what keeps my bones revived

I’m not sure if Smalltown Poets were ever cool when I was growing up, but their CD got major airplay in my little room with slanted ceilings. I’m sure they inspired some of the sappy journal writing I did or at least accompanied it. One of their songs came to mind recently when I was taking communion, the chorus of “Trust” reads,

Take this bread,
Drink this cup,
Know this price has pardoned you
From all that’s hardened you,
But it’s going to take some trust

When the bread passed by me in the pew, I pulled off a good-sized chunk (thanks to Kevin DeYoung, whose message on sanctification and communion inspired me to peel off enough bread to “feel the weight of it”) and stared at it in my hand. Jesus instructed us to take the bread and drink the cup, for as often as we take the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (see 1 Corinthians 11:26). So, I weighed the good-sized chunk in my hand while I considered what it proclaimed. This price has pardoned me from all that’s hardened me.

Oh, boy. That was the price my hardening required – a pardon that looked like a broken body and spilled blood?

Yes. That is just exactly the kind of price. Even the good-sized chunk of bread couldn’t help me imagine the weight of my dead bones before Christ revived me. But feeling the weight of the bread during communion is something different than guilt and nothing like condemnation. The weight of my good-sized chunk of communion bread felt like freedom. 

But the challenge with communion, for me, is not believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection happened or that it is the event that brought life to my dead bones. I am redeemed and a child of the King, of that I am sure.

The challenge with communion is believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection is currently keeping my bones revived.

When a slave is granted freedom, we do not say that freedom existed for the one moment when his chains fell. Freedom is also every moment after the shackles break; salvation is happening in our lives as believers as much as it happened when we first believed. 

What Jesus accomplished on the cross was not millions of salvation moments, but rather millions of salvation stories.

Yes, Smalltown Poets, this is “going to take some trust.” We are freed to obey, freed to believe, and freed to trust that this Savior who secured my freedom is faithful to keep securing my freedom.

This is what I proclaim in the bread and the cup: trust that God pardoned me and He is keeping me pardoned.

That means I am freed from greed and fear and worry. I am freed from anxiety and pain and jealousy. I am freed from pride and guilt and shame. I am freed from sin and death and given a way out from temptation. I am freed and Christ is keeping me freed.

This is starting to sound like a broken record. I’m not sure that’s so bad.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

don’t give up on me.

There are a lot of reasons I’m crooning this jam from Milo Greene. It’s not because I know what he’s about – I don’t. I am just the kind of person who has a soundtrack to my days and this is making the list.

This song got stuck on me because I wish my clients would sing it. Some of them do, yes. Some of them want their kids back more than they want anything else in life. And when I get their voicemails about completing treatment or a picture text of the parenting class they are attending, a little part of me leaps with them for joy. Some of them are the reason I have a job – because they prove change is possible.

Others of them, well… I have to sing these lines on their behalf. I’m not sure how badly they want their kiddos back in their care, even though I am sure that they love their littles. But I want them to be reckless with their love – I want them shaken out of the stupor that addiction has buried them inside. I want to see them look those littles in the eyes and say, “Don’t you give up on me. Don’t you do it.”

Because, sometimes I wonder if the children want to. I wonder if they are tired of getting tossed about. I wonder if they get lonesome for home – one that stays in the same place with the same people. I wonder that.

And then there’s the other thing. There’s the other thing I think when my day’s soundtrack is stuck on this song.

I know the song isn’t about holiness or the Lord or probably anything spiritual. But, my heart is the Lord’s and I suppose it always stretches to hear Him even in unlikely places. And when I hear this song, I can hear my heart singing to the Lord about my holiness.

I know, sounds strange.

I’m just so far from holy – so very far from even feeling like there is progress, sometimes. And those times I imagine God shaking His head at my efforts as He patiently directs my steps (often in the direction opposite my footprints).

My friend and I read Kevin DeYoung’s book, “Hole in Our Holiness” and went to the Desiring God conference last fall where both Piper and DeYoung spoke. The incredible importance of our holiness sunk in so deep that it’s in almost every conversation we have now.

Though we are called positionally holy as sons and daughters of the Lord, bought with the price of Christ’s shed blood, we are still being sanctified. That is, we are in the process of becoming holy right now, in this life. 

And so, when I sing this song a bit of my heart asks the Lord not to give up on me. I know the progress is slow. I know I go backwards as often as I go forwards. I know I need to learn lessons I’ve already been taught.

But, I know [far above everything else I know] that the Lord will not give up on His sanctifying work. Even as I plead for His patience I am believing that He is giving it in grace. He has called me, and therefore He is doing a work that will be brought to completion.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30 ESV)

My holiness, the messy progress of it all, is a victory I can claim in this moment. I know I’m not near finished – there’s a whole lot more in my life that needs sanctifying. But, to the degree that my heart mourns my waywardness as I sing this song, to that degree my heart is lifted with hope that God won’t ever give up on the progress.

The progress of my holiness is His alone to claim. He receives the glory for every victory over sin and He will not fail.

I guess that’s the difference between putting your hope in a person and putting your hope in God.

God will not fail.
He won’t give up on me.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

counting blessings, and what to do when there are too many

We sang, crowded in concentric circles around the basement with my mom pounding out the hymn on the piano. We sang the familiar song that has accompanied every Thanksgiving I can remember – even the Thanksgivings where I have been far from this little countryside gathering. It seems that counting blessings got into my bloodstream real early and has never left.

When we had little, we counted. When we had much, we counted. When we struggled, we counted. When we prevailed, we counted.

The blessings always seemed to outnumber our math, so we counted by song and we’re still counting.

I can’t put my finger on the emotion hanging in that long skinny room this past Thursday, but every year it seems to swell for the new little ones and the ones married in. The emotion is heavier than the scent of turkey and stuffing and Aunt Jane’s coconut pecan pie. The emotion of counting blessings is a heavy one.

I wonder if we count our blessings like someone counts a harvest… and we’re accountable for what happens after it’s been stored away.

Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the counting, overwhelmed by what I’ve been given. I’m drawn into thanks and into joy as I reflect on these gifts – as I look on the storehouses of blessings that are bent to bursting. And as I get caught up, I get stuck.

I stop at counting and thanking.

This year, I’m feeling the Lord asking me to count my blessings so that I know exactly what I am giving back to Him. It is not enough to be thankful. It is not enough to get overwhelmed and weepy at the Lord’s provision. It is not enough.

Thanksgiving and joy are part of the journey into greater joy and greater thanksgiving as we count the blessings as they go out from our possession. In the same way that we count the blessings we’ve been given, we must also count the blessings as we give. Because we were never meant to hold fast to anything but Christ.

I have so many blessings to count, but having many blessings is never the problem. The problem is my hoarding what has been counted.

As I read through Kevin DeYoung‘s Hole in Our Holiness, I came to his reflection on this passage from Timothy 4 and specifically verse 15, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”

I thought of all the ways I make excuses for my slow progress on the holiness road and the excuses I allow others to make for me. I thought of the conversations in my head where I’ve said, “But you aren’t making hardly any money right now…” and “No one really expects you to give…” and “No one really knows your schedule, anyway…”

And I thought about how my beliefs about blessings sometimes stretch a great distance from my behavior with blessings.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV (emphasis mine)

Counting blessings is only the first of a two-part transfer. The second part is the way you transfer the blessings to others. This I must practice in a way that my progress is noticeable. I must make my behavior – my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity – match my beliefs in a way that transfers blessings into the lives of others.

I’m not discounting the ways I have succeeded in blessing others – by God’s grace I hope it does happen. But, we have never arrived at a final destination on the holiness road, so we must keep journeying.

And when my pack gets full of blessings, I know I must transfer the joyful load so I may travel light.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

for your viewing pleasure

With the explosive popularity of Youtube, we can watch things that would have been far outside our reach twenty years ago. The technology even in the past ten years is unbelievable – it puts in front of our eyes what we would never dream of seeing and conversations we would never dream of hearing. I’d like to just give you a sampling of some of the wonderful things I’ve stumbled upon.

I hope, in watching these, you taste and see that the Lord is good.

I hope you can marvel at Creation the way we were made to marvel. And I hope that marveling draws you closer to the throne of grace where we are invited to commune with the Creator.

the weight of the bread | the need of a Pilot

The kitchen smells like dessert but the taste of communion bread still lingers in my mouth.

At the Desiring God conference last weekend, Kevin DeYoung encouraged us not to be timid with the bread when communion Sunday rolled around – to tear off a big chunk, just to feel the weight of it.

Unfortunately, my church passes a plate with pre-torn flatbread pieces so I had to imagine a weightier loaf. And I did imagine. Sitting up there in the balcony during the second service, I imagined the humanness of my Savior who walked on this earth. I imagined him lifting up the loaf of bread and motivating us to holiness as He declared it a symbol for His body.

As I imagined a weighty chunk of bread in my hand, I thought my Savior’s identity and how it shapes mine. DeYoung pointed out that, in Colossians 3, “God calls us chosen, holy, and beloved before He commands us to be eager about the process of becoming holy.”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

God does not call us to become holy so that we will be chosen, holy, and beloved. No, we become holy – from one degree to the next – as we are motivated by the weight His grace towards us. We become holy as we dive deeper into the study of God and are stirred up to live in a new way. We become holy by the grace of God and with the power of God as we understand our helplessness without Him.

This song is a story of such helplessness that motivates me to holiness. It’s kind of like holding a weighty chunk of communion bread in my hand and then letting it dissolve on my tongue. His calling me chosen, holy, and beloved is just as real as that piece of bread dissolving in my still-becoming-holy mouth and as gracious as the Pilot who enters the storm to navigate the castaway safely to the shore.

I’m not becoming holy so that I can get to shore.
I am becoming holy because I love so dearly the One who pilots my helpless ship.

Jesus, Savior Pilot Me by The Bifrost Arts

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

this & that

As promised, I’m going to just blast you with links and sites and books and articles. Any and all responses/thoughts will add to the discussion already going on in my head, so thanks in advance!

  • This is a review for the film Tree of Life written by Roger Ebert. This film by Terrence Malick is undeniably spiritual and I can’t believe I still haven’t seen it. For all the reviews and trailers and background information, it’s already gained my loyalty. If you’ve seen it, what do you think? If you haven’t, will you?
  • I follow a few blogs (okay, quite a few) sporadically and I always like to look up the “about” page. Partly because I’m just a curious person and partly because looking at “normal” people making it big in the blog world makes me think I could, too. Anyway, a couple of these creative bloggers are Mormons. In addition to the massive commercial campaign to make us think Mormon is as normal as bread and butter, there was also the smash Broadway hit, “The Book of Mormon” recently. If you’ve got some questions, Kevin DeYoung‘s article, “Mormonism 101” is a good place to start.
  • With the GOP debates in full swing, I appreciated this article over at WORLD magazine on the war on terror. We must always, always remember where our true allegiance lies.  “Woe to those who . . . rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1)
  • I just love the words of this old hymn I found on Trevin Wax’s blog. We used to sing it in the Lutheran church and it is so rich! Read the lyrics to “If God Himself be for me” below and listen to the organ play it here.
    If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy,
    For when I pray, before me my foes confounded fly.
    If Christ, the Head, befriend me, if God be my support,
    The mischief they intend me shall quickly come to naught.I build on this foundation, that Jesus and His blood
    Alone are my salvation, the true eternal good;
    Without Him, all that pleases is valueless on earth:
    The gifts I owe to Jesus alone my love are worth.His Holy Spirit dwelleth within my willing heart,
    Tames it when it rebelleth, and soothes the keenest smart.
    He crowns His work with blessing, and helpeth me to cry
    “My Father!” without ceasing to Him Who reigns on high.

    To mine His Spirit speaketh sweet words of soothing power,
    How God to Him that seeketh for rest, hath rest in store;
    How God Himself prepareth my heritage and lot,
    And though my body weareth, my Heav’n shall fail me not.

    – Paul Gerhardt, 1656

  • Are you fighting temptation? Well, welcome to the party. Gosh, I’d be worried if I was the only one! It makes me feel even BETTER when I read an analogy from someone like C.S. Lewis (whom I admire like crazy) about past sins and future temptations and it makes sense! This excerpt is taken out of a collection of his letters and is SO spot on and encouraging!
  • You may not share my musical tastes (and that is completely fine), but I completely enjoyed the live performances of Feist and Bon Iver on the Jools Holland show. Watch them HERE. Both are so clever with instrumentation and … well, I just appreciate their musical style and creativity.
  • If you’re not a fan of that music, try this out – Keith and Kristyn Getty made this song FREE in anticipation of their Christmas album. It’s a beautiful song to get “stuck” in your soul. You can listen/download it here:
Okay… there is more to come. What news have you worth sharing?
let LOVE fly like cRaZy

hidden treasure

Okay, I’m barely holding my eyelids high enough to peek through… but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and some links. My friend John always pokes fun at me for the amount of tabs I leave open on my computer. I reason that I can’t close the tabs until I’ve dealt with them. Sometimes that means I just read the article and other times it means I post it or respond to it. Anyway… at this moment I have 9 tabs open in Google Chrome.

chocolate chip cookie dough chocolate cupcakes

First, I have to just take a moment to be sad about today being the last Tuesday I get to celebrate my little “taste and see” experiment with the seniors. I desperately want them to know how sweet the Word is! Today, if they told me their favorite verse and why, they got to choose a treat with a HIDDEN treasure: chocolate cupcake with chocolate chip cookie dough inside or a cake cookie with chocolate chip cookie dough inside. The process was about 4 hours long (and Hilda helped me out for the first half!), but the result was pretty delicious… and their responses were the sweetest part! Here are some of their favorite verses: Deuteronomy 6:5, Philippians 4:13, Zephaniah 3:17, Proverbs 31, Jeremiah 29:11, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Matthew 7, Luke 10:25-37, Galatians 5:20, James 1:12, John 3:16, Psalm 2:7-8, Proverbs 12:4, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 23.

So, the whole idea was that inside the treat was a HIDDEN treasure. It looks sweet on the outside, but you can’t even IMAGINE the sweetness on the inside! I only have THREE more days with the seniors before they say Adios to high school. I don’t know if I’m ready for this.

In other news… I’m going to make a little list-love here to get rid of a few tabs up top.

Bell Rings True is an article written by author David Dark (Sacredness of Questioning Everything) that examines Rob Bell’s book Love Wins and takes a different angle than many reviews I’ve read. I like to think I appreciate the whole picture and this is one article that helps me try to step back a few paces to see the landscape view. I may not change my mind, but I’m glad for reading it.

Saving Leonardo is a book review of Nancy Pearcey‘s Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals and Meaning. Let’s just say the intersection of history, art, and culture are enough to reel me in… but then you add the Secular/Christian dynamic and I am caught! This is on my reading list!

Five Thoughts on Worship is an article by Kevin DeYoung about the theology of worship. After experiencing different denominations, cultures, and styles, I have started to grip even tighter the ways God has defined worship for us. He desires for us to worship in Spirit and in Truth and He has not hid those ways from us. DeYoung references David Peterson’s five helpful points in understanding corporate worship, from his book Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship.

What is Heaven Like by Jared Wilson, over at the Resurgence, didn’t have a hard time convincing me to read. I LOVE to think/talk/dream/pray about heaven. I don’t think we have as many discussions as we ought about the place we are destined for eternity.

The Veneer of Media is another article in the series from Q ideas based on the book Veneer. There are many things in this article to ponder, not the least of which is our response to the article’s assertions.

My eyes are getting heavier by the second! I should go before I start talking gibberish!

don’t forget to
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
because Christ is the HIDDEN treasure!