Monday, June 27, 2005

The In Crowd

I used to want to be a part of the "In Crowd." I spent a lot of time and emotional energy trying to fit in. Trying to gain the acceptance of the important people. Desiring the affirmation of the "right " circle. But somewhere along the way, the "in crowd" lost its power to attract, and I learned that favor with man is a poor substitute for favor with God. While favor with man might help you get what you see before you, favor with God will get you what you haven't even imagined.

I'm not sure what it was that set me free from the power of the "in crowd." Maybe it was hearing one too many people say things about others such as,
"I made him."
"After all I've done for him!"
"I taught her everything she knows."
" He couldn't have made it without me."
Maybe it was that I finally learned that men who do you favors have a way of coming back to you and calling them in. Maybe its that I have learned in a world where men's souls are bought and sold like cheap commodities, there is incredible power and an exhilarating freedom in knowing that no one is entitled to a piece of yours.

Friday, June 24, 2005

I Thirst

"I thirst."

The only word's Christ spoke on the cross that seemingly alluded to his physical suffering.

"I thirst."

One of the most amazing things to me about the crucifixion is that Jesus continued to minister to the needs of others while nailed to the cross.
"Today you will be with me in Paradise."
"Woman behold your son."
"Father forgive them..."

Even while hanging in mortal agony the focus of His thoughts were towards the needs of his sheep. So when He said those words, "I thirst."... was he really after water? After all He created it. He had even turned the water he created into wine...surely water would have been a small thing for Him to produce. Nobody would have blamed Him.

What were you thirsting after Jesus?

Could we find the answer in the sermon you preached on the mount. "Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...shall be filled" And if your thirst wasn't really about water at all, but was actually about righteousness...even your thirst was not about yourself. You were already spotless, sinless, the lamb of God, pure, the Holy One of God. Could it be that the righteousness you were thirsting for was actually our righteousness, and that even in those words you were still focused on us?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Through the Fence

There is a house I like to pass on my morning walks. It has beautiful flowers. I love flowers. I can't look at one closely and not wonder how anyone can doubt the existence of God. Recently I was able to enjoy the lush blooms of white peonies with delicate pink streaks in this yard. Now the lilies are in full swing. I live in an apartment building and can't grow my own flower beds, so I guess in a way I'm living vicariously through the owners of this particular house. The only thing hampering my enjoyment of the fruit of my neighbor's labor thus far has been a fence. It has obstructed my view, if ever so slightly. But this morning I saw that the lilies had managed to grow through the fence and spread onto the easement that is technically government property. Ah ha! The rebels...I guess no one had told them where to stop. And truth be told, I was grateful because now that they had broken through the fence, my view was no longer obstructed and I could inhale their beauty to the fullest. Maybe it was the wee small hours, or maybe I was hallucinating, (there goes that acid again) but as I looked at the fence, and the flowers that refused to be held back by it, I began to see hands reaching through the fence. Reaching through the fences that have held us back from enjoying the fullness of each other's beauty. Fences that have set boundaries of racism, class-ism, denominational-ism, nationalism etc . . . Fences of desease, imprisonment, and fear. Have they been erected by others, or are they self imposed? Fences. Can we be like my friends, the rebel lilies and push through the fences? You'll never be able to fully appreciate the beauty or fragrance of a flower until you hold it to your face.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Strange Dreams

When you eat strange food do you have strange dreams? I do. I have wild dreams that make me wonder if I have been inadvertently dropping acid or something. Strange food will give you strange dreams. And I’ll be honest, when I look at the church today, I wonder what they have been eating, because it seems to me we have some really strange dreams in the church. Jesus told us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and take up our cross. Wait a minute, I must have read it wrong…it must have said build mega churches, form kick ass mass choirs, and increase our annual budgets… it has got to be in the Bible somewhere…I mean I know that all of the original 12 apostles except forJohn were matyred and they all lived lives of great hardship to build the church. But that was then and this is now…Now we have to meet the people where they are at…we have to convey the right image to people. I know this is true because my last pastor told me he drove his Cadillac for me. No one would want to be a Christian if they thought it was a life of suffering and self sacrifice. Our cross is metaphorical…isn’t it?
When did it change? When did the external trappings of success become a direct indication of a persons spirituality rather than the invisible inward transition of a soul from lost to saved, darkness to light, death to life? When did we become more obsessed with appearing blessed and successful than we have with becoming truly holy people? Who took our dreams and made them soulish & worldly? We used to aspire to truly great things: humility, selflessness, loyalty, devotion, steadfastness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, and all the fruits of the Spirit. We used to dream of the sacred. Now it seems that we are caught in a tailspin of one up man ship, constantly trying to out razzle dazzle one another with the greatness of our spiritual gifts. …Strange dreams. What are we eating. Are we like the ones Paul wrote about…Where our God has become our belly? I mean it would seem that the cry that we are hearkening to the most is the call of the flesh to be comfortable.
It kind of reminds me of the commercials where they show people in advanced stages of drug addiction and you hear the voice, “ Nobody ever said, ‘ I want to be a crack head when I grow up.’” I guess the Gospel as is isn’t very marketable. I mean…my God, look what happened to people who really followed Jesus…eaten by lions, thrown in jail, torn to pieces, turned out of their homes, beaten, stoned…I wonder what kind of dreams those people had. God knows, they must have been feeding on some really solid food. I don't hear a lot of Christians today saying, "I want to give my all for Jesus and cause such a stir that they take everything I own and put me under the jail!" We don't have many preachers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave all he had then gave his life and died with nothing... I guess nobody says, " I want to be destitute when I grow up!" What are our dreams? What are we eating? Are we eating the bread came down from heaven, or feasting on the ideology of the world...Strange food will give you strange dreams.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happy Father's Day

In 1984, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. At that time I was 19, and at the height of my rebellious youth. I hated church and oh boy did I hate Christians...and just as sure as God made little green apples, I was deeply at odds with my very born again family. My father had come to his faith late in his short life of 53 years. His life story was a harrowing one. He was born at the beginning of the depression and into abject poverty with eight other brothers and sisters. His parent's lives spiraled into destruction as alcoholism increased its grip on their home. As a result his beautiful mother who bore the nickname "China Doll" and who had once been known for her angelic voice in the church choir died a tragic and horrifying death. My father struggled with his bitterness and anger over his mother's death until the age of 50, when he said he finally came to understand that it wasn't God who took his mother from him, but that his mother had died as a result of his parent's own poor choices. My Dad's conversion was dramatic. He was a man's man, something of a mixture between Johnny Cash and John Wayne. To see this rough and tumble man kneel humbly in nightly prayer was an incredibly touching scene, even for a self declared "agnostic" like me.
In the weeks leading up to his death we spent quite a bit of time in the hospital.
Near the end my father spent most of his time unconscious, with very few alert or even semi-alert moments. One late night as I sat across the room from my father's sick bed he opened his eyes and looked at me. He was here and he was speaking to to me, but it was as if he was speaking from another place. He said, "I understand now. We eat all that we can eat, and we drink all that we can drink, and then we stretch out our arms and die." The last words my father spoke to me before he passed. Although I still have my moments of ambivalence towards the church and fellow Christians...I am very much "saved" now, and with each step on my Christian journey, my father's last words pierce my heart more deeply than ever. Happy father's day Daddy. I understand now too ...

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." John 6:53

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Here we are again...

I take public transit every Saturday to go to my French class at the AllianceFrancaise in downtown Chicago. I have lately noticed a consistent increase in the number of homeless people hanging out on the trains. It's becoming very like the Chicago I remember of the 1980's. When I first moved to this great city in 1985, I came from a very small town in the south. I saw things that blew me away and horrified me. People eating out of trash cans and sleeping in front of and in the recessed window ledges of swank department stores, such as Neiman Marcus...was I the only one that saw the irony in that!?! I will never forget one day in particular, it was very sunny, but there was snow on the ground. As I passed by yet another multi-storied monument to American consumerism an elderly man staggered towards me. He looked as though he was in a trance. He was wearing disposable foam hospital slippers on his the snow...

And here we are again. When I board the trains there is nearly always one homeless person on any given car I choose to enter, sometimes more than one. Many times they exhibit signs of mental or physical illness. Why are we not caring for these people?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Time Transfixed

There is a very famous painting by the Belgian artist Renee' Magritte entitled Time Transfixed. If you are not familiar with it, it is a depiction of a train coming through a fireplace. Magritte believed that whenever we look at an object, subconsciously we see something else in our mind's eye, so to speak. He tried to portray that in his work. I like most of his work because it reminds me of the way God looks at me. When God looks at me he sees me through the blood of His only son, Jesus. Not only that...but as time is in God, He doesn't just see me as I am at any given moment, He sees the composite of all that I was, all that I am, and all I am called to be! When God looks at me time is transfixed. He sees His image and likeness. He sees the mark of the high calling. He sees a life hidden in Christ. No wonder Paul is able to say in Roman's 8, " I consider that our present trials are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us."

Saturday, June 04, 2005


" The real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Marcell Proust

Friday, June 03, 2005

Heaven & Earth

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Escape Velocity

Escape's the speed at which an object must be traveling to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth's surface. We are born, live and die under the influence of gravity. Every grammar school child learns it is the only thing that keeps us from flying off into outer space. But gravity isn't the only pull that we experience in life. Most of us feel a variety of forces pulling at us in any given time frame in our lives...parents, friends, work, children, church... Depending upon their influence over our lives their pull can be positive or negative. But there are forces that can without a doubt pull us and hold us into a pattern of living and thinking that is neither productive nor life giving...self-hatred, racism, sexism, classism, or just the general problems of everyday life that would try to hold us back and keep us down... I guess that is why worship is so important to me. It lifts my focus to the "Rock that is higher than I" and in the process it lifts me, and the true test of its authenticity would be that my life is lifted as a result...Is there an actual change that occurs within my day to day living as a result of what I experienced in worship? If not, then it was just an "experience." But if my life changes as a result of the time I spent in the presence of God, then I have truly reached my "escape velocity".

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Life and Death. The two eternal inevitables. Anything that lives, is most certain to die. And anything that has died has most certainly lived. Prior to His crucifixion, when Jesus spoke about life and death, it was always in very paradoxical terms. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses His life for my sake will find it." I can just picture the disciples now, looking at each other with raised eyebrows and facial expressions that asked, "Huh?" But the truth of the matter is, when we are called to serve Christ, we are called to our own crucifixion. "Come, follow me." And again, "...Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." The truth is, if we want to live, we just have to die. We have to die to self. But I think for many of us, the hard part is understanding that we aren't just asked to die when we are wrong and to things that are sinful...sometimes, okay, many times we have to die when we are right... Oh my. Sometimes we have to submit in humility to that impossible and immature boss. Sometimes, we have to love and forgive, and cooperate with that co-worker who ruthlessly stabbed us in the back for no good reason. Sometimes we have to be kind to the one who wants to make us the target for their internal anger... Jesus, perfect and sinless chose death, that we might live. Us, the angry mob. The ones who spit on Him. The ones who mocked Him. The ones who pierced him. Are you ready for your crucifixion? Your very personal invitation is engraved in the palms of His hands.