Friday, November 20, 2009

Free Tim Keller Sermons

Um, the last time I blogged I was Miss Lauren Hines. I am now Mrs. Lauren Gill.
More on that later.

For now though, Redeemer has 150 FREE Tim Keller sermons online HERE:

Go. Go now. Get it.

Annnnnndddddd.... one of my personal favorites just in case the list of 150 is a little overwhelming for you:

Praying our Fears:

P.S. Photo by Catherine Leonard Photography. More photos to come!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coming In Out of the Wind

"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up in each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments that new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. " C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I've been feeling a lot lately like my joy is completely circumstantial. When praying the 3 prayers by J.D. Grear at one point a couple of weeks ago, I caught myself on this one:
"God, Your Presence and Your approval are all I need to have joy today."

And as I was praying it I stopped because I didn't believe it... at all. Not for one second did I believe that God's Presence and Approval were the only things that I needed to have joy. What do I think I need?

Well, I felt pretty certain that my joy was dependent on peace in my relationships, not being bored at my day job, good forward movement in my career, not getting indigestion at lunch....etc. etc.

My joy was based on circumstances. My joy was (and is most of the time) not based on the knowledge that the Creator of the universe Loves me. Not on the knowledge that I have been made fearfully or wonderfully made. Not on the knowledge that each day belongs to the Lord and He has me exactly where He wants me to be in any given moment.

It's usually based on, as Lewis points out, if my expectations are being met. If my "wishes and hopes" for my day, my work, my relationships, my life are being fulfilled or dashed. Because the screaming of all my wishes, hopes, expectations and complaints are far easier to listen to than the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that calls me near to my Lord.

But in order to believe that prayer- "God, Your Presence and Your Approval are all that I need to have joy today"- I have to shut the other voices up. I have to turn my expectations for what I want over and let each day, each moment be what God wants it to be. If my wishes and hopes for something aren't being fulfilled I have to relinquish those things and trust that God knows what I need better than I myself know.

And once I silence those voices, those expectations that lead to my frustrations, anxiety and bitterness when my day doesn't go the way I want it to, perhaps it will feel like truly, "coming in out of the wind".

God, Your Presence and Your Approval are all I need to have Joy today.
Not happiness.
Not comfort.
Not perfection in all of my circumstances.
But You are all I need to have Joy today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Culture Making

Just finished listening to a talk by Andy Crouch that was assigned to us for the Gotham Fellowship. He discusses culture making, influencing culture, changing it...

And he starts by saying that culture changes when people make more culture.

He admits this is a "painfully obvious" observation. But then Crouch points out that the way Christians have tried to change culture is by:

1) Condemning and/or protesting the culture that already exists

2) Analyzing it and trying to copy and replicate it within their own subculture

3) By consuming it. Crouch says even a motivated group of consumers can't change what is offered for consumption by consuming what they would like to be influential.


"The only way culture changes is when we get involved, get our hands dirty and make some more of it. And our neighbors by the grace of God say, 'That's intriguing. That's good. I'd like to try that. I'd like to spread the word about that.' That's when culture changes.

Which is both exciting and slightly pressurizing because this means that the ball is in our court to change things... right?

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"For What We are Worshipping, We are Becoming"

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

When people find out that I am engaged after having dated someone for four months, there is a spectrum of responses that range from “Oh my goodness was it love at first sight?!” to the skeptical raised eyebrow and “Well, are you sure this is the one?” I have yet to figure out how to gracefully respond to either query nor do I really know how to deal with the range of responses in between. 

So I was thankful when I heard this while listening to the Tim Keller marriage series the other day:
“Therefore what the Bible means by love is a commitment. At some point love is a decision to serve somebody and be committed to somebody regardless of your feelings and regardless of how that person acts…. At some point, you make a decision- I am going to love this person. Your feelings will always come and go but the problem is a lot of people don’t get married because they are sure that if this person is ‘the one’ that my feelings will never ebb. If this is ‘the one’ then I’ll just know it’s ‘the one’ because I’ll never have any problem. I will always feel like giving myself to that person. You will wait ‘til hell freezes over if you wait for that. Love is an action first that leads to feelings not a feeling that leads to an action.”

It’s difficult for me to internalize that the love I am given is not conditionally based on my performance as a fiancĂ©/wife (which is good, because my track record stinks). But if it was or if my love for my fiancĂ© was based on their track record then I can see why only being with someone for a few months is not enough time to establish that record. If my feeling of love is conditionally based on how you treat me then of course a few months of you treating me well is not enough time to decide to make a lifetime commitment. So I guess I understand their skepticism. 

But what if marriage is not that? What if marriage means that even when I am being a terrible selfish person (which I will be because I’m human) that you still choose to love and commit to me? And what if marriage means that when you are being a terrible selfish person (which they will because they are human) I will choose to be committed and loving to you?

But what is truly overwhelming is that is what Jesus does every day. And even though I will never perfectly love someone, Jesus perfectly loves me when I am selfish all the time. I am His and He is mine. And every day He holds up His end of the bargain even when I fail again and again. That’s capitalized Love. Every day I choose not to prioritize Him. I choose not to Love Him. I choose not to serve Him. And some days I even curse Him to His face. And yet, there is nothing I can do today to make Him love me any more and nothing I can do today to make Him love me any less. 

I think I am only beginning to experience the tip of the iceberg of what it really means to be unconditionally loved by my Savior.

And it’s kind of overwhelming.
And beautiful.

P.S. Photo by Megyn Barroner

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Song of the Day

The House of God Forever by Jon Foreman is my new song obsession:

"God is my shepherd.
I won't be wanting.
I won't be wanting .
He makes me rest
In fields of green
With quite streams.
Even though I walk
Through the valley
Of death and dying
I will not fear
'Cause you are with me.
You are with me .
Your shepherd staff
Comforts me .
You are my feast
In the presence of enemy .
Surely goodness
Follow me
Follow me
In the house of God, forever."

Love it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Internalize That

"We will never have a challenge [Christ] can't empower us to meet. We will never have a need He can't fill. We will never have an earthly desire He can't exceed. When we allow Christ to be all He is to us, we find wholeness. One piece at a time. Every time you discover the reality of Christ fulfilling another realm of your needs and longings, His name is written on a different part of you, and you are that much closer to wholeness."
-Beth Moore


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weight vs. Joy

It’s amazing to me that during such an exciting time where you are about to entire a God-glorifying union the ways Satan tries to get you to focus on so many other things to keep the focus off of how grateful and how joyful you should be. And its amazing to me how easily influenced I am that I let him succeed. There are so many circumstances/frustrations/people/thoughts being used to steal joy. And what is most frustrating is that it’s my choice to let those things steal my joy, to encompass me with distress/anxiety/despair. And that I have such an infantile sense of God’s goodness and such a lack of discipline in my prayer life that I let these things steal my joy away. I let them send me into fits of frustration and worry.

So thankful for this reminder from Laura (which she has given me permission to share) which puts me in my place about what a gift God has given me in this man who will be my husband and how truly undeserving I am of anything I receive and how abundantly good God is to me:

“One thing I was thinking: I hate those comments from people (that are inevitable) that I see you've already been getting. The "You deserve it!" comments. The truth is, there is no better time for lies to creep into your heart against your knowledge than during engagements. And that is one of those lies you have to fight your darndest. People mean well, but the truth is, you don't deserve it. It is a gift. God is good. But none of us deserve these beautiful relationships we're in with family, friends, or lovers. It's so apparent, quickly, in marriage how selfish and wretched we are, and how we don't deserve love from one another. So, fight those lies. Oh, they'll come from even your best friends. But, fight them. All of a sudden you'll feel yourself feeling entitled to something and you'll realize that all of those lies society says about brides are working their way into your heart. Your wedding will not be perfect, in the true definition. If your goal is a perfect day, disappointment will follow. You won't be able to keep everyone happy with decisions you make. Your engagement will not be all roses and butterflies. Coming together is messy and don't be afraid to let people see that.”

If my attitude is anything other than a complete and total understanding of the fact that God has gifted me with this person, then of course attitudes of disappointing others, dealing with wedding criticisms, and nitpicky wedding planning nonesense will steal my joy because Satan has gotten me to focus on the minor details and inconveinces of life instead of the major blessings that God has imparted on me.

Again reminded of Beth Moore saying:
"We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-aborbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies."

Is stressing over a wedding color an authentic tribulation?
Is freaking out over not having someone on the guest list an agony?
Not quite.
Is being fearful at the awkwardness of family interaction on my wedding day necessary?

Laura was right to warn me of this trap. Our society has created an atmosphere where brides are encouraged to total self absorption and I'm already being tempted in that vein by evidence of the fact that I am so easily frustrated by the minor details of a day instead of the major detail of the miracle God has worked in my life. The miracle of God bringing two of His sinful children together in a holy union to glorify Himself.

Praise be to God.

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


With engagement comes wedding planning.
With wedding planning comes the chaos.
Chaos= IneedtopressinalittlemoredeeplytotheLordtopreservemysanity.

Thankful for these prayers by JD Grear which I am trying to pray every day to keep me focused on what I need to be-not my fiance, not my wedding, not my friends, not my guest list, not my family, not my flowersdresscolorsschemebridesmaidphotography. No, no. But I need to be focused on my Lord.

-"God, your presence and approval is all I need to have joy today." (His Sufficiency)

-"God, because I am in Christ I know there is nothing I can do today that would make you love me any more, and there is nothing I have done that makes you love me any less." (His Unmerited Love and Grace)

-"God, everything the gospel tells me about your intentions for my life is TRUE." (His Goodness.)

You can read the entire article here:

P.S. Photo by Murph Holder.
P.P.S. October 24th is the date. :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Recent Developments

1) Got into the Gotham Fellowship
2) Will be doing three shows this summer
3) My brother is interning at NASA
4) Oh yes.... and I got engaged.....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stir My Heart

If time were ever to wear You away
And circumstance should bind me
If age should bring a Dark Night on my soul
If fear and doubt should blind me-

Please stir my heart
Take me back to the fire
And bring to me recollections of Joy
And renew my first desire

-"Stir My Heart" by Sara Groves

What a great prayer.

(P.S. Went to the botanical garden this weekend... these roses were my favorite. Happy June!)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Elder Brotherish Entitlement

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
-Romans 1:21

This weekend, someone confronted me with the truth that my fears surrounding the past and the future were the result of a real lack of gratitude for what God was doing in my present.

WHAT?! I’m totally grateful AND thankful. Come on.

But then when I got to thinking about it, when I really evaluated it, I realized that I have a pretty serious attitude of entitlement. When I looked at my thoughts, they were totally gross… I believed that I was deserving of my blessings. Because why? Oh, well, because I’m a pretty good person. And because I deserve beauty for ashes in my life because I have followed the rules, right?

Wow. How convenient that that kind of attitude makes me my own savior so that every blessing that comes my way is either 1) something I deserve because of my performance or 2) not quite good enough because I think I deserve something a little better.

"In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O' Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that 'there was a deep, black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.' This is a profound insight. You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have "rights". God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don't need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior." -The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), there are two sons. The younger one takes his part of his fathers inheritance and squanders it on “wild living” and then returns to his fathers home, asks for forgiveness and is welcomed with open arms.

The elder brother responds to his fathers compassion in the following manner:
“Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

Hmm… that sounds a little familiar…

And T. Keller points out in his book The Prodigal God that those of us who are “elder brothers” (ahem, LAUREN) are just as depraved and fallen as the “younger brothers” but that it is a more dangerous trap because we are so blinded by our own self-righteousness. Instead of replacing the need for a savior with “wild living” to fill our emptiness, we have replaced it with our performance, by our law keeping, by living our lives as “a good person.”

So hopefully taking a good hard look at my own depravity and at Jesus as the one who has saved me from that will shake loose my attitude of entitlement.

And hopefully losing my attitude of entitlement will result in a deeper attitude of gratefulness for my blessings in the here and now.

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mountain Moving

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
-Mark 11:22-25

My thoughts on prayer are constantly being challenged but this week I am starting to realize that I, embarrassingly, don't pray for things if I think that they can't be accomplished or achieved. I have faith that prayer can be answered on a local level. I have faith that the prayer for your needed job or your friend’s ailment can be accomplished through prayer. But as far as my prayers affecting something on a global level.... as far as prayers that can really move mountains... well, I am realizing how much I lack the faith for that.

Once again, I have put too much emphasis on myself instead of the object of my faith. The object of my faith (Jesus) has defeated eternal death and suffering. He has defeated the ultimate Evil. Why shouldn't the object of my faith be able to defeat the suffering and evil that exists in this world?

But instead of focusing on any of that when I pray, I am focusing on how inadequate I am as someone whose prayers should be answered.

When we sussed the above passage (Mark 11:22-25) out in Bible study we realized Jesus is saying for our prayers to move mountains there are some things that have to be in place:

1) I have faith in God. (Not my own "prayer" abilities.)
2) I can't doubt. I must believe in my heart that it will happen.
3) I must not hold anything against anyone but must forgive them so that...
4) God in Heaven can forgive my own sins.

And I have seen God move mountains. I have seen and experienced amazing miracles in my own life and a miracle is a miracle. It is something that was impossible that God has made possible.

If God has given beauty for ashes in my local community, why would I doubt that He could do it on a larger scale? Why is the healing of brokenness for an entire place or people more intimidating than what I have already seen and felt Him do in own life and the lives of those around me?

Well, it shouldn't be. Time to put a little more focus, again, on the object of my faith who has moved mountains of sin and death and take the focus off of myself and my own inadequacies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Completion in Christ (A.K.A The Opposite of Self-Sufficiency)

Since feeling convicted that I need to get my mind under control, I have been overwhelmed recently with how negative most of my thought process is. The things I say to myself are far crueller than anything I would ever say to anyone else. I am not truly grasping that my identity is not in myself, my performance or my appearance but in that of Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:20).

Recently saw Sight and Sound's production of Behold the Lamb. When Jesus went walking on the water and then called Peter to come out on the water to Him, Peter starts out fine, then sees the wind, freaks out and sinks. (Matthew 14:25-32). And in the show, Jesus says to Peter when He pulls him out of the water, "You did so well until you took your eyes off of me." (And cue Lauren's tears.)

I'm realizing how much that is my issue lately. I have taken my eyes off of Jesus completely and focused them on myself. All of my inadequacies. All of my brokenness. All of my failings. Lauren. Lauren. Lauren.

But the object of my faith (Jesus) is consistent, good and loving even when my faith is constantly shaken by the whispers of the Enemy in my ears.

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." -1 John 1:5

If lies of darkness are dominating my thoughts, that cannot be of God for God is light. In Him there is no darkness. There can be pain and suffering in Him but it is a pain and suffering that exists with Hope. And if I am walking in darkness and consistently living out of the lies that are being spoken to me, I cannot claim to truly be in fellowship with my God. I have become reliant on myself for my identity.

So tonight I reread Henri Nouwen's Life of the Beloved. What a blessing of a book. My favorite passage that shines light into the darkness:

"We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That's the truth of our lives. That's the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That's the truth spoken by the voice that says, ' You are my Beloved.'

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: 'I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse... yes, even your child... wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.'"

(And cue Lauren's tears... of joy.)

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.

Friday, April 24, 2009

With All Your Mind

"The LORD said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.'
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
-1st Kings 11-13

When I was in Morocco, I was completely amazed at how clearly I heard God’s voice.

It’s no secret that New York City is a highly distracting place. In order for God to get my attention amidst all the socialization/ activities/ auditions/ shows/ bills/ relationships/jobs/ etc. He would have to use a great and powerful wind, an earthquake or a fire.

But in these verses, God didn’t speak to Elijah that way. He spoke to him in the “gentle whisper” after all of the natural phenomenon.

Jesus should not have to come to me yelling and screaming in order to get my attention. He expects me to get rid of all the distraction and confusion until there is nothing before me but Him. And then, I will hear Him.

But I'm starting to see that although New York City is full of distractions, some of the greatest ones are the ones in my mind.

At Bible Study the other night, we discussed this passage where Jesus is questioned as to which commandment is most important:

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: .... Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ - Mark 12:29-30

It was the first time I realized that how poorly I love God with all of my mind. I had always thought that this verse was about loving God from an "intellectual" standpoint by studying Him and His precepts. But I am beginning to see that loving God with all of my mind means by getting my mind under control. If I fully love the Lord then my mind is not supposed to be a runaway train with all of my insecurities, fears, anxieties, worries. Those are things that shouldn't be there.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." - 2nd Corinthians 10:5

I'm sure that this will be a life long process of disciplining my mind with His help. But, I am thankful that I am starting to see that loving God with my mind is a choice that needs to be made. A choice to demolish arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.

If I am fearful, the knowledge of God is that my God is Loving, Consistent and Sovereign.
If I am anxious, the knowledge of God is that I can cast my cares on Him in prayer to be anxious for nothing.
If I am insecure, the knowledge of God is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by His hand.
If I am doubtful, the knowledge of God is that He will help me with my unbelief.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Song of the Week

"So proud and excited that I by myself
Had reached such a lofty place.
I took the last step towards my ultimate goal
But clumsily fell on my face.
I opened my eyes only to find
I was back at the place I'd begun.
Helpless and broken, I strained and cried out,
“Surely the enemy has won.”

But I felt His peace that passes understanding,
Grace that is never ending,
Love that overflows my soul.

As I wallowed in self pity,
He came to sit with me there.
His presence alone was so rich and so deep
It chased away all my despair. I said,
‘Lord please forgive me for my prideful heart,
It sneaks in before I know.'
He said, ‘What prideful heart?'
He forgave and forgot
He said, ‘How I want you to know…

My peace that passes understanding,
Grace that is never ending,
Love that overflows my soul.' "

-"Testimony" by Sara Groves

Usually, I am not claiming His peace to keep me from worry or fear.

Or I am wrapped up in my own failures and imperfections and I'm not experiencing His grace.

Or I believe He is holding out on me and I am not experiencing His love.

Good thing when that happens I "clumsily fall on my face" so that I can stop relying on myself. And start relying on Him.

Happy Friday. And Happy Spring!

P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

But You Would Have None of It

“Dress down your pretty faith.
Give me something real…”

-"Awakening" by Sara Groves

On Monday, my Bible study group looked at the contrast between Palm Sunday (which was last Sunday) and Good Friday (tomorrow). As Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey the Sunday before His crucifixion, the crowds shout praises that show they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and from the lineage of David:

"Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest!""
-Mark 11:9-10

And then, six days later, the same crowds shouted that they wanted Jesus to be crucified:

"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
"Crucify him!" they shouted.
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
-Mark 15:9-12

Which got me thinking, in what ways in my life do I praise God with my mouth, acknowledge Him as my Savior and my Provider and then turn around and crucify Him with my behaviors and my actions?

Well, I was confronted again this week that I crucify Jesus with my actions by my incredible lack of trust. How appropriate that as we celebrate Holy Week, I am again coming to terms with the fact that I praise Jesus and acknowledge His Sovereignty with my mouth all the while playing out my fears, my anxieties and my worries in my mind. My words say “Hosanna in the highest!” and in my solitude, my thoughts are saying “Crucify Him”. My thoughts are saying that He is not Sovereign over my circumstances or He is not really good to me. My thoughts say He is holding out on me.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it….

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!”
-Isaiah 30:15, 18

It hit my gut pretty solidly when I read that “in repentance and rest” is my Salvation “but you would have none of it” because that is exactly what is happening right now. The Lord longs to be gracious to me. But I will have none of it. The Lord longs for me to rest in His Sovereignty, His Consistency and His Love and I cling to my worries, my fears and my daymares.

I must find salvation in repentance of my fears and rest in His Goodness.
I must find strength in quietness of my mind and trust in His Sovereignty.
I must wait on the Lord for He longs to be gracious to me.

Hope you are having a good Holy Week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Servanthood: Role vs. Identity

No more my God, I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done.
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son.
-"I Boast No More" by Caedmon's Call

Since I've been back from Morocco I have been supremely frustrated with all of the tasks that have to be accomplished that seem mundane/silly/useless. Sending out fliers to industry contacts about my latest show hardly seems as important as putting a roof on a clinic for a children's orphanage.

And so with this, I'm starting to realize that my perspective on service is really out of whack. My thoughts about service have been very much about what the world considers "worthy" service or "God's" service.

But something about seeing couples dedicate 20 years of their lives to move to the middle of nowhere and raise children that they could not adopt has, ironically, inspired me to be more invested in the industry that I am in. If I am in the arts in NYC right now for "a time and place such as this", then I should be doing it. I should be committed to that for the service of the Lord. Why does helping with Navigators (a Christian organization) feel like more Godly service than acting? Because the reward is more affirming to my ego. Ouch.

Peter (our team leader in Morocco) had us read the story about Jesus washing the disciples feet and then he asked us to consider:
*When is being a servant a role you put on for a while? And when is it your identity?
And then he pointed out this which, I will warn you, is painful:
"Most of the time we are frustrated/annoyed/vexed by a situation because we walked into it not to serve but to be served."

So how much less frustrated would I be if I walked into every situation just to serve? But who has the energy to serve all the time?! (Besides random crazy parents who committ twenty years of their lives to raise children in Morocco?)
I remember that because we were constantly serving and giving in Morocco in such physically exhausting ways, I constantly had to take time outs to go refill with the Lord. The amount of reliance on God when I was there was so much more than what I do here.

But why is that? If I can only serve for the Lord when I am being filled by the Lord, what makes me think that I can have an attitude of service in New York City without pressing into Him every moment of every day?
Probably arrogance.
Or foolishness.
Or an attitude that doesn't treat every assignment I get as something that must be done for my Lord.
An attitude that makes "being a servant a role I put on" instead of an identity.

Time for a change.
I'm sure it will be slow in coming.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let the Streets Resound with Singing

When I first decided to go on a short term mission trip to Morocco, I’ll admit that I thought there was something arrogant about a group heading to a foreign country and thinking they could have a significant impact being there for a small amount of time. Sure, we were going to learn things… to grow our hearts for countries and cultures less fortunate than our own… to give NYU students an alternative spring break opportunity...etc, etc.

I realize now that my attitude really spoke volumes about how I put limits on the things I felt God could accomplish. So the arrogance was all mine. I am incredibly thankful that God used my time in Morocco to show me that He is not a wasteful God. He would not send 30 people on a trip in His name without using them while they were there to accomplish great things. And although I think I knew that, my definition of “great things” needed to be changed.

Perhaps my definition of “great things” should be expanded to include the smiles of children, the grateful tears of relieved adults and revelations through prayer that God is working in the lives we touch. Perhaps “great things” includes getting a roof built or a room painted or knowing that praying over a child means that God will bless and protect her as she grows. And, perhaps, “great things” includes the moment I look back on the last year of my life and see God’s Sovereign hand in every detail of it.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
-Isaiah 55: 9-11

I was floored by this passage and the promise that the rain and snow coming from Heaven do not return to Heaven without not only watering the earth, but also making it bud and flourish. And that rain not only makes the earth bud and flourish but it ALSO provides seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

Several months ago, a friend told me “God wastes nothing”. But it was not until this trip that I truly grasped that promise through these verses. God doesn’t waste groups of 30 people going to a foreign country to serve. And God does not waste anything else. He does not waste my struggles, my hurts, my brokenness, or even my sins. None of that is wasted. All of that will not return to Heaven until it has watered the earth and made it bud and flourish. And not just bud and flourish, but until it has blessed the people around us as well. It will not return to Him empty.

So thankful for this verse.
And so thankful that I can live in the freedom of knowing that the specific details of my story (and yours) will not be wasted in this lifetime.

It will not return to Him empty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Esther Lessons

I am sad that tomorrow is the final day of my Esther Bible study by Beth Moore. It has been such a lovely study for the last few months as I have transitioned from one phase of my life into the next. And Tuesday, crazy enough, was actually the second day of Purim, the holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the hands of Haman as recorded in the book of.. (drumroll please)... Esther.

So, in honor of Purim, Esther and transitions here are five of my favorite Esther reminders:

1) God is specific. I am always so tempted to look at what seems like a series of random events in my life and say, “Wow, what a coincidence.” But when I’m reading the story of someone else’s life, someone like Esther, it’s obvious that none of those things are coincidence but that God plots things out specifically in our lives to take us down the roads we need to go down. It’s just a little easier to see it when it’s someone else's story.

2.) Some things are worth losing face over. When Mordecai, Esther’s cousin/adopted father, finds out that the Jewish people are to be annihilated, he “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly." (Esther 4:1) He saw no need to save face. He saw no need to keep the mask on and pretend that something did not need to be done. He was at the ultimate point of vulnerability because he knew that the cause he was weeping over was more important than any pride that he would hold on to by pretending not to be in need. There are moments when God needs me to be vulnerable. There are moments when God needs me to put aside my pride and be open to the possibility of hurt/rejection/judgement of others because something greater is at stake.

3) Moments that feel insignificant may be the biggest piece of my puzzle. Mordecai told Esther that she was not allowed to sit pretty in the palace and watch her people be annihilated. She may have been created for this very moment, for a "time and a place such as this". (Esther 4:14) Certain moments in my life feel like assignments that could have no divine significance. But when I look back (as Esther did) I can see that God placed me in that moment because He needed me to be there.
Beth Moore said: "At strategic times of internal war I stop and ask myself, 'What if this is a critical moment? What if this very thing, this very decision, is the most important piece of the puzzle comprising my purpose?'"

4) There are simple inconveniences and there are authentic tribulations. Mordecai sends a message to Esther who lives in the palace that she must speak to the king in order to stop the annihilation of the Jewish people. Esther sends a message back saying that would put her life in danger (in other words, "Sorry, I can't help.") and Mordecai sends ANOTHER message to her telling her "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape." (Esther 4:13). Ouch. Then he tells her that she could have been created for this very moment.

Beth Moore makes the point that perhaps Esther's life had become so privileged as a queen that she was completely detached from the needs of her people who were condemned to die: "If we distance ourselves long enough from real needs, we replace them with those that aren't. Pretense becomes the new real and suddenly a delay in the delivery of our new couch becomes a terrible upset. We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-aborbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies."

5) "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16) Esther went before the king knowing that doing so was risking her life but she knew that her life was not her own and she did it anyway. The greatest battle has been fought and won by my Lord and Savior. Death's sting has no power over me. If I fail/hurt/am rejected/go broke/lose my life, so be it. I do not have to live this life in fear of those things because I do not even have to fear death.

Happy Purim.

P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.

P.P.S. Two Days until Morocco.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Psalm 30:1-3, 11-12

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.

O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.


(P.S. Nine days until Morocco. )

(P.P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Halfway vs. the Full Way

"Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage!  It is I  Do not be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out,"Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.  "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"- Matthew 14:25-32

I was confronted this week with the knowledge that I was living as if I believe God does things halfway.  Jesus says "Come" out on the water, take a risk, trust me, follow me and believe that I have your best interest in my perfect design.  So I take that step.  I get out of the boat.  And then when I am standing on the water, I start doubting/ freaking out/ thinking that He's brought me out here and he's going to let me drown.  (Which if I did, that would be okay, right? Because "If I perish, I perish.")

But He has never let me drown yet.  He always reaches out His hand and catches me.  Although rarely does being "caught" look like what I thought it would.  Maybe I wanted to be caught by a nice embrace and instead He tackles me in a fishing net and throws me over His shoulder.  But He doesn't let me drown.  And while I'm struggling around in that net on His back, kicking and screaming, I am growing in my trust and my love for Him.  I am growing in my belief that God is Sovereign, Consistent and Loving.  I am growing in my faith.  

I saw a production of "The Winter's Tale" recently and at one point one of characters says "It is required you do awake your faith."  

God does not do things halfway.  He has not covered my sin halfway.  He does not only heal me halfway.  He does not keep His promises halfway.  If He calls me to do something, He will not expect me to figure out how to get there on my own, He will provide the means.  

When I am fearful of drowning, it is required that I do "awake my faith".  It is required that I make a decision to be faithful and not to doubt until my story is written... until my story is completed.

(Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And If I Perish, I Perish

I found myself skipping an audition the other day because it required me to do something that I hadn't done since college and I thought I would fail. I let the fear that I would not be able to perform well drive me to not even attending and giving it a shot. It was just one of many examples lately of how I allow fear to dominate my decisions instead of living in freedom knowing that God has my life in His hands.

I have been so encouraged by the book of Esther lately. To bring us up to speed:
Esther is queen and living in the palace. The king and his pal have decided to annihilate the Jewish people. Esther is Jewish but her king does not know that. Esther's cousin Mordecai confronts her and tells her that she cannot just sit back and not step in on behalf of the Jewish people to the king thinking that because she lives in the palace she will be saved. He reminds her that she could have been put in the palace "for a time and place such as this" to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. The law says that the queen cannot just show up and talk to the queen unless he has requested her presence because, well, she could be put to death.

"Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ' Go gather together all the Jews who are in Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'" (Esther 4:15-16)

Wow. You talk about a woman. "And if I perish, I perish." What guts. What faith. To know that you are going to do what God has put you in this place to do and if you perish, so be it.

Well, I rarely fear for my life. I fear a lot of things- failure, looking like an idiot, embarrassment, getting hurt, rejection, etc. but none of that is as fierce as "perishing".

But what if my faith was so strong that I didn't make any decisions based on fear? I have a friend who is often reminding me to "take fear out of the equation" when I am making decisions.

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. " -Deuteronomy 31:8

When I remind myself that the Lord Himself has gone before me and fought the greatest battle and it is won... When I remind myself that death's sting has no power over me... Then why on earth would I fear a little pain/inconvenience/embarrassment/rejection/failure in this lifetime? The worst that could happen is I will perish.

And if I perish, I perish.

(P.S. Picture by Romeo Koitmae from Flickr.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Storytelling, Art and Walking on Water

I just finished this book by Madeline L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. (It was a Christmas present from Susan-thank you Susan.) It has rocked my world. Please forgive the numerous quotes that follow but I just think she has so many incredible things to say. I felt like each page just screamed with reasons validating how important art is for our world and our relationship with God. I'm sure it will take me a lifetime to weave all that I have learned into my work.

But a summary of some of the things that I learned from this book:

*As an artist, my act of service is to the story. I had always thought that my act of service was to the audience but in reading this book I realized I cannot control what the audience thinks of my work and therefore I should make my greatest priority telling the story to the best of my abilities. This also takes enormous pressure off of worrying about the very objective ways people will view my performances.

"Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays but the artist must be obedient to the work whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a child. I believe that each work of art... comes to the artist and says 'Here am I. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.'"

*Art (similar to prayer) requires listening which is a discipline.

"The artist must be obedient to the command of the work, knowing that this involves long hours of research, of throwing out a month's work, of going back to the beginning, or, sometimes scrapping the whole thing. But when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening. And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect."

*The best work occurs when I listen and die to myself.

"To serve a work of art, great or small, is to die, to die to self. If the artist is able to listen to the work, he must get out of the way; or more correctly he must be willing to be got out of the way, to be killed to self in order to become the servant of the work."

“When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work and so he often wrote better than he could write…
“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.”

*Creating art requires not only a leap of faith but also a relinquishment of control.

"The challenge is to let my intellect work for the creative act, not against it. And this means, first of all, that I must have more faith in the work than I have in myself."

"Artist have always been drawn to the wild, wide elements they cannot control or understand. To be an artist means to approach the light and that means to let go our control, to allow our whole selves to be placed with absolute faith in that which is greater than we are. The novel we sit down to write and the one we end up writing may be very different just as the Jesus we grasp and the Jesus who grasps us may also differ."

*This book also reinforced many of the reasons why art, why storytelling is important and God-glorifying. It is a real shame that so many churches today do not recognize the power that lies in story, in myth and in the creative process.

It is one of the great triumphs of Lucifer that he has managed to make Christians believe that a story is a lie, that a myth should be outgrown with puberty, that to act in a play is inconsistent with true religion.”

"Far too often today children are taught, both in school and at home, to equate truth with fact. If we can't understand something and dissect it with our conscious minds, then it isn't true. In our anxiety to limit ourselves to that which we can comprehend definitively we are losing all that is above, beyond, below, through, past, over that small area encompassed by our conscious minds. "

“God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling. It is the calling for all of us, his creatures but it is perhaps more conscious with the artist…”

“The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking that the truth is in us rather than in God…. They help us to know that we are often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like a small child who constantly asks, Why? Why? Why?”

“There is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in the world….Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night, to eat anything without indigestion, to feel no moral qualms, to turn off the television news and make a bologna sandwich after seeing the devastation and death…. But the artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through and must find means of expression.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Culture Making

"There are two humanities now in the world. There are two communities. One calls on the name of the Lord and creates culture in God’s name. And seeks with culture to serve God and neighbor. And the other community also makes culture but in order to get glory, in order to prove themselves, in order to make a name for themselves. There’s two ways to make culture. There’s two ways to create a society. One is based on power. One is based on peace. One develops oppression. One develops justice. One is based on power and its result is death. One is based on service and its result is life…."

-From Tim Keller's "A Tale of Two Cities" Sermon
(Photo is the beginning of a piece of art by my friend Teresa)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Moment

I was working with an acting coach on a piece and she stopped me and said something that really hit me. She said when she had been an actor doing a monologue, she had always felt like she needed to "get to the moment". She felt like she needed to be working towards this thing when she was performing her art. And then she realized one day that each single moment is what made up the piece. Each moment was its own unique experience. And she realized that it was far more interesting to have an experience in each moment she was present onstage than to fly through it trying to accomplish something.

Since then, I have completely changed the way I think about doing monologues or pieces in auditions. And although it is a habit I am working to develop and does not come naturally.... to live in this moment... and now this one.... and now this one.... when I am able to feel like I am doing it my experience of the piece I am performing feels like a story unfolding. Which is what it should feel like.

BUT I realized the other day that I not only try to rush through audition pieces instead of experiencing them but I also just rush through life. I constantly feel like I am working to GET somewhere. To achieve something. I feel like God will reveal some grand purpose and then I will have made it. Then I will be living life.

This was in my Beth Moore Bible study last week:
"At strategic times of internal war I stop and ask myself, 'What if this is a critical moment? What if this very thing, this very decision, is the most important piece of the puzzle comprising my purpose?'"

Whoa. What if I am flying through life trying to achieve something at some point in the distant future when this moment, THIS one, this one where I am single, in New York City, working at a hedge fund, getting ready to perform at a show at Columbia is the most important piece of God's puzzle for me? What if it is and I'm treating it like it's just this thing that I need to scuffle through in order to get to the thing God has really designed me for? What if I treated every day with the significance that perhaps it is the most important piece of the puzzle? What if I really lived in this moment with God and this moment only?

Well. I think it would change the way I lived. And I think, at the end of my life all of the experiences would add up to a much more beautiful, fulfilling and God-centered story.

(Photo by Susan Nacorda)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shine Lord and My Terror Shall Cease

Shine, Lord and my terror shall cease
The blood of atonement apply
And lead me to Jesus for peace
The rock that is higher than I
Speak, Saviour, for sweet is thy voice
Thy presence is fair to behold
I thirst for thy Spirit with cries
And groanings that cannot be told.*

-*Encompassed With Clouds of Distress (Augustus Toplady/Steve Elliot)

It has come to my attention this week just how fearful I am. I fear both sides of a situation. I fear what will happen if something comes through and what will happen if it does not. I fear staying in New York but I also fear leaving. I fear singleness but I also fear companionship. I fear what life as a performer would look like and what it would look like if I wasn’t.

What is kind of incredible is that there have been times when my worst fears have been realized… and yet I am still in one piece. Satan has created an environment within me where the fear of possibilities is far more paralyzing than the reality of any catastrophe.

A life lived in fear is not a life lived in trust in God. And therefore it is not a life lived in freedom. It is a life in complete bondage to the possibility of God not coming through for me… or at least God not coming through for me in the way that I want him to.

My pastor talked about the sins that crouch at our doors this past week (Genesis 4: 6-7). The ones that we are blind to. The ones that we minimize and rationalize. And then, he said, they master us.

The sin crouching at my door is my desire to control. And right now, I am at a point where I have zero control over every situation in my life. Well, I guess I always have zero control, but I usually am able to pretend that I do. And since this moment does not allow me to be deceived by the illusion that I have control, Satan is whispering to me that the One who is in control does not have my best interest at heart:

If sometimes I strive, as I mourn
My hold of thy promise to keep,
The billows more fiercely return,
And plunge me again in the deep:
While harassed and cast from thy sight,
The tempter suggests with a roar,
"The Lord has forsaken thee quite;
Thy God will be gracious no more."*

The goal has been all about me. I have to make the goal all about my Lord. The only way to relinquish control, to get rid of the fear is to fix my eyes on a different prize. I am constantly relearning that a life that is happy and easy is not always the life that is best for me. Because sometimes it is not the life that draws me to my Lord. My goal cannot be comfort.
I have desires, but I hold them with open hands. And I ask that God will make my goal Him... that He will make my goal Christ alone and then take me down the path that best helps me get there.

Yet, Lord, if thy love hath designed
No covenant blessing for me,
Ah, tell me, how is it I find
Some sweetness in waiting for thee?
Almighty to rescue thou art;
Thy grace is immortal and free.
Lord, succor and comfort my heart
And make me live holy to thee.*

(This song has rocked my world. I love it when God uses a piece of art to speak so deeply to me. If you go here: it is the last song on the page. Enjoy.)

(P.S. Photo by Susan Nacorda.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Well, God has completely blown open my thoughts about money in the last two weeks. I’ve always heard that “all money is God’s money” but I have never really believed it. Sure, it’s God’s money but He wants me to enjoy life so if I want to spend it on Starbucks and J.Crew and eating out for lunch and fancy desserts at dinner then that’s cool, right?

Hmmm…. Well, Xaris and Laura have really challenged me to be a better steward. But even more than that, I have been floored in my fundraising efforts for a mission trip I am going on to a Moroccan orphanage.

My first thought when I decided to go was, “Well, if I can spare the money to go, then by all means I will but I’m not going to ASK people for money. In this economy??? Money is precious to people…. I’m not going to ask for them to give me money to go on a mission trip!”

But when I got to the root of why I felt that way, I realized it was because of my deep, deep pride. I was raised to believe, subconsciously, that you pay for yourself. You are generous with what you have. You give to others who are less fortunate, but you never allow your needs to be met by others. You just get it together and make enough money to do whatever you want to do and to help other people. But we do not ASK other people for money. They could be offended by your asking. They could think you are lazy and unable to pay for yourself. And they might even think, oh dear, that you are selfish.

My Beth Moore Bible study yesterday asked the question: “When was the last time you had to risk losing face to save something more precious than pride?” I realized that I cared way too much about people thinking I was totally selfish to ask for money to actually do it when I knew God wanted me to.

And the thing that has amazed me about this entire process, is that the people who are so generous are people who have very little. And I have plenty. And I am not living nearly as freely with the knowledge that my money is God’s money and I can give it to others knowing that God will take care of my needs. Ouch.

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."-
Mark 4:41-44

I have had people I do not even know contact me saying they would love to give to me. Really?? People I’ve never met?? Do I SEEK OUT ways to further advance God’s kingdom here on earth. No way. If you ask me I’ll consider whether or not giving you money will cut into my Starbucks/J.Crew/eating out/broadway show account and if it doesn’t, I’ll give you some dough. But do I SEEK OUT ways to give my money to other people with a generous heart? Nope. Double ouch.

I credit Xaris and Laura for pointing out to me that we dwell on Bible verses about purity and adultery, violence and bitterness, dishonesty, etc. and don’t tolerate those sins. But Jesus talks about being generous and sacrificial with your money a lot and we rarely consider anything less than that intolerable among Christians.

So, I’m extremely grateful for all of this fundraising business. I’m extremely grateful to the number of people who have given to me and shown me that the body of Christ is a body. A body which cannot function without us being codependent on each other. Without my needs being intertwined with your needs. I am thankful that I have been shown that I do not have to be ashamed of “losing face” to ask the body for help for what God calls me to do. And I am thankful that those who have given to me in times of non-plenty (which is probably anyone right about now) will be blessed because they are stepping out in faith that God is going to take care of their financial needs. Wow.

Have I got this figured out?
Will I continue to struggle with being selfish with my money and drinking overpriced Starbucks coffee?
Of course.

But at least now, I recognize that there is a problem of 1) pride in asking for money and 2) giving to others only when it is not sacrificial.
At least now I’m beginning to internalize that God calls me to be a generous giver in times of plenty and in scarcity. And that when I give sacrificially in times of scarcity like the widow who gave everything, my faith will be tested, strengthened and purified.

(P.S. I heard a priest once give a homily on "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. What a great book.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Perfect Love Casts out Fear

"God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. "

-1 John 4:16-18

As I begin a scary journey, I am thankful today that God is love and there is no fear in Him because He casts it out. Perfect love casts out fear. And God's love is perfect. I have nothing to fear.
Amen and amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unbelief and God's Goodness

I cry out
For Your hand of mercy to heal me.
I am weak
I need Your love to free me.
Oh Lord, my rock
My strength in weakness.
Come rescue me, oh Lord.
You are my hope.
Your promise never fails me.
And my desire
Is to follow You forever.

For You are good,
For You are good
For You are good to me.
-"Good to Me" Lyrics

Since this song was included in worship last Sunday, I think I have listened to it at least 50 times.... No lies. Seriously.

The thing that I love about it the most is the tension that exists between being weak and needing God's love to free me to declaring in the next line that the Lord is "my rock, my strength in weakness."

It got me thinking about my doubts. Some people doubt God's existence or doubt God's sovereignty, but most often I struggle with doubting God's goodness.

This week my pastor said that all temptations boil down to believing that I can't or shouldn't fully follow God because He won't give me happiness.

In Mark 9:21-24, a father has brought his son to Jesus for healing from an evil spirit:
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"If I can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Thank goodness I can ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief... about His existence, His sovereignty, His goodness....

If I didn't have moments of doubt, of skepticism, of unbelief there would be nothing to require me to go deeper to find answers... to seek out truth... and to be less dependent on myself and more dependent on God to "help me overcome" my skepticism.

"Doubts and questions are to be loved like the answers themselves. They are the precious journey, without which the destination is worthless."-Frederica Ghesquiere

For He is good,
For He is good,
For He is good to me...

And when I doubt that, He will help me overcome my unbelief.

(P.S. I'll try to make that the last Van Gogh pic. I was still dreaming about the exhibit they had at the MOMA...)