Saturday, December 31, 2011

open thanks to close friends

funny how one simple thing will trigger a torrent of thoughts.  i am in my living room this morning working thru one of the prayer exercises from the devotional prayer book mike recommended to me back in august when i was in guatemala.  in spite of it being fairly new, the binding is broken.  this is in stark contrast to my bible laying there next to it.  of course my bible is much older, but it has been rebound.  it was THIS that unleashed the flood. 
my bible is rebound because of you all.  a little over a year ago, when james was still among us, you presented me with a monetary gift for christmas, part of which went towards that rebinding.  but i distinctly remember telling you all when you gave me the check that YOU were the real gift.  the monetary contribution was worth far less than the company of men that sacrificed towards that end.  and as i sit here, i cannot help but think about, and thank God for, the incalculable contribution you have made to my life over this past year. 
you have been a crucible for working out my sanctification in fear and trembling and deep pain.  because of you, i have a realization and understanding, like never before, of the value of brotherhood – we have been for each other conduits for the receiving and giving of tangible grace: emergency prayers, texts, phone calls, contacts – fleeting and prolonged –  both face-to-face and skype-to-skype – to help each other in the midst of both short-lived and protracted crises…sometimes we have stood firm…sometimes we have not.  we have shared laughs, and tears – of joy, sorrow, cleansing and burden.  and we have shared prayers for life, in both holy and mundane matters.
our interactions have built me up, challenged me and torn at my soul.  i am a different man because of you.  and it seems fitting, this last day of this year, as i thank God for you, to let you in on the details of my thanks. 
funny…when i refer to us publically as a group i usually use some term like “the thursday morning breakfast guys” – a handle that’s far too long for convenience.  but in my address book groups, you are simply “SOS”…universally known as a cry of distress, but which for me has also come to stand for “Sanctify Our Souls”. 
so with profound gratitude for your life, your friendship, your brotherhood, your love, your prayers, your intercessions, your affections, your tears, your rebukes, your pokings and proddings, your leading me to the cross, your helping me stand when i cannot do so on my own, for invading my life and permanently affecting the course of each and every day, in the name of Christ our savior and master, i give thanks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

a post from satyagiri, igatpuri, india

28 June 2011.  the end of a long day.  sitting upstairs overlooking the atrium – the sound of the wind and the flapping of the windmill, the rain falling into the courtyard below, the gray clouds fly by overhead. calm, peaceful, contemplative – me with ps 139.

this, and the walk out back to the stations of the cross calm my heart, and take my mind to a different place than it’s been so often in the past few weeks.  i’m grateful to find tranquility in the midst of a place and time i desperately wanted to avoid.  God is good.  God is at work in me.

Monday, May 30, 2011


i said goodbye to a good friend yesterday...a guy from a small accountability group.  he’s been a weekly presence in my life for about 3 years now. he graduated with his degree from seminary and now he’s moving away. 
i always thought he was a good guy.  he IS a good  guy. 
and i’m a better man for having known him.
i’ve watched him grow in his faith; in his openness to other guys. we’ve intervened in each other’s lives at critical moments.  we’ve shed tears for each other. 
i cried when i hugged him goodbye; he cried back.  sunday turned notably dreary.
i thank God for letting our the paths of our lives coincide for the time they did. 
and yet, cursed be graduations.
cursed be moves. 
i will miss him.
may God hold you firmly in his gracious, merciful and relentless grip, my friend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

other pleasures

the pleasure of the sun on my skin
the pleasure of hard work and satisfaction of a job well done on the art show
the pleasure of being in the company of good friends
the pleasure of talking with a trusted friend on the phone and having my soul and spirit encouraged and fed
the pleasure of hunger being staved
the pleasure of eating leftover breakfast casserole, and the pleasure of remembering the brothers i enjoyed it with the first time
the pleasure of a hand on my shoulder during prayer
the pleasure of singing worship songs...loudly...very loudly
the pleasure of affirmation that my words penetrated someone’s soul and encouraged them
the pleasure of the warm and loving embrace of my wife
all very real. all very good. no shame.

a reflection on Isaiah 61-62

a friend once said to me “everywhere i go, i go too, and that ruins everything”. i am like this man; i tend not to like my own company.   
for whatever reason, i have always had a poor self image.  i struggle with many things, many sins, but it usually boils down to a struggle with just who i am, my very DNA, and who and how God has made me.  my default emotional position is “I may be a child of God, but he has only acquiesced to let me in to his family…he reluctantly allows me to be here…he graciously tolerates my presence…but when it all comes down to it, i’m peripheral, and he doesn’t really like me like you’d like a good friend. 
this is, of course, heresy…but like i said, this is my default emotional position…left unchecked, i’ll always return to this place. 
enter the grace ev free sermon on Isaiah 61-62:
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn, …to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  …
“You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.  But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah, for the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married. … as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
that the Lord God Almighty King of the Universe would actually delight in me…with all my stuff?  i will never outgrow my need to hear this.
when i cry out to God and ask “why have you made me this way?” it’s like the answer is “so you can show the world that my delight can be even in people like you.”
and now with a constant flow of input from people who keep my spirit in check, i’m growing, slowly changing, from being consumed with how bad i am, to being overwhelmed with how GOOD HE is. 
so hear this, you who are in any way like me; let this sink down into the marrow of your bones and educate your conscience: his delight is in me…and his delight is in you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

an old journal entry

i happened upon a journal of mine yesterday.  as i read some of the entries there was a flood of emotions that attended memories of events long gone.   among those entries was the following:
i was washing pots tonite. so much crud baked onto the bottom of the skillet. stuff that wasn't cleaned off the first time.  and so repeated use over the fire hardened the thin veneer of oil and grease into a coating that wouldn't simply rinse off.  the metal scrubby: hard, sharp edges, scouring powder, lots of effort…and time. repeated circular motions over the same spot…and some, only some of it would come off.  apparently forever amen a part of the pan. is it?  would more time, more effort, more scrubbing and more sheer desire to restore the pan to its pristine, new condition yield its desired effect?  maybe. but there's the spot on the wooden handle, forever blackened because it got too close to the fire.  no amount of scrubbing will take that away.  if the pan had feelings, the scrubbing would hurt, as layer after layer was slowly ground away…good surface is affected by the cleaning of the dirty part. 
at times it seems my life is like that skillet.  layer upon layer of crud, sins never fully dealt with, baked to a hard coating, marring the appearance and making any cleaning now a much more involved process…sigh.  it all depends on the owner of the pot…do you want me clean?  yes.  grind me down, clean me off…make me shine.  restore me.


a friend was present when i read this; he watched as old memories stirred, and grief rose, borne on the wings of failures from long ago.  in his wisdom and in his discernment he reminded me of who i am in Christ, that i am a work in process, and that there is growth and change in me that others can see, even if i sometimes cannot.  i thank God for that man, for his encouragement that transforms sorrow into peace, and for others like him who help me see that the prayer IS being answered; the Owner of this pot IS at work, scrubbing, grinding, polishing, relentless in his determination to restore and renew.   one day...yes, one day...