Monday, January 31, 2011

The Jar of the Body

If you break the jar of the body
You will find blackness inside.
So cleverly hidden, black string in the water
Dispersing rapidly, infecting everything
Inside the jar of the body.
Outside the jar of the body
Beguiling beautifully, deceiving sweetly
So perfectly aligned, these jars on display
Though you would find blackness inside
You will never break them to find it.
You will never find what you seek
If you seek whiteness inside.
So hard to accept, a truth half-realized
Desire for good, good not fully manifest
Inside the jar of the body.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Morsel of Tremendous Weight

This morning was "Communion Sunday" at Wildwood. Our church celebrates Communion every fourth Sunday of the month, which means it doesn't happen often, and I'm always pretty excited when it does.

Dave Robbins, our youth pastor, preached the message, which he opened with a string of humorous oxymorons including "hospital food," "military intelligence" (well, he implied this one but didn't outright state it because "he wants the military people to like him"), and "casual sex."

Finally,  he came to "self righteousness." You can imagine how the sermon went from there. We have no righteousness in our selves at all - we have nothing to offer in the way of goodness. It is only through Christ becoming sin on our behalf that we now have the righteousness of God; that we have righteousness at all!

I was particularly blessed by Dave's highlighting of this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Communion is serious. Someone who is not a believer should not partake of it. Believers should search their hearts - "examine themselves," as it were - before partaking. We must consider where our lives are not lining up with our holy identities before we engage in such a vivid picture of the gospel and the holiness in which we now live.

I am so appreciative that the Wildwood pastors care enough to admonish their flock about the importance of a right heart in Communion, because it doesn't seem like a topic that Christians often talk about. It's not a warm, fuzzy verse in any way. Au contraire, it's really a bit alarming - no one wants to incur guilt by taking the Lord's Supper! Such verses can be hard to bring up with a few people, much less an entire congregation.

The Holy Spirit's presence was strong today as the congregation met with the Lord, repenting in humility and joy. My heart was richly blessed with the resplendence of the gospel - in addition, I was reminded that we should not be afraid to talk about the "hard things" in the Bible. They are there for a reason, and God will use them, as he did today. All praise and glory be to him!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Great Adventure of the Christian Life

I'm coming to realize something -- a great truth.

It came after a bout of bitter tears yesterday. The short of it was I was questioning God's timing in several areas of my life. I couldn't comprehend why God would withhold something from me that is good, that I earnestly desire and that I would do well with.

As I was crying, a statement I made months ago came to mind. I was describing a young man I know to Chris. I said that the young man "has so much love to give that he just wants to put it somewhere. However, he directs it all into the wrong places (in this case, to girlfriends instead of God)."

Suddenly, I realized that I was no different from that young man. I had so much good intention toward this thing I wanted from God -- so much enthusiasm and love! Wisdom settled into my heart like a sweet, comforting whisper sinking into my ears. Don't direct your enthusiasm and love into all the wrong places. Give it all to God. Find all joy in him. Be completely content in him."

This is the great adventure of the Christian life: that as we walk with God, relying on him entirely, the things he chooses to give us along the way will be sweeter and more beautiful surprises than what we would've chosen for ourselves. We always try to conjure - we try to make spiritual situations happen, we try to improve ourselves, we try to love people better. The truth is, when we let go and say, "God, I love you above all. I will follow you whatever you ask me to do," we're so busy looking at God that we don't even realize we're about to stumble on a moment of great spiritual significance, growth, or depth. Then we stumble upon it, and our joy is unsurpassable. We are able to say, "God, when I trusted you, you brought me right to where I needed to be. You blessed me in a place I wasn't even looking for blessing. Thank you, mighty Father!"

I long to live the adventure. Truly, there is nothing my heart wants more!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Dear friends,

Again, I want to feature the work of another writer that I think you will enjoy. My husband wrote this poem for me not too long ago, on my 22nd birthday. I think it's beautiful.

What? Do you dare to suggest that this is an excuse for not writing myself? Well, maybe the tiniest bit. :) Mostly, though, I want to share the art. Hope you like it.



Though darkness came this year, and pain
it has not cast us down nor any battle won,
and clouds there are that gather still
but cannot kill the sky nor hide the rising sun

Through trial, tempest, shadows, rain,
we jogged like dogged marathoners 'gainst our fears
though road was turned to mud and mire
our feet we pounded, raised again against the year

Though murk and gloom around have lain
it has not conquered you (nor us) nor overcome
and mighty though its bluster be
this sorrow is but fog, by daylight soon undone

Through canyons, valleys, crevices,
we hiked like mountaineers against the rocks and shame
though path was crumbling dust and shale
we unimpressed pressed on, though wearied, wounded, lamed


Another year awaits your tired, lovely soul,
But I swear again you will not walk these months alone.

My hand in yours, your beauty still my sword against the night
until we two shall set the world alight, aright, aflight

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Race for Our Humility

Dear friends,

Be encouraged today! Read this wonderful post by my freshman roommate, Emily Powell. She is a wise, godly woman and a dear friend. She writes from the perspective of a Christian philosophy major at the University of Oklahoma.


This note is the product of the combination of my insomnia, stimulating conversations with my parents, and the current quandary of what in the world God wants me to do with my life.

There are several passages of the New Testament that give us images of running a race. We are exhorted, as Christians, to run the race with perseverance, run in such a way to get the prize, run, run, run. I don't know about you, but when I read these passages, I often get rather excited. I am called to the noble, glorious task of running the race, complete with a slow motion ending and Chariots of Fire theme song as I cross the finish line. Sadly, these images of glory are not easily reconciled with the reality of life. I'm not hearing the theme song whenever I'm having a bad day or someone cuts me off in traffic or especially when I'm told that I basically have no chance of achieving my philosophical aspirations because everyone just thinks I'm a stupid Christian. The nerve! Don't they know who I am? I'm a child of God. I've got a race to run here, people and you're making it really hard for me to look great while I do it. But I am beginning to grasp something that is very important. My frustration stems from a misconception. For we are not called to greatness. We are called to lowliness. The actual goal of the Christian life is to lose all our pride, all our glory for the sake of Christ.

However, from the time we are young, we receive a different message, a different goal. We are fed the wisdom of the world, and inevitably as well as unfortunately, some of it sinks in. One of the core "truths" the world teaches us is that we are our own gods and we should live to exalt ourselves. Now, of course, they don't come right out and say this, but it is the underlying message behind all the "believe in yourself" posters pasted across elementary school classrooms. Perhaps, the more adult version of this are "self-help" Christians like Joel Olsteen who assure us that we just have to actualize our own potential. We race for our own sakes and God is that nice teddy-bear-like guy in the sky who loves us so much He just can't wait to help us along in the pursuit of our own glorification. Beware. This is not only wrong, it is, as I am becoming increasingly aware, completely contrary to the message of the Bible.

Yet, we can easily fall prey to this, at least to some extent. It is actually quite alarming how many people ascribe to this kind of soft, fuzzy Christianity complete with a simplistic, "Jesus Loves You" Gospel. The danger of this is that we completely misinterpret and misuse the truth that God loves us. Jesus is then put on the sidelines of the race, cheering us on and saying, "just believe in yourselves!" His love becomes nothing but a bonus prize that confirms that we're really something special. We know it and we're glad God does too. This is basically nothing but worldly wisdom dressed up in its Sunday best. Don't misunderstand me. God does love us and He loves us in a powerful, unfathomable, and lavish way. However, it is not a love that elevates us. Rather, it is a love that first, brings us low and then, draws us near. If we truly grasp who God is and who we are, the knowledge that He loves us should not inspire pride, but rather, the deepest humility.
One of the main themes of the Gospel is restoration. Jesus, through His sacrifice, has restored what was lost in the garden of Eden. But what was lost? It says in Genesis 2:25 that "the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Think about that, and not just literally, but symbolically as well. Think about being totally and utterly exposed and yet, knowing no shame. This was possible for Adam and Eve before the Fall because they knew exactly who they were. They were in an incredibly humble state, but they were His. They needed no covering for this was enough.

However, after they ate the fruit, "they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Genesis 3:7 They lost their identity in God that allowed them to exist just as they were, just as they were created to be. Now, they had to find ways to cover themselves and the shame of their exposure. I think of this symbolically. We use all manner of things to "cover" ourselves. Whether it be wealth, relationships, position, intelligence or even legalistic self-righteousness, we find ways to make sure we're not exposed and to convince the world and ourselves that we are okay. This is what is at the heart of the wisdom of the world, to dress ourselves up so we look better than we really are. We attempt to recreate, by our own efforts, the absolute peace and assurance of worth and identity that Adam and Eve had in the garden. But we cannot do this on our own! In fact, the message of the Gospel is to cast off our "coverings", our own feeble attempts at righteousness, and to merely be found in Christ.

I think that this idea of casting off our coverings is inextricably linked to the metaphor of running the race. One of my favorite pictures of the race that the Bible gives is the familiar passage of Philippians 3 where Paul exhorts us to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus." Can't you just hear the Chariots of Fire music now? But let's back up a little bit to verse 7. Here Pauls tells us that "whatever was to [his] profit he now considers loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, he considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord." Beautiful, eloquent, inspiring words indeed. But what is Paul really talking about here? What is he losing for the sake of Christ? In the preceding verses, he tell us. "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." Philippians 3:4-6 Basically, the point is that, legalistically, Paul had it all. In terms of self-made "coverings," his were made of silk. And yet, he considered "them rubbish, that he may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of his own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ." Philippians 3:8-9 Paul, contrary to the wisdom of this world, was trading his high rank and reputation in order to know Christ and "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Philippians 3:10

All this talk about suffering and death doesn't quite fit in with the self-glorification message of the world and my dreams of following in Eric Liddell's footsteps. And yet, this is the call of the Christian life, not to pomp and glory, but to imitate the incredible humility of the death of Christ. Think about it. We are commanded to be like Christ, but what was Christ like? As he walked to Calvary, did He grasp at coverings, at dignity, at pride? No. Rather, for our sake, He was humbled and completely and utterly exposed. Should we not, in turn, be willing to do the same for His sake? Yes, we should! So, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1 Yet, we should remember, with sobriety, that in throwing off everything that hinders, we may very well be left totally exposed, totally humiliated. We may not achieve anything particularly remarkable according to worldly standards or gain any kind of recognition. We may not gain much of anything on this side of the finish line. In fact, it is much more likely that we will gain the censure and the mockery of the world, suffering and humiliation. We might lose it all. We might have to stand exposed for the sake of Christ. If that is the price of His glory in our lives, we must be willing to pay it.

Yet, the beautiful and wondrous part of it is that, by casting off these "coverings", by forsaking the approval of man and the wisdom of this world, we are found in Christ. We belong to Him once more. We are, before God, as Adam and Eve were, exposed and yet, without shame. We are restored to that perfect state of humility, being just what we were created to be, nothing more, nothing less. Like them, we need no covering. For Christ's righteousness is our cloak, His grace our mantle. Now, freed from the need to cover ourselves, we no longer race in pursuit of our glory, but rather, we race in pursuit of our humility for the sake of His glory.

And now, I am going to bed. Or else I won't be racing anywhere for a really long time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For Brentley

Blue eyes like stars landed
In a blanket of snow
Look world, look! The Lord rules the earth!
A smile that breaks gently
Like the water on sand
Sense world, sense! He moves His right arm!
Formless words - no sound prettier
My ears have yet heard
Hear world, hear! Our creative God speaks!
Oh, fair little creature,
Here, beauty I see
That makes the world tremble -
A hint of God's glory!

Photo courtesy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review - Andrew Peterson's Counting Stars

For those moments when words fail, Andrew Peterson fills in the blanks, and he does it for God. Peterson’s worship overflows in a way that makes listeners desperately thirst to do the same – his new album is like a master painting that inspires others to pick up a brush and try to paint, too.

I’ve never heard the likes of Peterson – he truly wields his acoustic guitar and smooth voice like a paintbrush as he sings to life the spiritual and emotional beauties that overflow in the life of one who knows God. Counting Stars, the title of his most recent album released in July 2010, is an appropriate one. The collection of songs whispers of the treasures of unseen worlds, and reaches out an invisible hand to brush the edge of the infinite and flawless.

Peterson was born in small-town Florida in the 1980s, where he dreamed of adventure as he poured through fiction books like those of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Eventually, he moved to Nashville, where he began his career as a musician. His song “Nothing to Say” became a Top Ten radio hit in 2001. In addition, Peterson received a Dove Award nomination for his single "Family Man," and has since garnered much respect among other Christian musicians. Peterson is also an accomplished fantasy novelist as the author of the Wingfeather Saga, which won the 2010 Christy Award for best young adult fiction. He is married with two sons.

Peterson has frequently been compared to Rich Mullins, and rightly so. The self-proclaimed Mullins aficionado writes profound, yet conversational lyrics and plays with a mellow, folk-like sound that hearkens back to older Mullins songs like “Here in America.” However, Peterson drops the early 90’s flair and sticks to simple, effective instrumentation with acoustic guitar, piano, bass, light percussion, and occasionally strings and a french horn. The result is a sound that lends itself to quietness of mind, and simple consideration. Peterson invites us into this mindset in his charming opening song “Many Roads”:
If you'll step inside this great glass elevator/It'll take us up above the city lights/To where the planet curves away to the equator/I want to show you something fine.

There’s more to Peterson than just good sound, though. Clearly, he knows why he’s doing what he’s doing – God has given him a gift, and he wants to squeeze every last bit of joyful worship out of it to give back to his Lord. A listener will never get the impression that Peterson threw his lyrics together quickly or carelessly. The words are consistently thoughtful and thought provoking, simultaneously ministering to listeners in a raw, human-to-human way as in the song “You Came So Close,” and leading them past the wall of the mundane to the realm of the invisible God as in the more melancholy “The Last Frontier.”

Counting Stars covers a rich range of themes, from fidelity to the fear of God – basically, anything that stirs up Peterson’s bone-deep emotion. However, the songwriter’s central concept is that beauty saturates human experience, which he speaks extensively of in “The Magic Hour.” Though Peterson is too subtle to out-and-out state that theme, it’s incredibly clear. Just as the promise that Abraham’s descendants would outnumber the stars (Genesis 15:5) began with God, every statement about life that Peterson makes points to God, its origin.

No matter where a Christian listener is in life, Counting Stars will renew the childlike wonder of the listener’s soul. Peterson is an artist worth commending and supporting as he continues to use his talent to glorify God.