we're not doing anyone any good.

overheard online today:

I ask people in member interviews, "Tell me about your relationship with unbelievers." And almost constantly, I hear, "I don't necessarily try to preach the gospel all the time. I just want my life to be my testimony. I just want to share my life with people." You know what, y'all? Our lives are a mess! And when we share our lives with people--without sharing the grace of God that rescues us--we're not doing anybody any good. We're not!

--Mike Cosper, Sojourn Community Church, December 27 2009--

oh, what great joy and freedom we have, that the work of redemption is not something we must do, but something which we can partake of. that's good news.


christmas evening thoughts

i really love giving gifts. specifically, i really love giving the right gift ... i really love it when i know someone well enough to give them the perfect gift--something they don't already have, something they wouldn't think to get for themselves, but something that they now can't imagine not having.

the problem of being a gift-giving-lover is that i often end up giving a LOT more gifts than i receive. that isn't necessarily a problem, but it creates a situation that reveals a problem in my heart: jealousy, a sense of entitlement, and material idolatry.

i prepare myself for it every year -- because, caught unaware, these little attitude problems become even uglier. but they are irrepressible, even if i'm the only one who knows it.

it starts with counting the boxes. then it moves on to comparing the value (monetary and sentimental) of the gifts i've given with the gifts i've received. soon i have a sinking feeling, a true knot in the pit of my stomach, a mixture of feeling unloved and unknown, feeling like i deserve something more, and then, of course, feeling appalled at such self-centered pride.

their gifts from me were so carefully and thoughtfully selected, because i love them. their joy in opening their gift gave me joy, too. the time and energy and money was totally worth it. why do i suddenly feel so empty, then, when the sentiment isn't returned?

i want to be loved, cherished, known. i want to be known. i want to be cared for. i want to be worth it.

there is an almighty God, creator of the heavens and the earth and all that they contain, Who became flesh and bone, Who released His hold on His rights as God, so that He could know, really and truely and honestly know what it is to be human ... to be me. He gave up everything He was, everything He had, to be born a baby, so that He could know me, and you, and us ... so that He could be with us.

there is no more perfect, or costly, or desperately needed gift to be found on this--and all--Christmas days.

and now here i am. may i live in such a way that i return the sentiment. and may He know my love is real even when i don't.



the other day i was talking with a good friend and co-worker about the ways that sin still manifests itself in our lives. which it does, much as i'd like to pretend it doesn't.

i'm a community-lover. ENFP, energized by being around people. i feel inspired and alive when i'm interacting with other people, most especially those with whom i am similarly impassioned.

but in my rebellion against God and His ways (which, in my life, is characterized by stubbornness and control-freak-ish-ness), i work myself into a frenzy trying to sqeeze too much stuff into too few hours. i take on more than i can possibly do, nevermind what i could do well, and i find myself over-stimulated and overwhelmed.

so i withdraw.

fall back. buckle under pressure. isolate. depress.

instead of seeking first the source of life, i block out as many voices as possible (including God's) and try to forcibly stop the barrage. i don't return phone calls or emails. i don't communicate in a timely fashion with the people who need to know. i cancel plans. i don't show up. and i quit praying, reading, dwelling, worshipping. rebellion by apathy and laziness.

but what sucks is that even though it's quieter, it's not any more peaceful. my soul is not at rest. i still feel the pressure and the pull. i still can't manage.

it's because withdrawal is not the same as rest. withdrawn means "removed from circulation, removed from contact." it's like a foot that's fallen asleep: useless, numb, disconnected. when i remove myself from circulation, i may not have as much input to deal with, but i'm also not going to live very long. what good is it to have respite from the pressures of life if it makes you completely numb? i become ineffective and useless, a dead weight.

yes, i am overcommitted. yes, i have a problem with squandering my time. but the solution is not just to quit and withdraw, to disconnect myself from the time-suckers. the answer is to prioritize better, and to choose actively the things that are worthy of my attention and investment, the things that are life-giving and God-glorifying, and to actively reject the things which are not.

but only to withdraw is simply more rebellion. it's not living.


i'm not exactly a huge fan of the prosperity gospel. in fact, i really quite abhor it. but i also relish the blessings of God when they come upon me ... and the other day, i realized that while the prosperity gospel isn't true, it is true that blessing follows obedience ... because the blessing is in the obedience.

so the prosperity gospel says, "have a big enough faith, do big enough good works, and you will earn the favor of God, and He will bless you richly in return."

essentially, it's the attitude of, if i obey God, it will earn the the riches of a prosperous life. God will give me what is due to me because of my good behavior.

definitely not true. love, blessings, grace, favor ... all unconditional with God.

but here is the truth: God's way is good. God's way is true. God knows more about the human condition than even we who are bound by it: He created it. God's commands are full of wisdom and gracious truth for us; He sees the big picture. so in any circumstance of this life, God already knows and understands it more than we ever could. His comprehension of the most intimate details of our troubled situations is profound.

so when we follow in His way, when we are obedient to His commands, it will go well for us. we are walking in God's way, the way of truth and goodness and love and reconciliation and redemption and salvation and unity and peace and glory and grace. if we obey Him, we will see all of those things come to fruition in our lives, eternally and even occasionally on earth. the Kingdom is coming, and the Kingdom is here.

the blessing is in the obedience. We are blessed, not because we've earned it with legalism, not because our faith was be enough and we're getting the reward due to us for such a faith, but because we are lving God's way, in God's Kingdom, and God is completely GOOD ... how could it possibly go poorly for us, then? It may not be the health, wealth, or prosperity blessing that some seek after as their highest good, but it will be even better. God is giving us Himself, for eternity, when we go His way.

We are going God's way, and it will go well.


and what is more beautiful than redemption?

beauty itself is the language to which we have no key; it is the mute cipher, the cryptogram, the uncracked, unbroken code.

--annie dillard, pilgrim at tinker creek--


quick said the bird

as in, the amazing and talented group of friends with whom i have the pleasure of playing with on a regular basis (yes, my band).

Quick Said the Bird - The Advocate from Andy J Miller on Vimeo.

it's about 20 minutes, and it's our regular full set minus one song. check it.


a question.

how is it that i can care so much about things that are of so little consequence?

the things that really matter to me profoundly, on a permanent and eternal level, get only as much (or less!) devotion and attention than the things that are impermanent and utterly temporary. and worse yet, i will spend so much time and energy on things that are draining and nearly soul-sucking, but will give only the 'leftover' time to the things that are life-giving and spiritually energizing.

i think it has something to do with buying into lies ...

i need to start taking some thoughts captive and putting them into obedience under Christ. i need to stop the lies in their tracks and replace them with truth. and i think i need to start taking my schedule captive and putting it into obedience under Christ.

any advice?


there is more, more than all this pain.

andrew peterson's album "the far country" has been on continuous and heavy rotation in my car's cd player. it is a very road-worthy album, after all. with or without the shuffle.

this sunday i shared some of the lyrics from the final track, "more" with the congregation before worship. and i hope to play it for them some day, too. so this morning i tried to learn it. but i couldn't find the chords anywhere online.

so here they are, for posterity's sake: the chords for andrew peterson's more. someone more ambitious than i can tab out the picking, but if you play these chords in some formation, you can prety well figure it out :)

Capo 2 (play in C, sounds in D)

Intro: | C - - - | F - - - | Am - G - | F - - - |


This is not the end here at this grave

Am G F
This is just a hole that someone made

Every hole was made to fill
G Em F C

And every heart can feel it still

Our nature hates a vacuum

This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain

There is more, More than all this pain
E7 Am

More than all the falling down

And the getting up again

There is more, More than we can see
E7 Am

From our tiny vantage point

In this vast eternity
C (Intro)

There is more

A thing resounds when it rings true
Ringing all the bells inside of you
Like a golden sky on a summer eve
Your heart is tugging at your sleeve
And you cannot say why
There must be more


There is more
More than we can stand
Standing in the glory
Of a love that never ends
There is more
More than we can guess
More and more, forever more
And not a second less

There is more than what the naked eye can see
Clothing all our days with mystery
Watching over everything
Wilder than our wildest dreams
Could ever dream to be
There is more


well, the secret o' life

...is enjoying the passage of time.

thank you, james. but for me, the secret is something of a practice in sustainablity. and quite honestly, i kind of suck at it. i seem to be constantly caught in the cycle of starting strong, then taking on a little too much, then starting to lose steam, then getting overwhelmed, then freaking out or melting down, then quitting entirely, then picking up the pieces to start fresh and strong. this whole cycle can happen in five minutes or five years ... or both. over-committment is a chronic problem for me, and even though i know i need to stop, i somehow always get suckered into it unwittingly.

in some ways, it's as if i'm waiting for something huge to happen so that i'll be forced to stop this craziness. but the problem with that is that i am somehow already 24 years old, and i'm not even sure how that happened. if i wait too much longer, i'll blink, and my life will have gone with nary a change for the better.

so what's the deal? what's the fix? what's the catalyst? how do i get to the other side, where life runs at a sustainable pace and i'm not pouring the sanity out of my head faster than the coffee flows at starbucks?

i could change jobs. i could change finances. i could regulate my housekeeping. i could keep a stricter calendar and limit the infringments. i could make rules about sleeping and eating and working and socializing. i could curb bad habits and perforce form good ones.

but i've tried all that. and it doesn't sustain.

see, i already know the solution to my problem, i just [still] suck at living it out: the only life that is sustainable is the life that is sustained by its Creator.

moment by moment, day by day, week by month by year by life by eternity. because that's the truth of it, isn't it? if every decision were made in light of eternity, every moment lived in light of eternity, i wouldn't have any of this sustainable-pace-of-life problem. if i weren't filled with the pride of self-sustenance, i would be humble enough to receive the life-giving provision of God.

well, it's a good thing that nothing is beyond redemption. apparently i'm still very much in need ....

o Lord, that you would renew my mind, and captivate my heart, and cleanse me within, and be all my vision and all my hope and all my strength, and teach me Your ways, and lavish me with love, and put my faith to works, and grant me a greater measure of faith, and open Your hand to satisfy and sustain, and save me by grace, and sanctify me by grace, and abide in me as i in You, and reveal all the hidden secrets of You, and grant me a measure of wisdom, and sustain me, Lord. sustain me with Your great love.


man, this is GOOD

that thought overwhelmed me today as i traversed the state of indiana (long-ways) and listened to andrew peterson's "behold the lamb of god" cd. yes, the album is good, but what was thinking of was the gospel.

it's so good. such good news. amazingly good. unbelievably good. in fact, it's the best ever. nothing so good could ever happen in my life that it would be better than the goodness of Jesus.

behold the Lamb of God
who takes away our sin

behold the Lamb of God
the life and light of man
behold the Lamb of God
who died and rose again
behold the Lamb of God
who comes to take away our sin.

nothing tonight that is 'profound' or 'groundbreaking' ... just good and true. behold; the Lamb of God ... behold ...

my mind may fail me, and probably will long before i have the good excuse of old age. but if i must know anything, it would be good for me to remember that i am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.


be not mis-taken:

the only mistake for which a man is unequivocally required to pay is the mistake of refusing Christ. if he finds himself paying for any other mistake, it is by his own choice, not by requirement. but if he is forced to pay for the lone and grievous one of refusing pardon, oh what a price it is that he will pay.



my rebellious bent is really quite profound.

yep, i adopted a new format for my blog. the number one reason? a bunch of my friends had picked the same theme. and i am a stickler when it comes to being unique.

so i picked a theme that had the MOST options to change. background colors, font colors, link colors, font type and size, border color .... etc. so now i can rest assured that, although it may be similar to another, it's no longer identical.

my stubborn streak runs deep.

i will be the anomaly. i will be the superlative.

knowing how stubborn and rebellious i am, let's just be honest about something: legalism wasn't such a horrible thing for me. i mean, yeah, i didn't like authority and i didn't like the rules ... so it was one of the only ways to keep me in check. it gave me credibility, a kind of righteousness. you know, the self- kind.

and then a funny little thing happened. just as it does with anything it encounters, the unfathomable depths of God's grace wrecked my legalism all to hell. propriety was out the window. judgmental people were now so clearly below my esteemed heights of grace, i was 'free' to do as i pleased.

no more plagues of a guilty conscience. no longer a slave to the opinions of my peers.

but no more happy than before.

this is the no-mans-land between legalism and holy desire. this is the desert of forty years duress where we are stripped of self-righteous legalism but also of self-preserving freedom and self-promoting pride. this is land where every ounce of character and fortitude is laid bare for all to see. where is the strength of faith to be found? only one source can conquer such a place and lead us out still whole.

i came to see that salvation was by grace alone, and this released me from legalism. but now it is time to see that even sanctification is by grace alone, and so be released from indulgent freedom. for He is the author of our faith, and He is the perfecter of our faith. i am not any longer a naughty child in need of a spanking to induce legal obedience. but i am a weary sojourner in need of the fiery desire that induces reckless pursuit. my endurance has proven weak and my fortitude small and my character meager, for they were built on the crumbling foundations of a self-made 'good christian life.' but there is yet hope. the old house was built in vain; but it is the Lord who builds anew. and what He builds will not quickly fall.

so for now i'll learn to walk (ever forward) through this strange land between legalism and holy desire, being diligent not just to meet the requirements, but also to serve the heart of the One who authored them for me in His infinite love and wisdom, even to bring me nearer to Himself.


truth that is truth is easy to find.

half-price books is a great delight of mine. today, after taking glorious and guiltless advantage of their 20%-off-everything-memorial-day-sale, i exclaimed to christopher that they have utterly RUINED me for the regular bookstore. from this time on and henceforth forever more, never shall i be found paying $14.95 for that particular paperback i've been eyeing. oh what wondrous joy is to be found in their isles!

today, for example, i acquired: a gensis CD, a jeff buckley CD, three annie dillard books, a bob dylan documentary, "the elephant," "stranger than fiction," and "until the devil knows you're dead" ... for $40.

what a glorious day today!

so tonight, i reheated some delicious leftover chicken casserole and popped in "stranger than fiction."

i came to a stunning realization. (stunning to me, anyway.)

the beauty of the gospel can be found everywhere, BECAUSE it is true. it is no contrived effort of human imagination. it is true, and as such, it is everywhere...

in the past, whenever the theme of some work seems to have echos of biblical proportions, my first thought is, "this writer must be a covert christian with a subtle evangelistic bent. i will google their bio to find out more."

but today, as i watched a story unfold with erie whispers of the goodness of Christ, i began to wonder if maybe this perfectly arranged tale of willing self-sacrifice was not so much arranged but actually intuited. maybe the storyteller is so naturally drawn to that story because even the frailest of human hearts was created to hear it.

maybe the screenwriter has stumbled so perfectly into a biblical allegory only because of the vibrant truth that such an allegory upholds.

in the end, is it not so that truth (if it be truth) should be found everywhere?

and so harold crick goes willingly to his death, knowing how and when and why, forsaking his own (and new found) good life, so that the life of another be spared and so that the good and perfect will of his author be fulfilled. and once the work is accomplished by his compliance, the author resurrects him, so as to write a completely new and better story.

i mean, really?! it's a wonder God's not suing for plagiarism of original intellectual material. i guess it's a good thing that the truth is public domain, right derek? that means we can find it everywhere ... even those of us who aren't even looking for it.

it beats in our veins. it arises in our thoughts. it takes over our literature, music, and movies. it's truth. it's inescapable.

i wouldn't have it any other way.


i do not nullify the grace of God.

when it comes down to the question of the might of the Lord, i will always choose the way that makes Him mightier.

even if it means that the reach of my own arm or the potency of my own freewill is diminished. even if it means that there will be parts of God's character that i just don't understand. even if means that the fall (and subsequent redemption) were not plan B, but God's original intent.

i will not follow a God who's power is no greater than mine. i will not follow a God who has been made in my image, made to my liking.

even if means being called out on my own faults. even if it means feeling awkward and embarrassed by conviction. even if it means coming face-t0-face with my utter inability.

because as soon as my God is small,
then my self-righteousness becomes BIG.

and what's the point of Jesus' death if i'm sufficient within myself? why did God offer His Son in my stead if i didn't really need it? if i am inherently good, and only my circumstances and society have corrupted me, then it's not really my fault, is it?

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.

we MUST continually elevate our view of God. this is of dire importance in the church. today, as i pleaded with my fellow believers to increase their view of God, i realized just how pathetically we cling to our control--which is little more than a temporary illusion, anyway. God desires us to have a WHOLE REVELATION of HIMSELF. that is our GREATEST good. and in order to have a whole revelation, we must know that He loves us when we are good and obedient, AND He loves us when we are not. God shows His love for us, in that while we were STILL SINNERS, still sinning, Christ died for us.

do not forsake the judgment of the old testament, because the message of salvation in the new testament means nothing without it. brothers, sisters, do not hide your pervasive sin. do not deny your ruining fall. do not ignore your profound corruption. for without it, you will miss the full revelation of God's nature and His work in your life.

this is the message that we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. if we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. if we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

*galatians 2, romans 5, 1 john 1


we're not making any progress.

bumper stickers fascinate me. i don't like tailgating people (or being tailgated, for that matter), but if you have colorful and pithy phrases affixed to the back of your car, i'm probably going to be closer than comfortable just for the sake of my own curiosity.

yesterday, while driving to work, i was delighted to spot an unfamiliar sticker on the bumper in front of me. as we approached the stoplight, i got up close enough to read:

when the power of love
overcomes the love of power
the world will know peace.

as i pulled up next to the sticker's owner, i wondered ...

...does he really believe that is possible?

i wanted to roll down my window and ask him, "so, do you think that some day the power of love really will overcome the love of power? do you think that we as humans are capable of reaching that point? do you think that you can do it individually? but what about everyone else? will there ever be a day when every human on the planet individually overcomes their own selfish desires, willfully and completely?"

see, i'm not a skeptic or a pessimist. but i am a realist. and the reality is, we're only getting worse. if true world peace were possible for us to achieve on our own, i think it would've happened before today. the population of the earth is only increasing, there are only more people and wars and genocides and altercations and standoffs and enslavements and abuses and evils to be reconciled.

we're not making any progress.

people have been trying for hundrends, maybe even thousands of years to make the world play nice and get along.


hmm. i wonder .... i wonder if there is a reason why.

perhaps it is because the only hope we have is not found within ourselves. perhaps it is because peace itself is a miracle, a divine work of Providence. perhaps it is because if i could fix it myself, i wouldn't know my own brokenness.

we can't do this alone.
we can't even do this together.
we can't afford to keep wasting our time trying and failing.

my flesh and my heart may fail,
but You are the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
for, behold, those who are far from You will perish,

You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
but as for me, the nearness of God is my good.
i have made the Lord God my refuge.

it may be pithy, and a little less 'inspirational,' but there's another bumper sticker that speaks a better word, a truer hope:

no Jesus, no peace.
know Jesus, know peace.


talk is cheap, but at what price?

i logged in to my AT&T account to check my bill for this month, and as i browsed the site, i made a startling discovery.

during the most recent one-month billing cycle, i made and received 270 phone calls, totaling 1746 minutes. not including 220 text messages. that means i spent 29.1 hours on the phone. about one hour each day. about ten phone calls each day.

maybe that doesn't sound startling to you. but i make a concerted effort to not be chained to my phone. i purposely bought the cheapest and smallest plan (but recently had to upgrade...). i've always opted for the free or cheapest phone (but last time, bought a bluetooth that i used twice...). i really don't feel like i use the phone for an hour every day.

which leads me to wonder how much time i spent last month watching tv? or on facebook? or reading blogs in my google reader? or checking email?

what did i talk about for 29 hours last month? ... i can remember a few things, and i really hope i don't spend an hour every day doing that.

but i know what i DIDN'T do for an hour every day last month:

talk to Jesus. renew my mind with scripture. speak of the glorious riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

my AT&T bill reveals a lot of things: phone calls, text messages, MB of info sent & received, rollover minutes used and accumulated, taxes, discounts, overages, and fees. and now, apparently, it also reveals the condition of my heart and the idols of my culture i have worshipped with my time and attention.

and apparently, with just a little apathy, i've bought in to the temporary things of this world a whole lot more than i ever intended to. and they are wonderfully cheap ... but it's not a price i'm willing to pay.


a generous theodicy

the⋅od⋅i⋅cy: a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness or justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.

this morning, i nodded along vigorously as i read prodigal jon's post on theodicy. hardly a week ago, i was discussing the story of Job with some friends, and honestly, he just might have copied-and-pasted those words from my mouth.

God is the same. our circumstances don't change His nature. do we view God through our comfort level, or do we view our life situations through God's nature? and the GOOD that He promises to give us will not always feel good. His good is greater and more good for us and for Him and His glory than any kind of good we could dream up for ourselves. when life starts to suck, we need a perspective change, not a new God.

yeah, yes, right on, i could go on with this stuff all day long!!

and then i opened up to jeremiah.

you have been a harlot
therefore the rain has been withheld
there has been no spring rain
now you call to Me
'my Father, You are my Friend!
'will You be angry forever?'
you have spoken
and have done evil things,
and you have had your way.

repent and mourn
circumcise your hearts
or else My wrath will go forth like fire
and burn with none to quench it
because of the evil of your deeds.

besiegers will come from a far country
and lift their voices against the cities of Judah.
like watchmen of a field they are against her round about,
because she has rebelled against Me, declares the Lord.
your ways and your deeds
have brought these things to you.
this is your evil. how bitter!
how it has touched your heart!

My people are foolish,
they know Me not;
they are stupid children
and have no understanding.
they are shrewd to do evil,
but to do good they do not know.

we could take it right back to the farming analogy: we reap what we have sown.

sometimes, crappy things happen in and around our lives because of other people's sin. sometimes, it's just because this world is fallen and our enemy is still roaming about with power to do heinous things just for his sick pleasure. sometimes, difficult circumstances might actually be the design of the Divine, providentially provided to bring us the greatest good -- nearness to Him. but there are times -- not always, but there are -- when our crappy life circumstances are the direct result and consequence of our own sin and depravity.

which calls for brokenness and repentance ...

if you will return, O Israel, declares the Lord,
then you should return to Me.
and if you will put away your detested things from My presence,
and will not waver,
and you will swear, 'As the Lord lives,'
in truth, in justice and in righteousness;
then the nations will bless themselves in Him,
and in Him they will glory.

break up your fallow ground
do not sow among thorns.
circumcise yourselves to the Lord
and remove the foreskins of your heart,
men of Judah, people of Jerusalem.

a lion has gone up,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone from his place
to make your land a waste.
your cities will be ruined
without inhabitant.
for this, put on sackcloth,
lament and wail;
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned back from us.

wash your heart form evil, O Jerusalem,
that you may be saved.


or, like Jesus said ...

bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

christians do a lot of crazy things in the face of difficulties. we cry out, 'woe is me! God has forsaken me!' we bolster our faith with pithy verses, 'God will not give me more than i can handle.' we run away. we give up. we press on out of sheer determination and force of will, with or without faith. we ignore our nagging doubts that trials have given cause to rise, or we indulge them to the point of apostasy. we allow jealousy to take root, coveting the 'easier' lives of others. we cling to the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven, where there will be no more tears.

but how often do we repent?

even Job repented, and i'm not entirely sure what his sin was.

except that he was human.

then Job answered the Lord and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know
Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
but now my eye sees You;
therefore I retract,
and I repent in dust and ashes."

yeah, i don't necessarily have any conclusions on this. but it's a thought, nonetheless.

now let us bear fruit in keeping with repentance.


the hippopotamus

by t. s. eliot, 1920

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.

THE BROAD-BACKED hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail, 5
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends, 10
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The ’potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach 15
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God. 20

The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way—
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the ’potamus take wing 25
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold, 30
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below 35
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

hmmm. maybe chronic humanity isn't so bad.


oh, louisville. now you've got me good and mad ....

so the week i moved in to my apartment just happened to be the same weekend of the St. James Art Fair. yes, for one whole weekend, thursday through sunday, our friendly neighborhood LMPD (louisville metro police department) blocks off several city blocks in the middle of old louisville (just south of downtown). there's a giant art festival, and vendors set up tents all along the streets that have been blocked off.

yes, right in front of HUNdreds of apartment buildings.

of course, my street was not blocked, but parking was prohibited. which means essentially the same thing.

but louisville, i forgave you for that. it was a small area, it was a long-standing tradition, it didn't make traffic bad, it just made it very difficult to find parking at my house where i LIVE. and you gave me a really shady ticket, which i never paid after mulitple attempts at logging the ticket number in online failed.

but tonight .... tonight, louisville, i think you and i are through with the niceties. you have put the nail in your coffin.

because of thunder.

that's right: thunder over louisville.

i just spent ALL day getting ready for and playing in and celebrating the wedding of some good friends. at 10 pm, i get in my car and drive two hours to louisville. thunder has been over for awhile. the bridge is no longer blocked. so i proceed on my merry way, seeing the northbound lanes full of traffic but my southbound lane wide open. i see my exit. it's not full of cars. i pull into the exit lane.

BLOCKED. by a police SUV.

so i decide to take the next available exit. which is, of course, in the middle of a dense traffic jam.

i get off the exit, but all streets which normally go two ways are now ALL one-way southbound. since my FIRST exit, NORTH of my house, was blocked, i now am SOUTH of my house and i need to travel NORTH.



after making a HUGE circle all the way around three sides of my block, and seeing my starbucks, i finally begin to make some progress up 4th street.

a mere 5 blocks up, it's blocked off.

i ask a nearby policeman if there are ANY northbound streets.


"so you're telling me there's NO WAY for me to get to my house at 4th and hill?"


"for the next hour and a half?"


wow. thanks for the help, you civil servant you.

then i hear something on his walkie talkie about some street being opened up for northbound traffic. i wait for him to inform me of this .... he just stares.

thunder over louisville has ushered in something new: my RAGE over louisville.

i would put MONEY on the fact that a good 1/3 of the cars stuck in traffic were meandering aimlessly (at a ridiculously slow pace) on roads they DIDN'T need to be congesting further just because all the roads were either blocked entirely or had become one-way southbound. if the roads had been allowed to keep their normal purpose, the people who were trying to leave downtown would be stuck in traffic. the people who had CHOSEN to go to the event would be reaping the consequences. instead, i sat in traffic for over an hour, i THINK i got rear-ended when i was trying to cross a street w/ no light and no traffic director and endless cross-traffic and a car behind me beeping endlessly, i couldn't find a parking spot by my house, and i had to carry my violin, guitar, and luggage from this weekend two blocks to my house. and i didn't even get to GO TO THUNDER IN THE FIRST PLACE.

i have NEVER in all my life seen a city handle such an event and such a traffic situation with such profound stupidity. not one bit of it made sense. unnecessary blockages and very confusing re-routing.

SOMEone, in SOME government office in louisville, IS going to have to deal with me and all my wrath. there is just no reason that thousands of people should be completely blocked from getting to THEIR OWN HOUSES. no reason whatsoever.


good friday, and all will be well

most of the progress i have made in my life has been in fits and starts. consistency is a characteristic that i deeply desire and highly value in myself and in others, and yet the only thing consistent about me is that i'm not.

which means that today, as i remember the cross, as i cry out for deliverance, as i dwell in the darkness of this world ... there is room in me for the good news of Good Friday.

tell me, oh death, where is your sting? you may try to encircle me with the thorns of sin, but i have been set free today. the futility of this world is passing away. the encumbrance of my failure is passing away. the frustration of my inconsistency is passing away.


follow Christ to the holy mountain
sinners sorry and wrecked by the fall
cleanse your heart and soul
in the fountain that flows
for you, and for me, and for all

at the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
on the beautiful, scandalous night, you and me
we're atoned by His blood and forever washed white
on the beautiful, scandalous night


some things never change.

in fact, MOST things never change.

so i am grateful for grace that is inexhaustible. eternity has been ringing in my heart today, and i have a deep yearning to practice it even today. i desire to dwell ... dwell in the presence of God. rest. enjoy. not be such a frantic mess of a human being.

o, that You would still the unquenchable restlessness in my soul ...



i visited sojourn last night for the first time. it's a church that i heard a lot about when i first moved to louisville, but seeing as how my job is also my church, it's been a little difficult to make it a priority to visit other churches. last night, however, i had finally gotten to the point of realizing that it's definitely OK to seek out similarly-aged, similarly-minded people in a life stage similar to me. and it's been a little slow in the going thus far, so i figured it was time to expedite the process.

it was really, really, really nice.

it was kind of like coming home ... in terms of the building, the people, the music, the pastor, and the service, it really felt like common ground, which was my church home for 5 years. and i realized that, even though i really do LOVE my job and i LOVE the community at park place, it's not what i would pick for myself. ministry doesn't always let us be where we want to be. that's why it's called ministry ... it's not just for you. it's for you to minister for others. and i love that.

but it's OK to need to receive sometimes. it's OK to need to be able to sit in a congregation of people who love the Lord and sing praises with the band without having to BE the band and read liturgy with the pastor without having written it earlier in the week. it's OK to need to be able to sit a listen and receive teaching from the Word of God without worrying and thinking the whole time about how the closing song is going to go.

it's not that i don't love what i do -- because i love it! i love it so much ... but i'm not super-human. i'm not perfect. i'm not inexhaustible. i'm not self-filling.

and last night, i realized just HOW human, imperfect, exhausted, and empty i've let myself become. it was good to be in the presence of God in the Body of Christ with no expectations on me ... it was refreshing.

and i'm beginning to think i could love louisville.


of home and horizons.

i'm discovering in this season of life that my horizons do not expand so much in leaps and bounds, like some monumental overhaul, but in inches and moments, in subtle changes that happen day by day. when i begin something new, the novelty soon wears away as i find my place and grow accustomed to my surroundings. and suddenly, without any apparent warning, my former life (which i had been, at one point, rather accustomed to) is like a foreign land. making a return trip is at once disappointing and releasing for me. of course there is the melancholy of realizing that the joys of that time are gone forever, but there is also the freedom it gives, allowing me to embrace the whole of my new life, with all of its joys and stresses and complexities.

it's true, you can't go home again. and that's why you build a new one.