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Hit By Other's Shrapnel

God is like a great whirlwind, and we are like people trying to get close while carrying huge empty cardboard boxes and while wearing a big sun hat and sunglasses and feathers pinned to our coats. There's no way we're going to get close to the Lord with all that paraphernalia. His very presence is going to blow it off us. Drawing near to God involves a death of our unhealthy habits. For example, when my household becomes too loud and uncomfortable, I frequently reach for my phone in the hopes of some relief and distraction. I do not automatically ask the Lord for help but he wants me to. After all, he's the only one who can see me through uncomfortable household situations with wisdom, peace, and grace. But we are human and we like to have things our own way. We can resist God. We can cling to our cardboard boxes and garden hats with all our might while simultaneously trying to approach the great whirlwind. Sometimes, we don't even know we're doing this. We only not

Telling God What You Think of Him

You know what's odd? Teaching my children good ways to express their dissatisfaction with something I gave them. That seems backwards to me. I'd rather they kept it to themselves and in the long run, they'll need to learn that. I don't mean to raise rude children. But at their age, I've found that worse things happen if I try to shut them up, like they hit me or destroy toys or burst into tears and run out of the room. I have to teach them how to handle their dissatisfaction. You know what else is odd? Teaching them how to voice their anger towards me. I don't particularly want to hear that either. I also don't want to comfort them when they're accusing me of hurting them or hear about their totally unfeasible fears. Listening and comforting and naming what's going on inside of them feels like I'm giving them a stick and saying, "Here, hit me with this! Tell me how inadequate a parent I am and list all the ways I hurt you and I can't pro

Because Christmas Won't Fix Anything

I was hoping for relief back in April because they said it would only be two weeks, because there was Easter and Mother's Day and end-of-school festivities on the horizon, because we had saved up for family camp at Forest Home for the summer, because Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas were still to come. But I see now that Christmas won't fix anything. And even if we do gather, we'll still be the same people after all the gifts are opened. We'll still be living in the same house, participating in the same activities, waiting for the end of COVID or Jesus to come back or someone to knock on our door and tell us some life-changing news.  But if we've nothing new to do and nowhere interesting to go, and if Netflix becomes tiresome, what do I have to look forward to every morning save his mercies. For this earth goes round and round, people give birth and die, governments form and reform, families grow and fall apart, groceries are bought and eaten, little boys ar

When the King Comes

In October of this year, President Trump visited Lido Island in Newport Beach for a fundraising event at Palmer Luckey's house. Luckey, a young entrepreneur who was inspired by Trump's book  Trump: The Art of the Deal,  is primarily known for founding Oculus VR, a virtual reality company. Three security personnel The planning for this fundraising event began two years in advance. The Secret Service, Newport police, Harbor Patrol and many SWAT teams all had to be there to secure the area. The Press and Secret Service had to have their staging areas. The guests had to be brought in in shuttles. The Port-a-potties had to be brought in on trucks. A check-in and waiting area had to be set up. They had to think up creative ways to accommodate the ever-growing guest list. Palmer Luckey's house had to be thoroughly inspected. Every electrical outlet in the house had to be tested. A portion of the harbor had to be blocked off so no boats could approach. And all this for less than a

Thwarting the Lord's Messages

I was content in quarantine Until I heard about your outings, Then I was jealous. And while this might've disclosed The thinness of my contentment, Instead, I concluded You're self-centered and careless. I was satisfied with my work Until you outshone me, Then I shrank back ashamed. And while this might've disclosed My works-based value system, Instead I concluded You're desperate for attention. I loved everyone unconditionally Until you criticized my views, Then I recoiled. And while this might've disclosed The qualifications of my love, Instead I concluded You're delusional and irrational. I thought I enjoyed serving unnoticed Until I saw you relaxing, Then I pitied myself. And while this might've disclosed My hope to be repaid, Instead I concluded You needed a servant's heart like mine. I wasn't afraid of COVID Until I realized I could be next, Then I was frightened and frenzied. And while this might've disclosed My courage was dependent on my

Shepherds and Truckers

God sent his biggest announcement to shepherds. And it wasn't merely a private message. It was a host of singing angels.  When my babies were born, we informed people in a particular order. First the grandmas and grandpas, the elders of our family who then told the older elders, the great grandparents. Then we told the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and close friends. We told the rest of our friends and acquaintances with a facebook announcement and a slide at church. There was a hierarchy, a meaning behind the order. Those closest received the news first. Did God announce his son's birth to people in the same sort of hierarchy? Were the shepherds then the closest to God's heart? These men and boys who knew a lot about sheep but not a lot about temple rules. These men and boys who knew which lambs would be used for passover—the one-year-old lambs without spot or blemish—, but who couldn't for the life of them keep the temple cleansing laws of washing hands and

I Could Never Be God

I could never be God because if I were God, I would've put Cain in a straitjacket long before he invited Abel out for a walk in a field. One minute, Cain would've been selecting his murder weapon, the next minute, he would've been wriggling on the ground like a white worm. He would've had to stay like that until Adam or Eve found him and discovered how to unbuckle buckles. I could never be God because if I were God when Noah and his family were safe in the ark, and all of humanity were outside screaming, drowning, climbing to higher ground, and weeping, I would've thought, Gosh, this is awful! Who came up with this plan? Then I would've pulled the plug on Operation Flood Earth and given everyone a slap on the wrist instead. I could never be God because if I were God when Satan was pointing out my blameless servant Job and asking to ruin Job's life, I would've said, "No way, Satan! Get lost! I don't converse with devils. How did you get in here a

Sell Your Coat and Buy a Sword

Be ready. Sell your coat And buy a sword. The time is coming.   Countries will sever ties. Dictators will threaten presidents. Rioters will destroy property. Reactors will explode. Temperatures will surpass records. Forest fires will ravage. Diseases will take lives. The time is coming. So sell your coat and buy a sword. Stockpile your pantry. Put essentials in a backpack. But most importantly, Don't go to sleep on your watch. The devil has asked to sort you Amidst the anger and cowardliness  Your friends will publicly display, While one of your own sells out And intellectuals crucify Jesus. What can you do but draw your sword And wound those who threaten you And your ideas of Heaven on earth. What can you do but hide in your upper room Until the threat is past and you know what to do next. You sold your coat and bought a sword. You stockpiled the safe room. You put all essentials in a bag. But it wasn't enough Because you fell asleep, Lulled by easy living. The constant acquis

Library Finds: Books I Enjoyed in 2020

 I Am Malala  by Malala Yousafzai. This autobiographical book is about a young girl who lived in Swat, Pakistan in a town called Mingora after the time of September 11. She and her two brothers were raised by parents who started schools for both girls and boys, encouraged their children, and had a heart for the poor. After the earthquake in that region in 2005, Malala watched her country slowly being influenced and taken over by the Taliban  through the broadcasting of radio teaching and threats. Her town became a war zone for a time and yet she continued to go to school until the Taliban threatened and later shot her when she was 15. The writing is simple and clear and conveys the life of an ordinary girl who stood up for her education. A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption by Becket Cook. This is the autobiographical story of a Hollywood set designer who put his faith in Christ and how it changed his life. This book starts out with Cook's conversi

"Let My Grief Be Mine Alone"

In  Evidence Not Seen,  Darlene Deibler Rose tells the story of how her relationship with the Lord sustained her through various trials in a Japanese prison camp in New Guinea during World War II.  While forced to work for the Japanese, she learns that her husband, who was at a men's camp, has taken ill and died. When she first hears of this, she does not openly grieve. The morale of the camp is so low that she doesn't want to exude a heavy heart and further dampen everyone's spirits. The other women in her camp acknowledge her loss with a few comforting words and hand presses. Later, when she is alone, she weeps and mourns. And after the war, she visits his grave and participates in a memorial service for him.  When she first hears of her husband's death, she prays this prayer: "Let my grief be mine alone. Anoint my countenance with the oil of joy, that none may ever feel embarrassed to laugh in my presence. May no joke or sharing of the ridiculous be stifled beca

Throwing Trees in the Ocean

What was the point of Jesus saying to his disciples that if they had as much faith as a mustard seed, they could uproot a tree and make it throw itself into the sea? Was he saying that if they had an infinitesimal amount of faith, they could perform incredible signs and wonders? But since they obviously couldn't throw trees in the sea, their faith was basically at level zero? Prior to this, Jesus has been telling his disciples to forgive each other. The conversation goes something like this: Jesus: Forgive a lot. In fact, forgive everyone everything. Disciples: Gosh, that's hard. We need more faith to do that! Give us more faith! Jesus: You don't need more. You just need some. And you obviously don't have any. Next Jesus tells them a parable about how improper it would be for a servant to return from the fields and expect his master to reward him for his work. The servant's work is just what's expected of him. It's what the servant owes his master. When the

Comstock Chronicles: Being the Policeman

Benny was upset about having to stay out of the kitchen while lunch preparations were underway. He grabbed the side of the domino bucket and scattered them across the wooden floor. This greatly distressed Lee because we have a rule that when quiet time is over the children must clean up their space regardless of who made the mess in it. Benny was scattering dominos in Lee's quiet time space. So Lee ran over and grabbed Benny around the middle. He wrenched the now empty domino basket out of Benny's hands and rolled over on the floor with him squealing in his arms.  In the meantime I was giving commands that fell on deaf ears. "Leave Benny alone!" "I see what he's doing!" "Don't touch Benny!" "Get your hands off him!" "Stop being the police!" "I will take care of it!" Finally the uproar died down enough for Lee to hear me.  "I hate it when you say I'm the police!" he shouted at me. I tried to explai

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

 We visited the Huntington Library today in the late afternoon. The setting sun on the trees and roses and pools of water was glorious. All the colors and textures seemed intensified. We tried to obey the foot-traffic pattern signs, and Benny wore a mask for about the first fifteen minutes. I thought this was both sad and cute. Towards the end we all tore off our masks and played tag in a stone-fruit grove. Allen Street in San Marino is lined with Ginkgo trees which are at their finest this time of year. I love how the Boston Ivy drips off the building in yellow and orange chains. "This garden has a lot of naked statues," Rose observed. This blooming vine was growing over the trellises that are covered in roses at other times of the year. More Ginkgoes in the Japanese rock garden. Rose brought "Uni" because she said she was celebrating the unicorn's sixth birthday. I asked the children to pose in front of their favorite bonsai. Rose chose this oak forest. She wo

Split Souls

 I love to write. I like to daydream about what I'll write next. When I hear beautiful music, I envision new scenes. Sometimes the only bright spot in my day is the fifteen or so minutes I get to write. I like to outline scenes and plot my characters' development. I like to research new words and animal behavior and landscape formations. I like to re-read chapters until I've corrected all the typos. I even like to write when I don't feel like writing. Sometimes the mere discipline of sitting down and letting my fingers type whatever comes to mind gets the creative juices flowing and before I know it, something worthwhile has developed. I love to write with all my heart and mind and strength. And this is the way I think we are commanded to love God.  Loving God is not merely a choice we make everyday. Loving God is not merely a passion that burns within us. Loving God is not merely the research and study to increase our knowledge about him. Loving God involves all parts

Car Troubles

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about cars. When a warning light goes on, I usually have to look in the manual to discover what it means, and until I do, I worry that that light might mean thousands of dollars of repairs. Sometimes I delay looking up the meaning of a light  or I look it up and am none the wiser. Then I start to wonder if my car is going to spontaneously combust or if the engine will fall out of the engine compartment or if all four of my tires will blow out as I go around a sharp turn on Turnbull Canyon Road.  Sometimes its not a dashboard light that warns me that something's not right but a strange sound—a banging or grinding sound—or an acrid burning smell. In any case, isn't it uncomfortable not knowing what's wrong with your car? I suppose if you're familiar with cars, noises and smells don’t worry you so much because you know what they mean and how to fix them. You’re confident in your knowledge. I think the care of our souls is similar. Everyda

Scary Needy People

Needy people  Needn't frighten me When I'm full And I stop believing I'm the only giver. Powerful people Needn't threaten me When the Omnipotent Lives in me, and I trust  His power even more. Rebellious people Needn't worry me, When I believe His goodness Surpasses my pathways To righteousness. Glamorous people Needn't threaten me When gratitude abounds, And I see any excellence As another testimony. Heartbroken people Needn't depress me When I know His purposes Are only to draw us nigh, And pain is His domain too. Judgmental people Needn't intimidate me When I believe The gavel already dropped Declaring me perfect Because of Christ's blood.

The Giving Tree

I just reread that depressing children's book The Giving Tree  by Shel Silverstein, and I'm trying to understand it. Is the tree supposed to be our parents? They sacrificed everything for us but all they really want is to be with us?  Or is the tree the child who wants to be with the parents, but the parents are too stir-crazy or busy or sad to be with the children, and only when the parents are old do they rest in their children's company? I don't like either interpretation. But I can see Christ as the giving tree. As a child we had child-like faith in God. Then we grew up and wanted thrills. Later we were too busy or too cynical to be with the Lord. Finally when old and gray and too tired to run about, we find rest in him. Christ gave us the fruit of his labor, he cut off branches and grafted us in to his tree, and he allowed his body to be nailed to a tree for our sins. He gave us everything so that we could be in a constant resting relationship with him. But we need

The Gospel for Every Enneagram Number

One: the Reformer "I want to be in total control of myself. And by that I mean that I want to make myself good. I've done pretty well, but I can't shut-up that inner critique who is always guilting me if I mess up and who is always pointing out ways that I could be better. I have exhausted myself in the trying. So now I must admit that no matter how hard I try, I cannot reform myself enough to give me peace and contentment. And that I am in need of another perspective.  "I want to submit myself to a new management, God's management. It is only through my submission to his control within me that I can do the right thing with the right heart. I don't ever need to fear of acting wrong again because God will never judge or condemn me. He has made me good enough already because of a credit to my account, so to speak. Based on no deposits of my own, Jesus credited his own perfect life to my account. According to God, who is the ultimate authority on goodness, I am c

Book Review: The Gifts of the Jews

I found  The Gifts of the Jews  by Thomas Cahill wildly interesting. I would like to read it again someday. But I don't recommend it unless you're naturally critical. Some of what Cahill says is marvelous, some is confusing, and some is doubtful. I'm not sure I understood it all, but here's my best attempt at an assessment. Cahill argues that the Jews altered how everyone thinks and feels. They are the originators of many of the western beliefs that we have, such as: people have an inherit value as individuals and not just pawns to be used; history is going somewhere, it is not an endlessly repeating cycle; people have an inward life and an outward life, and both matter when it comes to acting rightly; there is a definitely way that people are to behave and it has nothing to do with how much money one has or how powerful one is. He is very complimentary about how the Jews were really unlike any other people group. He also does a fantastic job of describing the world pre

Work the Word In

If our religion is only realized In the quietness of the morning, The wind through the trees on a blustery day, Among pleasant friends with common interests,  Or through the right songs on a Sunday;  Then we straight-jacket our faith, Rendering it useless In our segregated hearts. Trusting such a faith is like   Chewing your food but never swallowing Or taxing a plane but never taking off Or sitting in a wheelchair when you've got new legs Or fumigating without a tent  Or building a house on a dry riverbed. Eternal life is not had "By simply feeling  The presence of God In flowers and music" (Lewis, 155); But in working the words in Like yeast kneaded into dough Like good posture in your every move, Like correct grammar into your sentences. And yet not like that kind of work at all; Because, unlike forced labor Or the strong-arming of our passions, This work bears up   Until it sees  Another bearing it for us.  So work the Word in ’Til he holds sway over every thought you