Saturday, February 28, 2015

Who God Trusts

We've acquired a puppy in the past year - a Great Pyrenees. They were bred to guard sheep - from wolves, in particular. I've been thinking about sheep and wolves lately...

Paul (named "Saul" at the time) was hunting down Jesus' followers and dragging them off to prison. (You can read this story in the book of Acts.) He was high on the Christians' list of people you don't want to show up for church, because you might wind up dead if he knows who you are. But one day, in the middle of a road trip, Paul ran into Jesus Himself, was completely transformed and was sent to live among the very people he had been persecuting. In their experience, this was "Saul the Persecutor," not "the Apostle Paul". I wonder if they all slept with one eye open while he was there.

What a crazy story.

God took a wolf (Saul) who was tearing the sheep limb from limb, stopped him in the middle of the road and said, "Why? Don't do this. You aren't a wolf any more. Now you're a sheepdog." And God asked him to take care of the very sheep he'd been killing.

Who does that?

God does. Because God trusts HIMSELF. God trusts His own ability to transform any heart. Isn't that amazing? And wonderful?

God trusts Himself.

No feeling sorry for ourselves because we found out we were wrong and we failed.
No feeling sorry for ourselves because we don't have what it takes to do what He asked.

If God calls you a sheepdog, you're a sheepdog. Believe it. Because God believes it.

Ambushed by the God Who Trusts Himself,


Saturday, April 19, 2014


These are the last few moments of Good Friday (they'll be gone by the time I post this). I have no photograph to share and few words. But I've been thinking for weeks about blood. Blood that cried out for vengeance, blood that cried out for mercy...

"Indeed, who would ever believe it? Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told? Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action? Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention. So he was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him. Yet it was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected him, that God was the reason he hurt so badly. But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing. We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep, scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits; The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer, the sins of us all." (Isaiah 53:1-6)

Silent sufferer…

But His blood was not silent.
It was louder than war.
Louder than a battle-cry or the wails of anguish.

It was louder than that other blood – the first of oceans and generations of spilled blood – Abel’s blood that cried to God from the ground. Yes, this blood that found its voice on Good Friday was louder than all of that. So loud that it found it’s way to the very throne of God, and declared us to be FORGIVEN.

You are forgiven.

That is the good news of the Gospel.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Table

Winter was late this year, but somehow it still caught me by surprise. I woke up one morning to see the little table and chairs on our deck covered in snow.

I went to sleep that night thinking about all the different kinds of tables and all the stories they tell:
The tables where new love was discovered, seasoned love celebrated, and old love was rekindled.
Tables where families gathered and tables where divorce papers were signed.
Hands held across tables in love, excitement, encouragement, comfort.
Tables set for parties, tables set for Bible studies, tables set for business meetings.
Wooden tables, glass tables, polished tables, chipped tables.
Thanksgiving tables, Christmas tables, Sunday dinner tables.
Tables set by moms, by grandmothers, by new brides, by children doing chores, by waiters.
Tables set by God.
God’s table is the full one, the good one. It’s the one with more than enough. It’s the one where families unite and reunite. It’s the one where fathers teach their sons wisdom. It’s the one set for birthday parties and wedding feasts.
And you get to sit there…if you want to.
Jesus made an open invitation and you don’t have to have the right clothes, the right address or the right last name to get a seat here. It’s all about the invitation, and you’ve already got that. No one is homeless, hungry, or left out at God’s table. No one is rejected, outcast or oppressed here. There is a place for anyone who will come.
In a matter of hours I will set a Thanksgiving table for my family. We’ll sit down and fill up – on food and on gratitude. I’m so thankful for a place at the table.
From Psalm 22 (The Message):
Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.
Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”
From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together
Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.
Ambushed by God with an invitation to sit at the table,

Monday, September 2, 2013

bread and Bread

The Grain Offering
In those awesome, ancient days
when You named stars out of nothing
summoned the waters and kissed us to life,
at the birth of time and the first sunrise
when you word-planted tawny wheat-stalks,
did You look with a kind eye to “someday”
and see this warm, brown loaf pulled from the oven
for these little ones who are dancing because of the bread?
There is butter on their chins and they are filled.
Take it, Lord.
(written tonight in the kitchen, in gratitude)

My seven year old likes to categorize things by "Stuff that God Made" and "Stuff that People Made from Stuff that God Made".

Tonight, I made bread. From stuff God made.
My boys are all carb-junkies who would just love to live on bread, so when it comes out of the oven, they are in the kitchen within seconds. Tonight, there was even a happy dance in the middle of the kitchen floor (the three year old). I was cutting into that bread, trying not to burn my fingers (because they never will let it cool) and suddenly, I thought of the first wheat, at the other end of time. God spoke, “Wheat, BE!” and now I can bake bread for my boys.
That wasn’t the only Bread He provided my family…

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry. He who puts his trust in Me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35, NLT)
For the bread and for The Bread, I am grateful.
Ambushed by The Bread of Life and made alive,
(for more on "the Grain Offering," see Leviticus 2)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Take What You Need

Years ago, I spent some time in Romania. I was part of a small group of people who wanted to touch the lives of children there – both on the streets and in a large regional children’s hospital. There were many moments during those years that have stuck with me, but one I often think of took place in the children’s hospital. We spent time whenever we could on a floor where children were basically residents. Perhaps their parents had been given no hope for their child’s recovery. Some were abandoned. The ratio of children to workers was impossible, so we went just to hold little ones, talk to them, look them in the eye, play with the ones who could interact.

During one visit, a young woman from our group was holding a child in her arms. I don’t know how old the child was. It was often hard to tell because of “failure-to-thrive” or other factors. I don’t even remember if it was a boy or a girl. But I remember the child in Deborah’s arms, head on her shoulder, and Deborah saying quietly, “Take what you need.”

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said when he said, “This is my body, which is given for you…this is my blood, which is poured out for you…” (Luke 22)

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said to the woman who had suffered sickness and loss for 12 years and risked whatever she had left when she dared to touch his hem with her hope. (Luke 8)

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said when he declared, “It is finished,” and died for you. (John 19)

Take what you need.
Just take it.
Get close to Him and soak it up.
He already offered it all to you and it’s there for the taking, everything you need.
Take what you need.

Ambushed by God in a memory,

For Deborah, who embraced a stranger’s child and whispered, “Take what you need.”
For Cheryl, who sits with the dying and the family in loss and says, “Take what you need.”
For John, who gives his days to the prisoner and the homeless and says, “Take what you need.”
For so many others who rescue babies, embrace mothers, attend to the sick, befriend the lonely, and day after day, reveal Jesus saying, “Take what you need.”

And for someone who hasn't yet reached out to take it.
Take what you need.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Mess

If you’ve ever browsed the greeting card aisle in a typical American store, you’re familiar with the sentiment, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

We like it on cardstock with a watercolor flower printed behind it. But when it comes to life-actually-lived, I tend to go for, “Are we there yet?!” I don’t think I’m alone in that.

My boys were painting the other day and the three-year-old had his paints squirted out into little blobs on the paper-plate-palette, just the way he’d directed me to do it. Fifteen seconds later, he’d made this beautiful mess:

I looked down at that and thought, “This time, it’s definitely about the journey!” The process was so pretty, I had to take a picture. But by the time that paint was on the canvas, it was all one shade of greenish-grey and the lovely, swirly rainbow-wheel was gone.

And half an hour later when I came around the corner from having left them alone with paint for only a moment and with explicit instructions to “not move from this spot!,” I found this not-so-lovely mess:


There was a trail of paint through the house, on walls, floors, armchairs, doorjambs, and wall-to-wall in the bathroom. (It was my acrylic paint, not the washable kid stuff.) The process was not so pretty now. It was a hot mess.

I was looking at a picture today of Jupiter’s storm. It’s violent. It’s a hurricane twice the size of Earth. It’s also gorgeous. Well, from a distance, anyway. If I was in the middle of it, I’m sure I’d see it as a scary mess. And it’s been going on for as long as we’ve been able to see Jupiter through a telescope. A perpetual, scary mess.

But set aside for a moment the conversations about where storms (the kinds in our lives) come from, and what God’s purposes are or aren’t in those hard, messy seasons. The real wonder is that He is in the storm. Period. He doesn’t have to be – no more than I have to be in the eye of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. But He enters into my messy journey and yours, step-for-step, and He isn’t afraid of the messes. At all. Ever. He already did "whatever it takes" to clear up the mess between us and Him. It doesn't get any messier than that.

The journey’s not always pretty, but it’s where life happens. Somebody probably already wrote that on a greeting card somewhere.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

(from the beginning of Romans 10, The Message; emphasis mine)

Ambushed by God, even in the messes,

Friday, April 19, 2013

Jesus and the Blue-Ribbon Cow

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was (and still is) a very special place called Camp Agaiutim Nune (Camp A.N. for short). “Agaiutim Nune” means “the place of God” in the Native Alaskan Yupik dialect. Every summer, scores of Yupik children pile into boats and travel up and down the tributaries of the Yukon River Delta to come to Camp A.N. and hear about a God that loves them, and doesn’t want them to be afraid, and wants them to live free lives and not be slaves to fear, abuse, alcoholism, depression or any other slave-owner.

Now, these kids spend a week at a time at Camp A.N. and they need to eat. They are meat-eaters. Their people have eaten what they can pull from the river and hunt on the land at least since their ancestors crossed the land-bridge from Asia. The source for the camp’s groceries for the past many years recently became unavailable. So the camp director sat down and asked God – that same God who loves these kids so much He wants to set them free – to give them some meat. About an hour later, the phone rang. A man wanted to give the camp several hundred pounds of beef from his prize-winning, grand champion cow.

I just heard this story recently and I love it. That camp director is my dad. That God who loves those village kids so much that He gave them the blue-ribbon cow is my God. Those kids are the children of the kids I grew up with in the villages of Western Alaska. I love this story for more reasons than you could shake a stick at. But most and best, I love that mine is a God who draws us with His goodness and His kindness. He isn’t trying to scare and control. The Bible says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8)”.

God isn’t one to skimp and He isn’t stingy. He always goes above-and-beyond. There is another "taste-and-see" story, found in John’s Gospel (the beginning of chapter two). It’s the famous story of the time Jesus turned the huge jug of hand-washing water into the shockingly-fine wine and saved the happy couple and their families from the embarrassment of running out of wine before the celebration was over. It wasn’t a “make-do” miracle. Jesus was extravagant. His gift to the bride and groom was the finest quality. That is just the kind of God He is: generous, extravagant, outrageously good.

He is the best, and He gives the best.
Wedding guests get the good grapes.
Village kids get the blue-ribbon beef.
Mankind gets a do-over and whoever embraces Jesus gets to stand in the presence of the God-Who-Made-Everything forever and ever and tremble at His beauty, His goodness and His holiness, but never in guilt and terror.

Taste, see, take refuge, be blessed.

Ambushed by God and filling up on His goodness,

Yes, they're tomatoes, and tomatoes really have nothing to do with this story, but they're such pretty tomatoes! And if you could taste them, you would see that God is good! Haha!