Saturday, November 27, 2010


The weather, as I write this, is as follows.

Telford, PA. Cloudy, and 36 degrees. (It feels like 31, though!)

Mechanicsburg, PA. Also cloudy, but a mere 34 degrees! (It feels like 28!)

This reminds me... two people can be going through exactly the same day, in nearly the same place, but it can feel quite different to the two of them. You may be having a great day... but I may not. You may be having, in some ways, a better day, a better year, a better life than me. And I may be struggling with a lot right now, and taking it pretty hard.

I don't always understand what the people around me are thinking... or feeling... or going through. But one thing I've found to hold true: Treating people with love with do more to smooth over the differences in our days than anything else. Just giving someone the time of day, listening, caring, is huge.

If your weather is a little different than mine... or the same... or whatever. I love you very much. And my life is a little better for having you in it.

Special thanks to the two friends who inspired this post! May the weather of everyone reading this be bright, and even if it's not, can I pray with you through whatever life is throwing your way? God's Peace everyone!

Praying After a Meal

I once heard, I'm not sure where or from whom, about a particular group who prayed AFTER a meal was eaten. We as Christians seem to always pray BEFORE a meal, so the thought of praying afterward intrigued me when it came to mind again recently. I seem to recall the point being to show God gratitude for the gift received... Now that you've eaten the food, to give Him thanks for it.

I thought the custom mentioned might have been Jewish, and a quick Google search tonight led me to an article on Wikipedia on Birkat Hamazon, a particular type of prayer after meals involving some types of bread. Wikipedia says the custom is based on Deuteronomy 8:10: "When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you." The prayer is actually made up of four blessings of thanks: for the food, for the land of Israel, for Jerusalem, and for God's goodness. You can read the whole article here, it's pretty interesting:

So, the thought of showing gratitude to God not just before a meal, but after had been bouncing about my head today. I realized after eating most of my dinner that I hadn't, so I said a quick and probably not very sincere prayer to God of thanks. And shortly thereafter, I heard my mom calling from the kitchen. And it didn't sound like good news.

Running to the room, she said someone was bleeding, and there were small tracks of blood across the entire kitchen floor. We quickly found our dog Tyson had an injured paw, bleeding not heavily but well enough to be scary. Something didn't seem right about the way the paw looked... one nail was oddly bent. My dad and brothers were quickly involved, we were trying to stop the bleeding, call the vet, clean up the floor, and I found myself praying a quick, probably not very sincere prayer that God would help this poor little dog and that everything would be okay.

Well, we took a trip to our wonderful veterinarian, who opened her door for us on a Saturday night and bandaged up his paw. God willing, the little guy will be okay, and he was romping around the house again by evening's end. Which was about when I realized...

I never thanked God for answering my prayer and bringing him home safely.

So very often, I pray to God before a meal, but I don't think to thank Him after it's done. And when an emergency arises, I most usually go to Him in prayer (with varying levels of sincerity, but still I do). But then I don't often thank Him afterward. I am thoroughly lacking when it comes to gratitude in my life, in little things and in big. So close on the heels of Thanksgiving, can we be thankful... even after the meal is over?

What are your thoughts on gratitude?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Something Different

Today, I was driving home (I now realize a lot of my posts seem to start this way!) and the song "My Last Amen" by the band Downhere came on the radio. It is a wonderful song, and I highly recommend it. I wanted to write about some of the lyrics, specifically:

"Somewhere in the grand design
It's good be unsatisfied
It keeps the faith and hope a little more alive"

 These words struck me, perhaps especially on the day after Thanksgiving, where a big meal was shared with family and friends and in general it was a time of plenty. Good to be unsatisfied? I wanted to tie it somehow C.S. Lewis' essay "The Weight of Glory," probably where Lewis writes,

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

The two thoughts reminded me of each other. It's good to be unsatisfied here on earth; it keeps us longing for those greater rewards that God has offered us. Now, granted, we are to be thankful for what God has given us here. Indeed, some would say the pleasures here on earth are a foreshadowing of what God has promised, a glimpse of the pleasures to come, and not all of them are bad. I think I agree. However, a healthy dose of the knowledge that this place and time are indeed not our home is, in my humble opinion, not a bad thing.

In preparing for this blog, however, I think God threw something different in my path. In looking for the lyrics to "My Last Amen," I also wandered into the lyrics to another Downhere song I was not familiar with, called "Cathedral Made of People." I find the lyrics both challenging and amazing, and so, in lieu of needlessly expounding upon the thoughts above, I will simply share the lyrics to this song and encourage you to give it a listen. Enjoy!

If they shut down the churches,
Where would you go?
If they melted all the stained-glass windows
Replaced every sanctuary with a condo
Where would you go?
Where would you go?

We are a cathedral made of people
In a kingdom that the eye can't see
We're a house, we are the bride
Where God's Spirit lives inside
And nothing ever could stand against her

If they burned every Bible
What would you know?
If they tore your marked-up pages
How would you grow?
And declared your devotion to be criminal
What would you know?
What would you know?

When they throw you in prison
What will you do?
When they hate you for the things that you know are true
They can tear down this temple,
But they can't touch you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Greater, and also Closer

Have you ever thought about criticizing God?

It is, perhaps, a little bit like the tip of a needle criticizing the Sewer, because it cannot see the tapestry being formed, but only the swirl of seemingly random colors of the thread that it moves about.

It is maybe even a little bit like the tip of one strand on a paint brush criticizing the Painter, because it cannot see the picture that He is painting. All it can see is a little of the paint. And all the while, the Painter smiles and bears with this strand, even loves it. And He knows what He is using that strand to form.

When you look at the heavens, the sky, this vast creation full of stars and planets and nebulae and things bigger and brighter than we have ever imagined, just know that the Sewer, the Painter, the Artist behind it all is bigger and greater and more glorious than you can imagine.

But He is also closer.

You see, this great God, who sets planets in motion, also knit together each atom that forms your body, and the computer screen you see before you, and each planet and each star that He has spun in motion.

And He abides in you.

This God, this Artist behind this unspeakably large creation, behind the light years of artistry that form His canvas, also lives in you. Inside you. Think about that for a second.

He made the stars and the planets.

He lives in you.

He walked on this earth as a man, and died for you.

And now He... is... inside... you.

He knows how many hairs are on your head. He knows your each and every thought intimately. He is a great God, a jealous God, a pure and Holy God, but also a compassionate God, a God who is love, and a God who wants you, who wants me, who wants all of us, to walk a little more in step with His love each day. To love Him. To know Him. To love others. To know others. To admire His creation, and work to better His creation, because we are fellow workers with the Sewer, the Painter, the Artist.

He is greater than you know.

He is closer than you know.

And He loves you.

Chris Tomlin said it right. How great is our God!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It Doesn't Take Much

I went to a concert tonight with my friend Sherry. It was slightly outside my comfort zone; I think you would classify the music as folk, which is not my usual style of music. It turned out to be a ton of fun, but one of the more interesting parts of the night happened before any of the music started.

Sherry and I got there early, and went into the small lobby of the building. Standing by a table finishing our coffee and hot chocolate, the people who had been standing about the room began to form a line. Sherry suggested we get in line too. The move from hanging around to standing in line required maybe six steps, and Sherry turned to me with a smile and quipped, "It doesn't take much."

"It doesn't take much." My first thought was either, "There's something about God in there", or, "Wow, that would make a great blog post." Leaving it at that for the time being, a little ways into the concert the question finally came to mind, "What exactly does that have to do with God?"

In Acts chapter 2, Peter gives a great speech on Pentecost about Jesus being the Messiah, and states rather forcefully that the people he is speaking to killed Him. Convicted, they ask him, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter answers in verses 38 and 39, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."

That is an amazing passage. The people crucified Christ Himself, and what are they to do? Repent. Be baptized in Jesus' name, and they will receive the Holy Spirit. This promise is for as many as the Lord will call to Himself.

You: Repent. Turn away from your sins. Be baptized. God: Saves you. Forgives you. Gives you the Spirit. It's even God who has called you. For all that you receive... it doesn't take much of your own effort.

In Luke 3, Christ hasn't even begun his ministry yet. John the Baptist is preaching, rebuking a crowd, saying things like, "Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." The crowd seems a little concerned, asking, "Then what shall we do?" John's answer?

Starting at verse 11: "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." To tax collectors: "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." To some soldiers: "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages." Bear good fruit for God. Do works of charity. Do what's expected of you. Repent. And that leads us right back to Acts.

It doesn't take much.

This idea is really hard for me to accept. I do struggle with a lot of sin, and so I feel a lot of guilt over not being repentant, not turning back to God. But if and when I do, do I realize that it doesn't take much? That God asks me to keep turning to Him, to treat others with love, to do what's expected of me in my job and my family, and to trust that it is He who forgives, He who saves, He who promises. That for me, it doesn't take much. Jesus has been crucified and raised from the dead. What's left for me to do but believe? What's left for you? Does anyone else struggle to accept that when you turn, ask forgiveness, and believe, the rest is taken care of? What keeps you from coming to God?