Friday, February 29, 2008

So, we got a little snow the other day and here's a shot of Norah out in it!

Seeing the Invisible

Have you ever pretended to see something that you really couldn’t? Like, remember when the big thing was those Magic Eye books? You know, the ones with abstract computer generated images that supposedly had other 3D images imbedded in them that would fly out at you if you looked at them in a certain special way? Yeah, well I tried for years to see the magic pictures in those books. I would focus and unfocus my eyes, turn my head, turn the book, stick my nose on the page, stick my eyeball on the page, concentrate, empty my mind, cross my eyes, stand on my head and I even tried praying a couple of times, but I never saw a blasted thing. To be honest, I think the whole thing was a big hoax… like the Emperor’s New Clothes of the 90’s where no one wanted to admit they couldn’t see the thing because seeing it was the cool thing to do.

Well, lately I have noticed something coming up a bunch in the Scriptures… and that is, the importance of ‘seeing’ God. This wasn’t a subject I went looking for during my time in the Word or anything, it has just sort of happened. In the past few months I’ve just been noticing what seems to be the huge importance of seeing Him and I don’t really get it. It’s actually been a bit troubling to me in my reading and thinking about Scripture because I’ve never actually seen God, and in fact, the Apostle John tells us three times that no one has ever seen God. So what in the world am I supposed to do with the fact that seeing Him is apparently super important and no one’s ever done it?

Check this out: Psalm 17 says, “And I in righteousness will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Psalm 25:15 says, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” When the writer of Hebrews gets all cranked up talking about Moses in chapter 11 and how he left riches and power to follow God and rescue Israel it says that Moses “persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” And in the very next chapter we are encouraged to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

How can I see Him who is invisible?! How can I fix my eyes on a person I can’t see? “My eyes are ever on the Lord?!” What if my eyes are never on the Lord?!

Obviously we don’t have to physically see Him with our eyes, but what is seeing Him really all about then? For the answer to this question, I turn as usual to my resident theologian: my four-year old daughter… You see, whenever Anna is playing with little Lego people, one of them is Jesus and the rest are the ‘little children’ who came to Him in Matthew 19. When Anna wraps up a baby doll to mother and care for it, it’s almost always the baby Jesus. She loves to take care of Him. The other day we went on a walk and Anna picked up a little branch that had fallen from a pine tree. She stuck her arm above her head and started to wave it around like she was dancing. When we asked her what she was doing, she said, “I’m waving this branch to my favorite boy!” (a.k.a. Jesus) You see, Jesus just colors everything in her world. She doesn’t have one part of her life that He’s not included in… she sees Him everywhere, in that she sees everything through the lenses of His existence in her life, her love for Him and His activity in her life. Isn’t that how you do it? Isn’t that how you see Him who is invisible?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Unstoppable Nerdiness...

So, back in the day Charlie and I were on the same Young Life team and did a lot of skits together. One time we were these guys called Scotty and Shamus McFarlane, the Irish Samurai. While working on the sword-fighting choreography, we thought, "Why not make a lightsaber movie?"

I really miss those days! It was fun to do all that silliness with Charlie and to indulge our unparalleled dork-hood in the name of Jesus...

Anyway, here is our lightsaber test movie. Charlie did all the hard work. If you want to see his latest amazing creation, just go to his blog by clicking here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Here's Anna listening to some rocking epic power-ballads on Christy's new iPod!

The Bridegroom

When I was 21 and a junior in college, I was ready to marry Christy. We had talked about it for years, and I felt it was time, so one January night I approached her dad, Bill to ask for his blessing. The following is an account of that meeting:

Let me just say that I was super confident about this whole thing until we actually sat down in a booth and I looked across the table at Christy’s dad. When I looked him in the face, I froze like a dear in the headlights. What on earth was I doing?! Who was I kidding? I felt like a fifth grader asking my dad for the car keys. I mean, I was no man! I still loved Lucky Charms and Legos! If I could have had one wish it would have been a real, working light saber! I was just a stupid little boy looking into the face of this man who had held Christy when she was a helpless baby… the man who had wiped her tears and carried her on his shoulders… the man who had baptized her and had loved her for every second of her life… what was I thinking?

Well, long story short, I spent that entire dinner jawing about everything under the sun except my plan to marry Christy. I just got scared and he knew it too. He spent that whole evening looking straight through me with this amused look that said, “Give me your best shot, little dude.” We actually ate all our food, got the check and left the restaurant without me mentioning Christy at all. No kidding. Finally, as we were heading toward the car in the parking lot I stopped and said, “Bill, I want to marry Christy, and I would like to ask you for your blessing.” He laughed and laughed, finally saying, “I wondered how long it was going to take you!”

Well, Bill joyfully gave us his blessing and after Christy accepted my proposal I became something that has been my favorite station or title in this life… And if I won a million Oscars and Grammys, if I earned a hundred PhD’s… if the entire world united to name me the Prime Minister, President, Caesar and Grand Sultan of Planet Earth, not one of those titles would mean as much to me as this: That on a chilly January Saturday afternoon when she said “Yes,” I became a bridegroom. More than that, I became Christy’s groom. And there is no greater honor this world could bestow on me than that of being my wife’s man. You see, she is the Apple of my Eye. She makes my very heart beat. I know this might be cheesy, but my wife has this one smile… I mean, she has a million smiles, but she has this one in particular that is like pure, untainted and child-like joy bursting from the depths of a contented heart, and when I make that smile happen, I’m home.

The reason I tell you all of that mushy stuff is because there is something extremely mushy about Jesus that I am all worked up about this week. There is something about Him that is so cheesy that it’s absolutely wonderful… In John 3, a bunch of folks asked John the Baptist why he was losing his crowd to Jesus, and this was his reply: "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete."

John calls Jesus “The Bridegroom.” Now, I know this might be kind of a hard thing to get your head around, but the reason that John calls Jesus ‘Bridegroom’ is that Jesus wants to be our groom… Yes, He’s our Maker. Yes, He’s the One who gave His life to save us, and yes, He is in control of all things, but here’s something else you should know about Him… He loves you like a Groom loves his bride. He came because of love for you and He wants to be yours and for you to be His.

You know, when I was talking to Christy’s dad about marrying her, he asked me, “Why do you want to do this now instead of waiting until you both graduate and have jobs?” Now, I probably could have come up with some reason that would have sounded really wise and well thought out, but the problem was, I hadn’t really thought it out, so I just answered honestly. “The truth is,” I said, “I just don’t want to live another day without your daughter.” It was about love! I just wanted a life with Christy. I wanted to take over responsibility for her. I wanted to provide for her and be the one who filled her heart and made her smile.

That’s the way Jesus feels about you. He wants to fill those empty places. He wants to take care of your needs. He wants to take over responsibility for your life, meeting all your needs and giving you true joy. He’s all the love you’re looking for and He’s the Bridegroom… He’s the One who longs to see you walking down the aisle toward Him, giving your heart back to Him. I can still remember my heart hammering when I saw her in that dress for the first time… my bride. Man, I loved her so much. Just think, that’s just an infinitesimal fraction of the way the God of the universe feels about you!

My Bride:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Norah got some sunglasses and a new bathing suit for Valentine's Day... she proceeded to wear them both right there in the house.

Smoke Rings and Sun Beams

So, the other day Christy got the girls a ton of library books and after reading this one awesome book about love, I asked Anna if I could borrow it, take it to work and then bring it back a day or so later… whoa! You would have thought I had asked her for one of her lungs! She became so sad and upset and then straight-up told me, “No.” I told her I was only going to borrow it for a little while and then give it right back, but my words were lost in a flood of hysterical tears. Her whole day was ruined by the prospect of that book leaving the house, and no matter how much I assured her that I would indeed bring it back very soon, no smile could break through that sad little face.

You see, as soon as I mentioned borrowing the book, Anna got it in her mind that she would never see it again… She was operating under a false reality, which in turn fueled an unnecessary sadness.

In Philippians 4 Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always…” Now, if it’s possible to rejoice always, then is it fair to say that some of our sadness, despondency and depression is unnecessary? I don’t know… but one thing I’m fairly convinced of is the idea that a whole lot of our unnecessary sadness is fueled by false realities. We look at our overwhelming situations and say over them things like, “There is no hope.” “It will always be this way.” “They’ll never change.” Mike Mason says that the only problem you’ve never overcome in your life is the one you’re in right now… you’ve made it through everything so far and one day you’ll be out of this one too. But most people don’t really think that way. Mostly people think, “Look at this unbearable and impossible situation! I can’t believe I’m here… I can’t handle this!”

In my experience, when you try to talk sad people out of their sadness they don’t really want to hear it, or they’re ‘not ready for that yet.’ If you try to encourage them by talking about all the amazing truths and promises we have in Christ, many folks will blow you off. And hey, I’m the same way and have done the same things. It’s like you’re trying to blow sunshine up my nose or something and I just see all those promises as smoke and mirrors… Well look, I am not an advocate of optimism for it’s own sake or the power of positive thinking. I mean, when the glass is half empty or even all the way empty, I don’t want to say it’s anything else. I don’t want to tell you the sun’s shining when it’s dark outside, but here’s what I am saying: What if it’s a beautiful sunny day outside and we just won’t open up the blinds?

Right after telling us to rejoice always and be anxious for nothing, Paul says this: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” The cool thing here is that the word Paul wrote that we have translated ‘think’ really means to count on… in other words, it’s not just getting your happy thought… He’s saying that these true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy things are the reality; so count on it. It’s not optimism, it’s realism! Whatever you’re in, the promises of Christ are the reality! Count on it! The sun is shining, so open up those blinds and let it in!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Now there's a blast of pure joy...

Just to Sing

The other day I was just down in the dumps. I felt tired, frazzled and about a million miles away from Jesus. It was so weird because I know He promises to never leave or forsake us and all that, but I felt so spiritually alone and disconnected from Him. At this point Christian Cliché would say that, “It was I who walked away from Him…” I know, I know… but look, I was having my quiet time everyday, and I was even getting stuff out of it, but I just felt estranged from His heart. I was trying to disciple these high school guys on what it means to have a devotional life and time in the word everyday and I wound up feeling so confused and conflicted because it dawned on me that I didn’t know how to do it. I mean, the Bible doesn’t really have a quiet time planner or sure-fire devotional program… there is no specific instruction on how to be close to the Lord. I wanted to grow, but I felt like it just wasn’t happening.

The more I thought about it, the more stressed out I became. I actually started projecting my negative devotional life back through time thinking, “I’ve never known how to do this… I have a terrible relationship with the Lord.” I talked to Tom about these dark thoughts and he basically told me to relax. He said, “You know you love Jesus! Just don’t worry about it.” That was certainly true… I may not love Jesus as much as other folks have and do; and I certainly don’t love Him as much as I will one day, but I know for sure that I do love Him… I love Him tons. So I did what Tom said and just chilled out about it and went on with my day.

Hours later I took the girls up to church and let them just play around while I set up tables and chairs for this Bible Study. It was tangible and measurable work that felt good to do and when I was done and piled the kids back in the car to go home, I noticed something in the door of the car… it was a Rich Mullins CD I’ve heard about a billion times. Now, the car ride from church to my house only takes about two and a half minutes, but I was tired of the music that was playing, so I took it out and tossed Rich in. Without thinking about what I was doing, I started to sing along to the first song…

Sing your praise to the Lord, come on everybody
Stand up and sing one more “Hallelujah!”
Sing your praise to the Lord, I can never tell you
Just how much good that it’s gonna do ya just to sing…

When I somewhat mindlessly sang those words about ‘how much good it’s gonna do ya,’ something happened: my heart burst to life as if I had been resuscitated from days of flat lining… And there He was! It was as if the curtains were thrown back and light and life and joy flooded the room through the windows of praise. Psalm 22 says, “Yet You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” The King James says that He ‘inhabits’ His people’s praises. I found this to be true. He was right there! And as I sang, I told Him that I loved Him; and I told me too. I’m not trying to give you a program or anything, I’m just a guy saying, “I sang my praise to the Lord and it did me good.”

rich mullins...

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Pasteboard Placard

On Christy’s recommendation, I have started to read Charles Dickens’ classic novel, David Copperfield. It’s the story of an unfortunate boy whose father died six months before his birth and so wound up living the first part of his life with his mother and housekeeper. His happiness in this situation was short lived, as his mother soon courted and married a guy who could teach Satan a thing or two about what it takes to be mean… this horrible new step dad was actually a package deal that came complete with a sister who would be Davey’s new aunt and moved in to give a new definition to the meaning of torture. She was (if possible) worse than her brother. Soon the whole house changed and poor Davey’s life became a tightrope act where affection, love and laughter were traded for tyranny, fear and humiliation. One day Davey came downstairs to deliver his grammar lesson and found his new father holding a cane he had bound and fashioned out of switches. When Davey couldn’t remember his lesson, he was escorted upstairs to his room by his new dad and the cane… upon entering his bedroom, Davey bit his step dad’s hand out of desperation and self-protection and the next day was sent away from the house to go to a boarding school in London called Salem House.

After enduring many hardships to get to London and the school, young Davey was taken up to his new bedroom, which was empty because all the other boys were on holiday. As he walked to the end of the room, he looked on a desk and saw a ‘pasteboard placard, beautifully written’ which had these words on it: “Take care of him. He bites.” Upon reading these words, Davey immediately jumped onto the desk for fear of whatever rabid dog that sign must be talking about… the fellow that showed him to his room saw him on the desk and asked him what he was doing up there.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” says I, “if you please, I’m looking for the dog.”
“Dog?” says he; “what dog?”
“Isn’t it a dog, sir?”
“Isn’t what a dog?”
“That’s to be taken care of, sir; that bites?”
“No, Copperfield,” says he gravely. “That’s not a dog. That’s a boy. My instructions are, Copperfield, to put this placard on your back…” With that, he took me down, and tied the placard, which was neatly constructed for the purpose, on my shoulders like a knapsack; and wherever I went, afterwards, I had the consolation of carrying it.”

What if your worst moments were painted neatly on a sign you had to wear on your back? What if everywhere you went people were looking at a record of your most shameful sins? David Copperfield said that every time he leaned with his back to a tree or a wall or the house he was told to turn and show that ‘badge’ conspicuous… He said that wherever he went he knew people were reading it and even if he turned around and found no one behind him it gave him no comfort because it still felt like people were reading it. He said that he began to have a sort of dread of himself, “… as a kind of wild boy who did bite.”

There is a place in the darkest, most frightened and unsaved parts of my heart where I am afraid that meeting God will be like this… that I’ll get in, but before I do, all my friends and family will gather around and read the sign of my darkest days… but thanks be to God! I can put those fears to rest! In Colossians 2 Paul says, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Whoa! Do you believe this?! Even if there was a sign fashioned for you, it was cancelled! It was nailed to the cross, and the only ones ashamed are the defeated, disarmed demons! We are free and clean and we can walk that way.

Here's a picture of Charles Dickens taken in 1850:

He was the man!

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