Archive for the ‘god’ Category

My mom has dementia.

This is very hard for my dad, my brothers, me, all the family.

Last week my brother was with her. They sat together on the porch in front of the home where she lives with her constant nursing companions.

My mom was quiet so my brother asked, “Mom what are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about God,” she replied.

More pause.

“What do you think about God?” he plied her.

She paused again and said, “That he’s watching over me.”

Mom doesn’t know much these days, but she knows this. In her disabled, confused and very vulnerable state, she knows that God is watching over her.

Perhaps as we age, we become more and more like we are and retain and exhibit more and more of who we have become. Mom has always known this — that God is near — and at this very challenging time in her life, she still does.

That isn’t her dementia; that is her reality.

This week I noted that in the news there was the usual hustle, activity and commotion around the country  — a new electric car on the market, some political wrangling, the usual celebrity gossip, the leaks about a new high-end smart phone, an incredible dinosaur discovery and some news about the latest self-appointed church apostles. There was also the Dow at a new high and the numbers concerning the cash raked in by the new block-buster movies.

The people get bored, and so there is the new stuff, in the news.

Sometime I guess we all want to live “the life” — or at least to hear about the life  —   the fast, fun, cutting edge, shocking, resourced, healed, powerful, cool life. We seem to have a ubiquitous interest in the best boost, the latest break, the newest go-to gadget, Gidget or gaggle. We seemed to be manic for the latest mission, mansion, murder, miracle or marketing “Wow!”

From business to government to church it sometimes seems as if the most common ambition is to get the next great thing, get the next good deal, aim for the next nearest star, to get rich or powerful — spirit-slain or financially insane in our own jet plane.

We seem to want to power up and move on out — a lot. We Americans are a fairly ambitious sort.

But a few days ago, digging around in my Bible for personal sanity, I ran across this line, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Hmm, “ambition,” to “lead a quiet life”?

Don’t usually put those two together.

I think I like it, and need it, because I also get bored and I too fall into wanting more, or else or other-better-bigger-digger-jigger.

But it helped me, this idea, this admonition to go for quietness. And so this week I worked on taking pleasure and quiet satisfaction in the small, simple things that I needed to do.

I helped an older disabled woman pay her rent. Interesting, driving her to the bank, giving her the money, talking to her about her limited budget, working with her on getting more affordable housing. Simple, quiet, good.

I also took someone who I wanted to to keep in a leadership loop out to lunch. She is super-special to me. We’ve made quiet history together, empowering women in the church. She was the first female elder I had the privilege to appoint and work with. Cool!

This week I also helped an NA group get established in a new location. Very mundane perhaps —  a new room — but very good for a whole group of people trying to recover.  Good for them!

Quiet things.

There were more, some very humble activities.

I took a person with special needs out to coffee; she had asked for some special attention. I took some time to drive her to Starbucks, to sit and talk to her, to ask questions and listen. She left smiling. I knew that was time well-spent.

At home, more of the mundane. I washed my cat, I paid my bills, I made dinner two nights, I washed dishes. One evening, I had a nice quiet dinner with just my wife. Then we watched some favorite TV together.  After that, I drove out and picked up my daughter and a disable friend from a late evening event.

I must say, upon reflection, that I like doing these kind of quiet things. Today, alone in my office,  I laid out a schedule at work for the things that we will deal with and talk about at church for the rest of the year, including Christmas. I like thinking ahead about Christmas. Looking ahead, thinking ahead, alone, in a peaceful room — for the good of some other people —  hmm, nice.

What is a quiet life? What does it mean to be ambitious for a quiet life?

It is this: it is simply being wiling and open and even eager to be doing what needs to be done, what is next, what is needed, what is helpful, what is gentle, what is loving, what others need. It means doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

I don’t mean to demean progress or vision or big dreams or big successes or stages or lights or healings or awards or news.  I’ve dreamed. I’ve surged forward. I’ve gone for more. I’ve had public successes, good moments on the stage of life. It was fun. Some of it was good.

And yet, and yet, and yet-by-yet, what deep peace, what excellent feelings of integrity, what quiet satisfaction lies in small, silent, simple everyday, unselfish things.

I think about it. I breathe this in. Today, after a simple, quiet week, I  breathe as if breathing a great, deep, calming silence.

Yeah, go for it when you can — if you must —  but the scripture does say to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

I think that this is in part, because God loves us so much, and because he wants us to love each other so much, and because God himself is deep and quiet and simply good — and because he wants us to experience great satisfaction.

Katy Perry cut her hair short. She is trying to find the person underneath the persona. She said so herself. I heard her say it. She’s looking for her authentic self. She wonders if she will be loved for who she really is. I get it.

Last night I went to my room about 9 am to watch the most recent episode of “Dr. Blake” on Netflix. He found out how his mother died, and he got on the bus with Jean, she leaned against him, he held her hand.

This morning when I came downstairs, I brewed a couple of strong shots of espresso,  then I petted my cat Megan until she purred, then I held my wife’s hand.

“Would you cry for me, would you spend your life with me? Tell me honestly, if I couldn’t be strong would you still love me the same?” We all wonder this, along every other creature on the planet, and I wonder this, along with Adam Levine, singing “Locked Away,” on my iPad.

We want to be loved as we are, for who we are, weak and strong, right and wrong. The thing is, this is a moving target. Who we are keeps changing, what we look like keeps changing, where we are keeps changing, what we do keeps changing and so we keep being a bit insecure which leads to the question, “If I got locked away, and we lost it all today, tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?”

Okay Adam, okay iTunes, okay iPad, okay listening audience, this is the constant state of we-fragile, we-insecure, we-ever-fluctuating human beings.

But, and yet … God … nonstop

God  …

                    is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

One lump of insecurity mixed with one lump of certainty.

“Yes, I am telling you, yes! Yes, you fragile God seekers — Katie, Adam, all of you — yes, I am telling you honestly — lost, locked away, found or abandoned, or not, yet again and again  — you will still certainly, yes, be loved the same, by God, yes, he will get on the bus with you that is going nowhere that you know for sure and hold your hand too, yes   — and with gentle effect.”

I have a simple request for you, God, this morning.

I’m asking for the good.

It isn’t because I am so much good as that I ache for good, but I do ache for more good, and less evil.

God will you encourage, protect, prosper and generally and in every possible known way to heaven empower anyone on earth who is doing good today?

Leaders, teachers, pastors, therapists, nurses, homemakers, business people, entertainers, sports figures, doctors, parents, grandparents, siblings — will you please greatly encourage and help anyone who is in a role where they are doing good?

Being gentle,

Being moral,

Being loving,

Being kind,

Bringing justice.

Giving to others,

Protecting the innocent.

Not shaming,

Not blaming,

Not being greedy,

Not oppressing,

Not being violent,

Not being sexually inappropriate,

Protecting little ones,

Protecting powerless ones.


God, we beg you, will you live super- duper-powerfully today in those who are making our world better?

We ask you to defeat evil and prosper good in and by and for those who are …

Buiding something good,

Restoring something good,

Adding value,

Inspiring hope.

Loving love.


This is our simple.





He jostled and flowed within a large crowd. Among them, he was ramped up and impassioned — yes — and even more he was sonant, syllabic and bold-voiced  about the divine excitement. Urgency was on him and he began to speak to the crowd about the ultimate intention, to bring all living things that will into unity with each another.

The crowd grew. He spoke from within it; they moved as one and he advocated the gorgeous, healing, superb vision of unification. They ran after him. He spoke from the heart of a beautiful future where all living things will be respected and loved — he was absolutely sure this would happen. He said that the desire  was that all living things become one.

The separatists were present, and as he concluded his impassioned appeal, they basked naked around him, proud and unashamed in their idealized, politicalized,  spiritual exclusivity — and they smugly opposed what he said.  The pressing crowd, the critical religious elite, him alone and yet among them, there was a kind of dream-like vision stupor present — around Jesus.

I woke this morning to the news that Britian has withdrawn from the European Union and to the continuing news that America is strongly divided on the issue of immigration. A group of Brits, and Americans, want the “strangers” out. There is a growing, angry voice in our nation and our world advocating a new nationalism and a renewed political and social isolationism. This arises from a growing fear of the other, and with it comes the ubiquitous readvocacy of separation on the basis of nationality, belief, race and religion.

In my understanding of God, and Jesus, this trend is not Biblical, and it’s not Christian; it is political and it is worldly. God told Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” From the beginning, God has had an inclusive vision. Paul unabashedly taught the church in Ephesians 1, that God’s will is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Jesus was so open to including people outside his racial and religious circle that he was vehemently criticized, and yet he remained firm that his vision was to gather everyone he could at the banquet, to bring everyone under his wing, to save everyone he could. As a results, and getting this as they did, the early church was multi-ethnic and meta-national to the max because they followed Christ’s command to take the gospel to all nations. The early church overcame their own Jewish exclusivity and took the gospel world-wide. Thank God! In this way, they included us.

So why is there a strong, angry, anti-immigrant voice in America today? It is becuase the modern middle-class is shrinking, and it is fearful of losing its place, and it is mad. Things have changed, people have traveled, there are terrorists among us, we are afraid. We live in a not-brave new world, we live in the era of the  the stanger. To many the world seems and is more dangerous.

I somewhat understand this, but what  I don’t understand is how  Christians, God’s own people, those who have been included by God, lose our vision for what God is all about and join in separatist thinking. God is about salvation, God is about compassion — God is love. God is all about — he always has been — healing and saving anyone who would let him, and this isn’t limited to a particular class, to a certain race, to people of one religion or one nation. God cares for the alien, the stranger, the refugee, the citizen — all. Read the Bible. It says this.

If the people of the world come to our doorstep, if we mingle with the crowd, isn’t this an opportunity to love people who were once far off? Isn’t this an opportunity to fulfill the Great Comission? Have we forgotten Christ’s goal, his purpose and his passion to save, not condemn, the world? Yes, we need to be wise, yes we need to be careful, yes we need to protect the innocent, but yes too, we need to love all people as God does.

Our Chritianity needs to supersede our nationalism. Our mission needs to go beyond our politics and our love needs to quiet our anger and our fears. The Christian calling is to move among the crowd, to connect with people from all backgrounds and to join God’s gorgeous, excited passion to unite all things possible in Christ.  Our Christain dream, our Christian vision — it is for unification, not separation.

Recently, my office manger, Tasia, and I were chatting in my office when we looked over at the couch and saw a giant cockroach sitting there, watching us.

Apparently he had come in for counseling. We have said the door of REFINERY Church is open to everyone.

What to do with this expectant cockroach?

Tasia went to the supply closet, got out a can of the aerosol spray used to dust off computer keyboards, turned it upside down so that only the cold aerosol would come up and fired it off at our en-couched counselee.

He turned white; he was literally white, with frost — frozen. We put his little frozen body in the trash.

Tasia  — or as I now think of now, Elsa, the ice queen — retell the story and just laugh.Why did God make cockroaches anyway, in such numbers? It has been noted that he seems to have an “inordinate fondness for beetles.”

Maybe he gets a laugh out of watching our reaction to them.

Which brings up the question: Is God funny? Does God have a sense of humor? Did he laugh,  when he made cockroaches, when he made us?

Alfred North Whitehead, the esteemed British mathematician, logician and philosopher once wrote, “the total absence of humour in the Bible is one of the most singular things in all of literature”

Alfred was wrong. The Bible is full of humor.

Maybe it was Alfred who wasn’t funny.

Humor is fundamental to God’s character.

In the Bible we see God engaging in an abundance of wit, sarcasm and irony. The Old Testament is full of funny stories and crazy situations.

A woman who has gets pregnant at 90, a country overrun by frogs, a donkey that talks, a prophet barfed up by a whale — the Bible is funny

Ecclesiastes 3:4 confirms humor’s esteemed place in God’s design saying, There is a “a time to laugh …”

The Bible weeps; it also laughs. God takes time to laugh.

To see God’s humor, begin at the beginning. Creatures are the first proof that God laughs.

The Pygmy Seahorse, the Blob fish, the Aye-Aye, us — you can’t look at some of the faces of creation, and not think God has a sense of humor.

Think of how he must chuckle, guffaw, even howl over you and me.

Secondly, God’s humor shows surprising enough, shows up in his discipline of us, his designer corrections to get us back on track.

The great theme of the Bible is that God loves people, and that after they are lost from him, he will do anything to get them back.

So God engages in ironic correction. We may be corrected in the same way we sinned.

At the command of the Pharaoh, the Egyptians drown the Hebrew children in the Nile, but Moses is spared and then God drowns the Egyptians in the Red sea.

Take that.

Haman, the villain in the book of Esther, builds a gallows for a good man name Mordecai, and then when Haman’s evil is exposed, he is hung on his own execution machine.

God corrects with ironic solutions, he defeats with mocking punishments, and He leads his sweet ones back to himself with wry tactics.

The Israelites whine in the desert that the manna he gave them was not enough. They demand meat from God, and so he gives them meat until it is coming out of their noses. They get so much meat it makes them sick.

Beware what you want. God might give you that, and that ironically will be your correction.

Psalm 37 reports,  “The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs … for he sees that their day [the day of the ironic lesson) is coming.”

The divine sardonic chuckle — you want to live in such a way that you don’t hear that.

Take for instance, the day I shot my older brother Steve. It was his divinely ordained correction.

I aimed the gun, squeezed the trigger, and fired.

Now what you need to know is that he  asked for it. Literally. He said: ” I wonder what it feels like to be shot with a BB gun.”

“Let’s find out,” I said. “I’ll shoot.”

So by plan, I aimed at his blue-jeaned butt. But the shot carried high, guided, I’d say, by the hand of God, and hit him square in the middle of the back — which was to me divine punishment for all the times he had hit me and tortured me.

So there you have it. The ironic wrath of God on my brother. I myself witnesses it, and then I started running.

I heard his footsteps behind me. I believe he wanted to thank me. But I was humble, and wanted no credit, and I kept running.

So,  we see God’s humor in the creation (the blob fish; we see his humor in his discipline, (my brother) and thirdly we see God’s humor in his delight in us.

Zephaniah 3:17, “He will take great delight in you … he will rejoice over you with singing.”

God laughs in a happy, appreciative, celebratory way over us.

Consider Genesis 18:10, where God informs Abraham (who is about 100 years old) and Sarah (who is about 90) that they will have a son by “this time next year.”

God must have gotten a kick out of that announcement.

And they sure did. When Sarah is told, she openly laughs. Hebrews says at this point, Abraham was “as good as dead.”

Sarah was thinking, if we do it, at this age, the old guy will probably have a heart attack, and she laughs, and God’s laughs with her, because this is ridiculous and delightful and crazy  and good.

Sex, at 100, and a baby — they all laugh and God with them.

Zephaniah 3:17. He will take great delight in you.

God is not a far off, uptight, angry, he is not a humorless tyrant. God is funny, he is clever, he is wry, he has tricks up his sleeve.

His humor draws us close to him.

How could we ever relate to a stern, humorless patrician-God who never jokes around?

But a funny God who tells his man Abraham to name his soon-to-be-born son, Isaac, or in Hebrew, Yit-zhak — because that Hebrew word means laughed, that we can relate to.

Laughter — it is divine, it is so good for us.

Poking fun, is a way of dealing with brokenness, normalizing difficulty, a way of coping.

What are you upset about? Try laughing at it.

The Bible says a merry heart is good like a medicine. Humor is the antidote of life. It is God’s survival medicine.

Ever wonder what heaven will be like? The disciples wanted to sit by Jesus, at his right hand. That would scare the heck out of me. What would I say? What if Iused the wrong fork, or language, at dinner.

Besides, sitting around the throne, listening to harp music, I prefer electric guitars. I think Jesus might too.

In heaven I think, I’ll be down at the river with the other people who barely got in, partying and telling jokes and laughing hilariously and whooping it up.

And perhaps the serious ones, around the throne, will cast an envious eye toward us, that wild bunch, down at the river and want to come down.

It is a great mystery. It is a great mystery of the OT.

We live within the mystery of a God who laughs and sings and hoots and hollers over us, and when we too laugh, this brings us closer to God.


All Solomon’s work was carried out, from the day the foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid until its completion. So the temple of the LORD was finished.

2 Chronicles 8:16

One of the privileges I have had over the last few years is to restore and build  the REFINERY Church in Chula Vista, California. It’s been a lot of team work, a lot of stress and a lot of fun. It has also provided me some interesting emotions.

I think that I have a  sense of what Solomon must have felt when he built the temple. My team and I are building the temple, and we are building a courtyard not so different in size from what Solomon and the Jewish people constructed.

Our stone layers recently finished putting down  pavers in the walkways in our new courtyard. For an outstanding price, given because this is a church, they laid down stone pavers and stone walls with stone caps in lovely earth tones of dark brown and charcoal gray.  It’s gorgeous work, fitting for a king. We paid about $13,000. The work is worth more like $18,000, but the contractor donated to the project. Afterall, it was for God. When I stand back and look at it, I feel satisfied.

At the front ot the courtyard are two beautiful iron gates, each worth over $4000. We paid $1250 for each. The metal worker made them far beyond our expectations and beyond his too. As he began the work, using some light iron pieces, he felt that God said to him, “This isn’t good enough. For my house the metal should be the best.”

And so he put asside the iron, and selected the best he had, and built out of that. Our God is a God who calls us to art and beauty and when we create he comes along side of us and inspires greatness. I stand back and look at the gates in our church courtyard. I am very pleasantly surprised.

A friend who sells electrical lighting came by to see our work in the courtyard recently. He was thrilled, so much so that the said he wanted to help light the courtyard. He asked us to pick out the decorative lighting we wanted. We have expensive tastes. It cost almost $1,000. He picked out the LED floodlights to light it at night. He selected the best for the applicaton, then he had all the lights installed. The bill for everything came to $3,200. He paid it. I feel grateful.

Satisfied, suprised, grateful — these are temple building emotions. Solomon must have felt them. I do. So also the builders who contributed to the poject. They are good feelings.

If you want to feel these things too, then I suggest that you go build something for God.

“Say, “Thank you.'”

We have all been told or said that, or some variation of it, “You could a least say, ‘Thank you,'” or “Aren’t you going to say “Thank you?””

In modern American culture, such “Thank you’s” are protocol; they are our appreciation cliches. They are ubiquitous, often perfunctory.

Yesterday at the store the checkout my clerk thanked me for shopping at her store. I thanked her for serving me.

Verbal ettiquite is rote, a tote, a quick vote, but that’s okay. Our light-weight apprreciations are perhaps tributes to our aspirations for cultural nobility, perhaps small island-hops in our perpetual flight from selfishness.

But there is present in life a deeper gratefulness, a profonde gratitude, a heart-felt appreciation, which arises from within, which comes out of surprising places and has a substantial mooring in our souls.

Lately I have experienced deep gratitude.

I am at loss for words.

Repayment is impossible. The words “Thank you!” are in no way adequate. I have no eloquence for this, I have no thank you gift for this. I suffer gratitude paralysis; I can do nothing to properly say, “Thank you.”  I will never have anything that can adequately convey appropriate gratitude.

For what?

For God!

God has been so good to me and my family. He has approached us with such gentleness. He has lavished us with such love. And He has softly redeemed our personal brokenness, saved our self-inflicted and our others-inflicted lostness, gentled our unique brand of fragility.

You have no idea.

Many are offended by God, his allowance of suffering, his seeming distance from us in times of need, his standards, his judgments, his absence.

I am not. Certainly I get it. I too suffer over the many unexplained injustices of life, the horrible suffering, the mysteries of our failures and successes, and yet in God’s own way, in his own time, as he has seen fit, He has very uniquely proven his love for me lately, and for my family and my friends again and again and again.

Things have happened to work things out, to create new realities, to take care of old needs, to give us new peace, to bond us to each other and to others, to create hope.

I am dumbstruck. I have no gratitude cliches. This is very personal, between God and me, a very, very deep gratitude.



Ahhh …

There is a definite spacio-temporal aura about the thing — nothing overly metaphysic — the very early-quiet morning, the women moving together wordlessly, the absence of so very many perhaps-expected others — the misty Mediterranean-like light.

And yet there is also a definitive recherche quality to the scene, the women standing in a half-dark with spices, present-uncomprehendingly, struck bewildered before a very empty tomb.

And then there is the interiority of it all — hidden and yet nonetheless real — the barrier falling softly through the floor of their reality, the new door opening for them on an entirely different existence, life picking up its feet, a new lift in its step, the world’s sociopathic intellect brightening, shy justice moving towards the front of the room, demure beauty blushing and touching her dark hair — and old, stupid, splenetic, soporific death falling over backward.

And therein is the laugh, the guffaw, the fall-out-of-your chair hilarity — the butt-kicking, power-excising, humility-making new order of all things.

This — this word-worthy, surd-sonant, ineffable-voluble totality, to me — this is knock-you-over delicious! This is flutter your heart gorgeous. This is nonpareil evocative. This is incipient reviviscence. This is our God, re-initiating life on earth.

This is nothing less than the resurrection of God from the dead!

Take that!

“Look at you,” I said, “Joseph, the carpenter.”

“Do you know why I do this?” he asked me looking up from his logs and sticks.

“No, why?” I asked. As I was thinking of why someone might do this, in that moment I was surprised by his answer.

“I do this for God,” he said, with a little water in his eyes. “He gave me back my life, and so I do this is for him.”

His answer wasn’t cliched, nor was it said for any effect. It was one of those moments when the sincerity of the person, their honest core breaks through on you as a touching, moving, authentic force.

He looked down at the manger he was building for the Christmas Eve service at the church.

I felt suddenly as if in the presence of a sage.

“People say to me, ‘You did this and you did that'” he said, “but that’s not why I do this. It gives me a really simple, good feeling when I am here, working alone, doing this for God.

Colossians 3:23 came to mind, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”

In that moment I felt an odd but familiar feeling — realigned, brought back to focus, corrected.