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Category: reflection

you’re already enough.

you’re already enough.

The last few months I have been working and reworking my way through Zack Eswine’s work, The Imperfect Pastor.

Many nights I could only make it through 2-3 pages before I had to put it down, pray, and examine what was happening in my heart as I read.

Zack’s done a few podcast interviews lately (here and here). At the tail end of the latest one, In the Room, host Ryan Huguley asks,

What is it that you would want to say to young pastors and church planters? When you think back on yourself 20 years ago, what do you wish that you would have known? What would you say to yourself?

Now it’s not 2-3 pages that I have to pause, pray, and examine – it’s merely a few sentences spoken aloud:

That you’re already enough. Before you had the title of pastor or church planter, you prayed and The Lord heard your prayers. You looked to Jesus and The Lord was faithful to you. He was your portion and you were His. 

Before you were ever a pastor or did anything like that, He was already enough for you, and you were already enough for Him. 

Don’t let false ministry measures rob you of that truth. 

Yea, that’s what I’d say. 

 

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

the subtle idol & the gift of weakness

the subtle idol & the gift of weakness

Saturdays - Glasses

 

Some of my favorite memories as a child were Saturday mornings with my dad. We’d hit flea markets, Half Price Books and garage sales scouting for treasures and talking. My wife would say that these days put the itch in me that if we pass a HPB, she knows I want five minutes to scour three sections and then I’m back in the car.

Twenty years later, my dad and I still hit a sale from time to time. We met up early last Friday and looked for some bargains on tools. There is something now in my stomach that didn’t register as a child, and it leaves me at these estate sales, with a bunch of strangers, looking through a man’s garage and picking out tools to add to my collection from his.

Maybe it’s that I’m a dad now, and a new realm of fear and desire came with the birth of my first child. I want to provide the best I can for her – to bless her and show her my love through what I can give her. There’s a fear of not being able to provide the things she needs, let alone the extra that would be icing on the cake. Maybe it’s that as a child I’ve worked angles to get things because I knew my parents loved me, and that if I pressed hard enough they may buy it for me, so there is a fear of being taken for granted.

Maybe it’s the estate sale last spring where I looked down at a workbench, and amidst the wrenches and reloading equipment there was a pair of glasses, coated in dust, sitting on a roll of tape. Right where the wearer had left them.

And here I was, in his garage, adding from his collection to mine.

The wrestle of wealth, of making enough, having enough is a dark space in my soul- the struggle for contentment against a sliding scale in a world that rejects less as more, and sees more as a means to happiness. It’s where I have to talk to myself about the truth I know when the lie is in front of me.

I can’t remember much of the stuff that my dad bought me at garage sales, flea markets or bookstores growing up.

I doubt much of it has made its way into my adulthood.

But I can tell you what has: the memories of Saturdays. Time with my dad, listening to stories and asking questions.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “…be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

But right before that he says, “keep your life free from the love of money.”

I wouldn’t come right out and tell you I love money – but the wants I have for my family, and what I want for them (and what it says about me) tells you that I think money is the answer. And every garage sale reminds me that I am not alone.

Who you have will outlast what you can buy. Be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The better thing for my daughter than to get every trinket she wants? To have a daddy that gives his attention and tries to help show her where good desires can lead to false loves. To show her Who is better.  I just wish my own heart was done as I try to lead hers.

And in my weakness there is contentment, because He has not left me. The revelation of the weakness, of my need, is the call for my heart to trust Jesus with my daughter, with myself, and to believe He is better.

I am confident that we can.

I am confident that we can.

God, however, cannot be downloaded as can the realms of information we have at our fingertips from the Internet. Acquiring information is one thing. Understanding it is another. Learning to become wise by incorporating that information into a framework of understanding, and doing so before God, is yet something else. This, like many other things of value in life, takes time. There are no shortcuts here. Instantaneous knowledge from the Internet is one thing. Learning to know God is something quite different. The knowledge of God is, in fact, a lifetime pursuit, not an instantaneous download. God has made himself known in Scripture, but we need to learn how to walk with him through life in the light of what we know of him. This journey never ends until, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we finally cross the great river and are welcomed to the shores of eternity and the presence of God. Can we, then, set aside the impatience that the Internet tends to breed, and the habits of being distracted which our highly compacted modern lives create, in order to focus on what really matters?

 

I am confident that we can.

 

David Wells, God in the Whirlwind, p. 38

the table.

the table.

Most common, most planed.
to welcome another and dine
a place for soul food.

Most common, most neglected.
hearts eat slow while we won’t stop
ever hungry for a homecoming.

Most common, most treasured.
our presence is trust in the host
It is here for you, take and eat.

Most treasured, most common.
Baked and broken
bottled and spilt.

Most treasured, most neglected.
a table prepared oft forgotten
Self-sufficient, needlessly independent.

Most plain, most common
our base need and wayward feet.

Love bids welcome
Come, sit and taste my meat.

the slowness of change & the goodness of God.

the slowness of change & the goodness of God.

Any day now, she will begin walking. My daughter has been moving from couch to table and scooting along, but has yet to take her first unaided steps. We have walked the halls of our home, hand in hand, as she learns her way. Those moments of eye contact are as pure and precious as I have ever known.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. But there is a time where everything is new for you. And then there is a time where things are new again.

Parents of older children have asked me, “did you ever think you could love someone so much the instant you saw them?” I am often unprepared for the tenderness my little girl reveals in me, and how I treasure the smallest of moments with her.

And even though we wish she would start walking, we know it means saying goodbye to the slap-slap-slap of her hands upon the hardwood floor. In this it is ever more plain to me how slow we as humans develop. I keep looking at her and wanting the (first) next step. Then I think, she will learn to walk. It is a natural part of development, and it will come in time. That helps me wait.

In a season where I have longed for my own growth, to finally overcome my lack of discipline, my pride, or any of the items on my mental list of the better me, I am frustrated at how long it seems to take to master the first step. But God knows exactly how long it will take, and what is forming in me for the change to happen. Where I seem to keep crawling, his grace takes me hand in hand, it helps me lean into him as I learn my footsteps.

This leaning teaches me. My daughter is not old enough yet to realize my failures, she has no framework for distrust in her father at one year old. But it is coming. Whether it be my sin, or someone else’s, she will learn pain and fear and regret amidst all the good and beautiful and true things that life has to offer. She will have to learn how to trust and believe what is true.

The call to my anxious heart could not be more timely. God is a good father, who gives himself and is trustworthy. He will never leave his children, nor forsake them due to their performance. I consistently base my expectation of God’s love towards me on my experience of the inherent failures of every human relationship in my life, instead of the inherent lack of failure at any level in the life of Jesus Christ who is my covering.  To believe this more quickly and more deeply is the growth I need – that God is a good father to me despite me because of Jesus.

To believe this in itself is a work of faith, the gift of God.

In a prayer for the believers of the early church, the apostle Paul asked God that Christ would dwell in the hearts of these believers through faith. He asked that through presence of Christ in their heart they would be rooted and grounded in love. This gift of stability and foundation would enable them to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, to apprehend and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul prayed that these believers might see God’s goodness and believe in Him despite all which would tempt them to doubt (like their own failures to walk faithfully in holiness). That they could re-read sections of this same letter and believe that God is a God who lavishes his kindness upon his children because of Jesus. He wants their good and is working for it in Christ. What a living promise of our inheritance as his child! To delight with long-abandoned wonder in beauty that is more real and true than the things we can now touch and hold.

I want my heart to grasp his character with more faith and sight each day. I want roots and stability in love through the gift of faith that I might relish in the kindness of God’s love towards me in his son, and as his child. Which transforms the days I rate myself high and low, where I swing between pride and self condemnation into days where I quit looking at myself and look more intently at the goodness of God. Even in the midst of a tantrum it is a new experience for me to both recognize failure and be moved in love towards my child. God does the same towards us, unmoved by our failure because of Christ, and pursuing us in love as his children.

Recently I sat with a few friends as we spoke of our children and the unexpected moments with each new season of development. One brother said, “I was looking at my son recently and it clicked in my head. All the love I feel in my heart, the fullness and depth that wells up, that’s what my dad felt when he looked at me.”

Believer, that’s what God feels when he looks at you in Christ. It’s not selfish to delight in his love, or to thank him for it. What good father would not welcome the affection of his children and rejoice in the sharing of their love? It is our learned distrust and inherent separation from him that he gives us faith to overcome in Christ. He loves us because of Jesus and invites us into life with him, helping us grow up and develop into all that he would have us to be. It is because of God’s beauty in his God-ness and as the good father that we come to him, where things become new again in a deeper, truer way than before.

By grace we trade the slap-slap-slap of our hands to take his own and lean into Him for our lives.

sharing at the expense of learning.

sharing at the expense of learning.

When I love something, I want you to know about it. Moreover, I want you to enjoy it like I do. The lyric that pricked my heart, the meal that made my night, what The Lord showed me in the Scriptures this morning. I want to share it with you.

But am I sharing too soon?

There is something right and good about rejoicing in beauty with others. But I wonder if we’re shorting ourselves in the sharing; if the act of sharing too quickly robs the joy of knowing more deeply. I’m afraid that some of our daily actions foster this in ways we might not expect.

Lately I’ve caught myself and thought – you’re sharing this, but are you sharing too quickly? Moreover, am I growing content with the snippet of truth over the depth of learning the Truth afforded to me?

Here are two scenarios from my life:

– Retweeting or favoriting a post on Twitter. I interact with a post holding a truth I agree with. I scan Twitter, like what I see, I agree with it / star it. I pocket my phone and go on.

–  I sit down with the Scriptures and engage the text. The Holy Spirit meets me in the text and gives eyes to see something about God’s character and my hope in Christ. As a pastor, I (all too quickly) begin to think through how I can share this with someone and what I would need to communicate in getting the point across. My eyes move from my first role as Child to Pastor, I’m now studying for a lesson to teach instead of learning what I’m being taught.

In the shift to sharing, I fear I’m grazing – that I’m fooling myself into being full.  The sheer number of sources I graze from on a daily basis is astounding when listed out: Twitter, Facebook, Email, Instagram, Feedly, Texts, Photos, Voicemail, Radio, and Television. It’s no wonder that the grazing keeps me distracted from my true food like the three baskets of chips before my fajitas. But I am pointing to, retweeting, liking and commenting on these things all day long.

And it seems okay because everyone else is too.

The issue for my heart is that these thumbed double-taps  are training me to think I have apprehended a truth because I have affirmed it, shared it with my circle of friends. That I have learned what I have put before others. They associate it with me now, so I am okay to do the same for myself.  Less often is my inclination to sit and mine beauty, than it is now to run and share a snippet of it with others.

In this I trade beholding for a quick glance, but the jewel of Christian hope demands fixation. The beauty of Christ is inexhaustible and brings ever increasing joy for the diligent seeker.

You come across people dedicated to their diet of information. The sources they look to are confined to what they view as worthy. They have limited their options in pursuit of depth, discriminating with their intake, which shows in their lives. When we are uncritical adopters, we fail we sift the good and hold onto it. We graze with little concern because the discovery of the new is entertainment.

The call of the Christian is to behold the beauty of Christ and keep our eyes fixed upon him as we call others to see him. Our attention is to be focused upon him, our eyes upon the oldest thing that never gets old, letting the new pass by without fear of missing out.

There is a difference between sharing and learning. Don’t confuse the two, thinking you have learned what you have shared. Precious blood is spilled in the acquiring of knowledge, and it comes at great effort. It demands more than our weakening appetites, and we must strengthen ourselves or be contented with ever spoiling entertainment.

Our deepest joy depends upon it.

a portrait of @CSLewis on the 50th anniversary of his death

a portrait of @CSLewis on the 50th anniversary of his death

November 22, 1963 etched itself into the minds of a generation with the assassination of President Kennedy.
There will be many articles today remembering the 50th anniversary of his tragic death.

On this same day in history, C.S. Lewis died. Fifty years later, his works have helped countless readers find words for desires that haunt the human soul until they rest with right longing. Lewis helped us name the longing.

Lewis has taught me, time and again, the value of childlike belief. Far from naive acceptance, this belief is unhindered by cynicism and unburdened by pretense. Many have and will speak more deeply than I can here regarding his influence on the world, but I can tell you that his works have drawn tears like blood through images of my brokenness, that of the world, and the beauty of a real Savior who is making all the sad things come untrue.

Several years ago I wrote a short poem about Lewis, and share it with you again today – the 50th anniversary of his death.

 

portrait: clive staples. 

Clive
Staples
Lewis

used to
sit among a ring of
pipe smoke & warm brown ales

and dream fairy tales

he helped us see that happiness is the longing
to crave it is to be pierced with
joy

pierced and yet bleeding to live
waiting wishing hoping for piercing again

further up further in

dear Jack,
that diamond hard grass—your feet made firm at last?