Friday, February 29, 2008

By the Book

rules are like a golden retriever kept on a leash
a constant companion of clear expectation
heal, sit, stay, but don't fetch
because I'm still holding the leash
but the comforting blanket
that keeps us warm at night
if we're not careful
and a little careless
can be twisted into a straight jacket
where law overshadows people
and the truth is twisted
like Your ten commandments
as ammunition for Your son
or the book You meant as a love letter
becoming faded files in a courtroom
I like books
the leash gives the rush of control
the blanket swaddles
the lists are smiling with checkmarks
keeping everything in place
just like the nails
when they murdered You
by the book

"Passive theft is still left. I have stolen joy from people I love. I have stolen time from people by not giving them my full attention when they are speaking from their depths." Dr. Bob Laurent, "Do Not Steal" sermon 2/28/08

"The Bible doesn't teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus . . . Just don't look for rules and principles; look for a relationship--a way of coming to be with Me . . . Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expression like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to creat certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse . . . Rules and principals are simpler than relationship . . . I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be the center of everything." Papa in William P. Young's The Shack

"The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer . . . Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help." Matthew 23:1,4 (Msg)

"Don't suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God's Law or the Prophets. I'm not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God's Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God's Law will be alive and working." Mathew 5:17

Monday, February 25, 2008

Liberty in the Lean Times

I used to be a fearful giver
like some pouting child told to clean up his room
who wonders what cartoon he might be missing
shoving things in a huff under the bed
and rushing his minimal efforts
but I love how You change me
now matter how much I resist
leading me to the freedom of a cheerful giver
like Mary Poppins snapping her fingers
with a bird singing in perfect harmony from the windowsill
or Polyanna skipping with basket in tow
leaving a breadcrumb trail of joy in her wake
but You and I both know
it's harder to lean when times are lean
You keep teaching me to love doing things that make no sense
in a world of nonsense under the guise of intellect
because every time I re-read Your red letters
you redefine common sense
and call me to lean on You
just a little more

"Ask yourself this week, which way am I leaning?"
Rob Wegner, "Livin' on a Prayer" sermon 2/23-24

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." 1 Timothy 6:17-19

"There are many folks like you, Mackenzie, who end up locking themselves into a very small place with a monster that will ultimately betray them, that will not fill or deliver what they thought it would. Imprisoned with such a terror, they once again have the opportunity to return to me. The very treasure they trusted in will become their undoing . . .
Systems cannot provide you security, only I can . . . It's extremely hard to rescue someone unless they are willing to trust you . . . The whole thing is a process, not an event . . . All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you."
Papa: "Mack, I thought you might want this . . ."
Mack: "Can you keep it for me? All my best treasures are now hidden in You anyway . . ."

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Great Sadness

some books change me forever
and startle me like a stranger in my living room
who prompts me to gasp then smile
and calmly say "Oh, there you are."
I too have experienced the Great Sadness
which you lifted and turned into joy
not a quick-fix band-aid pull
more like ice melting
I can't go back to the calendar
and point to it's departure
all I know is freedom
to take in the stars with You on the dock
to get dirt under my fingernails
while we uproot the garden
for those great talks over pies in the kitchen
but three people I love are now stuck in the ice
of the Great Sadness
and they don't really believe in Your spring
even though they hear it every Sunday
I hold my breath, paralyzed to watch them
like a child drowning in 6 inches of water
or a six year old in a shack with a monster
but only You can rescue, release, and redeem
so I let out my breath
and trust in Your plan
because in the end
the Great Sadness
just doesn't hold water or ice
next to the warmth of Your joy,

Mack: "I just can't imagine any final outcome that would justify all this."
Papa: "We're not justifying it. We're redeeming it."
William P. Young, The Shack

"Real Christianity does not say love is blind, it says love takes a good long look."
Dr. Bob Laurent, New Community, 2/21/08

"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions." John 16:21-23

Other Great lines from The Shack by William P. Young:

"Just remember, you gotta clean what you catch."

"Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship."

"Freedom can never be forced."

"When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you lose sight of Me?"

"Living unloved is like clipping a bird's wings and removing it's ability to fly . . . this isn't Sunday school. It's a flying lesson."

"You don't play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor the relationship." (referring to Jesus)

"I am not who you think I am, MacKenzie. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is it's own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it . . . I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome."

"Rights are where survivors go, so they won't have to work out relationships."

" . . . your independence with its quest for power and fulfillment actually destroys the relationship your heart longs for."

"Love is just the skin of knowing."

"Some folks try with all kinds of coping mechanisms and mental games. But the monsters are still there, just waiting for the chance to come out."

"As well-intentioned as it might be, you know that religious machinery can chew up people."

" . . . out of what seems to be a huge mess, Papa weaves a magnificent tapestry."

"You don't have to have it all figured out. Just be with me."

"Relax, Mack; this is not a test. It's a conversation."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dry Erase Words

I wish I could talk with a dry erase board
fumbling stupidity can be wiped away
with the swipe of a fingertip
returning to the sleek white emptiness
of a brand new day
straight A's came easy from the back of the class
taking notes and always writing in pencil
renewed by the smell of fresh eraser shavings
easily brushed off by the heal of my hand
neatly printed papers were covered in praise
but I couldn't really take the credit
Because I really owe it all to
my faithful friend--the backspace key
but friendships write with Sharpies
and crossing things out
only adds to the mess
bleeding through to others and leaving a stain
but being myself in the relaxing stream of consciousness
is more like white water rafting
and only means they'll leave a little sooner
so I pre-edit, try to stay quiet
and come to You
the only one who can read the illegible
to sense you smiling at my stupid words crossed out
and knowing I just want to love them well
like You love me
I've been trying to write out formulas
for a new equation
I'm a little lost
the board is messy
and I'm handing the marker to You

"Have you ever been perceived as pushy, insensitive, or apathetic when you had no intention to convey that attitude? While it's not a sin to be perceived in a negative light, it can strain relationships and cause misunderstandings. For example if our attempts at humor come out as cutting sarcasm, people will be repelled. If we dominate or control a meeting, those around the table will eventually stop participating. Our nervous laughter may inadvertently have the effect of irritating people. This is not about image control. This is about being more self-aware. It's about being alert to any personal idiosyncrasies you and I have that could hinder our rapport with other people." Rory Noland, Thriving as an Artist in the Church

"I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is a gate open to the left or the right the readers will most certainly go into it." C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the toungue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12: 18

"Love . . . doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always 'me first,'
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others."
1 Corinthians 13:5 (msg)

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Paul, Romans 7:15

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Smiling Apprentice

Thank you for sending me people
who wear Your smile
fashion Your joy
laugh in Your playfulness
stay through the hiccups
and live their lives for You
giving back and managing well
the talents you gave them
all so we can talk about
my least favorite topic
the green stuff
dun, dun, dun
the columns that can bring
hand-me-down tears from mom
the stamped envelops that add up to
pressure mountains for the man I love
because the bandaids don't really do much
when your appendix is leaking
it feels like opening the chaos closet
in a beautiful pristine home
the top shelf ten percent stands neatly at attention
but the other ninety percent tumbles out at us
like an avalanche of gadgets with no manuels
and it's so much prettier after that latch clicks
help us as the closet door stays open
we hunt for the manuels in all the right places
and we begin to sort the mess
thank You for these amazing volunteers
who inspire us all
to manage well
give generously
and have a little fun with You in the process

"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."
Matthew 10:40-42 (Msg)

"Are you living your life in a mindset of convenience or consequence?" Mark Beeson, "Risky Business" Sermon Feb. 16-17

“This is not a game, ... Debt has become a part of who we are. It's become that spoiled child in the grocery store with their lip stuck out: 'I want it. I want it. I deserve it because I breathe air.' And, well, that's an uphill climb in our culture right now, to go against that and say, 'Hey, let's be grownups here. Let's be mature, learn to delay pleasure, save up and pay for things.' . . . I call this the great misunderstanding--the idea that we give because churches need our money . . . Financial peace isn't the acquisition of stuff. It's learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can't win until you do this.”
Dave Ramsey

"Don’t underestimate your influence. How you live matters. What you do is important. So put on your Big Boy pants and grow up; the weight of your witness depends on it." Mark Beeson

Friday, February 15, 2008


I grew up with a bully brother
so I learned to gulp anger down like tart medicine
to keep the peace lingering and my parents smiling
big bro grew up and collected his anger
like steel tools he can hold in his hands
he now uses them to fix things
and bring justice overseas
bully turned hero, victim turned fan
I have my own smile of pride for genius redirected
But I was a late bloomer with a bad habit
a swallowing gulp
and a stomach ache
then as a teacher I got a taste
of the good anger my brother already found
as I loved my students so much it hurt
crashing into bullies by their lockers or in their offices
who couldn't see the innocent faces in the middle
of the statistics and detention slips
or a caste system that seemed unbreakable
now You've turned the page
a new job that provides a big huddle
of younger and older brothers who look out for me
but old habits resurface when you're uprooted
even if it is from a pot to the earth
there's a new bully in town
flashbacks to a gulping little sister hiding in her room
clutching a care bear and talking to You
but maybe it's just me
are You teaching me patience
or riling me up for action?
I need You to mark the spot between
selfish anger and Your call for restoration
between depravity and justice
because the gulping is giving me
another stomach ache
and all I want to do is
help my new bros do what they do best
and keep pointing people to You

"What else is anger than the impulsive response to the experience of being deprived. When my sense of self depends on what others say of me, anger is a quite natural reaction to a critical world. And when my sense of self depends on what I can acquire, greed flares up when my desires are frustrated. Thus greed and anger are brother and sister of a false self fabricated by the social compulsions of an unredeemed world."
Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

"Cain's anger defined him. What you do with your anger defines you, but what does it look like when you express Godly anger? Get angry. Let God rile you up a bit. Just let it be for the right things, and God will use it for restoration." Jason Miller, "Do Not Murder" Sermon 2/14/08

"Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored." Mark 3: 4-5

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lovin' Him in the Homonyms

it all started with a fumbling compliment . . .
"Cody: "You're really observable . . . uh, I mean observant." (sheepish grin) "well, you're pretty observable, too."
Me: (trying to play it cool, but screaming on the inside like a junior high girl at a boy band concert) "um, so how's your summer going?""

then You showed me we're the ultimate complement . . .
"Me: (first day of classes in the fall, highlighted schedule, map of campus, color coded folders and textbooks in tow) So when's your first class today?
Cody: (puzzled, suddenly realizing what day it was) I don't know.
Me: Didn't you get your schedule?
Cody: I was . . . just . . . gonna go. "

Thank You for giving me this
perfectly-prescribed man
who knows how to make me laugh after an MRI
coming out to me nervously shaking in my sticky seat
and announces to all in ear shot
(with a sigh) "Well, the good news is
I do have a brain."
who knows how to play Barbies
better than any other former fullback
who used to run over people like a train
then help them up and pat them on the back
who knows how to love me in silence
and look at me better than any chick flick ending
from that first compliment
to the ever-growing complement
thank You for every moment
of our 12 year
Homonym journey

"To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband." 1 Corinthians 7:10

"What a happy and holy fashion it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wishing Well

they're waiting
between the cushions
in the bottom of drawers
about to slide through the grates
into the gutters
between the rocks
and hard places
floating aimlessly
in a puddle of complacency
or clinking in our pockets
close at hand
but we're planning
to take our hands
out of our pockets
to seek, search, hunt
for each and every
lost coin
so we can throw them
into the fountain of You
and the best news is
You're not just a wishing well
we're ready for the chase
eager for the party
a bunch of hard core coin collectors
who will never be content
just sitting still and
wishing well

"20 years ago the goal was to get the community into the church. We're ready for the next chapter. The new goal is to get the church into the community."
Mark Beeson, "One Church . . . Where You Are" sermon Feb. 9-10

"The Story of the Lost Coin"
"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God."
Jesus in Luke 15:8-10 (Msg)

"As with most of Jesus's parables, the story compels the hearers to put themselves in the picture and thereby discover the truth about Jesus--and about themselves. The parable is told to make a specific point: This is why there's a party going on . . . God's kingdom is happening right under your noses, and you can't see it." N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Saturday, February 09, 2008

There You Go in my Favorite Show

I love finding You in Lost places
seeing You in man-made masterpieces
breathless humanity in the questions
dangling carrot answers shrink to hints
on a slinky coil of truth
that can stretch as far as you pull it
the living room blurrs from view
as we travel inside the box
of an out of the box story
like Alice and her looking glass
we gasp at our own reflections
criminals who found love
men just trying to fix things
people with pasts
that flood back in every time it rains
and we're all wondering who can be trusted
we're all waiting to be rescued
as we live together, die alone
and never stay put for too long
chasing after and running from You
on this big green and blue island
but for those once lost, we found
it doesn't have to be so scary
the Church isn't just a corporate experiment
You aren't the monster they think You are
and the rescue
already happened

"What does God have to do to get your attention?"
Rose ("SOS" Lost)

"Spirituality on the island, as in our outer world, includes many different beliefs, and the expressions of spiritual faith vary as much as the individuals who profess these widely ranging beliefs. Lost's many characters wrestle with their interpretations about what is happening on the island and whether a Divine Creator, a large corporate entity , the Dharma Initative, the Others, the Monster, or nothing at all is running the show."
Lynette Porter and David Lavery, Unlocking the Meaning of Lost

"In recent American surveys, as many as 95 percent of people have professed they believe in God or a higher power--they just can't seem to agree on what that higher power is. In Lost, this dominant view is the position taken as well. God 's existence is not disputed. Yet defining God is left for the viewer to answer."
J ohn Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs, What Can be Found in Lost

"The lifeboat goes out to the rescue, and the captain gets drowned in the process . . .With Jesus, God's rescue operation has been put into affect once and for all."
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

Monday, February 04, 2008


for most Americans
injustice is just a fly buzzing
easily swatted by changing
the channel
the location
the station
the subject
but on 911 he flew up our noses
and this weekend he came back
buzzing around in there
and driving us crazy
thank You for the disturbance
the awakening
and for not letting him fly in our ears
so we can hear You
whispering what we should do next . . .
as for me
all I have to offer is words
help me chase new ways to use them
to give life
plant some fruit trees
fight for justice
and bring heaven and earth together
because You've called us to so much more
than lying around
like a bunch of flyswatters

“And the key theme, which points on from the great poetry of the Old Testament to the astonished delight of the New, is the renewal of the entire cosmos, of heaven and earth together." NT Wright, Simply Christian

"We are God's plan for justice, and there doesn't appear to be a back up plan." Rob Wegner, "Justice For All" sermon Feb. 2-3, 2008

"Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose." Proverbs 18:21 (Msg)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Frosty Sabbath Sunrise

"We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we're doing it, I think we're meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, the birds' song, and the frosty sunrise."
C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters, Volume II

silence used to scare me
like some white wigged English judge
with too much truth in thick files
that he'd make me read in front of You
but then I found a paradox
freedom in the sentencing
permission to stay in pajamas all day
instead of playing traffic frogger
to embrace his embrace without "to do" list in hand
saying i love yous that don't really mean good-bye
to watch the shivering birds outside the kitchen window
and let the dishes tower beneath my gaze
to lie on the floor on our tummies
for fairy tea parties and endless plots
less reminders to hurry and more forehead kisses
to replace the heat of the teetering laptop
with the cool arch of Your word
ah . . . much better

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20:8

"We left the sabbath in the dust of our schedule, but Sabbath is really your chance to show God you believe Him when He says "I got it!" Dr. Bob Laurent, New Community 1/31/08