Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In This Very Space

"God of creation
take my breath away
God of the heavens
in this very space."
--David Crowder & Mike Dodson
"God of Creation" from CAN YOU HEAR US?

Last Saturday I wrote about the majesty of God, or, as Brennan Manning put it in RUTHLESS TRUST, how "the manifestations of kabod and the magnalia Dei continue in an ever-expanding cosmos."

I was writing about transcendence.

In the preface of the new edition of ABBA'S CHILD, a book I just started, Manning wrote this:

"In trying to describe the transcendent mystery of Abba's love, I employed a plethora of adjectives such as infinite, outlandish, mind-bending, ineffable, and incomprehensible. Put them all together and they are still inadequate for one simple reason: Mystery is spoiled by a word."

Yet, there is one word that can actually give us a glimpse into the transcendent Creator of the cosmos: Jesus.

So enough about the transcendent quality of God, I want to talk about another point I read in RUTHLESS TRUST.

Manning offered a very important caveat: "Transcendence must be conjoined with immanence; heaven must be balanced with earth. In other words, God's distance must be complemented by his nearness . . . . Immanence is not the opposite of transcendence but its correlative; immanence and transcendence are two sides of the same coin, two facets of the same divine reality. Transcendence means God cannot be confined to the world, that he is never this rather than that, here rather than there. Immanence, on the other hand, means that God is wholly involved with us."

In his amazing book Manning points out that the skewed stress on the divinity of Christ throughout church history has opened up a gulf between us, the children of God, and our wonderful Savior. Our transcendent God walked this earth in the person of Jesus!

You see there is no better proof of God's great nearness, his immanence, than the life of Jesus Christ. Manning quotes a Dutch theologian, Edward Schillebeechx, in observing that "Christianity is not a message which has to be believed, but an experience of faith that becomes a message." I could not agree more. That's why I put "experience" in italics. There is no better proof of the immanence of God than the experience of Jesus.

Manning's book rocked my world. I plowed through it in a week. In my view, the central points of the book are: (1) Jesus alone reveals who God is; (2) Faith and hope work together to form a trusting disciple. In other words:

Faith + Hope = Trust

So how does the other side of transcendence's coin, immanence, relate to that equation? It's simple: We put our faith in God though the experience of Christ, and then we allow Jesus to change our image of God which offers us great hope. Finally, trust is born: ruthless trust.

This actually brings me back to the song I mentioned in my last post, GOD OF WONDERS. You see, that song will always be a reminder to me of not just God's transcendence, but of his immanence. I had heard the song before, but I was not particularily moved by it until the day of my brother Mark's baptism. I will never forget standing poolside just before my brother and his wife, Rachael, were going to be baptized so that they could declare publicly their experience with Jesus, and, based upon that experience, their decision to trust him. The church had a guitarist doing acoustic songs. During GOD OF WONDERS I looked over at my brother and his wife, their arms around each other and full of joy. It was a surreal moment, one in which the Holy Spirit moved through me like a gentle wind. Here was a guy I had spent a decade praying for, like me, by all accounts, Mark was a lost cause, but the fully human, fully alive, fully here Jesus Christ specializes in lost causes. (Incidently, this "lost cause" statement is true of Saul of Tarsus, Brennan Manning, and countless others.) It was the nearness, the immanence of God through the experience of Jesus that brought my brother Mark to that moment of trust. As that guitarist sang, "God of wonders beyond our galaxy, you are holy, holy, the universe declares your magesty . . . ." I thought not about a distant God, but a very near God, one that had touched the heart of my brother and I. You see, the only thing more wonderous to me than the Antennae and Milky Way Galaxies or the Andromedae plantary system is the miracle of a hardened heart that has been softened through the experience of the risen Christ. That day in a stranger's backyard, like the David Crowder song that opened this post said, I was thinking, "God of the heavens in this very space."

I think I may now be done processing RUTHLESS TRUST. That is, posting about it. I just want to leave you with these few quotes from the book that mean a great deal to me:

"Much as we would like to, we cannot confine the humble compassionate Carpenter within our mental limitations, thereby robbing him of his Otherness."

"Yet the mysterious love of God is fierce enough to penetrate even those who think that they cannot receive it."

"Trust means the willingness to become absolutely empty of all terrifying and comforting images of God that we have held, so that the gift of God in Jesus Christ may come to us on God's terms."

What great terms they are! I am so thankful to my friend who lent me RUTHLESS TRUST along with a 5-CD set of a weekend of speeches that Manning gave. Through those tools, Brennan Manning has stoked the fires of my passion for Christ. It is a phenomenal thing, trusting this God of Wonders who is both very vast and mysterious as well as very compassionate and near.

Yet, as Manning penned in his book, we need to remember that every word spoken and written about God is by analogy. "For example, we liken divine love to human love. The similarity induces us to think that we are getting a grip on God's love. And yet, though human love is the best image we have, it is utterly inadequate to express the love of the Infinite." I dare say that this divine love affair is the greatest thing I have ever been invloved with.

I am so happy that God is not just the God of outter-space, but he is hear with me in this very space.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, October 28, 2006

God of Wonders

I am facinated by these recent photos taken by the scientists at NASA with both the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. It truly is beyond my comprehension. The first is a just released photo of the Antennae galaxies. The second is a dust ring inside the Andromeda galaxy. The third shows the remains of an exploded star named Cassiopeia A. The colors are the remains of the star's materials. These were all released this past week and can be found all over the Internet. Mind blowing.

The release of these photos is perfectly timed for me as they compliment a book I finished reading. The photos, the news, and the book all make me think of these all-too relevant lyrics from "God of Wonders" by Marc Byrd & Steve Hindalong:


Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on high

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares your majesty
You are holy, holy
Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And when I stumble in the darkness
I will call your name by night

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth
Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth

The book I just finished reading is RUTHLESS TRUST by Brennan Manning. In it he writes about the kabod (Hebrew word for "glory") of God. This word kabod speaks to God's transcendence. In writing about the "awesome majesty" of God, he also uses the terms, magnalia Dei. The dictionary says transcendence is to go beyond, exceed, surpass, exist above and in independent of. We in church don't talk enough about God's transcendence.

Manning writes about the Upsilon Andromedae which is the first multiplant system found around a star other than our sun. It is located 264 trillion miles from earth. He writes, "between twelve and fifteen billion years ago, the universe began in a stellar nursery 79.8 quintillion miles away, with an explosion of immeasurable force." Manning discusses the various scientific theories of how it happened and concludes: "Indeed, the moment was so immense that it has shocked our notions of physics. Either the observations are wrong, or there is something out there that we have not begun to comprehend." In a USA TODAY editorial, one of the Andromedae researchers is quoted as writing, "I'm a very troubled theorist."

Manning points out that "When the glory of the transcendent God is not addressed, our focus shifts to human behavior, the cultivation of virtues and the extirpation of vices, the qualities of discipleship, and so on."

For me, here is one of the most powerful passages of his book:

Moralizing surges to the fore in this unbalanced spirituality. At the very outset, it presents a warped idea of the relationship between God and humans. From her parents a child learns of a deity who strongly disapproves of disobedience, hitting one's brothers and sisters, and telling lies. When the little one goes to school, she realizes that God shares the fussy concerns of her teachers. At church, she learns that God has another set of priorities: she is told that he is displeased that the congregation is not growing numerically, that irregular attendance is the norm, and that his recurring fiscal demands are not being met.

When she reaches high school, she discovers that God's interests have expanded to an obsession with sex, drinking, and drugs. After twelve years of Christian indoctrination at home, school, and church, the teenager realizes with resentment that God has been used as a sanction by all those who have been responsible for her discipline--as when Mommy and Daddy, at their wits' end over her mischievous antics as a toddler, allude to "the eternal spanking." Through this indoctrination, God is unwittingly associated with fear in most young hearts.

Moralism and its stepchild, legalism, pervert the characer of the Christian life . . . . Clearly, the God of our imagination is not worthy of trust, adoration, praise, reverence, or gratitude. And yet, if we are unwilling to address the issue of transcendence, that is the only deity we know . . . . The loss of transcendence has left in its wake the flotsam of distrustful, cynical Christians, angry at a capricious God, and the jetsam of smug bibliolatrists who claim to know precisely what God is thinking and exactly what he plans to do.

Wow! Okay, that's the end of the Manning quote and I love it. I put in the italics on the word "our" because God is beyond anything we puny humans can think up. That is why I love the song GOD OF WONDERS and that is why I love these photos of outter space. My God, the Abba of Jesus, is not erratic, changeable, or fickle! He certainly is not out to get me.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, October 23, 2006

Have you sized me up?

In his book, RUTHLESS TRUST, Brennan Manning quotes Philip Roth from his book, AMERICAN PASTORAL (1998). Here's the Roth quote:

"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be . . . . You come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals . . . . and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home and tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception . . . . so ill-equipped are we all to envision another's interior workings and invisible aims."

That is from Manning's chapter 5, the fantastic, "Artists, Mystics, and Clowns," in which the author goes on to write, "Wrong thinking about God and people often begins with a debased image of ourselves" (italics mine). And, did you read the quote from Roth again? You never fail to get them wrong.

We cannot know the heart of another. That is God's job. Yet, how often have I judged people or held past encounters against them? Not only have I done it, but others have done it to me. I've felt it; some have even confessed to me that they did it. Some have judged my motives and hammered me before they even asked if their assessment of my motives were correct. I've done the same. It hurts both ways.

Although not mentioned in Manning's chapter, today this reading brings to my mind these verses:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
--Jesus (Matthew 7:1-2)

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."--Jesus (Luke 6:41-42)

Perhaps the worst occurance of this type of "plank-eye" behavior is when a Christian is "offended" by somebody's behavior, a behavior which they clearly seem to think they have a full handle on (i.e. judged another's heart). The reaction is so quick, "Oh, my can you believe so-and-so did something so brash, so un-Christlike?" Then, instead of confronting their "friend" about it, they choose to go and tell another Christian rather than talking to the offender. There is, of course, a word for this: gossip. Since gossip is a sin, and, in this scenario, the Christian is gossiping about the first person's perceived sin, this is a clear example of plank-eye. It is a clear example of sizing-up somebody.

I love what else Brennan Manning writes about how we judge others. Also, from chapter 5, he writes:

"In like fashion, our take on others becomes a simple act of reductionsim. Bill Gates is a computer geek, Boy George a flamboyant gay, Rupert Murdoch a power-mad billionaire, Mother Teresa a saint, Bill Clinton a sinner, my boss a dork, my pastor a dweeb, the street person a bum, the waitress a function, Tiger Woods a phenomenon, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a brainy zany, Tony Campolo a radical preacher. Our perceptions are woe-fully inadequate."

Man, I love that, woe-fully inadequate! It's safe to talk about the celebrities as in the paragraph above, but how often have we done it to those we claim to know? We could all admit to being able to fill in similiar blanks as these: Shenandoah is a _________; Chrisy is a _________; the Lynds are _________; my first wife was a _________, but my second wife is a _________; the pastor of my old church was a _________, but the pastor of my new church is a _________.

Although not from the same section of the book, Manning addresses related subject matter in chapter 7, "Trusting Jesus." Actually, this is a direct quote from his book ABBA'S CHILD. Surely, if we were to size-up Brennan Manning we would say, "Brennan Manning is a holy man" or perhaps, "Brennan Manning is a modern-day prophet," but even that lavish praise would be reductionism! Notice how he is not too affraid of your perceptions to write the following in the first-person:

"Is there anyone I can level with? Anyone I dare tell that I am benevolent and malevolent, chaste and randy, compassionate and vindictive, selfless and selfish, that beneath my brave words lives a frightended child, that I dabble in religion and pornography, that I have blackened a friend's character, betrayed a trust, violated a confidence, that I am tolerant and thoughtful, a bigot and a blowhard, that I hate hard rock?"

I adore this ability of Manning's to show that we are all enigmas.

Before I depress you or lest you think I am on a soapbox, I want you to know that the message of Manning's profound book (notice by this writing that I am going though chapters a day, a rare occurance for me) is that we all hope and yearn to meet somebody to truly understand and accept us and that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of that dream! As I type this I have never believed this more.

Manning states that Paul Tillich's definition of trust remains the most meaningful to him. Since this is stated in a book titled RUTHLESS TRUST, this is an important endorsement from the author. Here is Tillich's definition:

Trust is the courage to accept acceptance

Today I am truly having the courage to accept acceptance from my Abba, the same Abba of Jesus. And, here is how this all ties together. I believe that when we are truly feeling accepted by the only one who matters, Christ, we are now free to accept others, to withhold our ill-conceived perceptions of others, and to stop sizing them up. That is my conviction today: I want no part in judgement, I want no part in plank-eye. This is my prayer: "Father, I so want to dish-out the acceptance I have scooped-up through the person that is your son Christ Jesus. Help me to accept that way."

Funny thing is, I should have learned this decades ago, back in the 80s before I was even a Christian. Do you remember the film THE BREAKFAST CLUB? At the end of the film the voiceover reads a letter that the students had written as follows:

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. What we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal.

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breafast Club

The italics are mine because I think the lesson of this movie is so valuable: Acceptance! I hadn't even thought about why I loved this movie so much until I started reading RUTHLESS TRUST. The fact is, when we begin to ruthlessly trust Christ, we can begin to accept others. That's what THE BREAKFAST CLUB is about. And, that's what the message of Jesus of Nazareth is about. And, that's what RUTHLESS RUST is about too. Indeed, I suspect Manning himself might have ended the Breakfast Club's letter this way:

What we found out is that each one of us is a ragamuffin.
Likewise, I suspect Jesus himself would have ended the letter this way:
What we found out is that each one of us is my Abba's child.
But, maybe I'm just rambling again. Maybe all you are thinking at this point is: "Yea, right, biblical lessons from a secular film! That Doah, he's so unspiritual, that Doah, he's so worldly."
If you are, it's okay because my Abba is very please with me!

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The other day I posted about Elton John's Seven Great Years. So, some of you might be saying, "What does that have to do with your spirituality?" Not like I'm only allowed to post spiritual things here, but today my pastor was talking about "doing an ordinary day with God" and we have been memorizing Colossians 3:17 for three weeks: "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Thus, I'm sitting here listening to Elton John in the name of the Lord Jesus and I'm saying, "Thanks God for knitting together this singer with such a beautiful voice and for the poetry of Bernie Taupin." And, I do believe these talents came from God.

Literally, I'm making lunch for my kids and listening to HONKY CHATEAU (1972) and I wanted to share this wonderfully spiritual song off the album. It's playing now as I type this. Here it is:


I have to say, my friends,
this road goes a long, long way,
and if we're going to find the end
we're gonna need a helping hand.

I have to say my, friends,
we're looking for a light ahead,
In the distance a candle burns,
salvation keeps the hungry children fed.

It's gonna take a lot of salvation,
what we need are willing hands,
you must feel the sweat in your eyes,
you must understand, salvation.

A chance to put the devil down
without the fear of hell.
Salvation spreads the gospel round.
And free you from yourself.

--Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
and music by Elton John

I think that is a very insightful song and when I hear him singing about "sweat in your eyes" and salvation at the same time, I am reminded of Paul's words and his challenge to, "continue to work out your salvation" in Philippians, chapter 2.

The next song, SLAVE, has this line:

"To fight the violence we must be brave,
hold on strong
to the love God gave, slave."

Even MONA LISAS AND MAD HATTERS has these two lines:

"and I thank the Lord there's people out there like you . . . .
and I thank the Lord for the people I have found."

That's what I love about all good art, we place our own perceptions and baggage upon it and transform it into something deeply meaningful to us. There are so many spiritual overtones in much secular music. I have found that God personally has used so-called secular music to touch my soul much more than he has so-called Christian music.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I'm Living Now

"We need only know who and what we really are to break into spontaneous praise and thanksgiving."
--Hans Urs von Balthasar (a Swiss theologian as quoted in Brennan Manning's "Ruthless Trust")

"I am Abba's child."

"I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full."
--Jesus (John 10:10)

"Yahoo!!!!!!!!! Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!"

Labels: , ,

Seven Great Years

Lately I've been listening to a lot of early Elton John. I tend to do that, go in spurts where I constantly listen to one artist. Two months ago it was Neil Finn and Crowded House.

I am astonished by how great Elton John's early career was. Following the release of his first album were seven phenomenal years. The first album came out the year I was born: 1969. Between 1969 and 1975 he released ten studio albums. 10 albums in 7 years! That is not counting two live albums and two soundtracks.

I recently aquired all 12 CD rereleases of what Rocket/Island Records refers to as "The Classic Years" and, let me tell you, these remastered CDs, complete with bonus tracks are amazing. Alas, both THE GAMES soundtrack (Viking, 1970) and FRIENDS soundtrack (Paramount, 1971) remain unreleased on compact disc. I've only heard one song of either of those soundtracks, Can I Put You On, from the later which is an exceptional track.

I've have, however, just very recently listened to all of these albums many times and once I did it in chronological order:

EMPTY SKY (1969)
11-17-70 (live from Britain on November 17, 1970)
GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD (double-album, 1973)
CARIBOU (1974)
HERE AND THERE (live double-album, disc 1 from London on May 18, 1974 and disc 2 from New York on November 28, 1974).

The collaboration between lyricist Bernie Taupin and composer Elton John during these seven years is mind-boggling. There are only a few things that happen that just defy explaination, freaks of nature if you will. For example, the performances of Daniel Day-Lewis in GANGS OF NEW YORK and MY LEFT FOOT or John Lennon & Paul McCartney getting together or Michael Hedges playing "the guitar" in person. The Elton John/Bernie Taupin writing during these seven years falls into that category for me. Seriously, taken as a whole, the above mentioned 12 albums are no less remarkable to me than the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Few people will ever have an album as perfect as GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD, but that's just one of them. Both MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER and TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION are beautiful discs all the way through. On any given day I don't know which one of those three I would choose as a favorite.

When I was a kid I had one of those "2-in-1" cassette tapes that had HONKEY CHATEAU on one side and DON'T SHOOT ME I'M ONLY THE PIANO PLAYER on the other. Those two consecutive albums alone yielded these remarkable songs: Honky Cat, Rocket Man, Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Daniel, and Crocodile Rock. And, those are only the hits, not necessarily the best tracks. Although Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters is, I think, one of the most lovely songs ever written.

The other studio albums on the list, EMPTY SKY, ELTON JOHN, CARIBOU, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY, and ROCK OF THE WESTIES, contained such gems as Skyline Pigeon, Your Song, Take Me To The Pilot, Border Song, The Bitch Is Back, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, and Island Girl. Again, those are only the popular songs. There are masterful gems throughout all of those records.

Sadly, for me, the cut-off point for greatness is 1976 with the release of the double-live album HERE AND THERE. Following the wonderful release of those two amazing live shows, Elton John fullfilled his obligations to his contract and went to a new label. Everything since has been mediocre to bad. But, to quote Francis Ford Coppola, "Judge me on my best work, not my most recent."

It's impossible to articulate just how much joy these 12 albums from seven great years have brought to me. What a run!


Friday, October 20, 2006

South Africa Feedback

Here is an open letter from Chrisy. If you said even one prayer for her trip to South Africa last May, then this letter is to you:

Hello everyone!

I wanted to write you a letter to express my gratitude for your support and prayers for my trip to South Africa. I am sorry that it took me so long to get this to you. I also want to give you a short description of my trip so you know what I did while I was there. The trip was amazing and I am so glad that I had that experience. I really feel like I connected with God during this time. One major point that I learned while I was there was to just "be" and allow myself time to listen and really learn what others need. This helped me understand how to better love people in that culture. It made me want to really get to know people better as well.

We did a lot of things while we were there. We spent a lot of time with children. We spent three days in an orphanage called House of Joy (one of those days was my 36th birthday). The children loved to sing and dance and play with us. We helped them fix up their house and backyard, making it safe for the children to play there. We also spent time in the townships, where most of the poverty is. We visited homes of people that welcomed us like we were family. It seems like everyone had a smile on their face despite their circumstances (i.e. no electricity or running water). We visited a place called Tutela which is a home for abused children. They loved the crafts that we did with them. I could tell they appreciated the simple fact that we had taken the time to do something with them. We also went to a school in one of the townships and played games (I played volleyball) with the children there and they enjoyed it so much. It was an amazing time spent with these people and I felt loved and welcomed everywhere we went.

That was a time I will never forget. I think I was better off for going than anyone that I helped or spent time with. When I left I thought I was taking Jesus to these people, but what I learned is that He was already there and alive in their hearts. It made me grateful for what I have when I live in a place that is very "me" oriented. It makes me look around now and really "see" what is going on. I feel more aware of the hurt that is all around me. That awareness has me searching for ways to help. Thank you so much for making this trip possible for me. I know my life was touched and I believe that I touched others as well. I pray you are all doing well and will be in contact with you soon (Christmas is coming up so fast).



It's Doah again. I have two points to make. One applies to Chrisy's letter and the second is about the trip to South Africa in general. The first relates to Chrisy's statement that she learned to just "be" and allowed herself to listen. This seems to be a big take-away for all the people who went to South Africa. It has rubbed off on me too. Even the other day, a friend of mine had to go visit somebody who was in a deep state of need. The friend, in preparing for the visit, told me, "If you have any advice as to what I should do for this person, feel free to tell me." My response was: "Just go and be there." Here is a quote I just read that relates to this concept:

The Spirit-filled life is not an endless round of exhausting activities in which we are trying to do it all by ourselves. Thinking we will become more spiritual if we try harder is a typical error of many believers. If Satan can't tempt us to be immoral, he will simply try to make us busy. --Neil T. Anderson (chapter 5 of "Victory Over the Darkness")

My second point is about safety. Some people expressed concern for Chrisy's "safety" before she left for Africa. She's a mother of four. Should she be going? As I sat here typing out her letter above, I was thinking, "I'm so glad she didn't play it safe." Some of the same safety concerns came up regarding both her and Max as they prepared to go to Mexico this weekend. After all, Max is only ten. Here is another quote from the same source as above as it applies to these concerns:

Being filled and led by the Spirit may take you places you never planned; but the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. I think we need to "pull in the oars and put up the sail."

This issue of safety has been very present in my life right lately. For instance, not too long ago, some parents of the junior highers expressed some concern for the safety of their children as it related to some future service activities I had planned for their kids. This got me thinking about what it means to be "safe" in the first place.

Aside from Chrisy's trip to South Africa, one of the things that has most shaped my views on safety is the book, "The Barbarian Way," by Erwin Raphael McManus. There's so much about playing it safe in this book (especially chapter 2, "The Barbarian Call"), but here are a bunch of my favorite quotes:

If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the life and ministry of Stephen--one sermon and then stoned to death? Was he really that bad? If the safest place to be is the center of the will of God, then why is it that the biblical word for witness is actually the word for martyr?


If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the experience of Paul? Paul walked with God, and certainly whatever the center of the will of God looks like, Paul had to have visited there at least a few times in his life. His journals, however, described not a life filled with safety and certainty, but a life of adventure and danger. (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 please)


Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God's will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.


Is it possible that the transforming power of the church has been lost because we keep inviting people to step into the comfort, safety, and security of Jesus Christ? . . . . Maybe we need to step way back to the beginning of this movement. The orginal call of Jesus was so simple, so clean, so clear: "Follow Me." He wants us to surrender our lives to Him and follow Him into the unknown. And if it means a life of suffering, hardship, and disappointment, it will be worth it because following Jesus Christ is more powerful and more fulfilling than living with everything in the world minus Him . . . . I wonder how many of us are in that place of John the Baptist, at that crucible where God is asking: "Are you willing to lose everything on My behalf to gain everything I desire for you? Rather than living a long life, are you willing to live a life worth living?"


Okay, that's my two cents. It's not that I have this stuff wired. I do, however, firmly believe this stuff. Yet, not too long ago, when a good friend of mine, Christina, confronted me with a totally hypothetical choice, I quickly gave the safe answer.

She had asked, "What if God called you into full-time ministry and wanted you to quit your teaching job?"

Without even thinking I have to confess that I said, "I would never do that!"

Dumbfounded she said, "What? Why?" and I think she threw in a "That's horrible."

I told her I wouldn't do it because, "My job offers security and many jobs in the ministry don't have a retirement package, guaranteed income, or health benefits." Even as I type this I am surprised by myself. I can't believe I am sharing it.

Later, I stopped and actually thought about and considered what Christina had asked me. You know what blows my mind? She had said, "What if God called you?" That means that God would be in the adventure. That very notion makes it desirable if not safe.

I had to go back to Christina and say, "Remember when you asked me that? Well, I hereby amend my answer to 'I would seriously consider it.'" Can you imagine that? The notion that God told me to do something and I'm patting myself on the back because I would now "consider it"? I frankly remind myself of a guy name Jonah. How safe is that?

The point of these particular ramblings is that Chrisy's trip to South Africa and her subsequent trip with Max on Project Mexico are shifting the paradigms around our home. And, not coincidentlly, much of what I am reading is echoing all the nudgings of the Spirit. So, what's next on the reading list? Well, another friend just handed me a copy of "Ruthless Trust" by Brennan Manning. I'm going to stop writing now and begin reading that.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Project Mexico

Tomorrow morning Chrisy and Max leave at 5 a.m. to go south of the border. They're going to be part of what my church calls "Project Mexico" which means they're going down on Friday to help build a home for a family. They'll hand the keys over on Sunday and return that same evening. I've never done it and it blows my mind to think about what can be done on a single weekend. It's a huge blessing to the folks receiving the home.

Our friend, Jon Hall, is the guy who heads up this ministry at Canyon Hills Church. He's done this a bunch of times. This is the first Project Mexico trip for both Chrisy and Max. I think Chrisy desires more of this kind of contributing to the world ever since her trip to South Africa and I think the entire experience will be good for Max. If you want to read a good post that describes what they'll be in for, you can read this one, PROJECT MEXICO: THE HOMES, on Jon Hall's blog. I mean, seriously, check out what he wrote because it's a great piece of descriptive writing, very vivid.

You should ask Chrisy and Max about the trip if you get a chance.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Country Music

You know, country music gets a bad rap. That is it gets a bad rap from the people that don't love it. You either love it or hate it. There's not many things that's really true of. Sauerkraut and coutnry music. There tends to be no middle ground. Just this morning at church my pastor made a joke at the expense of country music. It was funny. I don't love it or hate it though. To me it's like any other genre, some good and some bad.

So, I come home from church and I'm listening to Moe Bandy, "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today" (1974) and there's this classic line that you would only find in country music:

"I just found out my woman is the devil."

I was rollin' and thinking, "You gotta love country music." But, only real country music. What do I mean by real? Well, not some pop star with a cowboy at as a prop.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

And God Used the Bailiff

I got called for jury duty last Tuesday. A big group of names got called first thing in the morning and I was among them. We were ushered into department 5. I was not part of the first 12 called into the jury box; rather, I remained seated in the "audience" chairs at the back of the courtroom. Each time a juror was dismissed by the judge for personal hardship, another name from the audience would be called "at random" which was sort of like the opposite of the lotttery as we all hoped not to be called into the jury box. I spent all day Tuesday in the audience. At 4:35 the jury was still not selected. The judge ordered all of us who had been present all day listening to the questions for potential jurors to come back first thing the next morning.

All day Tuesday I had watched as potential jurors walked out of the jury box, turned in their badge to the bailiff, received proof of being there from the bailiff, and then left the courtroom by themselves. Wednesday was the same. After all the excuses, conflicts, and the premptory challenges by the defense attorney and the district attorney, the "audience" and potential jury pool was twiddled down to just five of us. I was thinking, "Five-to-one odds. Not good."

Seat number four was open and the court clerk announced, "For juror number four, Shenandoah Lynd." I took my seat. The judge wanted to know if I had heard everything the last two days and if I had any answers to the questions they had posed. I disclosed everything. Total honesty. Because the case involved vandalism to a car by a young man, I had to tell them about all my run-ins with the law. I had been arrested three times as a youth. The judge said that this stuff was potentially embarrassing and he gave me the opportunity to go into his chambers for questioning by the defense attorney and DA. I said, "It's not embarrassing for me at all because my identity is not based on this stuff anymore." He said that was commendable and the attorneys began to question me in open court.

Obviously, the attorney for the defendant was worried that I could be fair and she asked, "Since you've turned your life around, would you say that you are thankful to law enforcement for straightening you out?" Do you hold police officers in high esteem? I told her that I never looked at it that way and I look at police officers like I do anybody else. She asked about working with youth at church as a "junior high director" and children as a third grade teacher and she wanted to know if I thought I was good at telling when people were lying. I replied that I didn't have any special sense; instead, I had to listen to all sides of a conflict, wait until the end of the story, and then form an opinion. I came across as very neutral. However, I could see the expressions of the attorneys, the defendant, the judge, and the four people in the audience: they were shocked by all my transgressions. They didn't know what to make of me.

The DA also worried about bias. She asked specific details about what I had done. One of my arrests involved vehicles as did this case. She asked a point-blank question: If the law and the evidence pointed to this defendant being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, could I find him guilty under the law? She asked, "Could you find him guilty even if you felt sorry for him, even if you thought what he did was no big deal, could you find him guilty or would you let your compassion get the best of you?" I answered in no uncertain terms: "Yes. I could find him guilty." She wanted to know if my encounters with the police were negative. I told her, "No." They were doing their job and they treated me fairly. I even added, "I feel sorry for the people I violated and the police who had to deal with me."

At the break I asked two other jurors if they thought I would be kicked. The two men said they didn't think so because I came off as totally unbiased and even. I told them I thought I would be dismissed. After the break, when it came to another challenge for the defense attorney, she told the judge, "I am happy with the way the jury now stands your honor." With that the judge turned it back to the prosecutor. She responded, "The people would like to excuse juror number four and we thank Mr. Lynd for his service." I was happy as I didn't want a substitute in my room for another three days.

Here's the weird part. As I stepped out of the jury box, the bailiff didn't accept my badge. Instead, he motioned to follow him and he walked out of the courtroom with my proof of service in hand. He hadn't done that for anybody else on either day. I followed him out of the courtroom while jury selection continued behind us. He handed me my receipt of service outside and I handed him my badge.

Then the bailiff spoke in a very animated manner. "So," he inquired, "You're a Christian?"

I said yes.

"Then it's Jesus who changed your life around?"

"Yes," I told him.

He was very excited, "Then why didn't you say that in there?"

I told him I didn't think it was the place. I assured him that when the judge mentioned that my history was embarrassing and I said, "My identity is not based on that, I meant that my identity is solely based on being a Child of Christ."

He averred, "I knew that was exactly what you meant because the Holy Spirit told me so and the Holy Spirit was working in you and I have Him in me also, but why didn't you just say that?"

I replied that I thought saying, "My only identity is that of a child of God and that Jesus Christ turned my life around, would have, in this case, been dishonest because . . . ."

And, he finished my sentence, "You would have been kicked right off the jury."

"Exactly," I confirmed.

His response was, "So what? You've got to say His name so they can hear it. So they can know He changed your life! I knew exactly what you were saying, but those people didn't all have the Holy Spirit in them. They need to know."

I looked at him and had this conviction, "This is God saying this to me."

Just two days earlier, a very good friend of mine, John, had challenged me to be more bold in proclaiming who I followed when at work. He specifically told me that I needed to go to one person in particular and say to them what Jesus would say to them. I had told him I would do it. Just to make sure, God sent me this bailiff and spoke through him.

So, I listened to the bailiff closely. I fought the urge to offer any more excuses and I heard the verse, "For God did not give you a spirit of timidity or fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline" (1 Tim 1:7) and I just said: "You know what, you're my brother, God is speaking to you through me right now and I need to listen to what you are saying. Next time I will do that. I will do that more."

We shook hands, exchanged names, and he said, "God bless you, brother."

I've been thinking about that bailiff and how God has had this common theme come out to me this week: be bolder. As I write this post I am thinking about Jesus's words to his disciples: "go and make disciples and be my witnesses" and yet I think, "Man, I'm not good at that. That's difficult." I'm sitting here typing this and even the song playing in the background is echoing the challenge for me. John Mellencamp is singing:

Your life is now
Your life is now
Your life is now
In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

Are those the same words of the bailiff? Aren't those the same words from my friend, John? Aren't those the same nudging of the Holy Spirt?

The good news is that on Friday I actually took a step in the right direction. I stepped into the light at work. I told a friend of mine there that my words and actions at work are often a betrayal of who I say I want to be. This is a friend I had never spoke about religion with and I somehow had the courage to say, "I call myself a Christian which means I follow Jesus and I have to be Christ-like, but I'm not always doing that at work." Now that that cat is out of the bag, it shouldn't be so easy to act in a manner that is inconsistent with my espoused beliefs. I feel a renewed hope about what God can do through me if I could just listen to the bailiff.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stirring the Pot

In what is certainly one of my all-time favorite comments to a post on my blog, somebody posting as Thomas Aquinas, left a comment in response to my post, Who Are You? from September 19, 2006. You can click on the link provided if you want to read the post, the comment, or my response to the comment. Feel free to join in on the conversation too.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost Season 3 Opener

I think the above picture from the opening sequence of the new season of LOST is totally amazing. Just like the opening moments from season two, last night's opener blew my mind! When they were in the house doing their book club discussion, I'm trying to figure out, "What is going on?" When we see Ethan, Goodwin, and Henry (Ben), I'm saying, "No way." But, when they pull away for the wide shot and we see that they are on the island I was speechless! I would have never imagined that. The shot of the plane crash was amazing. I am so addicted to this show. It's genius. It's right up there with TWIN PEAKS and the X-FILES for me in terms of greatness. Definately not disapointed last night. Now 7 days of waiting. What do you think?