God's Pursuit of Me

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This past week at Teen Leadership Conference, high schoolers were asked to write about significant events in their lives (whether joyful or devastating) in a way that would be a blessing to someone else. 

Click on "Teens Write" to read their work:


The Face I've Earned

My husband and I laughed our bottoms off one night as we watched a commercial advertising the services of a local plastic surgeon.  The spokeswoman in the commercial gave a lengthy discussion about procedures using collagen, botox, facial implants, etc., all without ever moving her upper lip--not because she didn't want to, but apparently because she couldn't.  A little too much of something had rendered her upper lip unmovable!

You should know that I honestly believe in doing the best you can with what you have.  I just wonder if some are going too far.

Is it really so bad to have laugh lines that map the way back to funny experiences you've had?  That let people know you're a kid at heart?  That give testimony of a God who gives the gift of laughter even after unmentionable pain? 

I was blessed to have a baby at age 43.  Somehow I got through that without a single stretch mark. 

I really wish I had gotten one. 

And I kind of wish it were across my face.


God Sightings

Three of Many Ways I Know There is a God:

A life. 

A love.

A passion.

I have all three, and only HE could have put them together as they are.  (Ephesians 3:20)


Community (Prodigal Pilates, Part 5)

My friends and I have finished reading and discussing The Prodigal God, and it has taken a little while to digest it all...Here's what I see:

Community. That's what it all comes down to. Though the born-again experience is an individual one, the living out of this life in Christ was designed by God to happen in community. How would I know if I had an elder brother attitude if I closed myself off to community? How would I GET the whole idea of redemption without opportunities to love my neighbor as Christ has loved me?

Who are we kidding? If our faith has nothing to do with our community, with our neighbors--with those people who are difficult to love as well as those easy to love, then we are no more than  Christian culturalists, and have no idea what redemption means.

A Christian culturalist, by the way, is someone enamored with the niceness of Christian culture, and who believes they are Christian because of their adherence to expected cultural norms. The strength of their faith, they would say, is equal to their disdain or discomfort with things or people that do not conform to that culture.

Where does that fit with the idea of community?

Perhaps YOU can tell me.


What Grace Looks Like (Prodigal Pilates, Part 4)

It looks like the bishop scene in the movie version of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (Columbia/TriStar Pictures, 1998).  The bishop in that scene demonstrates what Christ, "the true elder brother" did for you and me.  (The Prodigal God, chapter 5).  Just google "Grace-Les Miserables" and check it out for yourself.
Then get the movie to see it in its entirety! 


Considering Culture (Prodigal Pilates, Part 3)

I just realized the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sonS is an even bigger jerk than I thought a week ago.

Notice how the presence of the elder brother is confirmed right at the beginning of the parable (Luke 15:11, 12):  "There was a man who had TWO sons . . . So he divided his property between THEM."   Though the elder brother says nothing, he is as present here as when he explodes in conversation with his father outside the banquet hall at the end of the parable.

What would you say if you knew it was the duty of elder brothers in Middle Eastern society to keep the peace at  home, particularly if there was a problem between a younger sibling and the father?  The elder brother, who would have been the person closest to both the father and the problematic sibling, should have protested violently when his younger brother essentially wished their father dead by asking for his inheritance while the father was still alive.   

But the elder brother doesn't do that.

What's more, under these circumstances, the elder brother should have refused his own portion of the father's inheritance so as to honor the patriarch. 

But the elder brother doesn't do that either.

What does this reveal to you about the elder brother's heart and motive(s)?

(Reference:  Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15  by Kenneth Bailey, Concordia, 1992)      


What's So Good About Friday? (Prodigal Pilates, Part 2)

Good Friday.  Besides the redemptive act of the just dying for the unjust (that is, Jesus Christ dying for YOU and ME), there is something that distinguishes this Friday from all others, and secures its place among those things called excellent.  It is the appeal of a man who will give no place to pity, who will go beyond himself to do that which calls attention to somebody else, and who will do whatever it takes to save your butt and mine without regard to his own.  In case we all missed it in Sunday school, that's what Christ did.

In chapter 4 of The Prodigal God, Keller gives an illustration of this which hits most of us right between the eyes.  A woman married to an alcoholic is caught up in a cycle of disappointment with her husband, covering for her husband, and of feeling sorry for herself.

I immediately felt pretty sympathetic for the wife--wouldn't you?  After all, she probably didn't sign up for Alanon at the altar.  And she probably is keeping her end of the bargain.  At the very least, she deserves the validation afforded someone who might stand on the rooftop and shout, "Somebody hear me--Anybody!  I am right, and HE is wrong!" 

Then Keller paints the red and white target and sticks it squarely on my forehead.  He compares the behavior of the wife to that of relentless do-gooders/professing Christians who feel "their spotless record gives them the right to be highly offended and to perpetually remind the wrongdoer of his or her failure." (Keller, p. 56). 

In the illustration, when the wife continues to beat her husband over the head with his sin, and continues to cry foul because she's so right and he's so wrong, the alcoholic husband feels increasingly awful about himself and consequently, drinks even more.  Initially, I wanted to scream when I read this.  So HE sleeps with Johnny Walker Red, SHE helps him maintain a job and a family, and SHE'S in the wrong?

That initial fury however, was quickly squelched when the fact of her sin jumped off the page at me.  Why?  Because it flies in the face of the goodness of Friday.

What happens when a woman who has been "done wrong" solicits the pity of others?  She gets it, because everyone feels she deserves it.  Who gets the attention when an alcoholic fails to take care of his wife and family?  The wife and family of course, because they have a right to a husband and father who knows what day of the week it is, don't they?  And for crying out loud--who is it that stands to gain when a wife beats up on an already defeated man in an effort to bolster her own self-image?  The pitied wife and family who have sin issues of their own come out smelling like roses, while God is scarecely even found in the narrative.

Who needs God in order to do what comes naturally?    

It's when what is done can only be done supernaturally that peoples' attention is drawn to God  (Matthew 5:16).

So, I wonder what in the world made Jesus take the ridicule, the false accusations, the beatings, and the shameful death of the cross.

IT is what's so good about Friday.   


The Prodigal God Pilates

This spring some friends and I are stretching ourselves through the parable of the prodigal son (or more correctly, the parable of the two lost sons) as we simultaneously read Timothy Keller's, The Prodigal God.  Want to join us?

First, read through the text (Luke 15:1-3;  11-32), then go through The Prodigal God (a short, yet profound read).  After that, you'll be able to jump in and join us wherever we are . . .

Right now we're on chapter 4:  Redefining lostness.  Here's my synopsis of this chapter:  We who say we are Christians are just as lost as anyone living in wild, licentious, or illegal behavior if in our Christian-ness we are toeing the line, and doing good works as a means to obligate God to give us whatever we want, or to hold Him hostage if He does not.

Don't I deserve a relatively good life if I do God's work?  If I take my kids to church every Sunday, shouldn't they turn out well?  If I marry a Christian, don't I deserve to live happily ever after?  What's more, if this is true of us, we, the compliant, "i"-dotting, "t"-crossing professors of Christ are in a much more dangerous state than our counterparts, because we are likely blind to our condition, whereas they are not.  As Keller says, if you know you're sick, you know to get help, but if you don't know you're sick, you don't do anything.

In our parable, the younger brother realizes his sin, is broken, returns to his father who honors him, and celebrates with a great feast.  The elder brother however, resents the merry-making and refuses to join in.  He feels it is unfair to honor his sinful sibling in this way, and that he is much more deserving of the honor himself.  Why?  Because he thinks he has earned it, and he does not know his own heart.

Is he (the elder brother) wrong?  Where are we in our elder brother-ness?  What good is it for anyone to live a compliant life if we can't earn God's favor?


The Sneetches on the Beaches and the Snobs in the Pews

Is it me, or are these two groups one in the same?  Here's a quote:

          "But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
           Would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches." 
           With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they'd snort
          "We'll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!"
           And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
           They'd hike right on past them, without even talking. 
           (The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, Random House,   

Now here's the other quote:

 1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  
(The Holy Bible, James 2:1-4, New International Version)

Gotta love Dr. Seuss!


Has God Ever Done Anything Strange To Catch Your Attention?

One day while I sped across town to meet one of three or four girls I mentored, I felt a sudden, overwhelming, almost debilitating exhaustion.  The thought of going home, crawling in bed, and hiding under the covers for the rest of my life was strangely comforting.  I wondered if I were having a panic attack. 

I held my breath and shifted into second gear so that every ounce of energy left could be directed toward engaging the clutch and whipping my car into a convenience store parking lot.  While I prayed for relief from this sudden scare, it occured to me that I should also pray that God would show me exactly what was going on with me.  Why was I feeling this way?  Did I need medical attention?

A few minutes later when I was well enough to move on, I turned the corner, then slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision with what stood before me.  My mouth dropped open as I observed something I had never seen before, nor have I seen since.  I saw a broken-down tow truck
being towed . . .

 How about you?  Click "comments" below and share your experience!


What Do You Know About God that He Has Never Told You in His Word?

In our first six months of marriage my husband never actually told me he hated it when I spent so much time getting our place together to host someone that I was too exhausted to enjoy their visit.  Instead, he opted to wait until we were packed and well on our way to Santiago, Chile to tell me someone would be staying in our apartment for the entire two weeks we would be gone.  He's changed a lot since then, but occasionally slips into that haze that makes him assume other people's level of comfort with squeaky toys and Cheerios on the sofa is the same as ours.  Living with him and sharing life have made me aware of this tidbit of his character profile, and have made me a little less likely to serve up a piece of my mind for dinner at night.  It's all about relationship.

Walking with Christ has likewise opened my eyes to aspects of His character that I may not have known otherwise.  I know for instance, that He likes to wink at me.  Yes, wink at me. 

Years ago on a typically dark night in the Peruvian Amazon, though I couldn't see my hand in front of my face, I noticed the sky was especially clear and bright.  I was amazed at the sheer beauty and expanse of what lay overhead, and I said so out loud to God.  A moment later, one of the stars suddenly shone brighter than all the rest as it shimmied its way apart from the others, then back again.  It was as if God Himself winked at me and said, "Oh, if you like that, you haven't seen anything yet!"  He knew exactly how to lift my heart.  It's all about relationship.

What do you know about God that He hasn't actually said in His Word?

I'd love to hear your insights.  Click "comments" below, and share your story.