How to be Heard

This has been on my mind following a handful of recent choices our government and country have made. Crimes have been committed. People have gotten hurt. People are confused about what “getting hurt” actually means, and what “freedom” stands for, and words are cheap for their abundance. Furthermore, and slightly less contextually, the Bible is pretty clear that what comes out of our mouths comes from who we are at root- from our hearts. (Matt. 15:18) That is to say, if you are saying anything, anywhere – that speaks to who you are. We need to know how to do that right. So here’s the thing (or the simplified version of the thing): There are billions of people. There are billions of people talking. There are billions of people talking about things they know and/or believe, which amounts to, ultimately, so much NOISE, and so little communication. Everyone talks, and no one listens.

Listen.

Through Paul, God says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up into love.” (Eph. 4:15)

I hear three commands in that phrase, “Speaking the truth in love,” which Paul says will allow us to grow into Christ… that we might build one another up in love. (Everyone’s crazy about love right now, right?? Peace, love, and donuts… or something like that.) Cautious extrapolation follows posthaste:

1) Speak the truth. This is a brief and to-the-point reminder that the Church is not called to be silent. In fact, I think the opposite is true. We’re a mouth for the only voice worth listening too. And HEY – it needs to be the Truth as well, you half-caf “not sure how I feel bout some of those Bible parts” Christians. You’re dancing in the mine fields, as the poet Andrew Peterson once said in an entirely different context.

2) Speak the truth in love. Dear blog reader, avoid bologna. Bologna is gross, it smells bad, its spelling is terribly deceptive, and among other things, it smells bad. (Yes, I said that twice. And it’s gross.) Why do I warn you about bologna? Because, to the degree that I can, across this iPad, this internet, and this anonymity- I love you. I’m not going to lie to you about bologna. Neither should you, to the people you love.

3) In love. Gosh, does this matter. To begin conversations or Facebook posts, “To all of you idiots who-” is to fail as a speaker, a representative of the Church, and certainly as an evangelist. Whups – the only audience that matters just left out the back. Throwing the truth in the faces of the unknowing is almost as good as throwing rocks, except with rocks, the scars might heal up in a couple weeks. God’s Word is brutal enough on its own.

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Tired of sick.

I’m tired of sick. Maybe you’re sick of poems. Sorry – I’m on a bit of a kick. There will be brilliant thoughts here again someday! For now, I’m saving those for my NaNo novel. No pictures today. I’m tired of pictures. This is a prayer about wanting more, inspired by a chest cold, an argument, and a bad case of writer’s block. In absence of a beautiful image, please accept this quote; I am blatantly stealing it from one of my favorite of my dad’s sermons.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis // The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

I’m tired of sick, I’m tired of sick
that’s putting me to sleep.

I’m tired to think, at the end of it
I cannot help but creep

Back to the sick, the tiring sick
the leaves me in the dark.

It hurts because I know the heart
is shaped for difference stark.

Something different – black and white,
as this is colorless fire.

The things I need to want
are not the things that I desire.

I have this wandering wanderlust,
a pinched-nerve hurt for elsewhere

But here, it’s hard, for here the World
will say I’ll never get there.

I’m tired of sick, I’m sick of tired,
but “nothing can I do,”

Is the HOPE, not my complaint,
I offer up to you.


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Expounding on the Hero Heart

“The Nerd” // Khoa Ho

There’s this feeling that we talked about in our training for Brazil (back in July) that you can get when you go on mission trips. Everybody has it, at least a little bit, and it takes a lot of praying, and intentional un-thinking, and a multitude of derogatory comments from spiteful people like Jon Nelson before you can shake it out of your system. (I’m just kidding on that last one; Jon, you’re great. I’d even go so far as to say that I think you’re pretty neat.)

The feeling is like this: Here I am, back pack / suitcase in my hand / on my back, 2 preparatory missions books read, tickets purchased… the time has come. I am going to save the world. And you can look at that and say, “Ridiculous! No one would be so inane,” but I am saying, You would. I would. And we do. It might seem ridiculous to feel that urge, to raise our hands to the sky and shout to the world, “I can save you!” Because it is ridiculous. But so are people.  And I think we do this with living, too.

To demonstrate the point, see
a) most Disney movies,
b) bed time stories you were told as a kid,
c) or any good adventure book written for little boys and girls, pretty much EVER. (Which I find, somehow, are still the only ones that really excite me. But, ah well. I am a 7 year old at heart, and a Shaq in approximate longitude.)
We raise our children up to be “world-changers.” We tell them they can do anything. Meanwhile, the cape and tights are holy attire, and the women swoon at the thought of a “knight in shining armor.” Why? (And why tights? I don’t know.) Ours is a hero culture, and I’m betting you can feel that.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Thus spake Uncle Ben, father figure to Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman. (If you haven’t heard of HIM… Shame. Shame, shame.) I remember hearing those words for the first time, back when I was runty and impressionable. Wow. That was… there was a story worth living. Kids, best of all, understand bigness. And they do not question the fact that they will someday be something more than they are already. Some people will tell you that youth is unreservedly, and almost stupidly, optimistic. I agree – but  I call it “faith.”

And then I suppose there’s the question, if you take two steps further, as to whether or not you really ought to be a hero anyways, or oughtn’t that be someone more… crucified. I think, as is the case with most human metaphors, you could make a case for or against with equal gravity. Could it be true that “when I am weak, then I am strong,” (II Cor. 2:10) but in that same moment, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline”?  (II Tim. 1:7) It must be. They’re both in there. :-)

So my own question isn’t so much whether or not, but why, or rather, for whom? Maybe it isn’t possible to save the whole world, but there’s plenty of grannies who could use help carrying the groceries in. The cape and tights may be a stretch (Yikes. No pun intended), but hey, mom could use some help with the laundry. And as a matter  of fact, yes – there are damsels in distress out there. (I’m just sayin, gents… Just. Sayin.) And there are real, honest to goodness wars to be fought. That’s something we all need to take seriously. When you, in your mind, put on that cape, and those stretchy pants (as, a famed Mexican wrestler assures us, all men do) – who are you out to impress? Or save? Or, actually, empower?

Say you’re a hero. You might as well – you claimed it pretty early on, and now everyone knows. Who are you a hero for?

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Lion and Lamb // BRAZIL DEVO 2014

(Spending a couple weeks this summer in Brazil. This is a devo I wrote as part of our pre-trip homework. So, if you are with me in Brazil, and I haven’t read this to the group yet… Don’t read it!!! :-) Otherwise, carry on.)

Lion and Lamb
Image Credit: Suzanne Moseley on deviantart
My dad has a pastoral fixation with relationships.  Actually, Relationship. Period. I’m positive he would tell you that your relationship with and to God is the most important part of your faith. I want to ask you, though – what, exactly, does that mean? And I guess, mainly, I want to clarify who God is.God calls himself a King, and a Lion, and all powerful. When the world began, he spoke it. (I counted fifteen times that God spoke in the first book of Genesis. Fifteen phrases, and the world happened.) When life started, he breathed it, and if that isn’t power, I don’t know what is.And at the same time, he says he is the Lamb. He is love, and in the Gospels he experienced weakness in hunger, thirst, pain, grief, and death on the cross. In fact, in the Gospels, he epitomized ABSOLUTE weakness. GK Chesterton, one of my favorite authors, said,

“Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete… Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes the breaking point- and does not break.”

And then this, from Revelation 5:5 and 6, “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…’ And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain[.]”

The Lion and the Lamb. “AND”… What does that mean? God is all powerful, and he knows everything- even what it means to be weak. To die. And to defeat Dying. In his total weakness, God showed his total power. So the Lamb was slaughtered, and so the Lion was crowned.

Our relationship to God has two sides, too. We love him because he is the lamb who was killed, and it is (or will someday be) PERFECT love, because, who else in their perfection has died for you? And we fear him with REAL fear, because he is the Lion, who slaughtered death. Again, from Chesterton,

“Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved.”

I talked about just two aspects of God, out of a million, and that’s not enough – But I think God gets that. There is too much to fit into our heads, and too much of ourselves in there already, besides. So in the end, when we ask who he is over and over, and we understand so little, he just says, “I am that I am.” And that is more than enough.

Pittsburgh Photos, and 72 Things Happening in My Life Right Now

I have been saying for days, “I’ll be putting up those photos on the blog soon! Yep, the ones from the trip. So… keep an eye out!” I’ve been saying for months, “I really ought to get on that blog posting.” And I’ve been saying for years, “I should journal the big stuff. Not everything… but what matters.” I want to live up to my word! My favorite fortune cookie fortune I’ve seen so far (I’ve got it taped to the wall above my bed) says this, word for word: “Theories get you thinking. Sweat get you results.” Broken English, but I like it. :-) It gives it character. Here’s my version: Having good intentions is like having a new skateboard: You never know what’s going to happen until you step up and push off.

So I kind of want to change the way I do some things in life, and to be efficient, (and not to mention timely,) here is a blog post of the promised photos, in addition to an excerpt from my journal. (BING. BANG. SKADOOSH.)

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These are my words for Pittsburgh:

Your people are your lifeblood. Your men are straight-spoken, kind-eyed and truehearted. Hot-blooded. Powerful. Your women are quick to laugh, to speak truth, and to understand.They are some of the most real folks I’ve ever known. Your people made us their family. Your church is maturing.

The life of your earth, trees and flowers, is vibrant- breathtaking, sincerely. Your city is an adventurous place.

Ruthfred was something else. And I mean, literally entirely else. Minnesota church, in my perception, was dark, deep in the evening. And every face was known, and every word was listened to. Church in these hills has been wider, stiffer, but deeply rooted. It’s hard! Comparing a flower to a diamond – a guitar to a choir – a shower of rain to a still and quiet lake. Give me truth in any form and I will dutifully, and, to my best ability, joyfully consume it. But don’t make me choose between the spiced meat and the same bread. Give me both, and let them make each other whole.

(The safari clutches at the heart, whereas the schoolroom feeds the mind. I must remember that these are both members of one body. They play different songs.)

I’ve learned new tastes, and their best placements, better than I ever could have from the outside.Their is a very singular beauty in the singing of a choir. (And, in the same breath, the same can be said of a team of musicians leading worship. [I used “leading worship” in the modern sense of the phrase, but if you think about it, it applies to both groups of people. Hmm.])

Also! I loved the rain here. Warm and silver, nature’s tent, asking us to focus! to see the world around you, with bright and searching eyes! Your rain makes the trail one not to be trifled with, the road a stream, and the stream a river. And whenever the rain lets up, the cracked pavement by the churchside breathes hot, misty fog, and the river calms, its endless roar quieting.

I think I’d best conclude by saying that the way I see you is the way I’d like to see the whole world: A thousand interconnected islands [for this is the feeling one gets amongst the hills] with good people between them, and a heart of gold; that being, Loyalty. You are profoundly loyal, in sports, in self love, but most clearly in relationships. Your people are blood relatives.

Within you, I learned more about purpose, truth, and connection then I’ve ever known before. Thank you.

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