Thursday, July 29, 2010

God of My Fathers

"Like my fathers I am looking for a home
I'm looking for a home beyond the sea
So be my God and guide me till I lie beneath these hills
And let the great God of my fathers be the great God of my children still"
- God of My Fathers, Andrew Peterson

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending an Andrew Peterson concert with Katie and our best friends. We drove through Atlanta to Jefferson, GA to sit on the front row of Galilee Baptist Church for the show.

This was also the same night my father was admitted to the hospital. My mom called as we were leaving our house and told me that dad had driven himself to the emergency room with a pain in his chest. She told us to go ahead to the concert and that she would keep us updated. She didn't sound worried, so we left and asked her to let us know what happens.

She texted back while we had stopped for supper and said that they found a blood clot in his lung. I asked her what I should do, and she said that there was nothing much we could do but pray. We were on the other side of Atlanta by now, and she told me to just stay and attend the concert.

We were one of the first ones at the church when the doors opened, and for the first time ever we were front and center for the show. After about an hour, Andrew came out and the music began. The show was amazing. After several songs, he introduced a new one called "God of My Fathers." The song had just begun when I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. I could tell that it wasn't a text, but a call. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and discovered that the call was from my mom. What was I to do? I was sitting on the front row in this packed church in the middle of a song, but I had to take the call! I stood up and briskly walked, head down, to the back of the sanctuary and into the lobby. My phone stopped buzzing, so I dialed back, my mind only guessing at the reason for the call. She was supposed to text me updates, but this was no text.

She answered, "Hello?"
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Your daddy wanted to know if you can preach for him tomorrow."

After Andrew finished the song, I walked back to my seat both a little annoyed and very relieved that the call was not serious. But later, I wondered, "What if it had been serious?" Because I know that one day I will get that call.

I'm sure when that call comes in I will feel a certain amount of anxiety and sadness. I'm sure that I will grieve. But after all is said and done, I think that I will be grateful. I will be grateful for a father who knows, loves, trusts, and serves Christ. I will be grateful for the legacy he leaves behind in his church and his family. I will be grateful to God for His steadfast faithfulness. I will be grateful for a great cloud of witnesses who will spur me on until the day I, myself cross the finish line. And on that day, like Andrew, I will pray with a grateful heart that the great God of my fathers be the great God of my children still.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Six Flags and Stories

Last Friday, I took a trip to Six Flags with some family. Katie didn't go. For some reason, she doesn't enjoy being whirled around high in the air at 70 mph. Whatever.

To say that the day was a scorcher would be an understatement. In fact, when we were waiting in line for The Scorcher, one girl in front of us almost passed out from heat exhaustion. (I don't quite believe that though. I think she chickened out of the ride.) By the end of our first coaster, our clothes were drenched in sweat. By the end of our second or third, we were seriously looking for a water ride.

It was past time for lunch, and our energy was draining fast, but we decided to get wet before we headed to our car to eat. We went to Thunder River. Two hour wait. We'd starve by then. We went to Splash Water Falls. An hour wait. So then we thought we'd just head for the bridge where all the water sprays up from the ride. Back in the day, you would get more wet from the bridge than from the actual ride. We stand on the bridge for like five minutes waiting for the next boat to send that wave up into our faces. Finally, one floats around the bend. Get ready, here it comes. The boat plunges downward. The wave rises up... and falls beneath our feet. Not a drop to cool our baking bodies.

So we decide to take the sky carts to the other side of the park where Six Flags has built a small water park. We're sure to get wet there. While we're in line, we begin to discuss how we might just be willing to shuck out $10 for a drink in the park, which only an hour before seemed ridiculous. I thought of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. For once, I totally understood Esau. I told Katie's sister, "I won't need $10 if I'm dead." We're all suckers if we get hot and thirsty enough.

Once we reached the water park, we couldn't believe our eyes. There was water everywhere, and you didn't even have to wait in line! Imagine walking barefoot through the desert sand, mile after mile of blistering sun and parched tongue. Then you see an oasis just ahead offering shade and water. That was us. And we were in heaven. We took off our shirts and shoes and ran to a tall pipe that gushed gallon upon gallon of cool water over our whole bodies. We stood there splashing and giggling like school children.

Call me a nerd, but that joy reminded me of Frodo and his friends as they reached the elven city of Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings. They had been traveling for so long. Frodo was attacked, and no one was sure if he would pull through. When he awoke after days of unconsciousness, the joy shared between that fellowship was so relieving and so refreshing.

I began to notice that these stories, Esau and Frodo, had found their way into my experiences that day, bringing understanding to both the stories and the present moment. I wasn't just famished, I experienced the famishing of Esau. I wasn't only joyous in that cold water, I was experiencing Frodo's joy. These stories helped shape my awareness of my own story.

What stories shape the way you see your life and experiences? Which ones find their way into your own story?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sinners, All Shapes and Sizes

We took the kids to the Psalmond Road Pool today.

All human beings seem to be born with an innate ability to size one another up. We contrast and we compare (to ourselves, of course); we decide what we like and what we dislike in other people. That is, in our esteem of others, we decide who we would or wouldn't want to be. The catch being that this practice says more about who we are than anything else.

Now, if we all carry this uncanny ability to judge one another in almost every fashion, the public pool is one place that we hone our skills to perfection. You know what I'm talking about. From the chubby boy who keeps losing his trunks in the back to the thin woman in the string bikini, there are people in bathing suits, all shapes and sizes, some leaving more to the imagination than others. We notice. We can't help ourselves. We notice who's been working out and who shouldn't have put that on in public. And if we're not careful, there's a little bit of pride, a little bit of lust, a little bit of envy, a little bit of shame.

But what does it mean to have the mind of Christ? To have the eyes of Christ? Perhaps two things. We begin to look around at people in bathing suits and see more than bodies. We begin to see souls. We begin to see sinners, all shapes and sizes, all feeling a little bit of pride, lust, envy, or shame. We are all ugly. And we begin to see treasures, even the least of these, that God loved enough to dive in to His own creation to suffer and die to rescue. We are all beautiful.

My, the things you see at a public pool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Green Pastures, Still Waters

I zoned out while driving today. I mean, scary "zoned out," like when you are all of a sudden on a road and you don't remember how you got there.

At least it was for a good reason. It was five o'clock. That is the time of Missio Dei's call to afternoon prayer. A text goes out to all our pray-ers, and we pray together. The afternoon prayer is Psalm 23. This is what I was meditating on while I zoned out.

It isn't much, but this is what occurred to me during that unaccounted for period of time: The Shepherd (who, of course, is Jesus) makes me lie down in green pastures. These are lush places where my body and soul are satisfied my my Shepherd's care and provision. It is here that I can truly say, "I shall not be in want."

But the Shepherd also leads me beside quiet waters. This explains the green pastures. In fact, I cannot lie down in green pastures until I have let Him lead me beside quiet waters. My soul must be at rest within me. As the Psalmist says, "I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me" (Psalm 131:2).

But if I find my soul restless, looking here and there in dissatifaction, then I know that there are desires I must be weaned of. I must learn to trust my Shepherd alone for my desires, not only to provide for them, but moreover, to provide the right desires. And when I want for nothing that He does not want, I find myself beside quiet waters. When I am beside the quiet waters, I find myself content to lie down. When I lie down, I find that the green pasture is oh, so satisfying. And when I am satisfied by the Shepherd alone, my soul is restored.


Anyone who wants to try out our rhythm of daily prayer is invited to join us. We pray three times a day: 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, & 5:00. A text goes out at these times and calls us to prayer. If these times are not available for prayer, no worries. See it as a reminder for the next moment you do have available.

We pray the following Scriptures, alone or with personal prayers:
8:00 am - Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
1:00 pm - Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord's Prayer)
5:00 pm - Psalm 23

Let me know, and I will add you to our list.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dare to Join Us

"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people."
Acts 5:12-13

This passage interests me on a personal level. Here's why:

The early church had grown to about five thousand believers. The apostles were performing miraculous signs by the Holy Spirit. The gospel was being boldly proclaimed. The church was united and generously shared all that they had with one another. The believers met in homes, but being Jewish, they also still met regularly in the Temple. They had a specific place. Like a high school cafeteria, everyone knew where the Christians were gathering: a place called Solomon's Colonnade. And like a high school cafeteria, everyone was afraid to join them.

Here's what interests me though: They were highly regarded by the people. Everyone thought well of the Christians. God was performing miracles through them. A beggar had just recently been healed at the Temple. Everyone praised God. The Scriptures were being presented in a new light because of this Jesus, and it was making sense. They loved and cared for one another. Everyone thought so well of them! But no one dared join them? Why?

Fear. They wouldn't join them because they were afraid. The Jewish leaders had threatened the apostles not to talk about this Jesus: "Don't even do good in His name. We don't want to hear it." No one wants to be thrown out of the Temple. The Temple is the center of Jewish life. So admire from a distance. Wish you had the courage to join in. Walk past what you know is right so that life can go on as normal.

This interests me on a personal level because this seems to be the response to our church sometimes. I could be wrong, but people seem to admire our efforts. Of course, everyone does not share this admiration, but for now, I'm thinking of the people who do. They seem to acknowledge that we are following Jesus in ways that seem good, true, and beautiful. We are not perfect by any means, but they seem to respect our courage for trying something fresh and new. And yet... they walk right by. They dare not join us. Why? I can only speculate.

Is it fear? Fear of being labeled with us? Fear of novelty? Fear of not fitting in? Fear of having less time in their weekend? Or is it the fear we all face of having to commit to something? The fear of having to surrender our lives to this God who surrendered His life for us? Fear that we are not ready to lay aside our fears?

Of course, there is no single answer. Yet here is my appeal: If you are one of these distant admirers, (not just of our church, but any church), how long will you keep walking past? We are not perfect, but we have committed to one another. We worship together, we serve together, we sacrifice together, we suffer together. Because that's what it means to follow Jesus. It means being a part of His body. So lay aside your fears, whatever they may be. Perfect love casts out all fear. If we are the body of Christ, then His arms are wide open. Dare to join us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A poem that I wrote a couple of years ago:


I do not think
I do not hear -as words drop from my tongue like fine china-
the crash
I do not see -as bloodied feet bury within themselves the shards-
the wounds
Carelessness is my crime
for which everyone else must pay

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Joy and the Ache

I woke up today with an ache in my soul. I am not unhappy; quite the contrary. There is forward movement in my walk with Christ. Everything is well with my life. What is this ache? Why is it there?

Sunday there was great joy. I officiated the wedding of Bo and DaLin Broadwater. While waiting to walk out before the congregation, I prayed that God would fill our hearts with great joy. He came through. Part of my prayer during the ceremony was that Bo and DaLin would represent well the picture of Christ and the Church that marriage is meant to be. They came through. Their love for one another was as thick in the air as the humidity outside. We all left with drops of it on our brow.

But sometimes after the joy there is an ache. The ache is there to remind us that as sweet as the gifts of these moments are, they are but foretastes of the joy to come. There is a wedding feast coming where the wine will never run dry, where love will ring out in our laughter and life will swell in our lungs. There will never be a purer Bride, and there will never be a more radiant Groom. And the sun will never set on that Day.

That Day is not today. For now, we have joy because of these pictures, and we ache because of these pictures. We are right to do both.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What He Wants

Living for God means seeking to fulfill the will of God in my daily life. To do this, we must forsake our own will as our Lord did in the Garden.

I was reminded today how willing I am to seek God's will in "large" matters in my life (where I will go to school, how to lead the church, where my family will live in five years), and yet seldom do I consider God's will in the "small" decisions of my everyday life. And yet these choices are what truly shape us. These choices are what prepare us for discernment at those grand forks in our journey.

Let us rediscover the joy of a will completely surrendered to the will of a heavenly Father, day by day, moment by moment. What He wants is better than what I want.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Live for God

What does it mean to live for God?

How quickly we forget that our lives are His. How unconsciously we draw our breath from moment to moment. But He does not forget. Nor does He cease to provide it.

What do I prefer to think about? How do I prefer to spend my time? A man in "The Great Debaters" tells his son, "We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do." Is this how we offer our lives to God? Offering up what we "have to" so that we may enjoy the rest doing what we will? Thinking about what we will?

What does it mean to live for God?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

We're home from the fireworks out in Ellerslie. It's late, so I'll post lyrics to one of my favorite Independence Day songs. There's not a lot of rah-rah-rah, but there is a lot of perspective.


"4th of July" by Ben Shive

The first star of the evening
Was singing in the sky
High above our blanket in the park

And by the twilight’s gleaming
On the 4th day of July
The city band played on into the dark

And then a canon blast
A golden flame unfolding
Exploded in a momentary bloom

The petals fell and scattered
Like ashes on the ocean
As another volley burst into the blue

But the first star of the evening never moved

We stood in silence
The young ones and the old
As the bright procession passed us by

A generation dying
Another being born
A long crescendo played out in the sky

This nation, indivisible
Will perish from the Earth
As surely as the leaves must change and fall

And the band will end the anthem
To dust she will return
So the sun must set on all things, great and small

But the first star of the evening
Will outlive them all

Friday, July 2, 2010

Give Us a Sign

If God exists, and He wants all people to believe in Him, why doesn't He just prove that He exists? If He gave us all a clear sign, would anyone cease to believe?

Let's suppose for a moment that God decided to give you, the reader, a sign that He exists. That might satisfy you, but what about the billions of others in the world? If this is the way God works, showing signs to some and hiding them from others, then who's to say that's not already going on and you just happen to not be one of those fortunate people?

We will have to go further. To answer our skepticism, we will have to suppose that God has decided to reveal Himself to all people everywhere. Now, to achieve this kind of revelation, and to make sure nobody misses the sign, it seems that God would have to give various kinds of signs at every moment of every day. After all, not everyone is paying attention to the same kinds of things at exactly the same time.

Let's think about this. What would happen if God displayed signs for all people every day? What would happen is that we would call it nature. We would rightly study them, explore them, and occasionally be amazed by them, but we would wrongly fail to attribute any sort of divine message to them.

Could it be that this is what is happening every day? Could it be that there is a God, as Jesus taught, who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on all people?

But perhaps someone will think that sending sun and rain is not much of a message. I have a feeling we would see the magic of it if God only revealed these things to us individually. But let's put that aside for a moment, because this God that Jesus reveals is also a God who reveals Himself in very personal ways. He reveals Himself more fully to some people than to others. Is this fair? Absolutely, because these personal messages are never meant for the recipients alone. These messages are meant to be shared with the world. And they have been. The question is whether we will accept these messages given to prophets and apostles or whether we will demand a sign for our eyes only.

We cannot have it both ways. Either we want a God who reveals Himself equally to everyone, or we want a God who reveals Himself to certain people more directly than others. If we choose the first option, then we can't complain that the sign is nothing "special." If we choose the second, then we can't complain if we are not a prophet.

Fortunately, we do not have to choose between the two. God has done both. We have just to open our eyes to the impossible occurances that unfold around us every day (i.e. nature). And if we can learn to see that, perhaps we can begin to trust those who tell us that they have seen "even greater things than these."

"Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
- The Prophet Isaiah (53:1)