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Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Pause

Taking a pause. Taking some time to soak up holiday.
In the meantime:

What I'm listening to.
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I don't care how big of a diva he is: he's genius.
(Check out 'All of the Lights' and 'Monster').

What I'm watching.
Last night the Knuckles family gathered around the fireplace for a night of Toy Story 3. No matter age: I'll never grow tired of those toys. My brother also gave me season three of 30 Rock for Christmas: best show on TV.

What I'm reading.
Chronicles of Narnia!
I'm currently on 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (which, did you know, is the second of the series, but actually the first of the seven books published?) and it's fascinating writing. I feel like I should have read them a long time ago. 'The Magician's Nephew' is the first, often forgotten, tale of the founding of Narnia. It's the story of the beginning, of how Aslan sings Narnia into existence, and how man brings evil into creation. It really is awesome: I can't stress that enough.

I needed a recent perspective change: and decided to get it from Luke. I've never been a big picture person: I'm always small picture/details. And while that's good sometimes, it's detrimental other times. Lately I've been focusing on the details and overwhelming myself with finding all the answers. I needed some tough words from friends to remind me of the big picture: of the Gospel, of heaven, of redemption. And so I found myself in Luke: and the things I'm learning are amazing! Things being read this time with a different perspective. I'm seeing how incredible John the Baptist was, what his story was like, what Jesus' ministry looked like, his temptation, his healings, his teachings.
Jesus' baptism: " Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. (3:21-22)
Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth: "He unrolled the scroll and found a place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'.. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" (4:17-21)

What I think you should read.
Some of my favorite bloggers have recently taken blog breaks: in the meantime, read what my sister is doing in Africa! She'll inspire you too.

What I'm learning.
I'm learning big picture. I'm learning the importance of spending time alone with thoughts and to place the things that are just between me and God right where they belong. I'm learning faithfulness to the process (patience has never been my strong suit). I'm learning the POWER of friends: community. The power of knowing you're not alone: the power of knowing you're loved and you're being walked beside and cared for. I feel like the power community has will always be amazing to me: I'll always be blogging about it.
This Christmas Eve was the one of the most important ones I've had: too long of a story to start here but I'd love to share with whoever wants to hear it!

What I'm memorizing.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

What I'm remembering.
The Gospel. The manger = the cross.
And the more you seek Him, the more clear His voice becomes.

Take a pause. Then keep going.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dragon and the Lion


Eustace lives in the fantasy of Narnia as cousins to Edmund and Lucy: the king and queen. In the fifth book: third movie, Eustace finds himself on 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' and immediately, he's incredibly unlikeable. His attitude is awful: the only words coming from his mouth are in the form of complaints. He doesn't like anyone, especially the ones who are trying to help him. He lives in a self-centered world and is confused when others don't seem to live in his world too. He really is terribly irritating and you just want him to get left somewhere.

In chapter six, Eustace stumbles upon a treasure and as he falls asleep thinking selfish, greedy thoughts, he awakens to find himself turned into a dragon. His first feelings are ones of sorrow, loneliness, and regret at his behavior as a boy. He slowly begins adjusting to his new life: longing to be a boy again. He lives in nagging pain that comes from a golden bracelet that's tightly stuck on his leg and that cannot be removed no matter how hard he tries.


Eustace tells the story of his transformation back to boy. He wakes up to see a lion saying to follow him. He leads Eustace to a well and tells him that he must undress first before he can bathe and relieve the pain in his leg. Eustace undresses himself beautifully: all of his dragon skin falls off: only to find himself perfectly dragon again. This happens three times.
And then this:

"Then the lion said.. 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I lay flat on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling my skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.
He peeled the beastly stuff right off- just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me.. and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that, it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing, I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again.
After a bit, the lion took me out and dressed me.. in new clothes."

It's easy to get rid of the shallow parts of our lives. We take off our old skin: our sin: and then we realize we haven't even touched the deep stuff: the Sin. And we'll try and try on our own to get rid of what's unwanted, but it's too hard with human effort. It's actually impossible. Like Eustace, we'll shed the things we can see.. but without the help of Christ, it eventually rebuilds itself. And we'll try to avoid the hurt and pain of removal and transformation and correcting: but it's that hurt and that pain that produce resurrection.
In order to remove the pain our golden bracelets cause, we must be willing to go through even greater pain. And receive an even greater reward.


In 'The Pursuit of God,' A.W. Tozer writes about the Self being the veil that lives within each of us. He says it's the veil that hides the face of God. To get rid of it cannot be done by mere instruction: "when we talk of the rending of the veil.. there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience, that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and no death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did for Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free."

And then he says this:
"THE CROSS IS ROUGH, AND IT IS DEADLY, BUT IT IS EFFECTIVE. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is RESURRECTION glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for JOY that the veil is TAKEN AWAY and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the living God."

So welcome the pain and put on the new.
Colossians 3: 1-17 talks about taking off the old and putting on the new and what that looks like. Verse 3 and 4 say because you have died, your life is hidden in Christ: when Christ appears, then you will appear also. And 2 Timothy 1:7 says God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. He's given us instruction and He's equipped us.
And He's died for us: showing us the ultimate pain and the ultimate resurrection.

Let Christ and the Gospel peel away your dragon and let Him put on your new clothes. Because it's absolutely necessary to experiencing new life. Because the best part of the dying is the rebirth. And because it's exhausting on your own. Free yourself.

And let the lion do His work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Prayer of Jesus

Someone asked me a few weeks ago what the point of going to church was.
If we pray on our own, listen to podcasts, and have regular intellectual spiritual conversations with other believers: what's the reason to go to church?

Since hearing her question and thinking her thoughts, I started wondering too: why go to church? If you can be spiritually fed individually and within your own community, why bother with church? And my mind started rolling and my thoughts started going and I reached a place where I wasn't so sure what I was doing.

I think there are a lot of reasons for church to exist. For community. We need a place to belong, a place to gather and worship with other believers. To be active: to be moving and doing and loving and changing: to be a statement to the world. A place to bring our sin: a place to humbly bow down at the Cross. A place to praise the Gospel.

But what happens when the imperfections of humanity seem to shine above the work of God? What happens if that community becomes judgmental or if you don't hear the Gospel on Sunday or if you don't feel like anyone, yourself included, is actively loving like Christ? And then you think about the Crusades and indulgences and the sins of church run deep.
Because church is messy. It's imperfect. It's full of people of the world: trying and stumbling to live like Christ: people like you and me. It's hard to catch glimpses of God sometimes in church. Like Werewolf Jesus says, we're imperfect people who take our instructions from a book written thousands of years ago: it's inevitable we'll mess up. Church is hard.

And in the midst of these thoughts, a friend told me about John 17.

John 17 is Jesus' final prayer before He is arrested. He starts by praying for Himself and His earthly mission, then prays for the disciples, and finally He prays for US, his future believers.
He prays for His glory to be revealed through us and that we may reflect and imitate Him through our lives, that we may know that the same love the Father has for His son He has for us, and for future believers to be unified through His love.

Jesus loves us. Jesus loves church.

He loves believers thousands of years to come and the common bond they would all have: Him.
He prayed for us to know His love and to make His name great. To remember why we go: why we serve alongside each other: why we worship His name together. He prayed for us to be one: and we are one in church. Right before His betrayal, His arrest, His trials, and His death, He remembers to pray for me and for you and for the Body and for the struggle we would all face within that Body. He tells us what we need to do and how we do that together.

We honor Him by going to church.
And I think that's the best reason to go.
Makes you want to go everyday, doesn't it?

We honor the prayer of Jesus by becoming the fragrance of Christ to others.

Thanks, my friend.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Beautiful Things

Sometimes there's no easy answer.
Black and white have turned to gray. There's confusion and impatience and frustration and sorrow. There's no understanding or peace or clarity. Nothing seems obvious. It's times like that when I just want to be angry or run away or lay in bed all day.. or all three all at once. It's hard to see the point. I focus on how I'm doing and on what I'm feeling and when that happens, I make God as small as I can to fit Him in the box I've made for Him.

I can't stop listening to Gungor's song 'Beautiful Things':

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll even find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

James 1 talks about the trials we encounter: the testing of our faith. He talks about how to live amidst the realities of life: how to count your trials as joy. James 1:12 says "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
The crown of life: the beautiful things He makes.
God's intentions in trials are always for GOOD: to strengthen and to make us MORE LIKE HIM.

What I'm learning in times like testing is the significance of the Gospel. In times like that: thank goodness for the Gospel. When there's grief: the Cross of Christ.
sorrow: the Cross of Christ.
hurt: the Cross of Christ.
confusion: the Cross of Christ.
anger: the Cross of Christ.
trials: the Cross of Christ.
Because WE don't have to fix anything. WE don't have to erase the past. Or heal the hurts. That's not even within our human capabilities.
God is the healer: all we are called to do is turn towards Him and LOVE. Love Him and love others.

He makes beautiful things. Out of our dust. And out of us.

Read some encouragement: my three favorite blog posts that help me remember: