22 June 2017

Wet Noise

White noise
     or rather, wet noise
the rustle of raindrops
     splashing upon
          parking lots
     roof tops
           maple leaves
   and Buicks. 

Each splash a unique timbre. 

I walk endomed in canvas,
     a persistent rap-tap-tap
         over my head. 

I look up and see
     effervescent droplets
     tap dancing
          nature's staccato rhythm
above me. 

They joyously entreat me
     to leave my safe space
          and join in the rain dance. 

20 June 2017

All life is a poem

All life is a poem
     sometimes comedy
     sometimes tragedy
but always beauty.

Too many fail to notice
     the rhythms
     and cadences
     in their lives,
reading life as if it were
     a newspaper article
     and not a work of art.

But God is a Creator of beauty
     and not just a reporter of fact.

Oh that we would live poetic lives!
     not atonal drudgery
     but melodic dance,
with eyes to see
     evidences of God's creative hand
and ears to hear
     how our own notes
     even when played in the minor key
     are essential to all creation's harmony.

19 June 2017

Cornerstone

According to dictionary.com, a cornerstone is "the chief foundation on which something is constructed or developed." In other words, regardless of what constitutes something, the cornerstone is the most important piece. It defines the essence of something.

There are innumerable things in Christianity that are not the cornerstone. Let me list a few, so that you have an idea:

  • The age of the universe.
  • Whether the big bang is true. 
  • Whether Noah's flood was global or local. 
  • Which translation of the Bible to use. 
  • Whether or not (insert random famous person) is/was a Christian.
  • Whether there are different roles for men and women in the church. 
  • Whether premillenialism, postmillenialism, or amillenialism are correct. Perhaps its something else. 
  • Correct church polity. 
  • The degree of demonic influence. 
  • Who the nephalim were. 
  • Whether I may mow my lawn on Sunday. 
  • Whether speaking in tongues is a gift for the church today and, if so, what it is. 
  • Whether modern worship music is permissible. 
  • Whether liberals are Christian. Or conservatives. 
  • Who is allowed to take communion / the Lord's Supper / the Eucharist. 
  • Whether all dogs go to heaven. 
Admittedly, these issues can be important to a greater or lesser degree. They are worth discussing, even passionately, in an attempt to seek truth. But how often do we colossally miss the point? Often people devote themselves to drilling down into one or more of these issues, losing sight of what is most important. Let me suggest that when any of these secondary issues eclipse what is principal, we do ourselves and others a great disservice. 

So, what does the Bible teach us is primary?  
  • Alluding to himself, he told the Pharisees, "the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17)
  • This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.--Acts 4:11-12
  • For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. -1 Corinthians 15:3
  • The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.- 1 Timothy 1:15
Listen, Jesus is the cornerstone of everything related to the Christian faith. Do not become unduly distracted by secondary issues during those times when you have trouble seeing clearly the principle issue. Keep Christ your focus. He is the crux of the matter. 

"Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."--John Newton

18 June 2017

stirred

Let us think hard about how to stir one another up to love and good deeds. Let's make sure we continue to meet together and encourage one another, even though some have stopped doing so. Let's redouble our efforts at this as the Day of the Lord draws near.--Hebrews 10:24-25 (paraphrased)

What is the purpose of the gathered church? Certainly, communal worship is a significant part. We join together to raise our voice in prayer and praise to our King. It is also a place where we commune together around the Lord's table, reminded of our bonds to one another and to Christ, established and maintained by the blood of Jesus.

The author of Hebrews shows us another purpose: to stir one another up. Gathered saints are community in action, a place where we learn love and other-centeredness. We are encouraged to give thought to how to provoke and challenge each another to love and serve one another more deeply. It seems to me that we wouldn't have to think too hard about how to love those who seemingly never fail us. (In truth, the only ones who will never fail us are Christ and those with whom we never get beneath the surface). So we have to wrestle with how to do this in true community. We have to consider how to love those who are at times unlovable. We have to think about how to serve, with other-centeredness, the most self-centered among us. In truth, our sin-nature is defined by self-centeredness, so this describes us all at times, yet because Christ is in us, we are capable of true love and service.

Yet absent community,we will not be able to plumb the depths of Christ's love reflected in relationship. God's plan for His people is not isolation nor abandonment, but true community, not made up of perfect people, but led by a perfect Christ.

17 June 2017

A Poem: Peace and Grace

Grace and peace
     peace and grace,
fill up my life
     with Jesus's ways.

Pour out Your grace
     in spite of my sin,
make me gracious toward others
     when they fail me again.

Give me Your peace
     when my world is a storm,
with the ballast of Christ
     unshakable form. 

14 June 2017

Holy Embers

Flame ignites
rising high
tongues of fire
licking the sky

they extinguish fast
barely touching the wood
black marks left
but only upon the surface

fuel present
spark too
it must be air that's missing...

God's Word is my fuel
holy desire my spark 
yet apart from the breath of His Spirit
it is nothing more than fireworks
...gone and quickly forgotten

may holy embers be kindled
fueled by Your Word
enflamed with holy desire
Your Spirit's breath unceasing
bringing heat and light


12 June 2017

An ambassador's prayer

As a citizen in Your kingdom
an ambassador at Your gates
may I manifest Your Son
with word and deed
a faithful representative of Your throne
committed to justice, beauty, and righteousness
cloaked in a garment of humility, gentleness, and peace
eager to listen
slow to speak
and when I do open my mouth
may my words
breathe Your grace and truth. 

08 June 2017

Forest guide

Wandering the dark forest trail
     my children venture out alone
          dangers, seen and unseen
               are ever-present.
                    Temptations present
                         at every bend.
                 Guideless, they try to make their way.
           Is it any wonder
       if they become lost
    or ensnared?
          Yet I hold the map
                and I have the light.
                      They have watched me study it
                                every day.
                  What good will I be to them
         if I don't enter their journey
    and teach them to read
          and know the map
                as they walk the dark path?
                       May God grant me courage
                             to enter dark places
                                   the wisdom to know the snares
                                         and the dependence on the Spirit
                                                 to bring us safely home.

02 June 2017

june the second

They attack the windows
again and again
so frequently, I wonder, "is it rain?"

But it isn't 

Kamikaze beetles
emblazoned red
dive bomb my windows
a hopeless mission

Tomorrow, lifeless fuselages 
of the June bug squadron
will litter the ground
Mass casualties

Yet they will return again 
tomorrow 

29 May 2017

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire



I waited for the release of As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God (Waterbrook, 2017) by Eugene Peterson for many months, yet when I received it, I was reluctant to begin. There is a certain desire to savor what may be one of the final books by a favorite author. Yet ultimately, it does no good to look at a meal with admiration; one must eat. And Kingfishers is a satisfying meal.

I knew little about the book when I pre-ordered it in November. When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at its length, 372 pages. In the opening letter to the reader, I was also surprised to discover that the book was a collection of 49 teachings from Peterson's 29 years as a pastor. The editorial team wrote, "Throughout this definitive collection of teachings, Peterson is intentional in keeping the main idea the main idea: that we, as Christians, live lives of congruence. Put another way, that the inside matches the outside. Or as we used to hear, that we indeed practice what we preach." Congruence is a good descriptor.

The 49 sermons were broken into seven parts. Each part contained seven sermons centered around the writings of Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon (save one about Job), Peter, Paul, and John. The sermons cover the ground between Genesis 1 and the end of John's Revelation.

Through his books, Peterson has reinforced several themes for me: the importance of prayer, the sacredness of the ordinary, and the the beauty of the Word, expressed through words. Each of these themes found their way into the pages of Kingfishers.

Although I love words, I fail to capture meaning and beauty the way Peterson so consistently does. My hope is that sharing a few of his words whets your appetite for more.

  • Regarding the Sabbath--"One day a week stop what you are doing and pay attention to what God has been and is doing" (page 13). 
  • "We are always drifting off into the impersonal. It is easier and less demanding. But it is also demeaning and estranging. Always and everywhere in Scripture our attention is brought back to the central fact: God is a person; God makes persons; God remakes persons. A person like me" (p. 25). 
  • "We live in a culture that knows little or nothing of a life that listens and waits, a life that attends and adores" (p. 77). 
  • From my favorite chapter, The Beauty of Holiness, "Beauty is the outside and holiness is the inside of what is essentially the same thing: life full and vibrant, life God created and God blessed, life here and now" (p. 78). 
  • "We read and live at different speeds" (p. 158). 
  • "A critical question every Christian has to deal with is 'How can I best assist others to a full, mature growth in the Christian way?'" (p. 189). 
  • "International diplomacy takes time and careful listening. Parenting takes time and careful listening. Friendship takes time and careful listening. And Scripture takes time and careful listening" (p. 236). 
  • "You think religion is a matter of knowing things and doing things. It is not. It is a matter of letting God do something for you: letting Him love you, letting Him save you, letting Him bless you, letting Him command you. Your part is to look and believe, to pray and obey" (p. 291). 
  • "I want to know that the nitty-gritty of my life is taken seriously by the gospel, not just the state of my soul. I don't want a religion of neat little slogans about sunsets and heartthrobs. I want something practical that gets into the working parts of my life" (p. 303). 
  • "If Jesus makes it into our daily behavior, observers will begin to think there might be something to this after all" (p. 307).
  • "In Christ we see the putting to death of self, the killing of self-centeredness, the crucifixion of the ego" (p. 310). 
Once again, Peterson has instructed me in the Jesus way, showing me with thoughtful prose the beauty of Jesus and of a life lived with him.