Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recipe for a Miracle

1 fully ripe circumstance

2 cups impossibility (no substitutes)

Drain natural resources

Add one grain of faith

Fold in prayer

Let praise rise until doubled

Punch down doubtful thoughts


Let praise rise again

Punch down words of defeat

Leave in furnace of affliction until edges are golden

Chill and wait

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Charismaniac Attack

My ideal church would meet in a gym, allow bagels and jeans during the sermon, and make skeptics feel right at home. It would not allow the kind of person who attacked Gail Tipton* one Sunday in the early 1980's.

Gail is a fiery Baltimorean preacher with a college education and a distaste for nonprofessionalism. So when her pastor invited a cornfed woman from Kentucky as the guest speaker for morning worship, Gail folded her arms. This hick had runs in her stockings, coffee stains on her blouse, and very unbrushed teeth. But that wasn't all. At the end of a butchered sermon, the dear woman pointed to Gail and called her forward for prayer!

Gail wanted to run and hide, but instead lurched toward the front of the church and her worst fear was realized--she was about to be attacked by a charismaniac. Holy Roller Hillbilly yelled, spitting out every "s" in Jesus' mighty name, pushed and shoved unkempt fingers on Janet's head, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet, in her belly, in her belly, and in her belly! She shundalah-ed, roared, bound and finally loosed poor Gail to her seat. Janet went home and took a bath, half ready to throw in the Pentecostal towel and become a Methodist.

I relate to Gail. The left side of my brain frequently complains to God about the wackos in His family--the dreaming, angel-chasing, sign-seeking, shaking, quaking folks that clutter my would-be tidy Sunday service and logic-loving mind.

Three months after the quack attack Gail was rushed to the emergency room with unexplained internal bleeding. Her abdomen was swollen and she was close to death. Lying on the hospital bed in desperation, Gail silently cried out to God for help. Wanting to not make a spectacle before her roommate (polished as she was, you know), the frail woman grabbed two IV poles connected to bags of blood, and inched her way into the bathroom. She shut the door, leaned over the sink, and bargained with God:

"Do you remember that dear, sweet (very dear, very sweet) woman from Kentucky that laid hands on my stomach a few months ago, and prayed for healing before I knew I needed it? Well if you answer her prayer, I promise I'll never make fun of one of your servants again."

The next day Gail went home, healthy, leaving the doctors befuddled as to what had caused her hemorraging. She's been healthy ever since.

Gail spoke in our church--our little charismatic church--last Sunday. The night before I had talked late into the night with my dad about my disillusionment with the "containters" in which God stores His presence--people like the little lady from Kentucky. I had no idea that the next morning's topic would be Treasures and Containers. As Gail spoke so passionately and eloquently about the need to value the container (God's people) for the treasure (God) that they hold, I wept.

How many times had I reacted like leperous Naaman when Elijah told him to dip in the muddy Jordan seven times (II Kings 5)? It took the same humility for Captain Naaman to receive his healing that it will for me to receive what God might say and do through the sometimes muddled waters of "spirit-filled" church. Containers aren't perfect, but the treasure within, is.

(Note: I happen to attend a charismatic church, but consider myself interdenominational, or  nondenominational. I feel at home in any church where the Bible is preached and Jesus is our common ground.)

*name has been changed

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

God Bought Me Some Perfume

So I've been wanting some new perfume. But as the luxury remains on my "when-Dave-gets-a-job" list, I'm content to sniff-n-wish every time I go to the mall, taking home samples of my latest "favorite."

There's this verse in the Psalms about God giving us the desires of our heart. I've always piously declared that as long as our desires match His, He will do just that. But perfume? Way too carnal a thing to desire.

Not so, apparently, for at church today a lady (knowing nothing of my secret parfum pining) handed me a bag containing a gift box of five small bottles of unopened designer perfume. "I wanted to give you a present," she said, and walked away.

My guess? God told her. I really should stop being suprised and let it sink in that He really does like us that much--enough to buy me perfume.

"If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God, "I'll get you out of any trouble. I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me. Call to me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times; I'll rescue you, then throw you a party. I'll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation." Ps. 91:14-16, The Message

Snitchin' from the Kitchen

Last Sunday one of our daughters was found stealing marshmallows from the church refrigerator (Well wouldn't you be tempted? The seat can only sit beneath a tummy's rumbling and a preacher's rambling for so long). In our dwelling, the punishment must fit the crime, and so it was decided that the aforementioned would go without sweets for the rest of the day.

This was acceptable until our dear friend Xiu Yun, petite owner of "The Famiry Wok," gave our children a package of orange-almond cookies. When Dear Daughter realized what her snitchin' from the kitchen cost her, she ran up to her room and fell into a torrent of tears strong enough to soak through the knotty pine-lined ceiling. Ruthie, listening to the despairing cry, sat and studied her cookie. Suddenly she jumped up and with wide-eyed revelation pled, "Can I give her half of my cookie?"

I smiled. My damsel in distress had been rescued. A few minutes later a red-eyed little girl and her sacrificing sister were chomping on cookie halves, their legs swinging wildly beneath the table.

Isn't that what Christ, our Brother, has done for us? Seeing we had stupidly cheated ourselves out of forever enjoying the good pleasure of the Father's Kingdom, Jesus willingly offered us a share in His inheritance. He couldn't bear to see us go without all the joys intended for our lives here on earth; He couldn't keep the gift of eternal life--power over the grave--all to Himself. He could only be happy sharing it with us. That desire cost Him dearly.

And I wonder, when Father God looked upon that sacrifice, if He felt what I did when I looked into Ruthie's hazel eyes that day---the joy that comes when "mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).

Bible Characters on Facebook

(Just for fun, for my fellow Facebook addicts out there)

Abraham just gave Lot a L'il Green Patch.

Noah needs more farm animals.

Suggest friends for Job.

Isaac is now married.

Solomon--Interested In: women

Adam has just added you as his relative.

Elijah just took the "What Movie are You?" Quiz and the result is: Gone with the Wind.

Hide Baby Moses.

Ignore Delilah.

Absalom just took the "How will you die?" Quiz and the result is: Hanged by hair from a tree.

Ruth just harvested barley in Farm Town.

The Apostle Paul just sent you a Holy Kiss. Kiss him back!

Jonah just took the "What Movie are You?" Quiz and the result is: The Perfect Storm.

Saul just threw a spear at David.

Abraham just took the "What Bible Character are You?" Quiz and the result is: Abraham.

God wrote on Belshazzar's Wall.

Idiot's Guide to Heaven and Hell

As Anna and I snuggled in for a recent “Bible time” together, we read the passage in Matthew 22 in which Jesus told the Sadducees that there would be no marriage in Heaven.

“No marriage in Heaven?” my almost-thirteen-year-old gasped, then sat beside me gaping in disbelief. I could read her mind. Already looking forward to the dating years, I’ll bet she was praying right then and there that Jesus wouldn’t come back for a very long time.

Sensing her disappointment, I explained that most of us are mistaken about Heaven. We picture ourselves strumming harps as we float along on fluffy clouds in and out of private mansions. That would get dull after a few thousand years. If Heaven is merely a pain-free, glorified extension of this present existence, I’m disappointed already.

But this is what I told Anna: Heaven is a literal place, to be sure. There are untold pleasures to be enjoyed with all the five senses and more. But beyond that, Heaven is as much about “being” as it is “doing.” Since “the essence of life is relationship” (Victor Dodzweit), Heaven—or eternal life—is the ultimate experience in and expression of relationship. Complete transparency characterizes the community of Heaven. We will experience each other with an intimacy that far surpasses the physical intimacy lovers share on earth. Someone explained that in Heaven, when you meet a person for the first time, you see them from the inside out, as opposed to the earthly “working your way in”. You immediately see (sense, feel, know, realize) one’s true self (character, personality) the instant you meet him or her.

And better still, you love and appreciate what you see! It’s as if the person who once rubbed you the wrong way has been completely emptied of every trace of annoyance, and the positive aspects of that personality have been condensed and magnified to make up the entire individual, so that we will understand each other as the unique person he or she was always meant to be. And we’ll have an eternity to “discover” people for the first time, and to enjoy them forever. It makes me giddy just thinking about it (I've already got coffee dates booked with CS Lewis and the apostle Paul).

But that’s just the people part. We will fully experience God—the pure essence of love. People that have momentarily died, gone to Heaven and come back, all tell of an incredible feeling of being enveloped in a love that warmed them beyond what human language can express.

Hell is the exact opposite. I define it as the absence of the presence of God. Here on earth, the worst infidels are still able to call on God, for He is here. Not so in Hell. It is a place of utter abandonment—a loneliness unlike any ever experienced on earth. Some people joke and say “at least I’ll be in good company in Hell—we’ll party!” That won’t be the case. Hell is a place where God respects one wishes and allows them the fullest experience of what they always wanted on earth. So those that lived for themselves will get just that—they will have their “selves” all to themselves. Randy Alcorn writes of an individual who found himself in Hell and soon heard a blood-curdling scream, thought to be a demon. He realized it was his own scream; the thing he loved too much to ever deny now turned on him to torment him for eternity. As will all those things some choose to hold on to—hate, fear, greed, envy, and so on. They are the only company one has in Hell. They become all-consuming giants now feeding on the ones who used to feed on them.

Hell was intended for Satan and his angels. God never meant for any human to go there, and He went the distance in providing us with a way out. Ask Jesus about that.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reviews of My Favorite Books

Much as I’d rather be blogging, I have GOT to finish my book. So in the words of an animated tiger, “TTFN!” (TA TA for Now!). But before I take my blogging hiatus, I thought I’d leave my own reviews of a few of my favorite books:

Dinner With a Perfect Stranger, by David Gregory—What if you could go to dinner with Jesus and ask him anything? This engaging novella does just that. Over fine Italian dining, Jesus gives the main character answers to questions we’ve all had. I’d recommend this book to (1.) Anyone who wants to know what sets Christianity apart from all other religions and (2.) Christians wanting to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Marry, by Lee Strobel. The title says it all. I wish pastors would quit strategizing about how to grow and just read this book.

UnChristian, by David Kinneman—Christians, prepare to cringe. The author lets us know that it is us, not Jesus, people have a problem with, and details why.

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis—A down-to-earth explanation as to why it makes perfect sense that there’s a God and what are His intentions.

Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers—Think God doesn’t like you? Guess again! Warning to Moms: Cook ahead and freeze meals before starting this book—you’ll be glued to the couch until finishing this riveting deluge of passion. But it’s worth the life-changing read. By the end you’ll be stripping your soul stark naked and going on a honey-moon with God.