Sunday, December 31, 2006

the wonderful unknotter

My daughter came in this morning and threw one of her barbies onto darla’s lap and said, “please get the knot out of my Barbie's dress, you are the best unknotter!” I thought to myself that is absolutely true for me too. After reading darla’s post today, it is obvious that both of us have been grappling with the same issues. I wrote in my journal yesterday to God that I was mad at him for dropping us in this spot: this spot where we are not pleased with our current position even though this is the spot we have been placed for a reason beyond our understanding. Honesty, I think that is the thing God wants from his children. I think he is big enough to take my blaming and complaining. I don’t want to stay that way for long. I think that is why he has placed the wonderful un-knot-her in my life. You see yesterday I was twisted up in knots after two days of wringing my thoughts over how lonely it seems to be in this place we currently find ourselves in. Last night in a moment of sheer exhaustion and desperation, knowing I could not undo the knot I had twisted myself into, I threw myself onto darla’s lap and without words asked to be unknotted.

This morning I awoke and realized that the knot has been undone and I am not as anxious. Yesterday, darla tried to ask what was wrong, but I was so twisted inside I couldn’t even verbalize it. I made the most foolish statement. I told her I didn’t want to tell her because I didn’t want to bum her out and besides she couldn’t do anything about it anyway. What a load of crap that is, today I realize that she is the one I can tell and share my pain, fears, and doubts with. In trying to protect her from the pain that I am going through, I am hindering the thing that the Spirit of God would use to knit us closer together.

I am forever grateful that the One Who knitted me together in my mothers womb has given to me my wonderful un-knot-her.

Monday, December 25, 2006

dawn comes everyday

it is not a question of if or when was Jesus was born, rather it is that he was born. does anyone know exactly when the sunrises? or is it that we know that everyday the sun does rise.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

get it out in the open

“Prayer is elemental, not advanced, in language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true, and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything out in the open before God.” Eugene Peterson (intro to Psalms)

My thoughts:
If prayer is me being honest before God, in response to God, it is assumed that God has spoken first. I think I have approached prayer first as me speaking to God upon my terms, but in light of Eugene’s concept of prayer maybe when I come to the point of thinking of speaking to God, it is actually my inner being responding to a divine prompting that I wasn’t even aware of. So maybe a new understanding of prayer might be to first listen, or maybe before I open my mouth, I should open my ears.

Listening to my life:
Today I found myself all wound up, meaning I was in a really foul mood. Sometimes when I get in moods like that I start cleaning the house like a madman. As I clean, I grapple with the issue. Sometimes the cleaning makes me more frustrated than I was before I started. Nonetheless, today I was mad. Here were the series of triggers:
I learn of friends who have found themselves wanting to serve God, yet don't have a clear sense of what that looks like. They are in limbo. (It reminds me of the struggle I too find myself in in our current position.)
Another friend has purchased a building and is looking to start a church. (This frustrates me, because I can’t come to terms with the fact that I –me- can’t just conjure up this thing called church. It is too sacred, it is such a precious gift, how can I be so pompous to think I can just start “label x church.”) I haven’t been together with fellow travelers of faith in some time. I miss that.
Things are just out of order in my inner life. I turn and look and the house is in somewhat of disarray. Then it all comes crashing in; uncertainty leads to frustration, frustration leads to bitterness, bitterness leads to burning anger.
All of this happens in the span of about 2 minutes.

I am so thankful that my wife gives me space to go off on my little stinky tantrums. She asks, are you ok? NO! I AM MAD! What are you mad at, she asks. Now, I could respond, no one helps clean around the house! That would be BLAME. That is not what has got me worked up. No, it’s really me. I respond, “I am mad at myself!” She replies, “Why are you mad at yourself?" Stinky under my breath I respond, “I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet!” I think to myself- leave me alone, I am just stewing.

If I am really honest, I am mad because I have chosen other things over spending time journaling with God, which I really love to do. But this week things have just come up. I am mad at the fact that I have gotten so mad so quickly over something I don’t have any control over. I stop cleaning and sit down on the couch with Darla and explain the triggers that have led me to this point. In doing so, we communicate openly and honestly. I can sense that she isn’t mad at me being mad and wants to walk through this thing with me wherever it leads. I love my wife. She reminds me of God’s latitude of grace towards me. We are moving closer to living our complete life out in the open with each other, and if that is the picture of our marriage, then how much more are we open before the One who knitted us together once in the womb, and then again in relationship to one another.

I am not mad anymore, in fact, I am actually filled with awe, wonder, and love.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a full life in the emptiest places

"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down--and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places--firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden,a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again."

God speaks through Isaiah (58)
to the people who follow "the Name."

Monday, December 11, 2006

nativity of the Jews

"From the story of the nativity of the Jews, we learn that life is inherently arduous but also sacred; our task is to repair and perfect God's creation. What challenges do Christians undertake from the Gospels' Nativity stories? Perhaps Christian faith in Jesus will be understood as the faith of Jesus, so the Jewish values of education and social responsibility that his parents inculcated in him will be renewed for Christians in their celebration of his birth." Read More Great article from hosted by
This is timely as I am reading Brian McLaren's book a Generous Orthodoxy subtitled Why I am A -Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN.
I skimmed this book at the book store when it came out last year. I wasn't ready to read it then, but now seems like a good time. I checked it out from my local library, In the first chapter he discusses how his idea of Jesus has been shaped as he has moved through the various denominations of the Christian faith. It is a kind of brief overview of church history from a personal experience. He is very hard on conservative evangelicals, but that is because he was raised in that environment and found it lacking. His ideas are not to persuade one to accept one particular viewpoint but to ignite discussion and dialogue about the way things have been presented related to the "Gospel" or good news by the various denominational doctrines.
I read McLaren's the Secret Message of Jesus this summer and I really enjoyed it. It is one of those I hope to read again.

Friday, December 08, 2006

could i get a map, i seem to have misplaced myself

During the time that Rabbi Schneur Zalman was imprisoned in Petersburg, one of the czar's miniters asked him to explain the verse (Genesis 3:9) "And G-d called out to the man and said to him: Where are you?" Did G-d not know where Adam was? Rabbi Schneur Zalman asked the minister: Do you believe that the Torah is eternal, that its every word applies to every individual, under all conditions, at all times? The minister replied that he did. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was very gratified to hear this, for this was a basic principle of the "subversive" teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the propagation of which was at the heart of the accusations leveled against him.

"Where are you?" said Rabbi Schneur Zalman to the minister, "is G-d's perpetual call to every man. Where are you in the world? You have been allotted a certain number of days, hours, and minutes in which to fulfill your mission in life. You have lived so many years and so many days -- Where are you? What have you accomplished?"

i love my brothers from the Jewish faith, they have such a way of capturing the basic questions of life and forming them into a querry that stirs one to action. for me asking the question, "where am i?" is more about not being so focused on where i am going, who i am in this place now. it is a shift from destination thinking, to a current location mode of being. the question is not where am i going, but who am i in the place where i am today.

Monday, December 04, 2006

ask the question

“the tree the tempest with a crash of wood
throws down in front of us is not to bar
our passage to our journey’s end for good
but just to ask us who we think we are.”

Robert Frost –
the poem “On a Tree Fallen Across the road”
in the book Learning to Fall.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

shopping for God knows what...

Consumer Reports advise:
Look through the ads, shop for the best, find the one you like… then, BUY IT!

Maybe we have settled for a sort of false advertising. Maybe in our consumer mindset we have thought of the current model of the church as a product of the primary expression of the kingdom. We have purchased this way of thinking and now we are experiencing a sort of buyer’s remorse because our perception is that the product has failed to deliver.

The reality is, the church hasn’t failed; it is our expectations and preconceived ideas about it that were incomplete. Our disillusionment has led us to return our purchase and we are now seeking a new product; a product that we are finding is not available in any one particular store. In fact, it is not even a product or a service. It is simply a way of living.

The gospels tell us:
Look first, look with intensity, look as though the fate of your life depends upon it, look for the kingdom first.

I have noticed that the gospels do not tell us to look for a church first and then the kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven is to be first. The kingdom takes place in and around your ordinary everyday life. Your everyday life is the optimal realm where the ruling and reigning of God is made known. It is the place where God wants to inhabit.

When seeking the kingdom expressed in everyday life, it becomes the central approach to thinking about the God-big-picture. That thinking will help relocate what the church can look like on your God-life map. Kingdom living is living in the God-life rhythm of everyday life, working, eating, etc…

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." Written to the people in Rome by Paul. (Romans 12:1, the Message)

A great example of searching for the divine in the ordinary is Reap What You Sew Generosity Project. This article was orginally printed in the San Francisco Chronicle December 2, 2005.

Once you begin to live searching for the kingdom first, then secondary will be a desire to gather together with others who are living from that the same understanding that kingdom (everyday life in relationship with God) is best understood in relationships with others. Just as love is best expressed when it is shared between two people, not towards an object, so is kingdom living expressed between two people. A gathering of people who are genuinely seeking to center their life on this understanding will naturally become an expression of what Paul thought of when he said, “When you gather...”

This will be a huge shift in thinking for many people, because we have thought of the kingdom expressed in terms of the gatherings of Christians as the essential expression of the kingdom. Although it is one part of the kingdom, it is not the central way. The number of hearts who are in such gatherings are just a token representation of the hearts that God is moving through in the world. To think that gatherings are “the ends” of what God thinks about his kingdom, is limited in scope. Gatherings are just one of the expressions of “the means” by which kingdom can be viewed.

This shift may explain the long return lines in the religious goods and services department stores across the country, or as seen in the mass exodus of people from the current church model in the West.

So what do we do next? Search, search everywhere. Search for what? Search for expressions of the kingdom at work in all the nooks and crannies of the marginalized, the forgotten, and the ignored. That is where He came and walked before. I don’t think he has changed his route. Jesus told us in plain language the way is narrow and few find it. I realize that I have been looking for something else. I was looking for a product or a service that would satisfy my need for what only the kingdom (the God-life expressed in relationships with others) can fulfill.

After listening to and contemplating on a series of talks by Euguene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and Todd Hunter entitled Spiritual Formation hosted on, I am forming a daily question that is helping me put this into perspective: What does my life relationships with my spouse, kids, co-worker, friend, or the guy at the coffee shop look like now that I understand these relationships are the space where the kingdom emerges?

Is there an answer? Is there a solution? Yes and no. There is no quick fix or simple formula to follow. There is only a mode of living to be explored and shared. It is a life that is constantly searching for the divine in the ordinary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

soil of character

Silence and solitude
Silence and solitude

The sound of breathing
The flicker of the candle
The warmth of the fire
The scent of incense
All the reminders that you are near

Take us into you
Take us into the real
Take us into the center
Take to the place
Where we end
And you begin
Let us tremble
With knees wobbling
And stumble into grace

Your light shines in the gray
Your light shines bright in the day
Your light shines bright in the night
Your light shines bright in my plight

Bring us out into the open
Where faith and sight
Join hands and fight
The good fight

No one has ever seen the love
That grows from the One
Who is the beginning of everlasting

If I were to hope again
What would my heart hope in
I would hope in you alone
I would that you find me
Find me longing for thee

Can I know the ways of the One
Can I know the face of hope
Can I know the touch of grace
Can I know joy
Can I know the peace of life

Who can know these things
Who can know the hearts of men

Can the flower that falls
Still find hope in beauty

Can the leaf that turns
Find the hope of green again

Can the ones who have turned away
Find their hopes again

Can the pieces of the broken
Be put back together again

Can the One who makes the hard
Become soft move in and start again

I wish that these things would be
I wish that these things would be
I wish they would grow on the trees
Like fruit ready to be
Ready to be ripe to eat

Can you the great gardener
Bring the fruit of life
Bring it out of hiding
Bring it out of hiding

The roots of the tree
Go down and down to thee
Deep within the toil of the soil
Roots reaching deep
Roots reaching deep
Deep into the life source
Tap the root
Fill the branch
So that the tree would be
Once again into the orchard of me