Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

November 30, 2003

Notes on Colossians (4):
So Paul prays for wisdom and knowledge for the Colossians, because these things are required if they are going to "lead a life worthy of the Lord." Such a life will undoubtedly not be conformed to the patterns of the world, as Paul says in Romans 12:2. But it is the prerequisite of the fully matured and fruitful-in-all-seasons life of believers in community. Often, when Paul is going to say something about ethics, about living in God's will, he exhorts his readers to "get their heads into the game."

Why? Well, here in his prayer for the Colossians, the reason for the need of wisdom is soon made evident. They are going to face trying times. They are going to need patience. There are things they will have to endure. In such times it's easy to, well, lose our minds. Lose our perspective. And thereby lose our worthy walk.

But one characteristic of wisdom is the long perspective or big picture. The Colossians, as Paul envisions it, will be able to endure all things with patience because they will keep hold of the eternal perspective--both the not yet part (the sure hope of their inheritance in the Kingdom of Light), and the already part (their redemption through the blood of Jesus). Perspective! That's the key!

November 29, 2003

Thanksgiving was a doozy (wouldn't you know?). There was a major crisis in a family that has become very dear to us. Not much we ourselves could do, of course, but simply knowing about it changed the dynamic of our own family get-together. In the end C. checked himself into a drug rehab clinic, which is what we'd all been praying for. The crisis is of course not over, but this is a positive development. Now he's got to stick it out in there. My sense yesterday as I prayed for him was that there was much spiritual warfare ahead for him, and that there was spiritual danger for him from within the clinic. Nevertheless, this is the place he needs to be right now, and with God as his refuge he will overcome what the devil throws at him.

More notes on Colossians coming up. These are not the refined product of years of study (I suppose that will have been obvious by now), but my attempt to arrange my thoughts, such as they are, after dwelling on the epistle for a couple of weeks. By this means I hope to work through to a clearer understanding than I had at the start. This is, in other words, writing to learn, not writing to teach.

Notes on Colossians (3)
Colossians 1:3-14 is designated "Thanksgiving in Prayer" by the NIV. In verses 3 to 8, the thanksgiving, Paul speaks of the faith and love of the Colossians, and focuses our attention on its source, "the hope that is stored up in heaven." In 9 through 14, the prayer, Paul prays for the addition of knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding to the Colossian faith. This prayer is the foundation of much that is to come in the epistle. From 1:15 on, the letter to the Colossians is an elaboration on and a fulfilling of the prayer of 1:9-14. Paul prays that they will mature in their spiritual wisdom, and then he goes on from there to lay out some of the foundational principles of that wisdom.

So let's take a closer look at Paul's prayer for the Colossian church. Paul says, I haven't stopped praying for you Colossians since I first heard about your love in the Spirit, and what I pray for is that God will "fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

So, first of all, the Colossians are going to need knowledge, wisdom, understanding. They're going to need this spiritual/intellectual capacity in addition to their faith and love. Remember that their faith and love was founded on the hope they heard in the Gospel, and now Paul is saying it is time for you to continue on to wisdom, because this is a tool you're going to need in the coming times.

Note first that he prays for them to be "filled" with this knowledge. Not simply that they possess the knowledge, that they know something or other about God's will, but that it fill them. The idea is that nothing should be lacking, but that this spiritual knowledge should be fully-adequate to meet the challenges of life. John Gill writes that by implication Paul "supposes that they had knowledge, but it was not full and complete; it was imperfect, as is the knowledge of the best of saints in this life; and [he prays] that they might have a larger measure of it, and such a fullness of it as they were capable of in the present state, and not such an one as the saints will have in heaven, when they shall know even as they are known."

This is a key passage because it links up with the future-orientation of much of the letter. Paul is looking at the life of faith set before the Colossians, that space of time between this day and the future realization of the hope that is stored up for them, and he is saying, in addition to your faith and love, I pray that you will be filled with the knowledge of the will of God.

So there has been a progression here from the hearing of the Gospel, which was the Good News of hope breaking into our lives of alienation from God, and out of that grew the fruit of faith and love, and now Paul is praying for the crucial addition of "the knowledge of God's will." This is what the Colossians are going to need, apparently, in order to live their lives in a manner worthy of the Lord. This is, clearly, a crucial part of their maturing process as believers. In the rest of the letter Paul will 1) describe in further detail the nature of God's will for them, and then 2) the nature of the worthy life. We are at the heart of Paul's purpose for writing this epistle.

November 26, 2003

Notes on Colossians (2):
We have been looking at the first chapter of Colossians. Here Paul presents a kind of template for the Christian life, literally from beginning to (everlasting) end. Now, the most remarkable thing about the Colossian believers, according to Paul, was their faith and love. And we have also seen that this faith and love described a manner of living together that grew from a future reality, a promise or hope, that they were entirely confidant in. This faith and love is, then, a fruit of hope. And that hope is a product of their having heard and understood the gospel.

Now, Paul's ultimate concern is with the here-and-now aspect of this faith-journey. The key question is something like, Given that we have this hope, this sure thing, stored up for us in heaven, in what way does this change our lives today? Or, to put it another way, what can you tell me, Paul, about getting from here to there? That is, from this moment, both grace-laden and terrifying, to "the inheritance of the saints in light." The Epistle to the Colossians is in large part an answer to these question.


Running out of time. Happy Thanksgiving to all my loyal readers (John?). I'll be back in a few days!

November 25, 2003

Notes on Colossians:
I want to jot down my thoughts about the Epistle to the Colossians because I have always found that doing so, summarizing a book or a passage in my own words, is the best way to grow in understanding. So here goes. I do pray that the blessing will not only be to me but to others, and that God will not allow me to mislead anyone by miscontruing His Word.

Paul begins the epistle with a comprehensive overview of the Christian life. After congratulating the Colossians for what they have become in Christ, he speaks both of their ultimate destiny in Him (what they shall become), and of the very beginning of their faith (what they once were). His ultimate intention is to address their current situation, the here and now of life in the Kingdom, but he is first careful to explain the greater context--the salvation story from start to finish.

I think there's something to be learned from all this. Right off the bat Paul makes note of the faith and love of the Colossians. These two words summarize the here and now of the Colossian spiritual condition. But Paul then quickly focuses their attention on the future-aspect of that condition. It seems that their now is conditioned by their shall be. The very things that characterize them now, their faith and love, actually spring from "the hope laid up for them in heaven."

Now consider this for a moment. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as products of our past, and there is certainly much truth in this. And furthermore, as Paul is everywhere quick to point out, our spiritual condition is utterly dependent on a past event--the Cross of Calvary. However, what Paul is saying here, as he addresses the ongoing life together of this group of believers at Colosse, is that much of the impetus and glory of that life springs from, is a product of, is conditioned by, something in the future!

What is that something? It is the "hope laid up" of verse 5. It is the very subject of the Gospel message (verse 5b). It is the "inheritance of the saints in light" of verse 12. It is the "mystery" of verse 26, and "the riches of the glory of the mystery" in verse 27. This word hope encompasses here both the idea of "confidant expectation" as well as standing for the thing expected. And it is the ground of their life together, their love, their unity, their works of compassion, their patient endurance--it all begins in (because of) the objective reality of an eternal inheritance that is real and certain for those who are called ("qualified," v. 12) to be saints.

Okay, well time is running out for me this morning, but I do want to return again next time to this theme. Paul, of course, has much more to say . He is going to detail how the life together of the Christians at Colosse is influenced by this hope, and he is going to describe this influence in terms of struggle and growth. More on this later.

Quote of the day: "All difficulty in prayer can be traced to one cause--praying as if God were absent." Theresa of Avila.

November 22, 2003

Lots happening lately. C., our dear friend and a member of our small group, had a heart attack a few days ago, and has had a pacemaker implanted. C. & R., the hosts of our small group, are being evicted from their apartment (long story, that).

Also, our church has announced that it has signed up for "40 Days of Purpose," starting February 21. This program has intrigued me for a while now, and has received much high praise from many quarters. I only know that my own thoughts have been trending in this direction--what is my purpose? Not only the grand scheme--you know, to love the Lord and worship Him forever--but in the day to day. This is the real issue, is it not? Every Christian knows--or should know--his or her eternal purpose, and in fact it is all-important to know that purpose, but there remain a thousand short-term choices. God, what would you have me do? How would you have me serve You and Your purposes in my life this day?

And of course we must sooner or later mention spiritual gifts. My purposes are going to be closely associated with those gifts. So it is something that I definitely want to ponder. It's going to be a running theme, I suspect, of this blog.

November 19, 2003

On Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ"

First of all, a poem. I wrote it this morning, while walking the dog. Calling it, for now, Autumn.

This morning I noticed that the dawn
had drifted far southward.
For a moment it seemed
I had awakened on a different planet,
under an unfamiliar sky.

So then I began to look for
the old world, its signs
and wonders, and lo
and behold a summer cardinal
came to the ancient maple,
that old desiccated palace,
and busied itself among the ruins.

Thank you, friend.
Your gesture is not lost
on me.


On Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ":

I wanted to write a thing or two about this picture, called "The Taking of Christ," which is on the National Gallery of Art website (here), and which hangs at the National Gallery of Ireland. This painting is so striking, so beautiful, that it has remained on my mind all week. I find I must speak of it.

The artist is Caravaggio, an Italian of the Baroque period (I am told), living from 1573 to 1610. What is so striking to me about this painting? It is a dark and crowded scene. The soldiers, rushing into the frame from the right, their polished black armor glistening in the firelight, seem to manifest the very darkness from which they have emerged. That armor speaks not only of hardness, of power, but also, I think, a kind of pride of rank. The soldiers clearly have the upper-hand here. They are in control. They are performing their duties with arrogant dispatch. They are not afraid.

Then there's Judas. Notice that he has already become irrelevant. The soldiers push past him even before the infamous kiss has been completed. His forehead is high and stern, but his knit brows seem to express a certain consternation, as if he knows he's been used. He has served his purpose, the purposes of power, and now will be swept from the stage of history.

Then, Jesus. Yielding. Aware, as no other in the scene, just exactly what is happening. Just exactly what is coming to pass. He has prayed that the cup be taken from him, and even now his hands are knit in prayer, though his arms are being pressed downward by the grip of Judas. Nevertheless, the fingers remain twined; these hands of prayer represent the most distinctly lit part of the picture. Our eyes are drawn to them. In the confusion they seem for the moment disembodied, for it is a strained and anomalous posture. For a moment we might even wonder whose hands they are?

And there is so much else. The shadows that cover the eyes of Jesus, as if he sees only darkness now. The two raised hands; the one on the left, that of the fleeing disciple, frightened out his wits, and the one on the right, perhaps of Peter, who seems to wish to ask a question. It's a confused moment of disparate emotion: the zeal of the soldiers, the utter fear of the disciple, the strained and tragic earnestness of Judas, and then Jesus surrendering.

Well, I think it's beautiful. Anyone else?

November 18, 2003

This morning I made the mistake of messing around in the template of my blog, and whoops! I did something I shunt've done. That's why there are no longer any links on the right side menu, no blog Roll, no favorite sites, etc. That'll teach me!

On the bright side, it justified my choosing a new template, since the green one was starting to get to me. So this is a kind of starting over. Whoopee!

November 15, 2003

Well, I'm very excited today because I have learned how to add photographs to the blog. So I went looking for a picture to put at the top of the sidebar. Is it me? Well, no. But now and then I dream of someday becoming that fellow, happily perusing ancient manuscripts.

I continue to read and make notes on Colossians. I just can't recommend enough this practice of reading and rereading a whole book of the Bible every day for a while. After a week or so, in my case, I began to develop an insight into the whole purpose of Paul in writing the epistle. To see the big picture. Perhaps I'm just slow, but it's very definitely the case that I often miss the forest for the trees when it comes to the Scriptures. I find that it's rather difficult to move out from the particulars to the general, the over-view, the broad perspective. On the other hand, to move from the broad perspective to the particular is the natural way that I learn. Not only that, but the particulars then, quite simply, make more sense.

And anyway this is the way most teaching and learning goes on, isn't it? We may take Western Civ. (the broad view) as freshmen, while as seniors we're slogging through courses like "Constitutional and Legal History of medieval England," or something.

And this is also the way Paul teaches. Very often he carefully embeds his ethical exhortations (imperatives about how to live, how to continue in the life of faith) in a larger context that emphasizes the beginning and the end of God's great plan of salvation. This is especially evident in Colossians and Philippians, I think, though I suspect not only there. Through the years I have been prone to contemplate the Word in selected passages, paying only a glancing consideration to the overall context. The practice of repeated reading of the same book helps to break me of that mind-set.

Frederica Matthews-Green on "righteous" indignation, which is more often than not merely "self-righteous" condemnation: The worst effect of self-righteous anger is the inner damage. It distorts your clarity about your own sinfulness and undermines your humility. Jesus told us to love our enemies and demonstrated it by asking his Father to forgive his murderers.

Christians' failure to emulate such forgiveness is one of the clearest examples of G. K. Chesterton's line that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

One way of dealing with our inner sense of guilt is to locate somebody worse than us and to condemn. The alternative is repentance and preferring others above ourselves.

Think about the weeping woman who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. Her repentance broadened her heart to receive and express much love. She was more whole and blessed than the Pharisee who judged her, or a modern yuppie who judges Southern racists. A Southern racist who repents in tears goes up to his house justified, and a smug guy who says, "Well, it's about time" but feels vaguely disappointed inside, does not.

Self-righteous angry people can't afford to be humble. Their peace is fragile. But we can love and forgive them all the same. The illusion, I think, is that we have to fight against our enemies. But in reality our opponents are not our enemies. We have an Enemy, who wants to destroy both our opponent and us. He will entice us to hatred and self-righteousness, even in doing what we think is the work of God.

There is only one way to defeat him: to love our enemies instead.

Click here for the complete article.

November 12, 2003

I've just started reading The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms. I'm looking for something that our group can read through together, something that focuses on spiritual formation but is not "over our heads." The Storms book might be the one.

My devotional time this morning was, for the first time in a while, satisfying! I have been reading Colossians every day for the past week, and this morning I began to write out some summary-thoughts about the book, especially the first two chapters. I'm sure there's nothing particularly eye-opening or useful to others about this scribbling, but it did me a world of good. After that I was able to pray with more fervor and eagerness than has been the case lately. So that was all good!

Today's quote comes from C. S. Lewis. It's an observation about reading, lifted from his An Experiment in Criticism: "We are not content to be Leibnitzian monads. We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is 'I have got out.' Or from another point of view, 'I have got in'; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside."

Yes, precisely. Although I had to look up monad.

November 08, 2003

Feeling much better today. Why is that? Feeling a lot more confidence that things will just work out. For N., for C., for T.

Today is the kind of day I truly love. Cold blustery November here in the Northlands. The feel of the air on your face, the sound of the wind like a roller-coaster passing right overhead. The brown leaves racing vertically through the air. Today it seems that one season is being swept aside by another. Winter's still a month away, but today it's giving us a sneak-peak. Lovely!

Thinking about Hebrews 12:26-27. In those verses we find this picture of our times as a time of shaking, and in this shaking the things that are not of God will fall, and the things that remain will be the things of God and His Kingdom. This just intrigues me and gives me confidence. I look at my life, for example, and see that much that was once a ponderous edifice, fallen to dust.

Often I have heard people say something like, "I'm believing that the Lord has won the victory!" And I have wondered why it matters that we should believe that or not. I mean, well, it's a faith statement that seems rather like whistling in the dark or something. But I think I do understand now. God IS working everything together for good for me, because I'm his child, even if at the moment I'm not experiencing that reality. It helps me to remember that God is eternal but I'm not. I experience God's victory in time, even though in eternity it is an accomplished fact.

Now, I still remember clearly what I would have said to all this back in my unbelieving days. Poppycock! Wishful thinking! Nothing but I-think-I-can-ism, but with a dollop of God thrown in as the great engineer in the sky who makes it all possible.

What do I say now? I say, well, I'm sorry if God's victory is not real for you. I'm certain I won't be able to convince you that God is, that you matter to Him, and that He would like to save you from yourself today, tomorrow, and forever. But that's how it is. And I will walk in the victory, little by little, that He has indeed already won, and so can you. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!

November 07, 2003

Feeling a little bit listless today (although a cup of coffee at noon has helped tremendously--am I really that chemically dependent?). Listless, yes. I was going to use the fancy word ennui, but I looked it up and found it meant boredom, and that's not exactly what I'm feeling. How about enervated. Yes, that sounds serious enough. Something more than mere boredom, which is a condition I've never had much sympathy with. includes "devitalized" and "spiritless" among its synonyms. Hmmm.

Well, now that I've chosen the proper descriptor, let's move on to the money-question: why? Something more than "lack-of-caffeine," or so I assume. Small-group last night was a little bit troubled. It began with a rather vehement declaration by one of us that the rest had been insensitive toward a disabled person the week before. I reacted badly to this, I suppose. And this exchange set the tone.

We were a smallish small group, too. It seemed we were lacking in critical mass or something. I had wanted to spend a lot of time praying for C., but most of those who came this week were the one who just don't pray much (or not at all) publicly. I have to confess also that I have not been praying much this week in my private devotions. L., on the other hand, was very "juiced," feeling strongly that many of us had been coming under attack lately and that it was time to do battle.

Well, after five worship songs (with the CD player as our "worship leader") which were actually sung by only two of us, I asked several members to read Jeremiah 29:11-14. That is, four different readings from three different translations. I wanted the repetition. I wanted the message to guide us into prayer. Perhaps I should have invited more dialogue at this point, asking people to express in their own words just what were the plans that God had for them personally, but instead we went directly into prayer for C. This is what I was eager for and what, I felt, we were called to do that evening. It was, I believed, our purpose.

And yet the going was slow, the view murky. The prayer felt like slogging. Of the seven of us, three were people who struggle with depression and seldom if every pray aloud. One other that never does. Were spiritual forces at work to inhibit us? C. would be going into rehab in a few days, and there is just no doubt in my mind that the "powers of the air" have really been working to undermine and destroy that family and that household. C.'s years of addiction are only the groundwork of the evil one, and he does not want to see his hard work undermined.

So, well, nothing seemed quite right. The meeting just sort of petered out, earlier than usual, and we just sat talking. Afterward L. and I went to a club to hear N.'s band, "Touchin' Ground." They were very good. N. was happy, smiling broadly--a rare sight lately. The audience was receptive, even at times boisterous. So that was the positive note on which the day ended.

But what about my own difficulty praying lately? Is this dryness? Even the Scriptures seem to strike no spark of response. I know this will pass, I'm not particularly worried here, but I'm just wondering if I'm feeling the effects of spiritual warfare. That's what L. thinks.

The Word says famously that God is working all things together for good. But the devil's plan is quite the opposite. He would arrange the conditions and circumstances of our lives for a downfall. This is what the Psalmist so often refers to as a snare, pit, or trap. The good news is of course that the victory in this battle has already been won, but this fact does not prevent us from having to labor under the effects of sin and to engage in the struggle with evil that continues in and around us. This is one aspect at least of the working out of our salvation that Paul so earnestly enjoins upon us. [Philippians 2:12]

Well, the answer is, pray! It is for times like these that persistence is called for. Persistence in prayer. Persistence in abiding, in dependence, in faith. Persistence in the Word. Persistence in the armor of God and heavenly-mindedness. Persist. Press in. Be among the things that remain, not those that are shaken. Amen to that!

On a different note:
I just read an excerpt from President Bush's speech at Goree Island, Senegal, the infamous "holding pen" where wholesalers in human flesh carried on their trade on a massive scale. Robert John Neuhaus writes about this speech in the October issue of First Things. Here is an excerpt from the speech along with Neuhaus' commentary. I quote it here because,well, I just think it's a powerful moment in Presidential rhetoric and an insight into the heart of this president. Neuhaus' judgments are, I think, quite sound as well.

I remember visiting Goree Island in Senegal. It was thirty years ago, and I braced myself against the emotional impact that it evoked. Goree Island is the place where captured Africans were collected and shipped off to slavery in the New World. Your local paper reported that President Bush was there in July, but it likely did not report much of what he said there, which is a pity. Was JFK the last President whose moments of eloquence were widely celebrated and declared to be historic? School children learned them as the words of Kennedy, not of Ted Sorenson or other gifted speechwriters. We're a long way from Lincoln's scribbling the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. Although, more recently, we've learned about those legal pads of Ronald Reagan, and how he wrote out some of his best lines. But we've grown more sophisticated, perhaps more jaded, about presidential speeches. Of course, with Bush there is the factor of partisan prejudice in the media, and the belief that he is illegitimately President. Add to that the assumption that he is dumb and inarticulate. Such biases have blocked much attention being paid the remarkable presidential rhetoric--in the noblest meaning of that term--of the last nearly three years. So Mike Gerson drafted the speech; the fact is that the President of the United States approved it, delivered it, and, for all I know, rewrote it. His words at Goree Island deserve to be called historic. He said: "For 250 years the captives endured an assault on their culture and their dignity. The spirit of Africans in America did not break. Yet the spirit of their captors was corrupted. Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith, and added hypocrisy to injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions. And yet in the words of the African proverb, "No fist is big enough to hide the sky." All the generations of oppression under the laws of man could not crush the hope of freedom and defeat the purposes of God. In America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the Exodus from Egypt and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom. Enslaved Africans discovered a suffering Savior and found he was more like themselves than their masters. Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration of Independence and asked the self-evident question, 'Then why not me?'" Then Bush mentioned William Wilberforce and others who early on recognized the evil of slavery and agitated against it. "These men and women, black and white, burned with a zeal for freedom, and they left behind a different and better nation. Their moral vision caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct our Constitution, and to teach our children the dignity and equality of every person of every race. By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America. The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free." He concluded with this: "The evils of slavery were accepted and unchanged for centuries. Yet, eventually, the human heart would not abide them. There is a voice of conscience and hope in every man and woman that will not be silenced--what Martin Luther King called 'a certain kind of fire that no water could put out.' That flame could not be extinguished at the Birmingham jail. . . . It was seen in the darkness here at Goree Island, where no chain could bind the soul. This untamed fire of justice continues to burn in the affairs of man, and it lights the way before us." Powerful stuff, that. School children could learn, and no doubt are learning, a great deal that is less worthy of their attention.

November 06, 2003

Small group meeting tonight. I know we'll be praying a lot for C., who is checking himself into a drug rehab on Monday. This is a huge step for him. Tomorrow he will be sitting down with Pastor M., another big step. I don't know if C. (or anyone else for that matter) really understands what he is about to pass through, but I know it's going to be a battle. He does have, I think, a degree of faith, a flickering flame, and he will surely need it to confront the demons in his past. I just keep thinking of Jeremiah 29:11-- "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

November 05, 2003

Lately I've been allowing myself to kind of drift out of the habit of morning prayer. That's bad. Partly it's due to staying up rather late talking with N. Here's a person who is really hurting, really discouraged. I have a tendency to talk "at" him, more or less babbling on in the hope that something I say will be right. I'm sure that everything I'm telling him is essentially true, but I'm not sure that it's getting through, or that it really meets the need.

Foolishness, foolishness. Most advice seems essentially misleading. Trust the Lord is good advice, but inevitably we wind up undermining that good word with the rest of what we say. Trust the Lord AND do this this and this.

N. is praying a lot. N. is praying more than I pray, that's for sure. N. is seeking God, struggling to abide. And yet, the discouragement returns. The sense of helplessness. Is it helping? Is he getting anywhere? Is the night darkest before the dawn? Is God preparing him somehow, despite appearances, for joy?

I need more wisdom that I've got right now. I need to understand.

November 04, 2003

Lunch-break blogging. Pastor M.'s message on Sunday was about those times when God asks you to do the thing you would dearly like to avoid, the uncomfortable thing, the unexpected thing. What is your "uncomfortable" calling? More on this another time.

Two nights ago we had an owl in our pine tree. This is pretty rare where I live. The Lovely L. and I were watching something stupid on TV. Just kind of "numbing out." The hooting really startled us at first. What was that? I went out in the yard to see if I could get a glimpse of it. It was dark, and a light rain falling, and I went crashing about, tripping over fallen branches, peering up into the tall shadowy pine. The owl kept hooting away, unperturbed. Later I wrote this haiku:

Cold rain, still night--
owl-hoot in the dark pine-top--
I stumble blindly.

Now for the quote of the day. It comes from Jonathan Edwards, it attempts to describe one aspect of the relationship we shall have with God in heaven: “They shall see every thing in God that gratifies love. They shall see in him all that love desires. . . . God will make ineffable manifestations of his love to them. They shall see as much love in God towards them as they desire; they neither will nor can crave any more.”

November 01, 2003

Our group went really well on Thursday night. At the end of the evening, everyone seemed very happy to have come. The surprising thing is, God really seems to be using L. and me to minister to people in that setting, and this is something we never thought we could do. But the really exciting thing was just how many people were doing the ministry that night. It seemed that everyone had a gift to bring. It was very heartening to see that even the people who don't usually pray out loud were doing so, and with power.

By the way, I have from time to time mentioned the lovely L. Although an otherwise sensible woman, she has had the misfortune of being my wife for 25 years now. She is one of those "heart of gold" people that everyone intuitively admires. Uncommon gentleness combined with an inward strength that is, when you get to know it, inspiring. A gem!

You can see her by clicking here.

Quote of the day:

Pretending is the grease of non-relationships. Pretending is how you and I get through the day without ever having to know each other. When I walk in the room, you say to me, "How are you?" Well, you don't want to know. And, frankly, I don't want to tell you. So I just say "fine," and you go "fine." And off we go.

The church ought to be the one place where I'm so anxious to get there because I can stop the pretending. When you ask, "Mike, how are you?" I don't go "Praise the Lord," I say, "I'm in bad shape." And you go, "Okay, great. Tell me about it."

From Messy Spirituality, by the late Mike Yaconelli.