Monday, December 17, 2012

O Come Emanuel

Today I listened to the sound of the rain on my front porch. It fell nearly all day long. A modest stream formed on the front lawn. I reclined by the window to witness the beauty. Did you know that rain falls from white puffy clouds that float high up in the sky? No really! All that water, tons and tons of it, was just floating around… IN THE SKY! If I remember correctly it floats around in the form of little ice crystals. Who knows how far that water had traveled before it decided to visit my yard? I like to think that a least a few of the droplets floated here from Canada… because Canada is funny.

Humans wish for magic. They long for beauty. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” We all would love to be a part of some epic tale with hobbits and elves. My roommate sincerely wishes he had superpowers! I wish I could have a dolphin for a friend… I blame that on Sea World. Nevertheless, I imagine if we had these things they wouldn’t be special to us. Seldom would I appreciate conversing with my friend the dolphin.

We wish for great beauty and magic but our eyes are closed. It rained today. My lawn will be a little greener because tonight it supped on tiny droplets of water that traveled through the sky… probably of Canadian decent! :-) Is that not magic? 

Oh that sin did not exist so that we could live in awe of the splendor of God's creation. Alas, my soul aches because often there seems to be no hope for our world. I close my eyes and harden my heart in an attempt to hide the evil… as a result I hide the magic too. My heart gives itself fully to sin’s empty promises… only to be further from happiness than I had been before. Car wrecks happen. Tsunamis happen. Cancer happens. Divorce, deception, greed, anger… they all happen! We live in a world where people mistake sex for love and money for happiness. Friday a gunman murdered little children. No wonder its hard to look at the rain and see beauty. It’s a wonder that we see beauty at all! We are captives of the terrible things in our world, so much so that we seldom see anything else. Let us hope in Jesus who will destroy evil and one day make a new earth where truth and goodness reign. He makes all things new. This is our epic tale.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I have formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” –Isaiah 43: 18-21

This Christmas I will be thankful for the rain, and I will hope in the joys and beauties to come. 

Friday, August 10, 2012


I am like a child playing a game of tag. Maybe a better term would be a sheep. Ok… Sheep-child?? Sometimes I play fairly. Often I cheat. There are times of laughter, arguments, anger, smiles, tears, and exhaustion. I like to create my own rules to the game. Nevertheless I am constantly running away from, or after, someone… something. We are all children, sheepishly wandering around tagging, in hopes of winning the game. The problem is that in reality we need someone else to give us the rules. Someone with authority needs to call us out on our cheating. Yet, we all like to be the referee of our own games. This is what it is to be human. It is a product of the fall. The irony of the situation is that in our sheepy-child-life we don’t believe that we are in need of help. We don’t think that we have a sheepy-child-life at all! We create the rules remember! In our own eyes, we are rock stars… gods of this game of tag! Sheep!? Whatever! Who naturally thinks they are a lowly, incompetent, brainless creature? To hell with that! We are… I am… a rock star god!

 “Never” you say?! Hmmnnn. Ok. Go on making up parameters to your game. Continue believing the lies your heart has carefully constructed.

 One of the most frustrating things about dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic mom, is that she is constantly living in a reality that is totally separate from everything we know. She has extreme anger, and extreme bitterness. She has created rules to her game that are intricate and thorough. Some days she is sure that the FBI is tapping her phone in order to access information that she alone knows. She tells me that I should skip work because the president issued a roadblock in order to take me captive and get the code she left me in her last letter. Welcome to my daily list of voicemails. ☺

 I have come to the realization that we are not all that different from my schizo-mother. Her mind has built a fortress of lies that she can rarely penetrate. She stays up all night trying to filter through it all… longing for a little truth, but only falling deeper into the labyrinth… growing in hatred towards everything. While my mother is extreme, we all do the same thing. We convince ourselves that we are not bad people. We tell ourselves that money, education, success, or romantic relationships will bring us victory in this game of tag… only, we don’t listen to the referee! We keep making up rules. Everyone tries to justify their crazy lives with their made up rules. So often we give ourselves fully to the idols of our hearts. Tag. Your it… Now off to chase another.

 Please stop the game. Stop the tagging. Stop the chasing. Stop making up realities based on lies! God has given us truth. His word will eat to the core of the fortress you have constructed if he has willed it. The blood of Christ will save you from this stupid game of tag. Do not believe in your game! Believe in Jesus. Please!

 “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
 on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test
 and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; 
they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath,
 ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
-Hebrews 3:7-11

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Fresh green leaves can change a person. I am convinced of this… the kind of leaves that first adorn a tree after a barren winter. These initial buds, which appear so quickly, blossom into a shade of green not seen for the rest of the summer. A blue sky can receive no greater compliment than these new leaves. As I peer upward through the unblemished canopy my eyes rejoice. My pupils have no choice but to dilate, giving respect to the artist.

God’s character is in these leaves. He is the kind of person who likes to create something out of nothing. He does it all the time, but I usually don’t notice. Maybe my heart is too cold or callused to be constantly aware of all the reminders of His love. Nonetheless, today he reminded me that he is majestic. The words that he utters uphold everything, including these little green leaves. Its funny how something as simple as a leaf can remind me that I was once dead. I was just like a winter tree. I had no leaves. Fruit was out of the question. Yet, He spoke and leaves appeared!

Sometimes I wish I had been an art major... if you had ever seen the audacious creations of mine, you would be glad that I stuck to music. Really… it’s like I am a mass murderer of canvases. Is it the right or left side of the brain that is more artistically inclined? I don’t remember. Anyway, I digress… back to the blog post…

Surely there is a certain beauty and value in age, but there is an undeniable goodness associated with things that are new. God is a creator. He creates new things, lets them age, and then creates them anew all over again!

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” –Matthew 6:28-30

Our Artist, the Speaker of our story, delights in the regeneration of leaves to garnish trees in springtime. He loves beauty. But how much more does he take pleasure in the regeneration of our souls! God brings the souls of His people from death to life, from curse to blessing, from bitterness to happiness, from emptiness to fullness and from despair to hope! How awesome is that! Now go outside, look at the leaves. Remember and rejoice in God’s loving promise through Jesus.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


There are few people whom I have met in my brief lifetime that strike me as exceptional human beings. My grandfather was one of them. He passed away last night at the age of 84. He led a good life. Today my aunt said that we ought to go out to his farm and find something that represents him and use it as part of a flower arrangement for the funeral… maybe an old wagon wheel or something. I liked the idea. It’s true that my grandpa was a lover of the land, but a wagon wheel doesn’t come close to representing him in full. He was much more than a farmer, schoolteacher, husband, father, or grandfather. He was a giver. Giving is how he mirrored his savior. He truly seemed to understand that he was blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” –Psalm 24: 1

My grandpa knew that there was nothing that he had worked for that was worth keeping for himself. He was a school teacher and farmer, yet he gave gifts as if he had the salary of a doctor or lawyer. He loaned money that he often never got back; bought cars for people who never paid him back, and did it with the utmost joy. I feel sure that Jesus spoke to his heart in Luke 6 when he says, “To the one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold you tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” He lent money expecting nothing in return. Most people saw it as foolish… he saw it as good.

In the summers when I was in elementary school grandpa would bring us literally every day to Water World, a local water park. He didn’t like to swim but he brought us anyway… sitting at a picnic table day after day while we enjoyed our well-irrigated wonderland.

When he finally decided that our go-cart was too dangerous, he bought an old Toyota Corolla for us to ride around the farm in. It seems a bit much huh? And yes, we went entirely too fast.

He brought us fishing and to see the cows. He would even have the hay bales arranged in a manner that made them more fun to play on. He thought of little things like this, fashioning an abundance of smiles on our faces… surely not realizing the gifts he was storing for himself in heaven.

I got a car on my sixteenth birthday, a large gift when I graduated from high school, and a fully paid college education… all because of my grandparents (I cant exclude grandma from the equation). I was not an exception. All of my siblings and cousins received the same treatment… nothing asked for in return. There was no catch. He simply gave much because he loved much.

He was a forgiving man. I cant tell you how much stuff my brothers and I broke. We crashed the gocart into grandmas Mercedes, broke windows with baseballs, and set numerous things on fire… maybe he never knew about the fire… either way he always forgave us. He loved us the same as the day before.

My brothers and I lived with our grandparents for three years. Every night grandpa read the bible to us. He prayed with us and sent us off to bed. Through tears I rejoice in the life that my Grandfather led. He was salt. He was a lamp on a stand… intending to help people see Jesus. He truly knew his savior. I can’t imagine the infinite joy he is experiencing at this very moment in the presence of the King.

Above: The only photo I could find of me and grandpa. I am sure there are more... just dont know where.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just Thinking Out-Loud

People die. That is true for everyone. There has never been a time when I was not aware of this, but I have never been around dieing people. The reality has rarely hit home.

Once, I went to a hospital to sing for a man who was dying of cancer. I had never met him before. He was old. His hair was falling out due to his sickness. His body trembled and his eyes announced his happiness, emitting tears; a weeping founded in joy. He was joyful because he knew the blood of Christ. He has seen it wash his erroneous nature. I trembled too… witnessing a soul so close to the gates of paradise.

People were not meant to die. People say that death is natural. It is not. It has never been. It will never be. The death of a plant is natural. The death of an animal maybe… but the death of a human being has no hint of natures doing. Death is the doing of a curse. We all live beneath the curses reign…

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” –Gen 3:19

There is a story in the gospel of John where Jesus hears of Lazarus’ sickness. He knows that Lazarus will die. He knows that he will bring him back to life. Yet when he arrived and saw Mary and the people with her weeping, his spirit was moved and he also wept. I often wondered why Jesus would weep when he knew that he was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead. Jesus wept because he was seeing one of the most tragic results of sin. He was a friend of Lazarus... loved Lazarus. Jesus also loved Mary and the other people who were weeping there. He saw the pain in their eyes… could hear the grief in the sobbing. Jesus wept because he was experiencing the effects of sin on humankind first hand.

Jesus was human. I forget that.

There is good news in the midst of darkness. Good news is an understatement. Jesus says in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and every one who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

These words breathe life. Fashioning hope, they grant freedom to live knowing that death is inevitable.


Death exists, but Christ is the resurrection and life. By his grace I shudder at the sound of these words. By his mercy my once-dead soul believes in what sounds foolish to the world. I pray that by his strength I might be like Jesus to whomever God sends me.

Lord, make me salt.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sunsets from Parking-lots

Yesterday, I stood on the top floor of a shopping center called Apita. The weather was perfect. There was a cool breeze, clear crisp air, and miles of visibility from my concrete perch. For a brief 15 minutes as the sun set on this city of 8 million people I forgot that I was in Japan. I forgot that I was seven thousand miles from my family and friends. I forgot that I had things to do, music to learn, Japanese to study. God spoke that sunset into being. I listened with my eyes. I listened more intently than to any opera or recital. This mere sunset was more beautiful than what any human voice could sing. This art came from God’s mouth. It was but a stage prop in his show… and I, an ant crawling on the wall at stage left.

I was alone of that roof. No one else seemed to care about the beauty in the sky. No one even seemed to notice. It is instances like these… rare glimpses into my own smallness when I feel at home in the Lord. I had nothing to offer God in return for his show. I couldn’t sing and impress Him…. the equivalent of a child’s scribble art. At most it would be cute. I could offer nothing but a bowed head… a meager sign of respect. Even this He helped me to accomplish.

It felt real to me yesterday… that God has taken the rubbish I offered Him and traded it for blood… blood from Christ Jesus… God.

I fear the beauty as in that sunset, because it reeks of power… power that is above me, that is better than me in every way shape and form. At the same time I long to know it. I long to know that goodness. I long to be fluent in the language of Him who speaks things into being… He who creates something out of nothing. It is an infinite language, impossible for a finite being. It is rhetoric that human senses cannot taste.

I felt at home for the first time in two months upon that roof. I am no more comfortable with living in Japan than the day before. I still can’t speak Japanese, or read kanji. I still don’t really know what I am buying at the grocery store. If I eat too much rice I still get constipated ☺ But God is here even though his people are few. He is still speaking, though few have ears to hear. His love is evident. His patience is vast. His grace abounds, and I love Him for it. I don’t understand it, but I love it!

For those of you who were hoping for an update on what I have been up too… I am sorry… maybe next time. I will be sending out update emails soon. ☺

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Am A Foreigner

I have been in Japan for over two weeks now. I feel about as adjusted as I could wish for. I have an apartment filled with everything I will ever need. I have battled the Japanese grocery store and reined victorious… relatively speaking. But as I have been thinking about what to tell everyone back home I have been stumped. So much has happened in two weeks that to tell you all of it would be extremely long so I will try and give a short account of a few funny circumstances.

1. I was sitting and listening to a Japanese conversation and was only partially aware of what the topic was. Suddenly everyone started laughing. I obviously missed the punch line, but I was still determined to have input in the excitement. I attempted to say the word for “that’s funny or interesting.” Instead I recited the following phrase with the utmost confidence and assurance that it was the appropriate response: “Oishashiburi des” which happens to mean, “long time no see.” And thus a humiliating moment for the white guy.

2. Japanese toilets are a species set apart from all other bathroom technology. No wiping is necessary for many of these contraptions because they will clean you, dry you and from what I understand, sometimes spray your behind with perfume. I knew all of these things before coming to Japan and once again my pride was cut down by the Japanese culture. All the other bathrooms were occupied at this restaurant called “Yeast Paradise,” so I decided to use the handicapped bathroom. After all, there were no handicapped people in line! I would have considered the bathroom visit a success until the very end when the time came to flush. There was no handle to push… and no visible button. All that existed was an electronic key pad with a bunch of similar looking options all written in Japanese. I chose the biggest option and pressed the key only to set off and alarm! The toilet was calling for assistance for the handicapped guest (me) who apparently had notified the restaurant staff that he couldn’t get up! At that point I knew I had to get out of there fast! I ignored the gift that I left in the toilet and ran out of the building acting as if nothing had happened! Strike two for foreigner!

3. I live by myself in an apartment situated on the third floor of the building. Since I don’t have a roommate, I feel no qualms about walking around in my underwear. Don’t judge me! You would too if it was this hot in you kitchen! You’ve got to cool off somehow! Either way, I am not used to living in a big city… where people can just see into your windows. I looked out the window to see a few children pointing at my window and laughing… it took me a few seconds to realize that they could see me standing there in my undees! I have learned to close the curtains! At least I wasn’t dancing to the music I was listening to!!

Not all of my actions have ended in failure! Just the funny ones! School starts this week and hopefully the gospel choirs will be up and running soon as well! I will update about those things as soon as I can. Hope you all are well! And thanks for your prayers!