Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Turkey, Shoulder Rides and Thank-You's

Be my Cornerstone, be my Cornerstone
Be the Rock higher than I, be my Fortress
Be the Foundation for all
My Cornerstone
-         Day of Fire, Cornerstone 

Thanksgiving is coming up - a time where most of us look forward with glee to the coming pumpkin pie and with dread to the coming relatives that we haven't seen for a year (and with good reason - Aunt Ruth's beard hasn't gotten any shorter). You'll probably hear over and over the annual list of thing one ought to feel thankful for - friends, family, food, love, life, liberty, and on it goes. All wonderful things we know are too important to take for granted, but so common we do so anyway without fail. I didn't want this blog to be another voice among many, repeating the same message. I would like to merely add one item to my list.

I've found that riding silently in a delivery truck will cause you to have some interesting thoughts. The song above was going through my head a few weeks ago when my mind caught on the word "foundation" - much in the same way that a sweater catches on a nail. God as a foundation for us? Sounded preposterous.

Foundations are such low, dirty things. True - structural integrity considered, it's the most important part of a building, but still... a foundation? That's not a very glorious office. Foundations are the invisible hands that simply hold up the thing of beauty, so that all may see. Shouldn't it be the other way around? God is the one worthy of worship, and we sure aren't things of beauty worth viewing. His glory is as far beyond us as a massive tidal wave is beyond a single drop of dew on a fragile flower.

Yet you find it several times in the Bible. As my old namesake wrote: "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes will not be in haste.'"' (Isaiah 28:16) Col. 1:17 also says, "And He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." The parable in Luke 6 finds a man building his house on a rock, which is a metaphor  for basing one's life on Christ's words. Like we'd expect Him to care about us THAT much - it almost sounds as if the house was something important.

A foundation for a relationship with God, for our personal well-being, for the very breath in our lungs. A precious stone meant to hold up our dirty feet.

Then the image popped into my head of a father with a kid on his shoulders. Think of it this way - what would it look like if a child decided that his father, being larger and higher in authority, was the one to be given that privileged position? It's amusing - there's no way a child can support that kind of weight.

But aside from the fact that, should we even want to, we'd never be able to fill in as God's foundation, there's something else I see in the illustration of the father. He's perfectly happy to carry the kid around on his shoulders.

A position of servitude? Yes. Do we deserve it? 'Course not. Can anyone else do the job? Well, no....
But does He delight in doing it anyway? Absolutely.

Somehow I don't find myself to be prideful to discover that I'm riding about on the shoulders of the Almighty, merely because He loves me. Just... humble. And bashfully grateful.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"I'd like you to meet..."

"My mom got run over by a train." Josh looked sideways at me, watching for my reaction.

I didn't disappoint. "Seriously?!?"

"Yeah, when she was like 18 or so. She was walking across a railroad bridge one day, when, just like the movies, she got her foot caught when a train was coming. Of course, just like a girl, she didn't think about sliding her foot out of the shoe." He reflected a minute. "Not that it would have really mattered - there's was no way she could have outrun the train, and jumping off the edge would have killed her."

"I'd have tried hanging off the edge." Easy, of course, to say when it's not happening to you. I added as something of an allowance, "Dunno if I would have been able to hold on the entire time the train was passing, though."

"Well, yeah," Josh conceded. "What she did, though, after trying frantically to pull her foot out, was lay down. The whole train went right over her - didn't leave a scratch. I've still got a newspaper clipping somewhere. I'll bring it in sometime and show you." He laughed. "My mom's just standing there with a silly look on her face. She got really lucky that it was a livestock carrier, and not a passenger or cargo train. If it had been, she'd be dead. They have hardly any clearance to speak of."

I agreed, and went on cleaning up the work table. Josh sat on/leaned up against a trash box.

"Here's what I don't get, though," he said. "My mom is not a good person - nowhere near it. Yet she lives through something like that, but children all over the world, who haven't done anything wrong at all, get leukemia and cancer and all that [noun deleted]. It seems, almost, like God doesn't care."

Ahh. Ouch. My heart fell at least a mile. "No no no! It's not like that!" my mind cried - but you can't argue against someone else's feelings like that. Rationale doesn't do a bit of good.

"'Course, I don't think He has anything to do with it." Josh's way of letting God off the hook and explaining the problem of evil at the same time, which is really just an echo of my employer Louis' opinion.


Me, lamely: "Well.... here's one thing that helps to think about - this world, everything that goes on, isn't permanent. It's only a test run, so to speak. Those kids that suffer - it won't last forever. It's only preparing them for an eternity of happiness."

He acknowledged that, but seemed largely unsatisfied. The warehouse door opened, Shane walked in, and the conversation quickly went on to other things.

I turned back to the table. Why this problem with answering pain? I KNOW the answers. I KNOW why it's there. I KNOW what's to ultimately come of it. And I can see God's love through it all.

Here's why. I've met the Guy (if you'll forgive me using such a human term). And they can never understand Him until they have, too. Until they have felt His love, and known the sincerity and passion of it. God willing, and with His help, I'll never be able to stop until the two are introduced.

I'm a poor imitation, but Lord, help me do the best I can't. It's poor grammar - but it sums it up.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. Discernment is the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Wisdom is the personal application of discernment in one's life. Understanding, however, is discovering the reason why.

I wrote a blog about understanding some time ago. Here's one thing out of many that I'm beginning to understand - God sure doesn't hold back very much when you give Him a green light (or any other time, for that matter). Don't get me wrong - I always knew that, but... experience puts a new spin on things.

For the past year or more, I've been worrying about becoming a man - not just in the normal sense of the word, but the man that God has always planned for me to be. I've prayed more times that I can remember, "God... please. Make me into the man that You want me to be." Some days I agonized over trying to make myself that person, other days apathy won and I refused to even think about it. I knew it wasn't going to be anything like a magic wand trick - more of a slow gift, I thought. Little now, little later; in a few years you'll be there.

I can't remember when, but I recall telling God some while ago to bring it about no matter what. No matter how much pain. It wasn't too many days before I was chiding myself for being an idiot - He was going to make it happen anyway. Why go about begging for suffering? So I told God to completely ignore what I just said and continued on my small search for little pieces of manhood to add to my collection.

Of course, the braver (more Godly) me got the better of the cowardly me before too long. "Ok, God. I'm supposed to give it all to You, right? Alright - this time I mean it. No matter what, no matter what, make me who You want me to be."

Before long, everything seemed to be falling apart.

Ok, so it wasn't everything. But it did seem awful close. It was (and still is) one of those time where you want to run someplace far, far away, curl up and die to the world altogether. There's no chance of being stinted when it comes to God, guys - never forget it. But here's the point to all this: I asked God to make me a man. God didn't wave His hand and say, "Voila! Instant man formula!" God didn't point to the world and say, "Go, and become a man." God didn't indicate a chair and say, "Sit and wait till I make you a man."

He pointed to a burning desert path strewn with sharp jagged rocks and said, "Walk, and be a man."

A true man isn't something you become, like a general or a business owner. The title "man" isn't really an adjective, or even a noun so much. It's an action word. Something you are by doing. Here I was, sitting around one day waiting, then looking around the next for manhood around the house like a lost sock, while God was trying to show me that I had all I needed to be a man already.

I was like an person merely reading books on sports and sitting on the couch waiting to become an athlete. You want to be an athlete? Run. You want to be a man? Grab God's hand and be a man. You'll fall, cut your knees on the stones of failure, and spill out your self-confidence like blood. That's ok. That's good. God doesn't need your self-confidence. It's Him-confidence He wants.

And then He says the words "Watch this." 

It's the same feeling you get when you go over a hill on a roller coaster, and see the track below disappear into the darkness. Except it will be so much more worth it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Going Over the Past

On a whim, I decided to read over my past blogs.

Who wrote those? That wasn't me, was it?

Where did my fiery longing for a loving heart towards God go? Where is the understanding I thought was planted inside me? Why do I feel apathy where I should feel trust? Am I any better than my coworker in my heart - I, who throw mud in Christ's face? Where am I? Where are His arms?

God, bring back the love. Show me your understanding. Light me on fire again - but not for my glory. Make me who You want me to be. And if this is the breaking process............. bring it on.
And please - hurry. I don't know how long I'll last.

Don't worry - I'm not losing it. But I do need all the prayer I can get. For me and my family. Thanks ahead of time.

And sorry for the "me" centeredness of this post. I hope to be back in style soon. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where's God?

For these past few weeks I've not been feeling too close to God. I know, feelings have little to do with it - no matter what I've done or not done, God still sees me the same. I'm His child. But still, for some odd reason I've felt that He doesn't seem to be talking much to me. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated. It's one of those times where you want to ask softly during the day, and cry out at night, "Where are you, God?"

Happily, in a way, I'm discovering that that's the wrong way to think of it.

A month or so ago I got an email from one of my good friends on a social network I'm a part of. Something had happened, and they needed encouragement, so I grabbed my Bible and frantically thumbed through several books trying to find a meaningful verse - not one that sounded too cliche-ish, but something to take to heart. I fell across Philippians 4:5b-7: The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
My first thought was, "Eh... too well known. Everybody says that kind of thing." But I got to thinking about it more - which I should have done long ago. The main part that caught me was "The Lord is at hand".

Reaching distance. No need to strain - He's close enough to be easily touched. So what's the matter - why does He seem far off to all of us at some time or another?

Here's what I think.

If you can't feel the Father's arms around you, it's not the reach of His arms, but probably your ability to feel. If He seems invisible, it's not the distance - maybe it's your eyesight. God's where He's always been - close as ever. So maybe the question isn't "God, where are you?" Maybe it should be "God, where am I that I can't see you?"

I'm still searching for the answer to that question, and awaiting the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding". And even though He never promises in this verse to give me what I ask for (did you notice that?), He does promise peace. Though, come to think of it, even that is something we can often be blind to.

Here's the great thing, and something to be remembered - God specializes in making the blind to see. :) So we can honestly say with Paul, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall (not "might", "shall") know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:12)

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Little Exhortation

I always used to slightly envy those who worked at Wal-Mart - they were the only ones allowed to go through the "Employees Only" doors. That is, until I became an employee of a business, and passed through one of those hollowed portals. It's not so glamorous as you might think - believe me. ;)

I think it was my dad who told me that once, when he was young, he saw one of those "Pedestrian Crossing" signs that you notice every so often. Mistaking "pedestrian" for "Presbyterian" he hollered indignantly, "Hey! Why don't they have Baptist crossings?"

It's probably not just me that's noticed it - there are a lot of invisible signs around that seem to say, "No God Zone" and "Shhhh. Non-Christians at Work". Nobody really has to say anything that blunt. Mocking and teasing seems to get the hint across just about as well. And while we often start out really good, weeks on end of the stuff tends to wear you down, until you'd rather just keep your mouth shut about anything Christian- they know where you stand, you know where they stand, etc. It gets hard after a while.

Well, here's a friendly "tough" to us all. ;) Keep it up, I say.

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding {in the matter} for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11
Whatever you do, don't ever stop speaking truth. You don't have to worry about their growth - that's God's work. It may take years and years, or you may never see anything at all, but nevertheless, you have a job to do - go into the world and tell what Christ has done for you.

Now, everything you do should be in love, of course. While it may be true that certain people, at the rate they're going, will burn merrily away in hell, we shouldn't go and smash that in their faces. That wasn't Jesus' way at all. "Turn or burn" wasn't His message. I think that His main point is easily covered in two words: Follow Me.

So just do that, and leave the rest to Him. :) And dance a jig or two on those signs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This is going to be one of those "no duh, you're preaching to the choir here" kind of blog. I know, I very much am, but I have to say something about this - if only to let off a little steam.

"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts.
Due to an acute shortage of workers I have recently been assigned to deliveries at work, which means I go with whichever of the two drivers manage to show up. This isn't a bad thing - at least it's never really boring. Whenever the task seems to be getting slightly tedious, we'll get a... how shall we say... interesting customer. But all that aside, there's only one thing that I've begun to dread about deliveries with one of the drivers. You see, this particular fellow has recently been a partner in destroying his second marriage, and is currently working on a third. All throughout the day, I am treated to the never ending tale of how bad his ex wife was, how much he can't stand her, and how much better his new girlfriend is. This might have been bearable, except for one thing.

His four children that he left behind.

He says she's turned them against him - if he was a good father she'd never have been able to. He says they don't want to see him - understandable, but that's NEVER a good enough excuse for not trying.

I'm not a massive KJV fan, but I like the way it puts the last part of Malachi 2:16; "for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts". This may or may not have been the way Malachi intended the verse to be read, but did you notice the little difference? The one who divorces "Covers his garment with wrong," or "covereth violence with his garment". There may be a little something in the KJ version.

Remember, in the book of Ruth, when Ruth went to where Boaz was sleeping in the middle of the night? When he awoke that morning (shocked as anything, I'd expect), he asked who she was. Her answer, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." It was a request for marriage - the covering with the garment signified protection; a drawing close together.

What drives men to throw their wives and children out from under that protection, and instead invite evil to share the cloak in their place?

Now I know God gives one valid reason for divorce - marital unfaithfulness (Matt.5:32). But, if we take God as an example, even that should not keep us from attempting to find reconciliation.

This is not at all to sound judgmental toward those who have been divorced at all - many have had very good reason for doing so, and even if they didn't, God's love is more than sufficient to cleanse them from that sin. But this is something that wounds me deeply - to see relationships and lives destroyed by careless and selfish people, who merely move on and leave in their wake the twisted wreckage of one more marriage, one more family.

I've met this man's girlfriend's kids - four adorable redheads; two in glasses, the oldest perhaps 12. Their father died this year - supposedly a loser who never gave two cents about them.

If he does the same as before - if he hurts these kids, there's no way of being sure what I would do to him. I know what I'd like to do though, and I'm afraid it's not at all godly.

I pray that that never becomes the case.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


We ran out of immediate things to do a few weeks ago at the furniture store where I work. As is usually done when that situation arises, we began winding up the dozen or so grandfather clocks scattered about on the showroom floor. It's one of those short, easy, low-priority jobs that doesn't really need to be done, so we put it off until a few minutes before closing time.

A family was there - they were looking at beds, I believe. The mother with a crew cut, the father with hair beneath his shoulders, one boy about 8 years old, and the baby sister in a car seat. I gave them a nod and a smile in passing, and went some distance away to wind one of the clocks. I had just inserted the winder and was cranking away when I heard the boy say, "Hey, look! He's winding the clocks!" "Probably a first sight for him," I thought to myself, and smiled. After the weights were raised, I set the time and moved on.

Elijah in the meantime had worked his way toward the front of the store, closer to the place where they were now standing. I couldn't see much more of the boy than his spiky, blond hair as he moved closer to get a better view. I heard him exclaim as Elijah lifted the hinged cover and begun winding, "Ah! So that's how they wind the clocks!"

Life's a little bit like the clocks, and many of us are like the boy. Many of us come to Christ because we realize that Someone is winding the clocks, and slowly we begin to see (in a dim sort of way) His hand moving in our lives. Still, though, we find ourselves often forgetting that, and worry sets in, telling us in its whining voice that maybe things are out of control. And I know, I've often felt that "falling" sensation when I think about my future, or my present even. But we need to remind ourselves - Someone has that all figured out. He is weaving a wonderfully marvelous tapestry with us as thread. It may look sometimes like your line is going all squiggly, but if you've given your life to Christ, He'll be sure to make it come out all right - a thing of beauty that only He can make.

And someday, when we get to heaven and look back over our lives, we'll be able to happily say, "Ah! So that's how He winds the clocks!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just a Thought

You know, I bet that the majority of us probably have a friend or two that we've never physically seen. Maybe we correspond by letters, email, or phone conversations, but we haven't ever seen their face - if they walked right past us, we'd probably never recognize them. Sometimes, though, we occasionally see someone we've never met before and a little thought races quickly across our mind, "What if that was so-and-so?" Reality bullies the poor little thought down, and we smile and shake our heads at ourselves, but something causes us to treat them just a little bit nicer - almost as if they were that particular person.

Come to think of it, though, what if that person were an angel? Hebrews 13:2 says to treat strangers hospitably - some have housed angels without knowing it. An awesome messenger of God, come to earth to encourage, instruct, build up someone's crumbling faith... who knows? Makes you almost feel ashamed for the occasional unkind word or snide glance. Or the many times you simply looked the other way to gently discourage them from starting up a conversation with you, merely because of the way they might appear (I know we've all done that).

Thinking that just maybe, maybe, he or she might be sent from God makes you want to give them an extra smile or something, doesn't it? We can even take that a little bit further, though.

What if they were Jesus?

Now there's a scary thought.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Disciples' Love

I think I would have to say that John is probably my favorite Gospel. They're all good for their own reasons, of course, but for me there's just something about John. They say that Luke's focus is on Jesus being the Son of Man, and John focuses on Jesus as the Son of God, but I think there's a lot of Jesus' humanity mixed in as well.

One of the most striking things to me, though, is the vividness of the last few chapters. I cannot understand how anyone who has read it can believe that it isn't an eyewitness account. The night arrest in a garden in the Kidron Valley, Peter and John's following from a distance and how John got Peter into the court, the brutal execution. But the best part begins Sunday.

Mary Magdalene goes early and finds the stone moved. Very likely in fear, she flies to Peter and John, who both light out at a full run, but the other disciple outran Peter. Jesus was still dead for all they knew, but they still loved Him so much that it became something of a race - the big fisherman verses the more fleet-footed John.

I want my heart to be bursting with love like that.

Later on, after they find the tomb empty (John stood speechless, while Peter, true to character, dashed inside to look), and after Jesus had already appeared to them once, we find them on the Sea of Tiberias. Fish sounded good for breakfast, but so far, nothing was all they had, and it seems they had a lot of it. A Man stands on the shore and suggests that they try fishing off the starboard - it might just work better that way (He calls them children - I love that). Sounds good, so they give it a try. Immediately they have so much fish they can't lift the net. Peter's seen this one before. "It's the Lord!" he yells, and throws, yes, throws himself overboard and swims the 300 feet to shore, just to get at Him.

There's just something about that that I want badly. To fling myself at Christ, to burst my lungs running to Him. It takes a very deep love, and I don't have it yet, I'm afraid. But I want it. And I think that's the first step.

A good thing to always remember, though - we aren't the only ones running. Nor is this love something that comes from just us.

Friday, March 21, 2008


At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, "Ask what I shall give you."

"And Solomon said... Give your servant therefore an understanding mind..."
I know, Solomon probably doesn't really mean understanding in the way I like to think of it, but I still love that story. I think he means the type of understanding that's more of a discernment between right and wrong - wisdom to lead. And that's not a bad thing at all. As a matter of fact, God was very pleased.

You know, it's funny, but when I was younger I prayed that God would come to me in the night and offer anything I wanted. I knew what I would take - what Solomon asked for. Maybe the riches and long life that God generously added had something to do with it, but still. ;) Wisdom to know right from wrong in a way that few do, and the strength to choose the right.... that's a beautiful thing to be desired.

In more recent years, though, understanding has taken on a different light. I began to deeply desire to be the type of person that, if someone I never met before were to come up, punch me in the face, and walk off, I could see past all that into the heart of that person. To see their pain and hurt. To see them as God sees them. Discernment, by itself, would probably say, "What a wrong thing to do." Understanding though, the type I long for, would reach past all that and see them for what they are - a greatly loved individual, one so loved by God that He would die for them just so that they could be close to Him. And die He did.

Most of all, I burn with longing to understand the Heart of God. Then, in some way, maybe I can shine that out from me the way a prism spreads light about a room, to show others how much they truly are loved.

Maybe, in a way, this understanding is the greatest kind of love. Maybe it's the truest form of wisdom.

Lord, please give your servant therefore an understanding mind.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Love and Obedience

In our last church, there was a little boy named Zacharias.

He must have been only 6 or 7 years old, to my reckoning, with brown hair and eyes. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but my heart went out to him. He was one of those boys who are full of life, the ones that can never sit still in church or keep silent when they have discovered something, and it brought much condemnation from his parents. Always telling him to be quiet, to stop squirming, to sit down, with threats of dire consequences to follow should he not. "Disobedience!" they said, but his spirit could not be stifled. The saddest thing about it - he was the son of the worship leader; the grandson of the pastor. Such children should receive more love and care from their parents, not less under the guise of "no favorites".

One day after band practice we stepped outside into the cool, spring air. I heard a sound, and looked over to see Zacharias struggling with a large garbage can. "Hey, Zach!" I called. "What are you doing?" "I'm trying to get blessings from God!" he replied. His 17 year old sister laughed, and explained. "I told him the other day that if he did his chores, God was going to bless him. Now he's going around doing anything he can." My heart wrenched. So young, and already under the impression that God's favor must be earned! They say that parents often by their actions shape in us the ideas of God that we carry with us. In this case, I am certain of it.

But from what I read, it was when we were still fighting against God that He took the first step to loving us. His love comes, not from what we've done, but because of who He is. I'm sure that many times pastors quote the verse, "If you love Me, keep my commandments", and then go on to preach a sermon about obedience, while forgeting the reason for the obedience. It should be because of our love for God. How many of us would like to be obeyed because of selfish reasons on the obeyer's part? Obeyed for what we can give instead of a loving motive to give? That is not to belittle obedience, but merely to put it in its proper place. It's love that God wants; love. We show that love through obedience, true, but if we focus on the love, obedience will follow. Then maybe we'll see less people condemed by themselves and others because of their actions, some wrong and some that they should do and don't. We serve a loving God. And as George MacDonald said, "The Master is as easy to please as He is hard to satisfy."

Many point to the message of the Prophets and see it as the anger of a judgemental God, furious because of disobedience. I don't see it that way at all.

To me, it's the heart cry of an unloved God.