Soul Thirst

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

Soul Thirst.  A thirst more fundamental to my existence.  More foundational to what I am.  What is an ocean wave if it has no water?  What purpose is the leaf to the tree if it is not green with chlorophyll?  How lovely is the moon, if the sun doesn’t shine on it? 

This is my life in relationship to God!  What is my life if there is no God?  What good am I if He does not fill me? 

Soul Thirst.  Based on Psalm 63. (more songs available at

Like water to the wave,         You are beautiful.
As green is to the leaf,           You are beautiful.
Sunlight on the face of the moon. 
You are so beautiful.

From nothing to this sculpted world!
All colors of the weaver’s loom.
Expanding out from start to end,
Yet age to age You never change!

           Oh how my soul thirsts for you!
           How my flesh faints, for your touch, God!
           Oh how my soul thirsts for you!
           How my flesh faints, for your touch, oh God!
           But Your unfailing love,
                  Your unfailing love,
           is beauty to my life…

Like stars are to the night,          You are beautiful,
Like mother to a child,                You are beautiful,
Wind upon the waves of the sea,
You are so beautiful!

I cling to You with feeble hands,
Your strength is there to help me stand,
I sing out from the safest place,
Your shield above me where I am!

           Oh how my soul thirsts for you!
           How my flesh faints, for your touch, God!
           Oh how my soul thirsts for you!
           How my flesh faints, for your touch, oh God!
           But Your unfailing love,
                  Your unfailing love,
           is beauty to my life…

I have felt Your presence,
In Your sanctuary,
And I have gazed upon You,
With all Your power and glory,
But Your unfailing love-
       Your unfailing love-
is beauty to my life….


Grace & Peace

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
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Sometimes somethings are so familiar that they are completely foreign to us in reality.  We’ve become so accustomed to seeing them that we neglect them, passing over them for so long that we actually forget them by our familiarity.


Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father…


I’m reading a letter written by a self-righteous, hyper-religious, finger-pointing, sin-hating, God-fearing, sitting-in-the-front-pew, singing-the-very-loudest fella that ever did everything right, ever.


Except he’s different now.  He went from witch-hunter to public defender in no time flat.  Well, actually that’s not true.  Did you know that following Paul’s “sudden” conversion on the road to Damascus (which by Paul’s telling later in Acts, was actually just the highpoint in Jesus’ long work to Paul’s conversion), Paul spent fourteen years doing nobody-knows-what in Arabia?  I kinda think Paul and Jesus were having a serious de-programming time.  14 years of de-programming, and reformatting.


And now, having stood by and approve the vicious and humiliating murder of at least one man, Paul is the advocate of “Grace” and “peace”.



In every letter we have from Paul to individuals, or to communities, he begins the letters with these words- “Grace to you!  and peace from God our Father.”




What does that mean?  The predominant usage of the word now refers to beauty.  Athletic discipline, motion of the body that is so smooth it looks natural, while in fact is almost impossible to just do.  Gymnasts, dancers-


But when Paul says “grace” that is not at all on his mind.  It is charity.  It is a charity so rich, and so exquisite and complete that it would be towering in it’s size, overwhelming in it’s fullness, completely engulfing.


And it doesn’t matter what kind of letter he was writing, whether to encourage, to educate or to rebuke!  Everytime, “Grace to you, and PEACE!”


What an awesome gift it would be to be able to communicate with the people in my life like that: what if my every communication with people gave them a sense that they rested within the greatest charity of my spirit that I had?  Rather than reacting to something defensively, or scornfully, or fearfully- rather than wondering what I really meant, or if I was being sincere with my words- they just knew that they could rest in the certainty of my charity?


Wow.  I want that.  I want to communicate that, not just with words but with my whole speech.


God, grant to your Church the candor and wisdom of Paul- but also the knowledge of your full GRACE!  and PEACE!

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

There’s something profoundly interesting to me about the way God works-

There’s a little graphic floating around the ether that I just love.  In a nutshell, there’s nothing in your life that is too awful, too disgusting, too anything that it might cause God to reconsider you as a candidate for his rest.

I love it.


God seems to prefer to use the weak.  He seems to prefer using those who have no business being used.  In one letter, Paul (he’s on that list by the way) says that God chooses the foolishness of the cross to humiliate the wisdom of the wise.

In one instance, God commands a general to send home everyone in his command who is afraid.  And then God tells him to send home everyone who has a wife and young child.  He sends people home until there are only 300 men left to fight.

He chooses a train-crossing in the desert to be the home of the Savior of the world.  He’s born as an illegitimate child to a young girl and a tradesman.  He’s heralded by a couple of gas-station attendants.

God’s power seems to be most dramatic when it’s framed in human weakness.


There’s something else I love.  If you read the letter of Paul to the Church in Rome- Paul is basically writing out for everybody to see why Jesus is necessary.  Using scripture Paul writes that while the law was given- it is there to demonstrate our sinfulness, not to pave the way to righteousness.  It is an unmeetable standard.  It’s purpose IS TO BE IMPOSSIBLE for us.  And it wasn’t created by God for that- it simply shows us what it takes to stand up in front of God.  And it’s impossible.  But it also says that God gave us the perfect solution, while we were bathed in our own treachorous arrogance.  And it is something so priceless that it can only BE a gift.

In another letter he calls his mission a “ministry of reconciliation.”  Not of man to God but of God to man.  God is reaching out to minister to us, and to reconcile us to Him.

And this is the message that swept the world.

It was Christians who experienced God’s reaching out to them, living joyously and without fear.  Without fear of insignificance.  Without fear of isolation.  Without fear of making a mistake and believing the wrong thing, violating some ritual, or accidentally invoking some curse by misstepping, misspeaking, miss-anything-ing.

And that joy spread.  They feared NOTHING!  They had nothing to lose and everything to give away.

They adopted problem kids.

They gave away family legacies so that some other family could survive a tragedy.

You know what they didn’t do?

They didn’t lobby Caesar to include Jesus in the Pantheon.

They didn’t refuse to pay their taxes even though Caesar called himself the son of God.

They didn’t blockade the Senate, or stand in the market place shouting at the prostitutes standing around.

And they sure as shit didn’t spend the day standing in line at a Chick-fil-a.

I love chicken.  Really I do.  And I love hearing a success story of a family business that goes viral and stays a life-giving business.  In this endeavor I fully uphold Chick-fil-a.  I laud the owners of the company for holding a set of values and not caving in to commercial pressures.

My beef has nothing to do with Chick-fil-a.  And if people want to organize in the market place and try to do something that visibly upholds that kinds of business that’s totally rad.  But I’ve never seen that line pile up for working at Habitat for Humanity.  I’ve never seen that line on the OTHER side of the table at a food bank.

What *I* see when I see that line is the church propagating an “us vs. them” mentality.  Like we need to defend the institution of holy matrimony by buying a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries.

We don’t need to defend Jesus.  He seems to do best when we’re at our weakest.  Not when we’re all piled together like a batch of chicks in the cold.  Really- when you make it to the counter, don’t buy chicken sandwiches for you and your kids.  Buy some for your kids, and then buy some more and walk out into the parking lot.  Look for the guy that doesn’t look up at you.  He’s probably wanting one of those sandwiches.

I’m just sayin.


Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to You,
    O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices
    and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
    Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
    than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
    for you alone, O Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

I had the privilege this weekend of spending some intentional time with our senior pastor and worship pastor at a weekend conference with worship songwriter Paul Baloche.  What a bath!  It’s astonishing to me how much I am relieved- just in a sort of cathartic sort of way, when I have the opportunity to leave the familiar environment of my own church, the comfy couch of my usual responsibilities, and just show up.  I suppose the best analogy would be the way a cooking parent might savor a quiet meal, served to him or her, and be able to just eat.  Not cut up your kids’ meals, get up from the table six times to get a glass of milk.  And another glass of milk.  And a different spoon.  And the salt.  And then a roll of paper towels.  Meanwhile, the one hungry kid (who didn’t eat lunch) has finished all their food and is asking for seconds.  Which means more cutting.  And your food is just– sitting there.

Yeah.  Kinda like that.

It should come as no surprise that the Psalms were an item of frequent conversation over the weekend.

I was reinvigorated in my pursuit of the Psalms.  I was impressed with the need to fall back into God’s arms with words of praise, with words of distress, and with words that were in essence, encouraging self-talk based on the promises of God and who He is.
Every Psalm carries value to us.  Sometimes they need contextualizing, because Jesus and His ministry of reconciliation changes everything.

There is difficulty- a sort of cognitive dissonance (I love that term), in the language of the Psalms for the Jesus believer.  Frequently, the Psalmist poses himself against an enemy of some kind.  Or calls on God to crush, kill, trample, or break the teeth of some villian, some enemy.  Or enemies.

Doesn’t seem very Christlike.  Not very turn-the-other-cheekish.

Paul says in the New Testament that we (the believers that make up the Church) do not fight human enemies, physical enemies, but rather, our battle is in the spiritual realm.  I think this is a key to unlocking the dissonances of the Psalms into precious harmony.  We do have an enemy.  God will crush him.  God will break his teeth.  We have a common enemy in Job’s Accuser, in the Deceiver.  He is the target for every shattered shield, every broken tooth, every slain warrior.

And, it is from Job’s Accuser, the Deceiver, from whom we will achieve rest.  Vindication.  Victory.  If there is temptation in your life, if there is stress that vexes and provokes anxiety, if there is worry, pain, disease, or any kind of sin- you have an enemy.  And your enemy is God’s enemy.

Here- in Psalm 4, just as in Psalm 3, I can finally rest- the anxiety does not get the final word.  The judgement of the spirit of the air, of the permissive culture, does not restrain me.  I am able to rest in the midst of trouble.  I can lie down and sleep through the sirens.  And from that I can awaken to my mission refreshed, recharged, and more able than the day before.

One of the gems of Paul’s teaching ministry, I think, is his emphasis on knowing the Psalms.  It’s far from unconventional.  But his insistence comes from a desire to increase our “vocabulary of praise,” or our “vocabulary of worship.”

We all know that person who says “just bless them” in their prayers- and that’s all they really can say.  Not a fault.  Just a very limited vocabulary of prayer.  David, and all of the Psalm writers, offer us, hand down to us, through hundreds of generations, a magnificent array of Godly praise.  A hundred years of prayers for us to praise God with.    We can enrich our minds with a new “language” a new lexicon of God’s praise.  These can be the almost subliminally present words of praise, of supplication when we are in need, and of inspired, encouraging self-talk when faced with a difficult task.
God, I will continually re-point myself to you, looking back to you when I look away.  
I will continue to live walking towards you, leaning into the words of praise and prayer that we share with the generations ahead and behind.  I will learn new phrases of your worship, to enrich and to step closer to you.

And in you I can rest.  In you, I can sleep soundly, though sirens wail, and buildings vibrate with all kinds of life.  Because you are the keeper of my life.

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man, 
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
      Whatever he does prospers. 
Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff 
     that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers-

Father, God;  You have established a way that is good.  You have designed and created a way that gives LIFE, and does not rob it.  Your way of life breathes peace, relief and freedom.  Anything else breeds contempt, jealousy, lust, insecurity- in short, not-life.  Death.  Father I desire to LIVE.  Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil, that I might LIVE, and not be dead.  


But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Father, turn my heart to your words.  You are plainly visible to the one who looks in to see you.  Remove my agendas.  Remove my ambitions.  Remove all the veils that keep me from experiencing you in your words.  I desire to know your language.  I desire to lean on you, and know you as ‘papa’, not just “Father.”  


He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Almighty God; I desire to be the person you made me to be.  I desire to do what you purposed me to do!  You have planted me near your stream- given me your word.  Now I draw near to drink up your word.  I ask that you use it to nourish me, and grow me.  Make me healthy on the inside.  Make my leaves green on the outside, looking beautiful, and spreading health.  Make my fruit heavy and prolific.  May I produce the fruits that you have planted me to produce.  You have grafted me into your tree- make me a fountain of your fruit. 

Help me, God, to trust in your timing.  I desire fruit now.  I ask you for fruit now.  But I must wait for you to open the buds, to feed the blossoms.  To bring the bees and add to the pollens, that the fruit is perfect and good.  God, feed me, rest me, pollinate me, and harvest the fruit!


Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Righteous God- no one who plants desires to see waste among His produce.  God I plead that my life would be one that is fruitful in a satisfying way.  I thank you that you have created a path in Jesus for me to be acceptable in your presence.  May I serve as a light and a path, that those around me can come to stand in the judgement along with Jesus.  

Teach me to see wickedness in my life, and to be happy and satisfied to watch it blow away, separating itself from the good things of my life.  Teach me to hand all things up to you, and allow you to separate the fruit you desire to keep from that which you do not.  


For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Holy God, you watch over the righteous and the wicked.  Thank you for your wisdom, care and provision.  Thank you God for the promises you have made, and kept to restore the ways of LIFE that you designed in the beginning.  Thank you God that You care for that which You have made and that you are destroying wickedness and death, and each heartbeat brings us closer to the day when the final victory is won.  Amen.

Genesis 50 

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Death.  Fear.  Insecurity.  Sorrow.  Conspiracy.  Deception.  Paranoia.  The abuse of power.

Sympathy.  Compassion.  Humility.  Graciousness.  Generosity.  Trust.  Reliance.

The Kingdom of this world, contrasted starkly with the Kingdom of God.

Joseph’s brothers have been dependent on their shared connection with Joseph to Jacob for security from Joseph’s wrath.  The atrocities of their youth have followed them for decades now, and they have not accepted the forgiveness that Joseph gave them before, when they came to him as a governor.  They have refused to let go, they have refused to lay back into the mercy God gave to Joseph.  They are captured in the hell of their choosing.  Why?  Because they haven’t understood God.

Joseph has experienced comfort and strength in God.  He has trusted in God, and God has shown Joseph his calling in Egypt.  Joseph has known peace and purpose in being able to literally save a generation of people with the wisdom of God.  Joseph tells his brothers, now, as before when they were reconciled; “What you intended for harm God has made for good!  I have saved many lives!”  For Joseph, the Kingdom of Heaven is very near.  He is living harmoniously with his neighbors, and communing with God, fulfilling his calling dutifully and without prejudice.

But the brothers expect vengeance.  The brothers expect a return on their cruelty.  Even now, after decades of Joseph’s generosity, they can imagine only pretense and falsehood.  Now they are genuinely afraid.  They are self-interested and self-absorbed.  Conspiracy and deception are the places they toss and turn at night, imagining the depth of Joseph’s hatred, building the prison cells and torture chambers that Joseph has secreted away, waiting for the day.

Because they have not understood God.

Have we accepted God?  Or do we hide in the dark corners, afraid of the Judge, imagining the litany of sins that He might read to us?  Do we fear his wrath?

I may deserve His wrath, just as Joseph’s brother’s surely did not deserve anything but Joseph’s wrath for hating him, for plotting against him, threatening him with death, and selling him off to foreign traders.

But Joseph saw past the sins.  Joseph chose to be gracious.  And that is something he learned from God.  We don’t see where, we don’t see how.  But God has surely shown Joseph the same thing He has been lobbying you and me with- the desire to show mercy.

I wonder if Joseph saw through it all that time.  If he knew that his brother’s still did not trust him.  I wonder if he gave the lavish meals, the good pastures for their flocks, gave them all of the good things that Egypt and Pharaoh offered them, and all along, saw the distrust in their eyes.

But he kept giving it to them.  He never stopped giving it to them.

And then he blessed them.

There’s an interesting contrast, when Joseph says in verse 21, “Don’t be afraid, I will provide for you, and your children.”  And then a few verses later, he says “I am about to die- but God will surely come to your aid…”

Joseph has done everything he can to show the depth of his forgiveness to his brothers.  But even Joseph will die.  But do not be afraid, because though I die, God does not- He will surely come to your aid.

Where does Joseph get this generosity?  This courage?  The depth of faith to lie on his deathbed and rely on God?

He has experienced it himself.  He has seen God’s promises, known God’s love, felt the arms of God’s compassion.

God has shown Joseph love that doesn’t stop loving, gifts that are sourced in the desire to give and the generosity of the Giver, not the merit of earner, and grace that is ruled by grace, not ruled by a fickle temper.

Joseph is a mirror for God.  Cast aside, sold off as rubbish.  Yet rising up to give good things, speak into the darkness of chaos and misunderstanding.  Humbly serving behind the curtain of Pharaoh, and not seeking power, but seeking to serve.  And spending endlessly to convince the darkness that light is present and ready.  Even if the darkness does not see it.  Even if the darkness doesn’t believe.

Joseph is not forgiving his brothers so that they will believe and be forgiven.  He is forgiving his brothers because God has shown him that it is the best way.  It is His own way.

God forgives because it pleases him to forgive.  It makes Him a better God.  And he will continue to offer it to us, even as we turn, even as we refuse, even as we accept it be it uncertain or distrustful.  While it is for us, it serves Him too.

Genesis.  The beginning, but also part of the middle.  And a blurry view of the end.  Not too bad.

Genesis 49

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
listen to your father Israel.

Michael Simpson wrote a book some time back, an amazing, mind-altering book, called Permission Evangelism.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet him and talk with him a few times, when he’s visited my homechurch, and I continue to be amazed at how God has revealed himself to Michael, and at how Michael has been able to share that experience into other people’s lives- into their experiences.

Last time Michael was in town, he preached an awesome message of God the Father’s love and affection for us.  He gave a testimony about his journey towards discovering and accepting that love.  He had this crazy idea that God loves us through other people.  That our experience of some one person’s love for us is actually the experience of being loved by God, Himself.

He used a great image to help illustrate the concept:  He said God looks into this mirror- He is love, and His reflection, the image of his love, is in this mirror.  Imagine that God has shattered this mirror now- it’s in billions of little bits, each little shard showing a small size view of the whole- the image of God’s love.  And He puts that little shard in each person- each act of love you experience from somebody is a shard- a piece of God’s love for you.

Or at least that’s what I remember him saying.  Whether he said it exactly that way or not- the image is embedded in me now.

When Israel/Jacob gathers his boys around his bed, he delivers this massive, epic blessing(slash)curse.  But what he’s doing is speaking into his son’s lives his experience of God.  He’s handing over the shards to each boy.  Every little “prediction” is somehow a reflection of Jacob’s experience of life with God.  God has shown him at some point in his own life some aspect of himself in creation, and Jacob’s sharing that.  In other words, we see in his blessings the experience of Jacob with God- we see who God has been to Jacob.

In Reuben, God gives evidence of strength.  God gives.  That stands to be said.  And Reuben lives with excellence in character and power.  But we also see how rebellion is rewarded, when the strength and excellence are removed.  Jacob is showing that God is inclined towards blessing first- offering good things first.  When we take those gifts for granted, when we abuse the gifts, then they are subject to review, or retraction.  But God starts with the blessing.

Simeon and Levi are case studies in wisdom and self-control.  Or the lack of it.  God has shown Jacob that reaction, anger and violence are not strength.  God does not value strength as the world understands strength.  God does not value the short-sightedness of quick reactions.  

With Judah, again, Jacob repeats the forceful insistence of God’s blessing!  Judah has kept favor in his life, and the blessings of God are about to open up on him and his family.  Jacob has experienced this same kind of overwhelming flood.  The intensity of God’s affection and the abundance of his pantry is unrivaled, and it is poured out on us.  

There is also in this blessing the subtle reminder of the very first promise of God- to send a deliverer, a conquerer, a king who will not disappoint.

In Zebulon, Jacob tells of God’s harbor.  He speaks of how God has been a safe place to dwell.  A place to hide.  A place to regroup and rehabilitate.

Issachar gains insight from Jacob’s experience of life with God.  It has been difficult.  There have been moments of great effort, of confusion, of not being in control.  But though it has been difficult, it has always been a good place, and worth the work.

Dan.  For Dan, Jacob has a reminder- God’s justice doesn’t always come from the front.  Sometimes you don’t see it coming.  But it’s there.  And if you are riding on something other than the righteousness of God, sometimes the Justice that comes can cause the rider to fall.

In Gad, Jacob has experienced a sort of redemption.  Jacob tells Gad that sometimes it seems like a loss, sometimes it seems like a storm that will sweep you away.  But as it is written, joy comes in the morning.  There will be times in your life, in your experience when the onslaught seems to overwhelm, but you will revive your strength, you will arise again.  You will not be beaten.

Jacob has experienced richness and pleasure in God.  It’s interesting to me that Asher’s blessing isn’t so much to experience that richness, but rather, he will serve it to others.  A blessing in it’s own right.  Is it not gratifying to be a source of immense pleasure for somebody else?  That is the blessing Asher receives, and it speaks to Jacob’s experience of pleasing God, and being a source of pleasure!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fauns.  What an image!  Jacob is drawing on the experience he has had of being at peace with his creator within His creation.  Beautiful and resplendent!  Serene and prolific.  There is freedom, and LIFE.  And it grows.  It expands.  It continues.

And Joseph- the blessings for Joseph are almost too overwhelming.  He is a climbing vine, a source of envy for others, strong despite attack from outside, calm, not intimidated.  He is in the arms of the Mighty One, He is within the crook of the Greatest Shepherd, and his foot rests upon the Rock of God.  He is the recipient of all the blessings of God, “Blessing of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb.”  I’m pretty sure that’s about everything.

One cannot give a blessing that he has not himself experienced.  How could he describe it?  How could be have the strength and wherewithal to offer it, had he no grasp of it himself?

These blessings show Jacob’s experience with God.  Jacob’s experience with God gives us insight into God’s character.

And God’s character has not diminished or changed since Jacob’s lifetime.  All the blessings above are still available, still a part of God’s cornucopia.  He paints in your life with the exact same palette of colors.  The same selection of brushes.  And the Artists desires to paint the same sorts of paintings.  In our lives.  

What are the shards in your experience?  How have you been loved?  How many shards of that first image of love have you looked into?