Wednesday, April 25, 2007

sovereign timing

Thanks to those of you who prayed for my husband last Friday night. Several months ago, the InterVarsity group at BU called the church to request a speaker for their gathering this past Friday. B was the only one available so he agreed to the event and to the topic they gave him at that time -- Where is God in the good things in life??

The timing of the event falling during the week of the VA Tech tragedy is just a 'God-thing' and was very stretching for B as the students changed the requested topic to "Where is God in tragedy?"

Here's a clip from Fox 40 News. The media focused on the concerns this student group has with a potential 'Asian backlash' from the shootings (the majority of this student fellowship are Asian Americans).

Again, thanks to all of you who were covering B in prayer last Friday.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I realize I've been pretty verbose lately so today will be a short post. I just realized that I haven't told you about some pretty great stuff I've been watching, reading and listening to lately and thought I'd send along my recommendations for anyone interested....

Blood Diamond -- some pretty tough storylines (especially the child soldiers), but a deeply inspiring father/son storyline and beautiful cinematography

TV Show:
Planet Earth - Discovery Channel (gotta see it in HD!); I am not normally a nature TV lover, but every time I watch this show I start crying because I am just speechless at the diversity and originality and joyfulness and sensuality of our Creator. The camera work that covers the broadest landscape to the tiniest microscopic detail is astonishing. If you don't get the Discovery Channel you should buy the DVD set.

Glory Revealed - I think I've said enough about that lately.

Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson - written by the man who brought us the Message paraphrase; about the supremacy of the Word; i'm only part way through, but I have been inspired to absorb the Word into every pore -- to breathe it in and breathe it ou in my everyday life.

Monday, April 16, 2007

on wrestling watermelons

The other day I left a comment on one of my blogging buddies sites.

His post reminded me about one of my very first posts on this blog regarding my view of God as a greased watermelon. (ironically, that post was written in response to another friend's post at the time!) Here is the major point of the post:
It strikes me that God loves our pursuit of Him so much that He sometimes seems to playfully hide from us (picture peek-a-boo or hide 'n seek with your kids and all of the giggling that goes along with it and the joy of being found by them) in order to keep us moving forward and unable to make ourselves God because we figured him out (picture Eve wanting to eat the fruit in the garden so she could have the same knowledge as God)
It seems that God chooses to be more like a greased watermelon than a bird with clipped wings in a cage. Even those this often leaves me feeling frustrated, I wouldn't want to serve a God who could be caught-- by me or anyone else.
This thought has been rolling around in my brain for several days. Then, this morning, I was reading in Psalm 46 and a sentence in the last verse caught my attention and seemed to jump right into the pond with that greased watermelon theory,
"Jacob-wrestling God fights for us"

...and the phrase just got stuck in my head.

"Jacob-wrestling God fights for us."

NASB states it this way, "The God of Jacob is our stronghold."
When I read it this way, the phrase feels passive. There is God and there is Jacob. It appears as though Jacob possesses God and visa-versa. Jacob is very blessed that his God is willing -- and even intentional -- to be known in connection with Jacob's name (which has been synonomous with both good and not-so-good circumstances).
BUT, when I read the Message paraphrase, the statement appears in a totally new light. It appears as an active thing is going on here. Both parties - God and Jacob - possess each other through the action of WHAT....?!?

No, it's not a Hallmark kind of word, like:
loving God" or
hugging God" or
befriending God"
NOPE! It's "Jacob-wrestling God"!!


Think about it for a moment.
(first, you gotta get the whole WWF thing out of your head...that's not really wrestling)

I think of two things:
1. wrestling-the-sport: guys dressed in funny leotards and padded helmets
2. wrestling-the-favorite-form-of-affection-for-Daddies: kids and their dad tussling and tickling and squealing (and Mom closing her eyes out of fear....someone is
going to get hurt!)

Hmmm? I need more clarification on this whole wrestling thing. I go back to the beginning - the book of Genesis. I need to remind myself of the exact play-by-play of this historic GOD vs. JACOB smackdown. (no pay-per-view for this event, but what with the presences of Deity and body-deforming injuries HBO could have made a killing!)

Here's the text (and it is

But Jacob stayed behind by himself and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint.
The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak."
Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
The man said, "What's your name?"
He answered, "Jacob."
The man said, "But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); You've wrestled with God and you've come through."
Jacob asked, "And what's your name?"
The man said, "Why do you want to know my name?" And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
Jacob named the place Peniel (God's Face) because he said, "I saw God face-t0-face and lived to tell the story."
The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip.
I'm almost speechless from this text. I will try to sum up my thoughts, put into words my amazement at my God and His ways.
Let's consider the opponents in this match:
there's God, otherwise known as Creator of the Universe, Lord Most High, Great King and the Mighty One

and there's Jacob, otherwise known as Heel, Deceiver, and Mama's Boy

Read for yourself chapters 26- 50 on the less-than-stellar details of this man's life:
rejected by his Father and coddled by his mother;
cheats his brother out of jealousy;
totally deceives his aged father;
gets what he dishes out when his own uncle plays a cruel trick on him and Jacob is heartbroken as he faces great disappointment in the love and marriage department;
is on his brother's list of 'most wanted dead' list;
following in his own parents' footsteps, he showed favoritism toward one of his sons, thus rejecting the others;
fathered children with tons of their own baggage (imagine their stories in a CrossCurrent small group!)victim of rape;
murderers and looters;
and, in a classic case of generations improving on the sins of their fathers, torturers and deceivers;
experienced grief, depression and starvation as famine kept him from being able to provide for his family;
in his own words at the end of his life, Jacob summed up his entire existence as a "short and hard life".

To be fair, Jacob showed some really great qualities during his lifetime also. I love the way he falls in love at first sight with Rachel and then demonstrates acts of machismo and chivalry to gain her hand in marriage. And, while some might call it sneaky, I admire his clever dealings in business and wisdom in conflict.
My favorite characteristic of this guy, though, is the way he is always building monuments to God. He seems able, more than the average guy, to recognize God's protection and blessing in His life. (check out Genesis 28: 10-18; 32:18-20; 35: 1-8; 35:13-15; 46) He continues to seek God and is, in return, blessed by God and even reconciled with his father and brother
and later in life, reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, whom he had given up for dead.

OK -- so that was a detour to dig into the life of the man. I think it's worth the trip because, after all, this is the only guy I've ever heard of who went head to head with the Holy of Holies in a wrestling match (it says, "the man realized he couldn't get the best of Jacob" and had to resort to injuring him to win the fight!) Until the day I die, I will live in astonishment of the way God interacts with and blesses and uses such ordinary -- and even wacky -- characters (couldn't you imagine Jacob and his brothers on the Jerry Springer show?!?). Having written that last sentence is a little bit frustating because it's been said before so many times, but it still manages to take my breath away and feels almost impossible to believe.

And, now, back to the watermelon thing. My theology has been all messed with. It was a huge stretch for me to believe that God allows himself to behave like a greased watermelon -- not willing to be 'caught' and tamed. But, this passage about Jacob and the wrestling match makes me believe that God allows us to behave (in His image after all) in the same way. In this story, Jacob caught God and "would not let Him go" until he received a blessing. Jacob, the man who had had to cheat and lie to manipulate blessing from all the previous leaders in his life -- was not outmatched in a wrestling match with his God. It's absolutely crazy, I tell you.

And, then, instead of God being ticked off, God is so impressed He gives him a blessing and a new name.

Laaaaddddiiiieeeessss and GENTLEMAN, introducing Jacob-the-God-Wrestler!

I'm gonna have to go and think about this some more. Farewell, to all my favorite, God-Wrestlers....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

night with Glory Revealed tour

Can't wait another day to post about our night with Glory Revealed in Lancaster, Ohio. Since I traveled with B to Akron ... we tacked on another two-hours to the drive to see the tour near Columbus.

May I be honest?? This has been a really, really, (did I say really?) hard year as far as work and ministry goes. To be able to get out of town and attend an event that we were only responsible to show up for -- no work involved other than reading the map and finding a good parking spot. We were able to sit in the second row ... just feet away from the stage.

We were also surprised to discover that the evening was being recorded for a future CCN satellite-feed to churches across the country and a tour DVD. (It felt like our experience with David Letterman a couple of years ago).

All the logistical hoopla aside .... to be able to just allow the richness of the music and the warmth of the harmonies and the truth-speak of the Scripture encased in lyrics to wash over us was truly a cup of cold water for me. I felt like those close-up time lapsed video shots of a flower in bloom -- just opening up from exhaustion and discouragement. Resurrection comes to mind again.

I know I've said it before, but you gotta get this album! It's fresh and excellent and rich and full of truth.

As far as critique of the evening, B and I were both enthralled with Hyper Static Union's Shawn Lewis (who wrote a lot of the music on the project). If there is a way for a banjo to sound groovy, he's got it down. We also became huge fans of previously unknown to us Trevor Morgan. He sings on the track #1 of the album, Zephaniah 3:17 and played bass almost every song of the concert. (just for a visual aid -- he looks like the perfect combination of Tom Hanks and Scott Gravelding!)

We also can't believe we had never heard anything from Candi Pearson Shelton. The woman's got pipes! She added beautiful descant layers to many of the songs. She solos the title track, Glory Revealed. She also provided one of a couple of musical finales to the concert with Mighty to Save. (amazing song. shhhhh, don't let anyone know it's from Hillsong and we might be able to add it to our playlist at church)

As for a couple of thumbs downs, we gotta be honest, Brian Littrell drove us crazy. We may be biased 'cuz we never fell for the boyband stuff in the 90's and that's all we could think of when we watched him. He seems to have some kind of stage onset of A.D.D. and seemed to just pull random comments out of the air when he was supposed to be singing. His voice is OK and he adds a kind of unexpected surprise to this cast of characters, but mostly he just seems to fit the bill of 'one of these things is not like the other'. Having said that, though, I did enjoy the two songs he sang from his solo album, Welcome Home.

I also have to say that I am mega-impressed with the producer of this project, David Nasser. Appearantly, he is a good friend of Mac Powell's and is the originator of the concept for a 'bluegrass - ish' style. His main emphasis, however, is on the power of the Word and how dehydrated we are as Christians when it comes to the Living Water. I feel that he totally hits the bulls-eye with this project. HOWEVER, both B and I were turned off by his speaking approach during the intermission. Out of this amazing organic, musically elegant project his speaking style made me feel like I was back in highschool listening to a canned youth talk. His point was powerful and timely, but his methods felt contrived and demeaning. It was hard not to be part of the post-event evaluation team... I so much wanted to let him know how frustrated we were by his talk.

Oh, and one more thing -- two actually.
1. MAC

I know I only see him in one light -- on stage, beneath the lights, backed by amazing musicians. But I walked away from this event feeling like we were buddies. Maybe it was the second row seat and the fact that I'm pretty sure he looked me straight in the eye a couple of times (i know, i know, i sound like a jr. high crazed fan...but hear me out) B and I were both impressed with the subtle, but very strong, leadership he demonstrated. Even though the event was supposed to feel organic and somewhat unrehearsed, it was very clear who the leader was on that stage. (it's a good thing, too, or i'm afraid it might have turned into the Brian Littrell variety hour) He's also just got a darn great voice.

alright, enough said already. even though i still didn't say how MUCH i love Shane & Shane. the guys just sing from their toes and exude joy all over the place. i also am pretty certain if it were zeph317 or burningalive writing this review of the evening they would have had much more to say about all the hardware on the's just out of my realm! i've pre-ordered the DVD so we'll have a premiere party when it comes out, ok?!?

i'll stop now, though. i can't wait for heaven. i know we're not supposed to think of it as an eternal hymn sing in the sky, but after a night like the one we spent with Glory Revealed a few millenia like that would be just fine with me!

thankful that our God has overcome the world!

I know that I've copied these daily readings into my posts several times, but some days it's just SO right on to where I am at spiritually, emotionally and physically and it just seems to make sense to post it here. I've been thinking a lot lately about desires and what a challenge it is to acknowledge the Holy Spirit's influence in them without making the desire itself my god. I'm very bad at this. I have lived often out of the desire to just get everything situated, get the plan down, get everyone happy so we can just sit back and cruise through the rest of our life with comfort and joy. God has been re-programming me, but i realize this desire still lurks deep within me and taints almost all of my perspective on life. I choose not to live in a defeatist attitude of "what's the use in hoping when we live in a cursed earth and everyone around us is cursed by sin and my flesh refuses to stop trying to rule me!" but still live in the acknowledgement of the reality of this truth. It's a hard place to live and it grieves me -- and I know it grieves our Father. enough said....keep reading below....

The Promises of God

God promises every man futility and failure; he guarantees every woman relational heartache and loneliness. We spend most of our waking hours attempting to end-run the curse. We will fight this truth with all we’ve got. Sure, other people suffer defeat. Other people face loneliness. But not me. I can beat the odds. We see the neighbor’s kids go off the deep end, and we make a mental note: They didn’t pray for their kids every day. And we make praying for our kids every day part of our plan. It doesn’t have to happen to us. We watch a colleague suffer a financial setback, and we make another note: He was always a little lax with his money. We set up a rigid budget and stick to it.

Isn’t there something defensive that rises up in you at the idea that you cannot make life work out? Isn’t there something just a little bit stubborn, an inner voice that says,
I can do it? Thus Pascal writes,

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end . . . This is the motive of every action of every man.
But example teaches us little. No resemblance is ever so perfect that there is not some slight difference, and hence we expect that our hope will not be deceived on this occasion as before. And thus, while the present never satisfies us, experience dupes us and from misfortune to misfortune leads us to death. (Pensées)

It can’t be done. No matter how hard we try, no matter how clever our plan, we cannot arrange for the life we desire. Set the book down for a moment and ask yourself this question: Will life ever be what I so deeply want it to be, in a way that cannot be lost? This is the second lesson we must learn, and in many ways the hardest to accept. We must have life; we cannot arrange for it.

The Journey of Desire , 96–97)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

another beautiful red sky this morning....

I've been a little busy lately and not able to get to my blog! I miss it. This morning I woke up in Akron, Ohio and as B and I walked out of the hotel at 6:45am, we saw a gorgeous red sky.

I'll send updates about our trip in a while, but first I want to re-post something I put out on April 3. This post is pretty personal and I've been cautious about the level of transparency I allow in this tool of blogging. When I first posted this journal entry, I was still pretty raw. I am a recovering approval-addict and somehow when I first put out the entry I felt a lack of peace -- like I was turning to you for approval instead of my Heavenly Father. Often, I think we can do that simultaneously, but this time I think the Holy Spirit was checking my motives. So I got up in the middle of the night and deleted the post.

I'm ready to put it out there again -- this time more as a 'this is where i've been lately' instead of 'o.k., everybody! make me feel acceptable right now!'

My journal entry from Monday, April 2, 2007


Opening day in the Bronx stadium.

A hair cut and color.

Running through new mossy grass and withered autumn leaves with Griffin.

A fat, glossy robin feasting on wriggling worms and assorted other bugs on
the yellow grass next to Smokin' Joes over the PA state line.


Call me man's best friend - I am a woman who loves treats and rides in the
car. After a week of yucky coughing, chills and nose-blowing, I hit the
bottom of a deep melancholy late last night. A simple, run-of-the-mill
parenting experience shot me to the bottom of that abandoned well in a
matter of minutes.

Standing in the middle of my teenage sons' disastrous bedroom while
lecturing my 9-year-old daughter for her April Fool's prank that turned out
more foolish than funny. (water soaked blankets, sheets and mattresses) the
rope ran out of line. Whack - almost a literal physical impact...the anxiety
and pain of old memory hit that hard.

Tears took a while to reach the surface having to follow the plunging
thrusts of anger and fear . 'I must be crazy! What is wrong with me? Will
someone please tell me once and for all if I am a terrible mom! Who sets the
rules 'cuz I'm sick of not knowing the play book. Do clean bedrooms matter?
How about the fact that I feel like I can't stand my kids sometimes? Tell me
what mother of four this side of the abuse hotline who feels that way???"

Plunging the depths of me - like the bucket in the cracked well - sobs force
out the tears. The release comes as a 'woosh' - almost fake they seem. The
highlight reel in my head shows me at the same age as my daughter lying in
my blue and white gingham bedroom sobbing with deep, guttural anxiety that
my bedroom was such a mess. I had failed life by age 9. Funny, I don't
remember what that messy bedroom looked like - I only remember the feeling
of drowning in failure and worthlessness. 'what is wrong with me? Why can't
I keep my room clean? Why am I such a failure? Why can't anyone see that I'm
not right? What is wrong with me??"

My helpless husband asks, "Is this just about messy bedrooms? We can fix
that." I shake my head as an answer because I can't figure it out either.

The bucket lurching off the frayed rope scrapes bottom once more. "Oh, yes,
I am crazy! I finally have the proof I've been trying to figure out my whole
life. I am certifiable because... [EDIT: not ready to put this memory into
print] What's wrong with me? " Tears seem to spring out of my very pores by
this point. My face has lost its form and has become a pool of water and
mucous. The sobs actually hurt my head. My husband asks what is wrong. I do
not answer. I can not answer. How can I when any words I form on my tongue
and in my imagination seem like they are taken from the screenplay of a lame
after-school special??

So, today - after the hair cut and color and romp in the yard with my nephew
- I return home and crash back on the couch with my box of tissues and bag
of cough drops. My husband announces his plan to drive to the state line for
cigars. If I had ears on the top of my head like our Jack Russell, they
would have quivered in the excitement. A ride? Maybe a treat while we are

Husband and I do not speak during the ride. I close my eyes against the
breeze creeping in through the cracked windows. My own iPod shuffle on the
truck stereo - a groovy mixture of Jack Johnson, Patty Griffin and Third Day
serenading my sunny nap under the open sunroof. The spring sun seems to pull
me inch by inch out of the bottom of that well as if were straining biceps
heaving the rope. I fantasize that I am one of those wealthy, Victorian-era
swooning females taken to the shore by doctor's orders to paint
impressionist landscapes and regain strength in the salty sunshine of the

Ridiculous fantasy over, I open my eyes and instead find myself parked up
against the yellow grassy bank behind Smokin' Joe's just over the NY/PA
border. This is the best place to get cigars for my husband's weekly walks
with the Jack Russell. I choose to stay in the truck while he goes in. He is
kind to leave the music playing and the sun roof open.

A black fluttering outside the window gets my attention. My brain is on
automatic - it's just a robin after all.


It's the Official-First-Robin-Of-Spring Sighting.  I sit in the truck outside the PA convenience store and find resurrection with each worm the giddy bird pulls out of the
soggy ground.

Cars pull in on either side of me and I jerk my head to see if the drivers
have noticed this wonder of nature and are smiling the same crazy smile as
me? I am literally surprised when they do not appear to share my awe and

The smile felt odd on my lips, someone was sculpting it there
just above my chin and just below my chapped nose. (the week's worth of
sniffling and coughing and blowing and then the night's worth of torrential
grieving have done significant damage!) Next the lips push up the cheeks and
I can feel the light almost reach my eyes.

I am resurrected.

Not in the sense of being totally dead and now totally alive -- not in the
sense of what the Emmaus road traveler's discovered in their walking
companion, but a resurrection of hope.

Resurrection hope brings shafts of transcendent light into the dark drowning
places in my soul.

"Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!" -- Ps. 131:3
Wait, Tami, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!

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