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.