Friday, November 28, 2014

Confetti Joy

I admit it; I was surprised by the confetti. My mouth gaped open, there was a sudden intake of breath. And then I smiled. I wasn’t expecting anything fancy for a $20 concert, even though it was one of my favorite bands. I loved it all. I loved the concert. I loved the confetti.

After my initial happiness at the fluttering colors, I began to think of how foolish it was to like bits of paper flying around in the air and how someone was just going to have to clean it up later. But then I realized how stuffy and cynical I sounded. Why can’t I just take joy in the beauty I’ve been given? Something that was meant to give me pleasure, did. And here I am complaining about it in my head.

The next day I was cycling through my thoughts about confetti and staring out my back window. It was a frivolous blizzard of yellow leaves. They were stunning in the sunshine.  And then it hit me. God also likes confetti; after all, he invented it! And we, all superior and grown up, instead of taking a child’s joy in them complain about how much work it is to rake them up.

So many things in life are like this. I spent a good bit of time convincing one of the 1st grade boys in our after-school tutoring program that participating in the activities was going to take some hard work but that it would be worth it in the end. He would learn and he would probably have some fun too. Take joy in the work.

It’s the same thing I tell people when I try to get them involved in volunteering and working with refugees and other internationals. It’s not easy. It takes a significant amount of work to become friends with a person who barely speaks your language. When cultural differences cause confusion, you can feel lost and idiotic. But it’s all worth it. The joy, the friendships, seeing God’s stories in the lives of people very different from you, seeing God work in your own life through it all, all these things are incredibly beautiful and valuable.
Sure, you may have to start with a bit of death like the trees do, a bit of choosing the hard thing over the temporary thrills of the moment, deciding to turn yellow at the edges. You may have to become open and bare and vulnerable to the elements and break free of the shell of your comfortable living. You might have to say “Hello” to a Muslim, or a Mexican, or your next-door neighbor. And then they may want something from you: your attention, your love, your service. Sacrifice your perceived safety on the altar of God’s call to the world. And then joy in what God adds to your life, the confetti colors of his creation, the overabundance of leaves and laughter.
Join me in this Isaiah path to joy.
...if you pour yourself out for the hungry
   and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.

Monday, September 29, 2014


A few months ago, a kind woman gave me a couple of hand weights to share with some of the refugee women I work with. Some had mentioned an interest in exercising. I tossed them onto the floor of my back seat in a plastic bag. And there they sat.

In a few weeks they had escaped their plastic bag and would roll and rustle every time I turned a corner. They were taunting me with my inadequacy on many levels. First, I should have gotten around to giving them away. Second, maybe I should be using them myself!

And then it hit me. How many times in life do I let people give me their expectations, the weights of their standards, the burdens of their dreams? Just because someone else wants to live until they are 120, doesn't mean I have to strive for that. Just because someone wants to run a marathon doesn't mean I have to start training. Just because someone takes a certain vitamin and calls it their miracle drug, doesn't mean I have to spend half my income on it too.  Everyone has their own obsession.

I've got my own. When the woman in class mentions her traumatic memories of finding body parts of a relative, and it triggers the memories and fears of another lady who cries for her family in ISIS controlled areas, there is little to do but listen.

I've realized I can't care about everything; I don't have it in me. Some weights belong to other people and not to me.  But even more than that, I'm not the one who is supposed to carry any of these weights. Jesus bears my burdens.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Lamentations Poem

Tides rush down un-wooed by the moon
And the soft grey wool of the sky unravels
Like myself all undone to the earth
A puddle weeping into the broken cracks

Neighbor drummer pounds the sounds
Inside my sorry head late at night
Intoxicated with too much thinking
The plants outside too drunk with drinking

Will I awaken tired and sad?
The plants will thrive and green.
Or will the tears be spent tonight
The stains be dry in the morning light
And new mercies shine again?

Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, September 01, 2014

Preaching to Myself

I'm always going around telling people to do things they are afraid of. For example, "Talk to the lady with a headscarf. She's not scary. She could use a friend and probably someone to speak English with her." Or, "You could teach in a foreign country. It's actually really fun!" Or even sometimes things that are a little more mundane, "You can step out of your shell and talk about something deep, something that hits below the surface conversation about the weather."

And all this is pretty easy for me. I'm not the type that is easily frightened by the unfamiliar. I moved to Iraq when my country still had an active military presence there. People called me brave, but it didn't feel like bravery because it wasn't scary to me in the first place. So sometimes I'm not very compassionate towards people who are afraid of things. I see their fear and how it keeps them from doing amazing things and I just don't understand.  Get a grip, people!

That is, until I run into the wall that is my own fear. When my own insecurities and inadequacies are on the surface of something new, suddenly fear is a totally understandable and reasonable response! I mean, that wall is made of brick! How could I possible get over or go through THAT!

For me, that meant being filmed... like... on camera. I think I had to pee every fifteen minutes that morning and visibly shaking as the time drew near. The first take had me looking like a frozen deer in the headlights. I had to preach the same message to myself that I so often give to others. "It's good to do something that scares you. It's worth it to step out of your comfort zone. This will help you grow and help others hear something new."

Thankfully, I was blessed to work with people who are my friends, who have great grace for me, and know me well enough to help me relax and laugh a little. In all, it was a good experience, even a little fun. I was running on adrenaline for the rest of the afternoon but adrenaline can make you very productive, so that was awesome.

So the message I preach to my friends here, I also preach to myself, because it is true. Our lives are better when we step into something uncomfortable, when we try new things, when we step out to do the things that God calls us to do, rejecting our irrational fears and instead walking in faith in the God who made us.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Celebrity Teammates

I've really enjoyed watching the World Cup this year. I got into living overseas, four years ago, and it didn't wear off in the last two years in the US. The game between the US and Belgium was so much fun to watch, despite the outcome. The most of the press in the US has been on the fantastic goalie, Tim Howard, and rightfully so. He's amazing. His saves were fantastic. At one point the announcers said that he had not once dove in the wrong direction. All that, and he's good looking!

The aftermath of it, at least for him, is an incredible jump in celebrity status. He's trending on FB. He spoke to the president, along with the team captain Clint Dempsey. You know you've gotten into the big league if the president calls you AND films himself while doing it. I mean, wow.

The articles have been, as a whole, very positive. Even the captain of the Belgian team has respect for the play of Tim Howard. But there's something about all of this that I don't understand. Suddenly, there are also articles about how Tim Howard's a Christian and it's all shocking and wow, I bet you didn't know. What's up with that?

I'm all for supporting your team. As a Christian myself, I know that other Christians are my family. But the sudden interest in his faith seems, disingenuous. It's like we only care if he's a Christian once he's famous. Either that, or there's the idea that because he's a Christian and famous that I'll get some fame because I'm a Christian? I don't know, really. I know that's not what people were thinking when they wrote the articles, but I can't help but feel that its false boasting or something.

Maybe I'm wrong to be a little annoyed by these things. I mean, I'm glad he's going to Heaven and all; I'm happy when my family succeeds. But are we happy to know about believers who aren't succeeding on the earthly stage? Are we willing to identify ourselves with them as easily? Do we Christians just as excitedly claim them as part of our "team" as well? Or does our embarrassment over our less flashy relatives really mean we disown them and send them into exile.

I know there's a balance. Modesty is required for the unpresentable parts of the body of Christ. But somehow I don't think earthly success and celebrity is really the measure of a man.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Morning Snippets

This morning in my car I sang the Baby Shark song, Old MacDonald, If You're Happy and You Know It, and some song with Boom Chicka Chicka in it. The kids called out one song after the other asking me to sing with them. Their mother laughed at them and me, perhaps more at me for singing along.

I loved it. I'm still smiling. I'm exhausted from having to pull kids aside, make them look in my eyes, and repeat: "Keep the ball on the floor." We still managed to break one light shade. "No snacks in the main room." The little boy points at his brother all the while there are bits of chip stuck to his own shirt. After a whole pile of chips mysteriously gets spilled in one corner, the boy and I have another chat: "Do you see why I made that rule? You made a mess that has to be cleaned up." He understands and one thread of trust is built. I don't make rules for no reason.

One little boy is used to getting his own way. His habit is to slap the adult's face or spit if he is not given whatever he wants. But by today he has realized, that doesn't work with me. I told him no and instead he put his arms around my neck and put his head down on my shoulder. Trying a new tactic. He still wasn't allowed to clobber the other children. But I prefer this response.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Safety First!

With all the violence in Iraq now, more and more people comment on how they are glad I’m not there anymore, they are glad that I am safe.

Even before this, people have commented on how they are glad I survived, glad I am safe now, glad I’m in a safer place. It makes me angry. I know they mean well, but it isn’t better to have survived. It isn’t always better to be safe. Men in solitary confinement are safe.

Our modern American society and even especially the church culture has bought into the evolutionary lie that survival is the highest good. We have adopted a Hunger Games mentality where survival determines who is fittest and best. Caution is the new moral standard. Anything remotely perceived as reckless is no longer brave, but labeled as foolish. We have found a way to justify our cowardice.

But in the world of Scripture, survival has very little value in and of itself. St. Paul says that to die is gain. Living is mostly characterized by suffering. We are told to live a life that daily anticipates and accepts death, why else would we carry a cross? If safety is your greatest concern, carrying crosses is not your thing.

Survival can be good, but it isn’t an ultimate value. In fact, survival without much more becomes meaningless. Why does suicide even exist?

We are to live urgently, fully, patiently, courageously, carrying a cross with us wherever God has called us to be whether it looks safe or not. After all, our idea of safety is only an illusion. If God calls you to our glorious eternal home he can do so just as easily with a car crash in a small American town as he can with a bomb or gun in the Middle East.

We have fashioned a God of our own making. Our obsession with safety first has created an idol that causes many to cease living at all, to hide away talents and callings in the houses of our lives like agoraphobic old women afraid to step out into the sunshine. The truest death is not found in the dangerous places, but rather found in the dusty forgotten corners where piles of dead bones lay having only wasted away, never having been used or seen or spent.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Overanalyzing My Self

I'm tying myself up in knots as I see how I've grown and changed over the last couple of years in the US. I've become more lazy (or maybe just more easily worn out?), more selfish and focused on my own needs, and I've somehow lost some of my best Bible reading habits. I came back to the States a giant wound open and bleeding, ready to show everyone, because no amount of bandages could hide the mess I was. But now? It's scarred over, and I'm glad for that. But there is less grace from others for being a bit of a mess still. Or maybe there isn't less grace from others, but rather I think there will be less grace from others. Who knows? In this Southern world of people appearing perfect, scars are scary.

Whatever the case, while much of the pain is gone, the adjustments to life in the US still continue. This afternoon I went to take a package to the mail. I was wearing a sleeveless dress around the house. Before I left I put on a sweater. It wasn't until I was half way to the post office that I realized that I don't have to make sure my arms are covered to my elbows here. It was such a habit, and still is, I guess, that I didn't even notice my reasoning for wearing a sweater out into the 85 degree heat. I still find these things as they fly out of the blue and crash into my mind. Sometimes the object is a water balloon or even a soccer ball. But sometimes the cleanup of the wreckage is more time consuming.

As I've gone back to things like teaching English I run into more of these things... different, the same... assumptions about life, living, people, how I'm treated, expectations. Culture affects us on so many levels. I've spent so many years trying to make things work with as little in resources as possible that I find having more things available overwhelming. I am accustomed to relying only on people I know well and trust to accomplish things, but here the networks stretch far and wide. It makes me nervous to trust that a friend of a friend of a friend will come through in this or that situation.

I'm learning more and more how much I desperately need God to walk with me through all of this. My trust should be in him, not in the people anyway. My resources come from him, no matter where I am. He is in control of the many planes circling overhead. I need to rebuild new habits and life patterns, making sure I take the time to spend with him. Because it's only through his help that I can conquer the SELF that cries so strongly for coddling and attention.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sticky Note

1 Peter 5:1-5
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

I am very blessed. The elders I have been under have behaved according to this passage. They love the church, serve eagerly, and lead well. Money and status have not been their object. I have learned from them all well. They will receive unfading crowns of glory and I am glad. 

I find though, that as I get older that these standards are also things I must apply to myself. These good leaders are to be examples to me and thus I should follow in their footsteps. I also realize more and more that people watch me and emulate me. I still, so often, feel like a foolish little girl struggling to even exist in the world so this all feels terribly odd. But God has given me a responsibility by the gifts and learning he has given me and I must also serve and lead.  That said, I am still young and am so very grateful for the mentors and leaders I have. I have many people to learn from and cannot forget that. In all my learning and growth I ought not to think myself greater than I actually am. I must then also be a good example by not being proud.

Thus, humility. Clothe yourselves with humility. Clothe. Am I naked without humility? Or am I merely wearing something else. Do I have a choice here? It sounds like I do. In the morning do I think of putting on humility? Nope. I have often been a proud person. I am smart, but often I think myself smarter that I am, or at least smarter than everyone around me. I am grateful for the men and women God has put in my life that prove me wrong on a regular basis. I am a fool and it is God's grace to me that he never lets my pride get very far before smashing it to bits again. I am thankful. 

For when I am humbled and then become humble I get to rest in his grace. 

So I'm putting up a sticky note. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lazy Saturday

It's completely dark in my house now... except for the arresting white of my computer screen. Somehow it got dark while I sat here; the sun set, I didn't move.

I feel blah. You know that feeling where you were given a whole day to live and breath and accomplish great things and you did so little. One phone call, one missed call, another call forgotten. A couple of times of eating.  I do have a little to show for today. Several inches of afghan suddenly appeared in the dark green yarn. I did catch up on White Collar while the green pineapple shapes spread across my already too warm lap. But that is hardly an accomplishment. I should have weeded the garden even though I don't know what I'll plant there. I should have heated the labels off the wine bottles in my craft room so that I could have turned them into my own crafts. I should have swept the kitchen floor.

But you know, I could have done all of these things and while it might have taken the edge off of the blah, the deep heart blah would still be there. It's all because I didn't talk to God. Sure, I threw out a few phrases every now and then... maybe that's the wrong way to put it. Sure, I talked to God. But I didn't LISTEN.  I didn't read his word, or open my heart in the quiet stillness, or sit on his lap and just be. And that is why I'm blah, today.

I have no life if I hear not the author of life. There is still time in the day. I could take care of the garden, the floor, or even tackle those bottles. But a few hours of work and a night's rest won't dispel the fog in my heart.

Off I go. This dragon will die. I know a good knight who will fight for me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Keep On

1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

This seems to me one of the biggest things the Southern American church struggles with and part of the reason that the modern "health and wealth" teaching is so very flawed. We are afraid of the cost of discipleship and would rather be "safe". How much joy do we miss out on for being safe? Rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ. The few small whispers of moments where I have participated in that suffering gave me understanding and perspective on life that I would never choose to give up. But somehow when faced with these decisions again I shy away from them. I, too, prefer my comfort.  

The passage goes on to talk about judgement. God usually begins by judging his own people. But if we need correction, how much more those who are on the path to Hell? What will they end up facing in the end? Won't it be much worse? Our troubles will be over soon. We get to entrust our souls to the one who made us. It ties back into verse 12--the "fiery trial" for us is often here on earth. The "fiery trial" for those that are lost will be in eternal fire. It's both depressing and a comfort.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What to do when the end of all things is near...

1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The end of all things is near. This statement is assumed, stated as fact. This is the premise on which he bases the statement after saying "therefore".  Some think this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, others the increasing persecution, whatever the case, the instructions are clear. Be alert and sober minded so that you can pray. I am reminded of the disciples falling asleep in the garden. For them the end of all things was near. They were asked to keep watch, be alert, and pray. But they could not. So often I turn to things that numb my mind instead of staying alert. This is foolishness and disobedience. 

Above all, love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers. God's love has covered our sin, not in some willful blindness but with grace and his blood. Love invites people over and serves them (hospitality) without grumbling, without complaining about how you have to clean your house, without bringing up grudges. Love serves dinner to and washes the feet of the man who will betray you. 

It logically follows that we are to use our gifts to serve others. I've been reading Richard Fosters "Celebration of Discipline" again. I'm not sure I've ever really finished it; I find myself re-reading sections over and over. Service is one of them. God has been good to me. I have many gifts. And I know the consequences of pouring them out on others. Sometimes they are received with joy; other times they are thrown back in your face. But you cannot fill yourself up again either way. But the truth of it is here. These things we have are gifts. I didn't give them to myself, they are not an outpouring of myself. Rather they are what I've been given by God, his outpouring into me is my pleasure and joy to be able to pour out to others. In imitation of Christ who didn't hoard his great wealth in himself in heaven, but came to earth to pour himself out, to pull out a towel and wash his disciples' feet, even those of Judas. Thus our words, our service, is God's. The strength to continue in it is his also. And in the end, the glory is his as well. It is my prayer that both I and you will be filled with God's strength to do his will, to use his gifts as faithful stewards in the service of others. 

What did Jesus do when the end of all things was near? He was alert and praying. He was loving even his betrayer. He was hospitable and serving.  

"Voluntary servitude is a great joy." -Richard Foster

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


1 Peter 4:1-6
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Sometimes various pastors I know talk about going through Scripture so that you can't escape dealing with portions that are difficult. It sounds nice when they say it, sort of like you know they can't get away with a lot of nonsense. When it comes around to yourself, though, things are a little more difficult. Verse one of chapter four makes no sense to me. I don't understand how Christ's suffering in the flesh is a way of thinking or living in the flesh having ceased from sin. I know there are people who believe in some sort of instantaneous sanctification that happens after we're saved, but I haven't found that view supported throughout Scripture or even in the lives of people who profess that view. It could be interpreted in the same way as the other verses about "living in sin" and that makes sense although I haven't looked up the Greek. Maybe I should. Ok.  "Has made an end to fault or failure." No progressives or such in the grammar, but translation is a tricky work and my Greek isn't nearly good enough to be authoritative. I'm going to let this sit and keep going to see if context helps.

Whatever the previous verses mean, it is clear that we are to behave differently. The past carries all sorts of sin, but for now we are not to join in with them. This reminds me of some of my friends in the Special Forces. Drinking parties were the norm. When we didn't join in, they moderated their own drinking, but they thought we were weird. They didn't malign us, though. We all must give an account. 

And then another odd verse. The gospel was preached to the dead. Jesus did it in those three days he was dead. That they too might live in the spirit. That always seems to be such a victorious part of the story. All those who died before Christ who believed in his coming got to be rescued! 

Back to the beginning. We are not to continue to live in sin, certainly. But what more does this mean? That after we die (is that the suffering mentioned?) we get to cease from sin? Or that through Christ's death an end to sin has been made? Is it that through Christ's suffering and death we are set free from sin and given the Holy Spirit (God's will) to live by? Perhaps. Perhaps there is more that I'll discover in another ten years. That's the cool thing about Scripture. There's always more to learn. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jonah Days

The black bell tolls the death knell
It rings in formless tones the fatal word
Of power and fear and helpless drowning
It gives me its ominous name "Overwhelmed".

The white page is vast with empty hope
Uncertainty of life and dreams that press pale
Like a giant whale about to swallow me whole
Though I am not yet running... to or fro.

But I want to run. To hide myself away alone, my fear
Of alone, to block out both the black and white
Not to risk the taming and giving of the wild things
Not to risk the tears and grief and failure.

They will come. They always do. I  know
I bleed red when cut by life's sharp shards
My legs buckle against my will and I fall
And on the way down I wait for the pain.

But then, there I am carpet-faced and crying,
and from there I can see, and seeing, I have hope.
The gong is not for me, the page is not a void.
I can see the palace, and I am not alone.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


1 Peter 3:13-22
     Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.     For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
This passage I have always found confusing. Having read the stories of the martyrs and even the suffering that Paul experienced, how could her write this question: now who is there to harm you? There are plenty to do harm. It does remind me of the passage  that talks about not fearing those who can hurt the body only. 

The next phrases I really like. We are to always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is in us. We don't need all the answers to every question. We aren't required to be prepared for every weird detail that may be thrown at us. But if we are believers we must have hope and we had better know why we have that hope. And we had better be able to give the reason for that hope without getting all testy about it. 

Our model for this, as usual, is Christ. HE SUFFERED for doing good, and even his suffering was turned into something good. This brings me back to the first question. Who is there to harm you? Well, Jesus did good and he was harmed. I'm still thinking I must be missing something. 

Noah was saved, baptism... saves? If it is an appeal to God. How does this fit with the Presbyterian view of baptizing children? Can babies make an appeal to God? Or are their parents making an appeal to God? Does someone else's appeal "work"? Isn't it God's work? I have more questions of this part than answers, it seems. 

I wonder if this is why people ask questions at baptisms. They show that they are prepared to give an answer for their hope. 

But we do resolve with the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is our advocate at the right hand of God in heaven. He's in charge. So those questions can sit for now. I have the only answer I need. 

Monday, January 20, 2014


1 Peter 3:8-12
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For
“Whoever desires to love life    and see good days,let him keep his tongue from evil    and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;    let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,    and his ears are open to their prayer.But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 
It is amazing how foolish these words sound to the world. Sometimes I just want people to get what they gave me, or "get what they deserve" as if  I am some sort of impartial judge who knows what each crime should receive. And yet, this is not how Christ treated me. Here he calls me to become as he is and was... blessing and forgiving those who were trying to destroy him.

And we all want to know what God is calling us to. Here we have one clear answer: He is calling us to bless when we are cursed and to bless when we are reviled. No snappy retorts or witty comebacks. "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." Do good to those who persecute you and do all sorts of evil against you. This means everyone from the friend who cheats at a card game even up to the heinous crime of cutting you off in traffic. This means do good to the person who is trying to get you fired at work and the person who could be the next suicide bomber and the person who gets you put in jail for your good works. All of these things are real; I'm not making them up.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


1 Peter 3:1-7

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
I find this passage a bit intimidating to write about. The same standards apply as always. Is it true? Will I
obey it? Of course it's true and I hope to obey it someday. Much of it applies to me whether married or not. Do I define myself by my appearance, by gold (or maybe cheaper stuff) or my clothes or even my weight? Yes. Do I sometimes spend more time on those things than on what is going on in my heart? Yes. Is my spirit quiet and gentle? Do I have to answer this online? Ouch. This is how holy women who hope in God adorn themselves. Do I hope it God? Husband or not, this is an intimidating and convicting passage. People usually get caught up in their reactions to the subject to husbands part and miss the fact that the rest of it is far harder. And the men don't get off easy either. They can get their prayers hindered by how they treat their wives. That's scary too.

Thursday, January 09, 2014


1 Peter 2:18-24
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Betrayal is one of the most painful things.
Believe me; I know. Hopes, dreams, trust, it all shatters in your hands all of a sudden and the shards leave you bleeding in a million places. When you've done good, that which is universally seen as good and then... Well, it's not easy. But how small has my suffering been compared to what my God has gone through for me? He chose his betrayer to be in his close circle. He knew he would betray. He ate with him the very night that the kiss was given. These are the steps we are to follow in. Jesus was faultless, doing only good. And yet God called him to face this. And he faced it by entrusting himself to the one who judges justly. He entrusted himself and his own will to the Father and to the Father's plan. Why? We were lost. And the shepherd bore betrayal, bore a thousand thousand tiny cuts all for us. All to heal us.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


1 Peter 2:13-17
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
As Americans we hate authority. We think freedom means having no authority, which is wrong. People get worked up especially with regards to government. But this passage, and others like it, seem pretty clear that you are to honor governmental authority. But here in the US most of us have very few run-ins with the government, as much bad-mouthing might go on. So how about we get practical.

"Honor everyone." That's pretty all inclusive. What about the husband and wife who make porn in their basement? How about the gay couple that wants to adopt? How about the sullen goth teenager or the haughty businessman or the annoying neighbor? What about your sinning parents, siblings, spouses, children? That practical enough for you? Do we even need to move on to: Love the brotherhood, Fear God, Honor the emperor (president)?

I was taught to ask two questions of scripture: Is it true? Will I obey it?

Sometimes I find myself getting so caught up in the confusing parts of scripture that I forget the clear parts. There are more than enough clear parts to spend a lifetime learning to obey. What about this? Honor everyone.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


1 Peter 2:9-12
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
 It's a rather strong contrast here from the stumbling disobedience of the previous verses. We are not that anymore. Rather a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's possession. But none of this is without purpose. This is all so that we may proclaim God's excellencies, his glory for what he has done for us. And what has he done? Called us out of darkness into light, made us his people, given us mercy. These are grand things. 

Next, rules. What? Why rules now? Because the passions of the flesh wage war against my soul. It is for my own good. Also, good conduct is one of the ways I can proclaim what God has done and thus fulfill part of my purpose. When I am spoken against as an evildoer the people will see my good deeds and glorify God. It isn't for my own glory. It's for God's glory. This is why I am set apart, for this work, for God's glory. 

Monday, January 06, 2014


1 Peter 2:1-8
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
What goes into me? Malice? Envy? These are the things contrasted with the pure spiritual milk. What is this milk?  It helps me grow up into salvation, just as a mother's milk grows a baby. But the metaphor continues... "if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." Is this the pure milk, the Lord's goodness? Have I tasted such things. Yes. I have. And the remembrance and thankfulness for those things are what has brought me comfort and stability often in my life. God is good. 

I come to him like a living stone built into his house, to be a holy priesthood. Others stumble, rejecting the cornerstone, refusing to be built into the house of God, refusing to make the sacrifices, refusing to believe, refusing to obey.

Isn't this so often my own struggle. Even though I know I'm of God's house, Jesus' words still sometimes make me stumble. I refuse to step over them, accept, obey them. Rather, trying to go my own way I run into the wall.  But when I remember God's goodness to me, the preciousness of the stone that he is, when I look upon him, I do not stumble. I see and adore.