Monday, February 22, 2010

People of Joy

As we get into the Easter season I begin my yearly journey toward the cross and the tomb by reading “Reliving the Passion” by Walt Wangerin. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it as a resource to frame our hearts and minds toward Easter. It is designed to be read from Ash Wednesday (which was last week) to Easter. It is a perfect companion for those who follow Lenten traditions. This morning as I was reading I reflected back on one of his thoughts from a few days ago.

On Day 4, Saturday, Wangerin writes these words;
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope.”

As I reflect on these words I am deeply convicted about how often I strive to be happy instead of longing to have joy. No one likes to experience pain, especially over a long period of time. But out of that pain God raises those who endure to new heights to intimacy with Him. Through our pain we grow into deeper beings relying on the power of God instead of the ease of our circumstance to control our hearts.

We are a circumstance driven people. When circumstances call for celebration, we are happy. When circumstances bring pain, we cry out for mercy and seek to medicate ourselves on whatever indulgence will dull the pain. I know this is true for my life. I desire so much more.

I have encountered people dealing with all types of pain lately. And instead of medicating, we need to embrace it. We need to look for the depths of God in the midst of our circumstance. And out of the ashes will rise endurance. Out of endurance character and out of character hope.

May we strive to be people of joy, and not settle for happiness.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I have come to realize in some areas of my life that I am a hypocrite. I know this is a terrible admission, but I think at some level everyone lives with a certain disconnect between what we really believe and what we always do. Sometimes it is in major areas such as integrity or commitments. That is not what I am talking about. Before you jump to any more conclusions, let me explain.

I tend to teach and preach discipline and focus to my children. I get onto them about grades, their messy rooms, watching too much television, etc. I am not overly harsh (at least I don’t think so) but I do try to push them to a higher level than I was willing to achieve when I was their age. They are smart, talented, and beautiful. I want them to be their absolute best.

Occasionally I look in a mirror. I try to avoid them when possible. The mirror I am talking about is not the one that shows an outer reflection, but the one that examines the inner heart. It is the mirror that only we can see. When I look there, I see that some things in my life are not what they should be for someone who talks a good game.

What I have come to realize in my own heart is that I have a long way to go to be the man God intends me to become. I am often lazy in my habits of time with God. I sometimes draw the conclusion that if I am in my church office, I must be doing things of God. Wrong!!! I often speak and write about loving others, but there are some people God has placed in my life that I can’t stand. I need to be able to control my appetites better (less cookies more carrots!!!) but that doesn’t always happen.

I know I am a work I progress. Some people just call me a piece of work!! But I have been asking God to show me the true reflection of who I am and how he wants to change me. It is scary, convicting, and powerful. But it is good.

My prayer is that each of us would look into our heart and do the hard work of the faith and not settle for less than God’s best for our lives.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Being and Doing

I came across the following quote this morning (thanks to Anne Jackson at and it sparked some thoughts I wanted to share with you.

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for
what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness” Thomas Merton

I have been working through this very same issue in my life for a while. Through reading scripture, reading other books and listening to what some Godly people have had to say, I have been focusing my life on being as well as on doing. I have been challenged by others to dive into this issue, but the thought seems to come and go with seasons of life.

The concept of valuing “being” and “doing” is counter-cultural for Americans. We are a nation founded by people who thrived on rugged individualism and a high work ethic. For us, accomplishment is something to be rewarded and we like to hold up our “finished products.” It is so much easier to measure something that is done than it is to measure something that simply is.

Being and doing are both valuable. They are scriptural mandates for everyone who follows Christ. Jesus told the woman in John 4 that it was “truth” (being) that mattered in her worship of God. The book of James tells us that our “actions” (doing) must match our faith. It is not an “either or” but a “both and” situation. We are to have a life of being that is reflective, focused spiritually, and transformed by the Spirit of God. We are to then have actions in our life that reflect the love of God outward toward people and that meets the needs of those around us.

This week, “be” and “do.” Allow your life to be one that values the soul and allows the inner beauty of God to reflect the outer actions of his work in your life.