Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Prime Minister!

The man who famously admonished an audience to "Never, never give up" celebrates his birthday today. For history buffs or quotation masters you know that I'm referring to Winston Churchill. Churchill, who was Great Britain's prime minister during World War 2 is perhaps as famous for his witty (some may say sarcastic) sayings as he is for his leadership of a country in peril. An example of the former - rumor has it that at a party a aristocratic lady remarked to him "Sir, you are drunk." To which Churchill replied "And you are ugly. But tomorrow I will be sober." In Churchill's case, wit didn't always account for the most gracious response.

This day is especially noteworthy for me because a dear friend and a man I greatly respect, Pastor Ronnie Stevens, is a huge fan of Churchill's. In fact, Pastor Stevens and I cemented our friendship by debating whether or not Churchill was the greatest leader of the 20th century. More than anything, I think Pastor Stevens was amused that a twenty-something year-old girl would contest him on this issue but as my friends know, despite my aversion to confrontation, I've never been one to stay away from a rousing discussion. Now, every year Pastor Steven reminds me of Churchill's birthday and other milestones in his life.

Not only did Churchill comment on the appearance of his feminine antagonists, but on another birthday, his 75th, he said, "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter." Regardless of your view on Churchill's leadership, his theology was probably suspect for whether in this life or the next, our Maker is always prepared to meet with us. In fact, its what He longs for; to have fellowship with His creation and to be glorified through their lives. He created us that we might participate in His glory - the most magnanimous act of love.

I'm not still not convinced that Churchill was the greatest leader of the 20th century. Regardless, I hope he was prepared to meet his Maker. I know his Maker was certainly ready to meet him.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Wisdom of Celebrity

In the December issue of InStyle, actress Natalie Portman shared, "If we can find ways to love life and by joyful without being wasteful or destructive that's what's important ." As a frequent reader of celebrity magazines, I know that inane comments by famous people are not entirely uncommon. What struck me about this particular comment is how difficult it is to argue against. After all, loving life and being joyful sounds good. And who among us wants to be wasteful and destructive? The edict from Miss Portman seems like a fine one except for one thing - she says quantifiably that these things are what's important. Not that these things are important, but that they are the important things. And therein lies the problem. It assumes that what is important is our feelings and experiences and that's just not the case. What's important is whether our lives are adding or detracting from the glory of our Father. What's important is whether our lives are properly aligned with His will. What's important are matters of eternity.

I fear that wisdom like Miss Portman shares would be agreed to by many these days. And I fear that many would concede this point without recognizing the potential problems - both outside of the Church - and within.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Swallowing My Righteousness

We've all heard the phrase "sometimes, you have to swallow your pride." I would guess that 99% of the time that this phrase is used it references someone who has done something wrong and they are reluctant to admit it. It's hard to be humble, to admit our failings. The difficulty that it causes is the reason that we are admonished to to consume our own boastfulness; it's not something that comes naturally.

As hard as swallowing one's pride is, I think its harder to swallow our own righteousness; to overlook the wrong that's been done or the injustice that's been committed and to recognize that sometimes God calls us to set aside what we think we deserve so that He can get what He deserves. Proverbs 19:11 says that it is our "glory to overlook an offense." How counterculture is that in a world that proclaims the need for "talking it out" and "not holding it in." Obviously these have their place in relationships too, but in a quick review of Scripture the only time I could find that we were told to seek out a conversation is when 1) we were the ones committing the offense or 2) when the offense (i.e. sin) was against the Lord. Maybe if we didn't think so highly of ourselves we wouldn't be so eager to talk with others about the wrong that they committed against us. Maybe if we thought a little more highly of God we'd be more eager to address the wrong that they've committed against Him.

I don't know how to be o.k. with not telling someone when they've hurt me, but I know that sometimes that's what I'm called to do. And so I'm learning. My self-righteousness doesn't have the best taste, but like so many other things in life, maybe its an acquired one.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Giver, Not An Ascetic

As a youth, I infamously remarked once "it's the gift that counts." Years of teasing, and frequent attempts at trying to explain, have left me with one conclusion. . . I was right. It is the gift that counts, if you're the giver.

This was brought to mind recently when I heard a pastor exposit on contentedness. This is a subject that's near and dear to my heart and so I listened with rapt attention. One point that I found extremely interesting was that God commands us to be content with what we do have, not content with what we're without (Mike Fabarez, Nov. 28, 2007). In other words, the focus is not on our lack, its on our abundance. Regardless of what we have, all of God's children have exceeding riches (See Ephesians 1:7). Additionally God has given us many physical things "for our enjoyment" (See I Timothy 6:17). Some, those who are ascetics, believe that physical goods are trappings and should be disposed of. However, Paul makes it clear that we are to trust that these good things come from the One who is Good, and enjoy them accordingly.

Continuing his charge, Paul admonishes those who are rich in physical goods to share generously with others. Although this goes outside of the bounds of Paul's instructions, I believe that one of the reasons for this is because it is the most pronounced way that we can enjoy these physical blessings. When we share with others, our enjoyment increases. When we can use what we've been given to be a blessing, we've helped advance the Kingdom. Giving isn't just good for the recipient, its good for the giver. It brings the giver enjoyment.

My remark from when I was younger was, in all honesty, a mistake. But sometimes the "folly of our youth" can prove more wise than we originally anticipated.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Pain of Humilty

I have a muscle in my right shoulder that regularly spasms. Its the result of years of bad posture and poor muscle development. It's a constant reminder to me that my mother probably was always right. After all, she was the one who constantly told me to stop slouching even when I didn't think I was.

Recently I discovered that more than at any other time my muscle spasms in church. I always thought that this was because of the construction of the chairs, but I actually think it may be something different. Whether I'm singing or I'm listening to a sermon, when I'm in church I'm reminded of how lowly I am especially in comparison to an awesome God. My body's response to this recognition is to slouch forward, a characteristic sign of humble circumstances. I realize my worthlessness contrasted with His worth and I must bow before Him.

What's noteworthy is how unnatural this is for my body. We're cautioned to stand up straight because it projects confidence. We're trained to move with our shoulders back because it puts our body in proper alignment. But when we are properly aligned with our Creator, we realize that we truly are people "of unclean lips" and are forced to our knees. My body revolts against this, as does every world inclination in my spirit, and yet this is what the glory of Christ compels. The spasm in my shoulder is a reminder that humility is never what our bodies, or our worldly nature wants, but it is the proper response to God.


As Wise As Me

One of the starkest contrast between modernism and postmodernism is the former's trust in the scientific method compared to the latter's reliance on personal experience. In a modern world, what could be verified is what was to be depended upon, and everything else was merely conjecture. Rationality ruled and we were all its doting subjects.

Because I fell right on the cusp of the modern vs. postmodern transition, I tend to find myself exhibiting characteristics of both camps. My belief in the benefits of logical thinking is probably my most pronounced modern characteristic. I trust in order, I like sequence, and I consider things critically. When things make sense, I'm a happy camper. When they don't, I'll do my best to figure it out. Cause and effect are usually pretty observable and ascertaining either helps me understand the world.

However, what works for understanding the world, doesn't always work for understanding Jesus. That's because to my logical mind a lot of what He says doesn't make sense. "The first shall be last and the last shall be first" goes against every natural inclination in my body. "Humble yourself and you shall be lifted up" is completely counterintuitive. "Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth" seems completely ludicrous in light of humanity's plight. My head can't wrap around it, and these seeming contradictions are stumbling blocks for faith.

But the fact that a perfect God paid the price for my sin also doesn't make sense. His bottomless forgiveness is an injustice to logic. His decision to use me to bring Him glory is completely counterintuitive. None of it fits within the bounds of rational thinking.

And the point is this. Oftentimes I use the wisdom of the world to try to justify partial abandonment to God. I think "does He really want me to give to those in need . . . or can I trust that they'll use what I give them rightly?" I may question "should I really look over an offense or will I be taken advantage of again?" If I don't vent (i.e. gossip) will it cause irreparable harm to my psyche or can I trust that all is in His control? Logic screams in the face of God's commands and yet His forgiveness of my sin also doesn't make sense. My wisdom doesn't account for an infinite God, His wisdom is limitless. His ways are surely not mine, because they are incalcuably superior. How can I believe in His mercy but deny His directives? How can I trust Him for salvation but not in everyday nature of human affairs? My wisdom doesn't leave any room for Him to work, and is that really the position in which I want to be?


Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

Every year proclamations of "Happy Turkey Day" are met with rejoinders to remember the real meaning of thanksgiving. The celebration is supposed to be about being grateful, and not about football (Go Cowboys), big meals or shopping. Sometimes it seems that the expositions on the genuine reasons for the holiday are just as contrived as what they are rallying against. Their purpose is understandable but I fear that their redundancy sometimes results in them being tuned out. Does anyone really think that they are going to convince an adult to be grateful instead of glutinous by recounting the stories of Presidential Proclamations?

However, this season, I considered another meaning behind the admonition to "give thanks." After all, we tend to think of it as another way of saying "be grateful", but what if instead, we tried to be the reason that others gave thanks. In other words, instead of giving thanks for what we have, what if we, through our actions, bestowed thankfulness to others; if our actions reflected God's goodness and caused others to express gratitude to Him? Would that also not be commensurate with the purpose of the celebration?

I think it is. And I hope that this holiday season I'll find ways to give thanks.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Starved for Truth

I have no idea what its like to go hungry. I've been hungry before, and I've participated in the thirty-hour famine, but I have no concept what its like not to know where your next meal is coming from or to be deprived of all nutrients. It is just not a part of my life experience and the helplessness that comes with that depravity is difficult to relate to. However, despite the difficulty in a physical sense, I have a better grasp of what it is like in a spiritual sense. If I was a medical student or had the inclination to spend more time on the subject, I would fill this page with a description of what the body does during a time of starvation. From the initial pangs of hunger, to the body's ability to disregard the initial impulse and sustain itself, to the eventual turning on its own members, I think the parallels to the spiritual realm would be significant. We experience the need for spiritual food and if we don't get it, we can fool ourselves into thinking we are o.k. without it. Eventually this self-deception causes us to do things that spite ourselves because our hunger has no other outlet. Regardless of the growing obesity numbers in America, there is still plenty of lack. There is a lack for spiritual nourishment and truth. Unfortunately many choose to remain in their state of need rather than accept the One who can satisfy.

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Mystery of the Ages

There are some people in this world who are an open book. Despite my affinity for reading, I am not one of them. As old roommate (whom I miss dearly) once quipped, I am "full of mystery and intrigue." Being self-revelatory isn't my strong suit; being vulnerable even less so. And yet I never considered myself someone who was close-mouthed until I had it pointed out to me repeatedly about a year ago. I think its because I'm so commonplace and uninteresting that I assume people feel like they know me. As with so many things in life, I was wrong.

Recently, I heard the Church called the "mystery of the ages." To be fair, I merely jotted down the reference and now can not remember the context it was uttered in. So it could be that its from a famous quotation and I'm hopelessly pillaging another's idea. (A good researcher would Google that - but I'm not at work, so its not my responsibility.:-) ) I thought the description was apt. As someone who's been questioned regarding their commitment to church, I find it hard to explain why I am so regularly participate in corporate worship. It's especially hard to convey to people who are familiar with attending church but have never been a part of the Church. All they see is the social benefits and the warm fuzzies that they receive, which like all good feelings are bound to dissipate when strife enters in. For me, the warm fuzzies and the social benefits are secondary. There is something mysterious that happens when hearts turned to God jointly proclaim Who He is. There is something unexplainable about the fact that the Church has lasted despite its missteps and misdeeds. The wonder of the Church can't be captured in a thirty-minute "how to" on life (what many sermons have succumbed to in recent years) because the mystery of the Church with a capital C isn't contained in any four walls, its found in the hearts that are inexplicably joined as members of Christ's family and in the majesty of coming before the throne as one.

I may never be able to adequately explain it. But, as with so many things that are beautiful, I don't need to in order to appreciate it.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blind Sight

One of the crazy things about language is that often times common phrases, when considering arduously, don't make sense. For example - "jumbo shrimp." How can something that's quantified by its smallness, become big? Or, as one of my friends would say "true love." Can it really be love if its not true? Isn't therefore the phrase redundant?

One of the crazy things about God is that He also sometimes doesn't make sense. At least not to us. Whether its because His are so high or are ways are so small (Isaiah 55:9), He has an amazing way of extracting the least-considered consequences. He just as a knack for causing things to turn out different than one would expect.

Paul's life is a prime example of this. Before he had his heavenly name change, Saul was the persecutor of the church. He had studied the Law and knew what it taught, and sought to merit out its justice. On the road to Damascus he was struck by blindness and it was only then that he could truly see. Stopped in the road, he found the Way.

Oftentimes in life things don't go the way I think they should. I'm glad that God is the type who doesn't always require that things make (human) sense.

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The Inheritance of a Princess

One of the common refrains in my life is a reminder that I am the Daughter of a King. My point of reference was when I visited Buckingham Palace and saw the flag indicating that the Queen was in residence. Not having been raised in a monarchy, I don't have the same frame of reference as Englanders do when we call Christ our King. In the shadows of Buckingham Palace though, I imagined what it would be like if the Queen stepped off her throne and bore the punishment of a common criminal. The magnitude of this substitution weighed heavy upon me, and ever since I've been in greater awe of the sacrifice of Creation's King.

Sometimes, God uses these points of reference to teach us other truths about Him. For me, the analogy of the King took on a whole new meeting in light of Ephesians 1:3-14. The passage isn't the easiest to parse, but what caught my attention were two words "predestined" and "inheritance." Rather than getting caught up in the predestined vs. free will debate, I took these words in light of a monarchy. A princess doesn't choose to be born into the royal family, she just is. That is her destiny. Her rightful place is as the King's kid. In the same way, God choose to create a royal heritage. Some abdicate their rightful position, but it is His desire that we wouldn't. And as the King's children, we have a guaranteed inheritance, a bestowment of the Father's riches. Sunday school graduates may be so used to this terminology that they breeze right through it, but think about it - we are to be given Kingly riches, the best of the best, because we are part of His family. How majestic His mercy! How wonderful His love!


Seeing God's Beauty

In his song "Better is One Day", Matt Redman writes "One thing I ask and I would seek to see Your beauty, to find You in the place Your glory dwells." The song, taken from Psalm 84, extols the goodness of residing with our Heavenly Father. Countless times I've sand the words without pondering what they meant. This weekend, I did. And what I settled upon was this - if we were able to see God's beauty, I don't think we could comprehend it. Additionally, seeing someone's beauty is usually about seeing their face, and in God's case, that would lead to our immediate removal from this planet (Exodus 33:20) which I doubt is what the thousands of congregants who sing this song intend. However, although we can't see God's face this side of heaven, we can see the impact of His glory. In fact, we can be instruments of its administration by reflecting His love, sharing His grace, and demonstrating His mercy. It's through or act of worship that His beauty is revealed because its in these acts that we most reflect Him.



Some people, when asked what super power they would most like to have, choose invisibility. Others of us don't need to wish for this attribute because its a normal part of our lives. This isn't a bad thing necessarily. As Carrie Underwood recently referred to herself, some of us are "blenders." We're not people that you would pick out of a crowd. Its not that we're literally invisible, we're just easy not to pay attention to. Recently I was out to dinner with some friends (all male, coincidently) and when I left the table I realized that I wasn't sure that the conversation would have been any different had I not been there. Except for one of them realizing mid-way through ordering that they should have let me go first, I was pretty much table garnish. For whatever reason, I just don't command a lot of attention - unless I'm playing fooseball or issuing my blistering whistle. And the fact is, I take a lot of comfort in the lack of attention that I receive. Once a friend remarked that it was his goal to make sure that I didn't languish in obscurity. I retorted obscurity was kind of my goal. I am one of those people who enjoy the background.

This lack of identification has many benefits. One of the reasons that I don't stand out is because physically I'm perfectly average. This means that shopping online for clothes is a cinch; my purchases don't have to conform to a certain defining physiological attribute. My lack of notoriety also means that I have a lot of opportunity for observation. It may be why I'm so sensitive to others' state of being; why I send e-mails of encouragement at the slightest hint of discord. Going unnoticed means that I notice a lot about others. It's probably one of the reasons I write these blogs.

However, sometimes I take my ability to blend too far. Sometimes I notice a need and I don't act to meet it. Sometimes I hear of someone's pain and not wanting to intrude, I walk away. I don't speak because I am afraid I won't be heard not remembering that obedience is required regardless of impact. While my lack of action may go unnoticed by the world, my Maker will surely take note, and next time He may not give me the opportunity.

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One of my favorite things to share with people is that, growing up, I got in more trouble at church than I did anywhere else. It wasn't because I was doing things that were necessarily bad - as my friends can attest I'm pretty compliant and tend to follow the rules. It was because I had no problem questioning what my youth pastors said. Looking back, I'm sure I was their worse nightmare. Most of the them were probably younger than I am now, and I was this junior high kid who wanted to debate their biblical interpretation (or lack thereof.) Not a one of them saw this as an opportunity; they all just wanted me to get with the program, their program. Somehow I don't think my unwillingness to do so won me any friends (and despite my self-righteousness, I'm thinking I didn't win too many heavenly jewels either.) Hence, the rather frequent lectures and reprimands.

The follies of our youth can sometimes follow us into adulthood, and I found myself in a similar situation recently. In an after-Bible study discussion, we were talking about the parables of the "lost" - the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. Our pastor made the point that the story wasn't about the lost ones finding their protector, it was about the protector finding the lost. Hence, the refrain "I found God" isn't accurate; more aptly "God found me." Although the debate was minimal (I don't like to think I was ever lost to God), I think his point is probably the right one (and even if I didn't, he has two master's degrees to back it up.) Our Father is actively seeking our restoration. He's removing barriers, overturning lampstands, and celebrating our admittance into His kingdom. He's orchestrating ways for us to experience His grace. His greatest act of pursuit was sending His Son to bring the lost ones home. As with the coin, sheep, and prodigal son, there is nothing that we did to precipitate this. The action rests with Another.

The good news is that in each of the parables, that which was lost was being restored to its proper position. In the same way, our heavenly Father desires us to be restored into right relationship with Him. And even today, all the lost still has to do is to accept the restoration.

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Cherish is the Word

Growing up, I always loved the song that went "Cherish is the word I use to describe, all the feeling that I have hiding here inside." Google tells me that this song is aptly titled "Cherish", but I have a hard time thinking of it without the rest of the words in the opening line of the chorus.

The reason that I liked the song so much is that "cherish" seemed to more adequately describe that which we sought in a healthy relationship. The more traditional word, love, had been strewn around too much to carry any significant meeting. The word love had supplanted "lust", "infatuation" and "obsessiveness" , and "really, really like" one too many times for me. Cherish seemed more appropriate. In my mind it conjured up images of deference, of respect, and of value. We use the word cherish to describe that which we honor and will not let go of. More so than "love" which had come to mean anything from a passing fancy to a familial connection, it described romance.

Recently though, I've found another application for the word. "Coincidentally" the last two week's we've been learning what it means to love one another in church. I write coincidentally because the dual lessons came about as a result of a guest speaker, not a planned program. However, God must have thought our church needed a refresher, because the two lessons were almost identical in their motif: as part of God's family we are called love one another - selflessly, humbly and with purpose. And while I agree that is true, I think cherish may also more accurately describe how we are to be to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because modern-day usage has destroyed the meaning of the word love, it can conjure up images of tolerance for family members rather than active pursuit of their good. And while tolerance is admirable, I think God had in mind the latter rather than the former. We are to cherish those who are part of His family. To honor, esteem them, and work for their edification. We are to value them if for no other reason that our Father has fit to call them His kids. Cherishing them is how we demonstrate our commitment to Him.

Love is a good word. I use it on a regular basis. But when it comes to my co-laborers in Christ, I think my aim will be to cherish.


No Judgment

I have a friend with whom I have a common refrain "no judgment." It came about as way to express that whatever happened, we could always talk about it. Regardless of what choices that were made, or the consequences that would be suffered, it was my way of saying that I wouldn't make a value assessment. I would show love and leave the judgment to someone else. As a result my friend remarked to me once that he knew regardless of what happened or what was said, we'd be friends. Even though we didn't state it explicitly, we both knew that the choice to love trumped any unforeseen circumstance.

What works on Earth in terms of this one friendship, has application on the other side of glory too. As Christians we know that everyone will be judged. God is very clear on that. Whether its giving an account for every careless word (Matthew 12:36) or the revelation of that which was hidden (I Cor. 4:4-6) we know that there is an appointed time for each to stand before the throne and review our life deeds. Much like the defendant giving his allocution, we will have to confess that for which we should be condemned and announce our guilt.

However, there is one thing that we have that a plea-bargained defendant doesn't. The justice that judgment demands has already been satisfied. Not only are we saved from having to undergo the punishment of our sin, Someone else has suffered on our behalf. For those of us who have grown up in the church, its sometimes easy to think to we've escaped punishment, but we haven't. No condemnation doesn't mean no consequences. Someone else has chosen to accept our condemnation instead; the punishment has still been merited out, but on the innocent rather than the guilty. We are not condemned, but the demands of justice must be satisfied.

The lack of judgment in my friendship doesn't mean that the bonds aren't tested when wrongs are committed. But it does mean that regardless of what happens, we have committed to remain friends. In a similar way, for those of who have accepted Christ, it doesn't mean that He doesn't acknowledge our acts as right or wrong, but is does mean that regardless we're proclaimed innocent in His perfection, and holy before His throne.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Reservation Book of Zion

I've been to my fair share of hotels. Although I don't qualify as a road warrior, my work calls me to different cities on a somewhat regular basis and I like to travel. Funnily, I rarely seem to go to the same place twice, which means I get to experience a variety of different hotel environments. Each one has its own character and its own sense of purpose.

In all my travels there has only been one time when I've had a problem with my reservation. It was at a conference and the hotel clerk shared that the person who had previously occupied my room was still there and so there were no room available. Apparently, they weren't allowed to tell the first occupier that the room was no longer theirs, instead I had to move to a hotel down the street. Just as in the classic Seinfeld episode, it made me question the power of the reservation. After all, if the reservation was quickly overturned by another guest's extended visit, it didn't do me a whole lot of good.

All of this was brought to mind recently when my pastor preached on Hebrews 12:18-24. The passage contrasts the Israelites experience on Mount Sinai with the place of our future God encounter - Mount Zion. As my pastor articulated unlike Mount Sinai, Mount Zion is a place where we can interact with God. It's a place of community - a city is being built there. It's a place of celebration - reconciliation is complete. And the wonderful thing about Zion is that God has His very own reservation book. All who believed have a confirmed booking, "their names are written in heaven" (vs. 23). And the best part is, we aren't registered as visitors, spectators who are passing through. We become Zion's citizens with all the rights and privileges therein.

Both Seinfeld and I may know what its like to have a worthless reservation. I'm glad that my final reservation is secured.


Avoiding Loneliness

In "Lucky You", Drew Barrymore plays a girl new to the Vegas scene who falls for the bad-boy, compulsive gambler. The movie wasn't great, and Drew Barrymore's character was one of the least believable, but despite these flaws, she did have one noteworthy saying. As the two lovebirds stare at the city's light, she utters "I think everyone is just trying to avoid being lonely." The setting was contrived, but the words full of veracity. Most people are just trying to avoid being lonely. Its why people obsess over divergent things - drugs, relationships, church, cars, etc. As Tim McGraw sings "We're all looking for meaning in our lives, we follow the road that leads us to drugs or Jesus."

What I think has been lost is that there is a difference between being lonely and being alone. Loneliness concerns having an unfulfilled need - a sense of abandonment and lack of validation. Being alone simply means having solitude. For many, the fact that they are alone brings on feeling of loneliness because they consider their isolation as a form of destitution. But it doesn't necessarily have to be this way. Being alone can simply mean that there is no one else around. Maybe not a preferable situation, but an instructive one. Because in our singularity we can learn a lot about who we are and who we are not. We come to discover what life is like without our masks and we feel those things that we are scared to acknowledge in community. Being alone shouldn't be avoided, it should be celebrated because its when we are most vulnerable with ourselves, and with God.

I know why people try to avoid being lonely. God made us for community and when we are deprived of that our soul suffers. But being in community doesn't mean never being alone. It means having people to be alone with. And its trusting that a time of solitude will make the community all the sweeter.

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In the fog

The thick mist hung in the air reducing visibility to a few yards. The fog obscured the landscape making my morning drive to work anything but usual. In fact, as I drove down the interstate I had to take a second and make sure that I was in fact in the right place. Because the fog changed the view of my surroundings, I couldn't see my normal points of reference. The path was the same one that I travel every work day, and yet, the inclement weather made it seem different. My perception of what I should be seeing and what I could see were not one in the same; I didn't know whether or not the road I was traveling was the right one.

I think the same thing that happened on my morning commute happens in life. Clouds settle around us and we don't know whether the path we are walking is the right one. We can't see up ahead and our normal vantage is obscured. Our points of reference - the good feelings that we get when we know we are walking in God's plan - are nowhere to be found. We don't remember changing directions and yet the road appears unfamiliar. Our guideposts are hidden from view.

This morning, I wasn't sure I was on the right freeway until I saw the exit signs along the road. They were counting down in the same order that they do every morning. Even though the path felt different, the familiar points of exit told me that it was the right one. In life its the same way. God's commandments are our road signs. And even when it feels unfamiliar, when we follow them, we can be confident that we are heading the right way.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

God's Busy

When I first heard "God Must Be Busy" by Brooks and Dunn I changed the channel. I take my faith pretty seriously and the fact that God answers prayer is a cornerstone of that belief. The song implies that God's seeming lack of answer to a specific prayer is due to the fact that He is otherwise engaged. The artists sing:

And I know in the big picture
I'm just a speck of sand
and God's got better things to do
than look out for one man.
I know he's heard my prayers
cause he hears everything,
he just ain't answered back
or he'd bring you back to me.
God must be busy.

Because I considered it an affront that the song implied that God was ignoring the prayer because He was paying attention to something else, I turned the dial and listened to another, hopefully more uplifting country tune (and for those of you who haven't discovered the beauty of country music, that is not an oxymoron.) I don't like the implication that God ignores any prayer - let alone the prayer of a heart that is broken.

The second time I heard the song though, I realized that the artists were, quite unintentionally, kind of right. The song implied that God was busy and that therefore He hadn't responded. While I don't think God's busyness prevents His response, God is busy.When you think about how big this world is, and how much time God spends showering us each with His grace, you have to believe that He has the world's best Palm Pilot. Otherwise, there would be no time to get all of those blessings in. Whether He's preventing harm or delivering good, He is busy demonstrating His love - often to people who will never reciprocate. Even holding back the gates of Hell is a demonstration of His magnanimousness. And holding back the gates of Hell must be a pretty consuming task. We think that God is too busy for us, but the truth is, He's busy with us - constantly working for our good. After all, "God works all things for the good of those who love Him" (Ro. 8:28) and that's got to take some time and resources.

When Daniel prayed and didn't receive an answer, it wasn't because God hadn't responded. He had sent His angel and the angel had to battle to get there (See Daniel 10.) If we call on God and think we've got a busy signal, the chance is its because He's calling His angels on our behalf.

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Better Things Ahead: November 2007

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Better Things Ahead