Monday, June 23, 2008

Back to normal?

Well, I guess I'm getting back to normal since I got back from DC.

That sucks.

I don't want to be normal. I want to be doing something special. I feel like something in me is yelling out to go back up the mountain.

At the same time, I feel like it's "down here" where I really need to be (not to be confused with the band downhere) . And it's hard to do that, I'm finding.

Go back with me, if you will, to our first morning in DC (Fri, 6/6/08). We're up and out of the church by 6:00am to travel across the city to So Others Might Eat(aka SOME). We're on tap to help setup and serve breakfast and lunch at their dining room. SOME isn't the biggest outreach and kitchen in DC (we went there later), but they do feed around 800 - 1000 meals per day.

Upon arrival, we met our humble and helpful host, Tony. Tony gave us the lay of the land and fielded many teenage questions from our group. He was very gracious throughout. Then it was on to the dining room for the next 6 hours. I managed the dishwashing detail for all shifts. That meant that me and oen of our high schoolers made sure that we always had enough plates and cups for the dining room. Sounds easy, but here are some numbers to put it in perspective: SOME can seat 100 people at a time, they turn each seat about every 5 minutes, and they have less than 200 plates and about 150 cups. Let me tell you, we were up to our elbows in grits and eggs at breakfast and then covered in chili and soap suds at lunch!

All the while, we got to meet and talk with the homeless and hungry of DC. We got to work with an amazing group of full-time staff and volunteers. We got to see the love of Christ in action everywhere we turned. Six hours went by way too fast.

I could see the youth we brought with us seeing it too. Most of them had their world views expanded, even cracked open, in that short time frame. I admit that mine was stretched too. It would be again and again throughout the week.

Thus began the mountain top experiences. I felt liek I was miles above normal. I felt like I was really connecting to God and working for Him. My heart took Colossians 3:23 seriously for probably the first time:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:23 - 24, NIV)

It was so easy to be that way. I was away from most of my daily routine and responsibilities (no work calls/emails/SMS, no daily commute, no church committee meetings), I was in a different geographic location and culture (Dupont Circle in DC is a whole lot different than suburban South Carolina), and I was spending day and night with a group of people that I didn't normally spend much time with. It was like being a different person without being a different person. I'm not sure that makes sense...

Now I'm home. I'm back at work. I'm in the daily routines. It's not easy anymore. Eddie recently tackled some of this when he talked about feeling uninspired during the "good times" in life. That is, when things are normal and going along OK, we can lose the grip on our dependence on God.

Maybe that's where I am. I'm back to the things that I feel like are mine. In DC, I was unencumbered and out of my element. That's where I found God waiting. I mean, He's always there waiting, but back home I've piled up a whole bunch of stuff (work, family, routine) to make a wall that shuts me off from Him.

I know I don't like that wall. I know it's not the right way to live. I know it needs to change to stop blocking me off from God.

I just don't know how right now...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Down the mountain

I'm still in the process of putting pen to paper to get thoughts on the DC mission trip in order. In the process, I'm having a sort of crisis.

You see, the trip and the work we did was an amazing experience for me. The opportunity to serve like that and living in community with the opportunity to teach and learn really lifted me up. I felt as if I was drenched in the Holy Spirit instead of sweat each day. It was a mountain top experience.

Luke 9:28-36 describes the literal mountain top experience that Jesus has. He goes up the mountain with Peter, John, and James and experiences transfiguration and fellowship with both Moses and Elijah. The disciples with Him are awe struck (of course) and want to honor Jesus and the others. Instead, Jesus leads them back down from the mountain.

Until the past few days, I did not connect the next section of Scripture with this one. But now it makes perfect sense. Luke 9:37-42 describes what happens coming down the mountain. Jesus performs a healing miracle and casts a demon out of a young boy.

I say that I see the connection now because I have come down the mountain and am having a sort of depression or let down. Like Peter, I have this desire to stay on the mountain:
As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) (Luke 9:33 NIV)

So I am torn between this desire and returning to everyday life. Neither is really feasible for me and, honestly, I think I'm only seeing my selfish desires here. I can't "live on a mission trip" at this point in my, and my family's, life. I can't settle for just going back to the same old daily routine. There must be something else.

Back to the relevance of the two passages in Luke. The importance of the second passage is what has gotten clear: Don't stay on the mountain, come back down and serve others.

It's what Jesus did.

It's what I need to do. I also need to pray about it, I know.

Father, I pray that you will continue to use me in service according to your will. I once again give to you my life and stake no claims to it myself. I submit to your sovereignty and humbly ask for your direction and guidance. May it be your will that is done. Amen.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Link loved

I got back from a mission trip to Washington, DC yesterday. Still trying to recover from the travel and process all the amazing stuff that went on. I expect to put up several posts soon on the trip. In the mean time, please enjoy these links to the blogs/sites of several folks that I enjoy reading and that have provided inspiration and support over the past months. Please take minute or two to visit them.

Evan at Living With "God Vision"
Eddie at Simple Life in Christ
Carlos at Raggamuffin Soul
John at Vertizontal
Stephen at Thoughts of a Worshiper
Gene at Jesus is Extravagant!
Brody at " case you were wondering."

(inspired by this post from Brody)

Thanks and may God bless you.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


In preparation for leaving on the mission trip to DC this upcoming week, I have been putting together a list of things to read. It's becoming a pretty good list, I guess. But I found one book that I had to start reading even before I left. My wife team-teaches the middle school youth Sunday school class at our church. They have been using a book called "Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers: Exploring Christian Faith" by Donald K McKim (who seems to be a pretty well written author). I've been a member of our current PCUSA church for the past 8 years. We pretty much joined back then so we could have a church to baptize our first child. We had joined a different church several years before so we could get married there. I'll admit, those aren't the necessarily the greatest reasons to join a church, but there it is. Prior to those events, I had been in Southern Baptist, Pentecostal Holiness, Church of Christ, Ghurch of God, and charismatic churches. So I didn't really know much about formal Presbyterian theology. Shoot, I really don't know the formal theology of any of the aforementioned denominations.

So, my interest in this book was high immediately. I picked it up and read the first few chapters. It's written as chapters dealing with topics like Faith and Salvation. Each chapters has several questions that KcKim provides answers grounded in Presbyterian theology. Each answer is pretty simple and short, so no long treatise with extensive research citations. There are several Scriptural references for each answer.

Now, the point is not to review he book and point out the ups/downs of it. The point, for me anyway, is to ask some serious questions about faith. Well, about my faith. The first of the many questions has to do with theology itself.

How much does the theology matter in a Christian denomination? I mean, there are some basic things from Scripture that are hard to argue with, I would think. But it turns out that different denominations, and even churches within the same denomination, can have different interpretations of things like the virgin birth of Jesus or the "literalness" of the creation story in Genesis.

The main point that started drawing me into this internal discussion had to do with KcKim's answers about predestination. I had just read Romans 8 in which Paul writes:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:28-39 NIV)

So McKim's discussion about God's predestination and His elect piqued my interest. I'll probably go into more depth about the answers in his book in a later post. For now, I want to know:

What is important about theology in the Christian faith?