Friday, December 14, 2007

Revision

So send I you — by grace made strong;
To triumph o’er hosts of hell,
O’er darkness, death and sin;
My name to bear, and in that name to conquer
So send I you, my victory to win


These were the original words penned by Margaret Clarkson, a woman whose ventures in life and spiritual efforts had brought her to a place of loneliness and isolation. Feeling broken and emptied by her answer to the Lord's call she wrote these five lines to spur her on.

Years later, however, she looked back at the words she had written and saw in them a perspective that was slanted toward her own hurt. She thought again about her loneliness and isolation and personal struggles, and rewrote the words to reflect a different perspective.

So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
So send I you to toil for me alone.

So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
O'er wand'ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary -
So send I you to suffer for My sake.

So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart ahung'ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one -
So send I you to know My love alone.

So send I you to leave your life's ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long, and love where men revile you -
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, tho' it be blood, to spend and spare not -
So send I you to taste of Calvary.


"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
~John 20:19-22

Praise God for those who show us a glimpse of what it means to taste of Calvary.

P.S. He is coming.

(for Matt)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas Hymns

Did you know that your sense of smell diminishes 50% every 4 minutes? This means that if you are exposed to a scent without variation in intensity or other external factors you wouldn't smell it after 8 minutes. It makes more sense now how trash men can do their jobs, doesn't it. Well, I think the same thing is true with hearing. It seems that if you hear something often enough, you no longer are able to hear what it's saying.

'Tis the season to hear 15 different versions of no more than 15 different songs. Carol of the Bells is played by the Trans Siberian Orchestra, Burger King commercials, and the choir on Home Alone so much that the listener either dreams about it in his sleep or frustratedly turns off the radio or television whenever the song is played (or both, perhaps). Starting in early November there are stations dedicated entirely to carrying the jolly tunes to the stressed out Macy's and Kroger's crowds, and by the time Christmas day finally comes people often choose to have a quiet day with no organs or handbells or synthesizers.

While I am completely comfortable with people growing weary of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" or "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," I wonder what people think when they sing "The First Noel" at the candlelight service the night before Christmas.

"Jimmy's present never came."
"I don't remember how many cups of sugar are in that glaze."
"I wonder who cleans the wax off the carpet when we all leave."
"I'm so tired, I can't wait for tomorrow to be over."
"Is his family ever going to go home?"

These songs that we sing at Christmas are not meant to accomplish what the "other" songs accomplish. They were not written to spread cheer and merriment, the words and even the music were designed by brothers and sisters who have a deep humility at God's condescension to mankind. Men and women who were filled with awe at the magnitude of the moment while God himself left the glory of heaven and resided in a dismal dungheap wrapped in the same sort of linens that would later wrap his lifeless body at the cross.

These songs are not jolly, they are joyous - deeply joyous - and we have no less reason to sing them from the depths of our hearts and souls than did those who wrote the songs or the angels and shepherds which the songs describe.


Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
As a baby, the Word of God was silent, but in those quiet moments his very act of becoming a quiet baby was pleading for reconciliation with the Father!
~What Child is This?

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
In that one night, God really confronted all the hopes and fears that had been building up for thousands of years
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
He was a king, for crying out loud! Where's the pomp? where's the circumstance?
~O Little Town of Bethlehem

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Those people are still in mourning because they don't know Emmanuel HAS come to them. O, Israel!
~O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessing flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.
As far as the curse has reached (which is EVERYTHING) Christ has come to make new and to bless.
~Joy to the World

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
If only we knew how to show jubilee. Have we not met the same
Christ?

~Angels We Have Heard on High

Risen with healing in His wings
Wings of healing - how desperately I need those wings to carry me and cover me.
~Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Ye, who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King
Even as a baby, Christ was worthy of worship. Right now he sits at the right hand of the Father...where are the worshipers?
~Angels from the Realms of Glory

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees!
Can you imagine what it would feel like for the world when Christ first came? When for the first time the soul felt valuable. Sin and error and longing are so exhausting, and when that NEW and GLORIOUS MORNING came, the weary world rejoiced. What a thrill that first dawning of hope must've been. Of course they fell on their knees!
~O Holy NIght

1 Tim. 3:16 says, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: he appeared in the body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was received up in glory."

Mystery indeed.

According to Amy Grant's version of Christmas, "You don't have to be a child to love the mystery." Do you love the mystery, or has it become just another thing to turn down on the radio?

It takes only 8 minutes to lose your sense of smell. I hate to think how quickly the words we hear so often lose their meaning.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baggage Claim

He leaned against the square pillar and rubbed his eyes. “This is ridiculous,” he mumbled, a little bit louder than he had intended. He watched as the remaining passengers started to file toward the Customer Service booth off to the side of the carousel. “Never fails.”

Instead of adding himself as one more frantic and frustrated customer to the already zealous crowd he decided to check the other carousels to see if it was misplaced.

He walked down the wide corridor – which was far too busy for 3:47 AM – and yawned as he watched the other sleepy passengers as they shoved past each other to check the tags on the generic black fabric suitcase before it started its slow journey around the room.

When he reached the last conveyer – which was empty and surrounded by tired, grumpy people - he stretched his arms and stopped to get a drink from the water fountain. He watched the agitated businessmen and the sleeping 2-year-old twins and the confused Korean tourists as they all waited for the lights to flash and the alarm to sound in order to announce the coming of their luggage. He shook his head. He knew it was only a matter of time before they had to add themselves to the ever-growing line in front of the little old lady at the Customer Service booth.

A young woman and her son were trying to guess which bags belonged to which passengers. “Who do you think has that big green one?” or “There’s one with a purple ribbon on it. Who do you see that you think likes purple the most?”

He was impressed with how well the game held the little boy’s attention. “I wish that would entertain me.” He looked across the faces of the people hovering in a clump around the luggage chute and tried to decipher which one he thought liked purple the most. He sighed, realizing that not only did he have no clue, but he really was completely uninterested. All he wanted was his own bag.

“I just want to go home” he thought. “Could this have happened at a worst time?”

He switched his backpack to his other shoulder and turned back toward Carousel 4, hoping maybe, just maybe, it had come out later than all the rest. He could see from a distance that his hopes would be fruitless, so begrudgingly he headed toward the long line of disgruntled customers.

“Welcome home, Son.”

He hadn’t even stopped walking before his eyes started to get blurry. He turned to see his father’s strong eyes, still as piercing as ever but also brimming with tears. “It’s good to have you back.”

He lowered his backpack to his feet and shook his father’s sturdy hand, then they gave each other a hard hug, a strong hug, an I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-see-you-again hug.

“You ready?”

Everything in him wanted to just get in the car and drive off and worry about the bag tomorrow, but he knew once he was home it would be a horridly long drive back to the airport to come and claim it.

“Do you mind waiting? They lost my bag.”
“Oh, did you have more than just the one?”

He looked down to see that on the ground about five feet away was his brown hard shell thrift store suitcase with a bumper sticker collage covering one side of it.

You had it?”
“I was waitin’ for you and I saw it come out, so I grabbed it.”
“How’d you know it was mine?”
“Son. I was with you when you got it.” He smiled a gentle smile. “Although you have added quite a few things to it since then. I don’t even know what most of these mean.”

He reshouldered his backpack and leaned over to pick up his suitcase, but his dad’s hand reached it first.

“I’ve got it, Son. The car’s this way.”
“Dad, I can carry it. A wheel’s broken so it doesn’t roll.”

He’d seen that look in his dad’s eyes before and he knew it wouldn’t accomplish much to argue with him (especially as tired as he was), so he decided to negotiate.

“Here, why don’t you carry my backpack?”
“Sure, yeah, I can do that.”

He stiffly stooped down to set the suitcase back on the floor and then threaded his arms through the straps of the backpack while his son held it up for him. “Doesn’t this thing fall off o’ you? How do I tighten these things?” and he started tugging at the plastic buckles. His son showed him how to pull the straps tighter so that his gray-haired old man looked more like a kindergartner on the first day of school. His father reached down and again picked up the suitcase.

“Dad!” He quickly grabbed the handle of his suitcase to pull it from his father’s hands.
“Son,” the older man whispered back. He paused and looked into his father’s eyes which were again getting misty. “Son, I just wanted you to come back safe. You’re here, and I just want to get you home.”

The sincerity that he saw in his father’s demeanor made him wrestle with himself, and in the end he conceded. He willed himself to pry open his fingers that were wrapped tightly around the broken black handle. Unable to think of anything to say, he awkwardly whispered back, “Thank you.”
His father grinned and patted his son on the back. “Now, let’s getcha home.”


-------------
Me: “How did you know which one was mine?”
My Father: “I was there when you got it…but you really made it your own, didn’t you?”

Me: “It’s too heavy for you.”
My Father: “You sure did pack it full, but I want to carry it for you.”

Me: “Why don’t you just carry the little one, I’ll take care of the big one?”
My Father: “Why don’t you just let me love you this way?”

Me: “You don’t have to.”
My Father: “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s getcha home.”

Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
~Psalm 68:19

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All rights reserved.

The following is a registered trademark...only it hasn't been registered yet and the trademark doesn't exist.

I work as the Assitant for Business Development at an insurance company - Santa Fe Auto Insurance, to be exact. Were you to look at my contact list with the extension numbers for important people within the company you would most likely notice the same thing I noticed shortly after my tenure here began, although I didn't think to question it until much later. There are an inordinate number of Maxwells that work at this company. Now, I know it's not exactly an uncommon last name, but to have 4 Maxwells at a small auto insurance company?

I have since learned that the president of the company, Mr. Doug Maxwell, is the big brother or the web developer guy, John Maxwell, who are both related in some capacity to Jim Maxwell (also titled as "management"). I am yet to figure out where Max Maxwell fits in, but the IT supervisor is Greg Steible who is married to a formerly-Ms.-Maxwell.

This family run business (as it turns out) has gotten my little wheels a-crankin'. How would a Wauer-run family business be set-up? Who would be in which positions? What would we sell? This was the result of dinner conversation in the Hoff household (*note: because of limited employees, some may hold various positions until the decision is made to add more team members):

Company Name: Mommen Candies, Inc.
Specialization: Lollipops
Slogan: "Mommen Pops: for serious suckers only"
Chief Executive Officer (CEO): George Wauer
Chief Operating Officer (COO): Sarah St. Andre
Head of HR: Jennifer Wauer
Information Technology Supervisor: Steve Teske
Web Design: Jason Wauer
Tech Support: Rebekah Teske
Demographics and Field research: Beverly Wauer, Nathan Hoff
PR/Sales: Trinh Wauer, Jason Wauer, Ben Wauer, Ashleigh Henry Wauer, Brian St. Andre
Marketing and Promotions: Erin Teske, Abby Hoff
Advertisement: Ellie Teske, Eben Wauer, Moriah Wauer, Anna Teske, Magen Wauer, Abram Wauer
Customer Service: Beverly Wauer, Jennifer Wauer, Nathan Hoff
Maintenance: Dustin Wauer

Although this company does not exist (sadly...be honest, don't you want a lollipop right now?) it did help me to realize something that's so simple yet so profound: everybody has a place. There wasn't one person in my seemingly oversized family that I thought, "and they could...be...something...um...having to do with...sitting." Everybody has a role, everybody has a function, everybody contributes. It wasn't whether they had a part to play (in my mind, of course), but it was am I willing to think about what their part might be.

I think a lot of times we look around and say, "I don't know what I can contribute here," or even worse "I don't really see what they bring to the table." It's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "what".

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
~Romans 12:6-8


What part do you play? What part has been given to those around you? What are you going to do about it?

I, for one, am going to tell my mom she'd be a great lollipop researcher.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Roll Out

Whenever celebrities head to a premiere, they know that their eyes and smiles will be greeted with bright flashes of light while their shoes are warmly welcomed by plush red velvet. Royals experience the same sort of privileged treatment. It is not because their feet are any more sensitive than "normal" people's, but instead it is to show them the honor the world has deemed they deserve. For any special person on any special occasion, the red carpet is rolled out to declare "This honor is reserved only for those who are highly esteemed. Here walks one who is worthy of walking here."

Even before one celebrity or one royal sets foot on that carpet, onlookers know that that area has been designated for a special purpose. The area outside of the gala has been unmistakeably reserved, and all people can do is wait with bated breath to catch a glimpse of one who is worthy to set foot on the red carpet. The path has been laid, the crowd has been made ready, the way has been prepared, and all that is left to happen is that the honorable guest make an appearance.

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"

~Matthew 21:7-9

They didn't roll out a red carpet, but the people in that crowd laid down their own clothing to prepare the way for their Savior. They set out a path before him so that all would know that "This honor is reserved only for those who are highly esteemed. Here walks one who is worthy of walking here." Everyone knew that, for someone to walk on the road of cloaks that person must truly be honored. The crowd waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the one they had heard so much about and had hoped would come one day.

I have heard of your fame! we shout. King of kings and Lord of lords! He's coming back, and we go before him like John the Baptist who cried out Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him!

What kind of welcome will Christ get when He makes His appearance? Will the crowds be waiting with bated breath because they see the preparations that have been made for His return? Will they wait expectantly, seeing the things that have been specially set apart, knowing that "This honor is reserved only for those who are highly esteemed. Here walks one who is worthy of walking here"? We're here to roll out the carpet, to lay down our coats, to shout Hosanna and to announce the coming of one who is worthy.

What are we doing to prepare the way?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

un-

Have you ever played The Ungame? The rules are simple: move your piece around the board and answer the questions you land on. There are no "go to jails", no "sorrys", no "lose a turns". In fact, it's quite the opposite. The Ungame questions were designed to be the antithesis of the "gaming" mindset (competition, speed, strategy...). Instead it asks questions like "What are the four most important things in your life," and "what do you think life will be like in 100 years?" The Ungame was designed to work against life philosophies propegated by other games that only lead one to bludgeon the enemy to a proverbial pulp.

Because of the design and intent of The Ungame the creators aptly named their masterpiece "The Ungame" and not "The Nongame". You see, there are many things that are not games (petting your dog, painting your bathroom, cooking your dinner), but the fact that they are non-games doesn't make them un-games. In order for something to adequately be described as an un-game, it must actively and intentionally work against everything that is a game. The Ungame is not a non-game; it's an un-game, un-gaming its participants in the process of play from gamers to un-gamers.

There are times when un simply means not, but often it implies intentional and direct counteraction. For example:

do - undo.
wanted - unwanted.
intelligent - unintelligent.
learn - unlearn.
enjoyable - unenjoyable

God's love, which is described as unfailing 32 times in the Old Testament, does not simply not fail, but it unfails. It cannot fail because it is too busy successfully loving us. Just like The Ungame is an ungame because it is actively working against that which makes something a game, so too God's love is unfailing because it's working against failure.

God's love cannot fail. God's love is reliable. God's love is unfailing.

16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.
~Psalm 33:16-22


Armies fail. Our strength fails. Horses fail because their strength fails. God's love unfails. His unfailing love rests upon us, and it is the only thing in which we can legitimately place our hope.

Thank God not just for his nonfailing love, but for His unfailing love.

Friday, August 24, 2007

hand-made

Feeling empty-handed, she
Reached down to pick up each
One, every shred that had fallen.
Mercy whispered, You don't have to do that.

Running her fingers over every fiber -
Each one different, each one dark -
Gathering them and laying them across her knees she
Remembers exactly how she'd gotten
Each and every one.
Tired but determined
She threads the scraps together.

Time moves on and each piece,
One by one, is painstakingly (stubbornly) added.

She stares at it, lying in her lap -
Heavy, black, thick - then dutifully wraps her shoulders.
Are you really going to wear all that? but
Mercy is a voice she can't hear anymore.
Enveloped in her shroud, she falls to her knees

and buries her face in her hands
--------------------------------

"What is the difference between SHAME and REGRET?"

This question was posed by my sister on her blog They Hang Like Paper Lanterns. The question made me think hard about what that difference might be. I intuitively thought that there was a difference, but it was hard for me to come up with a way to articulate it. Eventually I decided that it would be best to describe the process, in my mind, that takes someone from one to the other.

Reading down the left of the poem the letters say "FROM REGRETS TO SHAME" because I believe one stems from the other when properly cultivated. It's titled hand-made because I feel like every time I find myself weighed down by shame I can see how it was because I intentionally and "painstakingly (stubbornly)" dwelt on my regrets in my own mind. I run my fingers over them again and again, I piece them together and try to connect the gaps, and I build them into something that is cold and dark and thick.

If only I would listen to the voice of Mercy before I begin designing my heavy burden to wear. If only I would let Mercy tell me I don't have to do that. If only I would let Mercy keep that unnecessary weight off my shoulders.

But instead, I have a closet full of these cloaks, and innumerable more layered on my back.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
~Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

e-Hope

Hope fosters hope, faith fosters faith, truth inspires confidence, and the light of joy can reach into even the darkest depths of sorrow.

These are lessons I've learned from the cyber world. Communication from long-distance friends, mass e-mails from a church member, or simple update newsletters are filled with such hope, faith, truth, and joy where I would never have expected to find it. These are from people whose beliefs should be shaken and whose faith should be waning -- burnt out believers, some whose faith has been tested and tried seemingly non-stop for the last year. Their stories are heart-breaking, but their words are so uplifting. They are simple words, not written to be printed and bound and passed on to future generations, but words meant to encourage their brothers and sisters who also feel the weight of this dark world bearing down on their chests, sometimes making it difficult just to breathe.

"Seriously, every time I think now about God and me and Christ and death and life and hope...it just blows my mind! I think all the time about what you said about "living and breathing gospel," and that really is such an inspiration to me. It needs to be my life. It needs to be what I am. I'm sitting here shaking my head in... awe, i guess... at what God is doing and has done and will be doing forever, and that's just with me! He's doing this same sort of stuff in people everywhere from every generation...how have I gone so long without seeing this?! without marvelling at it! without really wondering at it!"

"I had gotten in such the habit of looking for the broken places that needed the gospel - but I lost sight of the gospel in all of that, and lost sight of the God of Hope in all of that. We were at Summit Lake, and I think I started to realize that. And one night Bobby Armstrong prays this simple prayer. Finishes on "Thank you God for hope." and something just broke inside, and something lit up inside, and I laughed, and I cried. I always get to these desperate places of needing to hear the gospel, stripped and true. And God always blows my mind with those moments. Hearing people say, "I just need God" or this go round "Thank you God for Hope." I'm crying again just at the thought of those words - because that's the gospel. And my God how different the world looks in light of hope."

"My mother was a woman who loved the Lord, and she has received her reward. I understand submission, because I saw her live it every day —a strong, strong woman, and one who knew her place was to trust God. Submission doesn’t mean weak-willed passivity. It means strength voluntarily placed under the hand of God."

"Thank you for carrying us in prayer this last year. I believe that we had the physical and emotional strength to endure because of prayer. I believe that we were able to ask tough questions without chucking our faith because of prayer. I believe that the chemo effectively held the cancer in check because of prayer; I believe that Ann's body held up against the toxicity of the chemo because of prayer. I believe that Ann is alive today because of prayer. Thank you and praise God."

These friends found it important to share the hope, faith, truth, and joy God has stirred in their hearts in spite of their circumstances. They understand the value of encouragement, a word which actually means to come alongside. Though they weren't able to literally be next to me, I am so grateful that they took the time to come alongside me and to remind me of that which I have been promised - Hope.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceifulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
~Hebrews 3:13-14

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
~Hebrews 10:23-25


Sin is deceitful and hearts can so easily be hardened, but encouragement has an incredible ability to prevent such heartache. Let's encourage each other - let's come alongside even if we can't be next to each other - and help our brothers and sisters to breathe.

In the "comments" section feel free to leave any e-Hope you've received, or leave some of your own. It can be an oxygen tank of sorts.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Credo ut Intelligam: a brief explanation

Evidence - it’s the basis of Modern thought. Before believing anything it must first be seen, heard, tasted, touched, smelled, and fully experienced…and then again, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Provability is necessary before anything can be accepted as truth, and if it can’t be proven, it is obviously and undeniably impossible and untrue.

Though we technically live in an era that has been deemed “Postmodern” (which translated means “I believe whatever I want, and you believe whatever you want, and everyone’s happy”) the concept of provability has not dissipated. Rather, it is a timeless idea, existing long before the Modern era and one that will continue long after Postpostpostmodernism has become something in the history books.

This idea, which has transcended the boundaries of epochs and eras, has wrapped it’s fingers around Christian doctrine and students of the Bible and has continued to tighten its grip.

We acknowledge God is big, but even so, He couldn’t create the world in six literal days. We say He’s all-powerful, but He couldn't have really made it so that “all the high mountains under the entire heavens” were flooded like it says in Genesis. In fact, the whole Old Testament is filled with fictitious stories that are to teach us character lessons, not history lessons. On top of that, science has begun to raise doubts as to the viability of the New Testament as well...and somehow we're okay with that.

But God is not provable, and to say that He is shows that I don’t believe in Him…at least not the “Him” that He claims to be (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36).

So here we are, standing in the midst of innumerable concepts of Christ, perceptions of the cross and the gospel, and the believers who believe only what they see. We live in a world where understanding precedes belief.

St. Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury, stood among the same lack of faith in the “Him” that God claims to be, and he responded in this way:

Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand (credo ut intelligam). For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.

“Belief” is not belief when it’s been proven – it’s acknowledgement.

My desire is not to be a “believer” who believes only what makes sense to me. If that were true I would believe very little. I don’t know how God created the whole world in six days, but I have no doubt that He could and did. I don’t know why God wiped out everything in one flood, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He could and did. And beyond all else, it makes no sense that one who was proven to be dead is now alive and is sitting in heaven until the day He comes for His Bride, but my heart rejoices in the fact that I don’t have a useless faith (1 Cor. 15:14, 17)

I’m not a genius - I don’t understand - but I desire to have a faith that is constantly seeking understanding.

Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
~John 20:29

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

missing

The French are an intriguing breed, I think we'd all agree on that. Between their "outrageous accents", their contributions to fried potatoes, and the paradox between being considered a romantic people while also a hairy people (at least the women) they have always been able to pique the curiosity of us "normal" Americans.

Though there's much to ponder about their ways, there's one thing that they do, or rather say, that has always been of especial interest to me.

Instead of saying "I miss you" like English-speaking people, they say "Je vous manque" or as I was taught, "You are missing to me." I've always really liked that. A lot. It just seems so much more personal, so much more invested, so much more painful to say to someone "YOU are missing to ME," or in the more famous words "you complete me."

Of course, I have to say I'm gaining a much clearer understanding of what that means this summer as I'm separated from my fiance for the 2 1/2 months leading up to our wedding. He is missing to me. HE is missing to ME. He completes me.

As I think about what it means for me to actually feel like part of me is missing when I'm not with him, I can't help but come back to the simple but powerful analogy for marriage: one. One flesh. One person. One head and one body making one entity. If either part is missing, "je vous manque" the other says.

We weren't designed to be headless horsemen. We were each given one head and one body, and we understand what would happen if either was separated from its counterpart. (At this point, I could regale you with the story of the time my family killed our own Thanksgiving turkey, but I'll spare you the gory, albeit wildly entertaining, details.) I think everyone grasps that for a head to be separated from a body is to wreak havoc on that person because the two are no longer meant to be two, they're one.

Just like the body is used as a picture for marriage, marriage is used as a picture for something greater: Christ and His Bride.

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
~Ephesians 5:28-30

We are members of His body: one head and one body making one entity. For the time being, those two parts are separated, and they can only say to each other, "Je vous manque."

Because I so desperately want to be with Nathan, his promises of "soon, very soon," are always welcomed with the response of "I'm ready whenever." I think I'm beginning to see why the Bride's response to Christ's promise of "soon, very soon" is so similarly welcomed. "Come, Lord Jesus."

Je vous manque.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nothing

based on Philippians 2:1-11

“What are you guys talking about?” “Nothing.”
“What do you want to do tonight?” “Nothing.”
“What did you learn in class today?” “Nothing.”

Of course, we never mean nothing, but rather something less. We were talking about something less than you should know, or tonight I want to do something less than usual, or in class today I learned something less than you might hope for based on your contributions to my TMS payments.

As people, we consider ourselves to be "something" – maybe even a big "something." We work tirelessly at our jobs and our studies, we invest in our relationships and portfolios, we establish our households and our corporate empires, all in an effort to “make something” of ourselves.

But Christ saw it fit to remind us where we really fall in the scheme of things.

When He, who is in very nature God, came here – to join our world that is aimed at success and pleasure – he considered it becoming nothing. See, what we think of as "something" God sees as something less.

“…but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

To be a human was, for Christ, to be nothing. But wait, there’s more! Christ (who is naturally God) did not just make himself something less. He made himself less than something less.

“And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!”

God – became a man – and died. That’s not exactly nothing, but He had to become nothing to get there.

We, as the “somethings” that we think we are, are told to have that same attitude. To look at the nothingness that Christ took on, to dwell on the less than nothingness to which he humbled himself, and to see that to be something less really shows something much, much more.

From "Sacred Poems"

What did the Lamb that he should need,
When the wolf sins, himself to bleed?

Why should his unstain’d breast make good
My blushes with his own heart-blood?

O my Savior! make me see
How dearly you have paid for me;

That lost again, my life may prove
As then in death, so now in love.

~Richard Crenshaw

Monday, April 16, 2007

darts

ffffffffffffwwwwt

Unable to dodge this time, the arrow goes straight into his right shoulder. As the pain shoots through his entire body he drops to the ground, gasping for breath. He stays on his knees, his right arm lifeless beside him, and the world around him begins to fade to black. Blinking hard, he looks up and sees his friends' faces still hard and stern with zeal. He screams and, biting the pain, raises his sword to strike another enemy through.

ffffffffffffwwwwt

Another hits him dead on, this time penetrating his stomach. Again, he falls to the ground, but quickly regains his footing. With the little strength he has left, his right arm still hanging limp at his side, he stands to continue the defenses. He blows his horn for more assistance, he strikes another blow.

ffffffffffffwwwwt

Right in his neck - but this is no arrow. He is hit with a tranquilizer dart. The enemy saw that he was too determined to be defeated by mere blades. Almost immediately he collapses on the ground. Desperate to fight through the pain he determines to stand up...but still he lies there. There's no feeling in his legs, his arms are numb, and he can't even feel the pain from his wounds. He's unable to move, unable to defend himself, unable to run to shelter. The enemy continues to shoot at him and stomp on him and spit in his face. Still, he lies there - paralyzed.

What if his allies, his closest companions, ran past him saying, "It'll go away soon," or "You need to go get help for that," or "Yeah, and look at how hard I'm having to fight."

Or what if they told him, "Pray and read your Bible"?

I've been in this battle so many times, and when you're fighting as hard as you can while your friend just lies on the ground it's so easy to say "pray about it" or "how are your devotions?" or maybe even "you must have some awful sin in your life." But when it's me lying immobile in my own blood - my enemies pummeling me - and I feel like there's no hope because I'm stuck all I want is to hear someone say "Hold on, I'm coming!"

In life I'm fighting alongside my brothers and sisters, and there are times when I get struck time after time after time. I'm wearing my armor, I'm fighting hard, I'm surviving...until finally Satan paralyzes me and I fall to the ground unable to fight him anymore. Then, with sincere pleasure and satisfaction, he beats me senseless with his hateful lies.

When that happens, there is nothing better than one of my fellow soldiers running to where I am and shouting, "Don't worry, Abby, I've got you covered!" They come to hold their shield of faith out over me, to swing their sword of the Spirit above my head. They come wearing the same belt of truth that I have (only mine has been covered in dirt and blood). These are my allies, these are my teammates, these are what I desperately need and what I want to be when my brothers and sisters are under siege.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
~Ephesians 6:12

But encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
~Hebrews 3:13

Monday, March 26, 2007

...as a symbol of my vow

On November 25, 2006 at about 7:30 pm I was given the best gift I've ever received (that is, of course, until July 14, 2007): a symbol of a promise. I wear it on the fourth finger of my left hand. It shines, it sparkles, it gets fuzz in it...but my favorite part is what it reminds me of.

Not just my upcoming marriage to the man I love. There's more.

My ring has three stones in it. I know that tradition says these are "past, present, and future stones". While it's true that Nathan and I have a past, and we live in a wonderful present, and we look with eager anticipation at the future, that's not what I see when I look at my ring.

My ring would look awful and awfully ridiculous if it only had the two side stones in it. There would be these two beautiful diamonds in beautiful settings, but there would be a gap between them. Or, if they were put side by side, it would be uninteresting and less-than-beautiful. But you put one diamond in the middle and you have one gorgeous ring!

The center stone is the focus of the ring. Yes, the two side stones are beautiful and accent the center stone in a marvelous and unique way, but it's the center one that makes the ring. When people look at my ring, when I look at my ring, the attention automatically is drawn to the large diamond in the middle. It is the climax of the ring.

My marriage will fail if it's just me and Nathan. I have no doubt of this. Our marriage would be rather uninteresting, we wouldn't complement one another, and we would even compete for attention. Add a beautiful, brilliant Savior to the center, though, and our marriage will catch the eye of everyone around us. I don't want people to look at my marriage and see me. Yes, my marriage would be incomplete without either of us just like my ring would be incomplete without either side stone, but we can't be the focus.

This is why I have a three-stone ring. It's not because I wanted to make my future husband blow his budget on hand decor. It's not because I want all the other girls to notice my "bling". I need a reminder - a constant reminder - that our relationship would be incomplete without Christ at the center. Our marriage would be missing something beautiful if we take the focus - either our own or that of those watching us - off of the center stone.

I love my ring. I love the way it looks and I love what it tells me. I love that even though a diamond isn't forever, love is eternal. I love that Nathan and I will together focus on the Center Stone for the rest of forever.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,

his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

United We Fall

Point #1 – there is strength in unity
After September 11, 2001 the phrase “United We Stand” could be seen at any point in time at any place in the country – on bumper stickers, business marquises, overpasses, church signs and t-shirts. Anywhere you went, you were reminded of the fact that we, as Americans, were not going to give up. In fact, we would all band together, an unstoppable troop of donkeys and elephants, men and women, pacifists and militants, all united for a single cause. We knew the truth of the fact that “every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). There is a strength, a vital strength, in standing together for a single purpose.


Point #2 – there is weakness in division

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). In the context Jesus was talking about dividing your loyalty between God and money, but the truth carries so much further than that. A professor of mine says that with any compromise “you get the strengths of neither and the weaknesses of both.” You can’t be fully devoted to two different things. It is impossible.


Point #3 – my heart will follow my hands

We do the things we like. We do what we consider valuable. Christ said, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We will do the things we care about and we will care about the things that we do. Where we put our time, energy, money, and effort shows where our hearts really are.


Point #4 – my attentions are often divided, which means my heart is divided, which means my heart is weak when it could be strong

“Unite
my heart to fear your name." "Unite my heart to fear your name." "Unite my heart to fear your name." "Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11b). My loyalties are distributed. My heart is so divided. I am weak. I don’t have a right reverence for God. David recognized the same thing in himself. He saw that when he refused to have a single purpose in his heart, a single goal, a single love, he was weak. He asked for a united heart, a strong heart, so that he might bow down in humble fear before his God.


Point #5 – God can unite my heart, which will strengthen my heart, which will make me fall to my knees in reverence.


“Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God.” ~Ecclesiastes 8:12

Saturday, January 13, 2007

load-bearing

"Faith is a burden; it's a weight to bear."

Unorthodox evangelical Christianity at it's finest. "His yoke is easy, and His burden is light!" we cry...but then why do people still hurt? Why is there still pain, even for the redeemed? Why do those who know Christ and who know the life we'll one day live have such a painful churning in their stomachs at the condition of the world around them, or even of their own lives? I read once that only Christians are really able to see what's wrong with the world. Only followers of Christ can truly know the sorry state we're all in. Only those who have real hope recognize such real pain.

It's hard to trust. It's hard to believe against experience. It's hard to be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Faith hurts.

People who have no hope aren't disappointed by the way things are. Those who don't know that this world was never meant to be this way don't "groan inwardly" as they wait for a change. Faith is a heavy load on the shoulders of the ones who trust. It implies longing, it calls for patience, it forces steps through darkness to reach a goal that is desired but remains painfully unclear.

Noah was mocked as a fool, Job dismissed as a prideful liar, Abraham looked despairingly into the glare of death, Daniel's friends faced a pit of flames while he himself faced a pit of lions, and Stephen spoke boldly as he eyed the cold gray stones weighing each of their hands.

It hurts to believe in something. It hurts to hope for something more. Faith IS a burden; faith IS a weight to bear; faith IS a heavy, heavy load.

But the load that people of faith bear, though it doesn't lessen with time, will not weigh them down forever. When this world ends and everything we have, everything we do, will be gone forever, "these three remain: faith, hope, and love." What makes us "us" in this world will not survive, but what we look for, what we trust in, and what fills our hearts is of eternal importance. Our faith, our hope, our love - these matter.

"But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:5-6).

It's what counts after all is said and done. Christ is called the perfecter - the finisher - of our faith. He will finish it. In the end faith will be seen, hope will be realized, and all that will be left is love.

Let that support you as you walk under such a real and heavy load. Keep walking. The end will be in sight.

~2 Cor. 5:7~ We live by faith, not by sight.

I say faith is a burden
It's a weight to bear
It's brave and bittersweet
And hope is hard to hold to
Lord, I believe
Only help my unbelief

Till there's no more faith
No more hope
I'll see your face and Lord, I'll know
No more faith
No more hope
I'll sing your praise and let them go

'Cos only love remains

~Andrew Peterson, "No More Faith"