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Friday, April 29, 2016


Matthew 7:1-5, "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.  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, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (NIV).

This is exactly what I needed to read, today.  Don't misunderstand.  I absolutely hate that this is exactly what I needed to read, but here it is.

Taking my own advice is difficult.  It is so much easier to tell other people how they should change than to think about how every single word I say might also apply to me... to my life... to my sin.  To be completely honest, I am a little bit at war with myself.  I'm not exactly sure why I think that I can handle tempting situations better than anyone else.  I am feeling a little bit frustrated that I don't like my advice to others, applied to me, because it is difficult and irritating and if I follow it I can't do whatever I want, whenever I want, and y'all know how I hate that.

The problem with feeling like this is that Jesus has a word for it that I think I hate more: hypocrite.


And... ouch.

And... maybe even ouch again.

Thankfully, God is so much better than me. (Duh, I know, but sometimes it's important to just say it.)

Psalm 106:43-45, "Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.  Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented" (NIV).

I love that God remembers covenant and relents.  I think I have often considered the word, "relentless" to be something positive, but when I took a look at the actual definition; I stopped liking it, immediately.  I thought to be relentless was to be determined, to never give up.  As it turns out, relentless is to be oppressive, harsh, and inflexible.  Sometimes simply defining terms helps us to understand what we really want. 

I do not want a relentless God.

I do not want a relentless me.

I thought to relent meant to be weak.  It does not.  I thought to relent meant to give up.  And it does.  But it's vitally important to understand that to relent means to give up everything I don't want to be to anyone, anyway.  It is to give up oppressive control, cruelty, or punishment.

Oh goodness, I relent!

Out of love, I relent!

I am so thankful that God is patient, over and over again, and that God hears our cries (my cries) and takes note of distress.  Because here's the truth, friends.  Sometimes we really screw up.  And yet God's covenant stands.  Deliverance comes.  And we can stop wasting away.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I ran across this article, some time ago, and I have been trying to adopt its principles:

It's pretty simple, really.  If your crisis is the biggest one, you get to say whatever you want to whomever you want.  If you're crisis is smaller, you need to know when it is appropriate to speak.  It's not that your crisis doesn't matter.  It's just that someone who is dealing with a larger crisis can't take on your pain.  And that's OK. 

Sometimes I forget that I am not in the center of the crisis circle.  Oh friends, let's be real.  I pray that I am never in the center of the crisis circle!  It is so incredibly easy to lose perspective.

A friend of mine posted this quote, today, and it resonated far deeper than I wanted it to:

"We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life." - Bruce Eric Kaplan

I wasn't even sure how to react to this.  The words so closely echoed my own, from last year, when I kept saying, "We're just going through a rough time, right now." But then it didn't let up.  I have very intentionally not uttered this phrase lately, even though it continues to resound.

Here's the truth.  This afternoon, I do not have what I need, and I know this is a horrible thing to say.

However, I have so many friends who are suffering in ways far greater than my own, today.  They are suffering in ways in which I cannot empathize, and the truth is I'm glad, because I don't really want to feel that kind of pain.  I do want to come alongside them and support them and lift them up, but it's like comparing loss of life to paper cuts. 

It's not that my paper cuts don't matter.  It's just that they're not that severe.  I'm surviving.  That has to count for something.

I keep thinking that it would be exceptionally helpful to have someone from a bigger circle to sit down with, someone on which to dump all of my pain, all of my grief, all of my crisis; but I don't actually think that's what I need.  Maybe, instead, I need to lean into who I am and keep absorbing the pain of others that comes from smaller circles where the crisis is so devastating.  Because, that's what I do best...

I Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (NIV).

Matthew 6:9-13, "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'" (NIV).

Psalm 61:1, "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer" (NIV).


Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Daily Office is Just Killing Me, Today

It's been a weird week for me.  In some ways, it's been overwhelming, and in other ways I feel as if I have accomplished absolutely nothing.  I have certainly blogged less than has been my modus operandi for this calendar year.  That is not to be confused with writing less.  It's just that so many of the things I wrote didn't seem appropriate (I know, I know, super funny coming from me).  But really...

As I sat down to read Scripture this morning, though, it occurred to me that there is enough material here to write several posts.  I think it all might fit together neatly, in some way, but it also... doesn't...

Originally, I thought I might start out with a post titled, 

"With Friends Like This..."

Psalm 55:20-21, "My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.  His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords" (NIV).

It is completely possible that I don't always give people the benefit of the doubt, or maybe I'm just far more naive than I think I am (I have been accused of this), but sometimes I feel like this about people who are supposed to be my friends.  I am something like 150% not as amazingly loving and giving and holy as I should be... as I wish I was...  With that in mind, these words could just as easily be written as a description of me, so I need to fix that.  I don't really want to attack anybody.  I certainly don't want to break covenant.  And I want the words from my mouth (or my fingers) to line up with the intent of my heart as well as my follow-through.  Maybe it is completely outside the realm of reality, but there is still a part of me that hopes others might be pressing toward this goal, as well.  I know none of us is perfect.  I'm sure not.  But maybe we can all keep trying to just be kind.     

Then I thought,

"Maybe I Just Want to Hide..."

Psalm 139:7-12, "Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you" (NIV).

I recently wrote a sermon about David.  Although this passage wasn't the main text, it does make a cameo appearance.  There are these incredible moments when I think that maybe.... just maybe... I could be who I was created to be, but if I'm real; there are more moments when I wonder if hiding might be easier.  Ironically, as I was searching for a synonym for "hiding" I found that "defeat" fits the bill.  I was not expecting that. 

St. Francis said, "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."

"Even the darkness will not be dark to you..."    
Oh, Light of the World, what, exactly, do we think we're getting away with?

And then there was this,

"I Have Always Loved a Good Storm"

Exodus 40:37, "but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted" (NIV).

I think storms are terrifying to most people.  I'm not talking about literal storms, although I do love those.  True story.  I chased a good storm, just the other day.  But, I'm talking about what people might metaphorically refer to as, "the storms of life"...  the hard times...

Interestingly, when you go back and read the narrative of Israel, God was the storm.  I think we often look for rescue from the very One we need.  We don't wait for the clouds to lift to set out.  We see the clouds coming, and we run.  Maybe we should embrace the storm, instead.  Maybe we should be still, absorbing every bit of the glory of God that is available to us.  Maybe the running is so hard, because it's just not time yet.

Of course, it wouldn't be my life if something absurd didn't also strike me in the midst of my reading, thinking, and writing, so, 

I Thessalonians 4:11, "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.  You should mind your own business..." (NIV). 

Uh... failing...

And finally there was the gospel passage,

"Can I Tie this All Together"

Probably not, but maybe Jesus can.

Matthew 5:38-48, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (NIV).

Friends and enemies... Perfection and love... The sun and the rain falling on all of us.  Of course...