Thursday, May 26, 2011

Easter Takes Longer than Lent

I was intrigued as I read this from Ruth Haley Barton’s recent e-newsletter from the Transforming Center:

Fortunately, the Easter season (fifty days, eight Sundays, seven weeks—however you want to look at it) is longer than Lent because there are some areas of our lives where resurrection takes longer than dying. The Church calendar itself teaches us that “the implications of the resurrection—its explosive force—call for an extended period of exploration and appropriation.”* For us mere mortals, Easter cannot be done in a day.

This resonates with the season of life I’m in, where deaths and resurrections are often far more drawn out and slow in coming. Sure, in this Dark Night I’m dying to my desire for affluence & affirmation, but it is a slow agonizing death, fought day by day (and often minute by minute), with many steps forward and many steps back. It is difficult to see which side is winning!

Resurrection comes occasionally, but it is usually a surprise after a long subversive bout with my inner demons. It ever remains though, not the product of my “hard won efforts” for I have no such illusion (my defeats far outweigh my victories!), but the miracle of the risen and ascended Christ; it is a gift to those broken and dead enough to receive it.

May the light of resurrection increase and the darkness of death decrease. But I must remember that resurrection cannot happen unless death precedes it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Face the Enemy

My good friend Andy Hassler sent me this reading from Henri Nouwen’s Inner Voice of Love and I just had to share it:

"Face the Enemy" (Henri Nouwen)

As you see more clearly that your vocation is to be a witness to God’s love in this world, and as you become more determined to live out that vocation, the attacks of the enemy will increase.  You will hear voices saying, “You are worthless, you have nothing to offer, you are unattractive, undesirable, unlovable.”  The more you sense God’s call, the more you will discover in your own soul the cosmic battle between God and Satan.  Do not be afraid.  Keep deepening your conviction that God’s love for you is enough, that you are in safe hands, and that you are being guided every step of the way.  Don’t be surprised by the demonic attacks.  They will increase, but as you face them without fear, you will discover that they are powerless.

What is important is to keep clinging to the real, lasting, and unambiguous love of Jesus.  Whenever you doubt that love, return to your inner spiritual home and listen there to love’s voice.  Only when you know in your deepest being that you are intimately loved can you face the dark voices of the enemy without being seduced by them.

The love of Jesus will give you an ever-clearer vision of your call as well as of the many attempts to pull you away from that call.  The more you are called to speak for God’s love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of that love in your own heart.  The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be.  Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.  The enemy is there, waiting to destroy you, but you can face the enemy without fear when you believe that you are held safe in the love of Jesus. (p 93-94).

This really speaks to my struggles these days!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Where Accusations Go

Yesterday while playing on the Xbox a stranger messaged me this: “No offense, but you suck.” Ha! As if I wouldn’t find any offense with that! It was out of the blue, but it definitely caught me off guard. Come to find out, it is a guy I played with earlier in the weekend; apparently my “performance” was not up to his standards!

My son saw the message too, and I tried to shrug it off. All day long it was bothering me (to my shame!). I heard Jerry Seinfeld’s mom’s voice saying, “How can anyone not like me?” I fantasized about all my one-liner comebacks like, “sorry I didn’t meet your expectations, you with your LOWER rank and all!” By God’s grace, I realized the foolishness of this, and didn’t give into it, though I still entertained the fantasy for a while.

Still bothering me this morning, I took it to God. Obviously this was “sticking” to me for some reason, probably because it resonates with something in me, about my own insecurities and sense of worthlessness. First I visualized it for what it was: an accusatory arrow; I saw it sticking in me, plunging deep into my woundedness and impossible to dislodge. I remember thinking (by grace), that I needed to take this to the Cross “where all accusations go.” It suddenly made a lot of sense to see it this way, and the Cross was clearly the only place for me to take it.

First, I lifted up the arrow to God and acknowledged my inability to do anything about it. I prayed to receive his love in this specific place of brokenness. I saw the love of God (in the form of living water) flowing down the shaft of the arrow into the deep wounded place. As I let God love me, he was able to dislodge it and place it in one of the wounds of Christ hanging on the Cross.

I felt a good sense of freedom at that point. In this freedom I symbolically spoke to my accuser (this stranger, and behind him, Satan, whose scent was on this accusation even if it didn’t originate with him), “You’re right, friend. I suck. I suck far more than you realize! But Jesus has taken all that for me, and in Him I am infinitely loved!” I felt free from the accusation (and all desire for retaliation, which was strong before), and I felt free to enter the day not having to prove myself to anyone. I recall John Coe’s words in a recent lecture I listened to where he said that real change happens when we’re loved by God in the midst of our bad (see for his excellent spiritual formation lectures).

Oh, that this freedom would remain throughout the day! Let it be, Lord.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Ever since my recent Gethsemani retreat (5/6-8) I’ve been thinking about childlike faith and trust, especially against the backdrop of the Dark Night of the Soul. (I’ve also been thinking about the childlikeness of God, via George MacDonald, but that will be a separate post, Lord willing).

This blessing from Larry Hein (given to Brennan Manning) comes to mind:

“May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son and Spirit.”

I feel, often with waves of terror, the withering away of my desires -the slow and painful powerlessness that comes from letting deep things go. The dreams I cling to are slowly and painfully slipping away and I am permitted to feel the nothingness in its place. It can be overwhelming! But the Lord remains with me; he is faithful even though I am not.

Psalm 131 has also been a comfort and a focus:

(1) O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.

(2) But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

(3) O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore. (ESV)

My disciplines of late have been all about “calming and quieting” my soul, of realizing my limits and taking my eyes down off great and marvelous things/projects that are way too big for me. For example, instead of worrying about where money will come from in a few months time, focus on today’s provision and God’s promise of daily bread (see also Matthew 6).

How long, O Lord?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Megachurch Jesus

Though I’m not much of a poet, these words have been bouncing around my brain for a while, begging for expression:

Megachurch Jesus

Ain’t got the time;

For you and me.

He’s got people to see and

Things to do.


A Kingdom to build,

Glory to polish.


As long as you play his game,

Give all your money and time,

You are loved.


If you have potential and can produce results,

You are on the fast track to influence.


But if you fail,

If you fall behind,

You are blacklisted and ignored.


Megachurch Jesus only loves the strong

Those who have it together

These are the ones who have his ear.


The broken stand outside watching, waiting;

Wondering if this Jesus is all there is.

Shuffling their feet, shifting their burdens,

Desperately wanting to fit in.


Tired of jumping through hoops,

Unable to keep up with the strong and powerful,

These have given up on trying to fit in.


Unnoticed, one appears among them,

Disenfranchised and disheveled himself;

Quietly he speaks,

He tells of a different Savior,

One that prefers the broken and the weak.


Slowly the riff raff start to listen and take note,

Sinners are intrigued by the newness of grace;

Hearts are slowly healed;

Loved for who they are,

Not for what they can do.

This one is Immanuel, and he hates Megachurch Jesus too.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Essential Psalms Companion

I wanted to offer a brief review of The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms by Brian Webster and David Beach. It is a very simple easy to use guide to reading the Psalms.

A few comments on the authors are in order. One of my first thoughts was how useful it would be for our kids in homeschool. It’s full of glossy pictures and easy fonts. Dr. Webster himself is a homeschooling dad, so he may have had that in mind. Webster and Beach bring an interesting partnership to the work, Webster being a professor of Old Testament and Beach a licensed counselor. This collaboration is reminiscent of the work done by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman (Beach himself studied under Allender).

The book is divided into three sections: an introduction to the Psalms, quick reference charts and brief commentary on each individual psalm. Though the summary on each psalm is valuable, the most important contribution is the introduction and quick reference guides. In these sections we learn the different types of psalms along with their inherent genre characteristics that aid us in reading the psalms with greater understanding. In particular, the section on “personalizing the psalms” is very helpful, which places the psalms squarely in the relational and conversational context in which they originated.