Tuesday, December 15, 2009

“In a telescope lens, and when all you want is friends” (Or, I Miss You)

“My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

I cannot imagine the hell it must be to be separated from God. Christ experienced it on the cross so that I do not have to, but I cannot comprehend the agony that must have been in that moment as Jesus screamed from the cross.

“Absence makes the heart grow weathered, but fonder still.”
– Copeland

Missing a person is a curious thing. You can miss a person for a lot of reasons. Perhaps they have died. Or maybe you no longer live near them. Maybe something has altered your relationship – a breakup, a division, a betrayal. Or maybe, the busyness of life has caused the separation.

I miss you.

What does that really mean? We all instinctively know what is intended by the phrase. But it is not so easy for me to describe its meaning. It feels bad. Yet, it is attached to good feelings. Or, at least, good memories.

I think that if I miss someone it reveals some things.

Affection and fondness.

Delight in that person’s company.

A sense of attachment. An attachment that is very particular and specific.

A dislike of separation.

A dislike for my lack of sovereignty.

Missing someone betrays our desire for significant relationships. We like to live out life with people. Really, we like to live out life with certain people.

What is the proper response to missing someone? I struggle to figure it out. In some cases, depending on why I miss the person, I can remedy the situation with a little action. A phone call. A letter. A visit. A trip.

In other cases, there does not seem to be any steps to be taken. You just miss a person and know you cannot do anything about it. Perhaps time seems to numb the feeling. However, as soon as you think it is past, a scent or a scene or a song can bring the emotion rushing back with the flood of memories.

I once heard Peter Kreeft talk about a baby in the womb. The baby has no idea what is coming. He does not know what the world outside holds. If the baby were to examine some things about himself, he would probably be kind of confused. Why a mouth and nose? They do not seem to be necessary. Legs? What purpose could they possibly serve?

There are things that are a part of a baby’s life in the womb that do not seem to make much sense for life in the womb. But they point to the life to come.

Kreeft was answering a question about suffering.

“Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

There is love in missing.

God is love and we are made in His image. Made for close relationships. Made to love and be loved.

In the Trinity I see affection and fondness. I see delight and pleasure in community. I see a sense, no, a real, no, the most real attachment. No separation. No lack of sovereignty.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
Holy wonder.

It fascinates me to miss someone. There is so much to be learned in it. The story of the world can be found in that one feeling.

I would not love were it not for a gracious Creator that made me to be in relationship with others.

I would not ache were it not for separation. A separation caused by sin. Whether death, conflict, or geography has caused the separation, it is a separation caused by the sin of our father Adam. And it is a separation caused by my sin

I could not hope for a restoration apart from the cross of Christ. As terrible as the feeling of missing someone feels, I will be eternally grateful to not have to experience separation from the Father. I am grateful for a Redeemer who is killing my sin.

I can look forward to the day when there is no opportunity to miss a person. No more separation. Just eternal glory.

Creation. Fall. Redemption. New Creation.

And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty.” 1 Samuel 20:17-18

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Post

"He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men... it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us."

Athanasius in On the Incarnation (probably my favorite 4th century bishop of Alexandria)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Worthwhile Examination of Modern Friendship

I read an article today that I believe is worth passing along.

It is about friendship and the way it has changed.

William Deresiewicz writes, “The idea of friendship in ancient times could not have been more different. Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Virgil's Nisus and Euryalus: Far from being ordinary and universal, friendship, for the ancients, was rare, precious, and hard-won.”

At one point, Deresiewicz traces part of the problem to the rise of Christianity. I understand his argument, though I think he is a bit off. Rather than the rise of Christianity being the issue, I am more inclined to think that the problem is that many Christians have missed the biblical emphasis on good friendships.

Scripture sees friendship as a gift from God. David could even exclaim that he found all his delight in other people (Psalm 16:3).

While I think Deresiewicz is slightly off at times, I think his article was spot on in its purpose. Take the time to read it. Take some time to reflect on it.

It just might make you rethink some things in your life. I know that it had that effect on me.

The article is found here. If you start it, I think you will finish it.

"Mother, Zeus may have done all this for me,

But how can I rejoice? My friend is dead,

Patroclus, my dearest friend of all. I loved him...

But I'm going now to find the man who destroyed

My beloved."

Achilles in Homer's Iliad

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I was recently sick (or Why Vomiting Reminded Me of Jesus)

During the earlier part of this week I had a stomach bug. In other words, I got sick and threw up a lot.

At about 10pm on Sunday I was feeling pretty queasy and I suspected that I may have caught the same bug that my visiting family had experienced a few days earlier. By midnight I was sitting next to the toilet making the observation that the stomach does not quickly digest carrots.

After the first visit to the bathroom, as I was lying in bed trying to figure out if it was easier to sleep curled up or on my back, I started thinking. And, oh man, I was doing some thinking.

I thought about how very violent the act of throwing up is. It’s terrible. It’s disgusting, uncomfortable, unsightly, and exhausting. And you can hardly control it. It will turn your skin white and can make you break out in a sweat.

So then I got to wondering about why we vomit. I figured that in the case of a stomach bug, the answer had to do with my body’s health. I think there was something bad in me that my body was trying to get out. That was, as best as I could tell, the medical explanation. However, I figured that, at best, this was a secondary reason.

The primary reason must be related to Christ.

If we are made in the image of God, and I think we are, then I think it is legitimate to see aspects of who we are as pointers to who God is.

Even before Jesus became a man, Scripture sometimes talked about God in ways that made Him sound kind of humanesque. I used to think of these instances in Scripture as anthropomorphisms. So, I thought that Scripture would reference the hand of the Lord doing this…, or His eyes searching…, or the face of the Lord… because we really do not have a better way of describing God. Because He is so incomprehensible we are left to comparing him to us and using the same terminology that we use for ourselves in our discussions about him. But I am now more inclined to think that such thinking is backwards.

I think the reason we have eyes is because it reveals something to us about the way that the Lord sees.

I think that the reason that we speak with a mouth is because it reflects the way that the Lord speaks.

The reason we have two hands is because two-handedness communicates something about the Lord.

The reason that we throw up is because the action reveals something about our God.

As I settled on the conclusion that it felt better to try to sleep curled up, I remembered that Jesus had once warned a church that He would vomit them out of His body.

So there I had it. The reason we vomit is because it teaches us something about how Jesus reacts to a group of apathetic people who profess His name but do not reflect it in their actions.

Effective and violent expulsion of that which is detrimental and harmful from the body.

I need to be more like Christ.

Note: I think the part of the evangelical community that comes up with cheesy Christian catchphrases has a real opportunity to gain something if more people realize the connection between vomit and Jesus. Think about it…

“Got a Problem? Throw it up to the Lord.”

“Would you rather be thrown up or taken up to the throne? – Revelation 3:16, 21”


Yeah, I’m not going to waste time thinking about any others.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When I Say “Hang Out” it Sounds Like “Hane Out” (or Why Long Distance Dating, Staff Reunions, Deathbeds, and Parting Friends Remind Me of Glory)

"Here I am and I’ll take my time.
Here I am and I’ll wait in line always.
Coldplay in "Parachutes"

I think I have recognized another longing that points us towards Christ and His redemption. It is the longing to make the most of the time given with someone. It is the longing to not be separated from those that we care about.

Have you ever been in a situation where you realize you only have a little bit of time left with a person? I think we find ourselves in that situation often. A good friend of mine is going to the far side of the world for a few years. He is here in Littleton for just a couple more days.

I have noticed that there is a strong desire to make certain that I enjoy every moment that I have left with him before he leaves. I do not want any moment to be stressed, forced, or taxing. I want each moment to be meaningful, relaxed, but significant. I even find myself running the risk of ruining the time I do have to hang out with him by worrying about how to maximize it.

The impulse to make the most of every moment is fueled by a recognition that time is short. I can say “carpe diem” but I recognize the power of that phrase, meaning “seize the day,” if I know that I only have a few days left to live.

I can say that I believe we ought to enjoy relationships and the opportunity for fellowship and community, but do I really interact with others like it is a something special? Separation in a relationship is a sad thing. The reason for such separation can relate to geography, busyness of a schedule, changes in affection, or death. If such a separation seems imminent, there can almost be a sense of desperation to find opportunities to enjoy life together before the separation occurs. That is why staff stay up late at the end of summer camp. It is why people will take off from work to see a terminally ill friend or family member. It is why people throw going away parties.

The shortness of time is frustrating. It seems there is never enough time when we want it.

I wish we had more time.

But here is the thing: we will. We were made for eternity.

The dislike I have for separation is because I am made for community and companionship. The dislike I have for a time that is too short is because I am made for a time that does not end.

For now, we live in a fallen world. It is a world in which you never have enough time when you want it. It is a time when we say goodbyes. It is a time where glory is only glimpsed.

But there is a coming age when goodbyes and separation will be no more. Glory will be revealed.

The effects of man’s rebellion will finally be undone. The whole created order will be redeemed and made new. The undoing has already begun, and it continues to be undone by the Gospel.

Christ is redeeming the world and He is doing it through the proclamation of His Kingdom. We must go and we must share the story of His good news.

Redemption changes everything. My friend is going away soon. The time I have to hang out with him is slipping away. But, I have a hope. It is a hope found in Christ (I cannot find any hope outside of Him). And that hope is in the promise that we shall join Him with His saints in a New Creation. It is a New Creation in which time is unending and every moment is meaningful, relaxing, and significant.

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
Psalm 16:4

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15-16

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 4 (or Jesus Made Basket-loads of Too Much Food)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”

“It sounds ridiculous.” That is what a Christian brother told me once when I sought to remind him of God’s promises about glory. He had come from the funeral of a girl he had loved. I tried to remind him that, while the loss was terrible, resurrection and glory in Christ is the great Christian hope. He said, “Yeah, but it sounds ridiculous.” In that moment he did not disbelieve the truth, rather he stated what I had often thought but had been afraid to state myself.

Is there anyone that can hear the words of Scripture and not at some point think that such hopes and promises are so far removed from our experience that they must be an absurdity?

I have never seen a resurrected body. I have never seen a man turn water into wine. I have never seen a few loaves and fishes feed a multitude. I have never seen a man walk on water or pass through walls or fly through the air. I have never seen anyone take Jesus up on His promise that if we “say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ … it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Shoot, later in Matthew, Jesus even said that we could throw a mountain into the sea. I have not seen that done either.

I believe it, but it sounds ridiculous.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Christ has not only made it possible to have life, but He has made it possible for us to have abundant life.

When we rebelled against God, we rebelled against the one from which all life, truth, beauty, and goodness flow. We rebelled against the one who actually is supreme life, truth, beauty and goodness.

For Christ to redeem us and offer us life once again is undeserved love and grace as it is. But He has gone beyond that. He has made it possible for us to have life abundantly.

It is easy for me to think of abundance as excess and waste. For whatever reason, the word “abundance” tends to carry a negative connotation for me. So I must make myself realize that there is nothing negative about what the Lord is promising in John 10:10.

I must realize that you cannot have God-given life in excess. You cannot have God-given life to a point that you waste it. So, the meaning of “abundance” carries something different, and something positive, here.

Christ brings us life by removing sin and death, but He then goes beyond that. Life without sin sounds splendid and I can hardly comprehend what that would be like. To say that we can also have an abundance of life is to push beyond what my mind can conceive.

In redemption, in grace, in offering the abundant life, God is not simply trying to get me back to the paradise that we call Eden. He is taking me to an even greater paradise called the New Jerusalem.

He is not seeking to restore me into the image of Adam, but rather into the image of the second Adam, who is actually the One in whose image the first Adam was made.

He is not trying to get me back to a place where the river flows from the garden, but rather to a place where the river flows from the throne of God (Gen. 2:10; Rev. 22:1).

He is not trying to get me back to a place where, next to the tree of life, there stands a tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). Rather, He is taking me to the place where, with the tree of life, there is a tree with leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

He is not trying to get me back to a magical land where there is gold and bdellium and onyx (Gen. 2:12). Rather, He is taking us to a magical city of “pure gold, clear as glass” that is “adorned with every kind of jewel” (Rev. 21:18-19).

We could keep going, but the point is made. Christ brings life and He brings abundant life.

And here is the part that is really difficult to get my mind around: it starts now. Christ is present now and His Kingdom is going forward now.

A few people have told me that I talk about glory a lot. One person told me that “the New Creation” is my buzz word. Maybe I do talk about it a lot. Perhaps I did catch those 190 middle-school campers off-guard when I told them to savor their dessert because it was a foretaste of glory. Maybe it is odd for me to pray that the nervous person sitting next to me will recognize that the rush of the zip line that they are about to experience is just a small part of the goodness that is to be had by life in Christ.

Maybe I talk about it a lot, but I am certain that I do not talk about it nearly enough.

None of us do. And I know why.

Because it sounds ridiculous. But maybe, and I don’t really even mean maybe, the phrase “too good to be true” is only meaningful in a fallen world.

“That powerless body shall be raised in power. That was a fine idea of Martin Luther, which he borrowed from Anselm, that the saints shall be so strong when they are risen from the dead, that if they chose they could shake the world; they could pull up islands by their roots, or hurl mountains into the air… I think if we do not go the length of the poets, we have every reason to believe that the power of the risen body will be utterly inconceivable. These, however, are but guesses at the truth; this great mystery is yet beyond us. I believe that when I shall enter upon my new body, I shall be able to fly from one spot to another, like a thought, as swiftly as I will; I shall be here and there, swift as the rays of light. From strength to strength, my spirit shall be able to leap onward to obey the behests of God; upborne with wings of ether, it shall flash its way across the shoreless sea, and see the glory of God in all his works, and yet ever behold his face. For the eye shall then be strong enough to pierce through leagues of distance, and the memory shall never fail. The heart shall be able to love to a fiery degree, and the head to comprehend right thoroughly”

Charles Spurgeon in Resurgam

Monday, September 14, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 3 "that they may have life" (or Live Life)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus came with a specific purpose and He spoke often about His mission. He said, “I came that they may have life.”

Christ came and He did not come just to hang out with us. He did not come just to learn what it is like to be a human. He did not come just to show us how to be well-behaved individuals. He did not come just so he could look at us in our struggles and say, “Yeah, I feel you man.”

He came to make something a possibility that was not previously available. His coming made life an option for a people who were made to live life. Apart from the coming of Christ human existence had been, and is currently, marked by the effects of death and decay. But, in the coming of Christ, life came to man.

Note that Christ said “that they may.” The life that Christ has brought is made available to all. It is available to all, but not experienced by all. Not everyone has chosen to take and experience the life that Christ has offered. Many have not even heard of the offer.

So, the question becomes, what am I doing to make sure that people know that Christ has come that they may have life? Do my daily actions reflect a conviction that Christ has come in order that people may experience life?

“Life is for living, we all know.”

“For in the theatres, dens of iniquity though they be, if a man is fond of a particular actor, and enjoys his art as a great or even as the very greatest good, he is fond of all who join with him in admiration of his favorite, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of him whom they admire in common; and the more fervent he is in his admiration, the more he works in every way he can to secure new admirers for him, and the more anxious he becomes to show him to others; and if he find any one comparatively indifferent, he does all he can to excite his interest by urging his favorite’s merits: if, however, he meet with any one who opposes him, he is exceedingly displeased by such a man’s contempt of his favorite, and strives in every way he can to remove it. Now, if this be so, what does it become us to do who live in the fellowship of the love of God, the enjoyment of whom is true happiness of life, to whom all who love Him owe both their own existence and the love they bear Him.”
- Augustine in On Christian Doctrine

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 2 - “I came” (or Jesus is More Brave than Leonidas and More Beautiful than Balder)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

There are a great many stories and legends about noble kings and commanders. Stories of men who displayed courage, heroism, and sacrifice as they laid down their lives alongside their troops. Prince Jonathan felt the cool merciless Philistine blade. King Leonidas is dead. Prince Hector’s body was dragged behind the chariot of Achilles.

There are also a number of stories of dying gods. Marduk has killed Tiamat. Osiris has died. The tears of creation could not resurrect Balder.

Jesus beats them all. The heroism, courage, tragedy, and awe found in those stories point to the God who would come and die in order to redeem. As G.K. Chesterton summed it up in The Everlasting Man, “No mysterious monarch, hidden in his starry pavilion at the base of the cosmic campaign, is in the least like that celestial chivalry of the Captain who carries his five wounds in the front of battle.”

Jesus said, “I came.” Whoa. Let that hit you.

If the significance of those two words is not hitting you, then take it apart. Let it divide asunder your joints and marrow word by word.

“I” - that is Jesus. The Christ. The Savior of the world. That “I” represents the greatest of men. That “I” represents the second person of the triune Godhead.

He is fully God (Colossians 2:9).

He is one with, yet distinct from, the other persons of the Godhead (Psalm 2:7; John 10:30; 14:7; 17:11, 22).

He was not made, rather, by Him all things were made (John 1:3).

“came” – He left the glories of heaven to come to a world containing the people who had rejected His offer of life, peace, harmony, and dominion over the created order. He came with a purpose. He came to bring redemption to His creation.

As St. Athanasius noted in his De Incarnatione, “It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgressions that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us.”

Jesus came.

“And the Word became flesh.” (John 1:14)

“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and

also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” (John 1:45)

“Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Jesus Must be an Awesome Musician (or Carter Beauford Appears to Really Like Playing the Drums)

“Who will take pity on me and give me drink from this stream which with its intoxication brings sobriety?” – Paulinus of Nola in Poem 27

Last night I recorded a Dave Matthews Band show that came on tv. I am watching it now. There is so much talent and artistic ability on display before me. The sights, sounds, and energy are delighting my senses. As I listen the music refuses to be simply analyzed. It insists on piercing through my mind to my soul. It is as though I cannot keep myself from marveling as I take it in anymore than I can will my heart to stop beating.

It would seem that the thousands of jumping and screaming and arm-waving people who were at the show would agree with me.

Carter Beauford has not stopped smiling.

There are some musicians who possess such an amazing talent and ability to create things of beauty. A couple really strike home with me. Dave Matthews Band is there. Coldplay hits me again and again. Go get in a car and sit under the stars, look up, and listen to the last three minutes of Coldplay’s “Death and all His Friends.” It might change your life. Or try the Parachutes album next time you take a drive through the country on a cool fall day. Music can capture you.

As the program plays, the lyrics of the songs I hear are not intended to be Christ-exalting (though they do offer amazing commentary on man’s longings and desires). However, while the music is not directed upwards towards Christ, it clearly flows downward from Him. Skill, creativity, and beauty all flow from Christ. The reason I just had a rush of adrenaline when “Ants Marching” began is because God has created within me a desire for beauty and a recognition of that which is good. As the man with the dreads jabs the bow across the fiddle strings and jumps up and down I want to jump with him. It is energizing to experience such an awesome gift. Even those who do not recognize it to be a gift from God recognize it as something that stirs up a sense of wonder.

When I watch I really do experience some awe. It is awesome.

Beauty testifies to its own goodness. That goodness and that beauty point us to the One who is everything that is true.

“O God, the good and the beautiful, in whom and through whom all those things are good and beautiful which are good and beautiful.”

Augustine in Soliloquies

“The senses of man have been given the mastery over all God’s creation that by them we might understand, inhabit, dispose of, and enjoy His goodness.”

Tertullian in On the Soul

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 1 (or Why I Care about the CWR Summer Theme)

Hanging up in the main meeting room of Camp Willow Run is a summer theme banner. The banner is black with flat gold text. On the left side it says “Live the Life.” On the right side is a paint-brushed cross. In the middle is the theme verse from Jesus found in John 10:10. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Choosing the summer theme is one of my responsibilities and the process was not as easy as I had hoped. I wanted the theme to be significant in meaning, short in its expression, and without tawdriness. I knew that I wanted the theme to point to Christ and His Gospel.

As a follower of Christ, I believe that true life, meaning, and significance is found in Jesus. As a believer in the Word, I see that things in the world are not the way that they are supposed to be, but that Christ has brought, is bringing, and will bring redemption. I also believe that everything that is good, and everything that is true, and everything that is beautiful finds its source in the One that is the Good, and the True, and the Beautiful.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” - James 1:17

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6

“In him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17:28

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

If it is understood that rejection of Christ is rejection of goodness, truth, and beauty. And if it is understood that rejection of Christ is rejection of life. And if it is understood that Christ offers to redeem the person that repents of that rejection, then the phrase “Live the Life” is a call to find redemption. It is a call to find, know, and live in Jesus. It is a call to live the life that is offered in Christ.

“Live the Life” is about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. It is about joy and happiness. It is about pleasure and daily delight. It is about Christ.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And Done

Well, it’s done.

Summer camp 2009 is over. When I walked into my house last night at 7:30 I had to sit down because I felt overwhelmed by the experiences of the past three months.

The Lord is good. Even as I sought to give to Him this summer He has given to me in an amazing way.

I think that the next post, or maybe next few posts, will be about the Camp Willow Run summer theme: Live the Life. It comes from John 10:10 where Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That verse, and the ideas connected to the summer theme, mean a lot to me. There are truths there that have changed my life and I was reminded of that each day this summer.

A summer at CWR: a glimpse of glory…

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Dostoevsky Was Right (or Bear One Another's Burdens or I am Sorry)

“I’m sorry.”

I usually hate not having anything better to say when I hear bad news. The phrase is an attempt to express sympathy, or maybe compassion. Or maybe it is just that “I’m sorry” is something I say when I feel bad.

“I’m sorry” usually feels like a poor choice of words. I have had people tell me not to say that because I had no reason to apologize. They said “I’m sorry” was just a meaningless phrase in such a context. I think it is just that I have a hard time finding anything better to say. I guess that is why it might be a good idea to just not say anything at all.

Not too long ago I read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It’s a big book that takes some time, but it’s worth it. One of the themes in the book is the connectedness of man.

It is captured in the words of the brother of Father Zossima as he neared death. He said, “Every one is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything. I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I feel it is so, painfully even.”

For a long time I really had a hard time understanding that statement. I heard Peter Kreeft explain it once, and that helped a bit. He said it is the reason why a person would feel shame if his grandfather had been a Nazi in the war. That made a little sense to me.

I know of a little boy that has spent more than six months in a hospital in Minneapolis. He has been in a lot of pain. There are a lot of people praying for him. I am sorry for him.

I know of a girl my age that is suffering from a long battle with melanoma. She has gotten worse recently. I am sorry for her.

Some friends of mine just lost a baby. I am very sorry for them.

A friend of mine is struggling with depression. A friend cannot overcome his sexual temptations. A friend’s family is getting ripped apart.

I am sorry.

I sinned today. I sinned yesterday as well. Based on my record, I’ll probably sin tomorrow too.

I am sorry.

I’ve heard that death and suffering entered the world through sin. I read somewhere that we have all sinned.

I think Augustine said that sin was the rejection of that which was good and beautiful. He said something like that...

Suffering, pain, and death – the work of sinners.

The wages of sin is death.

I contribute to the sin that is in the world. I often do it without even thinking twice.

I get it now. We are all connected. Dostoevsky’s Mitya was right: “We are all responsible for all.”

I understand why Father Zossima said that “every one of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth, not merely through the general sinfulness of creation, but each one personally for all mankind and every individual man.”

I am sorry and rightfully so.

Praise the Lord for redemption in Christ Jesus.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’
And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Olivia Abigail Lahoud

On March 28th my niece, Olivia Abigail, was born to my sister Merideth and her husband Daniel.
They call her "Livi" and she is a beautiful little girl.

"For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy."
Psalm 92:4

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Light of Ahoskie/ The Aulander Light/ The Early Station Light

About two months ago one of my friends and I rode around the lake to Nathaniel Macon’s grave. It is only about ten minutes from where I live. The grave, pictured here, is covered in a huge pile of rocks. They say that if you go there you need to throw a rock on the grave to keep him in it. I had been to the grave once before. It was with an older guy that had grown up in Littleton. We went during the day and we threw a rock on the grave for good measure. The second time I went, it was approaching two in the morning. We were so spooked we didn’t even leave the Jeep and we stayed there for maybe ten seconds.

We went to a couple of other places that night. My buddy asked me if I had heard about the Light of Ahoskie. He had been there once in high school. It is a bright light that hovers and flashes over the railroad tracks in the woods between Ahoskie and Aulander. He had seen it and I wanted to see it. We decided we would go before too long.

I have really had the light on my mind for the past week. I researched it some. You can find stories about it scattered around the internet. There are printed accounts of the light from the 1920’s on up to the present. Some stories even claim to go back to right after the Civil War. From my research I gathered that most people thought the light was either some sort of luminescent gas coming off of the swamp or else it was a decapitated railroad worker waving a lantern in search for his head.

I asked around a bit. As it turns out, a lot of people have seen the light at some point. Even more said that they had heard about it. Everyone’s story was the same.
Went at night to see it. Didn’t think it would really be there. Saw it. Ran.

So, I was determined to see it soon. Saturday afternoon I was hanging out with my buddy and we decided we would go that night after the NCAA basketball games. Before we left we were able to recruit three other guys who had come to work a retreat to go with us.

We left with flashlights, a map, and a couple of knives. Ahoskie is in bear country and we knew we would be out in the swamps and woods in the dark.

We determined that most people saw the light on the railroad between Ahoskie and Aulander. It was rumored that it could only be seen if you were walking from Ahoskie towards Aulander and not the other way around.

We went to Aulander and found the railroad tracks. We checked a couple of crossroads and didn’t see anything. Eventually we found a place called Early Station near Ahoskie. I knew from some of the accounts online that the light is referred to by some as the Early Station Light.

We had found the spot.

I pulled the truck off onto the side of the road. There were a few old houses around and the old abandoned Early Station was there. It was eerie.

We stood at the crossroads trying to figure out which direction the light was in. To the north a faint light could be seen, but it looked like artificial light. To the south was darkness. My buddy was sure that the light was to the south. We started walking down the track with our flashlights in hand, but off, and our knives in stow.

We walked two minutes and stopped. It was still nothing but darkness. We looked wondering if we had wasted our time coming out. A couple of the guys peered to the north.

The light was bright and unmistakable. It swayed from the right of the tracks to the left. The motion of it matched the chill that swept over my body. I was afraid that not everyone saw it, but it did not matter. It flashed again. This time it swooped in the other direction.

This was the point where everyone’s story became about a mad dash back to the road. I understood, but I wanted to go on.

One of the guys decided to go back to the truck. I was kind of grateful that he did because I did not like the thought of leaving my truck back on the side of the road unattended. He would end up waiting on us for somewhere between one and a half to two hours.

The remaining four of us walked towards where we saw the light. I wanted to be close enough to the light to touch it. I had already determined earlier in the week that I thought the light had to be either a phenomenal natural occurrence or the work of demons. Either way, I had decided that, as a Son of God and co-heir with Christ, I ought not to be concerned (Romans 8:15-17). If it was a natural occurrence then I wanted to enjoy it for the mysterious and wonderful gift that it was. If it was the work of the spirit world, then I decided that it would not be anything that the good Lord hadn’t encountered before. I was a little concerned about bears, but we had knives.

It was not clear how far away the light was. It was far for sure, but I figured we could get to it within twenty minutes. My intention was to trot ahead to the light, but the others thought it wiser to walk for a minute, stop, assess our current surroundings, and then continue. I am not sure if that was the better strategy, but it certainly spooked us out all the more.

The light continued to shine, flash and sway sporadically. Sometimes there would be several minutes between sightings, other times we would see it multiple times a minute. It was bright and sometimes it was faint. It swayed from side to side and sometimes it hovered in a still ball. It flashed quickly and sometimes it shone for a few seconds.

We went through a section where there were swamps on either side. To stumble off the tracks would mean a cold and murky mess. The swamp was frightening, but not nearly as frightening as what was ahead.

We could see the beginning of the woods. The tall pines were ominous and formed a much darker alley around the tracks. We hesitated for a few minutes before we entered the darkness.

Along the way, we heard occasional movement in the woods. While it could have been something as small as a squirrel, I always perceived that it was a bear preparing to attack... We would stop, wait, and then continue.

It got darker. I passed my flashlight off to one of the guys without one and kept one hand on my knife’s sheath and the other on the handle. Ready.

Again we stopped. We discussed if we should continue. The light appeared to be closer, but not quite close. One of the guys was ready to go back. The talk continued. I silently took to walking again. They then came too.

We made another stop. Watched the light. Guessed at how far away it was. Closer, but still not close.

It was dark and there was talk about what to do. We kept our eyes locked towards the south. Waiting and deliberating.

Then I noticed something.

The darkness was darker than it had been before. Previously, you lost sight of the tracks off in the distance. But then, as we stood, I noticed that I could not see further than maybe twenty yards down the track

Then, the light.
Brighter than it had been.
Closer than it had been.
It came from the right. It moved slowly in a bright haze to the left bar of the railroad track. It stopped and hovered there. Then, as my whole body tensed and I drew my knife, it moved slowly towards us. Then it disappeared.

No one was quick to speak. Though it was cold, I was sweating.

The talk resumed. Two flashlights were on and pointed at where we saw the light. Nothing but woods and railroad. The flashlights stayed on for a while. East of us we heard some dogs start barking.

The talking continued. Go forward or go back? Could it be caught or would it remain elusive? What was it? What about the dogs?

There were enough dogs that we could not tell how many there actually were. One of the guys remarked that he was not going to mess with a pack of wild dogs. I thought he was right, but couldn’t commit to going back quite yet. So, we stood.

Talking continued. A minute passed, and the dogs, like the light, were clearly getting closer but were not quite yet close.

We started the walk north. We had walked more than an hour chasing the elusive light. My buddy and I talked about turning around and pursuing the light further and letting the other two go back to the truck on their own. We talked about how we had already gone so far and the light did seem closer. We talked about it, but our feet never stopped carrying us northward down the tracks.

It took us 26 minutes to get back to the truck. It was about 1 in the morning.

There was a little talk once we got back on the road, but overall things were pretty quiet.

It didn’t take ten minutes of driving before I regretted not running towards the light. We were close, but not there. I didn’t touch the light.

But I did see it. It was definitely there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why some people wear sunglasses inside... (or Psychosomatic Unity Revisited)

“You have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes”
Song of Solomon 4:9

It happens rarely where I live now, but it really bothers me when I walk by someone and they keep their eyes pointed down towards the sidewalk.

A brother called me out on something this past week and I couldn’t respond until I had turned my eyes away from his.

I’ve learned that if you lean in close to someone and look intently in their eyes it is either very intimate or really awkward.

Anoop sounds great but is having a hard time looking into the camera as he sings his song.

For the last seven weeks I have been conducting interviews for summer staff positions. A lot of people find it difficult to maintain eye contact in that situation.

The human eye. Even if you just look at your own eyes in the mirror you can tell that there is more to a person than the physical body.

They say that the eye is the window to the soul. I believe it. I think that is why they shut the eyelids of the dead.

All these things confirm to me Scripture’s teaching that we are more than material. We are also immaterial. We are a psychosomatic unity. We are not merely material bodies (soma). We are also made up of an inner part (the psyche/spirit). This is not just an abstract idea or an inconsequential biblical concept. It is something that can be seen on the face of everyone you meet.

You can find the story of the whole world in someone’s eye.
Material and Immaterial.

“When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” – Luke 11:34

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

and back

"Time crumbles things."

Thing’s have been busy, but I’m back now. I’m back, meaning that I plan to resume writing, but it doesn’t quite mean that I have anything to say at the moment...

I just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. My favorite line from the book:
“Beauty’s attractive.”

I also like his commentary on friendship as the frustrated Bernard lashed out at his two trustworthy companions:
“One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies.”

And lastly, I liked this phrase about time:
“Five minutes later roots and fruits were abolished; the flower of the present rosily blossomed.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Recruiting, nerves, and walking by the Spirit

"For all these good things 'man needs the help of Heaven and Destiny.'"
Marcus Aurelius in Meditations

Last week I went recruiting for Camp Willow Run. Thursday night I went with Jeremy to NCSU. Friday night I drove by myself to JMU.

Each time I went prepared to do a 2-3 minute plug for CWR during the announcements of an InterVarsity large group meeting. I had my tri-fold display board in tow.

Thursday night I was rather nervous. Less so on Friday.

As I attempted to sing along to the songs Thursday night, I also made an ineffective attempt to calm myself down. I asked myself why it was that I was so nervous.

Earlier, I was prepped for “going recruiting.” I have a lot of respect for my boss and I tend to find that he has things figured out. So, when he told me to use this phrase, and make sure that this sentence came before that one, and to watch my time, and to be ready to shake such and such’s hand, I took note.

Thursday night during the last song before my 3-minute announcement:
“Luke, why are you so nervous? You have got to calm down. You wouldn’t be this nervous if you were going up there to talk about Scripture.
Yeah, but that’s different. I get nervous for that too, but then I just pray.
So just pray now.
Yeah, it’s not the same. If I were speaking about Scripture I would be trying to convey the words of God. I’m nervous now because I’m trying to speak the words of Robbie. And besides, when I prepare for Bible study I have the Spirit as my tutor. For this I only have Robbie as my tutor.
Well, just make the Spirit your tutor here.
Ohh yeah. I didn’t think of that.”

A couple of comments... one, I’d really rather not have too much psychoanalysis going on as a result of this post. Yes, I have a lot of conversations in my head (I even sometimes get lost in the deeper ones...). And no, Robbie is not higher on my list of persons that I fear than Jesus.
Second, this was an important reminder to me that we are called to live and walk in the Spirit. He is guiding us and He is constantly conforming us more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). While this doesn’t mean that my announcement about camp was Spirit-empowered, it does mean that even that experience is contributing to the process of making me a little more like Jesus.
So, I’m trying to eliminate some of the false divisions I have in my life. There are divisions between the things that I believe the Spirit will work in and the things that I think are just up to me to handle. But really, God wants it all.

“It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”
1 Corinthians 15:43

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rocky Mount, Redemption, and Dead Lions

“Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort.
Then he faces his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness.
And at once there wells up from the depths of his soul boredom, gloom, depression, chagrin, resentment, despair.”
Number 622 of Pascal’s Pensées

Last night I went with a friend to Rocky Mount to see a movie. The movie was alright.

We got to the theater late. As I scanned the seats for a good place to sit I noticed that, for the most part, people sat together in clusters. After stepping in front of a seated couple, we took a seat. At the other end of our row sat an old man who was alone and had to leave in the middle of the movie with a bad cough.

Towards the end of the movie a group of kids ran into the theater yelling, screaming, and laughing. They left as quickly as they came.

After the movie, I was waiting for my friend to come out of the bathroom. As I leaned against the wall I noticed the group of kids that I suspect had been running around. An officer and manager were detaining them. They were a couple of girls and boys and none of them looked like they were over fourteen. Standing there, they shouted at passing friends, made phone calls, and snickered at the officer.

From the theater we went to Cook Out. In the past, a trip to Rocky Mount nearly required stopping at the “home of the best tray” around. I love a Cajun chicken sandwich with a corndog, fries, and a huge sweet tea (4.25 + tax). Now that there is a Cook Out in Roanoke Rapids there is less pressure to make a visit happen when in Rocky Mount, but we went anyways. It’s just too good. I am being sincere when I say that a chocolate cheesecake shake is a glimpse of glory...

I pulled my truck into the adjacent parking lot. I pulled up next to a couple of pimped out cars. The drivers talked to one another while they remained in their seats behind the wheel. My radio was off, but I am certain that the bass line on “Politik” didn’t stand a chance against the beats that came thumping across the two parking spaces between me and the group of guys in their cluster of Hondas.

As we sat eating our food, talking about the movie, musing about girls, and making plans for life we saw the kids cross the busy highway that was in front of us. They didn’t seem to have a care in the world. The one who kept his hand on his crotch attempted to leap over the deep ditch from the road to the parking lot.

Perhaps he should have pulled his pants up before making the jump.

As he grimaced in pain the girls laughed. One of the boys took little notice as he continued to grope the girl he was with.

Eventually they navigated their way across the ditch and passed us by. We saw them again about twenty minutes later. They were still laughing, shouting, and groping.

The whole evening was a reminder to me.
Last night I experienced the pleasure of friendship. It’s good to have someone to talk to and hang out with. The 50 minute drive, the movie, and dinner were all better (in my opinion) because they were experienced with someone else.
Last night I saw people all around me implicitly agree that life is enjoyed while in community.
Last night I saw the good of God’s solution to the problem that He assessed in His statement that “it is not good that the man be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
But I also saw that things are not the way they were meant to be. The effects of the Fall and the curse were visible everywhere. The good of life has been tainted and corrupted.

Last night was a reminder that I have not found anything that explains the world I see and experience better than Scripture. It explains everything. Not only does it assess our situation, but in it is offered a solution.
The solution to our broken world is Christ. He is the solution because He is the one through whom redemption comes.


“But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Week With Abigail

This past week I kept a dog for some friends. The dog’s name is Abby (it might be Abbey... I’m not sure). She’s less than a year old and, while being a good dog, she can become uncontrollably excited rather quickly. Here are some funny things from my week with Abby...

- She seems to be a bit afraid of the dark. So, if it was dark she wouldn’t leave my side. On Monday I went on a quick trip up to Richmond. When I got back to Littleton it was very cold and I was eager to get in bed. However, Abby had waited patiently in my kitchen for my return. I felt like she ought to play for a bit, so, around midnight, I took her ought to play. I tried to get her to just run around some, but she seemed skittish because of the dark and the leaves rustling in the wind. So, had you come by camp around midnight you would have found me running up and down the field with a flashlight and a dog close by.

- No matter how much I walked her around in the woods, Abby refused to use the bathroom until she got into the middle of the camp field. It is like she would hold it until I let her out of the woods.

- Wednesday night two friends came to camp at the end of the work day. They went down to the dock to watch the sunset while I made a quick run to the hardware store with Abby. Upon our return, Abby, along with Scott (who came with us from the store) headed down to the dock to join the girls. Abby started to use the bathroom in the middle of the field and I chased her to the woods. She just stood there and seemed to wonder why I had disrupted her. She seemed unwilling to go at that point so we headed down to the dock. We got about 15 feet out when she decided that she didn’t really like walking on the dock. She stopped. I continued. She whimpered. I continued. I joined Mallory, Catherine, and Scott at the end of the dock while keeping an eye on Abby. She left the dock and started playing in the rip-rap (rocks around the bulkhead/shoreline). Eventually she fell in the water. In spite of the fact that the water was cold she played in it for a bit. Seeing that she was fine, I sat down and turned my attention to the others. In the meantime, Abby got out of the water and finally attended to her previously unfinished business and relieved herself in the sand at the end of the dock. Then, somehow, she made her way down the dock without any of us realizing it. We knew she was there when she came running into our backs with her cold, wet, stinky, sandy body. I felt bad for the girls as they were wearing nice clothes. At some point, in her excitement to be at the end of the dock, Abby threw up. Ohh Abby.

- Thursday night: There was a report that someone in the community was missing (that person was later found). When I heard the news it caused a certain level of paranoia. While I had no reason to believe that anyone would go to camp, I was annoyed with myself for leaving the baggage car (my home) unlocked. I was doing some painting at someone else’s house when I got a call that an alarm was going off at camp. The person who called also indicated that his dog had been acting a little strange that night. This certainly increased the paranoia and I decided I better head over to check things out. I loaded Abby in the truck and we went over to camp. The time was about 10pm and it was dark. I parked in the parking lot next to the flagpoles and saw that the alarm was the car alarm on the camp car (it’s a Tracer – awesome). I grabbed a flashlight out of the truck and my camp keys. I made Abby get out and join me in the cold dark. I delayed investigating what was going on with the camp car to go check out the baggage car and upgrade my flashlight to a bigger one that I had in my bedroom. After checking all my rooms and locking up the baggage car I went over to the office to get the keys to the camp car. I walked over to where it was. I was very much on edge. I told Abby to keep watch as she reluctantly approached the Tracer with me. I couldn’t get the car alarm off no matter what button I pressed or even when I cranked the car. So, I decided to disconnect the battery. As I got a wrench out of the truck Abby barked at something and then ran under the truck. It scared me for sure, but I didn’t see anything. After coaxing her out from under the truck we headed back over to the Tracer. She growled at something again and then cowered away from the Suburban that was parked next to the Tracer (all this time the car horn is still blaring). I then became afraid that someone was in the Suburban. After making myself open the back door, I saw that it was empty. I popped the hood on the Tracer and got to work on the battery. It was really cold (in the lower teen’s) and I could hardly get the cable off the battery terminal. I was concerned that in the cold my hand would slip and connect the two terminals with my wrench (which would have been bad for me). I also told Abby to watch my back as I had my head under the hood and was afraid with every sound that I heard over the car horn was someone getting ready to kill me. Instead of keeping a lookout, Abby got excited and decided that she wanted to either jump on me or up on the engine. So, at that point I was trying to disconnect the battery in the bitter cold with a car horn blaring and a fear that I was in the last minutes of my life as a frightened dog made repeated attempts to jump under the hood of the car. Alas, I got the battery disconnected. The sudden silence startled Abby... which startled me... which made me drop the cable back onto the battery terminal... which reactivated the horn... which startled me... which startled Abby. I removed it once again, closed the hood, and ran to the safety of my truck with the dog leading the way.

It is my stated purpose on this blog, to try to point others to Scripture. I can’t say for certain what the truth is to be learned from what I have written in this post. It could be that life is exciting and contains in it good blessings of laughter and pleasure from the Lord. It could be the reminder that man is part of the created order. His relationships with creation has become distorted and in this fallen world in the age between the cross and the new creation our relationships with the created order are marked by both good and disorder. I guess there are any number of lessons. Whatever the spiritual truth to be gleaned, I had a good week with Abby.