Monday, March 27, 2006


This week’s song comes to you from the genius of Alanis Morissette. It’s called “That I Would Be Good.” This song has always meant a lot to me, at first, because I wanted to believe it. Now that I’m actually starting to believe it, it means even more. It’s very affirming to the lessons that God is really driving home in my relationships these days. He’s subtly and not so subtly reminding me that my value to him, and in general, isn’t out in the ether somewhere. It’s not something I have to find, or uncover, or earn, or maintain. It’s not dependent on what I do, what I say, or who I’m with. I am his child, his wonderfully and fearfully made creation, and no one can take me from his hand (John 10:28). Anyway, here’s the song:

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer king
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing

That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy

That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good whether with or without you

Ironically enough, each of these things were insecurities of mine, things that I thought couldn't I do and still "be good." And over the past few years, God is slowly going down the list, and putting me in situations where I have to face each one and see that I am still good and loved and great and grand. It's been a real...experience.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Listen and Learn

This week's lesson at Living Waters included a great quote from Oswald Chambers:

"The golden rule for understanding spirituality is not intellect, but obedience. If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus teaches, he can only get it by obedience. If things are dark to me, then I may be sure there is something I will not do. Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance; spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey."
Just a little something to think about.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What are you afraid of?

Here's another song. This one is called "Drifting Away" by Garth Brooks, a remake of Cece Winan's "The Wind". Here are the lyrics:

With all of my heart I know I can love you
With all of my soul I'm drifting away
With all of my mind I know you can save me from myself and anything else

With all of my strength I wanna reach out for you
With every breath I call out your name
With every step I just want to turn around and say make it okay

But I'm so afraid that you've forgiven me one too many times
And I'm so afraid to give my heart again just to have a change of mind
I'm not quite sure that you can trust me and I would hate to have you find me again
Like the wind
Drifting away

It blows and nobody knows where it's going to
It blows and nobody knows what it's gonna do

With all of my heart I know I've disappointed you
And although I'm real sorry I don't know how to say it this time
But if I were to lose you I know, I know I'd go completely out of my mind
I'm running out of time

And I'm so afraid that you've forgiven one too many times
And I'm so afraid to give my heart again just to have a change of mind
And I'm not quite sure that you can trust me and I would hate to have you find me again
Like the wind
Drifting away

It blows and nobody knows where it's going to
It blows and nobody knows what it's gonna do
At night you can hear it cry
As the teardrops fall from heaven's eye
And somehow you know it's true
These tears that fall
Could be falling for you

This was one of those songs that I spent an hour or so memorizing, so that I could sing it as I walked. For me, it is a very powerful and honest profession of my faith in God in spite of doubts about myself.

I have learned so much recently about God's trust in me. Like his love, it doesn't make sense. I want it to so badly. Even though it would be the death of me, I want God's love and trust to make sense, to be fair, to be something that I get because I deserve it. I want to feel worthy of the incredible gifts he's given me.

But God has been patiently teaching me, assuring me and reassuring me that he doesn't love me because I'm worthy. I am worthy because he loves me.

I'm starting to get it. Thanks, God.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nights of the Roundtable

A couple of friends and I meet for dinner once a year. We come together - much like Voltron does, but without the Japanimation undertones - to form an interesting hybrid of panel discussion, think tank, and accountability partnership. We have a lot of random things in common. For instance, we went to the same school, then worked in the same office, and attended the same church.

The discussion piece usually flows out of two other important commonalities: we all have backgrounds in psychology and callings to preaching ministry. One of us is already doing preaching engagements, one is in a ministerial training program, and I…I mean one of us is running for his life. Anyway, we end up so deep sometimes that you need a dictionary, a DSM-IV manual, a Strong’s Concordance, and a pick ax just to keep up. The stuff that comes out is so amazing though, if we actually kept track of it we’d have a heck of a book or sermon series. Like most psychologists, we gravitated to that field to mask and grapple with the fact that we are certifiably nuts. So, our conversations occasionally plummet from throne room revelation to locker room humor. I pity the parties of people who end up sitting around us. We’re usually there for at least four hours, meaning four or five waves of diners are exposed to the fallout of raucous laughter and shekinah glory.

In think tank mode we discuss the different ministries we’re involved in and the different exploits we’re pursuing. That can be books we’re writing (or not writing) or programs we’re developing or large-scale Holy Ghost takeover projects. We throw out ideas and kick ‘em around and give each other advice on where to go from here. We offer suggestions of books to read and people to talk to.

To be fair, the accountability piece is amazing, but it does suck. This is where our counseling backgrounds come in handy. Throughout the night, each of us throws out an issue or a situation that we’re dealing with and the other two will just lay into them. At least that’s what it feels like. What actually happens is they lovingly share God-given truth. Stuff that you may know but don’t like hearing or didn’t know and don’t want to consider. Stuff that, once it’s out there, you actually have to deal with. I’m still licking my wounds from my turn in the hotseat. I’m grateful, though, because it’s all about encouraging each other, cheering each other on and not letting us sit on God’s gifts. And let's face it, I need my butt kicked every once in a while.

Anyway, that was my Saturday night. I’m going to go because I’m now running late for church.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Let The Leader Lead

So, I couldn't wait to share this next song. It's called "Follow Me" by Maurette Brown-Clark. I love this song, first of all, because Maurette sings her face off. Secondly, the words are a tender reminder that following God is not just a good deal because we get a leader and rescuer of incredible strength, power, and wisdom. Through Jesus, we also have a friend who knows how much life can suck and hurt. Here are the lyrics:

You live a life of ups and downs
Of here today and gone tomorrow
Changes you can't control
They fill you with gloom and sorrow

But my own, they call me
A shelter in a time of storm
And if you desire more than wealth
Call me and I shall be there

Follow me for I will never change
I'm on your side for always until the end of time
Follow me I know your hopes and dreams
I too have been discouraged and I know just how sorrow feels

The very hands that bore the nails
Right now they're reaching out for you (just for you)
And the same old star that led the Wise Men
That star is waiting now to lead you

Now the road may not be easy
Don't you know I promise I will never let you down
If you will only put your trust in me
Like you trust in all your treasures

Follow me for I will never change
I'm on your side for always until the end of time
Follow me I know your hopes and dreams
I too have been discouraged and I know just how sorrow feels

How cool is it that Jesus was betrayed and abandoned and rejected and abused and misunderstood and discouraged, not just so that we could be able to have a relationship with him, but also so that that relationship could mean that much more. He's not just some untouchable throne-sitter-onner. He's been touched and those touches hurt him, just like we've been hurt. So we can say to him, "My friends and family abandoned me," or "People are mean to me," or "I don't think I can do this," and he can say "Yeah, I've been there" and really mean it.

This song means even more to me now that I am going through Living Waters, because the course taught me about "healing memories." That has basically meant going back through my scariest, lonliest, and most painful memories and finding out exactly where Jesus was during those times and exactly what he was up to. It's also meant understanding how those experiences help me to identify with and share in Jesus' suffering. For me, it's been an amazing experience complete with visions (yes visions, as in little movies in your head that beat the living crap out of CGI and virtual reality and HDTV). I'll blog about it sometime. It really is incredible and not nearly as spooky spiritual as it sounds.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How do you taste?

I mentioned in a reply to a post of my friend, Jonathan (whose site you MUST visit), that one of the primary love languages in my relationship with God is music. When he wants to tell, teach or show me something, a lot of times he'll use a song to do it. So, periodically, I will share the lyrics of a song that really speak to me, my experience, and my relationship with God. [NOTE: I said periodically, I'm done making promises of regularity.]

The first is Ani DiFranco's "Come Away From It", from her 1999 release, Up Up Up Up Up Up. The lyrics struck me because they read like one of the many messages that God sent to his wayward people via the Old Testament prophets.

Come, come away, come away from, come away from it

Next to the glass ashtray in a little plastic baggy
Is a bitter rock remedy, really good stuff
But I take offense to the fact that you're so hell bent
Are you trying to tell me this world just isn't beautiful enough?

Do you want to get off? Is this your stop?
Do you gotta have a tripledecker super fudge sundae with a g#$%&#% cherry on top?
I mean, what makes you so lavish that you can afford
To spend every sober moment feeling angry and bored?

Why don't you come, come away, come away from it?

We used to hold hands down those unfamiliar streets
You used to take me diving into the watery blue deep
But now you're trying to find every tiny treasure
Every shiny penny of pleasure
Satisfy every selfish purpose
Before you swim back up to the surface

Why don't you come, come away, come away from it?

You think that I just don't like you anymore, but I'll tell you what I don't like
I don't like that I had to put the training wheels back onto your bike
And I don't like the extravagance or the way you taste when I kiss you
I don't like being left alone, baby don't you think I miss you?

Why don't you come, come away, come away from it?

This song just makes me thank God for his grace and his neverending pursuit of me. How many times has he had to call me away from the defenses and distractions I use to self-medicate? How many times has he had to put the training wheels back onto my bike? What does he taste on my lips, on my heart, on my life when he kisses me?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ecclesiastes Three Twenty

Every year around this time, the Catholic Church and I call a détente just long enough for me to get through an Ash Wednesday mass. I don’t remember why I started going, but I know why I keep going. Every year I am reminded of the utterly astounding beauty of worship through ritual.

Given my progressive Protestant background, using the words “ritual” and “worship” in the same sentence is almost like dropping an F-bomb in the middle of a prayer. Still, the Lord is always quick to note that rituals only become bad when you lose sight of their meaning and purpose. Novelty for novelty’s sake can be just as vain and even more dangerous.

Anyway, I always learn some new Catholic factoid. Last year’s lesson was that Catholic priests really can preach. This year I found out that the ashes are produced by burning the palms from Palm Sunday.

Along with my factoid, there also always a revelation from God. I forget last year’s revelation, which came during the very impressive sermon, but I’m sure it’s written down somewhere. Today’s revelation came with the ashes. I was standing there in line to get ashes and I’m tearing up at all of the beauty and gravity. The guy with the ashes smudges my forehead and says “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.”

How amazingly humbling this was. God reminded me that I am just spit and dust formed with his hands, like the clay that Jesus applied to the eyes of the blind man in John 9. And just like that clay, I was made and sent to open the eyes of the blind to God’s love and truth.

So, big ups to the Catholics for another amazing Ash Wednesday. See you in 364 days.