Saturday, November 29, 2008

Preparing for Advent

As a child, I was a bit perplexed by the song "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Its melody was lonely, and its words spoke of captivity, mourning, tyranny. In a season filled with bells and smiles and upbeat tunes, this one didn't quite fit. Just as there is a distinct difference between Christmas music (e.g., Joy to the World, Silent Night) and holiday music (e.g., Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Winter Wonderland), there is also a distinct difference between Christmas music and Advent music. Christmas lyrics speak of a Savior who has already come; Advent lyrics anticipate his arrival.

Advent starts tomorrow. This is a Christian season of anticipation and preparation, stopping awhile to remember the many years before Jesus' birth -- years of waiting for the promise of a Messiah to be fulfilled. It is also a time to ponder more deeply that he'll come back.

Advent is a precious time. I don't want to skip mindlessly past and replace it with an early Christmas. With this in mind, I've been reading more about this season at CRIVoice, Advent Conspiracy, and even the West Texas District, and I look forward to this season. The best part will be to read through Advent passages throughout the upcoming weeks, realizing more deeply and more often the stunning reality of God's work throughout all of history, and especially in the promised Messiah.

Join me and let's walk thoughtfully -- mindfully -- through this season together. Here are Advent readings for the upcoming week:
  • November 30: Psalms 146-147 (morning); Psalms 111-113 (evening); Isaiah 1:1-9; 2 Peter 3:1-10; Matthew 25:1-13
  • December 1: Psalms 1-3 (morning); Psalms 4, 7 (evening); Isaiah 1:10-20; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Luke 20:1-8
  • December 2: Psalms 5-6 (morning); Psalms 10-11 (evening); Isaiah 1:21-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 20:9-18
  • December 3: Psalm 119:1-24 (morning); Psalms 12-14 (evening); Isaiah 2:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20; Luke 20:19-26
  • December 4: Psalm 18:1-20 (morning); Psalm 18:21-50 (evening); Isaiah 2:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40
  • December 5: Psalms 16-17 (morning); Psalm 22 (evening); Isaiah 3:8-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12; Luke 20:41-21:4
  • December 6: Psalms 20-21 (morning); Psalms 110, 116-117 (evening); Isaiah 4:2-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Luke 21:5-19

Friday, November 28, 2008


"Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men..." (Joshua 6:1-2)

"I have delivered" suggests a past event, even though the Bible does not indicate any physical signs that Jericho was weak or defeated. The wall surrounding it was strong and, though the people were stuck inside, the city itself apparently continued to function, at least on some level. What was Joshua to do with the declaration from God of deliverance?

Joshua was to walk forward by faith, following God-given instructions and laying claim to what had already been promised, planned, proclaimed.

Have you seen God's deliverance in your own life? Lay claim to what He has already promised!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You Can't Make Me

Personal sovereignty is a big issue for toddlers, and I took it on with enthusiasm. "I do it myself" was my mantra. I don't know that "you can't make me!" ever became a common phrase in my day-to-day language, but it certainly described my attitude. And it wasn't just in the toddler years. I discovered at a very young age that, while my parents and other authority figures could add pleasant things to my life when I did as they preferred, and could make things more difficult when I did not, they could not make me do as they wished.

There is actually quite a lot of meat in that simple lesson I learned as a toddler.

Personal sovereignty is still an issue for all of us. Who is really in charge of my life? For years, the most important answer to me was "not you." Nobody else could determine what I would do or not do. Just me. Others could make suggestions, offer rewards, and even punish me for doing certain things, and it was reasonable to consider those factors, but in the end, it would always be my decision. Once I had decided to follow Christ, I needed to consider it more deeply. Who is really in charge of my life? I love that God gives us personal sovereignty. Each decision is still mine. But I love even more that God guides us in His good way, and I want my decisions to be aligned with His desires.

The other thing on my mind today is that you can't make me mad, just like my mom couldn't make me eat my vegetables or clean my room. You can frustrate my plans, lie to me, lie about me, neglect a commitment, or fail to keep a promise. You shouldn't, but you can -- those are decisions you can make. But you cannot make me mad -- that is my decision. Thankfully, that is not the only option. Just as I have the option to nurture anger, I also have the option to choose whom to trust, how much to risk, whether to forgive, to love, to give grace.

I imagine I'll always wrestle some with this notion of personal sovereignty, but I am thankful for that opportunity.


"Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men..." (Joshua 6:1-2)

Imagine Jericho. It looked nothing like the cities we tend to think of, in part because its outer border was a thick stone wall rather than a small signpost marking the edge of a political territory. An army could not simply march in; the city wall was a barrier of significant size and strength. It was there, just outside the "tightly shut up" Jericho, that Joshua encountered God. And what message did God bring? "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands..."

I wonder if Joshua thought this strange.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"We are always practicing something. The question is: What are we practicing? At some point, what we've been practicing becomes habitual, the way we show up in the world" (Susan Scott).

"Spiritual disciplines" is a term for any kind of "practicing" in which we intentionally engage with the purpose of becoming more like what God calls us to be. Reading the Bible can be a spiritual discipline, to the extent that we allow it to permeate our souls and not just our brains. Fasting can be a spiritual discipline, to the extent that we allow it to direct our attention often to God. Prayer is another of the "biggies" important to those who claim religious faith. When we engage in genuine, communicative relationship with God, it changes our world both internally and beyond.

Prayer, scripture and fasting are three particularly well-known disciplines, but are certainly not the only ones. When we choose to celebrate good things and give thanks for blessings, it moves us toward joyfulness. When we choose to honor a day of rest each week, caring for the health of our souls, our bodies, and our relationships, it brings restoration. When we laugh and cry together as we tell wonderful stories about loved ones, we remember to cherish others as God intends. When we forgive those who have offended us, we are released from chains of bitterness and are able to more fully experience God's grace, and to extend grace to others. When we savor both the physical nourishment and the tasty pleasure of an excellent meal, we learn to more fully appreciate God's grace-filled provision.

What are you practicing today: Pessimism or joy? Resentment or appreciation? Anxiety or peace? Hate or love? Irritability or patience? Laziness or diligence?

And how are you choosing to practicing it?

Monday, November 24, 2008


I don't want to be surprised by Thanksgiving Day. It is unsettling to make plans and then go about routines until a special day comes, then walk into it unprepared. Not that I wouldn't know Thanksgiving happens on a Thursday in late November, but it could still sneak up on me. Such things have been known to happen.

This holiday is not celebrated because we are so naturally grateful, but because we are not. Thanksgiving is about the intent to cultivate an attitude which is appreciative of each blessing. It is time set aside to recognize so much of what we tend to take for granted, and to rest in gratitude for such goodness.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


"We had previously suffered and been insulted at Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel..." (1 Thessalonians 2:2-4a)

Entrusted. That is such an incredible word. It speaks of giving something over to the care of another. It's like saying "It is my responsibility to take care of this, and I am confident you will care for it like I do." Parents entrust their children to relatives, babysitters and teachers. Entrusting something or someone truly precious to another can sometimes be an obvious decision to make, but never one to take lightly. God does not take the gospel lightly. He chose Paul and entrusted this precious world-changing message to him, confident that Paul would commit his whole self to it.

Paul's letter to the Thessalonians speak of his heart. Not only was his message true, but his motives were pure. He was open, honest, genuine. When he faced opposition, he did not compromise the message.

Grace cannot be earned; genuine, deep trust must be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Birthday Celebrations

We went to a multi-birthday party today. A birthday is one of those events in which we stop a bit so we can see our movement more clearly. It is a time to look back and celebrate the good, to look forward and imagine the potential future. Birthday parties should also be a time to realize that both past and future are nothing more than a series of moments.

They are made of moments like this one, today, right now.

Life is not formed from years, but from moments. Here's the question: what will I do with this one?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hearing God's Word

It may have been Eugene Peterson who wrote about the importance of hearing scripture and not just reading it. This is partly a matter of methodology. Much of the Bible was originally written to be read aloud within the community, not silently and alone. Listening allows us to hear in a different "voice," perhaps pointing the way to new understandings simply by how it is read.

Listening to scripture is also partly a matter of attitude. It cannot be approached in the same way as reading. When I read, I am the one controlling the pace, voice, and even the content; but when I listen, I must approach the interaction differently, simply hearing what comes my way without so much internal spin.

Listening is done differently than reading, too. When I read, I am the one in control of the interaction between the author and me, but when I listen, I must approach it more submissively, waiting for the words instead of pursuing them. I cannot simply look for what I want; I can only listen for what God would say. This requires more attention.

I've been taking an online class recently on Tracing the Story of God in the Bible. It has been a good experience overall, and I've learned some good stuff. It has reminded me to listen -- in attitude, at minimum -- to the Bible more than looking for something in it.

I wonder what I'll discover tomorrow as I listen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Season of Reflection

"When chaos happens it's easy to just hunker down, think of quick strategies to get out of the mess, or make rash choices. But perhaps slowing down for a season of reflection would do us well. What might God be saying to me, to our country? While we gravitate quickly to happy endings and stories of inspiration, perhaps a period of confession and repentance is also in order...." (Dave Gibbons, Out of Ur blog)

Gibbons is writing here specifically about the current economic difficulties in the USA. I'd suggest that his advice, though, is much more broadly applicable. "When chaos happens...." There is plenty of chaos in and around us -- financial chaos, relational chaos, educational chaos, work chaos, home chaos, and more. When we find ourselves in broken relationships, it is easy to hunker down, avoid the interactions, ignore the broken parts, or simply lash out. When we find ourselves in debt, it is easy to hunker down, run from the creditors, apply for more credit cards, juggle accounts. Whatever the chaos, there is usually a temptation to "fix" it quickly. But too often the "solution" is like a Band-Aid on a broken arm.

A season of reflection could do us some good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Created to Love

Love me, love my dog.

It's not because he's useful; he's really not. It's not because he's an angel; he's not that, either. He sheds. He barks at unexpected noises outside. He requires inconvenient and sometimes expensive vet visits. He wakes me up sometimes in the wee hours of the morning because he needs to go outside. Given half a chance, he'll steal a loaf of bread from the counter and eat it all.

And that's just the beginning. He's got other less-than-endearing traits, too. I know those traits better than anyone. But you know what? I still adore him.

We went to the vet today. He does not like going to the vet. They are always very nice, but he still gets anxious. He spends most of the time during office visits trying to crawl into the four inches behind the bench, or even onto my lap. He's far too big for either. I spend most of my time during office visits talking to the dog. It seems to help.

Why do we do this? What is it about our animals? Why do we grow so attached? Perhaps it is because we are made in the image of a God who loves and nurtures His creation, and created us to do the same, and even more for people.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God" (I John 4:7).

Love God, love His people.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dual Citizenship

A group approached Jesus. First, they tried to butter him up: "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are." Then the question: "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

The question itself is perfectly reasonable. Jesus could have put on his teacher hat and led a great discussion. Instead, he responded by calling them hypocrites because he recognized this was an attempt to trap him verbally. A "yes" would trigger a response from the Pharisees who would accuse him of supporting Caesar's delusion of being a god; a "no" would have gotten him arrested for rebellion.

Jesus responded to the question, but not as they'd hoped, and not just to the question. He really responded to their hearts. Always one ready for an object lesson, he asked them for a denarius (coin) and asked, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" It was Caesar's, so "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:15-22). The Jews were part of both the Roman Empire and the kingdom of God. Caesar could rightfully claim their tax money, but not their souls.

"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king" (I Peter 2:7).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Young People These Days

"Young people these days!" Imagine the tone of voice. Probably exasperated, maybe annoyed. It implies a blanket assessment of teenagers as creatures to tolerate until they grow up into respectable human beings.

Imagine that same tone of voice: "Elderly people!" or "Caucasians!" or "Americans!" or "Women!" Each one paints an entire group of very diverse people the same ugly color, using the same sharp-bristled brush. But each and every person is unique, perfectly designed, and very much loved.

We have a building full of teens and their leaders today for quizzing. They came last night from churches across the Intermountain District so they could start bright and early. Our worship team led with music and prayer -- a great way to begin. As we sang "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," it was incredible to hear their voices rising above those of the worship team.

This crowd also represents "young people these days." They have been studying the Gospel of Luke, memorizing verses, discovering how the different sections tie together, talking about what it all means for us today. Most of them traveled hundreds of miles to get here so they can spend the day in scripture and enjoy each other's company. They are fun. Their energy is contagious. They usually clean up after themselves pretty well, and they are good about following direction. They interact well with each other, with their leaders, and with the many other people who have been around today.

I do love "young people these days."

Marking Time

Astronomers tend to define some basic time-related terms differently than most. For example, most of us find it's enough to know that June days have more daylight hours than other months. Some of us know that June 21 is generally the longest day of the year. A few realize that the solstices and equinoxes shift a bit from year to year. But an astronomer might know the 2008 summer solstice in North America's mountain time zone was at 5:59pm. Such a person might even have a reason to care about such specific detail.

Before we allowed our lives to be ruled by glowing numbers on plastic screens, back when people checked the weather on the porch rather than on the internet, stuff like "today" and "tomorrow" were defined by observing nature and responding accordingly. I wonder sometimes what that would be like.

It is time to get a bedtime biscuit for the dog and settle in, for tomorrow (or today, technically) is another day.

"I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord,
make me dwell in safety."
(Psalm 4:8)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


There are times occasionally when I feel like I’m getting the life squeezed out of me by so many tasks to complete, thoughts to pursue, questions to consider. These things are, in themselves, usually good. It’s just that it’s tough to do and think and ask all of them at the same time. Even fun things and small details can sometimes be stressful at a time like that.

And we are like sponges. When squeezed, whatever we’ve immersed ourselves in comes out. I want to drip something good. That is why I choose to memorize Bible passages.

But how? This powerful discipline can be intimidating. If you would like to immerse yourself in good stuff, here are a few tips that have helped me:

First, read! What captures your heart? What challenges you? Choose a verse (or more) which expresses the core of that message, and focus on memorizing that smaller portion throughout the day. (I recommend following a reading plan. Many study Bibles have at least one plan somewhere in the helps pages. If you’d like to see a couple of options I’ve used, drop me a note. I’d be happy to share!)

Read around the passage you’d like to memorize. Context is very important! Be sure you know what the passage is about, not just what it says.

Write it down, including the reference so you can find it later. A pack of 3x5 cards is a great tool for this. They are cheap, uniform, and very portable. Carry a few of them with you throughout the day. Most of us have little snippets of waiting-time scattered throughout our days – at stoplights, in grocery store lines, while the veggies cook, etc – which provide all the time needed to memorize scripture. It’s amazing how those snippets add up.

Look for patterns and flow, particularly when memorizing longer segments. What thoughts are repeated? What contrasts are presented? How does one verse lead logically to another? These are great questions to consider not just for memorizing, but also to develop deeper understanding.

Use something erasable, and erase selectively. I love using a whiteboard for this, though chalk, pencil, and computer are also very workable options. Write the whole thing and review it a couple of times, then start erasing all but the first letter of some words and reviewing the verse again:

I will r____ the d____ of the L____;

Yes, I will r____ your m____ of l____ a____.

Keep erasing and reviewing until all that’s left is the first letter of each word, then start erasing those, too.

When memorizing an entire chapter, listen to the passage repeatedly. Computers, iPods, and CD players are particularly well-suited for this. If you have the technology, you can record your own voice. Audio is also available online.

Move around. Make up hand and body motions that fit the phrases as you memorize. If you’ve ever done the Memory Max thing in Kidmo, you’ve probably seen the effectiveness – and fun – of this method.

This is just a quick list, a few methods. If you have others to add, that would be great. But whatever you do, immerse yourself in good stuff, knowing that’s what will seep out when you’re squeezed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Linguistic Non-Marathon

I've never in my life had the desire to run a marathon. Ever. It is fascinating to me that other people do. After all, what is so special about 26.22 miles? As it turns out, that distance is "special" because of a legend about an ancient Greek messenger who ran that far and died. Why does that make it a good idea?

November is NaNoWriMo ("NA-no-RYE-moh"), or National Novel Writing Month. Since 1999, folks who love to write have devoted themselves to the challenge of writing a novel -- at least 50,000 words, or around 175 pages -- within that 30-day period. It requires approximately 1700 words per day. While excellent writing is considered a bonus, simply finishing the project is recognized as an accomplishment. It's like a marathon of writing.

I enjoy writing, but I'm really not a marathoner, and my "creative" fiction tends to be quite hideous. Thankfully, NaNoWriMo is now joined by NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month. So, through November, my goal is to write and post daily. (Yeah, I know I've missed one already. I sat down in a really comfortable chair that night and woke up in the morning.)

While the stated goal is just to post daily, finding something worthwhile to write is certainly a bonus. Any suggestions? Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Veterans

People around the world are all different. Everyone has a unique story to tell. We've talked a bit in the Tuesday night Bible study about our stories, and of evidence we see that God has been at work throughout our lives. It has been incredible to hear some of the life-shaping experiences of these friends, particularly in light of where we're at in our various journeys right now.

SLC First honored veterans this past Sunday. At one point in the service, they were asked to stand and be recognized. I looked at their faces, and was amazed again to realize some of the incredible stories represented. These are stories which need to be told and to be heard.

Today is Veterans Day, an annual holiday dedicated to those who have served in the military. Many have served in war, with the ultimate goal of peace. I am reminded again of the quote from Redmoon: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." War and peace are never simple this side of eternity. Regardless of one's opinions regarding any particular war, it is right to honor those who have chosen with good hearts to take on great personal risk in fighting for what is right.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Mild Phooey

I discovered an electrical problem at church on Saturday evening. More specifically, it didn't work. Saturday evening is a bugger time to find something like that. I didn't want us all to wind up in a cold, dark sanctuary and straining to hear clearly. (Actually, I'd be fine in near-dark, and with a bit of cooperation and effort, the lack of sound system could probably be accommodated, too. But I do hate when we're cold, and didn't see a good way to fix that one.)

At such a time, I particularly appreciated working with others who have the knowledge and skills to approach situations like this effectively. One quickly set about making arrangements for emergency power. Another joined me in thinking through contingency plans. We didn't yet know the extent of the problem or the feasibility of some of the solutions, so it was good to have a couple possibilities to pull from as needed.

I pondered the worst-case scenario. What if we didn't have electricity? It was a wise question to consider. It would have been a foolish one to worry about.

People have been worshiping God for millennia, since long before such conveniences as electricity. Each Sunday, groups meet for worship all around the world. Most have no climate control options. A portion have no building and instead meet outdoors. And in some areas, they must meet quietly, at risk of their lives. Our temporary lack of electricity really was a very small issue.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Yesterday I found a slideshow gadget for this page, and spent a little time looking through photos to include. It's just a small selection, representing mostly trips and other special events. And while there are some nice photos, it's really probably little more than prettiness to most folks.

But not to me. To me, they represent memories and experiences that are important to me. They remind me of friends, family, celebrations, adventures, clean air, beautiful creations, powerful wind, peaceful calm, goals reached. A small piece of myself rotates through, three seconds at a time, and it makes me smile.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Courage (noun): the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery (American Heritage Dictionary)

There is a tendency to speak of courage as if it were an act of the body rather than an act of the will. Linguistically, courage is a noun, and converts easily to an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs, such as describing how something is done -- courageously, sheepishly, rapidly, etc. -- rather than naming the action itself. This quote by Ambrose Redmoon says it well: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.".

Without fear, there can be no courage. To do what is right despite danger or opposition is the courageous action. I love Joshua 1, in which God appoints Joshua to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses. He instructs Joshua, "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land... Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Pretty repetitive, eh? But the repetition may have been important to Joshua, who was about to take on an incredible task. And he needed to know the source of his strength and the reason for such courage -- the power, presence and character of God.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Clean Laundry

Roger Barrier tells a story of when he went off to college. His mother had always done his laundry, so created a canvas laundry bag for him and provided a brief bit of coaching: "Put your dirty clothes in the bag each night, then wash them at the laundromat at the end of the week." So, at the end of that first week, he went to the laundromat, tossed the duffel bag in the washer, added some soap, and started the machine. In moments, the washer began to thump as its unbalanced load rocked the machine. A young woman saw what was happening and approached with this gentle advice: "I think the clothes would get cleaner if you took them out of the bag."

Mr. Barrier makes a great parallel to confession. How often do we bring our sins to God like a lumpy mass still sealed up in a bag? When we confess generically, we give little space for God to work in our hearts and purify us not just from sins committed, but from the very sinfulness that leads to such actions. We are not to wallow in guilt, but to bring our brokenness out into the open and allow God's grace to reach into the folds and seams of our lives. Then we can emerge fresh and truly clean again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Judas was one of Jesus' disciples. Questions remain concerning why he betrayed Jesus, but the reality also remains that he did betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:47-50). The night was long, and by morning the chief priests and elders had decided Jesus should be put to death. When Judas heard this, he was "seized with remorse." He couldn't undo what had been done; he could only return the silver and confess his wrongdoing. His reception was less than empathetic: "What is that to us? That's your responsibility" (Matthew 27:4).

"So Judas threw the money into the temple and left." Imagine the scene. Think about the religious leaders here, and about Judas. I wonder whether the situation was more awkward or more tense. It got worse when Judas hanged himself and the chief priests were left debating what they were to do with the money. They couldn't put it in the temple treasury because it was blood money. They money they had taken from the treasury was tainted now by the events they had set in motion. Somehow they still managed to ignore the hypocrisy of being careful not to re-deposit the thirty coins while still pursuing crucifixion of an innocent man.

It is amazing how thoroughly we hide from ourselves.

A Psalm

God cares, guides, protects, and loves.
He provides for my physical needs
and reassures me when I am frightened.
He helps me to know His perfect way
so my life can reflect His character.

When it appears that life is beyond hope,
that evil will conquer, that I cannot continue --
Still I know
God is in control, and He is good.
That is always enough.

My Father invites me into His presence
even when -- and especially when --
I am surrounded by that which would hurt me.
Evil threatens to envelop me,
yet God is not taken by surprise.

In the midst of trouble, I am still confident
of God's goodness and power and love --
A love for me, too, and not just for humanity.
In the security of this great gift,
I choose to dwell with the Almighty forever.

(Based on Psalm 23)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

I'd heard about long lines and other issues in some of the polling places around the country. Mark went to vote first today, and called to let me know it wasn't bad at "our" location. I headed that way perhaps a half hour later, and walked right in -- no line, no waiting. The details were taken care of by nice people who seemed to know what they were doing and invest themselves in doing it well. There was even a great parking space. The right to vote is in itself pretty cool. The ease and speed of doing it this morning was an added bonus.

Now it's time to wait. Watching through these next few hours really serves no practical purpose. But, like many others, I'll do it anyway. What happens today is a big deal, and I want to see it.

After so much election focus, I am looking forward to finally having it done. No person, situation, political party, government, or country is perfect. And while such leadership changes are indeed significant, there is another sense in which very little changes because we are still individually called to love and to serve, and to act responsibly as citizens.

Our hope is not in the government. Whatever you are hoping for, and whatever happens, let's move forward from here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Foolishness of Worry

"We have sinned, even as our fathers did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly...
They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt...." (Ps. 106: 6, 21)

This Psalm refers to several incidents, including one recorded in Exodus 32 when Moses was away meeting with God and the people became restless. They told Aaron they wanted a physical god, one they could see and bow down to. Aaron agreed, and things went rapidly downhill from there.

I have always been perplexed by that gold statue. What led the Israelites to worship it? I wonder if this event was a symptom of fear. After seeing a number of pretty incredible miracles, it seems they hadn't experienced a physical representation of God in awhile. Compounding their struggle was the long absence of the leader who represented God to them. I imagine they did not wait well. They wanted to do something.

I still don't really understand the golden calf, but I can certainly see how anxiety so often leads to foolishness. In light of this reality, Philippians 4 makes a lot of sense. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (emphasis mine).

When we focus on and trust in God, He stands with us to help us see which thoughts and emotions are true, and which are off-base.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Clearing the Air

One of my older friends at church entered today looking particularly perky. I greeted her and we had a brief conversation before Sunday School. She was pretty happy about the rain. It hadn't seemed to me like a particularly beautiful or warm or otherwise pleasant rain. But her lungs sometimes give her troubles, and this new weather system had been clearing the air. With the newly cleaned atmosphere, this dear woman was breathing easily and feeling quite well.

I've been thinking about that all day now. I think of the murkiness that sometimes builds up in my life. Pollution in relationships fits this category. Most of it isn't big hairy things, but rather a slow collection of "little" offenses that, if collected, color the world gray. And sometimes even otherwise-good things can become smog material, if it distracts from that which is most important.

I pray that God will continue to send cleansing "rains" to our souls, washing away the muck which so easily clogs our minds, purifying our hearts and bringing life-giving breath from God.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I drove to Nampa recently. For those unfamiliar with the trip, it's around 350 miles each way, mostly through a bunch of desert. It's an easy journey -- pretty much just go north, then merge west -- and entirely freeway. The speed limit is 75mph most of the way.

Driving back a few days later, the weather was still nice and our travel had been pretty uneventful. Then, just outside of Snowville, a dust funnel formed perhaps a quarter mile ahead of us. I had no idea where it came from at first. Then a rapidly spinning car appeared through the dust. I hit the brakes, knowing we would likely be first responders to a terrible accident. I hoped the occupants were wearing seat belts.

It was probably the first out-of-town trip I've made in eight years without a first aid kit in the car. I've often wondered how much help I could be with a handful of 4" gauze pads, a bunch of Band-Aids, and the little single-use antibiotic creams in a freeway-speed accident, but have also decided it's far better to have those things than not.

By the time we stopped, the car was no longer on the road. We ran to the edge of the hill at the side of the freeway where the vehicle must have driven off the road. I expected the worst, but hoped the car had absorbed most of the impact, leaving the occupants in decent condition. I never could have expected what we saw there: absolutely nothing except more of the mostly-flat fields we'd been driving through for hours. Looked like maybe a barbed-wire fence had been broken through, and perhaps the dirt had been adjusted some. But no mangled car. No car at all.

I may wonder for the rest of my life what happened there.