Monday, March 26, 2012


"How are you today?"

"I'm fine."

We've all participated in this verbal handshake. Like Eliza Doolittle at the races - purring "How do you do?" - we're not really asking a question and we don't really expect an answer. It's like nodding and smiling at someone as you pass them on the sidewalk. Just a social pleasantry.

I had a pastor once who told me that FINE stood for Frazzled, Insecure, Neurotic, and Exhausted. "How are you today?" "I'm FINE!" A loaded answer, translated "Trust me - you just don't want to know how I'm really doing!"

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to answer "Fine," even though I know it is expected and probably quite sufficient. Maybe I'm not feeling completely frazzled, insecure, neurotic, and exhausted (well, yes, perhaps exhausted) - but I'm not just generic fine, either. Saying "I'm fine today" feels like an outright lie. Ten Commandment violation stuff.

More and more, I find myself answering "I'm not doing too great, but I'm hanging in there." Or, "Actually, I'm a mess...I need Jesus all over me." Or, "Today is a good day, and that is enough." Or even, "I'm not doing well at all and I'm really discouraged. Would you pray for me?"

How about you, Dear Reader? How do you answer this innocuous question - "How are you today?" - with some measure of integrity? Am I the only person who struggles with how to respond simply, but with some degree of truthfulness?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've been told my blog tends to be a bit too heavy and depressing. I admit it: I am not a light, humorous person. So, I recruited one of the funniest, coolest people I know to help. This is kinda how our conversation went yesterday afternoon:

"Any ideas for a fun blog post?"

"Um, no."

"But you're such a fun kind of guy!"

"I'm not a blogger."

Anyway, this stimulating conversation led to the conclusion that - TA DA! - today I should post about butts, Credence Clearwater Revival, and "sammiches." My Expert Adviser told me this would be absolutely hysterical. I have to admit - I don't quite get it. I must be more un-fun that I thought.

This puts me totally out of my element. After pounding my empty head on the counter for a couple of minutes, I got this really clever idea that it would be fun to do a poetical spoof of "Bad Moon Rising"....

I see the full moon arising
I see laughter on the way
I see jumping and splashing
I see good times today

Don't head toward the pond tonight
Unless you are a Brother
There is a full moon on the rise

(Okay, so it's not quite CCR. I need a jammin' guitar in the background to help stir the Muse.)

I tend to be more Austen-ian, so let's try another tack. A few lines of dialogue from my next novel. You'll just have to figure out scene/context on you own.

"What's for lunch?"

"PORK, Mother! The last of the smoked Boston..."

"But smoked pork is so greasy and rich. Don't eat too much - you'll make yourself sick."

"Don't worry, Mom. There were just two buns left anyway, so I only made a couple sammiches."

"You didn't leave a bun for me? You bum!"

"Hey, do we have any chips? Looks like we're in for nasty weather. Have you ever seen the rain comin' down on a sunny day?"

Sigh. This is much harder than I thought it would be. Maybe you can help me out: got any great ideas for a fun blog post? :)

Monday, March 19, 2012


I have nothing, but I find this is a gift. Look! I have nothing to lose!

Oh, Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose,
And let my song forever be, "My only boast is you."
- All I Have Is Christ

Sunday, March 18, 2012


If I am to be saved, it must be by Jesus, completely and completely.

In a scene from the 2003 movie Luther, Martin Luther lies prostrate on the stone floor of his cell, praying from a most broken and desperate place, "I am Yours: save me! Save me! I am Yours!" That scene has been stuck in my head lately, playing over and over and over.

That broken and desperate place is the "birthing room" of a new Christian life. But I am beginning to realize that it is also the home and the hearth, the very heart beat, of every waking moment of this new life...not just some snapshot in a baby album that we revisit as we reminisce occasionally on significant moments in our past.

All the prayers for repentance and wisdom, the desire to have an attentive and submissive heart, the yearning to be faithful and obedient to God's will for me and to walk joyfully in the paths He has given me...none of those have saved me, and none of them ever will. Only Jesus. Completely.

It's been a long, hard week. What an understatement! Driving home from Wal-Mart late last night, I was crying (exhausted) and trying again to wrap my brain around what it means to live a life of faith in Christ. Isn't it supposed to be something glorious, like preaching the Gospel under-cover in some Muslim country? Or, raising money for orphans in Haiti? Or, standing trial for my faith in Rome? Lord, really, is it just scanning suitcases of beer and carts full of frozen TV dinners? Instead of a spear or a gun, is it really just this relentless pain in my elbows and knees? Instead of the accusations of the Pharisees, is it really just taking the insults and verbal barbs of tired, nasty, bad-mannered people, trying to find some way to speak some light and levity into their day? Is it going home to a quiet house and cold left-overs, too tired to even think, but already conscious of the demands of tomorrow? I am worn out and lonely and not feeling particularly "fulfilled" - Lord, is this how it's supposed to be? Really, Lord?

I'd like to think I could do "great" things...witness in a hostile environment, endure persecution, die for Jesus. (Ooooooh, or maybe I could write something amazing!) But the reality is, I can barely even do the little things. Like say, "I'm sorry you've had a bad day - I hope tomorrow is better for you" to the man who just dumped a truck-load of garbage on me. Like smile and say "Thank you" to the Wicked Witch of the West. Like hold the hand of the gray-haired truck driver, on his way from Louisiana to New York, who is just too tired and wants nothing more than to get back home.

Nope. I can't even do the little things. I'm a mess. A disaster. If anything is going to save me, it will have to be Jesus. Completely. Save me Lord...I am Yours!

In this week's Soli Deo Gloria article, Wally Bumpas wrote: In 1 John 2:1, Jesus is called our "advocate with the Father." An advocate is like an attorney arguing your case. What is Jesus pleading when He "pleads our cause?" And why is this necessary?....we have a mortal enemy who accuses us (Revelation 12:10) before God. This enemy is Satan...He goes before God and says, "Joe and Jane Christian over there are very poor Christians. Their faith is flimsy and they sin a lot. They're not good enough for You and they certainly don't deserve to go to heaven." Though Satan is called a liar and the father of lies in the Bible, when he says such things about Christians, he is telling the truth. So, when Jesus pleads our cause, He doesn't defend us based on our obedience and our great faith. He pleads His own life and death in our place....That's what keeps Christians saved: not our performance, but Christ's substitution and intercession. (You can read the entire article here.)

Yes, if I'm to be saved, Jesus will have to save me. Yesterday, today, tomorrow...Jesus will have to save me, completely and for eternity, because nothing else and no one else can.

Glorious Gospel: Jesus does indeed save sinners! God chose the foolish, the weak, the lowly, the despised (1 Corinthians 1:27-31). Yes, that describes me. I need Jesus. Lord, I am me!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:16-17

Monday, March 12, 2012


Sunday mornings at Grace, our adult class is working through Michael Horton's Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. This excerpt from a couple weeks back, addressing the doctrine of God's sovereign election, brought back some painful childhood memories!

We all remember the schoolyard games, when the most popular kids, serving as team captains, would pick the other popular kids. Everyone hoped to be at least a third- or fourth-round pick. Being chosen last could be so humiliating that the poor kid who was last often just gave up and stood by himself on the sidelines rather than suffer repeat performances. That happens in church, too. Choices are made concerning people based on their performance or popularity. But the doctrine of election puts folks in their place. On this playground, Christ is the team captain of the "foolish," the "weak," the "base and despised," the "nothings," in order to show the wise, the strong, the popular, and the "somebodies" of the world that we all come to him on equal terms, empty-handed (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-19). God has chosen a team that any "loser" can join...

Horton continues: Knowing that God has chosen us reminds us that we are loved, though not lovely; chosen, even though we're not necessarily choice in the eyes of the boss, the spouse, the parents, or the folks at church. We are accepted - not because we are acceptable ourselves, but because "he hath made us acceptable in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

I was one of those kids always chosen last in PE class. Yes, it was humiliating. I was a misfit socially - shy, awkward, nerdy, the antithesis of "cool." Even though I compensated by over-achieving academically, I was always very conscious that I was different, out, weird, a loser. I was painfully reminded of that again this weekend.

Maybe that's why Horton's illustration hit a nerve with me. He didn't sugar coat the situation. Horton admitted the truth: "Yeah, you're a loser." But then he presented the Gospel - the amazing Gospel - that the Captain of everything, the creator and sustainer of the universe, looked at me as I stood with downcast eyes and a heavy heart, and He said, "I choose you."

So I've been reminded, again, that I'm a loser...something I'd momentarily forgotten living in the glorious sunshine of God's grace. Felt like a kick in the stomach. Made me want to run hide in a dark corner of the playground. Yeah, I cried. But then my lovely Captain sought me out, comforted my bruises, and reminded me anew, "I love you. I chose you. You are accepted."

Concerning the doctrine of election, Martin Luther wrote, "...the greatest and only consolation and assurance for Christians in their adversity is that...God does all things immutably and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered." Michael Horton summarizes Luther: "In other words, when God sets out to initiate someone's salvation, he inevitably finishes it!"

God is pleased with me because He is pleased with Christ, and His good purposes for me cannot and will not be thwarted. He will indeed transform this Loser into the glorious likeness of His beloved Son.

I am loved, and I am safe.

Yes, I'm probably the world's biggest loser, but you should just meet my Captain!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


All of the grit of two hundred souls'
(Milk, motor oil, pork shoulder, laundry soap...)
Settles into my left elbow
And both my knees
Like the black soot
Ground from ball bearings.

Not thinking,
I squat to retrieve an errant coin.
Knees protest and I wince,
Gripping the edge of the counter.
Come on, arms, elbows -
You must hoist this heavy baggage, too!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


An elderly friend - a man I would describe as a Giant of the Christian faith - confided that he was dreading upcoming back surgery. Not just dreading surgery, but quaking in his boots, shaking like a child. "I am afraid that I'm ashamed of myself."

I visited this friend when he was in rehab, re-learning to use his back, his arms, all of his muscles, really. As I walked to a table where he sat stacking plastic cups, his smile lit up the room. "All has turned out for the good!" he beamed.

Weeks later, at his house, my friend pulled out a hymnal and read to me these lines: "Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head."

"I was such a 'fearful saint,' Camille," he shared, "but God indeed rained blessing and mercy on me, greater than I could have imagined." His blue eyes twinkled in his age-lined face.

The line from the hymn he shared comes from "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," one of my favorite hymns, written by one of my very favorite hymnists, William Cowper. William Cowper's life story is worth reading - for a snapshot of the great struggles this man faced, click here. Amazing that a man so weak and broken could be used by God to write words so full of grace and comfort, words that, centuries later, still minister to God's children!

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
- William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform;
he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-ending skill
he treasures up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy and shall break in blessing on you head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding ev'ry hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.

(Sovereign Grace Music has produced a version of this classic hymn, set to contemporary music - you can listen to it here.)