Tag Archives: gospel

The Beauty of Past Tense

8 Nov

Today yellow leaves drift downward and scatter upon the parking lot outside my window.

I read a few sentences of words the God-man said once, words he still says, over and over.

“Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

Have overcome.”

Not, “Will overcome.”

Never has past tense felt so comforting.

Never have words been so real and so able to spread  across generations and lands, thick like homemade blackberry jam on bread.

And we eat it and are filled. And we know it is not just a cute little saying, but reality for us, now.

When the systems of the world with their strangling owed bills and dooming predictions began to feel like they hijacked your day,

Those words will speak out, through the yellow leaves,

They will ignite and burn and leave you knowing that today is not only bearable, but sacred.

And when the faces of people around you look like statues and you are convinced the future will leave you full of widening cracks and alone,

Those words resounds through a moment of heart-connecting conversation, soft lips, a hand in a hand.

Have overcome,” they say, “We are not waiting for someday, when the weather feels sunny and perfect and we lose all our silly human flaws.”

We, like the trees letting go of their leaves, can lose the idea that our someday will be our redeemer. 

Because we are living in the present reality of the past-tense.

Our redeemer has already redeemed.

Finding Happy

16 Apr

Sometimes waiting is overrated.

Like when you are trying to find happy.

There is a waiting in patience for things to come,

But there is also a taking a holding and receiving now.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question:

If you can’t be happy now, when will you be happy?

When you are married?

When you live in a certain place?

When you have a dog or a child or a new job?

When you are a legitimate published author?

When childhood dreams finally come true?

I am sorry for this kind of thinking. I battle it every day, and yet I am sorry for it. It’s part of being human but it doesn’t need to rule your thoughts, haunt you, turn your discontentment to misery.

Some would say, “You want to be happy? Be thankful.”

Thankfulness is necessary, but it can’t be forced. When you feel obligated to count your blessings, or you try to use it as some kind of formula to feel better about yourself, you seldom move much farther from where you started.

How can you be thankful for that which you do not see? Or maybe it’s there, right in front of you, but you can’t believe that it’s yours.  Or maybe you feel like you owe someone something for the good things in your life.

Blessings are not blessings if they come with a sense of guilt, the weight of feeling indebted. Because then your thoughts turn back to you, the receiver, instead of the Giver.

“Ok, I understand you gave this to me… now what do I have to do to pay you back?”

This sounds offensive but the Giver is never offended. He just reassures you,

“Nothing. Life is a gift.”

Unhappiness comes because you wish your circumstances were better, but what if everything was already the best it could be?

Discontentment comes because you wish you had something that you do not, but what if you already had everything you need?

Not just everything you need, but everything you as a human being could ever want or dream of.

I am not talking about an object itself, but the  joy that object can bring once you lay hold of it. Only this joy is not fleeting.

I am not taking about selfish desires like power or fame, but the root of those desires before they turned rotten, the need to be known, to be loved, to partake in some kind of glory outside ourselves.

What if we had love that was complete and full, that brought out the best in us, that never manipulated or had one bad motive?

What if we felt fully alive in every sense of the phrase because we were?

Then, maybe, happiness would finally be ours.

It feels to good to be true, and that’s exactly what makes it good news. It is true.

Jesus has given us his life. 

The very life of God.

The very life of Pure Love.

It is there. You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to conjure it up.

You just simply need to believe.

When you believe, a death will come. It will be a beautiful death, not the sort of death we mourn, however painful it may seem at the time.

It will be the kind of death where a seed has to die and fall to the ground for life to spring forth.

The kind of death where a shell of a person is exchanged for a radiant, glorious, perfect being.

Where there is complete satisfaction at the core of who we really are.

Where we are not waiting for “someday,” in the “sweet by and by,” because new life begins now.

It goes without saying I am not promising material wealth or that all your problems will be no more. There will be pain. There will be heartache. But deep down there will be a security no one can shake. A joy. A peace. You will know you are loved.

This is why, after years of struggle with this weird broken thing called Christianity I can say that I still believe. This is why, even after years of “being in ministry” and seeing a lot of broken promises and broken dreams, seeing people get run over and turn their backs on the church, going through real pain and despair, I still have hope.

This is the gospel. It’s Jesus. He is what makes living worthwhile.

He is living.

He is what we are all searching for: joy, happiness, glory, love.

He is it.

There is nothing else.

From Starvation to Drunken Joy

13 Nov

It’s hard to swallow sometimes
the sweet liquid that You are enough
it burns my pride as it cures it

but when I get pills stuck in my throat
(self-made medicine
from a factory in my heart
in that smoggy part that doesn’t fully believe)

I can see no other alternative
and I wouldn’t want to

truth is too delicious

because there is no cure
other than Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

I’ve tried  to get meat
bloody and rare
left overs from an altar somewhere

but it’s a carcass filled with maggots
I  couldn’t see that because I was
so busy counting up
what I thought I owed you

so bent on a payment plan that
I sold my last bit of grain to the poor
only for it to be lost in transport

it was only then
in my feverish aches
in my grand delusions
in my starving hallucinations
that I could somehow provide
what I needed to survive

I finally collapsed and saw
my bloated belly
and emaciated face

(and I knew I was one of them too)

I knew that the grocery stores were empty
I knew that the garden was dead
I knew that the store houses were rotting

only then was I able to be fed

carried to a feast, a banquet, a buffet
endless and guiltless and always mine

because there is no cure
other than then Your bread and wine

and that is my sustenance
and my drunken joy

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred-proof grace-of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel-after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection your bootstraps-suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”

-Robert Capon, Between Noon and Three (as quoted in Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Starving For Grace

17 Jul


We live in a world where gracelessness is the fuel that runs this machine called society.

“At least they got what they deserved.”

“We’ll teach them a lesson.”

“Nothing is free.”

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

It is a very human attitude. We disguise our un-grace with our sense of hard work, our sense of fair, of right and wrong.

Our sense of justice.

In Phillip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” He tells the following story.

While in a meeting of prominent christian leaders of the time, there arouse a discussion on what makes Christianity different then other religions. The idea of the resurrection was brought up, but quickly shot down. Other religions had accounts about people being raised from the dead. What about God coming to earth as man? No, that was not unique to Christianity either. Then, C.S Lewis wandered into the room. The leaders asked him the questions, and without a beat, he responded,

“Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Grace is not a topic, it is not a certain theological view. It is the gospel. The word’s grace and Jesus are interchangeable.

Salvation is a gift. Furious, unconditional love is offered freely, spilling out of the Creator of the world. It is ours if we just accept.

Grace. It’s the name of a girl. It’s also a thought that could change the world.

In the movie Seven Pounds, Will Smith plays a man desperate to give back that which he (by accident) had stolen. In a scene in the middle of the movie, he finds a broken woman suffering abuse at the hands an abusive man, with no where to run to. Not only does Will Smith take the fearful woman and her children out of that horrible hell they are living in, but he does something unthinkable- he gives her his house. A beautiful mansion over looking the ocean. The woman, at first, was obviously skeptical. She, like we all would if such a gift was offered from a stranger, wanted to know what the catch was. How could a man who just met her give that sort of grace to her and her children, without wanting something in return?

When Will Smith assured her that there was no catch, it was then she was able to let down her guard and fully realize the extent of what had been given to her. In a tear-flowing scene, her children and her walk on the beach, safe and sound from abuse, able to start their lives completely over.

We weep at such scenes because we were created to live inside of them.
But our world is so good at gracelessness, and unfortunately the church has not done much better.

We fear showing this sort of unconditional love because we have been cheated, taken advantage of. We want to teach people a lesson. We want to be wise, mature. We don’t want to give people “a license to sin.” We want justice.

We want people to get what they deserve, but do we really?

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

What if we stopped judging things as moral and immoral, and instead, did our best to offer unconditional grace to everyone we met?

From judgmental relatives,
to snobby backstabbing ex-friends.
From famous preachers caught in sexual scandals,
To pimps who prey on children.

Is it too much for us?

Recently in an article about forgiveness in response to the outrage against the Casey Anthony trial.

It was the spring of 1944 when 10-year-old Eva Kor, her twin sister Miriam and her mother arrived in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Immediately, guards ripped both girls from their mother and they were never again to see her, their father or their older sisters.
Shortly thereafter, in a sick bay, a doctor told Eva “You have just two weeks to live.” The doctor was Josef Mengele. He had just injected her with a lethal cocktail of bacteria as part of a barbaric experiment with twins.
Eva had a strong immune system and survived but so, too, did the pain of her suffering. Her sister Miriam suffered an inexplicable disease from the injection of poison. Eva later tried to save her sister’s life by donating one of her own kidneys, but Miriam died in 1993.
In January 1995, at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Kor brought along a doctor who worked alongside Josef Mengele. Eva read a confession of guilt from the doctor who accompanied her and then shocked the world press by saying “In my own name, I forgive all Nazis.”

…If Jesus could ask God to forgive the people that were about to murder him and if a Holocaust survivor could forgive the people that poisoned her and tried to exterminate her family, then what holds you and I back from forgiving anyone?

How is this even possible? It’s not, in a human sense. But when we begin to realize all that has been offered us free of charge, all that we are blessed with that we don’t deserve, the wild wide-eyed gift of life that has been extended to us, we begin to realize that nothing is ours to hold onto, yet everything is ours to give.

When she goes to work
You can hear the strings
Grace finds beauty
In everything

(U2- Grace)

And so, may we dare to offer grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love in a world simply starving for it. Even before taking that step, may we begin to accept it. May we understand life is a gift, everything we long for is ours, free of charge.  In choosing to walk in grace, even when it’s hard and painful, we are fighting against violence, against revenge, against evil itself.

In embracing the gospel of Jesus and feeding grace to a world starving for it, we will be in essence walking inside another kingdom- one where everyone is equal, everyone is welcome, and everyone understands how much they are loved.



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