Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Real Dreams

I'm reading Ann Voskamp's 1,000 Gifts this morning, just so desparately trying to see God in my mess.  This line hit home: "I believe in the power of the pit."
Anger, stress, bitterness, rage, pride, offense, accusation, murder, hate, lies, and then the pit is ever so deepening within me some days.  I used to be a prisoner to it.  I knew the prince well.  I guess I still do.
Jesus my friend wants me to lay aside old powers and cling to him.  Will he not be enough?  Is he not enough?  He feels distant on cold Tuesdays with deadlines missed and old names like "failure, wretch, slacker, messy, disorganized, hopeless, weak" whispered into this frail human mind.
I need to taste God.  I need his peace to overwhelm me.  That he is generous towards me is so very hard to believe.  I'm his delight, that's crazy right?  But that he sees not just potential in me but his very own son.  I am perfect to him, his perfect delight.  That his heart that bled for me still bleeds with deep emotion towards me seems audacious, sacrilege.  To good to really be true.
Who is this God of the half-hearted, the lazy, the tired, the weary, the worried, the anxious, the prideful, the boasting, the mean, the bitter, the cold, the resentful and the unforgiving?  Is he not?  Or dare I say he is, the great I AM.  The presence, who by very solid as rock truth, defies all odds and lies, giving truth for lies, Christ for sin, love for loss, acceptance for rejection, peace for rebellion, and loves me, Philip.  Truths so good they seem like lies.
He says my name.  Oh do I dare believe he says it.  I come running.  My name means "lover of horses."  I proclaim my hatred for horses and God laughs.  He loves my jokes.  He loves me.  He rubs his hand through my rough unwashed hair. He stoops low, sniffing my head - relishing the smell of me.  He whispers in my ears words of his joy over me, of his crazed attitude of righteousness covering all, his tears rolling down my cheeks as he kisses, tears that speak deeper to my pain than any I have ever wept.
That he can be this close seems far off.  A pipe dream.  But if he's not, I'll take these dreams over life.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day 2, In God's Image

Flecks of sawdust spun up and around my face, gently pricking my cheeks and occasionally catching the corner of my eye (protective glasses absently on my head).  I eased the spinning saw again into the wood, watching as the blade made grain give way to air.  Watching the wood disapear to blade gives me great joy, just the simplicity of a straight line and obedient wood (or at least semi-straight and semi-obedient).

My friends came over today with their families to help me build my tree-house.  Actually it’s for the kids, but since they hardly ever go up there and I’ve been slaving away at it for over a year, it’s sort of mine.  And I guess it’s “slaving away” if I consider all the time I spend just thinking about doing it and procrastinating.  And then if I factor in all the should and ought-to feelings that generally rule my life as a chronic procrastinator then yes, I’ve been slaving. 

But as I worked today, with friends beside me, watching wood obey the drill. my hammer (every other swing) and my hands I felt satisfaction.  I also felt anxiety.  Leading friends in a work project is hardly my field of expertise.  I doubt my leadership qualities all the time.  But I am dubious, indubitably dubious and prone to second guess everything – it’s the writer in me.  

Yet these friends were kind enough to listen when I told them I felt anxiety leading them, and they didn’t run away.  I need friends like that, friends that won’t run away when they see my neediness.  Friends that don't run from you are good.  One even waved to the tree-house, trying to open my eyes to help me celebrate, “Phil, you made all that.  It is amazing!”

And well, I’m not being prideful when I agree it is amazing.  The tree-house stands eight feet off the ground, is attached to big evergreens and is like a wood castle in our firn covered swamp/yard.  I’ve lined the actual house with wood from a friend’s old deck.  Rotting and black with mold, he was going to chuck it.  But I took it, ran my saw along it and saw bright reddish pine (I think) underneath.  Propping the boards on their edge and running my saw along the wood’s surface I’ve pretty much ruined my saw, but the woods rough look on the house makes me happy, it looks so rugged.  And I feel that the wood is worth more anyway.  Salvaging is good for my soul.  So yeah, it is amazing.  My tree-house is amazing.  And with a little help, I’ve made it.  Almost.

In Genesis I’m told that I’m made, perhaps carved, in the actual image of God.  It’s a little crazy to actually believe it.  That I bear the actual stamp of God.  But that’s not enough, I don’t just have God’s creative stamp I’m made in his actual image.  Making a tree-house is fine work, work that fulfills and that I enjoy.  Imagine making a human being.  Imagine pouring yourself into that creature.  Imagine the joy you would have at seeing it come to be.  To exist.  And to have it reflect you.  Made in your image.  There’s something profound going on there.  And I can’t figure it out.  And I’m not even sure I want to I like it so much. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

God Spoke

God spoke: “Light!”

For the month of January I've taken on a free-write challenge from Jeff Goins to get my blog going again and to begin walking through my questions on scripture as well as other random thoughts.  So if stuff is rough, sorry, I'm going to try and keep the editing to a minimum.

God spoke: “Light!”And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.

 It was evening, it was morning—
    Day One.

God spoke.  Is that really all it took?  I wonder.

My 5-hr-old David, prayed over breakfast this morning and I asked him if he'd like to thank God for anything else.  He said, "Thank you God for nature."  That's my boy.

He loves lizards, catapillars, is scared by snakes yet fascinated.  He cares for goldfish in distress.  He's seen many a burial and cried over his loses.  David, God's beloved, reflects his creator.  

In nature I see so much detail.  It's so carefully orchestrated.  It works so well.  I need green.  My cubicle at work is covered in it.  It's why I love the Pacific Northwest so much.  It was there that I first began to really taste and see that God is good in his creation.

So when I hear "God spoke" and boom there was "plants of all kinds" say, I think I have heard it wrong for a long time.  I see God hovering above the waters in sort of a spirit cloud thing and pronouncing on high his words.  He has a huge white beard, flowing robes and just says stuff and it happens.

But if I look at what happens, the result, I'm in awe.  This God who I know the Bible says hovered over the waters, created such intimate detail.  His nature speaks of such care and design.  I can't think that Moses had anything like the trumped up Platonic, gnostic version of God who doesn't get fingers dirty when he wrote "God spoke."

Maybe there's something in words that conveys intimacy and power.  I think that's a better take.  John says Jesus was there in the beginning, creating as the word.  The mysterious here would give me migraines.  But if Jesus was present, and the Spirit, hey-ho, we've got the Trinity doing there thing, making a world. 

And if I know the theme of scripture, I know that what they make is good.  And what they make, they make carefully.  With power yes, but with great care as well.  

Monday, May 20, 2013


When I was a kid, BMX or bicycle motocross was on the rise.  It was the eighties, and these stunt bikers, their helmets, and the crazy colors of their uniforms were calling to me.  I wanted a bike.  And I got it.  I still remember its sleek chrome lines, its rubber smell, its black and white checkered grips.  I remember imagining jumping it and all the tricks I was going to learn.  I learned how to stand on my seat.  

Sure I spent a ton of time thinking and lusting over my buddies super-awesome blue bike, but mine was pretty sweet too.  Oh and I learned to do a stoppie, which is where you slam the front brake and go into a sort of front-wheel wheelie.  Man I was so cool on that bike.  Or at least I was going to be cool when I grew up.

But we moved from that land of BMX to a new land, the land of suburbs and team sports, a land of conformity and video games.  Sure I still rode my bike and stuff, but it wasn’t the same and I felt a little saddened by the fact that I never learned to actually jump a bike, regardless hop off a curb.  As a boy turning into a man, I felt like something in me had chickened out.  I just had never jumped my bike.

Years go by.  I’m 25, and we’ve moved to a new land.  I’m walking with my wife, holding hands and I see a kid setting a board against a fence about 4 feet off the ground.  “Oh boy I think, he’s going to jump his bike off that.  Awesome!”  The little boy in me was about to jump out of my old boy skin.  “Me want to do!”  I thought. 

To make a long story short, “Me did” even getting to know that kid and hang with his bike gang.  And at 36 I still do.  I can really ride a bike now.  There’s super-sweet-awesome candy colors, wheelies, and jumping, lots of it.  Even as I write I’m about to go ride.  There will be colors, there will be tricks, there will be speed.  And even maybe a front wheel wheelie at the end. 

I don’t think we ever grow up.  Our bodies just slowly retire.  So here’s to that boy in me.  He likes the color of my sweet gloves, he likes my bike, he marvels at what a suspension fork is and most of all he thinks, I can see him walking around my bike and saying, “This is so totally rad.”  You got to love impressing kids, even if that kid is yourself.  


Echoes, footsteps, hushed voices.  Candles, choirs, eerie melody.  Dark and blackened wood and shadows.  Heavy stone carved and stacked past my minds comprehension.  So many shapes, curves and forms.  Too many to grasp.  So I gape. 

And light as I’ve never seen it.  A playful dance between sun and glass - red, blue, green and all the in-betweens, mixing, colliding and rolling in rays and patterns, lighting the dust.   Here is the real magic. 

This place, this sacred place, is made to hold the weight of time.  Filled with awe I stand, surrounded by history.  Noble bones lie beneath my feet.  I walk, gaze and wonder.  Who were these people?  How did they create all this?  Were they flesh and bone like me?  Surely not.

Look at the bigness and the robustness of it all!  And then the minuteness and the attention to detail.  Have we grown as people, with our cars, cameras, tv sets and computers, or have we shrunk?  I stare at statue after statue, saints with fingers poised in blessing and knights entombed in honor, hands crossed on swords with loyal and lean dogs at their feet.

I walk past legends, both the traitorous and the courageous, past all the laughter and tears.  Life of threshold, throng, market and all the busy life of the in-between were swallowed up in here.  They must have needed this place.  The sacred stillness and astonishing grandeur helped them make sense.  But even for them time moved forward, putting them in their place.  But they left this and it is spectacular.

What will they think?  Those who walk the halls of our times.  It’s depressing to wonder.   Our sophistication seems paltry in comparison to this.  How can an iphone compare to thousand-ton chiseled rock and carved oak that has withstood wars, famines, disease and all the mess of humanity? 

The wood is carved, stained, varnished, and aged with years of use, aged by oils from hands as frail as mine.  I suspect the wood is even more solid now, even more weighty. Then there is the fine smell of dust and incense, the robes and colors and stuff of the divine, and all my senses are coming undone. 

The answer to the mystery lies in these halls.  These halls that were crafted to take the breath and house those who no longer breathe.  These mortals may no longer speak but they echo louder than our generation ever will, regardless of all our noise and perhaps because of it.  Through history they speak to something larger, a time when God was bigger.   A life that was closer to real, and to a right sense that more in life was sacred. 

These halls were made to shrink us, to make us feel the weight of our insignificance but also to woo and woe us, to pull us out of ourselves and our trivialities.  They were made precisely to reflect the God who inspired them.  And as I realize they are a shadowy reflection, I run my hand along the smoothed stone and whisper  “Woe am I, for I live among a people of unclean lips and damned iphones.”     

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


"I just can't convince myself to believe in God."

I hear this all the time from young people.  Why are they so stuck?  Why do they feel the need to convince themselves?  How do they propose to do it?  And if God is real, what's the point?

When Jesus asked his disciples to come and follow, they had little knowledge of what they were stepping into.  They didn't know that they were following God.  They didn't feel they needed to convince themselves of anything much more than, "Hmm, this should be interesting, let's go check it out."

Why don't kids feel that freedom today.  Where is the "gospel confidence"?   By this I mean, have they heard that the gospel is attractive, that it's good, that it makes sense of the world and us, and that it is apparent to those who are tired, weary and down-trodden.  They wear themselves out trying to believe in something and they don't even know what it is!

Have they heard that the gospel is about hope?  Have they heard that it's not about joining a club or a clique?  Have they heard that it's not just another self-help program?  Have they heard that it's actually real?

A friend of mine used to say that the gospel is headline news everyday, the headline news that "JESUS IS ALIVE!"  I hope that I can step away from my own posturing and mind-games long enough to consider this news.

We all need to consider this reality.  This reality that Jesus is alive changes the game.  If it's true, everything changes.  Explore it.  Search it out.  Live it.  And hope in it.  I believe this is the Christian mandate - whatever mandate means.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Monster

I just read an email/article on "Telling Better Stories with Our Lives."  I shouldn't do stuff like this to myself on Mondays.  It's masochistic.

When and if I get out of bed on Monday mornings, I don't typically see the bright side of anything.  It's got to be hard on my family, but I try to grunt myself to the pantry, grab some cereal and hide behind my bowl and allow the sound of my crunching echo out all the eager or not so eager noises of my 4 and  6 year olds.

Sometimes Melissa, who I'm suspecting really is from a really distant planet, will venture into my inner life with financial questions, plans for the week, reminders, etc.  She's pretty daring, but she's learning that these sorts of quests she takes are doomed.  Totally doomed.

That's why I'm a little befuddled by the article I had handed to me by a friend as I entered the office.  Can't a Monday under-achiever have a little peace without being reminded by (OK I'll name him) Donald Miller telling him that he needs to be living a better life?!  That living a better life could effect the lives of thousands who are waiting for him to step up to the plate, swing and become the super-star that the needy world needs to today.  On Mondays I'd rather bunt and pray I get to first.

It doesn't help that we have 5 day work weeks here in America.  I know there are places where the most that's expected of a male is to squat in place and tell hunting stories and doodle in the sand until the women ask him to move.  That may be where I belong, at least on Mondays.

Walking into work I was greeted by the security guard with a cheery salute and the innocent question, "How's it going?"  I put on my best manic smile and gave my standard bare faced lie, "GREAT!"  I wonder if said greeter ever suspects that an individual could be experiencing that much greatness that many days in a row.

And then I get here and read this article and depression begins to set in.  "Welcome back" the article seems to say.  "Welcome back to a week of guilt, with generous slabs of "you should be doing something meaningful with your life" and a side of pressure from great author who used to not take himself so seriously.    

But all of this kind of leads me nowhere.  Especially on a Monday.  God does good and even great things through people just like me - monday monsters who see the gray in everything.  People who just can't seem to find the right pants.  I did find the right pants today, so I guess my week is off to a better than normal start.

I need a savior today as with every-day, it's the only way through.