Thomas Merton on Knowledge, Love, and Charity


"God knows us from within ourselves, not as objects, not as strangers, not as intimates, but as our own selves. His knowledge of us is the pure light of which our own self-knowledge is only a dim reflection. He knows us in Himself, not merely as images of something outside of Him, but as "selves" in which His own self is expressed. He finds Himself more perfectly in us that we find ourselves. 

He alone holds the secret of a charity by which we can love others not only as we love ourselves, but as He loves them. The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Can this be charity?"  

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, 168.

What Are the Ascension Psalms?


Have you ever noticed a little superscription the book of Psalms that says, "A Psalm of Ascent" and wondered "What does that mean, exactly?" Here's a little bit about these very special hymns of worship. 

First, there are fifteen Ascension Songs, and they are Psalms 120-134. Second, of the fifteen in the collection, ten of them are penned by anonymous authors. Third, they were initially likely a smaller hymnbook that eventually was incorporated into the larger collection of the Psalms. 

Why Are they Called 'Ascension Psalms?'

Traveling worshipers would sing these songs as they made their way to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the feasts of Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost. The people of God would ascend up the mountainous terrain as they neared the sacred city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself sits at an elevation of about 2,700 feet. Hence, Psalms of Ascent. 

During Passover (Exodus. 12:15-20), God's people remembered what YHWH had done in the deliverance of the Hebrew children out from under the tyranny of Egyptian bondage and slavery. The Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44) was held in memory of God's faithfulness to his people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The feast of Pentecost/Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22) was held fifty days (pente) after the grain and barley harvest.  

Progressing Towards Jerusalem

As you begin reading through the Psalms of Ascent, you will notice that at first neither Jerusalem nor their travels are mentioned. However, that is by design. Old Testament scholar, Derek Kidner comments,

It appropriately begins the series in a distant land, so that we join the pilgrims as they set out on a journey which, in broad outline, will bring us to Jerusalem in Psalm 122, and, in the last psalms of the group, to the ark, the priests and the Temple servants who minister, by turns, day and night at the house of the Lord.

— –Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p.430.  

Gospel Ties

Lastly, don't forget  Jesus himself would've traveled to these festivals, singing these songs amongst family and friends, participating in worship. After rising from the dead, Jesus said something that powerfully transforms the way in which we interpret, engage, and apply the Old Testament. 


He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
— Luke 24:44

Give yourself some time to reflect on what we see revealed in the gospels.

Remember that at Pentecost, Jesus is our Bread

Remember that at Passover, Jesus is our Lamb

Remember that at Tabernacles Jesus is our Home






Eugene Peterson: We Are Preserved


"The Christian life is not a quiet escape to the garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord; nor a fantasy trip to a heavenly city where we can compare blue ribbons and gold medals with others who have made it to the winners' circle… The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, read the same newspapers, are citizens under the same governments, pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground. The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure when accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life."

The Lord is Not My Shepherd


– Steamboat Rock, Washington

About ten years ago I first learned what Psalms of Disorientation are through reading Walter Brueggemann's The Message of the Psalms. Recently I came across this very sad modern rewriting of Psalm 23 by an anonymous author. Why share something so sad? Keith Anderson of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology responds,

“Where you start matters. You can start, as did the revisionist poet, without belief in a caring shepherd who walks with you. You can start, as do some with a belief that we are alone in the universe. Spiritual mentoring starts with a conviction that God is Author, writing on the days and nights of our lives. Spiritual mentoring is a bold act of faith that God is active in the unfolding moments of our story.” 

— Keith R. Anderson, Reading Your Life's Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring, 39.

The Lord is not my shepherd
I am in want
Rest evades me
I cannot resist the tyranny of the urgent
My energy is sapped
I am without direction on some aimless path
Bringing nothing but dishonor to myself and those around me
Especially when I run through the dark valley of death
I am terror filled
For I am alone
Your absence leaves me barren and inconsolable
I am famished and sounded by vultures
I am an unwelcome burr in your saddle
Dust kicked from a shoe
My cup is empty
Your love keeps missing me
Day after day
I will live alone, in an empty apartment forever. 

Christ's Sacrifice Provides Reconciliation of Persons to One Another


– Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

One of my favorite things about getting to do what I do serving as a pastor-theologian is study Scripture and theology alongside one another and seek to apply God's word by His Spirit in our local context here at Redemption Church in Seattle. I came across this piece today and it blessed me tremendously as I was thinking about how Jesus' death accomplishes reconciliation not only with God but with one another. The following excerpt is wonderful.

Christ's Sacrifice Provides Reconciliation of Persons to One Another

“Christ died so that believing sinners may enjoy also reconciliation to each other. Christ’s sacrifice provides for a new community, a fellowship of sinners at peace with God and so at peace with one another. Because of the cross Samaritans and Gentiles could be united with Jews in Christ’s body, the church. Having put to death their hostility, he made the Jew and Gentile one, destroying the dividing wall by abolishing the law and giving both access to the Father by the Spirit (Eph. 2:14-18). At one time we were “uncircumcised,… separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (vv. 11-12). “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” So he is “our peace” (v.14). “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25). Commitment to life under the cross–not race or economic status–reconciles sinners to one another. People living under the cross should not be expected to meet extraneous requirements for membership in a church.

Because they are forgiven by grace, church members seek to be graciously forgiving. Because they are liberated from the reign of sin (Rom. 6:12), God’s people rejoice in making peace with others who have been reconciled to God through faith in Christ. The crucified Christ provides the one foundation on which to build a church (1 Cor. 3:10-15) because he bought the Church of God “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Christian homes, churches, and organizations enjoy reconciliation and peace to the extent that they’re just and loving communities. Families and churches respect members’ dignity and rights, and lovingly families and churches go beyond justice and accept mercy and love.”[1]

[1] Lewis and Demarest, Integrative Theology: Historical, Biblical, Systematic, Apologetic, Practical, 406-407.

Walter Brueggemann on Psalms of Disorientation: Expressing the Experience


It is no wonder that the church has intuitively avoided these psalms [of disorientation]. They lead us into dangerous acknowledgement of how life really is. They lead us into the presence of God where everything is not polite and civil. They cause us to think unthinkable thoughts and utter unutterable words. Perhaps worst, they lead us away from the comfortable religious claims of "modernity" in which everything is managed and controlled. In our modern experience, but probably also in every successful and affluent culture, it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness. Very much a "religion of orientation" operates on that basis. But our honest experience, both personal and public, attests to the resilience of the darkness, in spite of us. The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life comes nowhere else. 

Whether this speech articulates, illuminates, or evokes experience, it does move the awareness and imagination of the speaker away from life well-ordered into an arena of terror, raggedness, and hurt. In some sense this speech is a visceral release of the realities and imagination that have been censored, denied or held in check by the dominant claims of society. For that reason, it does not surprise us that these psalms tend to hyperbole, vivid imagery, and statements that offend "proper" and civil religious sensitivities. They are a means of expressing that tries to match experience, that also does not fit with religious sensitivity. That is, in "proper" religion the expression should not be expressed. But is is also the case that these experiences should not be experienced. They are speech "at the limit," speaking about experience "at the limit." 

A Call to Worship

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

– Redemption Church, Seattle, Washington

Almighty God, we pray for your blessing

on the church in this place.

Here may the faithful find salvation,

and the careless be awakened. 

Here may the doubting find faith,

and the anxious be encouraged. 

Here may the tempted find help,

and the sorrowful find comfort. 

Here may the weary find rest,

and the strong be renewed.

Here may the aged find consolation

and the young be inspired; 

through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, #5 (1946)

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Keeping Time Like Children


"The child has come to take time as it comes, one day at a time, calmly, without advance planning or greedy hoarding of time. Time to play, time to sleep. He knows nothing of appointment books in which every moment has already been sold in advance. When Paul exhorts us to 'buy up the time' (Col. 4:5; Eph. 5:16) he probably means precisely the opposite, that is, that we ought not to squander hours and days like cheap merchandise but that we should live the time that is given us now, in all its fullness: but the point is neither to 'enjoy it to the full' nor to 'make the most of it', but only that we should receive with gratitude the full cup that is handed to us. The moment is full because in it all of time is gathered up, effortlessly as it were. The present moment contains the memory of already having received as much as the hope of receiving time now. This is why the child is not afraid at the fleetingness of the present moment: stopping to consider it would hinder us from accepting the moment in its fullness, would keep us from 'buying it up', from ransoming it. 

Play is possible only when time is so conceived, and also the unresisting welcome we give to sleep. And only with time of this quality can the Christian find God in all things, just as Christ found the Father in all things. Pressured man on the run is always postponing his encounter with God to a 'free moment' or a 'time of prayer' that must constantly be rescheduled, a time that he must laboriously wrest from his overburdened workday. A child that knows God can find him at every moment because every moment opens up for him and shows him the very ground of time: as it if reposed on eternity itself. And this eternity, without undergoing change, walks hand in hand for the child with transitory time. God defines himself as 'I am who I am', which also means: My being is such that I shall always be present in every moment of becoming."

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Childpp. 53-55. 

Roadsign: Heaven Ahead


*This weekend I had the privledge of preaching at a dear friend's church in Denver. This overlook was gorgeous. 

What is this kingdom, exactly? Theologian Graeme Goldsworthy defines the Kingdom of God as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” God’s people. God’s place. God’s rule. This speaks to our relationship with God. He is not only our Savior, he is our Lord, our King. As Christians, we strive to live for the glory of our King in every area of life no matter what the culture says, or how we are tempted. (More on this later.) The question beckons: “Is the Kingdom here and now or is it somewhere far off in the future?” And the answer is “Yes.” One way theologians sometimes describe the Kingdom of God is through using the acronym—“ANY.” It stands for already/not yet.

The Kingdom of God has broken into this world and is already here—God is reigning and ruling. When did the kingdom “break in”? Upon the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and his promised fulfilled in sending the Holy Spirit to indwell believers. As the children of God and citizens of this kingdom, we have a front-row seat as we witness just how great, how kind, how loving, how truthful, and powerful our God, our King, really is! We’re getting real-life glimpses of what life will be like forever in heaven, our home. Every minute of every day people are being healed, restored, loved, and welcomed into the family of God. As we read the gospels, we encounter Jesus doing miracle after miracle—the blind are given their sight (John 9:1–12), the deaf are able to hear, the mute are able to speak (Mark 7:31–37), the sick are made well (Matt. 8:1–4), the hungry are fed (John 6:1–15), the dead are raised to life (Mark 5:21–43), the lost are found (Lk. 15:24), the dead are made alive (Lk. 15:24)! It is helpful to remember that every time you see Jesus doing a miracle in the Bible it is like a sign on the interstate saying, “This is what’s coming!” For you and I, our next exit is heaven, our home—and at home, in our Father’s house, all are made well, completely healed, totally loved, forever free to enjoy our heavenly Father!

At the same time, it is also true that the Kingdom is not yet here in its entirety either. There are still so many that are broken and in need of God’s saving and restoring. This is why the apostle John closes up the Bible with the prayer “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). As a Christian, you are now a citizen of the Kingdom of God (Eph. 2:19). You have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s glorious light (Col. 1:13). And God, your King, did all of this through his power and his unending grace (Eph. 2:8–10). This is how God has always done it—his people have always been brought into his family by his grace and through faith in him.

God spreads his kingdom much differently than the way other kings advance their reign. Earthly kings take more ground through power and force. God’s kingdom moves forward every day, and yet it came at incredible cost to him through the death of Jesus. You and I are among those who were at one point his enemies, but are now his children (Rom. 5:10), and nothing can or will ever change this reality. God considers you to be part of his covenant.

Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament, p. 53.

Prayer is Relational


– Discovery Park, Seattle, Washington

The old preacher A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[1] In the gospel, we learn that  we need not be unnecessarily afraid of God or avoid him, but should approach him regularly in prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).  God is holy, but we need not run from him! All of our sins are separated from us and we are seen as Christ is—blameless, holy, and loved. We have a Father who protects us, not a bully who taunts us. We have a King who leads us, not a boss who badgers us. We have a Savior who keeps us, not a friend who abandons us. God cherishes his children. How you think about God will determine the quality and frequency of your prayers to him.

Prayer is something that is practiced in virtually every religion in some form or another. As relational beings, humans long to feel and be connected to themselves, others, and ultimately, their god. And yet, unlike other religions, the Christian faith erupts on the scene with something that isn’t found anywhere else. As the children of God, we experience something of unparalleled significance—knowing God closely. There is real intimacy, a warmness between children crying out “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6) and his responding in love.

And yet, while we enjoy this free access to our heavenly Father, if there is one thing that is consistent across the board with Christians, it is that we all struggle at various times and ways with our prayer life (pastors, theologians, and the giants of church history included!). You see, prayer is neither easy nor difficult all the time. At its core, prayer is relational, which means that it must be looked after, tended to, and cared for much like a garden.

Excerpt from The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What Will Change, What Won't, and Why It Matters, pp. 77-78.

[1] Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, Harper Collins: San Fransisco (1961), p. 1.


John Calvin on Science as God's Gift


God works both inside and outside of the Church every single day in countless ways. As followers of Jesus here in our booming city of Seattle, it is imperative that we really understand this reality. Yes, Jesus is the head of the Church (Col. 1:18) and gave his life for the Church, but that doesn't mean for one moment that our neighbor's work at Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, and so on doesn't matter in God's eyes. Far far from it! Here, in the Institutes, Calvin is calling the Church to celebrate and express deep gratitude for God's "common graces" all around us! 


"Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slightest esteem, we condemn and reproach of the Spirit himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity? Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on the subject without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how preeminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws and all the useful arts. Those men whom Scripture (1 Cor. 2:15) calls “natural men“ or, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was the spoiled of it’s true good."

Keep Swimming in the Love of God for You


– Lake Kachees, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington

The entire message of the Bible is a message of grace, hope, forgiveness, and love—all unearned, ill-deserved, and completely without condition! The love of God is reckless, pervasive, and unstoppable. The love of God knows no limits or boundaries! Thus far, though billions have tried, none have been able to stop the work of God.

The love of God is not reserved for just the rich or just the poor. It is not just for straight people, Republicans, or humanitarians. The love of God cannot be confined within the walls of a local church building. The love of God is not rhetoric or wishful thinking. It cannot be shrunk down to a coffee cup or bumper sticker or cliché. The love of God does not fall asleep at the wheel but is always alive, brilliant, and blazing! God’s love is not just for the world out there, not just for the church down the street, but for little bitty you in that chair right there, right now with all of your past mistakes, all of your present skepticisms, and all of the stubborn “so what’s?” and “prove it to me’s” going on in your head right now. It is for you...

God hasn’t insisted on you getting better or trying harder in order to get into his family. If you come with empty hands, you come with all you need. God’s love isn’t fickle, moody, or affordable. It is something that must be given to you, and the only thing more offensive to God than your sin is your feeble attempt to earn his loving affection. It is free. God is for us.

Yelling at God

The Bible gives us many examples of God’s people laying it all out on the table. The best place to go in Scripture to see examples of this is the Psalms. Look at just these few verses:

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plea for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I declare my trouble before him.

Ps. 142:1–2

Or consider that we are to

Trust him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Ps. 62:8

Or consider these nine verses and see the absolute gut-wrenching vulnerability of the psalmist here:

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.

    Oh, that God would listen to me!

When I was in deep trouble,

    I searched for the Lord.

All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,

    but my soul was not comforted.

I think of God, and I moan,

    overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude

You don’t let me sleep.

    I am too distressed even to pray!

I think of the good old days,

    long since ended,

when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

    I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

Has the Lord rejected me forever?

    Will he never again be kind to me?

Is his unfailing love gone forever?

    Have his promises permanently failed?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

    Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

Psalm 77:1–9 New Living Translation

Christians are to turn first and most often to God to declare, complain, and pour out our troubles. This doesn’t negate the necessity of pastors and counselors and community. However, even the best of people are still just people. God alone is our salvation, and it is ultimately Jesus who lifts our burdens. It is to him that we are to bring our anxieties, rolling them onto his shoulders (1 Pet. 5:13). After all, “A child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer.”[1]

Did you see the movie The Apostle? Sonny, a southern pastor played by Robert Duvall, is as raw as they come in his relationship with God. The story goes that Sonny has a successful ministry , but then the most unexpected turn of his life happens; his wife cheats on him with another man. Sonny, filled with rage, loses his mind, hunts the man down at a children’s baseball game, and strikes the man with a baseball bat, killing him. Sonny then flees town and goes to live in a rural place with his mother. Late one night, Sonny goes up into the attic of his mother’s house and shouts in uncensored honesty. This is most definitely not a prayer that you’d find in most church services. In all of his pain, his confusion, his total anger with the shape his life, his broken dreams, and cluttered head, Sonny’s passion-filled and completely disoriented heart comes up through his mouth and belts at the top of his lungs:

Somebody, I say, somebody has taken my wife; they’ve stolen my church! That’s the temple I built for you! I’m gonna yell at you ’cause I’m mad at you! I can’t take it!

Give me a sign or somethin’. Blow this pain out of me. Give it to me tonight, Lord God Jehovah. If you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace. Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me, give it to me. Give me peace. Give me peace.

I don’t know who’s been foolin’ with me—you or the Devil. I don’t know. And I won’t even bring the human into this—he’s just a mutt—so I’m not even gonna bring him into it. But I’m confused. I’m mad. I love you, Lord, I love you, but I’m mad at you. I am mad at you!

So deliver me tonight, Lord. What should I do? Now tell me. Should I lay hands on myself? What should I do? I know I’m a sinner and once in a while a womanizer, but I’m your servant! Ever since I was a little boy and you brought me back from the dead, I’m your servant! What should I do? Tell me. I’ve always called you Jesus; you’ve always called me Sonny. What should I do, Jesus? This is Sonny talkin’ now.

Just then the phone rings; a neighbor calls complaining to Sonny’s mother about the noise. His mother replies, “Sometimes Sonny talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he happens to be yelling at him.”[2]

The reality is that God is not afraid of you, your fears, your frustrations, nor your anger. That’s right. God can put up with all of your anger at him and still keep that same look of loving, longing compassion for you. He knows you. So feel free as you bow your knees to let your hair down, too, and join Sonny in a dose of authenticity.

Excerpt from The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What Will Change, What Won't, and Why It Matterspp. 86-89.

[1] Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt-Out, Multnomah, Colorado Springs (2005) p. 155.

[2] The Apostle (Universal, 1997), written and directed by Robert Duvall. Quoted in Craig Brian Larson and Andrew Zahn, Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 212–213.


The Reckless Love of God

That fella next to me is my dear friend, Brian Eichelberger. He and his sweet family remind us of the love of Jesus all the time. 

That fella next to me is my dear friend, Brian Eichelberger. He and his sweet family remind us of the love of Jesus all the time. 

And just to be clear who this is for….

The gospel is for those who have been crushed by the weight of legalism. For those who have tried and tried to earn the favor of God by relentless church attendance, diligent Bible studies, unbroken prayer, and tithing.

The gospel is for those who have been content to warm themselves by the fire of God’s love but never had the faith (or nerve) to actually step into the fire and be utterly consumed.

The gospel is for those who think “Jesus Loves Me” is elementary. Perhaps you've “graduated on” to more robust theological, philosophical, sociological, psychological, and anthropological endeavors. You may have been to seminary. Yes, my friend, this is for you too.

The gospel is for those who get baptized or “go forward” every two or three years in order to secure their salvation because, obviously, it didn’t “take” the last time.

The gospel is for those who leave their Bible in the back of their car all week long, closed up in the sun.

The gospel is for those who think they’ve gone too far and committed the “unpardonable sin,” whatever that may be. The guilt-ridden and the shamed who think they’ve tapped out all of God’s grace and find it amazing that he let them get this far.

The gospel is for the promiscuous, the vagabond, the throwaway, the not good enough, the overachiever, the proud, the insolent, the angry, the forgotten, the brokenhearted.

The gospel is also for those who find themselves safe in the arms of Abba and walking closely with Christ, loving his Word, empowered by the Spirit, and obeying his commands.

The gospel is for the busy professor, student, stay-at-home mom, or the workaholic. The gospel is for the tired preacher and even more tired preacher’s kid. It is for the cage fighters, gamers, and athletes. It is for the Christian who knows Jesus as Lord, King, and Christ but hasn’t dared to accept his brotherhood or enter into embracing his most endearing term for us: the beloved of God. It is for those who have become too familiar with God and have lost any sort of reverence before him. It is for those who call God Creator but not Abba. Maybe you’re like me, and that word either keeps you guessing or makes you blush.

It is for those who have relegated and confined God to the outskirts of your mind and have opted to converse with him when convenient, on holidays, or the unexpected tragedy strikes.

The gospel is for black people, white people, brown people, yellow, red, purple (Tovah, my daughter, wishes everyone was purple), or any other people, all of whom are made in God’s image. It is for the rich. It is for the poor. It is for the middle class. It is for men and women. It is for homosexuals. It is for heterosexuals. It is for the friendless, the divorced, and the the addict. It is for the cheater, the drunk, the high. It is for the drug-dealer, for the image-obsessed. This is even for those who might’ve already fallen asleep in church this morning.

You see, the only way into Jesus’ choir is to sing off-key. The only way into God’s family is to own the fact that you don’t deserve to be in it. The only way to abide in the presence of the Holy Spirit is to accept that you are accepted.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Marriage


– SODO, Seattle, Washington

Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.

In your love, you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 7.

Where is God Calling Me?



Oh, that oft-used word in the evangelical circles that I was reared in that brought about such anxiety, fear, and constant second-guessing. My faith, if it can actually be called that, didn't amount to much. I discerned God's calling on my life much like the way I handled the magic 8-ball toy I played with as a 9-year-old. As a boy, I'd pick up the 8-ball filled with some watery-fluid, ask it a question, "Will I make a million dollars?" give it a shake, and then look to see what triangle-shaped-bluish-white answer would surface. "Seems unlikely" it would say. The 8-ball was right.

I became so accustomed to hearing the language of "God told me to _____" (marry this person, start this ministry, write this book, move to this city) that I became obsessed with figuring out God's will for my life. Damn, if that wasn't a wild goose chase.  

It felt as though God spoke often and crystal clear to everyone except me. In fact, his specific will for their lives was so abundantly clear that I wondered how in the world words like "faith", "mystery", or "trust" would even factor into their theological vocabulary. For me, I didn't hear an audible voice like some of my heroes claimed to have heard. I didn't have God's will written for me in the sky or in my Cheerios. As a result, I often thought something was wrong with me.

"Why won't God talk to me like that?"
"Have I upset him?"
"Is it because I have A.D.D.?"
"Is it because I'm terrible at math?"
"Is it because I don't know how to work with my hands?"
"Is it because I'm too emotional?"
"Is it the music I like?"
"Do I not fast enough?"
"What if I knew more Hebrew?"
"What if I gave more money to charity?"
"Can I purchase knowledge of the will of God?"
"If I go on a mission trip to a 3rd world country, will God speak to me then?"
"What if I get on a plane and go ask one of these evangelical superstars to point me in the right direction? Could that do it?"
The questions continued to mount and I was missing the chief benefit of this thing known as "the gospel." 

That's not to say that God was entirely silent most of my life. In fact, as I think through the years, I can discern a few key moments, though they're still mostly blurry at this point. Perhaps in another decade or two things will be more clear but I really don't suspect they will. Saint Paul was right, the glass is really smudged but we keep trying to see through it.

Does God call people to places? Sure. I believe he does more often through providence than anything else. Besides, in seminary I learned to read Greek, not Cheerios. What on earth was I doing? Rather than fixing my eyes on that which I cannot see, I stared into a soggy bowl of cereal. 

Today there is a better question, a more helpful question, a more freeing question to be asked regarding the calling of God on one's life. "Does God call me to himself?" That might sound boring to you as it did to me for so many years. That's not because God is boring but because I lack creativity, imagination, and wonder. Personally, an intimate relationship with God was secondary to me getting my instructions. Commandments are to be obeyed and instructions to be followed. Where to live, work, raise a family – those things are primary. I could catch God up at retreats or conferences or maybe even in Sunday worship. In those environments, I could show up worn out with working for him, have an emotional connection with him or just a good cry (because that's what we do when we're tired), and then head back to work. To be honest, I had no idea how much North American pragmatism had eeked its way so far down into my theology. I thought in such simplistic terms that it is embarrassing to admit even to this day. Here are some confessions.

I believed big churches were successful and small churches were failures.

I believed charisma mattered more than character.

I believed in insiders and outsiders.

I believed in winners and losers. (To be sure, the only ones who lose have this mentality).

I believed that ministry results were to be evaluated, numbers were to be counted, and square footage was to be measured. Those are the things that I thought were important to God's business.

Then there were words like "platform", "influence", and "impact" that carried more far more weight than words like "child", "serving", "relationships", "gentleness", "stillness", "belonging", "friendship", and "gratitude." 

That platforming, posturing, and positioning stuff will kill you. Call it "kingdom impact" if you want but deep down we all know it's our Daddy-issues that creates so much distress, unrest, and anxiety. We'd rather jump on the hamster wheel of ministry work because the thought of the nearness of a tender Father makes us squirm, blush, and look at the floor.

So here's something that I know to be true: God does call you to himself and in the stillness, as his child, in an intimate relationship, you'll sense the gentleness of Jesus as he reminds you, his friend, that you belong. It is from that space that gratitude bubbles up into a joyful serving of God and neighbor. And it is from this place that we can then begin thinking better about where we might "live, move, and have our being." 

"You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance."

– Galatians 4:6-7, The Message

The Biggest Question and the Boldest Answer


– Westport, Washington

The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism is arguably the biggest question ever asked, and the answer provided is perhaps the boldest answer we could give. 

Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Before moving on.... just sit with that for a full 60 seconds and think about how you'd answer that. 






Take a deep breath and in what Brennan calls "the bright darkness of faith," look at the answer...

Answer: That I am not my own,

but belong – 

     body and soul,

     in life and in death –

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. 

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,

and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way 

that not a hair can fall from my head

without the will of my Father in heaven;

in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,

Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life

and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready

from now on to live for him. 

Book of Common Prayer: For A Birthday (Jude!)


Today is Jude's 7th birthday!!!!

We pray this together at each birthday as a family and then go around the table and tell the Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl what we're thankful for about their life. 


This comes from the Book of Common Prayer:

Watch over thy child, O Lord, as his days increase; bless and
guide him wherever he may be. Strengthen him when he
stands; comfort him when discouraged or sorrowful; raise
him up if he fall; and in his heart may thy peace which
passeth understanding abide all the days of his life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.