Wednesday, December 28, 2011


And the more the sand sinks
the faster it falls
Burying our moments like fossils
in the deepening bottom
Until at last, all we hold dear
slips slowly through our hands
and quickly beyond our reach

Not lost - but saved
in the storehouse of a coming Age
When the Time Keeper breathes
life into lives long returned to dust
And revived, we mine those memories
like diamonds
or favorite toys in the sandbox

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Soundness of Silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
- Paul Simon

In my last post, I made my best attempt at expressing the beauty and necessity of what can often be one of the most challenging spiritual disciplines. Yet even in its difficulty, silence really is profoundly beneficial as well as foundational to the Advent season. I began thinking that for all the poetic attempts of the last blog entry, there wasn't much offered in terms of what silence might actually look like in our day-to-day life. After all, most of our daily interactions require verbal communication on some level. While I certainly am no expert on the subject, I would like to suggest just one way that we can practice silence and maybe begin to enter more deeply into the reality of God's presence: take rests.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Language of Advent

This morning I woke up early for band practice before church. The sun rose, as it seemed to me, even earlier, unaffected by the numbers on my alarm clock and the recent time change reflected there. It filtered new rays of light through a canopy of misty clouds, sending with them what may be the last remains of the season's warmth. A cool breeze blew through branches overhead, teasing the leaves still holding fast to near-winter branches while their less tenacious rusty-brown brethren rustled together across the driveway.

I stood there for a moment, looking and listening. A shaggy black dog shifted down the street, sniffing from mailbox to mailbox. He found nothing, the squirrels nestled away in their nests. The birds had abandoned the trees like the leaves, taking their early morning canticles with them. There was no other stirring, no other sound. The wind whispered a hush over the neighborhood like the Spirit silencing Zechariah when he doubted the angel.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Always Looking

Although we are brand new customers of TIC Federal Credit Union, I have never been inside one of their buildings. TIC happened to be the institution that the car dealership used to help us finance our new vehicle. Last week, I had no idea where to find a local TIC branch to make good on our first payment. The website claimed there was a branch in our hometown of Smiths but provided no address. Smiths isn't a big place, and I've lived here all my life. I thought I could picture where it was probably located.

So off I went in search of TIC. But when I arrived at my targeted destination, what I found instead was a Wells Fargo. I know Smiths like the back of my hand. Where else could this place be? I was running out of time, and I had to pick up my kids from school. The payment would have to wait. After all, I'm sure there's a grace period. Then, on the way to my kids' school, I spotted what I had been searching for. There was the local TIC branch directly in front of Walmart. Now, although I almost never enjoy going to Walmart, I must say that I have been there countless numbers of times. How long had I driven past this very TIC and never paid it one ounce of attention? Why had I never seen it before? Why couldn't I find a place that I had been next door to for years?

When my son, Noah, was younger, he would find coins on the ground almost everywhere we took him. Like a little hawk, he would pick up coins in his sight that we would have stepped right over. I always thought it was because he was closer to the ground. One day I asked him, "Noah, how do you always find money on the ground?" He replied, "Because I'm always looking."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stop Trying to Stop Sinning, Part 1

What if the best thing you could do for your Christian life is to stop trying not to sin? What if your efforts to stop sinning are at best a waste of your time and at worst actually hurting your spiritual life?

While in high school, I worked at a pharmaceutical retail store similar to Walgreen's. My boss, an older Christian man with a charismatic personality, had a favorite question that he asked me repeatedly. I am sure he asked me this question at least once or twice a week. "Brad" he would say to get my attention. "Do you love Him?"

I knew he was referring to Jesus. I would answer affirmatively, slightly embarrassed at his forwardness. He would press further. "But do you really love Him?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The All-Satisfying Face of God

"You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness."
Psalm 17:14-15

My kids and I have started a new morning ritual this school year. Every day, as we make our way to their school, one of them reads a Psalm aloud. After the Psalm, there is a moment of silence and then a prayer. That quiet moment between the psalmist's prayer and our own is one of the most tangibly (and yet intangible) holy moments of my day. The Lord has spoken prayers into our hearts, and as the truck engine rattles and hums its doxology, we silently prepare our hearts to respond in kind. By May, we will have traversed our way through the streets, through the school year, and through the Psalter with our prayers for mercy, justice, and jubilation over both.

Last week, Noah read Psalm 17 for us. I have probably read this Psalm numerous times, but it took my 10-year-old son reading these verses about children for me to more deeply understand what this prayer means. It is a prayer about satisfaction.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

"Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's alright." - George Harrison

I could never live in the state of Washington. It rains too much. Or so I've heard.

Every so often I wake up with this feeling that something is missing, like the means to get up and start the day is still tucked away somewhere under the bed covers. Eventually I slug my way over to a window and realize that I was wrong. My absent enthusiasm is not hidden under sheets but behind thick, dark clouds. It's a dank, dismal morning with no visible sunrise.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


"Make a table of acacia wood - two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it."
Exodus 25:23-24

Honestly, it's one of those parts of the Bible that is really easy to skip over. When the Lord wants you to build something, He can be painfully explicit in the building plans: use this much of this material on this part of this thing which is to be this size - no more, no less. And so on and so forth. I realize that, tedious as it appears, this is still God's Word, so I sort of feel guilty if I skip over it. My typical solution? Speed reading.

But when I recently encountered the passage in Exodus in which God gives building instructions for His tabernacle, I wasn't bored. I was actually a little jealous.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Come and See

"And I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

"God looks down from heaven on the children of man
To see if there are any who understand, who seek after God."
Psalm 53:2

There is this scene in the early chapters of the gospel of John where Jesus has one of His first encounters with a couple of His future disciples. Up until this point, these two men have been disciples of John the Baptist. But when Jesus shows up and John begins to call Him "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," the disciples can't help being drawn to this mysterious figure.

After one such comment by John as Jesus passed by, these two disciples begin to trail Jesus, following Him from a distance to get a better understanding of this holy stranger. Jesus is aware of their presence, and He turns and asks them a simple, yet very revealing question: "What is it you are seeking?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Lotus of Pleasure

The trees around them all their food produce:
Lotus the name: divine, nectareous juice!
(Thence call'd Lo'ophagi); which whose tastes,
Insatiate riots in the sweet repasts,
Nor other home, nor other care intends,
But quits his house, his country, and his friends.
- The Odyssey, Homer

We need a new car.

Well, need is a strong word. But here, you be the judge. On our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, there is a huge crack in the windshield. The CD player is broken. Right turning signal doesn't work. Driver and passenger side windows do not roll down. (The passenger side window is kept up by two sticks lodged at the base. That's right, sticks.) The tag light is out (I know because I recently got pulled over for that one). Now the passenger side door interior is falling off the metal frame when you open the door. My patient wife has driven this van for about 9 years, and we claim to hold on to vehicles until they fall apart. Well, it's falling apart.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Music Inside

The rain beat heavily on the windshield, my wipers wiping furiously as I sped down the highway. The wind blew with even greater fury as small leafy branches flew across my path, ripped from the strong arms of their trees and carried helplessly now by the will of the storm.

Inside my truck, I was driven by another will. I was on a mission.

I had just dropped off my children in the safety of my parents' home where they were staying the night. The task now before me was to pick up dinner and a movie before my wife returned home from work. On the other side of this storm was a Friday night stay-at-home date: hot wings and The King's Speech. Meanwhile, there was only the torrent of wind and rain and highway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Graduation Party Speech

Me with my wife, children, and parents

Last Saturday evening, my parents hosted a graduation party in my honor. Many of my closest family and friends were present, so I felt compelled to give a speech in their honor. The following is a transcript of that speech.

Dear Family and Friends:

I want to thank you all for coming this evening to my graduation party. I could scarcely be more excited if I were celebrating my eleventy-first birthday. Special thanks to my parents are in order for all of preparations for tonight and for hosting the party here at their home. It is fitting that we should celebrate my academic accomplishments here, because it reminds me that whatever academic or vocational success I could hope to have, I am still the boy who played in this very yard, cut its grass on hot summer days, rode my bike up and down this dirt road, and had countless adventures through these very woods. What I mean is that there are greater things that go into shaping a person than getting a degree. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eyes to See

"Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people." Isaiah 12:2

Someone recently asked me what I enjoy about blogging. I immediately knew my answer. Blogging, when I write regularly, gives me eyes to see. It's the same thing that happens in the discipline of journaling, which is why the tagline for this blog is "a journal." Referring to journaling, or blogging, as a discipline is fitting, as anyone knows who has tried to maintain one. It takes commitment and work. In the case of blogging, your thoughts are formatted to be shared and read by others. Sometimes you wonder if anyone out there is reading, but in the end it doesn't matter if they are or not. (Dear reader, let me assure you that you are appreciated. I do thank you for reading. What I mean is that...) It's not about the writing itself (lines on a screen or page) but more about what the process of writing causes you to see in the world. It's about having eyes to see.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Merton's Prayer

By Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Who Is It For?

I recently heard this story in a sermon by Tim Keller. It is a fictional story, so don't go looking for it in the Bible. The story is by Elizabeth Elliott, though I'm not sure of the original title.

One day, Jesus instructed His disciples to find a stone to pick up and carry with them as they walked the road together. Peter, in particular, responds by selecting the smallest stone he can find, and he carries it as they journey. Eventually, Jesus and His disciples become hungry, but they have no food.

Jesus has the disciples stop by the road, and He says to them, "Now take out your stones."

As they bring out their stones, Jesus turns the stones into bread and invites them to eat. By now, Peter is regretting his choice of stone. He looks at his stone turned bread, and it's just a little crumb. He eats it, grumbling to himself, and afterward he is still quite hungry.

After lunch, Jesus tells His disciples to go find another stone to carry. This time, Peter goes and finds the largest stone he is able to bear. As they walk, he can barely carry the thing, but he can hardly wait until supper.

Finally, about supper time, hungry and exhausted, Jesus and His disciples reach a river side. As they are standing on the bank, Jesus once again asks them to take out their stones.

"Cast your stones into the river," He says. "Now follow Me."

The disciples obey, but they are perplexed by this command. Peter is a bit angry. This isn't what he or any of them were expecting.

In response to their frustration, Jesus simply asks, "Who were you carrying the stones for?"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Silence is a Room

Silence is a room
furnished by image
and illuminated by experience.
I enter alone
and discover presence.
Language waits outside
as I rest among realities
it is powerless to describe.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scar Stories

One of my assignments this semester is to analyze a family story that is told regularly and has become a symbolic part of the larger family narrative. I've been thinking of what family story I might choose. I could tell of the time my little sister got a spanking on the way to Disney World for singing the Chili's jingle a zillion and one times (one time too many, apparently). I could tell of how Katie once called me in tears after she had tried to cut Noah's hair, accidentally forgetting to put a guard on the trimmer. (He had to wear a toboggan in his school Christmas program that year.) I could use those, or I could use a story I heard recently in a completely unexpected moment.

I heard the story - or, more specifically, a reference to the story - in a hospital ICU room, my family surrounding my Uncle Ronnie as he lay comatose in the hospital bed. We had just gotten the news. Uncle Ronnie has been battling a rapidly advancing cirrhosis of the liver for several months. He was recently put on the list for a liver transplant, but now this. His mother, brother, sisters, wife, children, and the rest of us now stood around the bed, silent, teary-eyed, afraid. Eyes shifted about from Uncle Ronnie to the floor and back again. After a moment, my aunt Charolette spoke up.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How to Make a Life-Changing Decision in Just Three Years

We're staying.

After three years of discussion, prayer, and more discussion, we're staying where we are. Billy asked me if I thought I had lost the debate. Katie remaining unconvinced of the move, had I reluctantly conceded? I told him I didn't think so. While Katie's feelings weighed heavily in the decision, our choice to stay here rather than to go to seminary is just that, our choice. There are many wonderful reasons to stay put, loving and being loved not the least of those reasons.