Friday, May 28, 2010


You call me beloved.
I echo, till
weak, faint, fading away,
dying, trying, I say, still,
what You, Beloved,
first put into Word,
battered against your Father’s mountain,
sounding the perfect echo
that began the avalanche of saints' songs.


written in 2007

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Literary tag

If I have ever been tagged before, I have not noticed.  Until now.  Thanks, Merriette! :-)  This is very rare, you know, but I'll do it for you and my own amusement.

1 - What is your favorite book?

The Lord of the Rings.  I know, big surprise. 

2 - Who is your favorite character in that book and why?
Samwise Gamgee, closely followed by Frodo (or vice versa, depending on when you ask me).  Sam is humble, down-to-earth, not especially clever or good with a sword or handsome or dashing or well-spoken, but he feels things deeply even when he can't say why.  He knows that he's part of a Grand Story.  He's also a hero in the highest sense of the word - faithful to the end, persistent and persevering and sacrificial, who carries his friend Frodo up Mount Doom.  He reminds me of Jesus, who is even more faithful and persistent than a hobbit, and who carried our sins and sorrows up a Hill when we could not.  And after the Evil was destroyed and it was finished, then came the waking, and finding that everything sad was coming untrue.

:-)  Oh, and Sam is a gardener, a cook, and a wellspring of hilarious phrases from the Gaffer.  How could I not like him best?

3 - If you could spend a day as a character in the book who would it be and why?
Rosie Cotton.  Because she gets to live in the Shire, marry Samwise, and have lots of cute hobbit children. ;-)  Only a day would be too short to do all that, though, so I'm ignoring that part, muhaha.

4 - Would you rather read Pride and Prejudice or Little Women?

I've read both, and P&P would probably be a quicker read, but at the moment I'd pick Little Women.  We're about to watch it for my "Young Ladies Film Society" (i.e. movie night for girls from church), and I'd like to be able to notice the big things they added/changed in the film.

5 - Where is your favorite place to read a good book?

I've had many.  Once it was the tree in my grandparents' back yard, which alas, is now gone.   Often on my bed, in the car, by a cozy fire, or at the kitchen table with a plate of something yummy.  These days, it's mostly on the couch.  With a mug of tea or coffee, ideally, and sometimes a bit of chocolate.

I shall not tag, but if you want to answer the same questions, of course you're quite free too.

Lovely Wednesday night to you all!  I think I shall go refresh my coffee now, and read my current book - Dug Down Deep, by Joshua Harris, which I did end up buying and which has been quite refreshing and good.


Our desires for fruitfulness are inborn. 

Certainly we can try to be fruitful in greedy, selfish ways, or by wrong means.  But the desire itself is not wrong.  We were designed that way, which is why God told us at the start to be fruitful and multiply.  He didn't say it as a burden - He meant us to be happy, satisfied in His abundance, to fulfill our role of kings and queens.

Yet after we let the Serpent twist our views of God and His goodness, we were sent from our perfect Garden.  Now, roaming the dark and thorny world, we are thwarted at every turn.

Broken relationships.
Unsatisfying work.
Thoughts that wander into gloom and despair.

I went out yesterday with a friend to the middle-of-nowhere West Texas desert prairie, and walked around a bit amongst the thorn-laden mesquites and rocks and dirt. I thought of a choice I felt I had to make recently, which hurt someone dear to me and made me sad as well.  The consequences of that choice are more difficult to bear than I could have imagined.

Crackling grass scorched in the summer wind.

Earth parched and dusty.  Nothing could hope to grow here.

But then, in the death and stillness of the air, there rises the sweet smell of wildflowers, and their tenacious blossoms, prickly and small and lovely, shine at my feet.

I think, perhaps, our lives can be like this.  Sometimes everything seems not only unfruitful, but even dead.

Wait.  Out of the death of loss, something is about to grow. 

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls —
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

All the food, all reason to keep working, all the hope for the future appears to be gone.   Nothing is fulfilling its designed purpose. 

Yet the writer is not simply accepting the death and barrenness as his lot to be born mournfully, with a face of woe and despair.  Instead, he's actually choosing from deep in his soul to smile, to be glad!  Because he remembers God is good, and He saves in more abundance and more mysterious ways than in making wildflowers spring up in the desert.

I want to choose joy.  I want to grow old with smile wrinkles outnumbering my complaining lines.  I want to rejoice in the Lord when my life feels like a barren desert.  Because that is the best growing soil for faith in God who makes all things new.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Harris, Humility, and Hunger

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. 
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Last night I roamed among the shelves of Barnes and Nobles with my mom and older brother Sam (visiting from Iowa).  Settling myself in an overstuffed chair, I read bits of two books by Joshua Harris: his newest one, Dug Down Deep, and an older one which I somehow never got around to reading, Boy Meets Girl.  Here are good summaries from the author on what these books are about:
Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matter is my reveling in theology in my own simple way – not too polished, sometimes awkward, less than scholarly, hopefully gracious and faithful.  Even though these are deep truths, I don't pretend to be swimming in the deep end of the pool.  I'm splashing in the shallow end.  But if my splashing can inspire you to dive in, I will have succeeded.
I know the last thing most singles want is more rules and, in Boy Meets Girl, I wanted to offer an alternative: an intentional, God-pleasing game plan for finding a future spouse. In the book, I discuss how biblical courtship (a healthy, joyous alternative to recreational dating) worked for me and my wife Shannon, to give an encouraging and practical example for readers wanting to pursue the possibility of marriage with someone they're serious about.

The little bits I read in that hour were both refreshing and challenging. 

Perhaps its that "Humble Orthadoxy" that stands firm on Scriptural truth with a heart of humility and love for people even as we abhor sin.   Perhaps its the realization that Harris came from a similar background as me (a big family of conservative homeschoolers), so his struggles and challenges sound very similar.  Or perhaps its the fact that he shares how he's grown in living out the Christian faith in such a vulnerable and passionate way.

Anyways, I woke up this morning hungry.  Hungry for more of those good books.  But mainly hungry for more Scripture, where my roots should always be growing deeper.  The fact that I am neither as humble nor as firm in my convictions as I should be is not excusable.  But neither is it cause for despair, because that's the point - truth is true whether I follow it or not.  And how much better to see where I'm wrong and change, something God always invites us to do.

As Gandalf says with his quiet, winking smile, "And that is an encouraging thought."

Pride juggles with her toppling towers,
They strike the sun and cease,
But the firm feet of humility
They grip the ground like trees.  
G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse
Have you been "hungry" for a particular book lately, or found any good quotes on true humility?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Authentic Relating

"Authentic Relating" is something I've been trying to practice lately.  It means being willing to share the truth about what we think and feel with others, to show them our real selves, and to be willing to hear them without jumping to conclusions.  It means not using manipulation, or trying to find out what they want to hear.  When it's working well, it's two people interacting - with each other, not with pretend versions of themselves.

Let me tell you, it's tough!  But after all the pain and tears, I think it will be worth it, because truth and love always are.

"Authenticity is the courage to love 
with a rigorous inside-out consistency."
Authentic Phony, from Boundless  

"Truth is the lifeblood of relationships."
Glaen, by Fred Lybrand

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Do I Value Life?

I've been thinking about children, family, and the old question of "How many kids do you want?" lately.   Reading lots of blogs, writing rambling thoughts...  Some of it reminded me of why I believe as strongly as I do.  Some of it pointed out various lies and traps of Satan I have fallen into, generally regarding reactions motivated through fear.  But also a bad habit of almost worshiping big families for their numbers alone.

I confess, I need often be reminded that, as much fun as I think a huge family would be, the number God has in mind will be perfect, whether it be ten, one, or none. It is my inward attitude toward the sovereign God and my neighbors that is the most vital, as I was reminded in these words from Stacy MacDonald:

You see, it’s not about numbers—an out of wedlock mother of eight who is paid by the government to stay unmarried and dependent on the state could easily out breed most of us, if given enough incentive.

No; it’s about faithfulness. It’s about instilling in our children, our church, and our culture a passion for purity, children, family, and most of all, Jesus. It’s about raising up godly seed (Christian children) who aren’t focused on living for their own fleeting pleasures; but, are instead committed to glorifying God and enjoying Him forever—which involves loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”" (Galatians 5:14, ESV)

But you see, before we can do that, we have to believe it. Really believe it. We have to believe it so much that we are living it out each day without even thinking. We must value each life as much as we value our own—way down deep…

Life. Its value, it seems, is measured only in what it offers us—or how it threatens to inconvenience us. The more I contemplate the value of children, the more I realize that my view of children is bound up in how I value life. Am I truly loving my neighbor, my own family, the lost, the poor? Am I looking for ways to bring more and more glory to my Lord?

…Here’s the thing. It’s not about whether or not you believe birth control is a sin. It’s really not about that at all, and in some ways it distracts us from the real point. The real issue is far, far more important. It’s about loving God, loving our neighbor, loving life, embracing His revealed will, and working hard to live out the Gospel honestly and faithfully before a watching...and desperate world. 
Read the rest of Stacy's gracious post

Honestly, I am selfish. Loving people, investing in their lives, is a challenge for me. Often I’d much rather go off and do my own thing – watch a movie, read a book, have time by myself with my own cup of tea. The mindset and life God calls us to is hard stuff! Do I have what it takes to love even one person for the rest of my life? Even for ten years? One year? A day?

No. Alone, I don’t. But with God, all things are possible.