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Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Christmas Card

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Monday, December 07, 2009

God as Laughter?

A few of us got together last night to hang out, worship, and pray. (By the way, thanks Pete and Tiffany for leading us.) It was a nice relaxed night. At one point, we put in Keiger's iPod and played, "Start a Fire," and "What Do I Know of Holy?"

I put my head back and began to chat with God. I was listening to the lyrics,
"What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?"

And I felt God say, "I am laughter."

I was taken aback for a moment. "Is it okay to speak of God as laughter? I don't think that is scriptural." "Laughter doesn't go with Holy!"

Then I began to hear the laughter. (It was more like the memory of the sound of laughter.) Now, there are all kinds of laughter. The giggle of those being silly. The dark laughter of those doing things they ought not. The knowing laughter of those joking around. This was none of those. It was a laughter that rang of freedom. There was no worry or stress in this sound. Somehow it seemed to carry love and goodwill.

The more I began to listen to the laughter, the more it seemed to fit God. It was the free chuckle of one who knows everything in the world and yet has joy. Joy. Yes, that is the best word to describe the laughter. Joy.

It reminds me of a sermon Jordan gave not too long ago, during the Nehemiah series. He mentioned that we so often misinterpret the phrase, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." We think that it is our joy in the the Lord that makes us strong. He presented the idea that it is indeed understanding that the Lord finds joy in us that gives us strength. It is not our joy, but rather "the joy of the Lord."

God as Laughter. Hhmmm . . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pain Cloaked in Praise and Remembrance

I was reading through the Psalms this morning. I know the basic pattern of the Psalms, cry out and then worship, but it hit me differently this morning. Crying out gives validity to the pain - no pretending it isn't there or that it doesn't hurt. The Psalmist takes his brokenness to the only one who can see the situation from the perspective of eternity. Then, he reminds himself of the faithfulness and largeness of God and finds strength.

People all around me that I love have been hit with crisis - some small, some large - recently and my heart breaks for them. Psalm 77 caught my attention this morning. Every once in a while, I pray the Psalms. So I will pray it as I type it out and add my own words in parenthesis. Forgive me if some of them seem sassy. God understands me. Here goes . . .

I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. (At times, so do my neighbors!)

I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn't heal.

When friends said, "Everything will turn out all right," I didn't believe a word they said.

I remember God - and shake my head. I bow my head - then wring my hands. (I confess my wavering between faith and fear.)

I am awake all night - not a wind of sleep; I can't even say what is bothering me. (I rarely know what the real problem is.)

I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by.

I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together.

Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stalked off and left us?

"Just my luck," I said. "The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him."

Once again, I'll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

Oh God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God! You're the God who makes things happen; you showed everyone what you can do - You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph. (I have seen you heal the sick and comfort the troubled. You have provided for me in abundance many times over.)

Ocean saw you in action, God, saw you and trembled with fear; Deep Ocean was scared to death. Clouds belched buckets of rain, Sky exploded with thunder, your arrows flashing this way and that. (You have the power to calm the storm and stop the rain. I have witnessed you breath a soft breeze into the air when I was hot and miserable and pause the wind when I needed to catch my breath.)

From Whirlwind came your thundering voice, Lightning exposed the world, Earth reeled and rocked. You strode right through Ocean, walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you come or go. (Your power is so much bigger than I understand, your scope of understanding so far beyond my own.)

Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, You led your people like a flock of sheep. (Thank you for providing me with shepherds who pray for me and support me. Thank you for being my ultimate shepherd.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jeremiah 29:11 - Too Often Misused

I went to the Hawaiian Islands Ministry Conference tonight. As any good, anticipatory student, I went online to preview the classes being offered and tentatively set my schedule for the weekend. Then, I arrived at the conference, chucked my previous workshop selections and chose one that had not even crossed my radar before that moment. This blog is in response to that seminar. However, I was dealing with God during most of it, so don't expect this to be notes from the speaker. He triggered a conversation between God and I, and that conversation is the topic of this blog.

The basic question addressed in the workshop surrounded the hope offered in Jeremiah 29:11. It is a scripture quoted often to those feeling down, discouraged, in despair, or any other number of "d" words. We try to encourage one another with the words, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and bring you a hope" yada yada yada.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I love God's word and this is a great verse, but I don't think it was intended to be used to explain why things should go right for us in the world. There are a couple of problems with that use of this particular promise.

1) This was not addressed to an individual. The promise was given to a nation of people. From the little we know about Jewish history from that time (and even hints given later in the text), we can conclude that there were individuals among those who received this promise who did not live to see this promise fulfilled for them. They did not return from Exile. They did not prosper. The nation, however, did return from Exile. Did they prosper? I suppose it depends on how you look at it?

2) This promise is proceeded by God telling the nation that they would be in captivity 70 years. Hhhmmmm. That doesn't sound like a promise offered for tomorrow - or immediate relief.

If you know me well, you have probably heard me mention before that the one thing that sticks out to me about Southern Gospel music is their focus on Heaven. This life is what it is. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, sometimes we just feel like we are walking around in a cloud, not knowing if things are good or bad. But we know Who and what wait for us. We know that, one day, "It Will Be Worth It All."

It was good to be reminded to look at life from an eternal perspective. And to be reminded that I am part of a plan much bigger than myself. That somehow, God has figured out the balance between using me to further His plan and not allowing anything to push me past what I can handle. (Corinthians)

I have trouble with the theology that because God is good, He will only cause good things to happen. I think, ultimately, that is a true statement. The problem is that we don't always recognize "good." God, seeing the entire picture, is the only one who can truly diagnose "good."

A couple other thoughts came to mind as I was listening.

1) If God has a purpose for me, I want to be here to fulfill it. I say this with much fear and trepidation because I don't really want to be tortured to death or captured and beaten within an inch of my life. But I do want to be a piece of God's plan. I think of David and shudder with new understanding of the words, "I will not offer anything that cost me nothing." I am an American. Not only do I not like suffering, I am personally offended by it. Yet Christians all over the world endure it in a variety of forms.

2) I think Joshua 1:9 provides a promise I can more readily apply to troubled times. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the LORD, your God, is with you where ever you go." (Loose translation.)

3) God is with me. He has a plan. His plan is big and someday I am going to get to see what my role was in said plan. For now, my job is to trust. I will ask for good things, because my Father is good. But I will do my best not to assume that I always know what is good.

4) God, the master at oxymorons, somehow manages to communicate, "It's not all about you!" with a healthy dose of "I have numbered all the hairs on your head," kind of intimacy mixed in.

I don't really have a conclusion, so feel free to write one of your own, as you comment. :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Notes from Danny Silk, Feb. 14, 2009

These notes came from the Culture of Honor Seminar. I am tired, but want to get them out before the moment passes. I will come back and edit later if they do not make sense. :-)

Danny's job at Bethel is to create a "fireplace" for the fire carriers he works with on a daily basis. Fire is a great thing, but we don't want "fire on the sofa," so to speak.

A culture of honor allows us to be uniquely different and uniquely powerful. Freedom is not for everyone to be the same.

To be free is to be able to put the best you have on display.

Definitions of honor:
1) To glory in, or promote. Honor does not happen among strangers, it happens among those who are closest to you, who have disappointed you, hurt you. We are told a blessing comes with honoring our parents. Who do we know better? And who has had the opportunity to disappoint and hurt us the most? Honoring our parents and previous generations is a way to pull out the good inheritance. Find the glory that was in them, whether they used it well or not, and claim that as your inheritance. We have 2 choices of how to gain inheritance. We can gain it through honor or through resentment; unforgiveness or glory.

2) To elevate the status of another. Ex. Jonathan giving his royal regalia to David, a lowly shepherd. Jesus has also given us royal regalia. We are co-heirs with Christ. Question for thought. Some ask why God allows poverty, suffering, injustice, etc. A better question might be, . . . "If we are empowered to be greater than Christ on this earth, why do we allow these things to happen?"

3) To give prestige to somebody. Prestige = Access to resources. ex. Billionaire friend. This partner creates resources and opportunities you would never have on your own. When we are honoring someone, we are offering them resources and opportunities they would not have access to without us. (By the same token, when God honors us, we receive His prestige.) Side note: Don't try to make your pastor the king, attempting to draw people into your kingdom. Instead, take your prestige to everyone on the island.

4) Great respect and admiration. This is typically given to those we agree with or whom we are like. We have more difficulty offering respect and admiration to those different from us or who do not agree with us.

Admiration = wonder - finding the best about you. Honor manifests when we disagree, not when we are getting along.

THE HEART OF HONOR IS EMPOWERMENT. Nothing about you determines if I will honor you or not. I honor you because I am an honoring person. When someone disagrees with me, can I honor them still? Honor ALL people. Can I do that? or can I only honor those who agree with me? We think we have the right to judge/dishonor those we disagree with or who do not follow what we believe to be God's will.

Do I really need to honor/empower everyone?? What about children?? women??? sinners???? What if they are knowingly sinning?! Yes, we are called to honor/empower all, regardless.

Empowering does not = ignoring. It requires action.

What makes me more powerful than you? Typically people say things like Violence = Power or Anger = Power. We say, "I will introduce suffering into your life if you do not give me what I want. I am willing to hurt you to get my way." We believe and feed others the lie, "Other people have power over you." We teach this lie to our children.

We teach that LOVE is a Mac Daddy yellow truck crushing a little red truck when the yellow truck does not get it's way. Then we teach people that God is love. God becomes the ultimate Mac Daddy yellow truck, ready to crush us at a moment's notice. We get this picture of an angry God who can only control his temper by looking at a picture of Jesus and reminding Himself, "No, can't completely destroy them because of my son . . ."

Question: If God is punishing us for our sin, why are we still alive? Shouldn't we all be LONG gone by now? Consequences are not God punishing us. I John 4:18

If we remove the threat of punishment from our community, why will people behave? What will motivate them? How will we control them?

We need everybody powerful AND we need to have the keys to confronting people. We need to learn to confront in ways that will not trigger people's defenses. We need people to be powerful because you can not confront powerless people and have a good result - and we need to be able to confront one another.

"We don't confront prisoners, we try to calm them down." Paul Manwarring 2008. You can't confront a prisoner with good results.

We are afraid of conflict. We must learn to confront one another. How can we walk alongside you and fix this? How much trust is there in this relationship.

In Kingdom confrontation, you must have 3 things, Trust, Self-Control, and Good Questions. Strength or relationship sets the tone for this to be able to happen. (Visual Aid of a tissue being ripped easily and a rope holding firm.)

Truth cultivates trust.

I can control myself on a good day. I can never control you.

Learn to ask good questions, not just throw scripture at people and judge them. (Story of man on staff who was like a torch running through a hayfield. He had to help train the man to think, plan, and pay attention to the things that did not come naturally, but not in a dictatorial fashion. Powerful guy meets powerful guy.)

Ex. Abraham and God bargaining over the destruction of Sodom. If God is confrontable, who is not?

Heaven trusts us amazingly.

Psalm 32:8 You will see my heart through my eyes.
Psalm 32:9 Don't live to need a cop.

Powerless people need rules, not freedom. Powerful people demand freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17 in The Message.

Video clip of Stacy at the Quarter Horse Championship. (She coaxed her horse to do things no one else could get a horse to do, using only her voice and a gentle touch. Riding bareback with no bit in the horses mouth, no reigns, just her voice and gentle touch.)

How are Covenant and Honor Connected?
Covenant Purpose - Galatians 2:20

Side Note: Jesus did not help everyone while he was here. There were towns he simply passed through. In fact, he was going to pass by the disciples the night he was walking on water, (and they were struggling with their oars!)but they stopped him.

A binding agreement requiring death.
****Genesis 15 - God and Abram
****Old Testament sacrifices on the altar.
****Baptism and Resurrection.

Walking through death together implies, "May the same fate fall upon us if we break the covenant." There is no real covenant until there is death. John 12:23-24 I Corinthians 15:36-38

You do not determine the outcome of the other person in the covenant relationship. "I will add strength to your life, but I can not control what you do with it."

Hebrews 9:17

You don't really see the covenant until you see a corpse. When you might embarrass me and I walk away, I fail the test of covenant.

A relationship becomes a covenant when I convince those around me that I will die to protect the relationship. I am willing to put my name on you and your failure. I BELIEVE THAT YOUR FAILURE WILL BE EXTINGUISHED BY THE GREATNESS IN YOU THAT WILL EVENTUALLY BE REVEALED.

When I am truly in covenant with you, you will feel my strength being poured into you.

Redwood roots only go six feet under. There strength comes from the fact that the roots of the entire grove intertwine and grow together. The have "lateral roots."

"I will find a way through these obstacles with you." I am now facing situations that are created by someone else's life that I can not control.

Being people of covenant makes it contagious. It is a willingness to believe in you through your mistakes and failures. "I will confront you until your nose falls off, but I will never stop believing in you."

Ex: Farmer with prize winning corn was asked how he manages to win every single year. He answered that he takes his prize winning corn and hands out it's seed to all of the neighboring farmers. This ensures that the pollen surrounding next year's crop is as good as it can possibly be.

Who are the people you are currently surrounding yourself with?

Galatians 2:20

Again, I don't control you with my seed.

Good stuff! I can't wait for tomorrow night!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Too Safe?

Random Thoughts:

I was leaving Ala Moana Park a couple of days ago, when I had this odd sensation of a mountain lion lying in wait, ready to pounce. There are no mountain lions on Oahu, to the best of my knowledge, nor anyplace for them to hide at Ala Moana Park. The passing impression did start a dialog in my head, though.

What would I do in a place where wild animals could be lurking, hiding? Would I have any kind of instinct of what to do? Would I have a fighting chance . . . at all?

Then I thought about things like drive by shootings. I know they happen in cities all over the nation, but I have never lived in a neighborhood where I have to worry about being shot while walking down the street. Random people frequently fight, yell, and cuss outside my window at night, but none of them have pulled out a weapon to create a horrible, permanent solution. What would I do in a place where people acted like wild animals? How would I survive.

There are people suffering a variety of things throughout the world - many of whom would not call what they experience suffering, but rather life. Yet, somehow, I have lived nearly 35 years without ever having to truly fear for my life. I am thankful, but I can't help but wonder, how will I survive/adapt if and when that changes?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Heart's Cry (prayer)

I cry out for Your people in the islands. Come and reclaim Your people. Reveal to Your Bride how to pull people out of the mud. Teach us how to love dirty people. Empower us to see healing pass through our hands. God, I long to see Your Kingdom grow. Purify my motives.

LORD, I have heard from many that you always choose to heal. That we pray that only what is in Heaven will be in Earth. But, Abba, I think there is a difference. We humans need opportunity to learn how to control our bodies and our emotions. We need to learn how to stand against evil spirits - and our own flesh. If we never get tired, never get sick, and never know heartbreaking trials, how do we learn to rely on you? I think of the angels who stood in the fullness of Your presence - and yet fell. God, I beg that you would humble my life in such a way - cause me to fall so much in love with You, that rebellion against You would not be in my heart.

God, as much as I long to carry the ability to do miracles, even more I long to carry peace and conviction. I want, in every way possible, to draw Your children home to You. Is it wrong for me to long for the days when we mourned our sin more than we mourned giving up our sin? Let us know how desperately we need you. Turn our hearts away from entertainment and distraction and make us lovesick for you. May we long for true excitement and adventure. Don't let fear stand in our way, LORD! Let me long for You more than anything. More than the touch or approval of men. More than anything. . .

Saturday, January 31, 2009


I went to see the movie "Taken" this afternoon. It left me with a few thoughts. Before I go into said thoughts, I want to say a couple of things.

1) This is probably a spoiler, so don't read it if you don't want to know about the movie. I won't intentionally spoil, but I probably will anyway. You can always come back to read after you have seen the movie.

2) The previews that were shown before the movie disturbed me greatly. I tend to be a little hypersensitive but, if you can, go get popcorn during the previews.

3) The one thing I think they should add to this movie is a PSA (Public Service Announcement) at the end about what to do if you suspect someone is involved in a human trafficking situation and how to get more information on the problem.

Okay, now onto the movie. My thoughts, as usual, are a bit random so please bear with me as I sort them out.

I was glad that I saw the movie on many levels. I need to be reminded that human trafficking is a real problem with widespread and horrible consequences. It is too easy to shove that disturbing information into the back of my mind. I appreciate that they showed how easily girls can be taken and how quickly their lives can be ruined.

While the subject matter grabbed my attention, it was the father's character that really got me thinking. He would stop at nothing to get his daughter back. Now, I realize that some of you may find yourselves offended by what I am about to suggest. It is okay. Our blood needs to burn a bit from time to time. :-)

I feel like the father in this movie showed a great deal of the characteristics of the ultimate Father, God. For a while, I found myself thinking, "But no one could do all of this. No one is that good." That thought was soon followed by, "God could."

We all know the "sweet" story of how God came to earth to die and save people from sin. What if God's heart carries a passion similar to that of the main character of this film? What if His desire to have us home "safe and sound" looks that desperate. Unconditional. Nothing allowed to stand in the way. No risk too great. What if He was willing to fight through all of those trying to use, abuse, and possibly even kill us? Even when we made the choices that put us into the situation? Even when we were not in good relationship with Him?

What if God were that kind of Father? How could I help but love Him, adore Him?

Last week, Jordan (my pastor) challenged our view of a shepherd and suggested maybe we think "cowboy" instead. This movie prompted me to take a step even further. After all, doesn't the Bible describe God as all of those things mentioned above? Faithfully warning His children about the danger their choices will bring. Faithfully pursuing them to save them and set them free, even after they made those very choices. Fighting the darkness of this world. Desperate for us to come home. This is not a gentle, mild mannered, paper pusher. This is someone dangerous to evil.

What if it is His job to take out the evil and our job to help clear the way? Honestly, I do not have the strength, nor the skill set (and probably not the stomach) to take down a human trafficking ring. I doubt I could even stop gang activity in the inner city. But I can help clear the way. I can pray. I can introduce people to God. I can listen to His voice, trust Him, and do what He says. I can have my eyes open to both the physical and spiritual realms and be aware of how both are effecting the world around me. I could administer the IV to the rescued girl while He finishes wrangling the "bad guys." (Metaphorical ref. to the movie.) I could provide my resources. I could heal. I could deliver. I could be God's sidekick.

So much to ponder. . .