Kitchen Table Musings

I look at my kitchen table, all covered in scars. There are cup rings and cuts and more scrapes than can be counted. This table bears its history, its story, on its face, wearing it proudly for all to see. I look at my table, and all I can think is how much I love my table and its baggage. I smile and run my hands over its surface and think look what we’ve been through together

And as I gaze upon this table I find myself thinking… Maybe this is how God looks at me.

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Five-Minute Friday: Begin

Every academic test I have ever taken has opened with a professor/proctor saying, “You may now begin.”

Sitting there before I take the test, my mind is racing, trying to re-access all the sections of my brain where I stored the information for this test. My stomach is doing summersaults and my hands are clammy.

Yet when the professor says those four little words, all of that fades away and peace settles over me.

I have studied. I know what I’m doing. This information is all in my head, it’s just a matter of getting it onto the paper in front of me.

Besides, I know something that isn’t on this test. The sentence “You may now begin” implies that this test is the beginning of something. But really the beginning happened long ago and without that beginning I wouldn’t be able to begin the test. The beginning happened when I walked into that class for the first time.

But even that wasn’t really the beginning. That beginning was when I came to college, and that’s was when I went to high school. I could keep going, but you get the picture. Every beginning is just a continuation of another beginning. 

And if you keep going back far enough, in the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God and was God, and in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God spoke out into the nothingness and told the universe, “You may now begin,” and a million billion stars spun into existence.

And 20 years ago Jesus took my messy life, wiped away my old self, breathed into me a new creation and said, “You may now begin.” And every day He gives me new mercy and allows me to begin again and again and again.

Professors can keep telling me I can begin their silly little tests, and I will keep smiling to myself. I can now begin

 

Every Friday5-minute-friday-1 we silence the inner critics and simply write. For 5 minutes, we mute the voices that tell us we are not enough and we pour forth our souls. And it is beautiful. Join us?

Immanuel’s Veins

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When Ted Dekker released his book Immanuel’s Veins several years ago, I bought and read it without knowing anything about it beforehand.  After all, he’s my favorite Christian author, I knew I’d like it.  Except I didn’t.  I didn’t like it at all.

Most people who dislike Dekker’s works complain that his themes are too heavy-handed, that readers should be gently lead to the theme rather than beat over the head with it.  You cannot walk away from a Dekker book without knowing exactly what general life lesson he wanted you to learn, and Immanuel’s Veins is not exception to this rule.  The theme of blood having power runs from cover to cover and seems an appropriate theme for a book dealing with vampires.  As with most of Dekker’s works, however, the theme is tied up in allegory, so much so that one cannot fully grasp the depth of the theme without understanding the biblical princ

ipal from which he draws.  The blood of Jesus is the only thing which can rescue people from damnation, redeem a life from despair, and restore a soul to communion with the Father.  The Bible teaches that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22, NIV), and Dekker fleshes this verse out in Immanuel’s Veins.  

This is not my issue with the book, though. I happen to like that the theme is not hidden behind layers and layers and that I do not have to work really hard to figure the theme out.

My big issue, why I will never re-read or recommend this book to anyone, is that the book is hyper-sensual.  I understand that this is a love story.  I also understand that this book seeks to draw some lines between lust and love.  But must we roll in the mud to understand that mud is yucky? Paul admonishes us in Philippians 4:8 to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Does chapter after chapter of a first person account of Toma’s raging emotions and desire qualify as what Christians should be dwelling on?

I finished reading the book out of loyalty to Ted Dekker, but I felt dirty by the end.  It was too sensual. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either: According to Dekker himself, a publisher in the Netherlands refused to publish the book for the same reason.  I’m all for free speech and lack of censorship in the publishing world, but that doesn’t mean that I have to approve of everything that is published. I personally side with Holland publishing company and say that this book crosses the line into being inappropriate for Christians to read.

Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel

It’s Christmas time again, which means that my favorite musical artists are singing songs I grew up singing in Church. Songs like “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.” (Click here for an incredible piano/violin instrumental version of the song.) Sometimes, though, we sing a song so many times that we forget the meaning behind the words we’re singing. We’re just singing on autopilot, with our brains engaging other thoughts.  What does this hauntingly beautiful song I secretly sing all year actually mean?

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save;
Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.

This song is so much more than a Christmas song – it’s a prayer to God.  Actually, when you begin to break this song’s meaning down, it’s not really a Christmas song at all.  This song is asking God for deliverance, for wisdom, for manifestation, for victory, for exodus, for encouragement, and for unity.  Between each request is repeated the reminder that no matter our circumstances we should still rejoice, for we know that God With Us  is going to come through.  This song is a song of hope, of expectation, and of supplication.  

What ties this song to Christmas is that Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection is that makes answered prayers possible.  Without Christ and His great love and sacrifice for us, we could not approach God, for without Christ there can be no forgiveness of sins.  But because of Christ we can approach God with boldness and present our needs to him.  Think about it: The maker of the universe and everything in it wants to hear what is going on in your life, and he wants to provide you with every good thing.  That is the hope of Christmas! We can gain salvation and an audience with the Father because of the gift of the Son.

Psalm 23

Jesus watches over me: I have everything I need.
He takes me to a restful place,
he leads me along safe paths,
he renews my spirit.
His reputation ensures
he will never lead me astray.
Even though I walk
through a fog of depression,
I will fear no evil,
because Jesus is with me;
his instruments comfort me.
He will make sure I’m taken care of,
even when enemies surround me.
He gives me so many blessings,
I can’t contain them all.
I know His love and mercy
will be with me my whole life,
and I will live with Him forever.

This is a paraphrase of a Psalm that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Depression may have struck me once again, but that does not change the fact that God still walks alongside me, taking care of me and protecting me.  He will stay with me, depressed or not.

This assurance allows me to hope even amidst forces trying to bind me up and crush me down. Hope is strongest when times are darkest, for it is then that hope is most desperately needed.  When times are high and life is good, hope is unnecessary; why do you need to hope for life to be better when life is already great? But when times are tough and life is rough, hope is what gets you through to another day and another and another.

Hold onto hope, for when you have nothing left to hold onto, hope will still be there.

Five Minute Friday: Grace

I recently saw a book titled Grace: The Power to Change and it immediately got me thinking. How do we change? Do we change through sheer will power? That seems like it might work for some people, but most people lack the amount of will power necessary to change life-sized problems on their own. Most people need something else to help. Grace is what gives us a second chance when screw up, what lets us try again when we do what we swore up and down we wouldn’t do.  Grace is what doesn’t throw us into the garbage bin when we behave in a less than perfect manner. Grace is what gives us the freedom to fail and try again.  Only then can we change, when we know that failure is not the end, but that we must “rise and rise again” until we are no longer the person we once were. Grace is what makes change possible.

Anti-Internet Day

September 9 is and always shall be Anti-Internet Day for me.  No, I’m not an Internet-hater, and no, I don’t think the Internet is inherently evil.  Obviously I love the internet, or else I would be writing this on paper instead of in a blog.  Anti-Internet Day is about freedom from addiction.

For the last two years of high school I lived a double life.  By day I lived a relatively normal life, doing school work, going to church, and competing in extracurricular activities.  But by night I lived a completely differently online in XXX role playing games.  Online I got to be all the vile things I was too scared to be in the regular world. (I’ll spare you the details of all that; what’s the point in rolling around in muck in order to talk about how nice it is to be clean?) I liked my double life and was fully prepared to continue living it forever.  I knew all the church stuff and believed most of it; I had, after all, been raised in a pastor’s home.  But I had managed to justify my hypocritical existence, telling myself things like, “It’s not real,” “It’s just a bit of fun,” and “The Bible wasn’t talking about this because this is the Internet and the Bible doesn’t apply here.”  I built up this shell of lies and justification around me so much that I was deaf to reason and sense.

Five years ago today I encountered God in a way I never had before.  I don’t remember what specifically happened, and I don’t remember what was said or who said it.  But I know that the effect was that of God striking my shell with a sledgehammer and shattering it into a million billion pieces.  Suddenly I could hear Truth and could see myself for what I was: A liar wrapped in chains of addiction and perversion.  The Truth showed me that what I did online was in fact real, for  Jesus said that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).  If the thought-life counts the same as action-life in God’s eyes, then everything I did in that “game” was just as real as if I had done it with another person. The Truth showed me that while what I did seemed like it was just a bit of fun, “there is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  While I don’t think my online actions were necessarily going to result in my physical death, they certainly killed me spiritually – and without me even realizing it.  The Truth showed me that while the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about the Internet, it is not silent on the matter, for “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12; emphasis added).  My thoughts were as far from righteous as is possible to be.

Knowing this Truth allowed me to be set free.  I am free to live without fear of being discovered. I am free to live without exhaustion from living two lives.  I am free to speak truth to others without being hypocritical.  I am free to live life without bondage.  I am free to worship God without condemnation.  I am free to live my life to the fullest.

I’d like to say that I was so radically changed that day five years ago that I never struggled with my online identity again. I’d like to say I never stumbled or did stupid things again. But that would be a lie, and part of the New Me is not lying to myself or to others. Of course I have struggled and of course I have stumbled; I am an imperfect person living in a fallen world. The differences is that I don’t live in that place of addiction any longer.  When I fall, I don’t stay down in the mud.  I remember what that life was like and I never want to go back.