Tuesday, March 25, 2008

wishing i was a fool

We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and truer than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection.
The Call to Conversion
Jim Wallace
I find myself at a crossroads today. I am being called to take the next step in my walk with Christ. And to be honest, I have no idea what that step entails. No idea at all.

But I do know that it will be bigger than any step I’ve taken before. It will stretch me well out of my comfort zone. It will involve noticeable change.

And while I like to think of myself as the kind of person who would raise his hand eagerly, crying “pick me, Lord, pick me”. The truth is I am distancing myself. Keeping myself busy. Avoiding the next conversation at all costs. Hiding under a rock. Silently backing away.

I may be absent from the blogosphere for a while. It's not that I don't have things to write about... but I fear that it will only be another distraction. A place to come to avoid the bigger question that haunts me now...

What am I so afraid of?

Friday, March 21, 2008

holy week: follow me

Dozens of significant, amazing, life-changing events took place in Jerusalem in the days before Good Friday. If you don’t have time to read about them today, here’s the five word summary:

You can do more… watch.

Then he picked up a cross, giving us all he had… and more.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

holy week: sweet words

Continue your preparation for Easter with this 2007 post from Biscotti Brain: Scent

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

holy week: identity crisis

My girls play soccer, and every spring we get a letter asking if we would be willing to house someone from the UK who would be coming over to work as a trainer with the kids during the summer. I’ve thought about it, but have never responded.

I wonder what would happen if Jesus were coming to town, and a letter went out to all church goers asking whether anyone would be willing to put up the Lord for a while, you know, a small room, dinners, stuff like that.

This morning, I realized that Jesus did come to town last night. And like the traveling UK soccer player, I thought about but never responded.

In his final teaching before handing Himself over to Pilate, the chief priests and the mobs, Jesus tells us:
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

As a man, as a Christian, I often think about myself as a “do-gooder”. I volunteer with kids who have disabilities twice a month. I’ll give a day to Habitat for Humanity once or twice a year. If I pass a homeless guy on the street, I’ll almost always drop my spare change into his cup. I give generously to good causes, yada yada. I might even sum it up in a prideful fashion as ‘I do more than the average guy’.

But what if I got a phone call last night, like “Heh Ed, Jesus is in town and he’s got no place to sleep – can you come over?” Yes, of course.

“Heh Ed, Jesus is down the block, and he’s looking for something to eat… can he pop over for dinner?” Yes, of course.

“Heh Ed, Jesus is about to give a big speech and he spilled some grape juice on his shirt, can he use one of yours?” C’mon, you don’t even need to ask! He can have the shirt off my back if he likes.

But the truth is… Jesus was in my town last night. And he was cold. And hungry. And had no place to sleep.

And I never responded.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

we interrupt holy week...

I encourage everyone to take a moment today to read or listen to the speech given today by Sen. Barack Obama titled:

A More Perfect Union.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well...

holy week: the bucket

The final three days of Christ’s ministry – the time between his arrival in Jerusalem and the Passion – are so full, so complete. It’s almost as if Jesus sat down and wrote his ‘bucket list’.

Unfortunately, for the second post in a row now, I find myself playing the part of the “bad example” in Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

My church teaches tithing. Personally, in my reading of scripture, I do not see what supports this teaching. But my church also teaches that giving is not about money—it’s about control and it’s about your heart. And with that I do agree. So last June, I entered the practice of tithing.

Jesus says nothing about ten percent. He teaches here and elsewhere that there is only one way to give – and that is to put in everything. My question today is: if it took me six years sitting in a pew before I gave up control of ten percent to the church’s bucket – how much longer sitting before Christ will it take before I relinquish control of the rest to God?

Monday, March 17, 2008

holy week: the cost of yes

Last May, the State Dinner in Honor of Queen Elizabeth was the hot invitation in Washington. The guest list included people you would expect (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) but also a number of notable surprises, such as sportscaster Jim Nance. In a radio interview, Nance spoke about getting a phone call from the Protocol office giving he and his wife a head’s up on what to expect. The whole night was amazing, he said.

Rewind a few thousand years. After arriving in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus told us that His guest list included a lot of surprises – including me.

In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet he tells us, So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

I like that part of the story. We are all invited into God’s kingdom, and all we need to do is say yes. How cool is that!

But there’s another part of the story. The king notices that one of these recently-invited guests was not wearing wedding clothes. And the king un-invites this poor may, saying:

“Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen."

I wrestled with this for a while. This poor guy was out in the streets minding his own business and now he gets humiliated because of poor wardrobe choices. How rude!

This morning I realized: saying “yes” is not enough. Everyone is invited. But if you say “yes” there are expectations that come along. Showing up is not enough.

If Jim Nance arrived at the Queen’s dinner wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, they would have thrown him out. And he would have been outside thinking “I blew it! I had an invite to the coolest thing in town! They told me what I had to do – and I blew it! Weep weep. Gnash. Gnash.”

There’s a cost to saying yes. An expectation on how you should act. This week I’ve read about real transformations that are taking place in the lives of Wilsonian and Rhymes with Kerouac and think to myself – I am heading down a path where I will not be chosen.

He is telling me what I need to do – and I am blowing it. And that is truly sad.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

holy week: to the full

In the days before his victorious walk to Golgatha, in the days before his death, Jesus reminded us once again that he came so that we have life. To have it to the full.

Moments before sharing with the Pharisees what has become known as the Great Commandment, he stunned the Sadducees by noting: He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

He quoted scripture: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

But I think what Jesus also meant was, I am the God of Eileen, the God of Brian, the God of Meaghan, the God of Erin, the God of Bob, the God of Nancy, the God of TK, the God of Tracie, the God of Paul, the God of Karen, the God of Tony, the God of Pat, the God of Gary, the God of Barbara, the God of rwk, the God of John, the God of Rich, the God of you, the God of… me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

three days next week...

The events of Holy Week are well documented. Palm Sunday. The Last Supper. The Garden. The Passion and Crucifixion. The Resurrection.

What we don’t hear about a lot is the events that occurred in between the time Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and the moment he sat down to break bread with his disciples.

Truth is – you probably know what happened on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – but rarely do we consider these events in their entirety for what they are: the final three days of Christ’s ministry on earth. For example, over the course of three days:

He overturned the table of money changers, restoring order to God’s house.

He healed the blind and the lame.

He demonstrated the power of prayer with a withered fig tree, saying: if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for.

He reaffirmed his authority among the chief priests and elders.

He taught that actions are worth more than promises through the parable of the two sons.

He established the new covenant based on a two-way relationship through the parable of the tenants. I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

He used the parable of the wedding banquet to remind us of the narrow road ahead, advising that: many are invited, but few are chosen.

He established the separation of church and state, claiming: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God.

He gave us great hope in the here and now through a lesson on marriage and the resurrection, reminding us He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

He provided us a simple blueprint on how to live our live, in what has become known as the great commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

He spoke out against the dangers of hypocrisy and those who do not practice what they preach. He set a new world order, where whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

He reset the bar on giving, highlighting the actions of a widow, who put in everything – all she had to live on.

He comforted his followers, giving them clear signs of what to expect at the end of the age warning us that many will come in his name. He took away our fears, saying you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.

He reminded us to be vigilant as the day and the hour of His return would be unknown – giving us a striking visual: two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.

He told us what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like, and through the parable of the ten virgins, taught us how to prepare.

He invited us to use our gifts in abundance with the parable of the talents.

He warned that there would be a time when judgment prevailed over forgiveness, and he will put the sheep on the right and the goats on his left.

And, in his closing argument – he totally redefined what it meant to have a relationship with God, saying: whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you did for me.


This all occurred in between the time Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and the moment he sat down to break bread with his disciples. Three days.

Makes you think… what can I do over the next three days?

Friday, March 7, 2008

to the place of the skull

This morning I spent some time with Jesus, thinking about that final walk before he died… the road from Pilate’s court to Golgotha. In the Bible, it is recounted in a single line of text:

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull. John 19:17

But there is more to it than that. And it’s nothing like the way it was taught to me when I was young. It was far more painful, on so many levels.

This morning I felt the physical pain. The crown of thorns, penetrating the head, a head that had not slept now for over 36 hours. Blood mixing with sweat. The back – skin torn from its own flesh – burning. The knees, aching. The feet, scarred. And then there was the cross. Heavy on its own right, but heavier still for the true burden it bore. Crushing down upon His shoulders. Pulling him down. How easy it would have been to crumble. To end it right there. But He persevered.

The morning I felt the emotional pain. Just days earlier the crowds had cheered Him, but now they mocked Him and laughed. What exactly had Christ done to turn these people against Him? Why did they hate him so? But the sharper pain came not from who was there—but from who wasn’t. His twelve. His chosen. His brothers. If the roles were reversed, would not Jesus be the first one at their sides? And yet, in His time of greatest need, those closest to him simply abandoned Him.

This morning I felt the spiritual pain. Compared to this, the beating he had taken from the Romans, the abandonment of His friends, were nothing. It would be a few more hours before Jesus spoke the words, Eli Eli lama sabachthani?, but on this walk… this walk from Pilate’s court to Golgotha, He knew He was alone. Alone. Alone.

I am not sure that this is what happened, but it is what I felt. All I know for sure is, Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull.

the stations: as i was taught

When I was young, I remember we would leave our classroom at some point during Lent and head over to the church, where we would do the stations of the cross.

I. Jesus is condemned to death
II. Jesus receives the cross
III. Jesus falls the first time
IV. Jesus meets His Mother
V. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
VI. Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil
VII. Jesus falls the second time
VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
IX. Jesus falls the third time
X. Jesus is stripped of His garments
XI. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
XII. Jesus dies on the cross
XIII. Jesus' body is removed from the cross
XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense

The five ‘stations’ I highlighted are not mentioned anywhere in the bible. And yet they were taught to me as ‘gospel’ when I was a child. The Veronica one is most interesting, as there is not a single individual by that name in the bible. I am not sure how these stories came to be.

ramblings on food, faith and politics

Over at Faithfully Finding Fitness, Gary was pondering which approach to weight loss was more effective: taking slow incremental steps or pushing yourself to achieve huge, incremental goals. Like Gary, I tended to favor the crash-course model.

In the wee hours of Tuesday night, the results for Texas came in and Clinton managed a victory over Obama. I had been hoping for an Obama victory so that the contest would be over quickly… a slam dunk… but now it will continue on for weeks, perhaps months.

This week, these two seemingly disparate thoughts collided with a third, totally unrelated topic: spiritual transformation.

And here’s where the rubber hits the road: creating true change in my heart, my soul, is not something I can achieve overnight. It’s something that I have to let the Lord achieve in me over time. It’s something I have to train for, day after day. Week after week. Hour after hour.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
So now instead of speed, I’m thinking that maybe ongoing improvement and sustainability is a better approach to losing weight, preparing a future President and getting closer to Christ.

For example: I cannot run a 26-mile marathon. People train for a marathon by running 10 miles a day. I am not at the point where I can even train to run a marathon. But if I put my mind to it, I could do it. Applying this same logic….

Physical Fitness. I know I can hit the treadmill and survive on Slim Fast for six weeks and lose ten pounds. But it won’t change who I am. I also know that I am not going to reverse a lifetime of bad habits overnight. So starting today, I am going to see if I can sustain two small changes: 1) I will exercise once a week. 2) if I am ordering lunch at work, instead of a hero sandwich I will get a salad. Now, neither of these two things are going to make me fit. But perhaps, I can start training to live a healthier life.

Spiritual Transformation. Over the past few years, I have incorporated disciplines into my life. Reading the Bible before work. Blogging. Tithing. Spending time before God. But for the past six months, I’ve been content with my actions. Maybe even proud. It’s as if I were training for a marathon, and reached a point where I was running 2 miles a day. Beats being a couch potato, for sure, but I still can’t run a marathon. So I need to, metaphorically speaking, turn up the speed on the treadmill. My next step: reading the Bibles on Saturdays, too (something I don’t do today.) OK, it's a small step -- but at least it's a forward step.

And as for the presidential primaries, I’ll try not to get so caught up in day-by-day delegate counts and 'he said-she said' headlines. Instead, I’ll just pray that they all run with perseverance the race marked out for them.

Gotta run (in more ways than one)... may your day be filled with an abundance of peace and grace.

Monday, March 3, 2008



this morning, i just sat before Christ. neither of us spoke. i simply bowed my head. sitting before Christ. after a while, i was about to get up but didn't. not for a while longer.