Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Here lately I've noticed that my best thoughts occur at 5:30 in the morning.... or maybe they just seem like my best thoughts because it's 5:30 and I'm not fully awake :-). Anyway, my morning thoughts this week have been drifting back to a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago. Actually it was a conversation I listened to and wanted to say something but unfortunately I take far too long to think through a response. I'm like Calvin in the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes' who said, "Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! You'll be devastated THEN!" Not that I need to come up with a witty and blistering retort, it just usually takes me some time to think through a response, even if I already have an opinion on the matter.

We talked about Jesus being the full revelation of the character of God in human flesh. The subject of Jesus being 'angry' when he cleared the temple came up during the conversation, and rightly a friend of mine pointed out that maybe it wasn't anger, or at least anger in the sense that we usually picture it. The reason he thinks it probably looked different that we think is because in Matthew 21:12-15, immediately after the incident we see people coming to him for healing and children were shouting in the temple "Hosanna to the Son of David". In particular it is interesting that children were there cheering him on. When grown men rage, don't children usually scatter? Now I'm sure that Jesus didn't do this with a smile on his face, but how ever he did it, it didn't strike fear in the hearts of the children. He was probably stern, and determined but controlled in his response.
(see Jn 2:13-16, Mk 11:15-17, Mat 21:12-15, Lk 19:45-46)

What I wished that I could have added to the conversation was the fact that there was only once in all of the Gospels where they felt the need to record that Jesus was angry.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Mark 3:4-5

It is worth noting that Jesus was angry and grieved, and that his response was to heal someone rather than call down fire from heaven. So we can say that God does get angry, but it never looks like human anger.

Another point I which I would have made is the fact that often we try to elevate anger or wrath to be an attribute of God, when that clearly isn't what scripture teaches. Scripture says that God is Love, but it never says that God is wrath or God is anger. I think it is important to understand this because God's anger or wrath is an expression of the God whose very nature is Love, and not just any love but Agape -- the other centered, self-giving Love. Wayne Jacobsen defines God's wrath in this way -- the full weight of God's being brought against that which destroys the object of his affection. I think he is right; Scripture is clear that God's wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness; the things that decay and destroy his good creation. It is in a sense the fire that will make the world right again. It is motivated by Love, and once things are put right once again. It is an expression that will cease.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

doing vs being - where do we find our identity?

When you talk to youth (and some adults) about their future career, how do you usually phrase it? Do you ask "What do you want to do when you grow up?" or do you ask "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I think there is an important distinction to be made here. We live in a culture where our vocation is usually one of the primary ways to identify, or define a person; he's a doctor, she's a photographer, he's a home-maker, she's a CEO, etc. But what happens when the person leaves or loses their vocation? Do they lose their identity? Are they a different person? Are they now a 'nobody'? What about those who have not yet entered a vocation? Has their life not 'started' yet? I ask these questions because I myself had to come face to face with my own misconceptions about identity just a few years ago. Up until my current vocation with a rather large company, I had always made a name for myself and had a reputation of being the 'go to' guy. It was my 'identity', or at least a big part of it. Then I joined this large corporation and found myself without an 'identity'; I was part of the herd, I was (and still am) doing a very minor job that most people didn't even know existed, and doesn't begin to use the knowledge and skills that I have. For the first 6 months, I was like a drug user going through withdrawals; and I can definitely see why some who lose their job can sink into deep depression. But through it all God was helping me to see that my true identity was something else altogether, something unshakable, something that had to do with being rather than doing.

There is another thing that I've noticed about myself in the area of doing. For a large part of my life, I've allowed my failures to define me. Saying 'I'm a sinner' is easy for me to say and believe. I've never been a good enough son, or a good enough friend, or a good enough husband, or father. And I've wondered if people would be better off without me. To be defined by our failures isn't what God intended, yet I think that this is a powerful lie, that so many people (myself included) struggle with. As hard at it was for me to let go of the false identity of vocation, this one is even harder. Every time I fail, the whisper 'I am not....' is there to tell me how utterly worthless I am.

Yet there is another voice. The voice of the great 'I AM', that has been whispering something different to me. He tells me that I am his son, whom he loves. He tells me that from the foundation of the world he looked forward to my adoption as a son. He tells me that no matter where I wander in life - even in the darkest places, I will always be a son. For those who are sons and daughters of our great Abba, this is an unshakable truth, all that we now know will pass away, but this will never change.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
- Paul's prayer for us in Ephesians 3:17-19

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Some songs inspired by CS Lewis

A very sweet, kind, and beautiful young friend of mine, whom God is especially fond of, introduced me to some new music by an artist named Brooke Fraser. Thanks Meganne!

I ended up downloading the whole album off of itunes because Brooke's music is definitely worth listening to from an artistic standpoint. If you get a chance, take a listen sometime. One of her songs has made the Christian charts, so it does sound a bit like everything else you hear (but that's not always a bad thing), but I think that's the only one like that on the album. This chart maker was inspired by my personal favorite book of C.S. Lewis' works, 'The Great Divorce'. I think a different title would have done it better. It's a work of fiction, but there are some great though provoking ideas within it. In the book, the main character visits heaven, where he finds that heaven is more real than he is. He is merely a shadow in comparison, and his feet can't even bend the blades of grass in heaven. He finds that as people travel toward the King, they become more solid, more real. I won't give away too much else, but that is enough to show that Brooke was definitely thinking of this Book when she wrote this song; by the way I also love the diversity of faces used in the video:

Shadow Feet

Walking, stumbling
On these shadow feet
Toward home, a land that I’ve never seen
I am changing
Less and less asleep
Made of different stuff than when I began

Of course with the second song, she leave no room for doubt about her inspiration because it's called 'CS Lewis Song'.

CS Lewis Song
If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary
Then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
As I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found,
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me,
Is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?

‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth
Of who I was born to become


For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath
So we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live
I was made to love
I was made to know you

Hope is coming for me


And although this one isn't CS Lewis inspired, but one I know Meganne like so this ones for Meganne:


Ok, now I know I'm getting ridiculous, but if your still with me. Here's one more called 'Albertine'. I like this one purely for the musical quality, it has a folksy, sultry kind of feel to me.