Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Radical Gratitude

No one receives anything — not by work, not by worth, not by wit — unless it is a gift.
There is only one category for everything that exists: Gift.
Self-made men don’t exist — only God-given gifts.
When you’re overwhelmed with the goodness of God to you — you overflow with the goodness of God to others.
Gratefulness doesn’t make us blithe little pollyannas. Gratefulness doesn’t make us comfortable  – it makes us radical. 
The radically grateful can never stand for injustice - because they are moved by radical grace.
You can’t know grace and not be moved. Grace starts movements.
Grace is a catalyst.
You haven’t discovered fire until you’ve discovered grace. When grace touches you, it combusts you and you become one unstoppable flame.
Right there, I want to beat my chest like a drum, like a repentance, like a call: Real gratitude doesn’t make you apathetic — it makes you a real activist.
Real gratitude isn’t an anesthetic — real gratitude makes you catalytic.
When gratitude to God revolutionizes your life, God uses you to revolutionize the world.
It’s why God said to give thanks in everything.
Radical Gratitude is the attitude of the revolutionaries.
Ann Voskamp

Monday, January 06, 2014


Jesus' core message was that God is neither a powerless weakling nor a powerful boss, but a lover, whose only desire is to give us what our hearts most desire.  To pray is to listen to that voice of love. That is what obedience is all about.

The word "obedience" comes from the Latin word ob-audire, which means to listen with great attentiveness.  Without listening we become deaf to the voice of love.  The Latin word for deaf is surdus.  To be completely deaf is to be absurdus, yes, absurd. 

When we no longer pray, no longer listen to the voice of love that speaks to us in the moment, our lives become absurd lives in which we are thrown back and forth between the past and the future.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pleasing Others

There was an old man, a boy and a donkey. They were going to town and the boy was riding the donkey, with the old man walking alongside.  As they rambled along, they passed some old women sitting in the shade.  One of the women called out, "Shame on you, a great lump of a boy, riding while your old father is walking." 

The man and boy decided that maybe the critics were right so they changed positions.  Later they ambled by a group of mothers watching their young children play by the river.  One cried out in protest, "How could you make your little boy walk in the hot sun while you ride!"

The two travelers decided that maybe they both should walk. Next they met some young men out for a stroll. "How stupid you are to walk when you have a perfectly good donkey to ride!" one yelled derisively.  

So both father and son clambered onto the donkey, deciding they both should ride.  They were soon settled and underway again.  They next encountered some children who were on their way home from school.  One girl shouted, "How mean to put such a load on a poor little animal."  

The old man and the boy saw no alternative.  Maybe the critics were right.  They now struggled to carry the donkey.  As they crossed a bridge, they lost their grip on the confused animal and he fell to his death in the river.  And the moral, of course, is that if you try to please everyone you will never know what to do, it will be hard to get anywhere, you will please no-one, not even yourself, and you will probably lose your ass.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Say No!

You can do it!

The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

Thomas Merton

Friday, October 04, 2013

God of Great Affection

The Old Testament tells the story of God rescuing fallen humanity and even when he had to break into human history to deal with the destructive power of sin and preserve a line that could receive his grace. People saw God’s passion and its occasional severity as proof that he was angry with humanity. I used the analogy of my wife bridging a relationship with battered, stray dogs that showed up at our house in Visalia. Instead of rushing to us, they cowered in the bushes or in the darkness, afraid we would harm them, too. Winning a dog that has been abused takes some time. You have to work with their hunger to invite them closer to you until they can begin to believe that you are not out to hurt them but help them.

And then this thought came to mind, “The Old Testament is the story of God’s rescue told from the dog’s perspective.” I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but the more I’ve meditated on it, the more I like it. That’s why there seems to be differences between the Old and New Testaments. While God has not changed, our perception of him changes greatly through the Incarnation of Jesus.
Before we saw him through our eyes and our mistaken conclusions. Just like the Old Testament writers who saw God through their grid of shame and fear and deemed him a terrifying judge. Their words reflect it. We’ve got to understand they write from a place of fear and rejection, which only makes it all the more miraculous when they get a glimpse of the loving and gracious God whose “love never fails”, whose “lovingkindness is better than life”, and whose “mercies are new every morning”. They were torn between a God of great affection and the blindness of their own guilt and shame.

Thankfully, Jesus comes to tell us and to show us what God is really like. He’s not angry with us for our sin, but sees us as harassed and helpless and wants to rescue us from our bondage into his life. He woos us into the Father’s affection and prepared a way for us to be at rest in his presence, confident that he wants us there, as he untangles the mess we’ve made of our lives. The writers of the New Testament tells us that same story of rescue told from the dogs’ perspective who are now inside the house. In Christ they found peace with God and no longer needed to cower in the bushes as they had become at home in him.

We all undergo that same process, don’t we? Abused by sin and fearful that God would either ignore us or punish us, we cower in our own self-effort or self-pity, hoping against hope that he’ll be good to us, but too overwhelmed by fears to come to him. And yet, he keeps reaching out to us until we can finally be won into his affection.

Then when we are won into his affection, we can hold a more complete view of God and even in those moments where God is intense and severe in setting us free or keeping the world in check, we see that as an expression of his love, not his anger or rejection of us.