Archives For gratitude

A few nights ago I sat on the corner of our couch, faced my friend, and wept. Hot, sad, gross tears. The sort that feel shameful even as they fall from your face because you know they’re selfish—but you can’t change the hurt, the wounding you feel. The injustice of pain.

Whenever I hear even whispers of any sort of prosperity gospel—that if we do righteous acts, God will respond with righteous acts—my skin crawls with the falsity of it. But I cannot help the sneaking presence of it in my heart, even on my best day, especially on my best day.

I did this and this is how you repay me, Lord? I was faithful. I was righteous. I was long-suffering. I was. I am. And you are what? Where? Where are you?

Tonight I’m thinking of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and of entering into Christ’s sufferings. I’m thinking of the agony of the garden, those last moments when Jesus asked His brothers: can’t you even for one minute stay with me? Stay with me. Be with me here. In my last moments? In my sufferings? There’s a part of me that just longs to be there, in that place, with Christ. I am like the child in the back of the classroom waiting to be picked, the woman with the issue of blood pressing through the crowds, Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water—begging to be let into what He’s doing—even in His sufferings.

But when I taste those sufferings, oh, how I blanche. How I balk. How I complain. How I fear. How I demand.

Many people can’t handle a God who would slay, but tonight I know that even in the midst of the slaying, He is a staying God. Even when I leave, He follows through. When I fear, He stands on. When I barter and cajole and beg and plead, He offers without cost, without money. He slays so He can heal.

Counting Down

January 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

It is midmorning and I spread the logs apart, the time for morning fires over, the day’s work ahead. The embers still crack and spark and I stare at their orange and grey glare for a few minutes more.

There has been a dormant joy in my heart these last months. Depression is never such a stranger to me that I don’t recognize her creeping around the eaves and windows of my heart. We are old enemies, she and I, and old friends too.

She is different this time around. She knows where my faith lies and my certainty rests, and it isn’t in my hope or future, but His glory. I count all my hope and future as loss in the surpassing joy of knowing Him. But I have to count it and the counting never ceases.

If all I count are the blessings and joys, will I hold to tightly to the losses when they come? I ask it rhetorically but I ask it earnestly. I know idolatry, we have been friends too. If I do the math, it must only be that I decrease and He increases. In this life only one of us gets to live. It is in heaven, in final glory, that we are both alive.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” said the man who would be a martyr. I look around me and grasp at things, hopes, dreams, losses, always keeping, never giving.

God, help me lose.

Help me spread wide the logs, chance the death of flame, let the embers burn themselves out, and help me do the work of the day. Help me count as loss all things—even good things. Turn my wins upside down and my face to you. Let my counting not be accumulating but subtracting til there is nothing left but You.

The Love of Laundry

October 1, 2013

I used to dream of canning peaches and hanging laundry on lines, letting it billow in the northern breeze. I was set on a life of simplicity, kneading bread dough by hand, peeling apples at a wooden table marked and scarred by time and use. Reading storybooks aloud to calico-clad babies and lighting candles every night on the dinner table. This was the life of which I dreamed and felt within my grasp. It never materialized and I felt the ache of that deep in my gut years over and over. Sand slips more easily through fingers than through an hourglass and it is so very hard to hold time for long.

I signed leases and moved houses and states and tables. I forgot those dreams or buried them beneath convenience and the fear of missing out on real life while I waited for dream life to happen.

I spent years placing my hand over the ache of want, stilling my heart of its desires, trying to live well in today. Aren’t we such foolish creatures? To think we can capture a vapor and own it for any measure of time?

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

No bridal showers would bring me the things that made a home so I dove deep into thrift stores and bargain bins, my home made of second-hands and hand-me-downs. It feels lived in but I wonder how well I have lived in it? Someone else marred my table-top, someone else chipped my favorite bowl, someone else created my art.

But this is the life I love. This reusable life. It reminds me life is a vapor and time is short and things are falling apart and I am too.

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

Richard Wilbur wrote,

The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

I have never forgotten that poem or the autumn day in college when I first read it. Love Calls Us to the Things of This World and it means we must love the vapor too because it is the stuff of life—the laundry, the rising steam, the clear dances done only in the sight of heaven. We love the marred table and the calico clothes and the lit candles because these are not the meaning of life, but they help us remember the work, the dirt, the mess, the grit of life.

Convenience is not our friend, my brother and my sister, ease is not our aim.

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

A threshold waits in front of me, a coming home of sorts. Marriage and life with a man so wholly different than me and so wholly loving to me, it makes me wonder how you start fresh with so many years behind you. So many scars and mars, chips and cracks—how do you make new with so much old?

I don’t have an answer to that friends, but I know love does call me to the things of this world. It is an angst I wrestle with daily in these months. How to be distracted, my attentions divided by good things? Without love I am a clanging symbol, a noisy gong. And love is work. All of love is work. Beautiful work, like canned peaches and billowing laundry, rising steam, lit candles, but still work.

Let there be nothing on earth but the work of love, even if some days it looks only like laundry.

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When I first met my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend we were six of us sharing a hotel room for a Thanksgiving wedding. I hugged her hard and I meant it. “Welcome to the Makeshift Family,” I said, and I hoped she would be forever. And then she was.

This morning I am lying on my hammock, my glasses pushed up on my head, staring up at the trees above me, an oak and one I don’t know its name.

In the Impressionist era they would make paintings of small dots of color and this is what someone with less than twenty/twenty vision sees. I wonder if the Impressionists were really just suffering of poor eyesight, but nothing about my view looks poor. I am talking to one of my closest friends on the phone. We are talking about serious things and I stop and tell her about pointillism and Seurat, and how no matter how well I can explain what I see—small circles of color, all the same size, but different shades and lightness of color and sky—I cannot explain this to her. It is beautiful and tragic at the same time. Beautiful because it is, and tragic because my eyesight is poorer than 80% of the population and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Tonight at church one of our pastors shared about the Israelites complaining in the wilderness, “Take us back to Egypt!” they fussed and we all laughed but who of us doesn’t wish ourselves back in what seemed sore but good enough for now?

I rolled over and hugged my pillow tight tonight, wishing for homes. College years with the best friends I’ve ever known. People who know me and who I know even though we’re nearing a decade out. They all married one another, except me and one other. He lives in Colorado and is smart enough to find a girl to marry and get his PhD in bio-chemistry all at the same time. I haven’t talked to him in a few months and it feels like longer. The rest—thank God for Facebook. They are having kids and moving houses and being family together and I am in Texas and Texas feels very far away from what I love and what is still not best for me today.

I have wished for their lives sometimes, the homes, the husbands and wives, the babies growing and toddling and talking. I know they’re not perfect, but there is a togetherness they all have that I do not. I have wished myself back into that season. I have wished myself sick. I squint my eyes to see it clearly, but oh, what I see with my tilted vision, my clouded eyes. It is beautiful and tragic, this world. Beuchner said, “Here is the world; beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid,” and I love it because it is true.

Here is the world, and it will mess you over in a myriad of ways. Beautifully and tragically and back again for good measure. Welcome to the family, it isn’t perfect, but it’s home, in a strange distorted way. You can’t go back, you can’t ever go back, your eyesight has failed you and still it’s beautiful here. But I can’t describe it to you, even if I try.

Hindsight is only 20/20 if you have perfect sight and I never will but it still looks like home from here.

387103_669705533246_1123382129_nThe last time we were all together under one roof. I don’t even know how many bodies are asleep in this picture. But I love every one of ‘em. 

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.

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

We filled our glasses and pulled our chairs close to the fireplace. Only a few of us, but enough still to carry the conversation, none of us noticed when midnight rolled past, and so we asked more questions.

I don’t make resolutions because I know I can’t keep them. Instead I just ask God to birth and build in me what I cannot do myself. Two years ago it was fearlessness. This past year it was to ask. I still don’t know what 2013 will be, but I’m afraid it might be to just ask again.

This morning I read Psalm 1 and I tell myself I am the tree—planted by streams of water, but who only yields fruit in its season and this is not my season. This is the season to ask, but not receive. It doesn’t make me less a tree because fruit doesn’t fall from my laden branches.

It is winter and the trees are bare outside, cold wet cowlicks standing stark on flat brown Texas spreads. I stand outside this morning in the damp cold, the gray skies overhead, cupping my coffee and asking for what seems impossible.

The acorns and leaves carpet our backyard, fruit borne in its season, now lifeless on floor of the earth, making space and way for new fruit.

I turn my hand up and ask for fullness in the right time and not before.

resolutions

Last year on this day it was a balmy 70 degrees. We spent the entire day out on the back porch in our pajamas, reading, reflecting, and reveling in the time together.

Every year-end my ritual is to close out the year asking myself seven questions, declare the year over, and then ring in the new year with five expectant questions. I do this because I love Mondays and the firsts of the months, the thresholds of sermons and new babies. I love new. Whether I finish well or not matters little to me—I love the thrill of new.

The thrill of new has taken me all over the world, to life in different cities with strangers, to new experiences and new challenges, it has taken me places emotionally and spiritually that I never thought possible. It rarely disappoints.

But this year, at the end of 2012, I’m a little slow to ring in 2013. Maybe it’s the melancholy skies, the raindrops outside my window, maybe it’s the marathon 2012 was, or the marathon 2013 promises to be. I don’t know. I just want to stay the moments, if I can. I know I can’t, but I wish I could.

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In 2012, some small miracles happened that let me take a month long sabbatical to spend working on a book. I know. A book?! It’s a book that is nearly complete, but for various reasons I won’t let out of my hands for some time, it just isn’t time yet. But 2012 let me write it, and you all helped.

In 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the pilot year of a discipleship program at my church. For me it means waking up in the 4am hour, reading and wrestling through difficult portions of scripture, and attempting to do school again after many years absence. To spend ten months studying theology and each book of the bible, to grasp some principles of pastoral theology, and to be invested in by some great minds—2012 gave me that.

In 2012, all three of my roommates fell in love in a three month time span. I felt hurt, neglected, overlooked, and finally, beautifully seen by God in deep and rich ways. He did not give me the love I wanted, but He gave me some gentle fathering and better bread.

In 2012, I made it all the way through a one year lease and then some. This has never before happened to me in my life. We have just begun year two in this small home on Meadow Lane and never have I been more at home in a house. Thank you 2012 for making space for me.

In 2012, I walked into a publications scheduling meeting at work discouraged, tired, spent, ready for a change, though still deeply passionate about my job and place of employment. During that meeting I was surprisingly offered a position change for 2013 that was a direct answer to prayer in multiple ways.

In 2012, I asked for bread and fish and God did not give me the bread and fish I asked for. But He did not give me stones or serpents, as I’d come to expect, and this is growth friends.

In 2012, Sayable more than tripled her subscribers, more than quadrupled her readership, and quit using comments. She felt like work to me like never before, like trudging through mud to plant seeds where there is no guarantee of fruit. There are pockets of joy in her field, but to be honest, those pockets are harder to find. More readership means more accountability, more accountability means more joy—even if it is simply eventual joy. Thank you, dear readers, for pushing me toward the pleasant boundary lines, the places of deepest joy—even if it means staying out of other fields.

In 2012, God showed me what it is like to press through when the thrill is not there, when all things feel old, when nothing feels new, when skies are grey, and when it seems to rain on my parade. The Father is showing me what it means to stay the course, plant deep, subsist on today’s manna, to let tomorrow worry about itself, to trust that if the only new I ever see is that final and glorious day when He makes all things new—that is enough.

Dayenu.

new

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I have a friend who has made a seeming mess of his life. This is nothing he wouldn’t tell you himself and already has, in a way. Whenever we talk he makes it no secret that the path behind him is strewn with destruction.

But here’s the thing about my friend: for one brief moment and then twenty more, in ways that wouldn’t be known to him until nearly a decade later, he was leaving a indelible mark on this writer’s life. It was his words, yes of course, editorials in the Wall Street Journal or evangelical news magazines, sentences crafted with poise and prose and pointed statements. But it was his beautiful self-deprecating confessionals that truly won me over.

“If a Christian can be a writer like this and a sinner like this, there is hope for me,” I remember thinking one day after one such editorial rife with confessions of failure.

There are two camps of writers from where I stand: those who love words, who craft sentences that go down as smooth as brandy with a burning aftertaste, and those who love truth or opinion and wield it every which way no matter how it sounds.

To marry the two is an awful and beautiful call, and it’s done so rarely, see?

One only needs to read twitter or the myriad of blogs in the world to see that opinions are never lacking. But insight and beauty? A paragraph (And who reads paragraphs anymore? But that is another post altogether.) that knocks out and draws close in the same moment? A rarity. Gold, if you ask me.

But to craft such words, the author has to be willing to wrestle. Not just wrestle with himself, but wrestle with God. And not just wrestle with God, but wrestle in full view of the world. And not just wrestle in view of the world, but do it in such a way to make the rest of us know it is a beautiful thing to wrestle well in the light of a God who sees and knows already.

Few are willing to sell tickets to that show.

So when you find such a writer (and please find one at least? They are rare, but they are there. Scour the internet, read the last article in every magazine, ask a friend with good taste in writing and truth.), tell them, if you can. Tell them their words changed you, shifted something inside of you. They will wave it off and talk about the unsanctified deeps of their soul, but tell them.

It is no easy task to craft a sentence, especially in a time when so many believe they’re writers just because they have something to say. Saying something and saying it well are two different sayings, and we would all do well to remember that and keep our tongues still. So tell the ones who have said something and said it well that they have done so.

And maybe someday, nearly ten years after you first read their article, you will find yourself friends and fellow admirers of one another, and—which is more beautiful and humbling—you will find that it is now your own written wrestlings that comfort and encourage them in the battleworn deeps of their soul.

 

Drinking Often

October 31, 2012

Bread

This morning in class we read through the last few chapters of Matthew, including the final supper. I couldn’t help the tears that pooled in my eyes while our campus pastor read the words in that small paragraph. The last supper, yes, but the inaugural supper, that too. The first supper. The first communion. I love that.

So it is fitting, I think, that today I’ve written on that supper over at Grace for Sinners, the blog of Matthew Sims. I hope you’ll head over there and read about a Savior who fulfills the law and uses the word “often.”

“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.”

Continue reading… 

Common Stones

October 27, 2012

Remember last week when I told you about asking for a fish and getting a stone?

A friend told me afterward that sometimes we think we’ve asked for a fish and still receive a stone, and when that happens it’s because we cannot fathom the unending blessing and goodness of God—what we’re really asking for is a stone and what He is giving is a fish.

Protection, she called it, from what would ruin us, because He knows best what is best.

I hear that and receive it, but I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I like fish and I like a particular kind of fish and I see other people getting the fish they asked for and I can’t figure out why He won’t give me the particular fish for which I crafted a beautiful ask.

Instead he plops a stone down into my lap—it’s hard, uncomfortable, and it’s covered in dirt.

Well, what am I going to do with this stone, I’m asking Him.

And He’s not answering. But it’s not because He’s not good—I know it’s because He is good and sometimes answers come slowly, like rocks eroding in a river instead of fast like fish swimming downstream.

So I’m turning this rock over in my hands and trying to see the beauty in it. And if beauty cannot be found in it, I’m trying to see hope in it. And if hope cannot be found in it, I am trying to see His goodness in it. And the truth is that His goodness can be seen in every common and broken thing on earth.

[What do you do with a stone when it's not the fish you asked for?]
[Email me and let me know, really.]

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THE BIGGEST CATCH

October 17, 2012

She’s a little like Jesus in that she always teaches me in allegories. Gardens and graveyards and apple picking—there’s always some lesson lurking beneath her well timed speeches, and there’s certain to be a prayer at the end of it all: go and do likewise.

Tonight she’s talking to me about fish.

She can stand at her kitchen sink and overlook the Grasse River. The thing about this particular juncture in the Grasse River is that it is the last dam from that river flowing down the Adirondacks and into the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The house used to be an old mill and that dam was once crucial to the life of the home and, in some ways, it still is.

It is at that dam that the salmon who make their way against the current from the Saint Lawrence end their journey. They jump and twist and spin and no matter how hard they try, they cannot make it over the dam.

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It is a lazy fisherman’s sweet spot. A bastion of swirling thirty inch salmon meeting their demise through hook or weariness.

But this is not the allegory she spins for me tonight.

We are talking about prayer and she is talking to me about asking big prayers, specific ones, naming things, not so that I can claim the things themselves, but so that I can hold a quivering hand to God full of childish requests and I can praise Him when He answers so specifically back to me.

I am not a big asker.

I stopped asking God for anything three years ago when I determined that He was not good and did not intend good for me. I let the anger build and boil inside of me until two years ago when I stopped asking God for anything for a different reason: I finally understood the gospel was the fullness of God for me, and what more could I possibly want? This girl was done asking because her cup runneth over.

But at a table the other night a friend talks about specific things she asked for and challenges my personal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And I had answers for her, I always do, but I can’t get that conversation out of my head. I’m not the girl who asks.

_______________

Tonight my Jesus-friend is talking about how badly she wanted one of those fisherman to haul thirty inches of pink salmon up to her back-porch, how the taste of fresh fish would be so delightful and generous. So she asked. Well, she sent one of the many adoptees who frequent our house (of whom I am one) down to the riverside to ask. He brought back as fine a specimen of salmon as can be expected from one who’s made the twenty mile journey down the seaway to the dam.

But here’s the thing, she said, it was awful tasting, tough and old. She tossed it in the garbage and I can’t be sure, but knowing her, she whipped up a finer feast from leftovers than you’ve ever tasted in your life and called it dinner.

_______________

The allegory here is that big asks do not always result in exactly what we thought we were getting, regardless of how fine it looks on the outside.

Who of you, I thought and she said, if your son asks for fish, will you give him a stone?

But sometimes He gives me stones, I said.

Yup, that’s right, sometimes he gives you stones, she said. But does that means you shouldn’t have asked for what you thought was best in the first place?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Even after she ends our phone call with a prayer and deep assurances of her love for me (she’s a little over the top sometimes), I still don’t have the answers. Flannery O’Connor said she wrote because she didn’t know what she thought about something until she wrote about it, and I feel the same way. It’s why I’ve written this.

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Once I stood in the bed of that river, feet from the open dam, water spilling over it. I stood there in my bare feet and the fish swirled and swam around me. I don’t think you can be that close to nature, that close to nature doing what it was meant to do—swim against the current, dive and jump and try and try again to get past that obstruction—and not feel the hopelessness that comes in life sometimes. Those fish are asking big asks and in the end the answer is no.

But I wonder what kind of life that thirty inch salmon lived before it was caught and brought to the table in the old mill house on the river. I wonder if he swam through nooks and crannies and over rocks and through storms to his end.

And if it was a good end indeed.

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These photos are what I talk about when I talk about home. 

WHAT did HE MEAN?

October 9, 2012

These days it seems authorial intent is an aside, an afterthought. What really matters is how the piece of music or poetry or prose made us feel and feelings are something we westerners are never short on. And so praise God for twitter and facebook, and someone thank Him for LinkedIn too, because without these outlets of immediacy, how would we ever know how anyone felt about anything?

This morning a short twitter exchange:

Him: Sometimes I need to be reminded of what I sometimes believe.
Me: Almost all the time I need to be reminded of what I almost never believe.

So this has me thinking about doubt this morning.

——————–

In my Old Testament class we began our study of Deuteronomy today. It is, in short, the paraphrase of the previous four books of the Bible and, in long, an instructive to remember and rejoice, remember and rejoice.

Forget authorial intent and even my innermost feelings, remembering and rejoicing slip my mind more than anything else.

Remember: what God intends, who He intends it for, and why.
Rejoice: that God has not forgotten me or His promises, or most of all, His faithfulness to His character and word.

The other night a friend challenged me deeply. I sat on my bed Indian style, while her words came across the phone, and eloquence aside, she finished with, “So get up off your ass and do something about this situation…” Lest you think she’s of the coarse, unfeeling sort, she sent me an epistle of love the next day filled with all sorts of right thinking and gospel truth.

Why?

Because I forget. I forget what God has done. I forget what He has promised. I forget what He does intend and not just how it all makes me feel.

——————–

This morning reading through the first few chapters of Deuteronomy with the rest of my class I’m reminded that there is cancer in that room and death, loneliness and confusion, joblessness and despair. In that room of 38 people who love Jesus deeply, who serve Him radically, who have been tapped on the shoulder by leadership at my church to come out and lead well, in that room of 38 people things do not always go well.

There are some of us asking: will we ever get to see the promised land? Has our sin been too great? Has His anger been too deep? Has our doubt been too strong?

And it’s not because we don’t know the gospel or the grand intent of God’s hand: it is because we do not remember the gospel and sometimes forget the grand intent of God’s hand.

So Deuteronomy is a sweet comfort to me today. Because it is a book about remembering and rejoicing—even if we never see what we think is promised to us. It is a book of history, of Ebenezers set at which to point and say, “Look what God has done thus far.” It is a book about God’s intentions, even when our feelings run rampant over truth.

Remember.

And Rejoice.

6

[PURE?] ENJOYMENT

August 28, 2012 — 13 Comments

“I enjoy your company.”

Because life is too short to mess around, I admit, I’ve asked a guy frankly on more than one occasion, “What’s your intention?” The conversations are never fun, never comfortable, and never feel very fruitful. But it scratches the itch, gives them the opportunity to ‘fess up, and lets me let my heart move on. In about 98% of these conversations I hear this one line: I enjoy your company, but…

This past weekend JR Vassar spoke at a conference for the home-group leaders at my church. He spoke on the Trinity and it was, let me tell you, enjoyable. It was heady and theological, it was convicting and reassuring, and it was life-giving and healing, but more than anything else, it was enjoyable.

He spoke about enjoying the gospel and never have I wanted to simply enjoy someone enjoying the gospel before as I did him. He’s a brilliant guy with a deep love for Jesus and the Word, he obviously loves my church family and my pastors deeply, he’s the pastor of a church plant in my native north—what is not to enjoy about this guy? But see, he wasn’t talking about enjoying him, he was talking about enjoying the gospel—a different thing altogether.

This week, this month, I’ll tell you, it’s been hard to enjoy the gospel. There are some things weighing on me, family, time management, book details, the heaviness of my job, homesickness, tight finances, roommates, sleep, these things push in and crowd out my joy quickly.

I’ve started to enjoy things and people who enjoy the gospel, but it’s not the same is it? It’s not the same as enjoying the gospel. Enjoying the depth and richness that exists in being rescued from the clutches of death, covered with the righteousness of Christ, and called a son or daughter of a King. There’s joy there, right there, sitting in that.

Yet I’m too busy enjoying the substitute instead of The Substitute, the creation instead of the Creator, the friend instead of the Groom.

But He’s truly is the better choice. He is.

So here’s my question to you today: what or who are you enjoying today?

Are you enjoying the company of a girl or guy because you haven’t found “the one?” Are you enjoying religious things instead of God Himself? Are you enjoying the attention of your children, your readers, or even your spouse instead of dwelling deepest on the enjoyment that God has in you and you can have in Him?

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