The January-February issue of Bible Study Magazine features an article written by yours truly titled “Into the Mess.” It’s my first written piece to be published in print! Here’s a brief excerpt from that article. Enjoy!
“Cookies are not treasure!” Max’s shrill voice rose over the din of the cafeteria, causing every head to turn. “Treasure is permanent!” he wailed. I had to summon all my strength to keep a straight face in front of the infuriated 8-year-old. Max was one of 96 kids attending a summer day camp for at-risk youth, and his class had just discovered cookies at the end of their afternoon treasure hunt. I tried to convince Max that the homemade cookies were a desirable prize, but despite my best efforts, he screamed, “It’s not fair!”
Each of us has our own personal sense of justice that helps us discern right from wrong, fair from unfair. But what happens when our sense of justice clashes with God’s?
Jonah’s life demonstrates what can happen when we’re at odds with God. Nothing goes the way Jonah anticipated as he reluctantly made his way to Nineveh. When God spared the city it “seemed very wrong” to Jonah (Jonah 4:1). You can almost hear him crying out, “it’s not fair!” His idea of justice for the Assyrian city was destruction—fair punishment for their sins.
Sometimes we’re unable to muster compassion for those who have acted sinfully. God does not respond to Jonah or Nineveh’s sin with punishment and destruction, but with compassion and mercy. God’s grace extends beyond mere justice. He brings healing and restoration.
To read the rest, check out the latest issue of Bible Study Magazine or you could ask me for a copy.
This Thanksgiving I’ve been thinking about what it means to be blessed. On Thursday, so many of us expressed our thankfulness for the things we’ve been blessed with in our lives. Then on Friday, the Christmas shopping season began with the biggest day in retail sales. When we think about blessing, we often think about material possessions or physical things. “God has blessed me with this house.” “I’m so blessed with this awesome car.” These things certainly are blessings and they should be celebrated but our culture sometimes twists our perspective. When we don’t have the awesome vacation or the latest device, we feel like we haven’t been blessed or that God has forsaken us. American materialism and entitlement has seeped its way into the language of blessing. This line of thinking, if it’s allowed to run its course, leads us dangerously close to the prosperity gospel. Blessing should never be confused with physical wealth.
Exactly one year ago, I made the decision to establish this blog and start writing on a consistent basis. Since then, I’ve written 83 posts on topics ranging from the Seattle Mariners to Les Misérables. I know I’m not an expert on blogging after a single year but as I reflect on these first steps into a larger world, there are three things that come to mind. I’ll call them lessons but they’re more like thoughts about writing and blogging that were shaped into a coherent list.
I love hiking. I’ve been on my fair share of hikes over the years, some casual, some pretty grueling. There’s one in particular that comes to mind. A few years ago, during the lingering days of summer in early September, I was set to climb up into the highest reaches of the Earth. I started up the mountain as the bright morning sun was beginning to peak over the Cascades to the east. The air was crisp and cool, there were a few clouds in the sky to the west, and a cool breeze was running through the leaves above. The weather was looking like it would cooperate for an amazing day of fall hiking. This particular trail starts off with a number of switchbacks as you quickly make your way up the mountain. The side of the mountain was shaded by evergreens dropping the temperature by a few degrees. Every once in a while, through a break in the tree line, I could see the valley below awash with sunlight.
There’s something therapeutic about getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into the wilderness. The coolness of the shade under the evergreens. The majesty of mountains overhead. I believe getting out into creation grounds me and helps me to connect with God in a way that is unlike any other. On my cross-country road trip, we spent the majority of our time driving through the plains of the Midwest. While I was in the midst of cornfields and sprawling grasslands, I felt uncomfortable with the flatness. I have been comforted by the mountains that surround me in the Northwest for my entire life. They are a reminder of the power and glory of God. The permanence of the silent sentinels of the Cascade Range keeps things in perspective.
On Saturday, Ryan and I embarked on a 10 day road trip across the country, all the way to Philadelphia. One last adventure before Ryan starts grad school and I start working full-time at Logos. It has been a long and arduous journey but we’ve had a bunch of fun so far. You can follow our progress with my daily logs. When I’ve talked to others about our trip, they’re usually excited and they tell me they’ll pray for protection and a safe journey. Though safety and protection might be nice and comfortable, I’d rather have a trip full of significance, a trip that makes for a good story.
I recently watched Man of Steel, the newest Superman movie, and walked away disappointed. Those of you who know me well know that I prefer Batman over Superman (and Marvel over anything from DC). In the right hands, Superman can be an interesting character at the center of some excellent storytelling. The first two thirds of Man of Steel was an excellent example of this type of storytelling but then something happened during the climax of the entire film that exposed the major flaw with Superman that prevents him from becoming a truly compelling character.
Note: Major spoilers follow, ye be warned
This morning, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional and upheld a ruling that overthrew California’s Proposition 8. These rulings are clear victories for the LGBT community and brings America one step closer towards equality. Yet, there are some who are denouncing the decisions as a tragic step towards Godlessness and clear approval of immoral behavior.
I believe that the conservative stance towards gay marriage is simply wrong.
For this post, I wanted to try something different. I began this post with paper and pen (I know, archaic) and later transposed it electronically. It’s more of a stream of thoughts than an carefully edited piece of writing. Here we go.
In the last month, both Megan and I have been offered new jobs, both of which we decided to accept. It’s been a very exciting time for both of us. After getting married in May, we faced some uncertainty in our future. Both of us were in unsustainable jobs and we were unsure whether we would be staying in Bellingham for any length of time. Both of these new jobs provide a stability and certainty to our lives that we haven’t enjoyed together until now.
“Thank you Jesus for sacrificing yourself on the cross for us. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate Easter on Sunday.” We were in the midst of a time of corporate prayer towards the end of the Good Friday service at my church. People were giving thanks for the pain and suffering Jesus endured on our behalf and I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of frustration. I felt like saying “thank you” just wasn’t enough to convey the amount of gratitude we should feel towards Jesus. I didn’t want to be frustrated with the prayers of people who I didn’t even know. I struggle with pride at times so my frustration only grew as I beat myself up over my arrogance. I know that am in no place to judge others, especially considering the context. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was frustrated though. It wasn’t until the next morning that I came to fully understand why I was frustrated. It was probably pretty obvious, but I was projecting the frustrations I was feeling towards myself onto those around me. Continue reading
Two weeks ago I started a new job as a project manager in the publications department at Logos Bible Software. I am very excited to start this new season in my life but I was surprised to feel a deep melancholy since then. For the past ten years, my focus has been teaching. It had become so deeply ingrained with my identity that the first thing people would ask me when I told them I was working at Logos was, “What about teaching?” Now, after living in this identity, striving after it, I find myself facing a very real and difficult transition. Identity is a difficult thing to establish, let alone change. When that transition happened so suddenly, it caused me to begin to second guess God. “Is this really what you want my life to be about, God?”