Thursday, December 29, 2016

on the way to the cross

"Even if our own troubles are great, we should still serve. Jesus washed His disciples feet on the way to the cross.”

[Tim Keller]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On the Paucity of Pat Answers

Many people think Christianity gives a lot of pat answers. It really does the opposite. Lately, I've noticed how cryptic some of Jesus' sayings are and how his sermons seem to be a series of non sequiturs. He doesn't use the three-point sermon model; no, He is not that clear. The paucity of pat answers in the Bible complicates things and challenges my thinking. It is mysterious, confusing, and complex. And there are no simple answers, as much as I would like there to be. By faith, I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, which is why I haven't given up trying to understand difficult passages or uncomfortable ideas. In between the famous Judge Not paragraph and the Golden Rule paragraph sits something just as powerful but more often neglected. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Asking, seeking, and knocking involve much more proactivity than simple pat answers do. It takes effort to wrestle with God, with questions, and with truth.

Monday, December 12, 2016

just a blip

I have Jesus.

Everything else is a blip in the scope of eternity.

Friday, December 09, 2016

peace in unemployment

"O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore."

[Psalm 131]

God is the director of HR.
My soul can be calm and quiet.

Friday, December 02, 2016

the quiet and the lengthy

"Love is the quiet and the lengthy, not the noisy and the spectacular."

[Tim Keller]

not half so restrained

"The ungodly are not half so restrained in their blasphemy as we are in our praise."

[Charles Spurgeon]

death wrapped in shiny wrappers

"Our sinful hearts are quick to purchase death wrapped in the shiny wrappers of our lusts."

[Erik Raymond]

the person they are growing into

"When looking for a spouse, you should be looking at the person they are growing into as much as the person they are today."

[Tim Keller]

Monday, November 28, 2016

a man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God

"A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones...."

[Charles Darwin from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin]

Friday, November 18, 2016

but also not with their own good

"Who is pure in heart? Only those who have completely given their hearts to Jesus, so that he alone rules in them. Only those who do not stain their hearts with their own evil, but also not with their own good. A pure heart is the simple heart of a child, who does not know about good and evil, the heart of Adam before the fall, the heart in which the will of Jesus rules instead of one’s own conscience.… A pure heart is pure of good and evil; it belongs entirely and undivided to Christ; it looks only to him, who goes on ahead. Those alone will see God who in this life have looked only to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their hearts are free of defiling images; they are not pulled back and forth by the various wishes and intentions of their own. Their hearts are fully absorbed in seeing God. They will see God whose hearts mirror the image of Jesus Christ."

[Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"There is no greater misery than false joys."

[Bernard of Clairvaux]

Friday, November 11, 2016

balm of hurt minds

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

[William Shakespeare]

everything depends on the heart, on you

"Goods are given to us to be used, but not to be stored away. Just as Israel in the desert received manna daily from God and did not have to worry about food and drink, and just as the manna which was stored from one day for another rotted, so should Jesus’ disciples receive their share daily from God. But if they store it up as lasting treasure, they will spoil both the gift and themselves. The heart clings to collected treasure. Stored–up possessions get between me and God. Where my treasure is, there is my trust, my security, my comfort, my God. Treasure means idolatry.

But where is the boundary between the goods I am supposed to use and the treasure I am not supposed to have? If we turn the statement around and say, What your heart clings to is your treasure, then we have the answer. It can be a very modest treasure; it is not a question of size. Everything depends on the heart, on you. If I continue to ask how can I recognize what my heart clings to, again there is a clear and simple answer: everything which keeps you from loving God above all things, everything which gets between you and your obedience to Jesus is the treasure to which your heart clings."

[Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

go placidly

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

[Max Ehrmann, 1927]

many such things are in his mind

For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. 

[Job 23:14]

Friday, November 04, 2016

excellent job security

"Tortured souls are excellent job security for therapists." - paraphrased from a friend

to do all the things you'd like to do

"The only way to do all the things you'd like to do is to read."

[Tom Clancy]

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

all of it flowing towards You

My life has been one long secret,
All of it flowing towards you:
Lost hopes, hidden love, everything
A way to whisper in your ear.
Whatever else you are,
You are also the coolness of that dust
Which lies quietly under the long shadows
Of my small hedge.

[Rabindranath Tagore]

Friday, October 21, 2016

Unwritten Cultural Laws of a Kindergarten Classroom

1. Everything is a state of emergency. Everything.

2. If your daily helper responsibility is door opener or line leader, do all that you can to fulfill your duties, including pushing and hitting others so that they do not try to usurp your responsibility.

3. Narrate your life to your teacher. It’s a well-known fact that teachers want — nay, need -- to be informed of your every action at all times. Once you complete a task, such as putting the purple crayon back into your box, you must notify the teacher.

4. Your teacher is the final arbiter in any dispute within the classroom. If you know the jumbo-sized pencil is yours and your best friend who found it doesn’t know, tell your teacher first before you let your best friend know that it’s yours.

5. To avoid bladder infections, go to the bathroom at least ten times a day.

6. If your pencil is sharpened, it probably needs to be sharpened.

7. If your best friend’s pencil is sharpened, your pencil probably needs to be sharpened.

8. Screaming burns calories, and our teachers want us to be healthy.

9. If you see any grown-up in your school that even looks remotely like a teacher (key characteristics including but not limited to female, black pants, frenetic gait), you have the right to hug that person.

10. Your teacher needs to know that you love her. Hug her at least 20 times a day. If you haven’t met your quota for hugs and you remember you need to give her hugs, do so immediately. Your teacher won’t mind if it’s in the middle of the math lesson or during story time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

the secret is Christ in me

"The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances."

[Elisabeth Elliot]

Saturday, October 15, 2016

furnace of doubt

"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Monday, October 03, 2016

less about our lamentable inability to be heard than our inherent flawed condition

"Just One God" by Deborah Cummins

And so many of us.
How can we expect Him
to keep track of which voice
goes with what request.
Words work their way skyward.
Oh Lord, followed by petition —
for a cure, the safe landing.
For what is lost, missing —
a spouse, a job, the final game.
Complaint cloaked as need —
the faster car, porcelain teeth.
That so many entreaties
go unanswered
may say less about our lamentable
inability to be heard
than our inherent flawed condition.

Why else, at birth, the first sound
we make, that full-throttled cry?
Of want, want, want.
Of never enough. Desire
as embedded in us as the ancestral tug
in my unconscienced dog who takes
to the woods, nose to the ground, pulled far
from domesticated hearth, bowl of kibble.
Left behind, I go about my superior business,
my daily ritual I could call prayer.

But look, this morning, in my kitchen,
I’m not asking for more of anything.
My husband slices bread,
hums a tune from our past.
Eggs spatter in a skillet.
Wands of lilac I stuck in a glass
by the open window wobble
in a radiant and — dare I say it?—
merciful light.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

the ear of sovereign grace attends the mourner's prayer

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face, 
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?
No still the ear of sovereign grace,
Attends the mourner's prayer
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there

Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet...

[Anne Steele]

Friday, September 09, 2016

metaphysical intuitions

"Welch takes from her mountain and Southern sources a set of metaphysical intuitions. We are not made for satisfaction. To be a person is often to feel exiled, alone, and predestined. These axioms of Appalachian Protestantism, which you can hear in songs like the Stanley Brothers’ 'Rank Stranger,' are the fixations of Welch’s 'The Harrow & The Harvest' (2011), her fourth and most recent album, whose master theme is fatalism. 'The way that it goes,' 'the way that it ends,' and 'the way it will be' are some of the refrains, and the music feels like being caught in a slow-moving but irresistible force, maybe just the temperamental force of what Welch calls being 'blessed with a dark turn of mind.' The predestination here is to perennially reckon with unruly and obdurate feeling: people cannot help what moves them, what makes them feel alive. Morphine, 'soldier’s joy,' and heroin pop up frequently in Welch’s songwriting, and, like other motifs, feel as much symbolic as literal. The sense of fate in her mature songwriting resembles the feeling of addiction: a blurred line between desires and needs, pleasure and enervation, what feeds you and what consumes you."

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

return, o my soul, to your rest

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.

[Psalm 116]

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

what's beneath the surface of the life we have built

"Most of us don’t have much time in the margins to reflect on what we are feeling or how we are acting out of those feelings and values. Often it takes painful life-disruption before we stop and reflect on what’s beneath the surface of the life we have built. We live with patterns of behavior and relate to others without being awake to our real fears or woundedness." - Sandra McCracken

[from "Sandra McCracken on Life, Loss, and Longing in the Psalms"]

Monday, July 25, 2016

Fruit the point

"Roots are essential but not the point of a tree. Fruit is. Or shade. Or lumber. Or fall gold. So with man. Roots essential. Fruit the point." - John Piper

Monday, July 18, 2016

better is the end of a thing

"Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."

[Ecclesiastes 7:8]

Saturday, June 18, 2016

the more room is there for my Master

"The more empty I am, the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack, the more He will give me." (C.H. Spurgeon)

Monday, March 28, 2016

questions to ask when you have a problem

I stumbled upon these questions that Quaker groups occasionally ask in helping you analyze problems in your life and why they are problems.

1) If this problem were a landscape, what would it look like?

2) Where in your body do you feel this question?

3) What images come to mind when you think of this problem?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

we'll make a celebration

"All nature sings with nothing to bring
In ribbons of glory it wraps
Around our plans
All nations bring their tongues of offering
And in the end all my tables,
they tear down
Where the birds and leaves, they tell me
how I am to sing
So won't you take a cup and chair
and we'll make a celebration..." - Aimee Wilson

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

weary, working, burdened one

Weary, working, burdened one,
Wherefore toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done
Long, long ago.

[Ira D. Sankey, "It is Finished!" hymn]

Monday, January 11, 2016

Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe)

From the depths of woe I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?
O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! Are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth;
No man can glory in Thy sight,
All must alike confess Thy might,
And live alone by mercy
And live alone by mercy

Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience
I wait for it with patience

What though I wait the live-long night,
And ’til the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth;
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait ’til God appeareth
And wait ’til God appeareth

Though great our sins and sore our woes
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our upmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow
From all their sin and sorrow.

[Martin Luther]

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

compelled by grace to cast my lot

In the shadow of the glorious cross
Compelled by grace to cast my lot 
I’ll discard the loss and bear your name 
Forsaking all for your own fame
Your hymn of grace sung over me 

Abounding forth in glorious streams 
My thirst is quenched by you my Lord 
Sustained am I redeemed restored 
Sustained am I redeemed restored

Hallelujah, Hallelujah 

When death’s dark shadow’s at my feet
When I am plagued by unbelief 
You place my hands into your side 
By precious blood identified 
By precious blood identified 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah 

These crowns I’ve clenched with fisted hands 
I cast them down before the throne 

Of Christ my God the worthy lamb 
Christ crucified, the Great I AM 
Christ crucified, the Great I AM 
Christ crucified, the Great I AM 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Sojourn, "In the Shadow of the Glorious Cross"]

Friday, January 01, 2016