Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis, and me

This week’s SEMI (Fuller’s student publication) features an interview with my boss, Jim Wallis, and an article by me telling some of the story of how I ended up at Sojourners. For those of you at Fuller, pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts! And if you’re not in Pasadena, drop me a comment and I’ll email you an electronic copy.

Also, for Pasadena friends, Jim will be speaking at All Saints Church tomorrow (25th) at 7pm. Go say hey!

Thou

Dag Hammarskjöld:

Thou
Whom I do not know
But Whose I am.

Thou
Whom I do not comprehend
But Who has dedicated me
To my fate.
Thou

(Markings, 214-215)

Thanks to Wess.

Time won’t leave me as I am

Original post: March 4, 2008; update: January 26, 2010.

I like hanging out with God. Just me and him. Like old times. Like when I used to have lots of time to just be. For the last few years, life has become busier and responsibilities have piled up, and I’ve had to learn a new way of relating to God—amidst the busyness and craziness of life, when everything tries to distract me from spending time from the one Necessary in life, the only one I actually need to survive. So it’s been a different stage—a more laborious way of life. But perhaps that’s just what happens when one grows up.

And God’s been good. In the last few years, he’s brought people around me to be community: families to provide stability, guys to be accountable to and pray with, friends to laugh with and to challenge me. He’s been focusing my vision, and leading me where he wants me, gradually revealing piece by piece of the puzzle (though I may never see the whole picture). I love being in the now, being in the excitement of seeing where God leads and what he’s going to do.

In many ways, it’s still hard—as I like to quote from my songwriter friend James, “Life is hard; life is beautiful.” There are still things to contend with: time will always be at a premium; friends will move away, and it’s improbable that I’ll ever live in the same place as my best friends or family again. And I’m still not quite sure where my home is. I was praying the other night and came to the conclusion that “I just want to go home.” And then I realized that, actually, “I just want to know where home is.”

This morning, sitting in the sun, chilling out with God, the words of a song sounded: He is my home. My family will always be an international family, my friends will never all be in the same place, and I often wonder if my restless soul will ever let me stay in one place for a long stretch. But God will be my home.

I wrote a song almost three years ago; my brother and sister-in-law were about to have their first kid, and I wrote it from the perspective of a new parent. This morning, God spoke to me through it:

When all the world can’t seem to get you right,
and all the words you scream won’t bring you light,
when tears fill up your eyes and cover up your sight,
I will be your home.

***

Related to this, the realization that what goes around comes around.

Time and again, I’m astounded by how the songs I write for other people, or th are inspired by other people, come back and speak to me in another time and another circumstance, whether it’s a life challenge—“Are we going to put up a fight or let the world turn to rust?”, or a love challenge—“I can’t break free unless you find me; I am undone by you”, or something else—“What happens now? Will I fall down flat on my face or will I find the strength to get back to my knees?”

What happens is that when I write songs, I empathize with people and their situations, and then somehow, somewhere down the line, I end up in a similar scenario and need the same ministry. Maybe it’s God’s way of ingeniously incorporating all of our foibles and talents into his greater scheme. Or it’s just his unique sense of humor: God using my own words to challenge me and spur me on.

Thanks, God. I’m glad I know you love me.

This year, for Lent …

Welcome to Lent 2010. (For those who are unfamiliar with Lent, check out this primer from Beliefnet.)

Writer extraordinaire Julie Clawson penned a great and very thought-provoking piece on just what Lent is about (which you can find on God’s Politics or on her own blog). Of particular note:

Lent isn’t about denial; it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. Our acts of kenosis — denying ourselves in order to empty ourselves enough to allow God to fill us — are means to an end. They are disciplines that prepare us to be transformed. We deny ourselves so that we can be reborn as new creations — to live more fully as the kingdom citizens God desires us to be.

Various friends are doing various things for Lent. Some decisions are related to food: one friend is going vegan for lent, while another is committing to the Daniel fast. Others are choosing to spend less time staring at a screen, whether it’s through swearing off of Facebook or abstaining from watching TV. Yet others are choosing proactive resolutions, in one case deciding to commit to a half hour quiet time every day.

Me? I’ve been thinking more about what it is that would be healthy for me, and what would best clear space for God. I went to an Ash Wednesday service last night at which Dallas Willard reminded us that “Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5:15). Like Julie, I don’t want to withdraw from Facebook, which is one of the few ways I’m able to keep contact with my widely-dispersed friends. I don’t really drink coffee or eat sweet things all that much, so abstaining from those wouldn’t create much lifespace.

I’ve decided that my Lenten plan will be a little mish-mash of everything:

  • I’m giving up alcohol. I’m an artist. I don’t need any additional aids to make me emo.
  • I’m gonna try to be more consistent with working out a little every day. I’ve been hobbled by various ailments since I’ve moved here–I blame a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • I’m cutting down on my TV intake–not completely, but some. So I’m still keeping Lost, Smallville, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother … uhhh, I might rethink this one. 😉
  • For those of you who remember the 6-month dating fast of 2007–Micah and Christie?–I’m instituting something similar for Lent. The last few months have made me realize that I need to be a little more settled, especially since I’m still trying to find my feet in DC. (Six months was a doozy; Lent should be a breeze.)

What about you? What’re you doing for Lent (if anything)?

Believe it or not, Jesus loves you

Original post: March 28, 2008; update: January 28, 2010. Always a good reminder.

The late, great Rich Mullins told a story of when he was struggling in his faith, and someone said to him, “Jesus loves you.” His response: “Big deal. Jesus loves everyone.”

Sometimes, I feel like that; sometimes I feel like God’s love is so indiscriminate that it isn’t worth anything. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve heard that Jesus loves me, or that the Bible says so, it just doesn’t help with life’s difficulties and tensions, with the struggles I’m facing or the emotional turmoil I’m going through. Sometimes, I feel, love just ain’t enough.

But on most days, I’m able to live in the knowledge and understanding that God’s love is so expansive—so high and wide and deep and true—that somehow, even though he loves everyone, it’s as full as it can be for everyone.

Human love is limited; it’s finite. We only have so much time and energy to spend with people; we are only able to spread ourselves so thin, and even our greatest commitment is often not enough. God’s love doesn’t have such limitations: his love is wide and deep. He can and does love everyone, and he does so fully. Which can be hard for our human minds to comprehend.

Years ago, when I was first discovering faith for myself—becoming a follower of Christ rather merely a believer in Christ—the words I used to hear God saying to me the most often were “I love you.” And I used to wonder why he’d say it so often. I knew that Jesus loves me, I’d think; the Bible tells me so. Why does he need to keep repeating himself?

Over time, I came to realize, first, that it’s one of the hardest things to do—to see ourselves as loved by and precious to God; and second, that an understanding of how much God loves us is the source of everything else: for how we’re able to see ourselves in proper perspective, for how we’re able to respond to his love by loving him back, and for how we’re able to love others with the love that he has shown us.

God’s shown me that these three simple words speak of a truth that’s pretty important and foundational to how we look at life and how we live life. It’s a message that I still need to hear every day.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus loves you.

Think about it.

This is Love

From pastor/musician Jaeson Ma:

We are loved

C.S. Lewis:

We are all receiving Charity. There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one’s fault if they do not so love it … You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times — and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit — they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself [Christ] is in those who love them.

The Four Loves, 182-183.