Sunday, November 15, 2009


I'm restless.

And I don't mean the kind of restless that goes away after a day or two.

This is the kind of restless that hangs on for dear life and won't let go til it finds what it's looking for.

The problem (well maybe it's not a problem) is that I don't know why I'm restless. And I definitely have no idea what will take the restlessness away. But...

...maybe restlessness is good. Maybe it keeps me searching; striving for what is yet to come.

Maybe rest can be found in the midst of restlessness. Maybe peace can be found in the midst of turmoil. Maybe love can be found in the midst of hate. Maybe joy can be found in the midst of pain. Maybe forgiveness can be given and received in the midst of hurt. Maybe answers are found in the midst of confusion...

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us..." ~ Romans 8:28

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

We suffer, but we still rejoice because it leads to perseverance. Perseverance builds character. Character leads to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Since it does not disappoint, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God...we suffer...we persevere...we build character...we find we rejoice...and we suffer...and we persevere...and our character grows...and HOPE.DOES.NOT.DISAPPOINT.

When we persevere we can find rest, regardless of what is going on around us. When we persevere we can find peace in the midst of turmoil, love when it looks like there is only hatred, joy even when the pain seems to much to bear, forgiveness when the hurt weighs heavy on our hearts, and just enough faith to wait for God to reveal answers to us in his time.

We persevere because we have hope; hope in the glory of God. A hope that does not disappoint.

I'm restless. I'm clueless about my future. I don't have answers to many of my questions. And gosh darn it, I'm tired of school and grades and tests and papers and deadlines.


I have put my hope in a God who knows where he's taking me. So I will persevere (through the tests and papers and grades and work and friendships and deadlines and failures and successes and joyful moments and painful moments and the monotony and _____)...and build character ...and find hope that does not disappoint.

"...those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength..." ~ Isaiah 40:31

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blue Eyes

The evening was dark and cold, with hints of rain to come. We quickly gathered by the huge tree to have our picture taken. There was no shortage of smiles or laughter. Friendships had developed and deepened in the four short days we had been together. The mist turned into rain so we huddled together and quickly made our way back to the subway. We entered the subway cracking jokes and goofing off. Tickets were purchased and we made our way through the gate. Little did we realize what the next two hours would have in store for us.

As we waited for everyone to get through the gate, our "tour guides" from the Bowery knelt down next to a homeless man who was begging for change. They motioned for us to join them. We gathered in a circle next to the man with blue eyes and began talking to him. His name was Doug and it was clear to see he had been through a lot in his lifetime. The pain and addictions had taken a tole on him and his faced showed it. Alcohol and drugs had reared their ugly heads and consumed him many years before we met him that cold, rainy Tuesday in a New York City subway.

We talked to him about our God. About grace and forgiveness and hope. Hope for a better life; hope for a future. We told him things didn't have to stay the way they were. That he didn't have to spend the rest of his life begging for change and spending everything on one more fix, one more bottle of alcohol. That with God's help he could turn his life around. We offered a ticket for him to come back to the Bowery with us for a free meal and a warm place to sleep.

He looked up at us with those blue eyes of his and spoke of his past. He told us he was too far gone, that no one could save him or would want to forgive him for the mistakes he had made. At one point he opened up his coat and pulled out a water bottle with alcohol in it, as if to say "Look at me, this liquid has consumed me as much as I have consumed it and there's no way I'll ever be able to let it go. I've messed up too much to have any chance of a future."

As I looked into his eyes I could see years of doubt, pain, loneliness, and turmoil. I could see a man longing for a better life; a man who hated where he was, but couldn't see past his mistakes to realize there was a way to change. Life had dealt him an impossible hand and he was having a hard time believing there was a God who could take that impossible hand and turn it into a winning hand. A hand that would trump all the pain and heartache of the past. A hand that didn't care how the game had been going up to that point, but only looked toward the future and the chance for better days.

His words were slurred and his eyes were blurry, but his mind still knew how to ask questions. He directed questions to the youngest person in our group. He wanted to know what made her decide to follow Jesus. As I stood there listening to her answer, I thought about my own life and why I follow Jesus. Do I follow because I feel better about myself, or because I want to be a better person? Is is because I feel like sometimes I deserve him, or I know that without him I'm nothing? Doug's questions forced me to take a look at my own life and why I believe what I believe.

Seeing and hearing about the pain and struggles Doug had been through weighed heavily on us. His questions forced us to think deeply about why we follow God. Our eyes were opened to see him as Jesus saw him and we couldn't help but feel God's heart breaking. The tears flowed as we tried so hard to convince Doug that his life didn't have to stay the way it was. That there was hope for him in the midst of his mistakes. That he wasn't too far gone for God.

Doug decided not to come back to the Bowery with us. The decision was his to make.

We boarded the train with a new outlook on life. We had seen Doug the way God saw him and it had wrecked us. It shook us to the core and made us realize how much we miss in life because we are so focused on our own lives and our own selfish desires. It was easy to feel like we had failed; that since Doug didn't come back with us we didn't say the right things or do the right things. But we talked about it and agreed that it was a victory. A victory because we had followed Jesus' command to love one another and share his hope and his forgiveness. We planted a seed that only God can grow.

Through the tears, we lifted our voices as one on that subway.

"My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine"

May we live each day with eyes wide open to see people the way Jesus sees them. To reach out to the lonely, the brokenhearted, the addicted, the hurt, the rejected. To love people without expecting anything in return. To give and give and give some more. To freely spread the Amazing grace that has been given to us. To show the world the hope and second chances Jesus offers. To wake this world up from its slumber. To be the kind of freak Jesus was.

Don't forget those blue eyes.

"He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor. "
1 Samuel 2:8

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Submit. Such a little word, but one that many people don't like to hear.


Submitting means I have to "yield to another; give up resistance; surrender." ( Submitting means I have to put someone else's needs before my own. Submitting means I have to care about other people's feelings, needs, dreams, passions, goals. Submitting means that I not only care about other people, but I do whatever I can to make their lives better. Submitting means I put other people ahead of me. But let's face it, we're all selfish and when we have so much to figure out in our own lives, why in the world would we want to bother with what other people need?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

"I'm supposed to consider others better than me? But I'm so good at ______. Why should I have to consider others better than me? People don't treat me that way so why should I treat them that way? I have too much crap to deal with in my own life; I don't have time to find out what other people need, let alone try to meet their needs or help them."

Take a step back. "...look to your interests..." I still have to care about the things in my life that I'm able to do. I've been given gifts and abilities and certain things to be passionate about, and it's up to me to pursue those things. They're a gift from God and he expects me to use what he's given me. The problem comes when my interests are all I see. If I'm so focused on what I love doing and what I'm good at, I'm not even going to see the talents and passions of the people around me. And that's a problem.

"...but also to the interests of others..." As a follower of Jesus, my life needs to look like his life. Every story I read about Jesus points me to the fact that he cared about what other people were interested in. His life was about setting an example for us to follow. If I call myself a Christian, I had better look like Jesus in the way I treat people, the way I serve people, and the way I submit to people. If I don't do those things, I'm not really following Jesus. And that's a problem.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

"Lay down my life. Hmm. Yeah I have some friends I could say I would lay down my life for, but some of the other people I know...they don't deserve to have me give up my life for them. They treated me like crap. They deserted me when I needed them most; they gave up on me; they lied to me; they said they would always be there, but now they're gone; they said they would do something for me, but let me down; they hurt me; they went behind my back; they refused to apologize; they__________. They don't deserve my forgiveness."

How many times have I given up on Jesus? How many times have I lied to him? How many times have I told him I would do something, but went back on my word? How many times have I hurt his heart? Do I really deserve his forgiveness?

"We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10

I've been a pretty lousy friend to Jesus. But he still chose to sacrifice his life; to put my desperate need for salvation above his desire for comfort and ease. Even with all of my selfishness, pride, and lies he decided that I was worth dying for. He considers me his friend. He set the example by laying down his life for me. He forgives me when I hurt him. He forgives me when I walk away from him. He welcomes me back with open arms and wipes the tears from my eyes and says "I love you." Grace truly is amazing. It's not earned; I don't deserve it, I can't do anything to make it go away. God pours his grace out on me because he loves me. It's up to me to choose to do that for my friends. To choose to forgive, to choose to sacrifice and do whatever I can to make things right, even (especially) when I don't think they deserve it. Grace.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:21

If I revere Christ, I must submit to my friends (and the people I don't like). I don't submit to someone for my benefit; I don't submit to them solely for their benefit; I submit to them because I revere my savior. I submit because I can't call myself a Christian and not follow Christ's example. He submitted; I must submit.

I don't always like submitting. I don't like dying to myself and giving up my selfishness. I don't like sacrificing my time and energy to do something for someone who hurt me or lied to me or made me feel inferior. I have a hard time being selfless. I have a hard time being like Jesus.

But when I spend time with Jesus, when I read his words, when I read about how he interacted with people, I start to realize I can't help but love him. I can't help but want to be like him. I can't look at the way he selflessly sacrificed everything for me then turn around and live a selfish life anymore. His humility is a wake up call. I want him to be pleased with the life I live.

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8

Saturday, September 20, 2008


This world is broken. You are broken. I am broken. Our neighbors are broken, our enemies are broken, our churches are broken, our families are broken, our schools are broken, our political leaders are broken, our church leaders are broken, our friends are broken. Our world is broken.

A very long time ago, a man and his wife lived in a world that was not broken. They had everything they could ever need, but the temptation for more was too much for them. Two bites later, the world became a very broken place. The story that unfolds from that point in time is filled with brokenness. Murder, deception, greed, envy, selfishness, war, adultery, slavery, famine, drought, prostitution. The list goes on.

Then a man shows up on the scene. A man who had seen the world and its beautiful beginning, but had also seen it slowly fall apart. He came to save the world because his father had a relentless, unshakable love for the broken people living on this broken earth. The same God whose heart was grieved because he had created man (Genesis 6:6) couldn't bear to see the crown of his creation live such broken, hopeless lives any longer. The God of the universe sent his one and only son to reach out and heal the brokenness.

Jesus reached out to people over and over again. He searched out the lost, the hopeless, the lonely, the sick, the poor, the underprivileged, the over-privileged, the sinners, the confused, the searching, the ones who didn't know they were searching, the ones who thought they had it all together, the ones who knew they were missing something but didn't know what they were missing. He also reached out to the people who reached out to him.

"A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy." Matthew 8:3-4

Jesus was willing. Willing to put his needs aside and meet the needs of the people around him. Willing to spend time with the outcasts of society. Willing to sacrifice time and energy to build relationships with the lonely and rejected. He was willing to challenge leading religious leaders and show them what it really meant to follow God.

You know what is interesting? Jesus wants us to do the same.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

"Deny yourself." Those are difficult words. "Take up your cross." Also some difficult words. "Follow." One word, but so much hinges on it and what we decide to do when we hear it.

Peter once heard Jesus say "come" (which is pretty much the same as "follow") and almost ended up drowning. But you know what is really cool about that story? Peter followed, lost faith, reached out, and guess what Jesus did: "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him." (Matthew 14:31) So when Jesus tells us to follow, we can rest in the promise that he will always be there to reach out and catch us when we lose faith.

So here we are in the midst of a broken world. But we're holding onto something that gives us hope for a brighter one. When we choose to trust in Jesus, we are made new. The old, broken life is gone. By the grace of Jesus we are saved and because of that we have no reason to boast. The only thing we really have the right to do is share the love, amazing grace, and new life we have received, because that is what Jesus did.

We need to reach out to the lonely because Jesus did. We must feed the hungry because Jesus did. We have to serve everyone because Jesus did and we are following his example. We can go to church every Sunday of our lives and claim to have faith, but if we never step outside the walls of our cozy church buildings and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, build relationships with the lonely and meet the needs of the people around us, our faith is DEAD (James 2:26).

Jesus loved God and loved people. He showed his love for God by loving people. He showed his love for people by reaching out and meeting them where they were. He didn't tell them to get their lives on track before healing them. He didn't tell them to go get a job and make some money then decide they were cool enough to be seen with. He went to them. He met them at their level, took their hand and pulled them into a relationship that gave them life and life more abundantly.

So we are left with a choice. Live for ourselves, or live for others. Follow Jesus on a sometimes scary, but exhilarating, sacrificial, incredible journey of loving people and meeting needs and living for others or keep the amazing grace you were given to yourself and live a mediocre, probably less fulfilling life. Sound harsh? I don't think so. The times I have felt the most alive were the times I was serving others and meeting their needs. Following Jesus is the way to go.

Reach out. Take hold. Love.

reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!"
Romans 15:7

Friday, August 1, 2008

Peru Reflection

Peru 2008. Ten days, 55 people, four airplanes, one bus, thousands of miles, one town, five houses, tons of dirt, one church and its passionate pastor, one man with a heart for the helpless, hundreds of hungry children, one incredible school, and countless memories. But if you were to ask anyone who went on the trip to describe it to you, they would have a hard time finding any words that capture the full essence of the experience. You would hear things like "it was an amazing experience" or "I miss the kids" or "the people were so nice" or "I wish we could go back." But none of those phrases really describe the trip or come close to communicating the depth of the experience.

In a world where the word "love" has become so commonplace it is easy to forget what love is or what it really looks like. But love seems to be the only word that really captures the essence of the Peru trip. The group that journeyed to Peru went with the intent of building houses and loving the people they met. They went to serve and give of themselves with no expectations of receiving anything in return. But God surprised them all by revealing himself to them through the smiles and hugs of children, the cups of Coke and Inca Kola handed out by the adults and the tears of thankful teenage soccer players. There is an incredible verse in 1 John that says that when we love each other, God's love is made complete in us. The team experienced a love that they had never experienced before. They experienced God's complete love through the selfless love of strangers.

It was through the love of the Peruvians that the Americans were able to see what really matters in life. They realized that material possessions do not bring true happiness. They gained a deeper understanding of faith through the faith of the children. Their Americanized view of love was pushed aside as they learned that love is all about putting someone else's needs above your own. Most of all though, the team learned that God can and will use anyone who is willing to take that first step.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reason Enough

I'm tired of shaping my life around what is cool or popular.

Tired of being defined by what I have or who I'm friends with.

Tired of how people focus on themselves. Tired of how I focus on myself.

Tired of the way we treat each other.

Tired of being content with mediocrity.

Tired of worrying about money, school, relationships, the future.

Tired of seeing people leaving the church because of the church.

Tired of the way the church loses focus of what really matters.

Tired of gossip. Tired of rumors. Tired of the pain I see because of those things.

Tired of people being fake because they're afraid other people will think they are weak.

I'm tired.

But what am I doing to change the things that I'm tired of?

How do I stop shaping my life around what is cool or popular? Maybe I need to realize that Jesus cared less about the latest trends. Maybe it's time I realized that Jesus knew what was cool. Jesus knew people were cool because they were created in the image of God. That's reason enough to love people like Jesus did, whether or not I think they're cool.

Jesus once said "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot." (Luke 12:15) That's reason enough to stop letting what I have (or don't have) define me. Jesus defines my reason for living. End of story.

How do I stop focusing on me? Maybe it's time I took Jesus' words to heart and stopped just listening to them: "Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage." (Matt. 20:24) Jesus served. That's reason enough for me to serve.

I think once we begin to serve others, we'll realize that their needs are way more important than ours and we'll stop treating them like party-poopers who we seem to think are always raining on our little parades. "You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." (James 3:17) Yeah it's hard work, but I think the end result is reason enough to treat people with honor and dignity. Throw some confetti for someone else's parade.

I often find myself settling for a life of mediocrity. Some days I follow God wholeheartedly, other days I don't. I don't like that. I know it's time I started following the Spirit inside me. "The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along." (1 Corinthians 2:10) Diving into the depths of God is definitely reason enough for me to stop being content with my lukewarm faith. God spits lukewarm people out of his mouth. I'd rather not be spit out of God's mouth...

Birds live in nests. Not exactly the safest home. Not really what I would consider 'home sweet home.' But then again, they don't really seem to worry about much. They have a home. They have food to eat. They have their little birdy families and birdy friends. Jesus loves birds, but: " count far more to him than birds." (Matt. 6:25) I have a home. I have food to eat. I have my little people family and people friends. Jesus loves birds, but I mean more to him than birds. I think that's reason enough to stop worrying.

Church isn't a building. Don't argue. Change your thinking. Church is people. Church is relationships. Instead of caring so much about the buildings, we should start caring about the people inside (and outside of) the building; the REAL church. Paul has some excellent advice on this topic: "The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing." (1 Corinth. 12:25) People don't function too well when they are missing their eyes, or legs, or stomachs. I might be a great eye, but without you and your legs, I'm not going to be able to get to that hurting person I see....That's reason enough to become the BODY OF CHRIST; the church we're called to be. No need for stained glass windows and the newest projector...

"Did you hear about how so and so is dating that person?" "Don't tell anyone, but I heard from someone that so and so is really mean to people who shop at that store you like." Do we seriously have nothing better to talk about than the lives of the people around us? Do we really feel better about ourselves when we spread rumors and gossip? Here's a better idea: "Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect." (Ephesians 5:3) 'It doesn't fit our style.' I like the sound of that. Jesus has style. He likes to say good things about people and help them realize that they really do matter. That's reason enough for me to change my style. Jesus' style > my style.

Let's be real. Let's be honest. Let's be really honest. We're all human and we all make mistakes. We all trip and fall on our faces and look around to make sure no one saw us fall. But here's what I'm thinking. Maybe if we all started being honest with each other, we'd start to realize that we're tripping over the same things. And maybe once we realize we have this common problem of tripping over the same things, we'd start to talk about what we can do to stop tripping and bruising our faces. "Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived." (Galatians 6:1) Stoop down, reach out, share each other's burdens. Reason enough to be real and honest. Really? Honestly? Really honestly. Honestly real. I like the sound of that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


What are you aware of right now? It could be many different things. It could be things around you; things like people talking, cars honking, music, light bouncing off the objects around you. It could be things about yourself; things like your stomach growling, the uncomfortable feeling in your leg because it is falling asleep, those annoying hiccups that you've had for the past ten minutes...

There's a good chance that there are endlessly more things going on than you are aware of. You're breathing aren't you? But until just now when I mentioned it, you probably weren't really aware of it. Your heart is beating. But there's a good chance you weren't aware of it until I said something about it.

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. " - Psalm 139:7-10

God is present. You probably weren't aware of that until I mentioned it. There's a good chance most of you have heard that verse before and you know that God is always present, but how often are you aware of it? There's quite a big difference between knowing something is true and being aware of it. You know you're always breathing, but as soon as you become aware of it you start to focus on it. You know that your heart is beating, but there's a good chance you're not always aware of it until something makes you focus on it. After a long run it's almost impossible for you to be unaware of the fact that your heart is beating and that you are breathing.

Moses was going through the motions of life when one day he became very aware of the presence of God. He was out tending his flock when he discovered a bush that was on fire, but not burning up. I'm pretty sure we would all be drawn to something like that. As Moses approached the bush, God called out to him from within the bush.

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." - Exodus 3:5

The place where you are standing is holy ground. Holy dirt? Holy sand? How is ground holy?

"I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy."
- Leviticus 11:44

God is holy. And in Psalm 139 we realize that God's presence is everywhere. If God is holy, his presence must be holy, and since God's holy presence is everywhere, the ground Moses was standing on had to be holy. Now think about this for a second. If God is present everywhere, all the time, I think it only makes sense to come to the conclusion that any ground we stand on is holy ground. It took God telling Moses that the ground was holy for him to realize it. Moses had probably walked on that same patch of ground multiple times, never once having an awareness of how holy it was.

We can't escape the presence of God. Depth can't keep him away, height can't distance us, we could sail across the sea but we still won't be able to escape his presence. Even in the brilliance of the dawn, he is there, shining and declaring his holiness. The problem is that we are rarely aware of it.

It's kind of like a sunrise. Most of us are hardly ever up early enough to see the sunrise, but it's always there. By the time you get up, the sun has already made it's grand entrance and all you notice is that it's there in the sky like it is every other day. But think back to a time when you were awake to see the sunrise. When you first look out at the sky it's dark, but as you watch you can see colors begin to appear over the horizon. They get brighter and clearer as you watch. Then there is that awe inspiring moment where the sun breaks the horizon line and the earth is drenched in it's brilliant golden light.

I want to be aware of God's presence. I want to make an effort to open my eyes and see past the mundane things in life and realize that God's holy presence really is everywhere. I want to be so aware of his holiness that I change the way I live. I want to be holy because he is holy and I want nothing more than to be like him. I want people to be aware of God's presence when they are around me because I live with such an awareness of his presence that it radiates from me.

And I want desperately for you to want the same thing. I want you to open your eyes and realize that you were created for so much more than going through the motions of life. I want you to live with an awareness that God is holy and that he is present in even the most mundane times of your life.

"God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive..." - Genesis 2:7 (The Message)

Allow God to fill you with his breath; the breath of life. We were formed from the dirt, but God's holy breath of life fills our lungs. It makes us come alive. Are you aware of it?