Friday, November 8, 2013

The Gospel.

Isn't this what Jesus does for us?
May we always see ourselves as His new creation, not as a homeless veggabond.
This is the Gospel:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

a hug and 6 grace-filled words

"I'm sorry and I forgive you." 
Never have words washed over me with such reckless abandon as these did today.
Words can't express my gratitude nor the freeing nature of such a phrase as: "I forgive you".
Thank you, Jesus, for saying those words first, so that we might be able to say them to others.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An Arabian Proverb

A friend is one to whom one may pour
Out all the contents of one's heart
Chaff and grain together
Knowing that the gentlest of hands
Will take and sift it,
Keeping what is worth keeping, and,
With a breath of kindness,
Blow the rest away

Monday, October 8, 2012

And The World Turned

One of those Sunday nights, I guess... some thoughts:

Recently an acquaintance of mine died much too early and in much too sad a fashion for me to even begin to understand.  She was young- 22- just had a baby, in fact they had to take him early because her stomach cancer was a threat to the well-being of them both.  She could have been treated from day one, but she wanted to be sure her son would live, so she spent 5+ months allowing her child to grow in her womb whilst the cancer ravaged her stomach.  The baby was born- prematurely, but healthy.  The cancer spread.  Her son is 8 months old; strong, growing, healthy. She is in Heaven.  Such sadness.  Such sorrow.  I didn't really know her.  I met her several times- her husband was roommates with a couple of my good friends.  But hundreds of my Facebook friends knew her and mourned with her family as she departed this world.  My Facebook feed (the medium by which I experience much of the world and the true litmus for what is popular and relevant) was chocked full with statuses of grief and wistfulness.  Such sadness. Such sorrow.

 But in the middle of all these tears were a different kind.  Another friend.  23 years old - college classmates with the recently departed, in fact - posted a status of overwhelming joy as her new baby girl was born on the same morn as another mother's life ended.  Such happiness.  Such joy.  The world turns.

Walk into any hospital and you are smack dab in the middle of one of life's greatest dichotomies: the same elevator that transport people with "It's a Boy!" balloons and deer-in-headlights fathers also send up the heavy-laden spouses and children unsure of what they are going see when they enter their loved one's ICU room.  The tubes, the noises, the eery, unregulated hush- to some they bring glee, to others they bring gloom.  Its almost like there should be two entrances:  one for the joyful and one for the melancholy.  But, as it is, they all share same doors, elevators, and even the same rooms.  The walls that yesterday heard loss-full mourning today hear elated laughter.   The same halls that hold folks with hearts eight times their normal weight with lachrymose sadness, hold those filled with lighter-than-air merriment and mirth. The world turns.

Ecc 3:20 (echoing the curse of Gen 3, of course): "All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return."  The world turns.


So what of it?  As the great Steve Miller once said: time keeps on slipping into the future.  This truth is just so frustrating sometimes.  I don't want to say that the existential questions of life plague me- that would be far too harsh a word- but they do give me reason to pause.  often.  It is such a fine and blurry line between contentment and gratitude, and ambition and desire.  What in life should I be fine with as-is, and what should I relentlessly pursue to change?  This answer would be so wonderful to have. 
The world turns. I sputter as I ponder whilst folks that make me glad dance together away.  The ones I care to impact for good are the ones that will never notice, not as I would have them, at least.  It is pouring water into a hole-bottomed glass.  Unfulfilling.  Frustrating.  The world turns.
I have recently come to grips with the cold, hard reality that there are things - valuable, non-replaceable things -  in my life that I have have caused to break and splinter.  Some intentionally, most not.  And there is nothing that I can do to fix those dear, dear things.  No amount of talking or compromise or desire can make them new-in-box.  The saying, "time heals all wounds" is indeed patently false in this regard.  So the obvious answer is to learn from said brokenness and carry on, but wow, that is easier said.  There is part of me in each and every one of those fragments, how can one who is not whole carry on?  What does he carry?  To where does he carry it?   such sadness.  such sorrow.  The world turns.

Lord, take me from Lamentations 5:15 to Psalm 30:11.  The world turns.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I am haunted by calls from this here piece of the internet to get back on. I have several things bouncing around my noggin', and they will be put in to 1's and 0's very soon.
Until then, a poem by R.G. Bell:

See October
Sheets of crystal on morning grass,
Flannel shirts the color of leaves,
Sweaters the color of corn and pumpkin,
Wooly worms crossing the road,
Furry forecasters of a hard winter.

Hear October
Groans of hard men hauling hay,
Muffled report of rifles in woods,
Chainsaw promising winter heat,
Boughs breaking with weight of fruit,
Ripe prophets of a hard winter.

Smell October.
Smoke of leaves, oak, maple, tobacco,
Steams of soup, coffee, stew,
School bus fumes and Russian tea,
Whiff of cold in northern wind,
Clean composer of a hard winter.

Feel October.
Weight of first blanket on the bed,
Distant warmth of retreating sun,
Thickening fur on an outdoor dog,
Firmness growing in the ground,
Heavy harbinger of a hard winter.

Taste October.
Apples, crackers and sharp gold cheese,
Last grilled hamburger of the season,
Farm-ground sausage, pepper-laced,
Warm yeast bread from an old recipe,
Sure sustainer through a hard winter.

Come October!
Bring the security of a hay-filled barn,
A warming fire and goal made real.
Crown the end of a summer's work
With needs well met and hopes fulfilled
To carry us through a hard winter.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mad Man

I'm reading an anthology of sorts, and I came across this Jack Kerouac gem: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!” methinks I'd like to be known as one who is mad to live. excelsior!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Let Me Sing

I know I post a lot of songs, but take the 4 minutes to listen to this one, its a good one.

More soon!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Campin' Out

Well, I leave in 30ish hours for a month of summer camp. To those who know me best, this is a sentence you never thought you'd hear. I understand your skepticism, but please know that I am a changed man. Allow me to explain. The truth is that growing up, I had a deep affinity for camp. I spent time at our church's camp (we'll call it CC) ever since I can remember. My dad would be the Bible leader and I was a camper and a counselor and a Bible leader myself throughout the years. It has always had a piece of my heart. But then in college one of my good friends spent a summer on staff at a camp and she came back weird... like really weird. And not in a good way. She ended up marrying a guy she met during that summer and he too is just a little.. shall we say... off. So from then on out, camp people = weirdo's.
Fast forward to my time as a youth minister. Early on, a whole bunch of our summer events had to be cancelled or altered because our students were away at camp. And, frankly, I missed having those people around. So then camp = annoyance. Then it all changed. I decided to go up to CC and be a Bible leader. I spent a week there and realized that we were grossly under-utilizing our time with the 100 campers we had. CC was all about canoeing and not about Christ. That made me sad. It felt like I was at a 1970's YMCA camp, not a 21 century Christian camp, and we were missing out on an amazing opportunity to share the Gospel.  So I decided I wanted to be a vehicle for change... but I didn't know anything about camp, other than they make people weird and take away from summer fun...
A year ago I decided to spend some time at two AMAZING camps to get an idea of what it really could be. CC is only a camp for kid's for one month. It is a volunteer staff that completely changes every week. I wanted to see what "real" camps looked like. Camps that had full time staff and ran program for 13 weeks. So I headed to Eastern Wisconsin for a week and, suffice to say, my mind was blown. This was the camp that made my friend weird. But I didn't see weirdos, I saw amazing 20 somethings who were sacrificing so, so much in order to pour their lives into kids and share with them the love of their Savior. I was blown away. I wouldn't have done that as a 20 year old. I wouldn't have given of my self so fully and unabashedly. No way. I had much too high of an opinion of myself to do anything of the sort. When I went to camp to be a counselor, it was to goof off and hang out with the ladies...  the campers were in the way. But these counselors, they got down and dirty with their campers. They got into deep conversations. They built relationships, they shared their faith. They loved their Savior and it showed. It was HOT when I was there. But these counselors gave 110% for their campers- in everything- in games and songs and crafts and Bible studies. Never had I seen so many selfless people in one spot. For real. It was profoundly moving.
I then went to the mountains of Idaho where the setting caused me to buckle in awe and the people absolutely changed my life. That is no understatement. I went there for a lot of reasons, and I left broken in so many ways... I'm grateful for that brokenness, however. I think I learned more about myself, my ministry, and my Savior in those 10 days then I have in the past 10 years... and our God chose to teach me those things at camp. What a powerful thing camp can be! (There is probably much more to be written about my time in Idaho, but that is for a different day and a bit more healing, methinks.)
Needless to say, I have been very much sold on the wonderfully special role that camp plays in one's faith life. It is amazing. I joined CC's board of directors the year prior, but I didn't really plan on doing too much. I figured I could get them to order some better T-Shirts and maybe champion the cause of repairing their nasty bathrooms. But after last summer, I was convicted to do a whole bunch more. Long story short, I am pretty much personally responsible for causing an entire paradigm change- 55 years of history- in one fell swoop.  uff da.
I don't write this to brag. Quite the opposite. I write it because it is God alone who could change my bad and sour attitude and make a crazy idea like this fly. Oh how good God has been.
I worried. I still worry. I think this whole process has caused more heartburn and sleepless nights than anything else I've ever done (which is saying alot). What if kids don't come? We eliminated a whole day's worth of program.
-This year, we have the most campers since 1999.
But what if we don't have staff? These are BIG changes and people are stubborn.
-It turns out we have over 110 people on staff over 3 weeks of camp.
Man... I distress while God dispenses... How feeble I am.
So now, I head out and champion the cause of sharing Jesus more effectively and openly with the 310 kids with which we have been entrusted.
We have 12 hours of training... We added low ropes initiatives and intentional debriefing and application times that 98% of the staff have never even heard of, let alone know how to lead.
We have 55 years of bad habits and at least 5 years of bad precedent to bulldoze through in 12 hours... But our goal is solid.  Our aim is, in everything we do at CC, we lift high the cross, point to it and say "There! That is what CC is all about. Share THAT with your campers, share THAT with your friends, share that with the way you live your life."
It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
But I don't know how it is all going to work out... more worry... pointless, useless worry. Forgive me, Lord.
Honestly, I don't really know if I'm cut out for camp. I enjoy showering too much, I think... But I have been gifted two of the most outstanding "camp people" I know to run the show. I'm a mere player in a truly talented ensemble. (have I mentioned how good God is??) I am so very excited to be a part of this new chapter of CC. To be a part of the Holy Spirit's working in these young people's lives -camper and counselor (and me!!) alike- and to be a part of the super sweet new T-shirts we did indeed order.
God is good, y'all.
All the time.
So, thank you Lord for having patience with me when I belittled the powerful working that you do at these summer camps. Forgive my ignorance and thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience how much of a blessing Christian camps (and counselors) really are. Bless the staff and the campers; change hearts with your Holy Spirit. Keep our eyes fixed on you, the author and perfector of our faith. Thank you for changing my heart- especially when it comes to camp- and use CC to powerfully impact your people. Keep us from harm, shield us from danger, and let the peace that passes all understanding calm all my worries and fears. Its in Jesus name I pray this, and in His nail-marked hands I rest.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

blinded by the light

This guy is great. I've never thought about the idea of being blind and how prejudices must be way different. I mean, everyone can find a platform on which to judge if they want to. Its more than just sight, you know? But man, getting to know the true character of a person because there is nothing based on the superficial... that's kind of poetic... Also the reality that you don't have to watch somebody age is big. I sometimes get in knots seeing the old folks from the church I grew up at because they're getting...old. Its hard sometimes to see the effects of time on people you love. Although, I suppose you can hear people age too- you know, their memory or speech deteriorate, which would be tough too. Yeah. I like this guy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I've spent the past several hours watching youtube vids on how to convert a bus into an RV. Not only is this absolutely top 3 on my to-do before I die list, it might be a reality with a something we might be acquiring in the youth world... this could be very fun.  Or, never happen at all...  Regardless, thanks to youtube, I will know how to do it whenever necessary. :)
But, since Google took over YouTube it has been creepy in knowing exactly what I like and desire in the "recommended video" category. Below you will find one of my favorite tunes and the first 15 words repeat in my head all time. I find them to be absolutely genius in their simplicity. The song as a whole is very conceptual, but that's what you get with Mr.Switchfoot. The wildest part is that a year from now I could actually be working for him... crazy. Anyway, enjoy:

Well, OK... since we're on the topic, this is another wonderful tune... man. wonderful.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


yikes, the whole backstage of Blogger is totally different... it took me 5 minutes just to get to be able to post... I feel so old and out of touch.
As per usual, I'm in the middle of 5 or 6 books currently, but Donald Miller's "Searching For A God Who Knows What" has always stuck out on my bookshelf.  I have read all his other books, minus "Blue Like Jazz", oddly, since that's his HUGE book... I brought it up to the BWCA 4 years ago, but it got a little wet and I haven't gotten around to buying a new copy.  I don't know if I want to read it... I feel like I have already since everyone I know has read it and I've been part of dozens conversations about it...
ANYWAY, I started yet another book tonight- the aforementioned "Searching..." by Donny (that's what I call him) and this tidbit struck my fancy:
“Imagine how a man’s life would be if he trusted that he was loved by God. How could he interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really.”
This touched me... I remember going to the mall alone as a high schooler.  This was a big faux paz, of course- high school people don't go out alone... at least they didn't willingly....  BUT, I remember going alone and thinking to myself, "who cares?  I have a girlfriend".   I had a confidence to be alone because I knew I had someone to come home to, so to speak.  Man oh man the confidence I lack because I forget that I am loved by God- dearly loved, even.  How many worthless pursuits do I go on and how many people do I end up alienating because I seek their approval rather than resting peacefully in the arms of my Savior... Lord, forgive me.

An apropos tune:

Monday, June 4, 2012


So today, instead of talking about the Trinity like good Lutherans should, we talked about David (which isn't bad, but... come on, Athanasius only gets one Sunday a year!).  And so I wonder, God calls David a man after His own heart (1Sam 13:13-14, Acts 13:22), but did David know that?  I mean, if I'm a basketball player and Michael Jordan goes on ESPN and says that he thinks I'm the best player of all time, I'm going to play ball a little differently, you know?  So did David know that God considered him to be special- to be a man after His own heart?  That's high praise.  Or how did the whole Enoch thing work?  He walked with God?  What does that mean?  Did he know he was doing so in such an esteemed way, or was he just old man Enoch a'praisin' and a'livin' for Yahweh? (I don't know why when I think of Enoch I think of a 1930's southern fellow, but I do...)  Regardless, he had good genes as his son lived to be 969 years young. 
I don't know why I'm thinking about this, its admittedly pretty silly, but I wonder...  How does one gain such favor with the Lord?  And how can a man after God's own heart be a murderer and adulterer and raise kids who fell away.  That's the wonder of grace, I suppose.  How does Enoch walk with the Lord?  Why haven't more been as such since?  These are pointless quandaries, I know.  Perhaps I'm looking for validation.  You know, there are a lot of people who live their lives as "Christians" in many different ways.  Are the folks who won't write the word G*d in an Email more Christian than others?  Are they who don't listen to secular music stronger?  Or those who go to Wednesday church have more favor?  I know that this is all legalism, but Enoch walked with God and he took him to Heaven without dying.  And David was a man after God's heart, and God himself buried Moses, and Elijah was taken up in a chariot.. and on and on... I just want to know how did they live?  What was their faith like? What did their faith make their lives look like, you know?   I don't want to go so far as to say that I want to be like them- because I don't need to be like them- Jesus blood and righteousness covers over my sins just as it does theirs, thus our eternal home has the same address.  But, at the same time, I just kind of sort of at 1am on a Monday morning wish that there was an Enoch type today that one could look to and say - there - that person is living the Christian life- that person is a man after God's own heart.  Methinks I would very much like to get to know such a person... perhaps I do, I'm just too numb-skulled to realize it...
Meandering back to my original question, did David know that he was the Micheal Jordan of God's heart? (that is a big mixed metaphor, I know, but you get where I'm going...)  He presents evidence that he didn't- i.e. the Bathsheba-gate scandal.  But then he shows that he does- i.e. Psalm 51... ugh.
Maybe the take home for me is I DO know that I am a man after God's own heart, because I am made clean by His Son's blood.  That, therefore, is the lens through which I look at the world, and are the marching orders (so to speak) by which I live my life... This is nothing new, I realize, but a reminder is always nice, and I have an incessant need for closure.  Alas, I've concluded nothing pertaining my questions... oh well... another day, perhaps.
haha sorry to waste your time today, this is what happens when you don't talk about the Trinity on Trinity Sunday. :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

living in the inbetween

I came across that tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery.  Man, what a place, by the way, I can't wait to go back.  I'm already planning my next trip... there's so much to see!!
Anyway, there is a ton that can be (and has been) written about the cemetery and all the graves and all the death in the name of freedom and whatnot.  Perhaps, after I make a return visit or two, I can reflect on those themes more fully.  But I just want to talk about Mr (Dr?) Musmanno tonight.
As I walked amongst the never ending menagerie of grave-sites, this one stood out at me.  In fact, it was the only picture I took all day.  This guy lived a life, man.  3 wars, 16 books, 7 degrees, and so much more.  Talk about living life to the fullest.  You, sir, are my hero.  I wonder what he was like.  Was he married?  Was he likeable? Friendly?  What were his degrees in?  I know I can google him and find out everything and more, but I am just waxing curious, you know?  What a guy to be around.  I wonder how many friends he had.  How inferior they must have felt.  Oh... I only have 2 degrees and only fought in 1 war...
Matching up to Michael would be impossible.  I hope he was gracious and humble.  What a way to live, though.  I like how there's no birth and death date on the tomb.  Its almost like it doesn't matter when he was born or when he died, what matters is what he did with the time in between.  And it seems he did quite a lot.  Good for you, man.  Good for you.  Way to live in the in between.  I can only hope to live as fully.
But the fact of the matter is that even with multiple tours in multiple theaters, even with SEVEN degrees and 16 book deals.  Even though he was a judge and everything else, Michael Musmanno still died.  The truth is that the lowly gravestone down the road that said read "He loved his Savior, and his Savior loves him" speaks volumes louder than the laundry list of accomplishments that Michael racked up.  There's no place that magnifies that reality louder than in a cemetery - especially one as beautiful and massive as Arlington.  It doesn't matter how many stars he had on his uniform or how many people's lives he saved in battle- every one of those men and women died.  And every one of them has to be held accountable for the sin they inherited from Adam.   Methinks the Judge cares not about our valor, rather He cares about our Savior.  Blessed are we beyond measure that His innocent blood covers my incredulous nature. 
So, I strive to your greatness, Rear Admiral Musmanno.  Truly.  You have learned much, fought hard, and given more to this country than most ever will.  I hope that all your learning and fighting didn't distract you from the one that fought to save you from sin, death, and the devil.   I hope to have as many accolades as you- not so that I gain fame (ok... maybe a little fame...) but because it means that I spent my time on this earth well, that my life was fully lived.  That would be pretty neat.  But I hope that my grave-maker doesn't waste chisel-time on my accomplishments, but rather it lists Christ's who lives within me: He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

I googled him, and found that the other side of his grave reads:
"There is an eternal justice and an eternal order, there is a wise, merciful and omnipotent God. My friends, have no fear of the night or death. It is the forerunner of dawn, a glowing resplendent dawn, whose iridescent rays will write across the pink sky in unmistakable language - man does live again.' 
The final words of Michael A. Musmanno in his debate with Clarence Darrow, 1932."

Good for you, sir. It makes my heart glad to know that he knew his Savior.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

So much to say

Oh bla(h)g.
I haven't forgotten about you, I promise.  I just have had a lot rattling around in my brain currently.  I think that writing to you makes some of my thoughts and decisions permanent, so I have been more-or-less avoiding you.  Its nothing personal, please believe that.  Its just that I am in a season of wading whilst I wait, thus posting on you and fully processing just isn't what I'm interested in right now.  That sounds harsh, forgive me, dear bla(h)g.  Soon I will fill your pages again... soon.   You should know that your role in my life will change in the near future.  I'm working on a pretty exciting new project and you will be my waiting room and sound board.  I think you'll like the change of pace. 
I will tell you more later.
In the meantime, please know that I am well. Blessed, really. Blessed.  I am content to be a tad confused and I am very optimistic about what the Big Guy has in store.  His Peace is something that cannot be fully described, but man is it overwhelming.  Good things, bla(g)h, good things.  It is 1:03 in the morning and I have get to leave in two and a half hours to catch a flight to the District (that's what the cool kids call it, I hear...).  This is truly a dream come true.  Many a Where in the World is Carmen San Diego was spent wishing I could capture her and get a free flight to D.C..  Well, this one certainly isn't free, but it is landing at Regan, so I'm pretty stoked.  Oh the places I'll go!!
Alas, good night old friend.  Thanks for being so solid over the past 3 years.  I'm sorry I haven't been more faithful in keeping you up to date.  I will be in the future.  Have a great day and we'll talk real soon.

Fare Thee Well,

P.S. Do it, Rockapella!!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oh, Clive... you so wise.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-- safe, dark, motionless, airless-- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."
-C. S. Lewis

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Season by season I watch him amazed, in awe of the mystery of God's perfect ways.
All I have need of his hand will provide, He's always been faithful to me

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

6 hours

You know, there are a few landmark moments in my life in which the Lord made Himself and His redemptive work perfectly clear to me- when it clicked that He died for me... FOR ME!!!  One of those times was while I was sitting in a study hall my senior year of high school.  I had three of them...  I don't know why I picked up the book- I wasn't at all a reader- but I did and I read it twice in 3 days.  I bought the hard cover just so it would hold up to my re-reads... Such a powerfully simple book that I still read often.  I have a couple of copies in various places so I can jump in when needed. That book is "Six Hours One Friday" by Max Lucado.
I still am in awe when I read it.  I try to just read one section, but it inevitably turns into a cover-to-cover marathon.  I know that there are better books out there, chances are I have them in my library, but for whatever reason, this one touched me deeply 13 years ago, and still does today.
I get to preach on the the thieves on the cross tomorrow.  I looked to Lucado for inspiration, and found it in spades.  mmm... so good.
So, as my Lenten gift to you, Chapter 13 of "Six Hours One Friday"
The Eleventh Hour of Grace:

     Nicodemus came in the middle of the night. The centurion came in the middle of the day. The leper and the sinful woman appeared in the middle of crowds. Zacchaeus appeared in the middle of a tree. Matthew had a party for him.
     The educated. The powerful. The rejected. The sick. The lonely. The wealthy. Who would have ever assembled such a crew? All they had in common were their empty hope chests, long left vacant by charlatans and profiteers. Though they had nothing to offer, they asked for everything: a new birth, a second chance, a fresh start, a clean conscience. And without exception their requests were honored.
     And now, one more beggar comes with a request. Only minutes from the death of them both, he stands before the King. He will ask for crumbs. And he, like the others, will receive a whole loaf.
     Skull’s hill---windswept and stony. The thief---gaunt and pale.     
     Hinges squeak as the door of death closes on his life.
     His situation is pitiful. He’s taking the last step down the spiral staircase of failure. One crime after another. One rejection after another. Lower and lower he descended until he reached the bottom---a crossbeam and three spikes.
     He can’t hide who he is. His only clothing is the cloak of his disgrace. No fancy jargon. No impressive résumé. No Sunday school awards. Just a naked history of failure.
     He sees Jesus.
     Earlier he had mocked the man. When the crowd first chorused its criticism, he’d sung his part.1 But now he doesn’t mock Jesus. He studies him. He begins to wonder who this man might be.
     How strange. He doesn’t resist the nails; he almost invites them.
     He hears the jests and the insults and sees the man remain quiet. He sees the fresh blood on Jesus’ cheeks, the crown of thorns scraping Jesus’ scalp, and he hears the hoarse whisper, “Father, forgive them.”
     Why do they want him dead?
     Slowly the thief’s curiosity offsets the pain in his body. He momentarily forgets the nails rubbing against the raw bones of his wrists and the cramps in his calves.
     He begins to feel peculiar warmth in his heart: he begins to care; he begins to care about this peaceful martyr.
            There no anger in his eyes, only tears.
     He looks at the huddle of soldiers throwing dice in the dirt, gambling for a ragged robe. He sees the sign above Jesus’ head. It’s painted with sarcasm: King of the Jews.
     They mock him as a king. If he were crazy they would ignore him. If he had no followers, they’d turn him away. If he were nothing to fear, they wouldn’t kill him. You only kill a king if he has a kingdom.
     Could it be. . .
     His cracked lips open to speak.
     Then, all of a sudden, his thoughts are exploded by the accusations of the criminal on the other cross. He, too, has been studying Jesus, but studying through the blurred lens of cynicism.
     “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself---and us, too, while you’re at it”2
     It’s an inexplicable dilemma---how two people can hear the same words and see the same Savior, and one see hope and the other see nothing but himself.
     It was all the first criminal could take. Perhaps the crook who hurled the barb expected the other crook to take the cue and hurl a few of his own. But he didn’t. No second verse was sung. What the bitter-tongued criminal did hear were words of defense.
     “Don’t you fear God?”
     Only minutes before these same lips had cursed Jesus. Now they are defending him. Every head on the hill lifts to look at this one who spoke on behalf of the Christ. Every angel weeps and every demon gapes.
     Who could have imagined this thief thinking of anyone but himself? He’d always been the bully, the purse-snatching brat. Who could remember the last time he’d come to someone’s aid? But as the last grains of sand trickle through his hourglass, he performs man’s noblest act. He speaks on God’s behalf
     Where are those we would expect to defend Jesus?
     A much more spiritual Peter has abandoned him.
     A much more educated Pilate has washed his hands of him.
     A much more loyal mob of countrymen has demanded his death.
     A much more faithful band of disciples has scattered.
     When it seems that everyone has turned away, a crook places himself between Jesus and the accusers and speaks on his behalf.
     “Don’t you even fear God when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done one thing wrong.”3
     The soldiers look up. The priests cease chattering. Mary wipes her tears and raises her eyes. No one had even noticed the fellow, but now everyone looks at him.
     Perhaps even Jesus looks at him. Perhaps he turns to see the one who had spoken when all others had remained silent. Perhaps he fights to focus his eyes on the one who offered this final gesture of love he’d receive while alive. I wonder, did he smile as this sheep straggled into the fold?
     For that, in effect, is exactly what the criminal is doing. He is stumbling to safety just as the gate is closing. Lodged in the thief’s statement are the two facts that anyone needs to recognize in order to come to Jesus. Look at the phrase again. Do you see them?      “We are getting what we deserve. This man has done nothing wrong.”4
     We are guilty and he is innocent.
     We are filthy and he is pure.
     We are wrong and he is right
     He is not on that cross for his sins. He is there for ours.
And once the crook understands this, his request seems only natural. As he looks into the eyes of his last hope, he made the same request any Christian has made.
     “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”5
     No stained-glass homilies. No excuses. Just a desperate plea for help.
     At this point Jesus performs the greatest miracle of the cross. Greater than the earthquake. Greater than the tearing of the temple curtain. Greater than the darkness. Greater than the resurrected saints appearing on the streets.
     He performs the miracle of forgiveness. A sin-soaked criminal is received by a blood-stained Savior.
     “Today you will be with me in Paradise. This is a solemn promise.”6
     Wow. Only seconds before the thief was a beggar nervously squeezing his hat at the castle door, wondering if the King might spare a few crumbs. Suddenly he’s holding the whole pantry.
     Such is the definition of grace. (121-125)

1. Matthew 27:44, NIV
2. Luke 23:39, Living Bible
3. Luke 23:40, Living Bible
4. Luke 23:41, NIV
5. Luke 23:42, NIV
6. Luke 23:43, Living Bible
 “Six Hours One Friday,” by Max Lucado,  published in 1989 by Multnomah Books.

Thank you Lord for your unfathomable grace.

de vine!

ha.  well, the 66 books in 66 days thing didn't quite come to fruition, but I still hope to get through them all.  Life just got in the way of the 2 month time frame...

I'm in between mission trips currently.  I just got back from FL and am off to AL on Friday.  I really love the road.  I love sleeping in a moving van, I love the sound of the road, the food selections from gas stations, living out of a suit case, and not knowing what city I'm in.  Methinks I'm destined to be on a tour someday.  That would be sweet.

On this last trip, however, something odd happened.  We were in southern Illinois- I was driving the lead van and my GPS said to take hwy 74.  The Suburban behind me had a GPS that told them to go hwy 55.  I went with 74.  Oh, and before that we were supposed to be back on the road at 7:45, but some girls were late, so we didn't get back trippin' till 7:55.  Fast forward to 10:10pm- about 50 miles after we committed to hwy 74 and we are stopped on the highway.  For two hours we sat on the road.  We got out and ran around, had a dance party, pillow fight, and Catch Phrase marathon, but we did not move for 2 hours.  It turns out someone's life was sadly taken in what seems to be a tragic hit-and-run.  It happened 10 minutes before we got there.  SO, had we been on time, it is entirely possible we would have witnessed something pretty traumatic. 

The whole scenario has not left my mind this whole week.  I cannot help but think that there was a divine purpose for our being on that road.  What? Why?  I have no clue.  We gathered around and prayed for the situation once we realized it was a pretty severe accident- there were no less than 2 dozen squad cars at the scene.  Other than that, it was just a time to goof around and hope we didn't kill the car battery while we sat and waited.  But we could have (and should have) been on hwy 55.  It was the better route- I knew that- I've taken it before... But I was feelin' 74.  Why would God want us to be on the road and two hours behind schedule?  Maybe there was another accident that we avoided by being where we were- who knows?  Is that how God works?  Events and situations are on a non-stop course, all God can do is maneuver His people around them in hopes we get through unscathed?  I don't necessarily think so, but I really can't say.  God's will is (thankfully) a mystery.  How feeble would God be if we, his (sinful) creation, were to have the capacity to fully understand his divine will?  That would make us gods, or, more aptly, it would make God only as mighty as the mightiest human, and by definition, he would thus cease to be a god.

Thankfully, this is not the case. 

God is bigger than we can even fathom.  He works in mysterious ways- but always for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.  But why the seemingly random and annoying events?  Maybe because I was really tough on this schedule- the pastor wasn't too thrilled about our late ETA, so I was trying to shave and save every minute so that we would arrive right at 9pm- we were ahead of schedule- and I was happy as a clam.  Then we stopped.  Maybe it was just a simple and gentle reminder that God is indeed the one in control.  That we can plan the course, but the Lord determines the steps (or, in this case, the drive).  Ironically, even after the 2 hour delay, we were STILL 10 minutes early.  Granted, our stops were really fast and furious, but we still made our deadline, which was pretty neat.

Why did we take that route?  Why did we have to wait?  Maybe it was another lesson in patience.  In waiting.  In "letting go and letting God".  All of those things were taught.  We literally could do nothing but dance and have a good time.  We couldn't go anywhere.  No one could be mad if we were late- it was out of our hands.  We had to be patient and wait for the road to re-open or (as it turned out) for the police to divert us back the opposite way. 
Regardless, I know that this was no coincidence or happenstance.  At least, I don't think it was.  Some folks say that there is no such thing as coincidence to a Christian... I'm not entirely sure that's true- I mean, sometimes our imaginations run wild and we connect dots that we maybe shouldn't (like 99% of the conspiracy theories out there).  But, I like to think that everything that occurs in my life is at the discretion of my Lord.  Whether or not that is true, I guess I cannot be certain, but I know that he has a plan to prosper me and not to harm me, I know he determines my steps, he commands his angels concerning me to guard me in all my ways, he knows the past and the future, he knows my name and cares for me exponentially more than he cares for the tiny sparrow, and most importantly, my eternal future is secured through his perfect Son's death and resurrection.  So I got that going for me... which is nice.  As for why I was on 74, maybe it was just so that I can have another story to tell... who knows?  I just know that next time I'll be taking 55.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“...sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself...”
― Donald Miller