Sunday, November 30, 2014

A hope that came, a hope that's coming

Advent has arrived. Today, the first Sunday, we celebrate hope.

Today's service was family style, so we kept the sermon short as we walked through selections from Luke 1, focusing in on the expectant hope we have in Jesus.

I wrote rambling reflection after the service today, so in hopes that it will stir your own heart, here it is

Today I was reminded that Advent is a celebration of fulfilled promise. God said He was going to come, and He did. Jesus said He would return for us, and Advent, the celebration of His first coming, is mean to rekindle our hope in that second coming. It's easy to relegate Christmas to an event that happened long ago, but it truly is a foretaste of redemption. 

Still dwelling on our second song today - 

Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us 
Let us find our rest in thee 

The weight of this is immense. The entire Old Testament is a story of God going after His rebellious people, as they run from Him and worship pretend gods and break His commandments and disbelieve His promise. And yet it's a promise that will be fulfilled. Faithful prophets from of old proclaim, "Messiah is coming! He will save us! Repent and turn to Him!". John will proclaim this. And Jesus Himself will preach the same repentance. 

Because God comes down Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Emmanuel. God with us. Sin and fear are both rooted in the same thing - failure to trust God. Disbelief in His character and His promise. And Christ's coming is a fulfillment of promise. For the Israelites then, and for us now, Advent is a guarantee that God is who He says He is. 

In Luke, when Zechariah speaks after nine months of silence, He praises God for having redeemed His people (1:68). 

And this is before. 

Before Messiah's birth. Before crucifixion. Before resurrection. Before the Holy Spirit comes as the guaranteer of the new covenant. Before our redemption and resurrection into eternal glory. Zechariah knows the fullness of our hope in Jesus, and what rest we have in Him. He will always be faithful, and when He says He will come, it's as good as done. 

We are free to live as children of the promise, right now, because as we celebrate Christ's birth, we also celebrate that we have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). 

His name is Jesus. 

Come, thou long expected Jesus, 
 born to set thy people free; 
 from our fears and sins release us, 
 let us find our rest in thee.  
 Israel's strength and consolation, 
 hope of all the earth thou art; 
 dear desire of every nation, 
 joy of every longing heart.

2. Born thy people to deliver, 
 born a child and yet a King, 
 born to reign in us forever, 
 now thy gracious kingdom bring. 
 By thine own eternal spirit 
 rule in all our hearts alone; 
 by thine all sufficient merit, 
 raise us to thy glorious throne.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Alxamdulilaay. Thanks be to God.

I pulled out the Christmas carol chord book tonight. Advent may officially start Sunday, but my heart starts it at Thanksgiving.

Because what do we have to be more thankful for than God becoming our Emmanuel, being born, taking the lowest place, the baby boy who would deliver us all?

Remember Jesus.

Everything we have, it's because He gives without measure. Grace upon grace He lavishes upon us.

I have a new favorite Christmas album, from Rend Collective Experiment. They do an incredible job of combining musical creativity and the upholding of tradition. This album is a must-have for the season. Here's one that rings true for Thanksgiving as we give thanks for the God who has always been faithful to us.

"For All That You Have Done"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Philippians 2 when I don't feel like it

Sleepover, easy on the sleep 

Shower water that would not get warm 

Sunday school with crazy kids 

Turn signals optional traffic 

Bad timing at veggie grill 

Trip to the airport 

Exhaustion. Irritation. Frustration. 

Wondering why Phillippians 2 made it into the canon. Why I remember "consider others more significant than yourselves". Why those verses when I don't want to do anything besides crawl in my bed and hide. 

I collect reasons to be upset. I hold on to them. And there's still Philippians 2. It's still there. Jesus was God but did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but made himself lower than a servant. 

Jesus is there, reminding me that I will never measure up. I cannot collect enough hurts to touch even one of His. I cannot out grace Jesus. 

But I can have His grace. I can have Him. 

And sometimes it takes a 5-hour nap and a sermon at eleven o clock at night to get there, but I'm starting to release that selfishness, that conceit. And tomorrow I may have to start over and remember that Jesus came not to be served but to serve others and that I'm supposed to be last, but tonight, I see Him. 

And I will see Him again. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letting Myself Die

Yesterday, I was thinking about how much I feel like I've grown in my relationship with Jesus this year. Not an explosion, not a flash, nor a stretching, more like a deepening. Like waking up to find myself more clued into reality. 

I was thinking about this more today and I realize how much I've let myself go outside of my comfort zone, even these last several months. From eating more real and plant foods to training for a LONG distance trail run, to trying new workout routines, all the way to ballet. 

Ah. Ballet. 

That walk home from the studio is too perfect for reflection. 

I switched from very beginners to intermediate advanced. Today was day 2. It's hard. I struggle. I am not even close to the best. I get confused. I go the wrong way on the wrong foot at the wrong time. I forget that we're doing a jete into a grand jete and wonder why I'm just that one beat off. I admire the grace, strength and beauty of the other dancers, wondering how long it will take for me to see a glimpse of that in myself. 

And then the teachers says 

You have great feet

Let's use that limberosity (is that even a word?)

Point your toe - there - feel the energy? 

It's a joy to have you; come again soon. 

And I remember that this is why I'm here. I'm here to let my drive for achievement and perfection die. To let go of my pride. To enjoy what I'm doing. To be satisfied. 

And although ballet might not seem like the way to deep spiritual growth, for me it is. I think that there are things in ourselves that we bring to our relationship with God that we don't even understand. I think it's impossible for us to see how our perceptions of our self and others affect our relationship with the Maker of all. And in pushing ourselves, in allowing ourselves to be different and out of our element, we peel back the layers of our love of self and love of sin. 

And we wake up and all we see is Jesus. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The hope that is in you

But in your hearts honor Christ The Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect  1 Peter 3:15 

I've always loved this verse. It's important because it's all about knowing what you believe and why. It's about being so rooted in the reality of your life in Jesus that it flows over into your relationships with other people. 

It's important because sometimes you only get 10 seconds to share the gospel. 

My church, Anchor Church, meets at a community center in the Phinney neighborhood. There are other groups who meet in this building while we do. As I was leaving this morning, I held the door open for two ladies coming from one of those other activities. This was our conversation - 

Ms. : Are you with that church? 
Me: Yes, I am 
Ms. : Does it have anything to do with fishing or sailing? 
Me: *confused* no...? 
Ms: Well it says anchor so I thought maybe you all fished or something? 
Me: Oh, no, there's a verse in the Bible that talks about the hope we have in Jesus being like an anchor for our souls because He's made us right with God so we're secure. 
Ms: Oh ok. Well thanks. 

And that's it. This is not one of those miracle I shared the gospel and they repented and came to Jesus right there in the parking lot stories. This is a do you know what your anchor is story. This is about putting all your trust and faith in the Jesus who saves sinners from death to life and gives a peace that passes understanding and a kingdom that cannot be shaken and full joy and life in abundance and hope as a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. And a it's about knowing Him and making Him known. 

Anchor Church: 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizidek. Hebrews 6:19-20 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sin and Longing

For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. Hosea 2:17 

Last night, I was really hit by the weight of my sin. I see so many ways in which I need Jesus. In Hosea, God promises to make Israel forget the names of her idolatrous gods. I see how I reject God and can't even imagine the glory of what it will be to not even be able to remember what those other things were. Think about that one! And it made me long for heaven and for redemption of my body in a way I haven't in quite awhile. It's when you're faced with the reality of how far you have to go in sanctification that you see the wonder and joy in a life without sin. I wrote a haiku based on this longing and the picture of its fulfillment

Christ makes all things new 
And we can trust Him in full 
Because He is truth. 

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new". Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true" Revelation 21:5 

On that day when freed from sinning 
I shall see thy lovely face 
Clothed then in blood washed linen 
I will sing thy sovereign grace 

Come my Lord no longer tarry 
Take my ransomed soul away 
Send thine angles now to carry 
Me to realms of endless day. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Table

Chris Tomlin's new album is killing me. I like it way too much for someone who doesn't like him.

Anyway, here's The Table

I will feast at the table of the Lord
I will feast at the table of the Lord
I won’t hunger anymore
At His table [x2]

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; His burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord

There is peace at the table of the Lord
There is peace at the table of the Lord
I won’t worry anymore
At His table

There is healing at the table of the Lord
There is healing at the table of the Lord
I won’t suffer anymore
At His table

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; His burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord

I know He has a place for me
Oh, what joy will fill my heart
With the saints around the mercy seat of God

Come all you weary; come and find
His yoke is easy; his burden light
He is able; He will restore
At the table of the Lord
At the table of the Lord

I’m invited to the table of the Lord
I’m invited to the table of the Lord
He says, “Come just as you are”
To His table

Don't miss the miracle.

This morning, after TRX, I could tell it was a great sunrise, so I went for a little walk. I felt like I was sneaking up on the majesty of Mount Rainier. The clouds were hovering right over the rest of the range, like shadows wrestling the glow of the sun.

Pictures don't do it justice.

I couldn't help but remember a word from my dear deceased friend, John Owen,

Think greatly of the greatness of God

Boy did I see His greatness this morning. I'm so glad I'm still in awe of these mountains. It never gets old. It's still a miracle. I hope it's a miracle every time for the rest of my life.

It's a miracle I'm alive to see the Master Craftsman's hand and not dead in my sin. It's a miracle that I who was once a prisoner of darkness have been set free to run toward Christ's marvelous light.

As another favorite pastor of mine says,

Every day that you know Jesus is a day that you are alive in Him instead of dead in your sins. Praise the Lord.               Andrew Pack

Don't miss miracles:
Receive them with thanks, and watch
As they multiply.

(That's a haiku for those of you who missed it ;)  )

I came home and heated a muffin and spread honey peanut butter and steeped green tea and I gave thanks.

The great God who made those mountains and told the sun when to rise also planted the grains and taught the herbs to grow. And He raised my dead heart to life. Praise the Lord.

My sin, oh the bliss, of this glorious thought; 
My sin, not in part, but the whole 
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul! 

It is well 
With my soul 
It is well, it is well with my soul 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him". The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentation 2:21-26. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Before and After

Before. Around 8am. 

Today's a day where if I didn't trust Jesus, if I didn't believe in the church He's built, if I weren't quite me, I would skip church. I would lay in bed and wallow.

The reason I'm not skipping church is not because I'm teaching kiddos today. I could "call in". They'd figure something out. We always do. My church doesn't need me. 

I need them. 

I need to go and see all the faces that Jesus has made my family. I need to hear the children learning about God and about people. I need to watch this diverse family live out the gospel. I need to see the pile of diapers for our neighbors in need. I need to taste His body, broken for me and His blood, poured out for the new covenant. I need to remember Jesus, and give thanks. I need to praise Him in His church. 

After. About 12:30pm 

Feeling filled. I just want to pour over my Bible and bask in the finished work of Jesus. These kids, this family, everyone just helps me want to know Jesus and love Him more. It's amazing the wonders God works in our obedience. It's just as Screwtape points out - 

"Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys" 

Seeing all the kids so hungry to learn about God reminds me of my own need for Him. 

I've been loving a song we've been rocking lately, and we sang it today, with our final chorus as an acapella 

The Benediction 

My friends, may you grow in grace 
And in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior 
My friends, may you grow in grace 
And in the knowledge of Jesus Christ 

To God be the glory 
Now and forever
Now and forever 

To God be the glory 
Now and forever
Now and forever 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Devils, dryness and the Genius

I've mentioned at least once that I believe The Screwtape Letters to be C.S. Lewis's greatest, most brilliant work. I'm currently reading Lunch with Lewis by Allister McGrath and while I love it and appreciate its rich analysis and engagement of many of Lewis's key works, I'm disappointed to read yet another book on Lewis that gives almost no mention of the genius it took to write as Uncle Screwtape, master temptor, to his nephew Wormwood, an apprentice. It communicates such profound nuggets on what it means to be human, and works through the spiritual realm in a creative and masterful way. For that matter, I also believe The Great Divorce is grossly underrated. Whereas Narnia is a work of fiction crafted to imaginatively communicate deep spiritual and human truths and experiences, these two fiction works are built to provoke these massive theological questions. 

I would like to quote Screwtape at length. Here is the 8th letter reprinted in full. Savor it. 

My dear Wormwood, 

So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away," have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the was of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determines Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation - the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department in his life - his interest in work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. 

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now, it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of self good at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demand of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself - creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them, but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useles. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs - to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. 

But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I shall give you some hints on how to exploit them. 

Your affectionate uncle 

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

They Ate and Were Satisfied

This year has been full of changes when it comes to food and me. I have learned so much and tried a million new things (flax "eggs", scrambled tofu, sweet potato "cheese", tempeh "bacon", cashew "cream cheese" and fakeadillas to name a few). I think I've read more labels in the last 10 months than the rest of my life combined. I've found myself migrating to things with fewer ingredients, and real ones at that.

This past week has helped me to take another step on this journey. I've been giving thanks for each meal...not perfectly, as habits can take time to form, but I've been thanking Jesus for the food, for the earth that grew it, for the people who harvested it, the people who packaged and stocked it, the people who made it, the house it was made in, the seasonings that flavored it. I've come to have a more meaningful connection with my food. It gets me thinking about all the pieces coming together. If you don't know what's in your food how do you give thanks? If you don't know where it came from, it's made more shallow? If you don't know who made/grew it, you lose the element of a person to person relationship. And if you don't know the One who made all the creatures of the land and the sea and every plant on the earth and put the water in its place and called it good, you might be missing something.

After Jesus gave thanks to multiply the fish and bread, Mark's gospel records

And they all ate and were satisfied. Mark 6:42 

And when He does it again,

And they ate and were satisfied Mark 8:8 

I caught this today and was struck by that word satisfied. Jesus gave thanks and all were satisfied. They weren't stuffed. They weren't sick from eating. They weren't craving more. They were satisfied.

I think that saying grace is more about receiving grace than earning it. It's not something you check off on the list of habits of a good Christian. It's a recognition of being filled, of having been provided for. It's a lifting of empty hands and saying, "Yes, Jesus, I will take what You give, and I will give thanks because You have satisfied my deepest needs".

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mashed sweet potato

I am eating the most delicious sweet potato ever. I have no precise measurements so experiment as you will. 

I had half of a baked sweet potato I needed to do something with. Results were magical. 

Heat between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of almond milk with about a half tablespoon of earth balance. 

Add your half of roasted potato. Stir to combine, mashing with a spoon as needed. My potato was probably overly roasted so it was very soft. You could also boil a sweet potato, drain the water, add warm milk and spread and mash from there. 

Season with cumin, garlic, sage and salt to taste. 

Oh my gosh this is too delicious. Share it with the world. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guide to Working Out at Darkbreak

It's fall, and it's Seattle, which means it is dark until almost 8am. It's also usually wet and quite chilly so working out in the morning requires preparation. This method has been working for me, although I've definitely woken up for a 6am class and then opted for the 8:30 instead. Listen to your body and go with the flow. 

Step 1: Quit watching Cupcake Wars or Harry Potter at a reasonable time, no matter how awesome your roommates are. 

Step 2: Set alarm with quality wake up music. Bonus for putting alarm across the room for your bed. 

Step 3: Gather all necessary clothing items (leave shoes by the door with your keys and water bottle. Filling water bottle is unnecessary and can be done at the gym. 

(Hey, I didn't say it had to be pretty) 

Step 4 (conditional depending on activity type/location): Open class reservation page in web browser for easy access in the morning. 

Step 5: Put away electronic devices. I strongly encourage the use of a bedside lamp for winding down reading or journaling. 

Step 6: Turn out lights and sleep well. 

Step 7: Alarm goes off. Reserve your space in class. Now you have to go. I like to do this in the morning instead of the night before just in case of a terrible night of sleep or sudden illness. 

Step 8: Bathroom and drink of water 

Step 9: Clothes and hair 

Step 10: I like to grab a small portion of almonds or sunflower seeds and a small glass of water. 

Step 11: Shoes on and out the door. 

I haven't had a just for fun post in awhile so I thought I'd get one out there. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And After Giving Thanks

Happy November! Now that I'm not blogging every day, I feel like y'all have missed so much. And I only managed to skip one day.

Where to start?

I forgot to say that in my personal goal to say grace at least three times daily, I want to focus on all of Chester's points. It has already been enriching as I thank God for something as simple as the pita in the Lord's supper - for the plants that grew it to the harvesters to the bakers to the packaging to the stocking to the buying to the cutting and preparing. There's a lot that goes in to the food we eat.

Next up, this morning, I had a fantastic TRX class. It was much more cardio intensive than other TRX workouts I've done, and the instructor (a sub) was the perfect motivator for me. I haven't really pushed myself in a long time, and he got me to do things I had no idea were possible for me. I worked much harder than I have...probably since cross country ended to be honest.

After that, I hit a nice hot shower and listened to a new favorite song of mine. I am in no way blankly endorsing Chris Tomlin (T and I had a nice chat about some of our theological and heart concerns about him), but this song is really great.

At the Cross (Love Ran Red) 

There's a place where mercy reigns and never dies,
There's a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide.
Where all the love I've ever found,
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life.
I'm in awe of You
I'm in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
and my sin washed white.
I owe all to You
I owe all to You Jesus.

There's a place where sin and shame are powerless.
Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness.
Where all the love I've ever found.
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.


Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You save my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow down


Finally, I went to church. It was another love my church kind of day. It's hard to communicate what makes it so lovely to me. The list in my journal today says things like 

belting voices 
acapella hymns 
when Alyssa asks how my mom is at the same time I ask how her dad is 
when someone gets out of their car just to make sure they didn't cut you off 
kids filling in extra seats
violet handing off her empty cups
pastors passionate about Jesus and His word and getting everyone to live, breathe and share the gospel 

I love that every Sunday, I see the evidences of what happens when Jesus saves sinners.

A lot of thanks  to be given today.