Sunday, August 9, 2009

Picking up the pieces

It's been a while since I've published a blog post... and I wanted to bring everyone up to date on what's been happening in my life.

Shortly after my last post in May, my father was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Within a few days, he was moved to intensive care... and less than two weeks later, he passed away It's been two months now, but it still seems surreal to me. My father lived with heart disease for 26 years. He had several heart attacks, a few other scares, and many surgical procedures throughout the years. We just didn't expect it to end that way -- with pneumonia (aggravated by his congestive heart failure).

I was lucky to have him for a father. I hear a lot of horror stories from other folks, especially women, about the terrible relationships they had with their fathers. That was never the case for me. Sure, we had some fights and disagreements when I was growing up... everyone does! But I always knew that he loved me, even when I did crazy things. Even when I disappointed him. Even when he didn't understand what I was doing. And that love was a gift that I'll treasure and miss for the rest of my life.

This loss has hit me pretty hard, but right now, I'm trying to start picking up the pieces again.

This will be my last post on blogger. I was already in the process of moving my blog to my new Wordpress site back in May, and I'm going to finish that now. The blogger site used Feedburner to send out emails, but I'll be using a new system with Wordpress -- so if you're reading this via email and would like to continue receiving these posts in email, please visit and subscribe under the new system.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Young Lions

I went to the Young Lions Conference in Ruston, LA this past weekend. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone! This was an unmistakably and unashamedly charismatic/Pentecostal event: exactly the kind of thing I had sworn I'd never attend again. I had been there, done that, gotten the tee shirts... and gotten hurt.

I went mostly because I knew that there would be some "edgy," modern, intense praise & worship... something I knew I would enjoy. I was also looking forward to being someplace where no one knew me, where I didn't have any expectations to live up to and didn't have to worry about what people were thinking. 

But I also went at least partly out of curiosity. When you get hurt, you naturally try to avoid the things and places that caused the pain. You build walls and hide inside of them. The thing is, it can get pretty dry and stale inside a fortress... and sometimes there's little difference between a fortress and a prison. So I was curious. I wanted to see what was on the other side of the walls. I wondered if it might be safe to come out. 

Going to something called the "Young Lions Conference" and feeling a little nervous, I couldn't help but think of CS Lewis and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When the children are about to meet Aslan for the first time, they have a few questions:

"You'll understand when you see him."

"But shall we see him?" asked Susan.

"Why Daughter of Eve, that's what I brought you here for. I'm to lead you where you shall meet him," said Mr. Beaver.

"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy.

"Aslan a man?" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" asked Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.

That's how the conference was for me. It wasn't safe, but it was definitely good :) I met the Lion of Judah in a way that I hadn't before, and there are some things that I'll just never be able to look at the same way!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bible Literacy & Worship

I read an interesting article today called "For The Bible Tells Me So" in the Associated Baptist Press.

Here are a couple of interesting quotes:

"If biblical literacy is so low at this point in Western history, then the God of the Bible is not the god being worshipped but rather a shallow and incomplete version of him."

In January I started to wonder what it really meant to worship "in spirit and truth." I had been taught that the "spirit" part was all the experiential, emotional stuff... and the "truth" was the special revelation that only Pentecostals possessed. Obviously, I don't believe that anymore! And it something that I've thought about many times over the last couple of months.

We don't need a degree to worship God. I don't think the "truth" is a legalistic nit-picky thing. But at the same time, there's plenty of plain truth in Scripture that shouldn't be ignored or glossed over or modified because it rhymes better or helps someone drive home a point... or contradicts someone's "experience."

I've wondered if the fascination with worship itself (and all the "experiences" that surround it in charismatic and Pentecostal circles) doesn't somehow detract from pursuing the "truth" of the Bible. In other words, experiences are lifted to a higher level than the Bible, so that the Bible is interpretted through the lens of supernatural experience when the opposite really ought to be happening.

Here's another interesting quote:

"In his 2007 book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn’t, Stephen Prothero traces the decline in biblical knowledge not to the cultural upheavals of the late 1960s or the Supreme Court’s prayer rulings of the early 1960s but to the postwar Christian revivals of the 1940s and 1950s."

That's when the great "healing revivals" happened.

" members jettisoned content, and the result was a sort of nebulous common faith that President Dwight Eisenhower called “the Judeo-Christian concept.” Eisenhower encapsulated the spirit exactly when he famously said, after meeting with a Soviet official in 1952, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is."

To worship "in spirit and truth" certainly involves having a deeply felt religious faith... but it also involves caring deeply about "what it is."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My daily bread

"Give us each day our daily bread" (Luke 11:3 NASB)

I'm a total carb addict, I admit it... I love bread. I've always loved bread. I'm not talking about the sickly-smelling slices of over-processed Wonder Bread... but real bread! Bread with a crust. Bread with substance, texture. The kind of bread you can get from an Italian bakery in the New York area.

Last week, I found an easy bread recipe and decided to give it a try. I thought it would be too much work or too difficult for me to master... but I was pleasantly surprised! You can make a batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so you can make small loaves as needed... and that's what I've been doing. It isn't a lot of work, and the resulting bread looks (and tastes) really great! It also makes my house smell like a bakery :)

It's also been a neat object lesson for me. My "daily bread" is something I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. It isn't just handed to me -- I do have to put in some prep time and make sure I pay attention while it is in the oven -- but it isn't overly complicated either. A few minutes more or less in the oven doesn't hurt it. And the results... are incredible. Freshly baked bread with butter or jelly is an amazing breakfast!

That's also how I feel about my morning quiet times. I look forward to those times now, although there was a time when I dreaded them... mostly because I thought it would be too difficult for me to do on a consistent basis. I have to put in a little bit of effort and stay focused... but what I get in return is far more than what I put into it!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Knowing that this is God

"None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord." (John 21:12b NLT)

That's an awesome statement: they were confident enough that they didn't even have to ask if it was Jesus. They just knew. As illogical and improbable as it might be to consider having breakfast with a someone who had been dead... they could put their questions aside and rest in the confidence of knowing Him!

Over the last few weeks, I've also learned to recognize God in things that I might have questioned (and talked myself out of) in the past. In other words, I'm not questioning my ability to "hear" God nearly as much as I used to. I'm much more confident and bold. I don't find myself asking, "Is this really You, God?" anymore when I just KNOW that He is prompting me to do something.

It's hard to believe that this is the last day of the "21 Days of Consecration." I've learned a lot about God, and surprisingly quite a bit about myself in the process... so even though this special time is coming to a close, I've already committed to making some changes in my life that will be ongoing, and setting aside some other times during the year help me stay on track. I'm not sure how to transition from "21 Days of Consecration" to "A Lifetime of Consecration," but that's really my goal!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Where are You?

In John 20, I imagine that Mary was still trying to come to terms with Jesus' death that Sunday morning when she came to the tomb. She must have been devastated at the loss of her good friend and teacher. Yet... she still wanted to be close to Him. The only thing she could do now was take care of His body. She must have been totally crushed and confused to discover that Jesus' body was not there that morning. Someone must have moved Him. But where? I can't imagine the emptiness and helplessness and loneliness that she must have felt in that moment.

But then there was a voice behind her. She shares her pain with this stranger, not knowing who it is... until He calls her by name!

I know that God never leaves us, but there have definitely been times when I felt like I couldn't find Him. I wonder if, like Mary, I was just looking in the wrong place -- looking for what I expected & wanted to see. Perhaps I was looking so hard that I forgot to listen...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Political Pressure

When I was little, I remember thinking that Pilate was really the villain in the story of Jesus' crucifixion... but as I started to read the Bible myself, I realized that there was more to his story.

Pilate actually wanted to release Jesus... but he gave in to pressure from the Jewish leaders:

"Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” (John 19:12 NLT)

Pilate thought that Jesus should be released... but he chose to save his job and his reputation instead.

I've been just as guilty of giving in to pressure. I don't always stand up for my beliefs -- or even acknowledge them -- when I'm working on consulting projects. I tell myself that I'm just being professional by not contradicting my customers... but really, I'm just more concerned about their opinions than I am about God. (I'm not talking about being offensive or argumenative -- it can be something as simple as just acknowledging belief in God after someone belittles religion in general.)

The Jewish leaders were motivated by a desire to preserve their position -- Pilate was motivated by a desire to preserve his position... and then, standing in stark contrast, we have Jesus' example. If anyone in this story had the right to self-preservation, it was Jesus! But right up until the end, He is making provisions for others (see vs 26-27)... and His death was the ultimate provision for my salvation!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Prayer, Unity & Betrayal

(I got off to a very slow start yesterday & didn't get to post -- so I'm touching on two chapters today.)

"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." (John 17:21)

Have you ever prayed for something, a good thing that you sincerely and earnestly wanted, and it seems like the exact OPPOSITE happened? I wonder if Jesus felt that sting in these chapters. John 17 is Jesus' heartfelt prayer for the unity of His followers... and then John 18 is the account of one betrayal after another.

When I think about someone betraying Jesus, I automatically think of Judas -- and that is true, but there are actually a few different betrayals in that chapter. Judas betrayed Jesus out of evil intent. Peter betrayed Him by denying Him. Most of the other Apostles betrayed Him by running away. The crowds who had cheered for Him not long before betrayed Him by joining in and condemning Him.

Jesus' prayer wasn't answered... yet, He didn't get mad and walk away from His mission. He didn't get bitter and change His mind about wanting His followers to live in unity. He didn't get angry and demand explanations. I'm not nearly so gracious when my prayers aren't answered. I'm not nearly so forgiving when someone I trusted betrays me in a painful way.

This week we've been focusing on setting the captives free -- praying for people in our lives who are being held captive to addictions, sickness, bad attitudes, etc. It's easy to pray for folks like that -- but it's also difficult to keep on praying for them when it seems like our prayers are not being answered... when it seems like the exact opposite is happening. How quickly we give up!! Jesus prayed for unity 2000 years ago... and even though His prayer still hasn't been answered, it has never stopped being the cry of His heart. I'm glad He didn't give up on me... and if I'm going to follow in His footsteps, I can't give up on others either.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Staying strong

"For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God." (John 16:2 NLT)

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NLT)

I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in the disciple's sandals! Would I have the strength to make it through that kind of harsh treatment and rejection... or would I have compromised so that folks would still like me? Could I really find peace in God when everything around me was in turmoil? How strong is my faith? Could I really hold on -- or would I crumble under the pressure? Under such harsh conditions, could I really stay strong and keep from abandoning my faith?

John 16 opens by saying "I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith." What are "these things"? It seems like He's referring to the encouraging things in the previous chapter, like:

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NLT)

"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." (John 15:9 NLT)

"You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." (John 15:17 NLT)

If I really, really believed these things, would I be so concerned about what others thought of me? Could I really be afraid to stand up for what I believed in, even if someone thought less of me?

So the key to staying strong is staying in close relationship with Him... even when we can't see Him for a while (see John 16:16).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

God's love

"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." (John 15:9 NLT)

The idea that Jesus loves me isn't a "new" concept, but this verse jumped out at me this morning.

I'm living in the south, so I hear a lot of people say that they love me -- and they all mean it, but to different degrees. At one end of the spectrum, there are the folks who use "Love ya!" the way some folks use "See you later!" There's no real relationship required for those kinds of statements... and while those folks might help you with something if it isn't too much trouble, you're not going to have them on your cell phone speed dial.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are the folks who love you enough that they will take your phone call at 3 am or rescue you when your car won't start and you're stranded somewhere even if you got on their nerves earlier that day. They're willing to be inconvenienced for you -- and you'd do the same for them. That kind of love is based on a closer relationship.

There's no closer relationship than the one between Jesus and the Father. There is no love more perfect than that. And yet... that's the way He loves us!