Sunday, November 30, 2008


Monday, November 24, 2008


last week i sat in my SOMA (greek for body: a christian group on campus dedicated to changing our campus with the gospel) group and was completely unengaged. you know, that feeling you get when you are physically in attendance, but you are emotionally absent? that's where i was. having just received my SECOND failing calculus quiz after working very hard, i was discouraged, and struggled to pour my heart into worship. oh, i sang. i read, i prayed. but engaged in the connection with my Saviour? in true communion and fellowship? nope.
i was not in the posture for worship.
i didnt know there was a posture for worship. but the Lord has been revealing there is.
and its facedown.
i mean, facedown.
smudging our noses with dirt. eyes to the ground.
grass stained knees.
thats where i desire to be. because i know where standing gets me. Psalm 1:1 says "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."
look at that. "who does not walk", "or stand" "or sit".
how bout kneeling? how about facedown?
singer Mark Hall says that that verse, to him, demonstrates the way we can so quickly edge into sin by starting out walking, then we stop and stand, and before you know it, we are sitting. wallowing in depravity. distracted. keeping company with those who mock what Christ lived for. so why dont we let our knees being us closer to humility? i know why i dont. i am prideful.
i let my knees stay strengthened by pride.
i brace myself up on selfishness.
i secure my head with distraction.
i dont want to get "dirty".
i dont want grass stains on my knees.
i dont want dirt on my forehead.
but God is calling me to throw myself down.
okay Lord. draw me down. into a posture fit for worship. facedown.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


My earliest memory is of church. I distinctly remember toddling down the aisle at church in California: ambulating my pigtailed, three year old self past several rows of pews. I even remember what I was wearing. Grey flannel overalls with little black puppies peeking over the edge of the front pocket, like watchdogs set on guiding little me safely down to the stage. I am not sure what exactly I was headed towards, or even what the pastor had called me down for. I am not sure whether it was about Jesus or not. I only remember one thing: he was holding fruit snacks. And to me and my pigtails, he might as well have had the world.

Matthew Paul Turner has memories of church, too. In fact, that’s what his latest book is all about. Close on the heels of his quirky, provoking, and sometimes controversial books aimed at twenty-somethings, Turners proffers a new type of book: a memoir. He moves effortlessly through a graceful portrayal of life in a fundamentalist Baptist church, where legalism reigned supreme, and the mercy of God shone through in rare moments. Indeed, the grace of God weaves itself like a ribbon through the poignant and wrenching tale. And it’s funny. Did I mention that? I laugh and cry through a lot of books, but during Turner’s retelling of the creative censoring of cinematic masterpiece ‘Ben Hur’, I was simultaneously gasping for air and crying buckets. He narrates in painfully funny detail, his first haircut, which deemed him a satisfactory Baptist: “To my father, this haircut was about much more than doing away with my Bobby Brady mop. It was about me looking like a Baptist. I think my father thought that the angels in heaven would be a good bit happier once my head looked as clean-shaven as a Marine’s.” He discusses his first Sunday at the new church, describing the feeling as “being kidnapped by Puritans, except without the witch trial and the dunking booth”. He does such a masterful job at retelling the “Barbie burning”(a very innovative way of “scaring the hell” out of him and his Sunday school peers) that one very nearly can smell the scorched plastic.

Turner is a storyteller. With “Churched”, he joins the ranks of Donald Miller and Anne Lamott, with a loping, candid pace that carefully and meticulously shuffles along. ‘Churched’ is like those moving escalators at the airport: you step on and it moves so steadily you start to become comfortable and relaxed, and before you know it, you’re being shuffled off right back into the real world, thirty yards closer to your destination. Maybe this book will move people closer to a destination of a more genuine love affair with Christ’s bride, His church. “Churched” is not a stab at parish life. In fact, it is a kind, benevolent look at a life clouded by legalism, where the grace of God shone extra bright. Rather than bitterly recollecting the hurt and confusion he felt as a child, Turner approaches it with an optimistic cheer, urging us to examine how we view church, and what it means to follow Jesus. He ends with a moving paragraph, and I wept when I read it. “Last Sunday, Jessica and I went to church. It was Easter. A couple people got baptized. The guy sitting next to me took two smoke breaks. I closed my eyes during the praise and worship. Pete gave a sermon about hope. We took communion.
I wasn’t afraid.”
I’ve always admired Turner for his gritty and droll style, and was ready to leaf through another jaunty book where I would laugh and maybe learn something about being a college student in the twenty-first century. At least, that’s what had happened with his previous works. I was wrong. I read it through overnight. I couldn’t put it down.
I cried.
I laughed.
And then I opened it and read it all over again.
I learned something about myself. How I view church. What my role is in the body. Why I come every Sunday, Why trips down an aisle don’t guarantee a heart right with God. That no matter how many sermons we annotate or people we convert, it comes down to loving Jesus with the abandon of a child and an eagerness to do His will.
Even without fruit snacks.


Monday, November 3, 2008

blood on the doorposts of the universe

i bought a cup of coffee for a man two nights ago at Starbucks.
i handed it to him, steaming coffee on a cold night, and
it moved from my hands to his.
my hands, smooth from little real manual labor, smooth from being protected by the elements of the outdoors, smooth from a life lived in plenty, hands that have never known whats its really like to want,
hands that are always abundantly, excessively, full.
to hands weathered by cold and heat, hands that extend to beg.
hands that i know fingered a trigger to fight in Vietnam,
hands that daily peel duct tape off a roll tucked into a backpack to mend his eclectic wardrobe.
hands that pick at a broken guitar.
his name is Todd, and he is homeless.

i dont know that what i did was right. i know full well that Todd is capable, and indeed, should get a real job and stop begging on the streets. i know that much of what he does with the money he gets is spend it on alcohol and cigarettes.
but i also know that in that moment, all i knew was the movement of mercy that stirred in me as i slid my card across the counter and ordered a second latte.
he needed that coffee. and i needed a reminder that i am not my own.

i have been reading the new rob bell book, 'Jesus wants to Save Christians'.
i am going to be honest, i am on the fence about rob bell. his writings have changed my life, in that i have been awakened to the state of the Church as a whole, my role as a Christian, and how that looks like, to Love, to extend grace, to live out the words coming from my mouth.what does that look like?

numerous situations have arisen this week that have challenged me to rethink how i view Love.
was it loving for me to buy a coffee for him? maybe. rob bell says that there is blood on the doorposts of the universe. as i stepped into starbucks that night, a child died in Africa. as i slid my plastic money across the counter, a little girl wept in Ethiopia. as i jammed my key into the ignition of my Taurus, a little boy woke to captivity in Mali. What am i doing about it?

where is Love, where does Jesus show up in situations like that?
what difference am i making?

i heard a great speaker at the last show i worked publicity for, and he said "If you woke up this morning, in a bed, with food and a dollar in your wallet, you are in the top 1% of the world."

the top 1%.

he said "Jesus has put us at the front of the line, and asks us "What will you do with this now?"
i was talking to a friend the other night, and was so frustrated with myself for caring so much. i get so passionate about poverty and hunger and abuse, and i still live my life exactly the same.
i guess what i want is a heaviness that i am justified in caring. I want God to move me so i dont forget that i am not my own, that caring is something He has placed in me. I want a heart humbled and moved to mercy. I want hands that will scrub the blood from just one doorpost. i want theburden of loving the world.