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.