Tonight is inexplicable

Tonight, for some reason, I am filled with a most-unspeakable and inexplicable joy. For the first time since my move to DC, there is a settledness of spirit, a calmness of character. There is a renewed hope in my calling, a reinvigorated sense of freedom in God, a restored feeling of confidence in my own creative abilities and in what I hear God speaking to me.

The fire in my belly to create music and to perform and to put my faith into song is back. The passion to write the words (and perhaps books) that I believe God has put on my heart is back. The yearning to live with and laugh with and lead and love the people of God is back.

Perhaps it was the gig I played at on Friday night, where I was reminded of the great joy and satisfaction–a certain assuredness or perhaps even a sense of divine approval–that comes with using the gifts that God has graciously given me.

Perhaps it was the conference I attended this weekend–RootsCampDC–a gathering of progressive organizers. At RootsCamp, I encountered kindred spirits of all ages and colors, and my hope for change and the power of people working together was renewed.

Perhaps it was getting to talk with my dear friend Kate, whom I love and miss dearly, and whom I could best describe–and not exaggerating all that much–as the person in whom I see the peace and love of God embodied. Every time I talk to Kate, I’m reminded not only of God’s perspective on life, but I’m also humbled by how he is at work in her life in ways great and small–and simply because she has given him the space in her life to work.

Perhaps it was the decisions that I made at the start of the Lenten season already beginning to bear fruit.

All I know is … God is good. He’s showing me the path and urging me to go, like a father encouraging his toddler to venture out.

So I go.

Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

–Matthew 19:26

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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.

Perhaps you haven’t yet truly lived …

Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ; February 19, 2009:

If you haven’t felt the bitter pain of betrayal, perhaps you haven’t trusted enough. If you haven’t fallen flat on your face, perhaps you haven’t ever tried to soar. If you haven’t had your heart truly broken, perhaps you haven’t fully experienced love’s true wonder. If you haven’t ached at the core of your being or felt agony in your existence, perhaps you haven’t yet truly lived.

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:

Love is the ultimate outlaw

In the February issue of Sojourners, Cathleen Falsani writes about perfect love. In it, she references Tom Robbins’ 1980 novel Still Life with Woodpecker. She introduces it as “the whimsical love story between a red-headed, environmentalist princess (deposed) named Leigh-Cheri and a tequila-swilling outlaw called Bernard,” and highlights “an exchange between the unlikely lovers that took place in written dispatches sent through Bernard’s attorney.”

“The most important thing is love,” said Leigh-Cheri. “I know that now. There’s no point in saving the world if it means losing the moon.” …

The message continued, “I’m not quite 20, but, thanks to you, I’ve learned something that many women these days never learn: Prince Charming really is a toad. And the Beautiful Princess has halitosis. The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love. Wouldn’t that be the way to make love stay?”

The next day, Bernard’s attorney delivered to her this reply:

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words ‘make’ and ‘stay’ become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

Love is the ultimate outlaw. I like that.