29 April 2008

Your mistakes and your crimes...

...it hurts just to mention
Feel abandoned and alone in desert land
But every mess is a fruit that's ripe for redemption
If you only leave the harvest in his hands.

I'm starting to believe those last couple lines not just in the abstract, but in specific ways for my life. Something of a breakthrough. I tend to remember a lot of things really well, which can certainly be a good and useful thing, of course, but it can also mean holding on tightly to hurts and guilt and all that fun stuff. I'll leave it at that. Just to say that the long-term forecast is actually starting to look more than ok. God's ultimate victory over sin and death and darkness is already secured for us in Jesus Christ. Beautiful. Eric Peters has a song called "The Ending" (on his "Miracle of Forgetting" and "Bookmark" albums) that reminds me of this truth:

I want to know why we fall so hard
And why hope for tomorrow can seem so far away

Don't say it's over when the world's gone mad
I've seen the ending and it's not so bad
Don't say it's over when you lose your heart
'Cause the ending is where we start

Lent was a really good and fruitful time in terms of delving into Scripture, morning quiet times and evening writing times. I don't really know why, but since Easter it's been a pretty dry season, and I've just been riding it out this past month. But I feel like there's a renewing coming now, remembering and knowing that I am here to spend time with God, and what a true joy, peace, and comfort that can be. God's Kingdom breaking into my false little fortress. Thank God. I've had the U2 song "40" (off their "War" album) ringing in my head last night and this morning:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song...

I read that psalm this morning and this was one of the verses that resonated--"my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me." I've definitely had a lot of heart failure of all sorts these last few months and weeks, reaping the fruit of my iniquities, falling down in repentance. And yet, there is ever and always God's steadfast love and faithfulness, His mercy, His grace.

I can wait. I think. I hope. God help.

24 April 2008

Wednesdays are for crisis management.

The last two Wednesdays I've gotten calls to jump into situations that various friends were in the middle of. It's involved a lot of driving around and taking care of things in person, making too many phone calls, all kinds of craziness and some measure of stress. In the in-between time, I've had my own personal crap to deal with--a resurging awareness of my judgmental heart, my idolatrous heart, my overvaluing of others' good opinion of me--a lot of the same stuff that I was swimming through back in January and February, plus some unexpected extra goodness. I've already mentioned Sunday's freakout/meltdown.

I wrestle with questions like the line between selfless love, self sacrifice, seeking the welfare of others even at your own expense vs. taking care of myself and my own interests, being healthy. How do you do it? Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to love myself? How and when to say no?

If only I were so sure of God's absolute love for me and his abiding favor toward me, secured on my behalf by Christ's perfect labors. If only I actually believed it. I would be set free from feeling like I need to elevate myself above others, from my idolatry, from trying to plug my lifeline into things that can't fulfill me. Everywhere I turn is another false savior. I'll catch myself, repent, then do it again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I would be set free to love completely and selflessly, without fear, without recoiling or judging, without agenda or self-interest. Set free to worship the only one who bears that ultimate worth. Set free to be wholly dependent on God. I keep on trying to smooth out my life so that I don't need Him, either by micro-managing my sin and avoiding certain situations, or by trying to do life all on my own.

On Tuesday, someone anonymously mailed me a gift card to a local organic grocery store called the Turnip Truck, with a note alluding to some of the ways I served last week (I assume last Wednesday's crisis). Under normal circumstances, I'd be curious to know who it was, but I could deal with the pleasant surprise, I think. But I wasn't really handling life too well just then and started minorly freaking out about it, just needing to know who it was so that I could clear out that bit of clutter in my headspace. I made some phone calls, no luck. I have a couple possible thoughts, but at this point, life has settled to a manageable level of inner turmoil where I don't have to know. I've been able to talk some things out with a couple friends, and it feels like there's a lot lot lot of work that God needs to do in my life about forgiveness, guilt, healing, paying it down, all across the board. And all the rest of it (see above). In the meantime, I'm just waiting for the next crisis. Probably another one of my own.

Give reviving, give refreshing, give the looked-for Jubilee...
- Albert Midlane ("Father, for Thy Promised Blessing")

21 April 2008

What Do You Expect?

I can understand when I'm disappointed by the expectations that I have of other people and situations when I can recognize that my expectations are foolish or unrealistic or inappropriately placed. But there are times when I get blindsided by unmet expectations that I didn't even realize I had, since they seemed so logical that I took them for granted and they were just part of my thought process.

I know in the moments when I have a bit of perspective that people will disappoint, it's inevitable in a fallen world, and I disappoint and fail as much as any other. And I can't just ditch all my expectations--they happen so naturally, and even if it were possible, it's probably not a good thing. Something about cynicism. It is what it is, and these are opportunities for me to turn again to God's faithfulness and sure and steady presence.

I suppose I'm saying all this against the backdrop of a sermon my pastor preached in early January where the central image was that of Jacob, laboring seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage, only to be hoodwinked by sneaky uncle Laban and wake up on that first wedding morning to Leah instead. All our Rachel expectations met by Leah disappointments. There's only one who is faithful and true. I am certainly not he.

Otherwise, I'm experiencing some of the same mysterious malaise that weighed me down back in January/February. I think I know what it is, but still, it's a bother. And some of the same tensions as always between human being vs. human doing. Put all that together and Sunday was a crazy day, with some unexpected falling apart.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

There's a brain/heart disconnect right now on knowing that that's true.

04 April 2008


It's been a month. Maybe I'll do better this month. Probably not. Though I finally put my taxes in the mail, so I feel more free to spend a bit of time here. I'm just not that good at quickly spitting out the minutiae of my life on a semi-daily basis. I'm sure you've missed me. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time with me.

March went by just as quickly as February, and I felt it. A lot of burners going on at once right now, mostly church stuff. Grateful for my job. It's not ideal, but it (and life) could certainly be a whole lot worse.

Looking forward to the new Weepies album later this month, Hideaway. Heard a bit of Daniel Lanois' new one a couple months ago on the road to a gig with a friend. Here Is What Is. Also on the list. That and Tim Keller's "The Reason for God" and this collection of Puritan prayers called "The Valley of Vision."

Heading off shortly to a church retreat out at Camp NaCoMe this weekend. Should be an excellent time of getting away, spending time with friends, casting vision for our church. I went last year, and a year later I know more people and know them more deeply, so I'm certainly looking forward to it.

And they filmed me earlier this week doing silly things playing cello for some skit material. We shall see.