December 25, 2011

Christmas Gifts

I was just watching the local morning news and the station had asked on their Facebook page if people had gotten the gift they wanted. After a night and morning of listening to Andrew Peterson's "Behold The Lamb of God", the joy so many people take in materialism struck me wistfully.


It's the only real gift there is.

November 13, 2011

Seeking Balance

"Tradition is the living faith of those who are dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of those who are living." - Jaroslav Pelikan.

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth / But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. 
O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy / Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 
Praise him with tambourine and dancing / Be still, and know that I am God.

So many seemingly conflicting statements about worship in the Old Testament.
So many churches that choose one or the other for their style of worship.

October 30, 2011

The Joy of the Lord.

This morning we had Children's Sabbath at my church. Normally, we have an introductory section of the service, then the children leave to have their own service geared towards their needs and understanding. Today was different in that the children were the service. Not just the focus of the service, but the chief participants. They sang as the choir, led the prayers, and in the course of hearing the lesson delivered to them by the children's ministers, delivered a powerful one themselves.

The lesson to them was of the parable of the mustard seed, but that wasn't the message delivered to me. Watching them read their verses and lead the prayers, Mt 18:3 was the first thing to come to my mind: "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." After a few moments of contemplating that verse, and seeing their excitement, energy, and happiness, my mind went immediately to the verse from Nehemiah: "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

His joy, not mine.

Becoming my strength.

August 25, 2011


Finally got a tiny amount of rain last here in drought-stricken Texas last night. Grasses have been shriveling up, trying to keep only their cores alive until the return of proper rain. Leaves and branches are falling off of trees that are putting all of their energy into extending roots to grasp at any bit of moisture they can find.

When it comes to our spiritual droughts of love, we're not much different from plants in our behavior. Our inner beauty starts to wither as we desperately try to make some sort of connection that will satisfy our need for love. Like a tree, many of these roots fail to find nourishment. Some find a temporary source, then fade. Only one root can reach the true source of the living water that provides the fullness to our souls.

August 22, 2011


Some people do a lot better with changes to their normal routine than others do. I'm one of those that doesn't do very well with changes to my daily routine, and it seems even harder to get myself back to equilibrium once things go back to normal. My posting here has gotten out of my normal schedule because I had a three-week change in my work schedule as my boss was on vacation and I was covering the office during her absence. I figured I would simply pop right back into my previous writing schedule in a couple of days after she returned, but I just haven't been able to do that.

August 8, 2011

An Introvert's Place in a Church Community

Over the past decade or so there has been a huge upswing in the amount of talk/discussion/sermonizing about being a part of a church 'community' or 'family.' Listening to these discussions, you'd tend to believe that it is somehow wrong, or even sinful, to keep your spiritual life largely to yourself while simply attending just the weekly worship services. This misconception is understandable, especially knowing that preachers are almost all extroverts, as are the majority of people they encounter and work with. Getting the introverts to be a comfortable part of a church community takes understanding and work from both the extroverts and the introverts, but it can be done effectively and lovingly.

August 2, 2011

Vision of the Heart

As an amateur photographer, it has always been interesting to me to hear what people think about my photos. I get a lot of good input from my photographer friends about composition, processing, and such, but I really enjoy hearing from non-photographers when they talk about what thoughts and feelings one of my photos invokes. It's amazing to me how different people can look at the same photo and see so many different things and stories in the picture, especially since I rarely have a conscious idea of any kind of story in a photo, I simply see something that catches my interest, and try to capture the image as best I can.

July 25, 2011

Interface: Love Your Neighbor

I've long been interested in the scientific examination of existential questions, such as, "What exactly is my mind's I?", "Where exactly does this I interface with my brain?", etc. And while I still love to read all sorts of scientific works on that subject, I've come to realize on a deeper level what Jesus taught us so long ago; the interface of my mind's I and my brain isn't nearly as important to my life as the interface of my I and your I.

No matter what you believe about the nature of the self and the soul, it's pretty hard to justify not loving our neighbors, especially in terms of society and community. The cold selfishness of "Every man for himself" brings us to a level that is somewhat lower than that of some animals, and certainly much less noble. It's easy enough to love the ones that have captured our hearts and attention, but how in the world do we go about loving our neighbors, the ones that live near us, the unknown ones we meet randomly, and the ones we actively dislike?

July 20, 2011


I've been thinking about this for a while now, much more so after a few conversations I've had with friends over the past few days. It's just amazing how our attitudes can get so out-of-whack in so many areas when gratitude falls out of our view. But how do we keep gratitude in sight, or at least in our peripheral vision? Just saying, "I will be grateful today", won't do it. For me, a list/inventory is the way to go.

Writing a gratitude list can be harder than it sounds, especially if you're feeling more ungrateful than normal, or have never done it before. Still, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get at least a short list started. Once  a few things get on the paper, then more things will flow naturally. If it's really difficult to get a list going, then starting with some very basic things like air to breathe, food to eat, running water, etc., will get the ball rolling. Then we can get down to the "strong meat" referenced in the book of Hebrews. So let me put a few items down and take a look at why I have these things to be grateful for, and more importantly, where they come from:

July 18, 2011

Do I Smell Like A Corpse Flower?

Here in Houston, we're having another rare event; the blooming of a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum or the Titan Arum.) The blooming of this endangered species has only happened 29 times in the U.S., and this is the second time in the space of two years that it has happened in Houston. Not really a very spiritual/existential topic, unless we look at it from a slightly different angle. We've all heard the cliche, "Bloom where you are planted." Those cutesy little sayings bug the daylights out of me, but all this got me thinking a little deeper on the subject after seeing the story of Houston's corpse flower on the news this morning.

July 13, 2011


It was just a little scrawny poodle. She had picked it out just after 9/11, in those weeks when so many people were still feeling the unease and uncertainty from the attacks. He thought she made a bad choice; there were healthier puppies to be found. He would keep the puppy when she had to travel, taking it places he would go, and letting it sleep with him. Though they had parted company years before, he would still get to see the little fluffball once every year or two. These days, the old poodle walks slowly, until he walks in to see him. The thin, ten year old dog's legs come alive and jump and dance to see him. The spark was still there...

July 11, 2011

...As You Love Yourself

Many people, both in and out of the church, are familiar with the two greatest commandments as taught by Jesus: "You shall love God with all your heart, and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." Two commandments, but three actions. Love God, Love your neighbor, and love yourself. Loving yourself has been the subject of countless writings, especially in the 20th century, but how exactly can we do that, and how does someone that doesn't love their self get there? I'll take a look at a few things in this post that have been helpful to me, and hopefully to you as well.

July 7, 2011

Within and Beyond

What does it mean to live the way the Bible teaches us? Is it really all about having the right doctrines and theology, so that a Christ-centered life will flow from that? Is it all about evangelism and missionary work? Is it all about observances? And how in the world do we get ourselves down to living the way God would have us live? These are simple questions that aren't answered so easily by anyone, and countless people in and out of the church are asking themselves these same questions. My view is that it isn't about how anyone teaches or lives but me. The only thing I can truly do is look within and reach beyond.

July 4, 2011

Independence Day

All across America, people are getting ready to celebrate our nation's Declaration of Independence from the rule of the King of England. Parades, parties and fireworks mark the event in all the states, and people are preparing for cook-outs and get-togethers in countless homes and backyards. The text of the Declaration of Independence will be read at many of these gatherings today, words which represent for many Americans a moral standard that our nation should strive to uphold. Some of these words can have a deeper meaning for Christians, if viewed in the proper light.

The Pitmaster

One thing we Texans love is Barbecue. Not grilled meat, (although we love that a lot, too) but slow-smoked barbecue. Right now, I'm tending a brisket on my smoker, letting it cook over very low heat from a fire of Hickory and Mesquite wood. Normally, a brisket is a tough, fatty cut of meat that isn't very good for much of anything. But, with the right technique, seasonings, and smoke, it can be transformed into some of the best food you can find. Back when I was young, brisket was considered to be a "trash" cut of meat, and it was mostly discarded and made into animal food.

June 30, 2011

Goodbye, John

Sad morning to find out that my friend John Wilson had passed away on June 28th. I never got to share a meal and coffee or even shake his hand, but he was still my friend. We met online a few years back on the Aminus3 photoblog site that we were both active on at the time. Always willing to share his knowledge, he had a great impact on my landscape photography, and was a great encouragement to me. We had some good laughs playing tricks on Google's search engine to get his sites up to the top of the page, working it so well that we did it again when he returned to the west coast earlier this year (Google people, don't read that last sentence.)

June 28, 2011

Communion of a Different Type

Christians everywhere are familiar with the rite of Communion, the Lord's Supper. And while we enter that Communion with reverence and devotion, it seems to me that we have lost sight of the importance of what the disciples thought they were about to do, have a simple communal meal. While there is a renewed focus on sharing meals as a family, as a society, we've come to look at sharing meals with several friends as a special occasion sort of thing, and not an integral part of our lives.

June 26, 2011

Being Perfect? Nope, Being Perfectly Human

I've had a couple of people question me about this blog's title: "No one can be perfect! Only Jesus was perfect!, etc." The misunderstanding comes from two sides; misunderstanding the nature of Christ in relation to our own nature, and misunderstanding the meaning of the words "perfect" and "human", and how they modify each other.

June 24, 2011

Connection and Separation: Knowledge of Ourselves

Over the past couple of days, I've had the privilege of watching two old friends get re-connected. The joy in their voices and the easy flow of their conversation has been magical to see. It's as if there were never any lost time between these two ladies (and it is so strange to type 'ladies' when I want to type 'girls', as we were all just kids the last time we were all together.) Yet as I have been listening to them this morning in their strong connection, I have been feeling a huge sense of separation. As bad as that may sound to most people on a superficial level, it really isn't, because I know myself and my needs much better now than I have in the past.

I am an Introvert. An extreme Introvert, on any scale you wish to use to measure Introversion/Extroversion. My two friends are Extroverts, and about as far apart from me on the scale as they could be. And I believe there has been some confusion/disappointment/misunderstanding between one of those ladies and I this morning, as most people don't have a good understanding of Introversion, since we Introverts are vastly outnumbered by Extroverts. But where the big problem lies is not so much in the understand of what is and Introvert/Extrovert, but in our understanding of ourselves and our real needs. We simply can't appreciate and understand the needs of another until we understand our own needs.

June 21, 2011

All The Roots Grow Deeper When It's Dry...Sort of.

This horrible drought we're having in Texas this year made me think of an old David Wilcox song this morning. You can find the lyrics here.

Yes, that's what plants do, even when left alone without a landscaper or gardener to care for them. The catch is that a lot of plants, even large trees, will sicken and die when you get into a drought as bad as we've had here in Texas lately. Like what I've been doing for my tree's roots the past few months, we have to do some work for our souls during these long droughts, if we wish to bloom in the next rainy season.

June 17, 2011

The Least of These; The Least of Me

I've been a fan of the band Caedmon's Call since they recorded their first album back in the mid 90's. There's a line from the song "This World" off of their My Calm, Your Storm album that has always stuck with me when I look at myself: "And the least of these look like criminals to me, so I leave Christ on the street." That's a pretty powerful call to look at ourselves and set out to serve and help the suffering and needy. Countless people have written about this call to service, so there's no need for me to write much about that. Rather, since my writing is more about my internal life and struggle for faith, I'm going to change some words in that song lyric and look at it from a different direction.

I realize today that a lot of the struggle that I have had with my faith in my life has coincided with a struggle with my self-esteem and worth. After all, when you hate yourself, you already know that you're going to fail at "love your neighbor as you love yourself." I know a lot of preachers and teachers will say that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and He'll take care of all that stuff. That simplicity doesn't fly with people like me who have this kind of internal struggle going on inside. If you've ever been to a meeting of one of the 12-step programs, you've likely heard the phrase, "God will do for us what we can't do for ourselves." If we stop there without exploring the corollary, "God will not do what we must do for ourselves", then it's just another simplistic platitude. "For the dream comes through much effort", as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, so if we're going to achieve this dream of spiritual wholeness and maturity, then it follows that there will be internal work. Hard work, and maybe a lot if it.

June 16, 2011

24/7 Prayer Challenge - My Second Night

Yesterday, when I went up to the church for my hour in the prayer vigil, I got to speak to Mindy, one of the church's co-Pastors for a few moments before starting. This morning I got to meet and speak a bit more with her husband Robert, the other co-Pastor. I've got to start forcing myself to drink some extra coffee in the late hours of my Saturday night shift and get back up there on Sunday mornings. I believe there is some very good work going on and some new exciting things that I need to be a part of.

My prayers and experience this morning were very different this morning than yesterday. I opened my Bible to Proverbs for some inspiration and went immediately to the bookmarks I had in chapters 2 and 9.

June 15, 2011

24/7 Prayer Challenge

The church that I used to attend before my weekend work schedule interfered has been having a prayer challenge this week. The challenge is to have at least one person at the church, every hour of each day of the week, to engage in prayer. When my friend Lindy first mentioned this a week or two ago, I was non-committal, but when she asked again this week I was glad to accept. I knew this would be a good way to re-kindle my inner spiritual flame, and to reconnect with a group of believers, albeit in a somewhat eremitic manner.

June 13, 2011

Treasure and Worship

Shifting from one to the other, that's where it all started going downhill. You'll need to refer to the previous post to get some of the references I make here, but it's short and quick to read.

Last year, I wound up in a relationship that was better than any one I had been in before and better than I could have imagined. One thing that made it very loving for us was my decision early on to ask God to help me treasure her every day. The problem was that when you forget who you are, the work you've done, and that you're perfect at being human, it becomes easy to elevate others to a place that they shouldn't occupy in your life. She had become my object of worship.

June 12, 2011

Wake-Up Call

I've been processing some things over the past few days and had quite a moment of clarity as a result.

Fours years ago, I had an unrequited love knock me on my butt, so to speak. I was at what was probably the most healthy and whole point in my life, spiritually and emotionally. The problem wasn't so much getting knocked on my butt as it was my lazy refusal to get back up and go on with living my life. Fast forward through three years of isolation and depression, and I found myself with an even more amazing love, one that I couldn't have imagined. Things could have been beyond my wildest dreams, but the depression was still hanging on to me. Or so I thought.

June 11, 2011

Relationships and Sharpening Knives

Sounds pretty grim and serial killer-ish, huh? Really, it isn't. Bear with me while I take you through some seemingly unrelated information to get to my final point.

One of my favorite Bible verses is, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." - Proverbs 27:17, NASB. We all get the gist of that verse, but I think a lot of people miss the most effective way to put it into practice in our daily lives. Why? Because most people have no idea how to properly sharpen and care for a knife.