25 October 2009

The Hand of Life

This week a really cool lady from California is writing the Prayer Circle post. Bonnie Gray has a blog called Faith Barista. Check it out when you need a double shot of faith!

I love watching movies. They are a fun, easy way to decompress and be entertained.

Some might view sitting in front of a screen, whether it's a gigantic wall in a theatre or a modest sized glass pane in the living room, as passive activity.

One movie experience with me will quickly change your mind.

I am a very active participant.

I talk back at the TV, scream in the scary parts, and laugh with a snort a few seconds after each joke.

Yep, that's me behind you -- popping in crunches of crispy, buttered popcorn in between every scene.

I've found that drama doesn't only flicker through light passing through celluloid.

No, it turned up one morning when Light shot through the pages of Scripture.

I was struggling through a season of feeling isolated with some baggage I had been carrying. It was a tough week, as I seemed to trip over the same old insecurities that lingered from bad experiences in the past.

It was one of those weeks where you feel like things just never seem to change. I can never change.

You know the feeling?

When you talk yourself into thinking everything is just rotten?

My life is heading nowhere... I'm a horrible parent... No one wants to be my friend...

It was in this deflated mode that I found myself sitting in a room full of coffee-woken attendees of a workshop, Meditate on Scripture, led by Christian author Jan Johnson.

We were asked to practice, right then and there, one of the primary methods of meditating on Scripture: the Movie Method.

The Movie Method

The Movie Method involves reading a passage several times, by putting ourselves in the scene of the story, and taking on different characters' perspectives, absorbing all the sights, sounds and textures.

The purpose was to zero in "our" character, the one that speaks to us.

Okay, I get this, I thought. I looove movies!

We were given a very familiar passage to ruminate on.

It was the story of the father who brings his son, possessed by an evil spirit, to Jesus and cries out, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"

My Character

As I disappeared inside myself to meditate on the text, I thought that I had already found my character.

It was obvious. I was like the father who didn't have enough faith, right?"

"No." God answers.

Fifteen minutes into our quiet time, Jan interrupts us and says, "Now that you've read the passage for yourself, I want you ask God what He wants you to get from the story."

Closing my eyes, I dive back into the Word, whispering, What do you want to say to me, God?

As I read again, one word caught my heart: corpse.

The Bible says that when Jesus commanded the spirit out of the boy who was deaf and mute, the exorcism was so violent, "the boy looked like a corpse to many."

My lips trembled as I was cut to the core: I was the corpse.

I've tried to drive out my demons. They've thrown me to the ground, terrified me, gnashing it's teeth, taking away my words.

I've been rendered mute and deaf.

I did not feel like the life-giving person God says I'm purposed to be. I wasn't the beautiful, fruit bearing, flower budding spirit I felt I should be.

But, Jesus knew better.

Others, including myself, may have been fooled by my corpse-like features.

The world thinks that inactivity and unseen beauty are only good for backdrop, a side story, while others take center stage.

Just One Touch

Jesus knows we're not dead.

One touch from Him, freedom and beauty pours out of us, bringing us back to life.

As we hear our Shepherd speak gently, we won't be able to stop the words. We'll hear His whispers, singing, and conversation, spilling out in everyday life.

Stories will arise out of our moments and memories. We will be strengthened and fed, to our heart's delight.

We will have our fill and more, to love once again, to share and laugh.

Those who thought us dead once before will be amazed.

They will see us stand and smile, with the hand of Christ, clasped in ours.

"Many said, "He's dead." But, Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up." Mark 9:26-27

I was once deaf and mute. Now, I hear and speak.

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

20 October 2009

Move Toward Trust

Check out Bridget Chumbley's blog carnival on Trust.

Sitting on the green couch in my office a client told me, “It might seem harsh that I don’t trust you, but you know what? I don’t trust myself either. It’s prudent to distrust people.” I sat silent for several seconds. Reflecting on what he said.

The man on the green couch had a point. As a counselor I get the feeling that the world is far more messed up than many people suspect. There is beauty in our world for sure, but these are islands and occasional subcontinents in a vast ocean of human pain. Humanity drives a hard bargain.


Near the beginning of this summer I was coming back from lunch, driving across the Intracostal Waterway with my friend and colleague, Leigh de Armas. An afternoon shower was drenching the vehicle we were in. It was a cleansing rain.

I told Leigh that I am a follower of Jesus Christ by default. I don’t have anything left to believe in, certainly not humanity. When I was broken I turned to Jesus Christ and His story of redemption. The healing I received when I put my faith in Jesus is real. Jesus is the only thing that has ever worked.


Like the man on the green couch, I struggle with mistrust. The last time I put my full trust in a system designed by men, I participated in events that still wake me up at night. If I were brutally honest I would have to say that I often feel ashamed to be human.

However, now I have Jesus in my life. He loves me. I am certain of that. He forgives me. I am certain of that, too.

The most beautiful gift Jesus has given me here on earth is to reconcile me with humanity.

He tells me, “These are my children, too. I want you to care for them. I want you to show them that there is a better way. If you cannot completely trust them, if you cannot completely trust yourself, then trust me. I want you to have faith in me and to love them.”

That is where I am. I see amazing beauty, compassion, even mercy in the lives of many people I know.

People are capable of breath taking acts of self-sacrifice and love. I believe this is God using us, moving through us, healing us.

God has shown me that although I am moving toward trust, in reality I do not have to trust you or any other person, but for my own sanity I need to allow myself to love you. He knows my heart yearns to love you.

And, from the bottom of my heart, I do.

Thank you, Jesus...

12 October 2009

Obedience Revisited

If you do not love your enemies then you do not know God. - St. Silouan

As Christians, how do we understand obedience in the context of forgiveness? Our world can be a cruel place.

If we are honest, we know we have all been victims and perpetrators of self-interest. People have wounded us, but we have also been the authors of hurt.

The line from one Smashing Pumpkins’ song says it well, “The world is a vampire sent to drain.” But humans, that is to say you and I, are the world.

If Solzhenitsyn is correct, if the line that divides good and evil cuts through the heart of every man, what is the solution? Better asked, who is the solution?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17

But what about our enemies, what about forgiveness?

Jesus teaches us to not only forgive our enemies but to pray for them, too. Do we? Has your Church ever prayed for our enemies?

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. - Matthew 5:43-44

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. - Luke 6:37

One day I was sitting in a local coffee shop, The Daily Grind, the smell of coffee lifting up to my nose, and I had a thought. – What if the body of Christ, the Church, made 9/11 a national day of prayer? A day we gather to pray for the well being and to bless those who make us their enemies? Would that be obedient to our Lord’s command?

Forgiveness is an act of the will, it is also an act of obedience. It unchains us from past wounds, but it costs us something.

However, it does not cost us as much as our forgiveness cost our Father in heaven.

That act of forgiveness cost Him, His son.

06 October 2009

Doggy School Dropout

Check out Peter's Blog Carnival on Obedience.

Families have secrets. Transactions and embarrassments they only whisper to each other, humiliations they shutter at the thought of telling non-family members.

My family definitely has secrets.

If we can believe scripture, and I do, all our secrets, events hidden from peers, will be brought out into the light one day.

Why wait.

Brothers and sisters, today I am shining a light on one of my family’s humiliations. Please do not judge us too harshly.

Our dogs, Max and Nina, the dogs we love and call family, flunked
obedience training. They are to our shame. . . doggy school dropouts.

There I said it… The tension is leaving my body as I confess… I feel soooo much better already…

Max and Nina wanted to be
obedient, they tried, but the pleasures of the world proved too tempting.


In the cool of a subtropical Saturday morning, a salty breeze coming off the ocean, Max
Sits. He stays in the ready position for nearly three minutes. “Look at me master!” his eyes say, seeking approval.

Max is the first to see a family riding down the beach on their bicycles. He strains at the temptation, body tense, eyes watering like an addict needing a drink.

“Stay Max, stay boy. You can do it.” But the sirens’ call is too strong. Max springs down the coastline chasing the bicycles, barking, tail waging, tongue hanging out of his mouth like a pork-chop. “Come back Max! Come BACK!” too late…

Nina’s habits are more . . . invasive.

A neighbor walks to the mailbox, or the FedEx driver asks us to sign for a package, perhaps a man bends over in his driveway to pick up his newspaper. – And our sweet Nina, with no malicious intent, trots over to say hello and sniffs aggressively parts of his or her anatomy we normally do not discuss in polite company. The shame.

She knows she is doing wrong, she wants to be
obedient. But, she cannot stop herself.

We still love both dogs, despite their


I am a doggy school dropout, too.

How many times have I wanted to do the right thing, wanted to be
obedient to my Master but failed. …Daily?

With our Father’s guidance, I have improved over the years, but I am a work in progress. Like Max and Nina, I want to
obey, but I simply cannot, not to His standards anyway.

And despite my shortcomings, and despite my lack of ability, and despite my open rebellion when I take off running down the beach, chasing empty promises like Max . . . He still loves me dearly. My God still loves me.

Here is another family secret for those who do not already know. – All I can offer God, all He requires, is Faith, faith in His son Jesus Christ. In return He gives me everything.

I am not His pet, I am His child.