unleashed upon Job the full fury of his minions.

God permitted the enemy to do what he would, only told to keep his hand from Job himself, and today I think about the hedge God has set around us. I want to believe that the hedge prevents the enemy from coming in, but that is not what we’re told. No, the hedge prevents the enemy from going outside the bounds of what God has set for him. It is Job’s hedge, but it is also the enemy’s.

This morning I woke up and felt myself hit the hedge. Not my limitations, but God’s. Not the end of myself, but the time when God holds up His hand and says “No more. This is the safest place I have for you. Within these boundary lines. Here. All the rest I have for you lies within these boundaries. All the struggles I have for you too lie within these boundaries. But do not worry: I have set this hedge around you and the enemy will not prevail.”

 

It’s been a few months of feeling discouraged and one of the effects of that is I simply don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to write at all, but I especially don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to be found out, so to speak. I don’t want the world to know my first love feels likes seconds and my *gospel wakefulness feels tired. I don’t want you to know I’ve been struggling with condemnation, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and weariness. I am ashamed of those feelings—especially because I know they are anti-gospel and they are born in me as a result of not reveling in Godward affections.

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Tonight I was remembering some of the things that set my soul free a few years ago. Not the sermons or books specifically, but the realizations:

1. I am the younger brother AND the older brother. I hate restrictions and I love approval, I hate poverty and love lavish attention.

2. God is not more or less interested in me because of my legalism or licentiousness: His provision is the same for both.

3. The gospel doesn’t only carry the power to save me, but also sanctify and sustain me.

4. I cannot put God in my debt by being good, holy, or faithful enough.

5. All my righteous acts are like filthy rags.

6. God is not beholden to my view of Him. My concept of good is not His definition of good. My ideal of His faithfulness is not His attribute of faithfulness.

7. Man’s approval is impossible to attain. God’s approval is completely wrapped up in His Son.

8. God is not surprised by my lack of faith or my abundance of faith, by my questions or my fears, by my pride or my sin. On the threshold of His kingdom He will not deny access to me because I didn’t understand an aspect of theology or walk in complete faith in certain areas.

9. The Holy Spirit is not tapping His toe waiting for my faith to be big enough or my ear to be tuned. He dwells in me, empowering me to accomplish everything God has ordained for me to accomplish with every gift He formed me to have before the foundation of the world.

10. God is for my joy. He is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. My complete confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of the Son, to the honor of the Father, brings the triune God glory.

It was encouraging for me to simply write these things out, and so I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps you’re struggling too, or perhaps you’ve never experienced gospel wakefulness, and these points will help you along that way. Either way, I hope you’re encouraged. Also, I suggest you take a few minutes to write out what the gospel means to you, or has shown you. Even just to remind truths or clarify errors in your thinking.

*Gospel Wakefulness is not my term, but Jared Wilson’s . Jared wrote a book by the same title, but he has also written extensively on it on his blog Gospel Driven Church. Jared is one of the most Godward gazing people I know. His blog has been a constant source of encouragement in the past few years and I recommend every one of his books with full assurance you will be encouraged. Seriously, buy his books. All of ‘em.

Did y’all know there are whole websites devoted to uncovering the supposed-salacious details of Christian bloggers and pastors? I didn’t until today when my inbox received a google alert that my name, lo and behold, was attached to some very salacious details of its own. Who knew?

I didn’t read far—my constitution is affected enough by truths about my own soul to bother with what strangers make up about it. Suffice it to say the underbelly is alive and well, folks, alive and well.

All this has me thinking about the ever shrinking neutral ground and whether it exists at all, or ever has. It seems nothing is out from under the watchful eye of bloggers and critics these days. Mostly because everyone has a platform these days and if not, they build one from crates, soapboxes, and grudges til they get one. I’m a peace-making sort, but even I feel the pull to build a Babel—even to just protect my own name and sense of peace.

What most of these watchdog sites and bulldog bloggers are doing, though, is attempting to make their -ism (whatever -ism and -ian or -ist they are) seem more appealing than the others’. And if they can’t do that, or have already failed to do so, they’ll do their darnedest to pull all the -isms down with ‘em.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is when those seven silly sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the names of Paul and Jesus without any faith of their own. The evil spirits replied, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” and I-love-that.

I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul.

But who are you?

 

 

 

 

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So tonight, this small writer, writing from a dark bedroom in a small, dark house in Texas, my roommate asleep next to me, her mom asleep in her bed, a friend asleep on the couch, and the rest of my girls snug in bed, I think about how small our lives are. How very, very small they are.

Who are we?

Precious few of us are Pauls; most of us are probably Peters, running at the mouth and sinking after three steps. Or Thomas, that beautiful faithless skeptic. Maybe we’re Mary, the whore with the hair at Jesus feet, giving much. Perhaps some of us are just shepherds on a cold night, to whom an angel appears with great news. Maybe we’re Joseph, asked to do hard things. But at the end of all things, we are very small people living very small lives. I think that with every new twitter follower, every facebook like, every email that comes into my inbox, every new invitation to speak or write: who are you, Lore? Who the heck are you?

Because at the end of all things, the world won’t care about my -ism or my name. They won’t remember anything when faced with the all-encompassing God of the universe. They will Know Jesus. Every one of us will bow and confess Him alone as Lord.

And until that day, I want to simply do my best to preach the gospel in His name. That’s all I am. And I hope, I hope that’s all you are too.

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Drinking Often

March 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I am thinking of the first communion these days, more part of the Easter story than the Christmas, but how can we love the birth if we do not love the death? I am thinking of that cup of wine, the sign of the new covenant, the blasphemous words of a man at a table with 12 friends: drink this new way of doing things, this new kindness of God. Drink it in remembrance of me.

“As often as you do it…” That’s what he said. It’s odd that a man who was saying, “I’m doing away with your rituals and sacrifices, your habits and your rules,” was also saying, “do this often.” But this is what I think about last night falling asleep: He has set for us pleasant perimeters. He says do it often, but remember it’s not your religion anymore.

He knows us so well to use a word like often.

We need this, with our hearts so prone to attempting and trying, to sacrificing the modern lambs of our time, our tithe and our truant hearts.

We need this, we who do not understand that the kindness of God draws us to repentance and anything less is a marauder of faith and a shortcut to legalism.

I drink the cup this past Sunday with no resolve in my heart to do better next time or try harder tomorrow, no attempts to force a change of heart or fall into an apathy of my soul. I drink it with the freedom to drink it often, as often as I need a reminder of the new covenant, as often as I need the kindness of God drawing out my repentance. I drink it in gratefulness.

Someone said to me a few months ago: I’m only grateful for the Old Testament because it shows me where I’d be without the New Testament. I think about this often. That’s really what Jesus was saying, drink this small cup, this sip of wine, do it to remember where you were and where you are now.

Doesn’t that taste good?

(Published originally this past year on Grace for Sinners)

I’m a born fearer but I wear the mask of bravado well. If there’s a risk I’ll plan for it and if there’s a plan I’ll risk it. But there are knots tied up inside of me these past few months and I don’t know if I’m more afraid of what’s out there or what’s in here.

The old presidential adage, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” comes to mind these days because what I fear is not out there so much, but what arrests my soul, captivates my mind, and plays chicken with my heart. I fear the fear of a fear, or at the very least I fear the fear.

I’m reading a book about preaching to oneself and today’s chapter is on fear. I close the chapter and I receive a text message: “The truth is that God will do what He will do and provide what He will provide. Don’t be shackled by fear!” I look over my shoulder to see who else is following me, who has their finger on the pulse of my heart.

A week ago I sat across from two of my pastors and one asked, “What are you afraid of?” Not, “Are you afraid?” but “What do you fear?” We all fear something, one said, so what do you fear?

When you name the monsters in your closet and under your bed, you can personalize them or demonize them. This is what I am learning.

To name the fears is to say them right out loud: of being hated, of being unloved, of being alone, of being not enough, of being too much, of being misrepresented, and of misrepresenting. And their power is released in the naming, or the shackles cling tighter still. There seems no perfect potion for fear-loosing.

I am reading II Timothy this morning, the favorited passage: for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but power, love, and a sound mind. But further up it is Paul commendation to Timothy, his mother, and grandmother of their faith.

So often I think the opposite of fear is courage, but that is not it at all. Courage comes from within, daring comes from the belief that one cannot fail, bravery is the belief that even if one fails, it was a battle worth fighting.

But faith? Faith comes by hearing and by doing, but there is nothing of self in it. And I think on that this morning. All the questions of my heart are variations of can I? will I? should I? am I?

And all the answers of Him are finished: I already did.

For by grace you have been saved athrough 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

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Sucking on Stones

February 19, 2013

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Sometimes we just need to stay hungry, she says to me through tears, and I remind her that Jesus said His food was to do the will of Him who sent Him. We are silent for a few minutes before thanking one another for being bread and fish.

Last fall I wanted to ask for something or someone and the Lord told me no or wait or yes or maybe but that He would sustain in the meantime. What I did not expect was the sustainment He gave. She lives on the west coast, in rainy Portland, she studies Hebrew and is a whole head taller than me. She’s blond and beautiful and has a sleeve tattoo and we regularly cry through our conversations. I didn’t ask for her—she was not what I asked for.

Sometimes, she told me once, we think we’re asking for bread, but we’re really asking for a stone, and when He gives us bread we don’t recognize it because we’re still looking for the stone.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I read a quote from Kathy Keller in the book she co-wrote with her husband, the inimitable Tim Keller, “Sometimes a pig doesn’t know the worth of a pearl, to him it’s just a pebble.” I underlined those words, scribbled beside them, and cannot stop thinking about them.

Sometimes I’m asking for a stone instead of bread and sometimes I feel like a pebble instead of a pearl.

I find it a bit strange that Jesus said He would built His Church on the rock, crooking his finger at Peter, petra, Rock. On the backs of men who would deny Christ three times before He could forgive His followers saying they know not what they do? On the backs of those who sink after three steps out on watery faith? On the backs of those zealots? Those fools?

It occurs to me that God is the only one who knows the worth of stones, pebbles, pearls, and rocks.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If we don’t ask for bread, we might feel satisfied for a long time sucking on the cold, hard emptiness of a stone—thinking it was all He had for us. Or perhaps we have ourselves convinced, like the old fable, that our stone soup is satiating and full.

And still, somehow, He’s building His Church, accomplishing the will of the Father, on the backs of stone-sucking fools like us.

Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me
and to accomplish his work.”

John 3:34

It was a poor grasp of theology that led to me to confess in early 2010 I did not believe and could not believe, nor follow, the God I thought I knew. It was one particular line a few months later that turned me right around and into the arms of a Father unlike none I’d ever known: a simple line of truth about Who God Was and Is, and who I am not.

Did I believe before that? Was there a moment of salvation in 2010? Did I need to get rebaptized? These were the questions I asked myself and others eventually asked as well. Questions that needed answers immediately, I thought.

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Rob Bell is coming out with a new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, and I watched the trailer for it this morning. Guy better brace himself because I don’t care if you’re the Pope or the President of the United States, the backlash about to unleash on him yet again is gonna sting. Should it sting? Well, that’s a question I’m not going to address here, so take your snark and stinky attitude elsewhere—regardless of how much you love or hate him.

Here’s what I will say: in early 2006 I got my hands on a copy of Velvet Elvis. First, it was the design of the book that appealed to me—I loved the space, the use of graphic elements in the book, and the smokey blue used throughout it. It felt fresh in my hands. I hadn’t read a word and already I knew something beautiful was about to happen to me. I was right. My copy of that book is dog-eared and underlined, scribbled in with pages falling out. Someone was giving me permission to think and to ask questions.

All my life, and especially all my Christian life, asking questions was out of the question.

In Velvet Elvis I was able to wrestle with concepts and thoughts that had never been presented to me as beautiful or mysterious. I thought faith was something you got once and never lost, and could never understand why faith had always been so elusive to me. I was [am] a chronic doubter. Bell’s book let me stick my hands in the side of Jesus, poke fingers through God made flesh and flesh made God. 2006 began four years of wrestling for me. What I wrestled with was never completely clear, and I see now it’s because I was wrestling with mystery.

I had flesh on my Jesus—He looked like me and all the Christians I’d known my whole life: a bit radical, a bit bland, and a bit pragmatic.

But now I had permission to not understand the fullness of Jesus.

And that saved my life.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

At the end of those four years, sobbing on my bedroom floor, confessing I did not believe and could not believe, what I came to realize is that I did not believe and could not believe in the God I thought was.

This God who was black and white, clear and clean, four points and a poem, and this God who could not be understood at all, an enigma, a full-on mystery—neither God satisfied the deepest doubts and longings of my soul.

Slowly He began to reveal to me that He was both mystery and proof, solid and spirit, firm truth and full life. He was both/and, not either/or. He was stunning in His characteristics and humbling in His holiness. His beauty was in His immutability and His changelessness was in His triune nature, God in three persons.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is important because heresy will always exist and we must be stalwart to point it out, but we also must let each generation come to a place where they are wrestling with very real, very actual, necessary battles with and for their souls. If we do not fling open the doors to what the world brings at us in some respect, we will raise generations of robotic orators with no grounding to their faith. Can I endorse the content of Velvet Elvis knowing what I know now? No. But can I endorse the wrestling with faith that Velvet Elvis encourages? Yes. Without reservation.

We finished the book of Acts this morning in class and several of us offered reflections on what we learned, how we were challenged or blessed. Here’s what Paul taught me more than anything in that book: He was ready in season and out because he knew his audience, he knew the Word, and more than anything he knew his God. He, Pharisee of Pharisees, Hebrew of Hebrews, persecutor of Christians, and mocker of faith, was brought low and shown the beautiful mysterious light of his Savior on Damascus road.

We all will have our moment of beautiful mysterious light, some will have it reading Piper or Edwards, some while reading Keller, Chan, Kierkegaard, or even Bell. Maybe it will take longer than we’d like for someone, or even ourselves, to see a faithful work of service behind us and a hopeful path set before us. Maybe some of us will have to hide out in the house of Judas for a few months or days or weeks.

As for me, I take comfort in this: Every knee will bow, every tongue confess, that He is Lord.

There is no mystery or question about that. It will be full-on, the most spectacularly beautiful culminating moment we could ever imagine.

Endure Patiently

January 30, 2013

I can’t even tell you how it happened that we sat there and cried hot wet tears, barely looking one another in the eyes. I take much of the blame, though my heart ached with hurt and couldn’t find healing.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger?

Well, what about when it’s not anger you’re bedding down for the night? What about when it’s joy mixed with mourning so deep you don’t know what else to do but be silent? Be silent for fear that your muddled mess of joy and mourning will be trumped by the latter and seen as such. So I kept silent.

A friend tells me a few weeks ago that I present my life as perfect and I want to tell her to read a decade’s archives of presentations. This? This place on the web? This is my sanctification in process on view for the world, and if that’s perfect, well, I suppose I’ve arrived a thousand times over.

Once I heard a story of an old man on his death-bed. He was asked if he found himself sinning less as he grew older.

“Sin less?” He asked. “I was never more aware of my sin than I was a moment ago.”

“Well, then, do you find it easier to repent?”

“No, son,” he said. “I just find the gap between me and the Lord ever closing as I turn.”

It was Annie Dillard who said, “Where, then, is the gap through which eternity streams?” and I think that gap is here, and here, and this moment, and this one. Eternity streams through these small moments, adding up to one final jubilee, one long trumpet call, when our angers and hurts and fears and sins are bedded forever, never to wake up, not ever.

Do I find myself sinning less the nearer I draw to that final day?

No. I find I know my sin more, and every moment more aware than the last. But do I find it’s easier to find God, to know His nearness, and to trust the days to him? Yes. I do.

It doesn’t make the hurt less, but this earthly Christian life is not for the avoiding of hurt, but the enduring of it.

…we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance…
Romans 5:3

11

Comparing Weight

January 28, 2013

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…
I Corinthians 4:17

Tonight I’m on the phone with a friend and we’re talking about the weight of glory like we know what we’re talking about. We’ve seen our fair share of light momentary afflictions and we’re both crying “Maranatha!” in our stronger moments.

Come quickly, we’re saying, and in the meantime we’re shouldering our share of the burden.

“Did you know that the Hebrew word for glory is the same word for heavy?” she asks me. She’s in seminary and seminarians know these things. I tell her I didn’t know that but it seems fitting, doesn’t it? If you can follow it through, the weight of glory is the heaviness of glory is the glory of glory is the glory of heaviness is the glory of weight—and isn’t it a beautiful picture when you put it like that?

This light momentary affliction is preparing us for the glory of bearing it through til the end. Finishing well. Finishing without comparison, because we know there is no comparison or coupling in heaven—we will be all too enamored with the King of Kings to consider our neighbor.

And let me be straight—our momentary affliction is not the stuff of real suffering, we have food enough and friends enough and He carries us through in the meantime. But our momentary affliction comes from the comparison we are so wont to do here on earth, and isn’t it the way for us all?

No one else seems to struggle here or with this. No one else has to muscle their way through this experience, so why us? Why me? These are the existential questions of our momentary affliction. It is fitting, then, that Paul would use the word comparison when he talks of the weight of glory, isn’t it? Listen here, he’s saying, you who are looking around you and experiencing the stuff of the earth in deeper and more painful ways than your counterparts are, what it’s preparing you for is a glory you can’t compare, not even on your best day.

I imagine, for one moment, Isaiah in the year King Uzziah died, seeing the Lord in all His glory. Isaiah, who was undone by all that glorious glory. “Woe is me.” I imagine the burning coal touching his mouth and his admission that he would go anywhere the Lord sent Him.

I imagine that and I can bear almost anything.