Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Power of Words

Today I had a leisurely morning coffee visit with a good friend. We always laugh a lot but enjoy talking about the serious stuff also. She often chuckles at the way I say things or my choice of words, teasing me that I phrase things like one would expect to read in a clinical report. I am not exactly sure about that, but she is not the only friend who likes to tease me about my "phrase-ology" and that got me thinking about words.

I often hear the line, "you talk funny" or "ooh, where does your accent come from" which always tempts me to want to reply, the same place the rest of my being comes from. But, I resist, and say South Africa politely. "Huh" is what I usually hear after that. Then I explain that we are English speaking South Africans who sounded more British when we arrived in Texas 17 years ago, but now we sound more Australian/New Zealand-ish thanks to the Texas Twang. But, it is not that kind of thing that I am thinking about.

Words have power and we all know that. We have experienced the blessing of good words spoken over us and about us. We have also experienced the devastation of harsh words. One of my favorite things about Mike Cope as a preacher is that he uses words with precision and care. One well picked word can replace a sentence. While I worked for Jack Reese, I would marvel at his love of language and word usage. I think I finally get it. One of my good friends, Adam Gray, is often "accused" of using language that is hard to decipher because it is heart language and not "tell it like it is, git-r-done" kinda talk. I love talking to Adam, because the words make me reach and stretch to see if I am really tracking with him. I always walk away more alive because he challenges me.

Rich words spoken over coffee renew a friendship. Authentic, loving, respectful words spoken in a marriage bring depth and growth. Prayer that is sprinkled with a language of praise and adoration brings us into worship like no other. Song lyrics that are deep and true resonate with our spirits. Words from scripture, made alive in the person of Christ equip us and fill us to live out the mission of God in the world. Words whispered by the Holy Spirit move us.

One can not ignore words. They are everywhere, calling us to consumerism, tempting us to dull our witness to Christ, offering us false hope, promising things that this world can not deliver.
And so, I am more convinced than ever that choosing to fill our lives with words that have real significant meaning can change us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Conversations from Colorado

We just spent the past weekend at Glen Eyrie, the Navigators beautiful site in Colorado Springs. We were there to attend a Marriage Retreat. The last time I visited this gorgeous retreat center was back in 1994 for a Marriage Getaway put on by the ministry of the Navigators. It truly is a glorious place.

David and I spent hours in conversation and that is just for us. However, two other conversations have been rattling around in my mind and seem blog worthy.

1. Brian McLaren was at Glen Eyrie doing another conference, but I got to have a short insightful conversation with him. He has spent a lot of time recently working with church leaders in South Africa and has a unique perspective of what God is doing there. We feel out of touch with the larger picture of Kingdom and how it is impacting life there. I was able to ask him to give me his perspective of what is happening. It was hopeful and encouraging. From the very source of past atrocities and apartheid new life is coming and Jesus is being lived out in ways that are fresh and unexpected. I shared my concern about the violence being directed toward immigrants from other African countries and how that does not fit the Ubuntu theology of Bishop Tutu and other important African voices. He acknowledged the tension of ideology versus practice, but framed it with such clear understanding of the situation. Bottom line he said is that when people feel their wealth is being threatened they will turn on whomever. Bingo!

Herein lies the real issue. One would think that a people who have seen the hardship of being marginalized, the struggle of poverty and the pain of powerlessness would have such deep compassion for the stranger among them, that they would pull together to ensure greater equality for all. However, the newly empowered, the nouveau riche and rising middle class instead are closing ranks to protect their new status at the expense of the refugee.

It made me wonder about the power of our stuff.

2. The second conversation was one about marriage, that the lead organizer of the retreat shared. From the writings of Gary Thomas and others, he reminded us that marriage is more about making us holy than happy. While that is not a new concept it is a beautiful one. It transcends emotion and feeling, but does not minimize it. It speaks to the deeply shaping experience of knowing oneself better in community. It calls us to see our marriage as a tool in the kingdom. Not for one minute was he encouraging us to live out loveless, passionless marriages - just the opposite in fact. He was calling us to the highest possible view of marriage.

It made me wonder about the power of real love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Give Me Your Eyes

I have really been taken with a song that I am hearing on k-love. It is Brandon Heath's, Give Me Your Eyes. The lyrics are so compelling. I pray that God gives me the love for humanity like the words of this song call me to.

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breath in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere, Why have I never cared?

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide what's underneath
There's a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
Too ashamed to tell his wifeHe's out of work
He's buying time
All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

I've Been there a million times
A couple of million eyes
Just moving past me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong
Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way you see the people all along

Monday, September 08, 2008

How Blogging Has Changed Me

Jim Martin tagged me in his last post and made me think about blogging and how it impacts us.

1.Blogging has become a regular part of my spiritual practice. Both the writing of my own blog and reading of other blogs serves to challenge me, teach me, shape me, and draw me closer to God.

2.Blogging has opened up a world of new relationships - some readers I know and have existing relationships with yet others are blog-world friends.

3.Blogging helps orient my thinking. I am able to better process my thoughts through writing and reading comments.

4.In addition to physical community that I value highly, I love the community that develops in the blog-world that allows us to see how believers of all stripes are expanding the kingdom.

5.Blogging has allowed me the joy of "virtually" sitting at the feet of great thinkers on a daily basis. How else does one get to engage in the thoughts of Mike Cope, Jim Martin, Frank Belizzi etc with such regularity.

And now I would like to tag a few friends...

Frank Belizzi
Jim Leasure
Kinney Mabry
Angie Bruce

The rules to this tag are as follows:
1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. link back to the person who tagged you - A Place For the God-Hungry (Jim Martin)
3. link back to this parent post - Seedlings in Stone
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Often on this blog I recommend that people listen to a sermon that Dan has preached on the previous Sunday, and this is no exception. Go to www.amarillocentral.org and you can download it. He concluded a summer series on prayer based very loosely on Philip Yancy's book called Prayer. Part of what was so striking for me personally is that I had spent the entire weekend talking to a good friend about the process of going through the desert and how we live as Kingdom people while in the dry places. The Holy Spirit was faithful to take those conversations and then allow God to speak a word into that situation through Dan on Sunday. Amazing.

But, in addition to that as a hearer this sermon was brilliantly constructed. Genius really. There were layers and layers. The basic message and then underlying thoughts that you could take hold of and chew on for days. I am chewing.

I wanted to share a few of the thoughts that I am contemplating since hearing this message.

1.The spiritual desert is the reality of our faith journey. Moses, Abraham, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, Jesus - they had them. Times in the desert where faith and obedience are hard. St. John of the Cross wrote Dark Night of the Soul from the desert. Theresa of Avila, Mother Theresa, Bonhoeffer - all of those inspirations from our history had their faith formed and reformed by walking through the desert.

2.God does not wait to do his work in us while we are on the Mountaintop. Some of His best work is done in the desert.

3.Our responses to God can not depend on the emotion we feel toward Him.

4.And thus, a life lived out of solid engagement with the spiritual practices will be what sustains us. Praying when we don't feel like it. Sitting with God waiting when we would rather be taking action. Listening instead of speaking.

5.Control has to be surrendered to live like this. Courage and risk are required to allow God to work in us during these times knowing that the process and not the end result is really the prize.

6.Living out the tension of doubt and faith, fear and hope, pain and joy, exhaustion and renewal, surrender and empowerment is where we spend the majority of our lives if we are serious about discipleship.

And so I can sing with new and renewed courage, "when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say Blessed Be The Name of the Lord."