Saturday, January 30, 2010

Res Novae

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

I have been back in classes for about two weeks now, and it always amazes me when a thread of an idea emerges from different classes. In Latin, we were learning about the word “res”, which can mean "things, matters or affairs"; or as we would say “stuff”. Our teacher likes to tell us about the origin of words and mentioned in passing that “res novae”, literally “things new” becomes the word “revolution”.

This caught my attention because in English Lit II, we were discussing the Romantics, and how their approach to poetry and art reflected a desire to move away from the structure of the Neo-Classicists, who were emulating the Greeks and the Romans, to self-expression and the emotional emphasis that we take for granted in poetry and art today. The artists were revolutionary, attempting “new things”. Another interesting relationship between revolution and the Romantics relates to the fact that the national revolutions of that time period, the French and American, were most likely a result of this new thinking—a move away from the rules and rulers of their day.

This knowledge whets my appetite for revolution in my own heart. Not rebellion, but the freedom to express myself creatively in honor of our Creator. To explore and understand in a fresh way how revolutionary and life changing it can be to follow the One who promises that He is “making all things new…” (Revelation 21:5)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Butterfly Circus

Lacking hope or inspiration? Check out this short film titled Butterfly Circus:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Suspicion or Fascination?

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
(Psalm 34:8 NLT)

“Look at the world with childlike wonder, ready to be startled into surprised delight by the profuse abundance of truth and beauty and goodness that is spilling out of the skies at every moment…Plan on spending the rest of your lives exploring and enjoying the world both vast and intricate that is revealed by this text [The Holy Scriptures].” -Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book

Have you ever bumped into something subtle that you possibly knew was lurking in your heart, but you were unable to name it? As I have been reading through Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson, I experienced this “aha/ouch” moment. The book has been challenging my approach to God’s word. The main challenge has been to take a more holistic approach, rather than just going to the Bible for answers or comfort, Peterson exhorts the reader of Scripture to come with receptivity to the God of the Word, to engage our imagination as the narrative unfolds, and to participate in God’s great story of redemption.

My heart was soaring as I absorbed Peterson’s thoughts on reading Scripture in a more engaged way. But then he brought up suspicion. He warns that we must “abandon all condescending approaches to the Bible.” In light of this warning, he reveals that we have been indoctrinated to approach all texts with suspicion. Peterson reminds us that, “We are taught to bring a healthy suspicion to everything we read, especially when it claims authority over us.” He does not say this is wrong, but I think what hit me is that to always approach every text with this suspicion robs me of the fascination of discovery.

When I have made my Bible reading into a checklist, rather than an encounter with “the Living God who sees me” the joy seeps out of me. (Check out Genesis 16 to get a fresh taste of God’s mercy)

In light of Peterson’s exhortation, now I desire to come to the Word as a feast to be savored, rather than a specimen to be probed, investigated and “figured out.” This thinking led me to looking at the table of contents as more of a menu to peruse and ask the chef what he recommends for my meal. I am not against the goal of reading through the Bible in a year or any reading plan, I am just saying checking things off tends toward methodical hurrying through the text; instead of a slower meditative pace, enjoying each bite.

Here’s to your spiritual health. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Can You Help Me?

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
(Psalm 30:2 NIV)

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:2-3 NIV)

Yesterday I went ice skating with my grown son and some of his friends. I love to get on the ice and glide around the rink. While skating I noticed the cutest young girl with curly hair, a pink hand-knit sweater and a swirly green skirt hanging on to the rail and making her way around the rink. Every once in a while she would let go of the security of the rail to venture out on the ice. During one of my rounds, she had fallen and was having a difficult time getting back up on her skates. As I approached her, she looked up at me and in the sweetest voice, asked “Can you help me?” I helped her up and she thanked me.

I will never forget her voice or face, as she with no embarrassment or shame asked a stranger to help her. She easily acknowledged that she couldn’t get up on her own effort. She needed help. And she was so cheerful about it.

Her childlike innocence pierced my heart. Why don’t I reach out to God with the same eagerness and joy as the little girl at the ice skating rink? God is not a stranger to me, but my proven and faithful, loving Heavenly Father, who gladly helps whenever I call. Yet sometimes the shame of getting myself in awkward predicaments leads me to timidly approach God, instead of gladly looking into his face and just asking, “Can you help me?” and then thanking Him when he does.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cleaning Closets

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10 NKJV)

"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." 
–the “Collect for Purity” found in the Book of Common Prayer

On my current to-do list, I have the following things pending: review Latin, blog and clean closets. One out of three--I am blogging. But the review will probably happen when I get back to classes and cleaning closets may not happen now until the “Spring Cleaning” bug hits me some warm day in February.

Even though I haven’t tackled any closets over winter break, I have been considering the condition of my heart. Taking inventory, if you will, asking God to get rid of anything that keeps me from pure and simple devotion to Christ.

Today during a time of prayer with friends, we read the above prayer for purity to prompt our silent time of asking God to cleanse our hearts before we entered a time of thanksgiving and then intercession. The phrase “unto whom all hearts are open” gave way to the imagined scenario of cleaning out one of my closets.

I began to ask God to “clean the closet of my heart”. I realized that when I go through my clothes’ closet that I often discover outdated, old outfits that I never wear anymore. So I asked God to help me check for any outdated thinking I had about Him and His ways, to remove the old ways of relating to Him and others. To show me old habits, which keep me from totally embracing His tender mercies.

The prayer in my heart at the time wasn’t so eloquent, but the germ of the idea in prayer sprang into a full meditation of what it would be like to have God clean out the collection of old stuff that keeps me from offering full access for the Holy Spirit to work his wonders in my heart.

I want the Lord to look in my heart and see neat stacks of Spirit inspired love, wisdom, joy, peace and hope, instead of bitterness, doubt, criticism, worry and self-sufficiency. I want to be clothed with compassion, kindness and self-control. I desire to come to my heart’s closet to easily find, and then put on the characteristics of Christ for my own well-being. And with enough left over to share with others.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

The longing of my soul this year is to know Jesus more, and enjoy His presence in all the situations I encounter. So far this year, I have been allowing myself the luxury of a fairly unstructured approach to each day. I know in about a week, I will be watching my time closely, and have much occupying my mind as I delve into the semester at school.

But this semester, I hope to take better precautions in guarding my heart against the lure of boasting in my own wisdom or strength. Rather I will glory in knowing Jesus, and seeking the things that delight my Heavenly Father, as I experience his steadfast love.

May His steadfast love, justice and righteousness be poured out into our hearts this year.

Knowing You
by Graham Kendrick

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn;
all surpassing gift of righteousness.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
(1 Chronicles 16:29 NKJV)

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. (Luke 2:21 NIV)

Over the last few years of observing the Advent season, I have discovered that to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas is not accomplished by singing the familiar song, but by continuing to reflect on Christ’s birth and early childhood over the twelve days following Christmas Eve culminating in a celebration of Epiphany on January 6th.

In my Advent devotion book, January 1st and the 8th day of Christmas coincide, which is no coincidence. The eighth day is also a significant time in a Jewish child’s life. This is the day his parents have him circumcised, as well as give their child his name. It is appropriate that on this first day of a new year that we acknowledge the Name of the one who gave life to us. Instead of focusing so much on my own goals, and how I will better my name this year, I want to “ascribe to Jesus, the glory due His name.”

In my reading today, Walter Wangerin shares a prayer that expresses my heart as I reflect on this season, and look toward the newness of this year:

There has grown in me this year again a genuine joy, O Jesus. A personal, deep down, inexpressible joy. Joy after loneliness. The joy of new relationship: for I am yours... My name is written in the Book of Life. As a baby myself—more needy than able, weaker than strong, foolish from failure, helpless and hungry—I’ve seen the sheer grace of your love: for I should be dead, but I live! I should despair, but during this Christmas too I’ve known moments of genuine peace. This cannot arise from me. It had to come as a gift from the Source of Life and Truth and Light and Bread and Love.