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  • WHERE IS GOD IN OUR UNMET DESIRES?

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    I mentioned in a previous post that I read through the vulnerable memoir of New Testament scholar Wesley Hill and finally wrapped it up a couple of weeks ago.  Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflection on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality is hauntingly honest and open about the tension between faith and life.

    In his book, Hill confronts his sexual desires and his desire to follow Jesus, even when those two seem to be at odds.  What I found to be so refreshing was Hill’s aim to place his own desires in front of God’s.  He aimed at bringing the whole of his life under the Lordship of Jesus.

    While I do not understand what it would be like to be in his shoes, I do appreciate his perspective on the journey of bearing certain unmet desires in this life.  And the thing is this: no matter how perfect one’s life is on the outside, there is always something missing underneath the façade.  There is always something that does not met all of our desires.  

    In the stillness of the evening or in the stirring of the morning, we are met with the unending call of our unrequited desires: wealth, security, companionship, love, sex, children, to be understood, and self confidence.  For Hill, it is the unmet desire for marital intimacy that he will not taste.  For me, it has been self-confidence and insecurities.  What unmet desire or unfulfilled need has not been filled for you?

    Maybe it’s too painful to say out loud.

    I would love to say that Jesus is the answer, but it’s too simplistic.  After all, Paul had a thorn in his side for years and it was never removed, even after a lot of prayer. This metaphorical thorn stayed with him throughout his ministry, and it very well could stay for a majority of our lives too.  Even Moses himself longed to enter the Promised Land, but he never set foot on the soil of Canaan.  Sometimes desires will be unmet this side of glory.

    One of the beauties of Scripture is that we are assured that our desires will be met one day.  Our desires will be fulfilled on the other side, as we physically look at the face of God and thrive.  For now, we wait with unrequited desires and trust that Jesus will bear our burden as we journey through this life.   For now we wait, because his grace will sustain us through the desert.

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  • THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF WAITING (PT 2)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    As mentioned in my previous post, waiting can be tough, but it can also have an unexpected upside to it.  Here are a few other things I have begun to notice in this season of waiting:

    Waiting creates an opportunity for us to get brutally honest with God.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s OK to tell God how it is or how you feel.  But in our honesty, it’s important to know that grumbling behind his back is not the best idea.  Just as in other relationships, the healthy way of dealing with conflict is directly to the person, not talking trash about someone to other people.

    Waiting also unearths what’s going on under the façade of success.  When pillars of health, wealth, family, and social networks are shaken or erode quickly, we suddenly are left with the inner monologue.  There is a clarity that emerges, affording us the opportunity to see what drives us, for better or for worse.  This monologue can tell you that you are worthless or you are loved.  I hope you discover the latter— that you are loved in Jesus.

    Waiting helps to prioritize our lives and offers the space to contemplate what matters.  It’s gut check time—what is important in your life?  Take time to wrestle with this profound, fundamental question.

    Waiting nudges us into the direction of recalling what God has done for us in the past.  As the ancient people of Israel did long ago, they frequently reminded themselves of what God did for them through festivals and altars.  Waiting in the middle of the uncertainty can lead us to remember how God lead us in the darkness in the past, and it might remind us that he very well could be at work in our lives today.

    Yet, with the upside of waiting, there also is a downside.  As the Book of Proverbs states so simply, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Waiting can give us a heavy heart.

    In all of this, please understand that waiting is not passive, it’s a call to action and a new way of being.  Waiting is a heavy burden borne alone and can create hurt, especially when our expectations are off.  For example, if we expect God to give us “the one” to marry, yet we sit alone in our house all day, then we will more than likely be hurt down the road without “the one” (which doesn’t exist, but that’s another topic for another day).  If we expect God to give us a job when we are unemployed and are not actively seeking new opportunities, then we will likely end up crushed because we thought that God was like Santa and drops unexpected opportunities with little effort on our part.

    Friends, the only thing that comes freely to us is grace and God’s salvation.  For other things, I think he wants us to just do something already.  Wait on him, get angry at him, talk to him, listen for him, but for God’s sake, get moving.  As Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Who knows, maybe God wants you to wait for him and get going.  Who knows, perhaps he will guide your steps and lead you as you walk ahead.  As St Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please.”

     

  • THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF WAITING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    In my previous career, I attended a lot of groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies.  What I found in those momentous events was an abundance of speeches, veggie trays, and watered down fruit punch, yet the hosting parties anticipated the great reveal of what could be and what something will become.  However, rarely do we find people celebrating the murky middle, the time in between the pouring of the foundation and the unveiling of a completed project.  For most of the project, these people just wait.

    Currently, I find myself in a similar situation: I’m waiting.

    Waiting for the birth of our son.  Waiting for the completion of a total loss accident claim with our car insurance company.  Waiting for answers to big career questions that will mean whether or not we move.  Waiting for God to act in pretty sizable ways.

    As I wait, I cannot help but think about the way Jesus must have felt as he waited.  Waited in a womb for 9 months.  Waited to walk.  Waited to potty train.  Waited to take up the family trade of carpentry.  Waited for 30 years to start his public ministry.  Waited through a trial, execution, and burial all while knowing who he was and that he will be seated at the right hand of the Father.

    During this season, I take comfort in the words of Psalm 40,

    I waited and waited and waited for God.

    At last he looked; finally he listened…

    Soften up, God, and intervene;

    hurry and get me some help,

    So those who are trying to kidnap my soul

    will be embarrassed and lose face,

    So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable

    will be heckled and disgraced,

    So those who pray for my ruin

    will be booed and jeered without mercy.

    But all who are hunting for you—

    oh, let them sing and be happy.

    Let those who know what you’re all about

    tell the world you’re great and not quitting.

    And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:

    make something of me.

    You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—

    but God, don’t put it off.

    For me, this is how I feel while in this season of waiting: I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for God to act, waiting for him to show up and intervene.  But does that always happen?  Is there an unexpected benefit to waiting on God?  Let me tell you about that in my next post.

    What are you waiting on?

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  • WHY YOU NEED TO BE BRUTALLY HONEST WITH GOD

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    Have you ever taken a corner too quickly and feel the center of gravity inch you ever so closer to tipping over your car?  Have you ever went too fast over a hill with a steep grade and you catch a little bit of air off the hill?  How about when you hit an unexpected speed bump and the coffee cup flies out of the drink holder and the bag flips over in the frontseat of the car?  Hopefully I’m not the only one here.

    How about when your life hits something unexpected like a pothole or a deer?  Sometimes we don’t know if a good week will turn into a mediocre week or if an OK week will descend into the pit of hell.  That knowledge is simply outside of our range of vision.  Regardless, life is relentless and things happen.

    I am reminded of the psalmist who wrote,

    By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembers Zion.  On the willows there we hung up our harps.  For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’” (Ps 137:1-2)

    Can you imagine yourself in captivity and being mocked by people?  Can you imagine yourself crying over the destruction of your home and feeling deep anger over the violence done to you and your loved ones?

    The psalmist ends the writing with incredible anger and a shocking amount of raw emotion.

    Perhaps you have been there, in the pit of despair and anger, cursing both God and others (it really is an easy place to end up).  Perhaps you’ve been in a personal nightmare, and it leaves you in near hopelessness.

    When injustice happens, plans fail, and sharp elbows are tossed at your nose, I want you to know that it’s OK to lash out at God and tell him everything that’s on your mind. Tell him off, because through this courage you can encounter intimacy with the One who formed you in your mother’s womb.  God meets you in your emotional wrestling match (dive into the Psalms and see for yourself).  Through this brutal honesty, God will meet you in the valley of despair.  Through your honesty, healing can finally begin.

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  • HOW I’M LEARNING TO FOLLOW JESUS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    Have you ever found yourself wandering in the desert?

    Maybe you haven’t found yourself in a literal desert, but at least in a desert-y period of life.  Perhaps it’s in between relationships, jobs, or some other major life event.  Quite honestly, I’m not a big fan of those times.

    I find myself entering into a major transition of life and I quite honestly have so many thoughts swirling around in my head.  Fortunately, the raw nature of the Psalms are helpful to pray through.  And as a former pastor suggested, weekly therapy sessions in the batting cage helps on a different level.

    I have found that following Jesus is difficult under the best of circumstances, so when the bad times hit, it is made even more tough.

    In this season, I’m learning to follow Jesus by preaching to myself.  I’m learning to follow Jesus by writing verses down on a whiteboard, reminding myself of God’s promises to not only preserve, but also to establish me.  While I honestly cannot wait for this season to end, I will come out on the other end clinging to the only certain hope I have– that Jesus is Lord of all.

  • THE PSALM OF SORROW

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Story

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    One of the reasons I love the Psalms is that they capture raw emotions.  Everything from the exuberance of a wedding to the desolate feelings when the proverbial excrement hits the fan.  For me, Psalm 77 is currently my Psalm, as if Asaph penned it just for me.  (Thanks to Tremper Longman III for unpacking this in “Getting Brutally Honest With God” at Christianity Today)

    Psalm 77

    I cry out to God; yes, I shout.

    Oh, that God would listen to me!

    When I was in deep trouble,

    I searched for the Lord.

    All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,

    but my soul was not comforted.

    I think of God, and I moan,

    overwhelmed with longing for his help.

    You don’t let me sleep.

    I am too distressed even to pray!

    I think of the good old days,

    long since ended,

    when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

    I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

    Has the Lord rejected me forever?

    Will he never again be kind to me?

    Is his unfailing love gone forever?

    Have his promises permanently failed?

    Has God forgotten to be gracious?

    Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

    And I said, “This is my fate;

    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

    But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;

    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

    They are constantly in my thoughts.

    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

    O God, your ways are holy.

    Is there any god as mighty as you?

    You are the God of great wonders!

    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.

    By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,

    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

    When the Red Sea saw you, O God,

    its waters looked and trembled!

    The sea quaked to its very depths.

    The clouds poured down rain;

    the thunder rumbled in the sky.

    Your arrows of lightning flashed.

    Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;

    the lightning lit up the world!

    The earth trembled and shook.

    Your road led through the sea,

    your pathway through the mighty waters—

    a pathway no one knew was there!

    You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,

    with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

    What is your Psalm?

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  • WHEN EVERYONE ELSE PASSES YOU IN LIFE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Theology

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    Have you ever caught yourself staring out the window wondering if everyone else is passing you in life?

    Baby number 1, 2, or 3 shows up on your friends profile page.

    A new house for someone else.

    A dream vacation to that spot you’ve always wanted to go to.

    A marriage.  An engagement.  A new car.  A job promotion.

    Have you ever left Facebook or Instagram and felt that you were three hundred steps behind everyone else?

    I have.

    It’s so easy to compare my life to someone else and to see all the good that is going on in their life.  It is so easy to look into the highlight reel of that friend and not see the dark shadows that form around the horizon of their lifestyle.

    Maybe we don’t see how the 6 digit salary comes at the price of overwhelming stress and little time with their child.  Maybe we don’t see the health problem that is looming overhead.  We don’t see the loneliness that is amplified from the accumulation of more toys and more trips.

    Jesus talked about money so frequently in his teachings that is pretty startling.  He said things like how it’s easier for a camel to fit into the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to get into the Kingdom of God.  He relayed stories of people who went away sad because the cost of following Jesus meant that they needed to trust in him and not in their rich life.  Harsh words relayed to an expectant group.

    I look out my window as I type and see a few little birds on a wire, sitting there and chirping at each other.  I look out my window and see that God cares for those songbirds.  I’m reminded of the words of Jesus,

    “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

    Maybe God will provide.  Maybe God will be and is true to his word.

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  • FOLLOWING JESUS IN PERSONAL CRISIS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    I heard a sermon this past Advent centered on the angel’s message to Joseph and it stuck with me.  See, Joseph was a good man, very kind and just.  When he found out about Mary’s pregnancy and he decided to cut ties with her quietly, otherwise she could have been seriously damaged within that society.  Regardless of his character, Joseph was in deep personal crisis.

    In the middle of his crisis though, his world was forever altered.  While the narrative played out within his house, the music seemed to stop and everything changed.  The whole narrative was life altering for him as he discovered that he was called into being part of God’s rescue plan on earth and his good name would be dragged through the mud.

    Have you ever had a change in your narrative, when all becomes flipped over on its head?

    Have you ever had a moment when God calls you to put your name, talent, treasure, and time on the line?

    Take heart, for you are in the same family as Mary and Joseph, if you, in fact, follow Jesus.  He calls you to take a risk.  Take a risk and follow him, even if the costs are high.

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  • WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP RUNNING, EVEN IF IT HURTS.

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    Big Sur Mud Run 2011

    Life is like a marathon.

    It’s a long, grueling race, and within Christian thought, it is a race with a prize waiting for us at the finish line.  It’s a tough mudder, a long adventure of both pain and eventual glory that will often leave you exhausted.  Exhausted yet still moving toward the finish line.  

    There are no quick fixes to this race, not even if you prefer sprinting.  There is pain but no instant pain relief and obstacles but no easy fix to hurdle over them.  Sure, there are straight paths with sunshine and water stations, but there is also that grueling hill at mile 7 and bottleneck when you’re almost halfway there.

    The Christian life is a race with an imperishable prize of glory that will neither fade nor disappoint.  The marathon of the Christian faith is one that follows after Jesus, even in exhaustion and frustration (when will this mile be over with?!).

    Keep running, even if it hurts.

    The founder of our faith, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, ran this race with the joy set before him.  He endured the cross with you in mind and ultimately we can draw strength from his own perfect account.

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  • WHEN HEAVEN PAUSED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

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    I stumbled across this passage in my Advent devotional last week on the amazing Incarnation event and wanted to share it with you all.   The Incarnation was a miraculous event when God became man and celestial dance of heaven might have momentarily paused.  Enjoy this thought:

    Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands of joy?

    -Madaleine L’Engle

    We don’t know if there was a pause, but there must have been at least a shutter by the evil one and a joyful song from the host of heaven.

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