Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chazown: The Vision Quest

Everyone ends up somewhere. But few people end up somewhere on purpose.

Where do you want to end up? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Each and every day you are laying the groundwork of your own legacy. That's a sobering thought.

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." Carl Jung

The Bible encourages us to find our purpose living through the life and gifts God has given us in the time we are allotted. We don't get to choose the times that we live in, they are given to us.

Isaiah 46:10
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

What are you doing to uncover your own vision? What purpose have you dedicated your life for?

Psalm 139:13–16
You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

The vision you seek, and need, can be many different things.
Vision is wisdom.
Vision is insight into the nature of things.
Vision is the ability to see the future.
Vision is the ability to dream.
Vision is the surging upward of personal creative energy.
Vision is one's life work.
Vision is a marrow-deep feeling,
a knowing,
a recognition of self,
a realization of what you can do.
Vision is transcendent, mystical knowledge - cosmic consciousness.
Vision is the sight of the sun rising in the
East to answer the hope that another day will come.
Vision is a series of "ahas!" about what your life has been and could be.
Steven Foster

Proverbs 29:18 KJV
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”

Monday, February 27, 2006

Desperate HouseLives: Single (Again!) Lost In Loneliness

From which television show does each of these quotes come?

"Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got”

“I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour”

“Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind”

Everybody desperately wants a place to belong; a place to believe and a place to become.

"Remember, no man is a failure who has friends"

Desperate Housewives is no different. The sad part is the quest to dull the pain of loneliness with surficial relationships that lack real commitment. This is nothing new; just this past week MacLean’s magazine had an article on the very subject.

“It’s gone to the opposite extreme where now being married makes you the loser, makes you the boring woman at the dinner table” is the article title and it’s an interview with Jillian Strauss, author of the book The Unhooked Generation.

“A lot of the favorite TV shows of my generation, Desperate Housewives, Friends, Sex In The City, not only do they make the single life very sexy, they also make marriage and family life look boring and miserable and…desperate.”

“Marriage is disposable” is a dominant theme as seen from celebrity marriages.

“It’s very difficult to say, ‘I want an intimate relationship.’”

“What I found was that some people found the idea of casual sex, of hooking up, liberating in the beginning, but over time, both the men and the woman I talked to found that it had lost it’s luster.”

“Listen, I’ve done the casual sex thing. I’m over it. I want to get to know someone.” Jillian Strauss

Strauss goes on to talk about our obsession with consumerism and need for instant gratification. We want to avoid suffering: “I shouldn’t have to feel any pain or suffering.”

Says Strauss: “Stop expecting to instantly meet your soul mate and know in five minutes whether or not you are going to spend the rest of your life together.” “Drop your checklist.”

“I saw the things I was doing wrong and that I didn’t know I was doing wrong. It’s a lot easier to see in someone else.”

Obviously Strauss has discovered a reflective cycle that is helping her become aware of issues and then taking the steps to rectify the patterns involved.

Solemate vs. soulmate

“I’d rather be single wanting to be married than married and wanting to be single.”

Reminds me of the tortured existence that Leo Tolstoy lived. Author of what many consider the greatest literary work in War and Peace, he sought after God’s kingdom and peace on earth but certainly never experienced it in his marriage.

William Shirer, a chronicler of Tolstoy’s life put it this way, “Day after day, year after year, they put down their innermost and increasingly bitter thoughts about the other. And for years they left what they wrote for the other to read – it was a perverse form of communication between them.”

If I'm Waiting on God, Then What Am I Doing in a Christian Chatroom? by Kerri Pomarolli

In a chapter called “Finding Mr. ‘H’ (Mr. Hottie)", Pomarolli writes “I see now I’ve built up some bad habits from my past relationships that are hard to break: Right from the start Mr. H. and I spent all our time together so we were completely attached and subjective. We didn’t allow anything to grow naturally; we just jumped on the emotional roller coaster and stayed there. The highs were exhilaratingly high and the lows made me want to throw up!”

We also have to face up to the fact we all have these tapes playing in our heads, “What if this doesn’t work out? What if we aren’t compatible? What if I hurt his feelings and lead him on? Or vice versa?” This kind of thinking should not be occupying a lot of time in our heads. I think the only weapon for me here to fight my female anxiety is prayer. We have to keep putting our trust in God.

Sounds remarkably close to what Jillian Strauss was speaking of.

Pomarelli gets to the thrust of the issue: giving control of our loneliness over to God.

"There is the voice that everybody hears that is your parents' voice, your professor's [voice], it's the world's voice saying to you, "you should do this, you should be this, you ought to, you got to." And then there is the still small voice—for some people it's not so small—inside of every human being that calls you to something that is greater than yourself." Oprah

Oprah helps us see the real heart cry of loneliness. We are called to embrace God’s grace and embrace others, too. We must move past the ‘me’!

We all have a need to be intimately known in a safe relationship and family or community. It’s a part of the image of God that’s been put inside of us.

A young girl is afraid to sleep alone. Her mother says to her, ‘you’re never alone dear. God is with you.’ The little girl responds, “well then why don’t I sleep with daddy and you can sleep here with God.”

We want God and His grace with flesh! It’s inherent in our being to desire to be with others.

“Christ did not die just to save us from our sins, but to bring us together into community. After coming to Christ, our next step is to be involved in community. A church that does not experience community is a parody, a sham.

But the church in the West is being overtaken by individualism, which entails increased material pursuits, so you can afford to be self-sufficient. Strong anti-community forces are at work. Family life is practically non-existent as we are pulled away in different directions.” Gilbert Bilezikian

The situation is desperate!

Larry Crabb: Many people go through their entire lives never feeling safe in any relationship. And that's a violation of the gospel. I would suspect that the issues that are most intense within people never come up in small groups. Therefore, the issues that are strongest in my soul are never dealt with in the presence of other Christians because there's an absence of safety.

We need to examine the passions that are ruling within us as we engage each other. Is there really the passion of one upsmanship? Or looking for something witty to say? Or of playing it safe so that nobody could possibly reject me?

Mother Theresa said, “Loneliness is the disease of our time.”

In your loneliness you say strange things to yourself. “I must be unlovable. I need to change my appearance.”

There are things about 15 that you would love to go back and experience but there are things about 15 that heaven help me I would never in my wildest imagination want to go back and experience because I remember feeling that way. And the one thing I can give them is that one day you will be 30 and maybe have tasted a little bit just like I have tasted a little bit of what it feels like to know that God gave His only son to die on a cross for me and He loves me and He doesn’t make mistakes, and so He didn’t make a mistake when He made me.

So when I am ridden with whatever about my hips, or my upper arms, or my eyes aren’t big enough, or my lips aren’t full enough. Holy Crap! God did not make a mistake when He made me; now that doesn’t mean go eat 150 chocolate pies. Take care of yourself, be a good steward of your body. But you know what He loves you, He died for you, and He created you in His image. Plumb

God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. C. S. Lewis

Give control of your loneliness over to God. This isn’t just an intellectual exercise, though. It’s gut wrenching!

The story of Naomi and Ruth in the book of Ruth is very illuminating in light of loneliness. Naomi and Ruth are the biblical poster girls for “Desperate Housewives”.

Let’s look and see how they deal with life’s relational setbacks.

Naomi’s husband dies. Here’s a widower living with her two sons. And then they die and all she has left is her daughter in laws. All the while she’s an immigrant in another country. Sounds pretty desperate to me.

Look at how Ruth validated Naomi by staying with her. Look at how Naomi supported Ruth in the new situation.

Look at the honest, raw emotions expresses by Naomi.

Ruth 1:9
“they all broke down and wept.”

Ruth 1:13
Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer."

Ruth 1:14
And again they wept together.

Ruth 1:16-17
But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!"

Reminds me of something Jesus promised,

Matthew 28:20
“…Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Ruth 1:20-21
"Don't call me Naomi (it means pleasant)," she told them. "Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?"

Ruth helped Naomi move from hostility through her hospitality. Wholeness came. This was due in part to the emotional support provided.

Even though Naomi was hurting inside her first idea was release Ruth & Orpah to move on with their lives. Naomi wasn’t an emotional infant. She had realized the need to give to others in order to grow.

Where are you in your own emotional development? Picture a recent relational problem and let God speak to you as you read on.

Emotional Infant. Like a physical infant, I look to other people to take care of me more than I look to care for them. I often have difficulty in describing and experiencing my feelings in healthy ways and rarely enter the emotional world of other. I am consistently driven by a need for instant gratification, often using others as objects to meet my needs, and am unaware of how my behavior is effecting/hurting them. People sometimes perceive me as inconsiderate, insensitive, and self-centered.

Emotional Child. Like a physical child, when life’s going my way and I am receiving all the things I want and need, I am content and seem emotionally well adjusted. However, as soon as disappointment, stress, tragedy, or anger enter the picture, I quickly unravel inside. I interpret disagreements as a personal offense and am easily hurt by others. When I don't get my way, I often complain, throw an emotional tantrum, withdraw, manipulate, drag my feet, become sarcastic, or take revenge. I have difficulty calmly discussing with others what I want and expect from them in a mature loving way.

Emotional adolescent. Like a physical adolescent, I know the right ways I should behave in order to “fit in” mature, adult society. I can feel threatened and alarmed inside when I am offered constructive criticism, quickly becoming defensive. I subconsciously keep records on the love I give out, so I can ask for something in return at a later time. When I am in conflict, I might admit some fault in the matter, but I will insist on demonstrating the guilt of the other party, proving they are more to blame. Because of my commitment to self-survival, I have trouble really listening to another person's pain, disappointments, or needs without becoming preoccupied with myself.

Emotional adult. I can respect and love others without having to change them or becoming critical and judgmental. I don't expect anyone to be perfect in meeting my relational needs, whether it is my spouse, parents, friends, boss, or pastor. I love and appreciate people for who they are as whole individuals, the good and the bad, and not for what they can give me or how they behave. I take responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, goals, and actions, when under stress; I don't fall into a victim mentality or a blame game. I can state my own beliefs and values to those who disagree with me – without becoming adversarial. I am able to accurately self-assess my limits, strengths, and weaknesses and freely discuss them with others. Deeply in tune with my own emotions and feelings, I can move into the emotional worlds or others, meeting them at the place of their feelings, needs, and concerns. I am deeply convinced that I am absolutely loved by Christ, that I have nothing to prove.

Psalm 139:7-10
“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.”

“Grieving the death of a close friend and my husband asking for a divorce within a week of one another…the reality was that I was going to be a single mom, going back to work to support myself and Ella, living with the pain, the guilt, the shame. Moving cross-country. Finding a job. Finding a place to live. Finding day care. Letting go of my daughter so that another woman may care for her. Broken heart. Broken dreams. I prayed and I prayed. Night and day. Silently. Out loud…I haven’t told anyone at ___ how instrumental they’ve been to me in recovering from my divorce and grief of my loss…but I am grateful to each and every one of you.”

Romans 12:10-18
"Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody"

At the end of the book of Ruth we have Ruth marrying and having a son. Her new husband is an old family frend of Naomi, perhaps more her age but nonetheless Naomi helps arrange the marriage instead for Ruth.

Oh yeah, and it turns out Ruth's child becomes part of the lineage leading to King David and ultimately Jesus.

I don't know where your loneliness will lead. But with God on your side it can be redeemed for a better day. And a better way.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jack, God, and Love.

A Tribute To Jack Linklater, Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father and Friend to Many by Bob Stenhouse

I am humbled to be up here to speak of my friend and mentor Jack. You cannot help but speak of God and Love when you attempt to speak of Jack. Jack’s faith in our Lord Jesus Christ defined who he was, and determined what he did. Jack and I were friends and fellow students at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton. Last Tuesday was Valentines Day and I was scheduled to speak in our chapel service. I thought, what in the heck could a former hard-boiled, tough talking, rough around the edges undercover cop possibly have to say about love. And as I prepared my message, reflecting on Jack’s influence on me and in this world, I came to a an even deeper understanding and conviction in my heart and soul and mind, that God is love. There are many descriptors of God in the Bible, and many more yet in theological writings. But there is one so succinct, and powerful in it’s simplicity that is found in 1 John 4. God is love.

Jack knew this at his core. He not only experienced the truth of God’s love, but he understood what that meant for his life. And if there was ever a man who lived out the greatest commandment to love God and love others, it was Jack.

There is often times confusion, doubt, fear, apathy about who God is and what significance he has in our lives.

If there is ever any doubt about who God is, and what he desires for our lives, it seems to me to be perfectly clear in 1 John 4:7-21. God is love.

Jack was not always a follower of Jesus Christ. And Jack was no stranger to the dark and ugly and evil side of life. As you know, Jack worked in the correctional system for most of his life. He eventually became warden of the Edmonton Maximum prison.

Jack and I used to compare stories of God’s grace in our lives, and the dark valleys that we have traveled Jack also saw the dark and ugly side of life as the warden in the prison system. The stuff you see in the movies, the violence, the sexual perversions, the hatred, are all real.

But I want to tell you a story about grace and love. I hope you don’t mind stories, seems to me that Jesus taught in story; stories have a way of bringing the truth of the scripture to life. Some of you may have heard Jack tell a story about a man who was convicted of the most repulsive of crimes, the rape and murder of a child. In the prison system these people are ostracized and beat up often, sometimes killed. So Jack was making his rounds and walked into the woodworking shop and this man was standing alone in the corner a mixture of fear and hatred and loneliness on his face. By this time in his career Jack was a strong Christian. In front of all of the other inmates and several guards Jack said to this man “ you look like something is bothering you deeply”. The man told Jack that he knew his crime made him an outcast and hated by everyone. Jack felt prompted by the spirit and asked him if he could pray for him. The man started to tear up and nodded yes. Jack prayed for this man in front of all of the other hardened criminals. Praying for God’s mercy and love and forgiveness. This is a scene right out of a movie.

Now that is grace and love in action. My friend and your friend Jack, seeing this man as Jesus would have seen him. Jack would tell you that it is easy to love the loveable. If there was ever a man who we would see through our own fallible humanness that did not deserve of love and mercy it was this convict. But Jack listened to the Holy Spirit. We don’t know what horrific things happened in this mans life that brought him to where he was on that day. Jack’s mercy and grace and ability to allow God’s love flow through him to a man whose crime was repulsive, was God’s love in action. Our friend Jack chose to see this man as a child, broken and wounded, full of sin, not knowing what suffering and abuse he may have experienced himself that brought him to where he was. He chose to see him as Jesus would and at that moment he took a risk of love.

God is love. And Jack understood that radical transformational change that comes through a belief in Jesus Christ begins with a representation of that love and mercy and grace through other people.

It is God’s love, his sacrifice for us, the free gift of forgiveness through Jesus that brings hope and light into this often times dark and confusing world. Jack experienced this truth, spoke this truth, and lived out this truth.

Jack would want you to know this, and this is the legacy that he leaves. It is the love of Christ that transforms lives. It is the love of Christ that brings miraculous healing to the body and soul. Jack knew this and I know this. As I think about my own healing of a hardened heart.

And in a story that is too long to go into today, the message of redemption and love and grace that is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, pierced through the layers of my protection of my heart like a hot knife through butter. My soul awoke, my heart began to feel deeply again, I cried, and continue to do so, more than ever in my life. I am loving people again. And I loved the man we are here to honor and remember today. He showed me what it meant to be a man of God.

In the first letter to the Church in Corinth, the apostle Paul puts the proper perspective on life and love. And in there he tells us, that if we have all the knowledge, material possessions, worldly success, talents, brainpower, and have not love, we have nothing, and our words are empty.

Taylor Seminary is a place of learning, a place to become Christ minded. These last two years if I wanted to learn about deep philosophical theology or the mysteries of the Bible I would go and see one of our gifted professors to teach and guide me in the way of God. But for these last two years if I wanted to learn about love, I would go for lunch with my friend and mentor Jack. Jack knew love indeed Jack was love. And I am going to miss our lunch dates.

Jack would be the first one to point to the Amazing Grace of Christ that he received that allowed him to love.

One writer writes this about loving through death,

I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love. Though some day we all have to part with those we love, they are not lost. We are always better for having loved. In this way, love transcends even death.

What does God want from you and me? Does God want us to think the right thoughts or to do the right things? Of course. But above all God wants us to be involved in right relationships. When the Bible says, "God is love," it is saying that God is a relationship. Love has no value or meaning in a vacuum. Right relationships are not produced by right thoughts or right actions. Just the opposite. Right thoughts and right actions are produced by right relationships.
Leonard Sweet

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Grope After God

What do you think God has been trying to say to you in recent weeks?
How has God been present to you in the last while?
When did God seem absent?
What spiritual practices have been particularly meaningful to you lately?
Which have been less meaningful than usual?
What do you seek from God at this point your life?

Acts 17:27 NASB
that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Friday, February 24, 2006

These Dreams

Dreams provide us an opportunity to know our inmost thoughts. They are also one way that God speaks to us and through us. Scripture records many instances of dreams, including those of Joseph and Daniel.

What do you do with your dreams? Many times we can’t even remember them, never mind learning of or hearing from God through them!

In his book Dreams and Spiritual Growth, Louis Savary helps us develop a dream work exercise. The first step is to have a journal by your bed so that you can record these experiences upon waking. If you don’t write them down when you have a fresh recall, you’ll lose much of the richness of the dream. The next step is to organize the material along the acronym “TTAQ”.

Give your dream a title T
Give your dream a theme T
Record the emotions experienced in the dream, the affect A
Record the questions that the dream creates for you Q

Tell God that you’ll listen if He chooses to communicate with you through dreams. Don’t rush to interpret them either; let the dream permeate your soul and listen to what God may be saying. The whole thing might be more about learning to be attentive to Jesus through your dreams that getting ‘dictations from God’.

Following this format will also provide you an opportunity to share more clearly with others your dreams.

Spare a little candle
Save some light for me
figures up ahead
Moving in the trees
White skin in linen
Perfume on my wrist
And the full moon that hangs over
these dreams in the mist
Darkness on the edge
Shadows where I stand
I search for the time
On a watch with no hands
I want to see you clearly
Come closer than this
But all I remember
Are the dreams in the mist
These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside
Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away

Is it cloak 'n dagger
Could it be spring or fall
I walk without a cut
Through a stained glass wall
Weaker in my eyesight
The candle in my grip
And words that have no form
Are falling from my lips

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside
Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away

There's something out there
I can't resist
I need to hide away from the pain
There's something out there
I can't resist
The sweetest song is silence
That I've ever heard
Funny how your feet
In dreams never touch the earth
In a wood full of princes
Freedom is a kiss
But the prince hides his face
From dreams in the mist

Joel 2:28-29
"Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Soup For The Soul

Insecurity keeps many people from growing and learning and changing. It is even a more powerful deterrent than a lack of talent or being inept at something.

If you fear failure and humiliation you can't imagine that growth or change could be possible and you'll live down to those expectations.

What are you afraid of? Our thought life is in many ways the soil of our mind and the medium we'll grow our spirituality in. It's the petri dish of transformation if you will. Jesus spoke of this subject in the story of the farmer scattering seed in Matthew 13.

What fertile or caustic thoughts do you attempt to grow your spiritual life in?

In his book A Whack on the Side of the Head Roger von Oech suggest that we work at "getting into a germinal frame of mind." That's like developing a garden bed with rich, black dirt where seeds get a good start on germination. God ideas can grow and flourish and fear isn't allowed to poison the mix.

Matthew 13:23
The good soil represents the hearts of those who truly accept God's message and produce a huge harvest--thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted."

Colossians 1:10
Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


What come to mind when you here the word temptation? Sex? Ice cream? A bad angel sitting on your shoulder? The Garden of Eden? Guilt? Fear? Frustration? Laughter?

Write down what comes to mind. Include your:



Beliefs and opinions,


“Nothing is so contagious as an example. We never do great good or great evil without bringing about more of the same on the part of others.”

Philippians 3:19
Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.

God please lead me, please deliver me,
…away from the things that tempt me… money, sex, power, acceptance, approval, success. Keep me from spiritualizing my life, rather than dealing with the realities of life and the pitfalls that await me apart from your leading. May my days be times of clinging to you, declaring that I need to be lead, lest I perish.

Ultimately, I Have Hope
For Yours is the Kingdom
Yours is the power
Yours is the glory
Forever and ever

Thank You For My Community of Hope

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Die To The Need To Be Right

1 Corinthians 4:7
What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?

If I wanted your opinion I’d give it to you.

When I was a youngster my grandmother would say to me, “All you want to do is argue.” “No I don’t” would be my retort.

And so we’d have a vigorous and robust discussion, usually with me trying to get the last word in.

Have you ever found yourself trying to get the last word in? It wouldn’t be so hard if the other person would just let you, right?

In my experience, one of the most common challenges that successful people face is a constant need to win. When the issue is important, they want to win. When the issue is trivial, they want to win. Even when the issue isn't worth the effort or is clearly to their disadvantage, they still want to win.

Research shows that the more we achieve, the more we tend to want to "be right." At work meetings, we want our position to prevail. In arguments, we pull out all the stops to come out on top. Even at supermarket checkouts, we scout other lines to see if there's one that's moving faster. Marshall Goldsmith

Needing to get the last word in is all about our wanting to be right, our needing to be right, and our sense of pride. Each and every day God asks us to die to self, to remember our baptism and to fully embrace the fact that we don’t need to somehow prove ourselves anymore. Who we are and the gifts and talents we have come from God in the first place.

When you see a candy jar, you may feel thankful but would reckon it silly if the jar was to somehow say to you, “Look at my goodies inside. Aren’t I special?”

Try going the next week by letting others get the final say. Don’t force your will upon others. Let them decide: your spouse, your friends, and your children. Monitor your thoughts as you bite your tongue. What may God be saying through them?

“There is no greater loss than the answer to a question no one is asking.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Philippians 2:3-4
Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Desperate HouseLives III: Poisonous Parenting

One of the most difficult jobs in life is to raise our children. If we look to shows like Desperate Housewives we'll end up with messed up kids and families. Because we're full of toxins.

Test to see if you are ready to be a parent:
* Mess Test: Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Now rub your hands in the wet flowerbed and rub on the walls. Cover the stains with crayons. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

* Toy Test: Obtain a 55-gallon box of Lego. (If Lego isn't available, you may substitute roofing tacks orbroken bottles.) Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream. (This could wake a child at night.)

* Grocery Store Test: Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

*Dressing Test: Obtain one live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all arms stay inside.

* Feeding Test: Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a stout cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal (such as Fruit Loops orCheerios) into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

* Night Test: Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8 -12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8:00 PM begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00 PM. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00 PM. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00 AM. Set alarm for 5:00 AM. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

* Physical Test (Women): Obtain a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Now remove 10% of the beans.

* Physical Test (Men): Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

* Final Assignment: Find a couple that already has a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners. Suggest many ways they can improve.

* Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.

When Did I Stop Being Barbie & Become Mrs. Potato Head? by Mary Pierce

"It's okay, Mom," she said. "I understand. It's mentalpause."

We have a responsibility that is both an opportunity and a privilege to raise our kids well. We can't do this without God's help. We cannot do this job alone. It takes a church to raise a family, or a child.

Unfortunately our past often gets in the way of our parenting. Our wounds and scars, especially the unresolved ones, cause us to repeat unhealthy patterns from the past. The Bible calls these 'generational sins'.

The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Version) Disc 2, Scene 9, 35:23-41:53
As the fellowship descends into the mines of Moria, we have the symbolic journey into our past in order to find healing. In geology as you go deeper under the surface the layers are older, when you cut a tree trunk the rings indicate years gone by and so too, as we explore our past we can take a stand against experiences that have caused us harm and threaten to be passed onto others.

Gandalf: We now have but one choice: We must face the long dark of Moria. Be on your guard. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.

Gandalf: I have no memory of this place...

Gandalf: A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!

Gandalf: Go back to the shadow! You shall not pass!!

I don't know what your generational family junk is/was. I know that in my family we had several: There was a history of alcohol & drug abuse. My next oldest brother died of an overdose 10 years ago on the street. My other 2 older brothers have suffered much from this in the past to the present.

There was a history of infidelity, from my father & I've seen it in my brothers. Marriages estranged, children set against parents, destroyed families and relationships.

I have covenanted to let God do whatever work He needs to do in my life to keep these from poisoning my children and their children.

You may have had a similar background of hurts, just of a different sort. Violence, as in spankings, beatings affect many. Outbursts of anger, withholding of love, the list seems endless.

I recall a friend of mine recounting the story of his father: when he was 9, he was combing with his own dad, my friend's grandfather. The 9 year old made a mistake and was so verbally abused by his own dad that he peed his pants. When my friend heard this story about his dad, he began to understand why his dad was prone to anger and emotional withdrawal.

Sadly sexual abuse haunts many adults, too. The list could go on. Our work is to go deep and let the healing come through Jesus.

You can't heal, though, what hasn't been discovered.

Those demons of the deep will cripple our parenting and us if we won't yield to Jesus and his power. That doesn't mean it's easy. Like Gandalf we will have to let an old identity die, and let Jesus resurrect the freed person He desires us to be.

Children do suffer for their parent's sins,

Jeremiah 32:18

You are loving and kind to thousands, though children suffer for their parents' sins.All you have to do to verify this is watch an episode of any talk show to see the effects of this.

Children, however, do not pay for their parent's sins.

2 Kings 14:6

"Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins"

You are not being held accountable for the sins of your fathers, even if you are suffering because of those sins. A person who never felt his father's love and approval is not responsible for their father's sin, even though it hurts.

If we don't take a stand against the wounds of the past we will likely create toxic environments in our parenting. We'll help form children that become what sociologists call "kidults" who live in "Adultescence".

Kidults are self-absorbed. Everything is a means to feed their own selfish desires, whether it's college, parents, a job, a girlfriend/boyfriend, or even a church. If something threatens to get in the way, like marriage, family, or other responsibilities, they just avoid it. Besides, if they can get many of the worldly benefits of those things without the cost of commitment, why commit?

Or well meaning parents facilitate The Pampered Child Syndrome: a child, who has never been taught to wait, and has no tolerance for frustration. Delayed gratification and instruction from parents is the only way to overcome this. It's hard to do if you've never done it!

As a parent we need to be tour operators as opposed to travel agents for our kids: I've never learned to deal with my impulses but you should. Here are your tickets, tell me when you get there!

The proper way is to understand what we've gone through to deal with our issues and look for appropriate ways to guide our children, realizing that some things have changed.

If we won't deal with this idea we create an environment of entitlement and it ultimately leads to a selfish consumerism: it's all about me Jesus!

Rick Diamond in Wrestling with God says, "We're part of a culture that encourages running rather than wrestling."

You shall not pass!

Running is symbolic of our need for instant gratification. We don't want the hard work or time for wrestling so we run and we escape. Allowing for that is to create a poisonous atmosphere.

Listen to what Bill O'Reilly says about some of today's music: Eminem's lyrics justify immediate gratification on all levels. If your girlfriend does you wrong, kick her in the stomach. If your mother gives you a hard time, call her a dirty name. If you want to get high -- go right ahead.

The corporate charlatans who peddle this pernicious rap crap tell us that they are giving a "voice" to the disenfranchised. But what they are really doing is contributing to the cycle of poverty. If they truly wanted to hear from the "disenfranchised," they'd put out how-to-succeed books and tapes by poor people who have made it. Hundreds of teachers have written to me saying that their young students emulate rappers in speech, dress and attitudes. Thus, we now have 10-year-old boys calling little girls "b_s." We have 13-year-olds with tattoos and body piercing. We have poor children without parental guidance selling dope and carrying guns.

Sure, we've always had teenage rebellion in this country. But now the bar has been dropped to the lowest level in our nation's entertainment history. Now it's OK to rap about abusing women, smoking crack and solving problems with a gun.

Scripture is full of Poisonous Parenting, like we see in Desperate HouseLives and hear in music.

Genesis 25:28

Isaac loved Esau in particular because of the wild game he brought home, but Rebekah favored Jacob.

Favoritism. It raised its ugly head in the Joseph story, too.

Genesis 37:4

But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father's partiality. They couldn't say a kind word to him.

In his book Tired of Trying to Measure Up, Jeff VanVonderan says, "We all need an environment where we feel our needs are met because of who we are not because of what we do."

What we 'do' to gain acceptance is the 'House of Pleasing God', and the key to the gate is self-effort and performance. That's like a pace-setting environment.

VanVonderan goes on to say, "Quite often people try, with the best of intentions, to help themselves or their loved ones through a problem or crisis, only discover that the help is not helpful, or even harmful. They find themselves supporting and helping to prolong on the outside, the very thing they do not support on the inside. Individuals and families become dysfunctional by accident. But they get well on purpose."

A poisonous environment brings death to the children. We need an environment of grace and trust that allows kids to grow up into being everything that God intended.

Curtis Martin, in his acceptance speech for the Bart Starr Award, said his faith in God helped him overcome a rocky beginning to his life, including family and friends being killed when he was young and an abusive home situation where his dad regularly beat his mom.

"I always thought I would die before I was 21, but I appreciate life now and I do realize we have a God who forgives whatever we can do."

Think of David's family of origin, and how his parenting went later in his life. Incest, murder, and heck it even sounds like Desperate HouseLives!

If you don't feel like you had patterns handed down from your family I celebrate this with you. Your challenge becomes not turning into the older brother, or older sister, of the Prodigal Son story. Remember him from Luke 15? He gets jealous and misses the grace of God offered through His father towards the wayward brother. Remember what he says?

Luke 15:30

Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have.'

They never talked about the prodigal's lifestyle. Was perhaps the older son envious? Was he gossiping? Fantasizing? Whatever the situation he missed the move of God. If you're from a good stable home, celebrate that with gratitude. God is likely intending for you to share yourself with others.

It takes a church to raise a family.

"Why does God allow pain in our life? Because we're loved by God and the pain allows us to head back to our Father." Tony Dungy, speaking at the Super Bowl about the suicide of his 19-year-old son James

Three questions to focus on as we close:

1. What do you want your children to become? I'm speaking now of their identity more than their 'work.'

2. Where are they presently?

3. What can you do to help them make the next step?

Proverbs 22:6

Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.

The opposite of Poisonous Parenting is found in Colossians.

Colossians 3:12-25

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

You wives must submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. And you husbands must love your wives and never treat them harshly. You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord. Fathers, don't aggravate your children. If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying. You slaves must obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Obey them willingly because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites who can get away with evil.

Joshua 24:15b

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

Isaiah 55:1a, 2b

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;...Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

I'll never forget the relief I felt when my wife said, "I just want a spiritual companion, not a leader." Louis McBurney

1 Thessalonians 5:11

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. "

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Restored II

Have you ever felt like there was no way to put yourself back together after a fall? That your insides, your thought life and motives, were hideous and grotesque? That you surely didn't deserve love?

Galatians 3:27
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him.
The Man With The Ugly Face C. S. Lewis

Once upon a time there was a man with an absolutely hideous face. He was so ugly that children cried out in fright and adults stood gaping. Embarrassed by his own features, the man had a mask crafted. The firm mask showed a face of strong, elegant beauty – quite unlike the face of the one who would wear it.

Every morning without fail, the man with the ugly face got up and put on the beautiful mask. He knew he was pretending and that people who saw him would wonder about the mask; but to him, it was much better than showing them who he really was.

Every day, year in and year out, the man got up in the morning and put the mask on his face.

One morning as he got up and went to fetch his mask, he caught his reflection in the window glass. Dismayed at what he saw, he frantically searched his house for a mirror (which was quite a task as he’d eliminated most of them years ago, not caring for the image of truth they returned). Upon finding a small hand mirror he gazed in shock – and finally joy at what he saw.

It seems that by putting on the mask year in and year out, his bone and tissue had formed to the mold of the that mask, and he was ugly no more. In fact, his face had been transformed into the exact replica of the beautiful mask.

Let God change your apperance and likeness to be that of His son Jesus Christ. Every morning read the folowing passage and ask God to make it be so for you.

Colossians 3:1-17

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. God's terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. You used to do them when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Isaiah 43:1-7 But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Others died that you might live. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.

"Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west and from north and south. I will bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them."

Two images frame the restorative journey that we travel with God. One is the picture that deep waters do not have to drown us; rather they cleanse us. Another is that the consuming fire isn't there to harm us but to purify us. These adventures allow God's character to become fully formed within our soul and experience. Do not fear the journey. We trek with a good God.

Pray along with Ephesians 1:17-19

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

Friday, February 17, 2006

By Faith, Not Sight

2 Corinthians 5:7 Message
It’s what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going.

While standing, close your eyes, lift one foot off the floor and try to balance on the one foot still on the ground. If you’re like me, you end up looking like Elaine from Seinfeld when she does her wacky dance, as you try and maintain your balance.

Proprioceptors are sensors in the body that are crucial to help maintain balance and equilibrium. These sensors usually require the reinforcement of visual cues to function properly, thus explaining why it can be so difficult to maintain your balance with one foot off the ground.

Scientists study how to relearn basic functions after brain injuries to help better understand the role proprioceptors play in the process. Those who are able to turn off their proprioceptors learn and relearn new tasks quicker than those who can’t.

Movement's Sixth Sense

As followers of Christ, God has asked us to walk in faith, or trust. Circumstances aren’t always as they seem, because God asks us to cultivate an eternal perspective. Difficulties may cause us problems, but these same challenges can birth perseverance and hope if we’ll let them.

Our vision, the way God sees us, doesn’t always add up to what our bodies tell us. Thus we can seem terribly off balance at times. We often ask why bad things happen to good people. We ask God to give us an easier time here on earth. All the while He says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Scripture is full of times that Jesus chastens us to rely on our beliefs and not our human balance. Think of his appearance to Thomas after the Resurrection:

John 20:27-29
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!" "My Lord and my God!" Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway."

Or about his appearance to the discouraged followers along the Emmaus road:

Luke 24:25:25-26,32
Then Jesus said to them, "You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn't it clearly predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his time of glory…They said to each other, "Didn't our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"

2 Corinthians 5:7
We live by faith, not by sight.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Welcome Home

“We’ve all been prodigals… or away for other reasons. I pray this song helps you find the way back – because it’s time to come home. We miss you.” So begins the dedication for Michael Jacob’s song Welcome Home on his album They Come Dancing.

We closed our service on January 29 playing this song and doing a Dance of Transformation, a snake dance that symbolized putting off the old self and becoming new in Christ. (See Tuesday, January 31st blog for more details).

I have been so deeply moved by the imagery of coming home that I can’t get the song out of my head! Nor do I even want to.

The song speaks to me about our need for each other and of our completeness in Christ. We truly are a family and our work is to help others find their way home.

How are you doing on your own journey home? Have you found that place where you know deep in your soul that you belong?

All my relations, it’s been a long time -a long time we’ve been apart
But my relations, the grieving has passed, a song of joy fills our hearts
Welcome home, welcome home
Welcome home, my loved ones, welcome home

Way yah way yah hey yah, way yah way yah hey yah
Way yah way hey yah Way hey yah, welcome home

Children returning from far-away lands
Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons
Generations returning from the four winds
Brothers and sisters, we’re all here as one

The veteran, the orphan, the people rejoice
We’re all here together and we say with one voice:
Welcome home! Welcome home!

Click on "Open" or "Save" to hear "Welcome Home"

Colossians 3:14-15
And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Sacred Nation

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Christ in the Chrysalis

How do we find hope when the butterfly hasn't emerged?

Job 36:15
But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity.

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream. MLK Jr.

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We judge a man's wisdom by his hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. Dale Carnegie

Think about Nelson Mandela. Twenty-seven years of prison. I have to imagine he got a little discouraged, but from all accounts, he never wavered in his confidence that one day South Africa would be a multiracial democracy. I am sure a few African National Congress people in prison with him said, 'Nelson, you're full of it. This is ridiculous. Your optimism is misplaced here.' Michael Useem

Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile, a word of optimism, and hope. Rich DeVos

Let us not paralyze our capacity for good by brooding over man's capacity for evil. David Sarnoff

I've become an old man now and the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago. Billy Graham

“Why does God allow pain in our life? Because we’re loved by God and the pain allows us to head back to our Father.” Tony Dungy, speaking at the Super Bowl about the suicide of his 19-year-old son James

Romans 8:18-38
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don't need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don't have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory.

What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.")

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mistaken Identity

Several times in the last week I’ve emailed folks and signed off with my name, Stew, but the return response comes back addressed to ‘Steve’. I always laugh at this because my brother-in-law is named Steve.

I even emailed the same person three times and each time she responded back to ‘Steve’! The really funny part about that instance was that the woman was teaching material on “Don't Take Anything Personally"!

Times of mistaken identity are often humorous, but they can also be downright hurtful and tragic. One time when Malcolm Muggeridge was bathing in the Ganges River in India, he saw a woman off in the distance. She was naked and for a moment his mind raced to thoughts of physical pleasure. He started frantically swimming towards her, wondering if he could be unfaithful to his wife. As he surfaced only a few feet form the temptress she turned and showed him her hideous leprous face and toothless smile.

Muggeridge indeed had bad case of mistaken identity and it revealed the ugliness in his own heart.

Even on a day that celebrates the idea of love such as Valentine’s Day, one wonders if it isn’t a case of mistaken identity, too. So much emphasis on romantic love, the physical appearance of the other and the disposable nature of relationships hardly seem fitting for the word ‘love’. After all, the Bible says that God is love. This love is sacrificial and transforms us to the very core of who we are. This love is agape, not just erotic.

When you meet a man you judge him by his clothes . . . when you leave a man you judge him by his heart. Russian proverb

Which kind of love do you celebrate today? Make sure to get the right identity of love, not a cheap imitation.

'Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.' Victor Hugo

1 John 4:7-11
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God--for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Desperate HouseLives: Broken Bedrooms

Today in Desperate HouseLives we look at the idea of “Broken Bedrooms”. Next week is family Day and we’ll look at the idea of parenting, as well as have a baptism, a new birth!

Ken & Barbie: most little kids grow up thinking that these two dolls represent the ideal man and woman. Well, here’s some interesting information for you. If Barbie were a real woman, she’d be seven feet tall. Her bust would measure 38-40 inches, her waist between 18-24 inches, and her hips between 33-35 inches. Barbie’s weight would be 110 pounds. Barbie would have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.

If Ken were a real man, he’d be seven feet, 8 inches tall. His chest would be about seven inches larger than the average man’s, and his neck would be about eight inches larger. Needless to say, this attractive and ‘sexy’ couple isn’t realistic in everyday life.
Desperate Housewives is built on the premise that things are not always as they seem. We discussed that last week. We can choose a façade of a nice white picket fence; we can choose to perform; to try and fill our emptiness in unfulfilling ways; or we can choose to give up control of our life and live in the house of trust.

In the house of trust we find grace, acceptance and the honesty we need to move forward in our walk with God. We can give up ‘church happy face’ and live in authenticity before God and each other. We can discover freedom.

Desperate Housewives is popular for another reason; the underlying and constant innuendo and the frequent and open use of sex to fill deeper needs.

Desperate HouseLives are full of “Broken Bedrooms”. Bedroom doesn’t refer to the location, simply the notion of sex & sexuality.

For too many problems, we finger sex as the culprit or the answer.

Sex is created by God and can be a wonderful thing; or it can become an addiction that destroys instead of brings pleasure; it can become a desire that corrupts relationships and marriages and leads to adultery and divorce.

Man Sues Apple Over Potential Hearing Loss
By DAN GOODIN The Associated Press Wednesday, February 1, 2006; 11:37 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- A Louisiana man claims in a lawsuit that Apple's iPod music player can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

Although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause noise-induced hearing isn't any higher, experts said.

"We have numerous products in the marketplace that have the potential to damage hearing," said Deanna Meinke, an audiology professor at the University of Northern Colorado. "The risk is there but the risk lies with the user and where they set the volume."

Apple was forced to pull the iPod from store shelves in France and upgrade software on the device to limit sound to 100 decibels, but has not followed suit in the United States, according to the complaint. The headphones commonly referred to as ear buds, which ship with the iPod, also contribute to noise-induced hearing loss because they do not dilute the sound entering the ear and are closer to the ear canal than other sound sources, the complaint states.

The silliness of this lawsuit reminds me of sexuality: what can be an amazing thing, when engaged in with the wrong motives and wrong way can lead to great loss. And so we shake our fist at God for making us this way. We avoid the responsibility.

We live with broken bedrooms. We think we understand the basics of sex.

Charlie Sheen on sex:
In-out, repeat if necessary.

Whoever, whenever, however we want to do it is fine. Not married- no problem. Not dating- no problem: casual sex. She said “no”; no problem- I have a desire that I need to feed. She’ll get over it. Date rape.

Isn’t Canada great? The government has no place in the bedrooms or regulating what goes on between people. We now have legal ‘swinger’ clubs.

In last summer's prize-winning R-rated film "Me and You and Everyone We Know," a barely pubescent boy is seduced into oral sex by two girls perhaps a year older, and his 6-year-old brother logs on to a pornographic chat room and solicits a grown woman with instant messages about "poop."

We need to teach on this material. Can you imagine if you lived in the Florida everglades and swamps but no one ever talked about crocs to you? You’d see people with missing arms, hands, legs and other disfigurements because the hazards were never discussed. Well, the scars and wounds from sexuality are easily hidden but affect many if not all of us present here today.

There are some steps to sex that we should know, both to engage but also avoid temptation: These steps can apply to a relationship and to a setting.
1. The interested look.
2. The obvious flirt.
3. I wanna hold your hand.
4. The embrace
5. A kiss, then more kissing and finally, “The kiss to end all kisses”.
6. Making out, aka “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights” from Meatloaf
7. Sex

Sex begins in the kitchen is the title of a relationship book for parents with children. The idea is that sexuality flows out of covenant relationship. Sexuality is a fruit of the love a couple has for each other, not the ‘love’ itself. It is never an ‘act’. It is meant to convey the greatest form of INTIMACY possible.

Therefore we need to know where to draw the line because God desires us to live a pure life.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor-- not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways. Never cheat a Christian brother in this matter by taking his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality. Make no mistake though. God is the author of love and intimacy.

“Anyone who has ever experienced great lovemaking instinctively knows the truth: Sex is too good to have just happened. It didn’t evolve as the results of some cosmic accident. Something this exquisite had to have been lovingly, brilliantly, creatively designed. If an atheist ever comes up to you and demands proof that there is a God, all you have to answer is one word: “Sex.” Give him a day to think about it. If at the end of that day he remains unconvinced, then he has just revealed far more about his sex life – or the lack thereof – than he ever intended! God created sex. Doesn’t that tell you a lot about who God really is? Among other things, it tells you that He is ingenious.” Stephen and Judith Schwambach

Intimacy is therefore:

1. All about relationship.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.

2. All about marriage and a special gift from God.

Genesis 2:18
Then the Lord God said, It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him."

So what exactly does the Biblical model of marriage look like?

Ephesians 5:32-33
This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Wives love and respect your husbands as the church gives its life to Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 & 33b
Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. Every husband must love his wife as himself, and every wife must respect her husband.
Husbands love your wives the way Christ loved the church.

Ephesians 5:25 & 28
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself.
Marriage is not the place to stand up for your rights; marriage is a decision to serve one another.

Ephesians 5:21
Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ.

If you’ve made mistakes, the Bible simply says to face them and ask for forgiveness.

Hosea 14:1-5
Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your petitions, and return to the LORD. Say to him, "Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you the sacrifice of praise. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle. Never again will we call the idols we have made `our gods.' No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy." The LORD says, "Then I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever! I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven.

Psalm 38:18
I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.

John 8:10-11
"Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?"
"No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."

“What’s the first thing to go when you’re busy, tired, and stressed? If you said sex, you’re not alone. An estimated 24 million American women say they don’t have time, are too exhausted, or just aren’t in the mood for sex, and more than a third of Redbook readers say that being too tired is their number one excuse for not having sex. So we put it off for later – but later can easily become never. In case you haven’t noticed, abstinence doesn’t make the loving grow hotter, it just begets more abstinence. Sex on the other hand, begets more sex. Studies show that lovemaking elevates the levels of brain chemicals associated with desire. So the best way to increase your yearning for sex is to have it.” Susan Crain Bekos

Twenty percent of married couples have sex less than once a month. Couples are harried, busy, stressed, exhausted. They're clinically depressed, or their hormones are out of whack, or they're dealing with childhood sexual abuse. Whatever the cause, married folks don't seem to be having much sex. Lauren Winner

It’s a sign of living Desperate HouseLives.

Lauren Winner has written that the church often lies to people about sex because it’s an awkward subject. When we tell single people that you’ll feel horrible after engaging in premarital sex, and they don’t feel bad about it after, they start to question other ideas.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Or don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Thoughts from the television show:
“We’re not like other families, are we?”

“Pretty girls are never lonely”

”I know what you did. It makes sick. I’m going to tell.”

“What the hell kind of street do we live on anyway?”

Purity card: LOVE
“Take it, apply it, and trust me to make it real. I love you, Jesus.”

In Christ I am:

As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ. John 15:15

I am free from condemnation. Romans 8:1-2

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. Colossians 1:13-14

I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

I am God's temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16

I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. Ephesians 1:3-8

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Surprised By Joy

A couple of nights ago I took James to his hockey practice at Kinsmen ‘B’ arena at 730. The practice was a late addition to his team’s hockey schedule and I thought nothing of it. As an assistant coach I love getting on the ice with my son and the other boys on his hockey team.

As we entered the parking lot for the twin arenas I thought to myself that there sure are a lot of cars here tonight. Upon entering the arena James was ushered to the dressing room by the manager and our head coach Brett took me upstairs to join the parents meeting concerning the upcoming tournament in Calgary in March. I didn’t remember hearing anything about a parents meeting but thought that it was a good idea to discuss how we’ll approach the travel, accommodations and whether or not we’ll get some skiing in the mountains in.

There was no one in the upstairs restaurant so we went searching for the group by the simulated golf games. As we approached the driving range a saw one of James’ friends playing ball hockey. I said to myself, “James will never believe that Matt was playing hockey where we had the parents meeting!”

In fact, there were a whole bunch of James’ friends and our neighbors from Lendrum playing hockey and to my chagrin I discovered the best kept secret of the day: a surprise birthday party orchestrated by Anola! I couldn’t believe that her complicated plan had come together and that I hadn’t suspected a thing. Many individuals contributed Academy Award performances to keep me in the dark about the events.

As I reflected on the surprise it reminded me that we really never know what to expect in a day; events and relationships can change in an instant. We have a choice to not be afraid and proceed with trust because we follow Jesus or we can always be preoccupied wondering when catastrophe will strike.

We can choose to anticipate that when surprise comes our way it will bring joy and not always harm. I was reminded too, of C. S. Lewis’ account of his conversion called Surprised By Joy. In that book he recalls thinking that he’s the most reluctant convert ever, but that God filled him with such joy when he yielded his life to the carpenter from Galilee. Of even greater interest is the fact that Lewis discovers the deepest of human love in his wife Joy, whom he meets in 1952. He really was Surprised By Joy.

On Thursday night, I too was surprised by joy (and Anola!). God shows up when you sometimes least expect it and most need it.

Philemon 7
I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God's people.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Soul Hospitality

The supreme gift that anyone can give another is to help that person live more aware of the presence of God. You see Jesus doesn’t love some esoteric image of God in you; Jesus loves you. He loves me.

Jesus loves the real you; not what you think is the real you. Far too often we don’t even know our true self and so we get deluded into living out of a false sense of identity.

Basil Pennington says that our false self is made up of what I have, what I do and what others think of me. It is created from the false premises of possessions, occupation and perceptions.

Think of how you introduce yourself. It tells you a lot about how you want others to see you. The whole idea of ‘managing first impressions’ is an exercise in refining our false self, not in moving into deeper levels of community.

Instead of looking at how we can manage our own appearances, what if we focused more on understanding others and discovering who they really are. Moving from a self-centered identity to an other focused identity can actually help us become more authentic. It at the very least helps us get past our preoccupation with what we think others think of us.

Listen to what David Benner says: “Think of feeling safe enough with another person that without weighing words or measuring thoughts you are able to pour yourself out, trusting that the other person will keep what is worth keeping and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” All because they’re not worried about your or their own image, and perhaps because you first gave them that very same gift of soul hospitality.

1 Peter 4:8-11
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Matt Redman originally wrote this song based on David dancing before God in 2 Samuel 6; but for me David Crowder absolutely makes it come alive! I could listen to it again and again, dancing with my kids and absorbing the meaning deep into my soul.

It reminds me of the idea that its "All of me, all of my days, for all of you, God!" A Caleb life, if you will.
Do you have those times of abandon before God?
Years ago Robin Williams starred in the movie Awakenings, where he played a physician who found a cure for comatose patients. It's a wonderful movie and a call for all of us Christ followers to awaken from our slumber and help others find their own "grace moments".

Grace Moments awaken us to the larger work of God in our midst and lead us into worshipping a good God.

Miroslav Volf has a helpful framework of thought for this:
Miroslav Volf's Theological Template
who is god.
what is god doing in the world.
how is god achieving this.

who are we.
where are we going.
how are we supposed to get there.
connecting the two.
what should we ultimately trust.
how should we order our trusts, provisional and ultimate.


I will dance
I will sing
To be mad
For my King
Nothing Lord
Is hindering
This passion in my soul

And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Leave my pride
By my side
And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Than this

La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la
It's all for You my Lord!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


If you twist and turn away
If you tear yourself in two again
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would
Let it go
If I could throw this
Lifeless lifeline to the wind
Leave this heart of clay
See you walk, walk away
Into the night
And through the rain
Into the half-light
And through the flame
If I could through myself
Set your spirit free
I’d lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the dayTo let it go
And so to fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
I’m wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no
If you should ask then maybe they’d
Tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Bruised silken sky and burning flag
Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes
If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would
Let it go...
This desperation
In temptation
Let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so fade away
To let it go
And so to fade away
I’m wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

I have seen addictions in my family destroy marriages, parent/child relationships and ultimately lead to death. I know the matters that U2 express so poetically and sing so passionately of. To feel the pain of others in bondage, the powerlessness, the profound sadness when they push love and acceptance away.


We cannot experience God’s acceptance offered through another person unless we let that person give it to us; then and only then will we be able to receive grace, love, guidance and acceptance.

Lost in the darkness
Silence surrounds you.
Once there was morning
Now endless night

If I could reach you,
I’d guide you and teach you
To walk from the darkness
Back to the light.
Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

“I don’t need you” is the language of a wounded heart. Birthed in rejection it seeks to self-protect. It sometimes scratches and claws at others who care. Grace is the face love wears, when it meets failure. This allows us to let others love us and fulfill the scripture in Ephesians 5:21:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.