Aug 30, 2008

1 john and osama bin laden

"there is a sin that leads to death. i am not saying that he should pray about that." ~1 John 5:16

for days i have been stewing over this verse, attempting to fully understand what john was saying in his first letter. i am one who lives in the grace of christ first, daring to believe that we are redeemed, covered in the purifying blood of the spotless lamb, and that we are deeply and passionately loved by the king. there are others still, who live through the macro lens of depravity, that it is our brokenness that defines us,  and after clearly focusing in on our shortcomings, then the grace imparted to us by the cross finally, in some blurred way, touches our unworthy souls.

the way that i view christ's love for us - unconditional, unfailing, and available for all; tends to make verses like 1 john 5:16 a knotted mess of misunderstanding. how can there be a sin that leads to death? is not the entire reason for the crucifixion of jesus to wipe away sin? what about the whole "as far as the east is from the west" and "yet while we were still sinners, christ died for us"? 

it doesn't take long before my inquisition boils over and through studying john's letter, i am lead to matthew 12: 31-32.

"and so i tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. anyone who speaks a word against the son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the holy spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

ok, so, this points me back to john's statement of, "there is a sin that leads to death." just before john shares this with us he tells us that we should pray for our brothers and sisters if we see them commit a sin that does not lead to death. since god created a heart of intercession within me, this makes complete sense. but what about john's continuation? when he says, "there is a sin that leads to death. i am not saying that you should pray about that."

it is here that i get stuck. the sin that leads to death - blasphemy of the holy spirit. how do we know who exudes such an unforgivable sin? who are we, petty and finite human beings to judge? i found the painting posted on my page from greg boyd's blog ( that captivated my full attention. it is a humanly unfathomable portrayal of jesus washing the feet of the world's most powerful political leaders, including osama bin laden. this painting caused such an upheaval of controversy, and mostly among christians; to no one's surprise. why? because we self-righteously donned the hat of judge and feel that osama bin laden's sin is unforgivable, doomed unworthy of the grace of christ

i wonder if this is what john was describing when he says, "i am not saying you should pray about that." did john know that it would be horrifically challenging to pray for others whom we assume committed the one unforgivable sin? is john saying to us, "hey, i know you can't imagine praying for the bin laden's and hitler's of your world, so leave that to jesus. let him be the intercessor and judge for them."??? is the bottom line of this snippet in john's letter to pray for our brothers and sisters and leaving the judging of sins to god?

at any rate, i continue to ponder the words of john and matthew. i continue to meditate on the painting by lars justinen. and i continue to pray for my brothers and sisters, the bin laden's and hitler's. i continue to pray for redemption, grace, mercy and justice - whatever that looks like.

Aug 29, 2008

discerning prayer and the garden of my heart

for the past 5 months i have been meeting with a spiritual director. a spiritual director, if you do not know, is, well... someone who directs you spiritually. pretty self explanatory right? her name is kristen and she is positively wonderful. never before have i met someone so comfortable to be around. she has a way of inviting you into the presence of God to simply remain and be in his spacious, non-threatening gracious love.

the last time we met together we began a discerning prayer process as i seek the voice of God in my journey of education. for 7 months now i have been praying over a list of colleges that offer the major and the minor i am pursuing, and slowly but surely the list has narrowed it's extensive way down to one school; bethel university. and the discerning prayer process kristen and i are on is focused primarily on this school. 

today's meeting with kristen however, surfaced deeply intimate emotions that i am cautious to expose. as she directed me through discerning prayer, god tilled the garden's soil of my heart and brought the burrowed roots of these emotions into the life giving light of his presence. it was profoundly liberating. 

i received vibrant visions of myself bringing these sacred hopes, longings, and emotions to christ and as i did so, i never left his side and he never left mine. together we ventured into this vulnerable place and for the first time in 2 years, i felt safely and warmly welcomed to share with him the rooted desires that run through my soul.

"Dear Mr. Jesus" and the silenced epidemic

i'm actually working on my sunday morning teaching of 1 john chapter 5... well, i was until until i heard a song that my roommate was listening to on you tube. this song has been tucked away in my thoughts, buried under 15 + years of life and often times forgotten for months at a time.

the song is simply titled "Dear Mr. Jesus". i was first introduced to it along with 3 of my sisters by our neighborhood friend. when we listened to the burdening lyrics, which are sung by a little girl, each of our own very young hearts broke into fragile, tiny pieces. the words seemed to cling to our bodies like heavy blankets, as if they were draping all the brokenness of the world upon our childlike frames. we cried. our tears were no doubt prayers of the Spirit working through our trusting, immature faith.

when i heard this song tonight, all those emotions experienced by my sisters and i came rushing back. i cried, and my tears were no doubt prayers of the Spirit working through my trusting, and still immature faith. this time was different however. this time the crumbling of my heart leads me to action...

and the action??? it may not deal directly with innocently abused children in the same fashion as the song portrays, but it does deal with the abused. see, i work in the beautiful world of youth ministry. there are boundless important facets of my job; perhaps the one that ranks the highest is relationships. it is profoundly vital to pour out our hearts, support, encouragement and love into the lives of youth. one way i am able to do that is by coaching a high school girls cross country team. there is a common and very distorted, vicious, life consuming thread that weaves its damaging way through the lives of young women - the thread, no,the word thread gives it far too soft of a connotation; it is more like barbed wire fencing; the barbed wire that connects young teenage women across the world is a deep struggle with poor body image perceptions. i know that living in southern california the girls that i coach are especially bombarded with the blasting lies of media today screaming at them to look a certain way, and in attempt to keep up with such lies, the tumultuous patterns of an eating disorder set in.

in my early 20's i too fell victim to these lies and for 3 years i struggled with anorexia and bulimia. now fully healed because of God's sweet amazing grace, i can see the horrific effects of this body image epidemic (yes, it is absolutely an epidemic) in our youth today.  i cannot and will not let it eat away at the lives of these beautiful, God breathed, gorgeously gifted young women. God have mercy, and move me into action.

Aug 24, 2008

the shack and earthly notions

i continue to breeze my way through the contagious storytelling of william p. young's book "the shack" and with each turning page my comprehension (as finite as it is) of who god is is wildly shaken from its old, sometimes lifeless roots.

"the shack" is a fictitious story of one man's weekend experience with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit targeted directly in the middle of his hearts deepest, incurable wound; the very place of his great sadness. the novel is a beautiful relationship of innocent theological enlightenments, vulnerably intimate and thought provoking conversations, and a spiritual journey no author has previously dared to venture.

what is most intoxicating about this 246 page story of brilliant creativity is that it truly rattles every preconceived notion i hold about God. there is a convicting dialogue  between the main character 'mack' and Jesus. when mack first meets God (who is portrayed as a large, tenderly charismatic black woman given the name Elousia) and Jesus (taking the form of a laborer with a large nose - he is jewish after all) and the Holy Spirit (who is a gently enchanting asian woman named Sarayu) he exposes to the three that they are not at all what he had expected them to be. just then Jesus chimed in correcting mack's personal beliefs of what the trinity ought to look like, or how is ought to act, as his own personal worldly religious conditionings. immediately upon reading this my thoughts raced through the collection of religious conditionings i store box away in the attic of my heart. 

one of those boxes hold my remarkably limited comprehension of the transforming reality of love, i read through the seamless ways in which God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit live in flawless unison with one another and i ungainly stumble over the humbling realization that i haven't the faintest idea about love. i know, i know - this is all a fictitious story; but regardless it does test all of humanities theological understandings.

i'd like to share with you just a few different dialogues that take place throughout the book:

"you humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that relationship could exist apart from hierarchy. so you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy like you do. but we do not." (spoken by sarayu - the Holy Spirit)

"broken humans center their lives around things that seem good to them, but that will neither fill them nor free them. they are addicted to power; or the illusion of security that power offers." (spoken by sarayu - the Holy Spirit)

"when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?" (spoken by elousia - God)

"let me say for now that we knew once the creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. don't misunderstand me, both are needed - but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence." (spoke by elousia - God, when mack asked her why there is such an emphasis on god being a father)

currently i am only half way through the book but already i am even more aware to the fact that i must cling to realization that i will never fully comprehend who God is, nor was i created to - for God is an extraordinary, colossal, alluring mystery... and Love surpasses knowledge.

Aug 23, 2008

the evening plans of an introverted people person

throughout my 26 years, i have lived as an independent; choosing to walk to the beat of a highly unrhythmic drum, and as a loner (that is largely due to the fact that i am created an introvert). simultaneously however, i have also lived as a sister to 5 siblings, a friend to many clusters of different people, and been the one to initiate conversation with whomever may cross my vagabond trekked path. i suppose my personality can be described as an introverted people person; and this is a combination of traits i am grateful god decided to grace me with.

tonight i play the independent. my roommate is out of town so i have the house all to myself.
remaining indoors sounds much more inviting than another night out. (last night i was out late with my friend courtney at one of the most fantastic concerts i had ever experienced. she surprised me with dave matthews band tickets that were insanely placed so close to the stage that i could drink the sweat of dave's shirttail if i desired). still drained from 3 hours of singing along to the tunes of dmb and endless clumsy attempts to dance in the similar fashion of those sexy hippy women you see at outdoor music concerts; the ones who seductively sway their hips ever so smoothly and twirling their arms in the air as if the sky is their canvas and they're painting a masterpiece with each groovy swing of their hands; i decided to coop up at home.

what is so spectacular about being an independent is this - the bar of society that is set at a level that requires one to go out to clubs filled with tons of loud sloppy drunks and music smothered with lyrics that vulgarly depict apart the female body, fails miserably to influence the decisions that i make when planning my evenings. it is quite liberating actually. or perhaps this content liberation is more appropriately accredited to the fact that i am nearing 27 years of age and filling my social calendar decreases in importance with each passing day. 

i am spending the few, fleeting, precious hours of this evening with the whimsical stories of lake wobigon as told by garrison keillor , a glass of red wine, creating a single person dinner that consists of fresh guacamole, carrots, and chicken, writing letters to the 10 gorgeous friends that i prayed for during this past lenten season, and feeding my appetite for literature with william p. young's book "the shack". these plans are simple, relaxed, and offer refreshing nourishment to the soul of an introverted people person.

Aug 19, 2008

PGF in a nutshell

last weekend i had the privilege of joining 1000 fellow presbyterians for the annual 'presbyterian global fellowship' (PGF) conference. this is the first time in my christian life that i have belonged to an actual denomination. until to now, i have been a part of a non-denominational church, basically a family of followers of christ who believe the bible and live as disciples - without the defining constraints of a specific "religion". so this conference was all very new to me and there were tremendous beauties that surfaced during the weekend, along with a collection of thoughts (i call them my butterflies) that floated in and out of my mind.

butterfly #1
 i read words that say; "there is one body and one spirit", "i am the way", "... so that there should be no division in the body" and yet here i reside at PGF in a conventions center that is literally divided in half - with one side occupied by presbyterians and the other side filled with jehovah's witnesses. 

even amongst presbyterians there breathes two completely different beliefs; the PCA and the PCUSA. if i were to extend further out from the evidence of division confined here at the convention center, the list of seperation grows to an overwhelming size. catholics and protestants, homosexuals and heterosexuals, the wealthy and the poor, suv owners and smart car drivers, yankees fans and red sox fans. i may read these ancient words of sweet unity commanded by christ in ephesians, 1 corinthians, and john; but i look around in the world that i live and what i find is the very opposite of his words.

butterfly #2
as god continues to stir within me the picture of justice, i opted to sit in on dr. kara powell's workshop "deep justice in a broken world" even though i had previously experienced it at the youth workers convention last october. there were many poignant ideas that left me undone, uncomfortable, fired up, and ready to conquer the world. but the one thing that i carried with me from the workshop is our finite understanding of the way to do justice, which is to be more accurately described as serving. 

one of the many passions of my heart is missions. at least a couple of times a month i make my way into tijuana to spend the day with my friends at el refugio. this is perhaps the outlet of spreading christ's love that i enjoy the most. yet there remains a myriad of questions. "is my presence in the lives of those living at el refugio actually making a dent in the towering wall of tijuana's injustices? or is it mearly an excuse to pat myself on the back for a good and selfless deed?"

butterfly #3
a second workshop that i attended was "jesus in the margins", presented by debra hirsch.  it emphasized our intentions to literally commune with the people who live in the margins of society. i am not a very intuitive woman when it comes to most things, so when debra introduced the fact that the church is populated with middle class, white, working americans; i felt as though the narrow minded vision i unconsciously see life through was peeled away and a brand new lens focused my perspective of the church. 

in the similar fashion as before, i am bombarded with so many questions. "is the hope that i carry to marry, have 2.2 children, and a life filled with love ill placed?", "do the opportunities i present to our youth truly invite the outcasts of society into the intoxicating love of jesus?

perhaps all of this enlightening information and sea of questions is the beginning of something great that will completely transform my own heart and the hearts of my students.

Aug 16, 2008

cnn and the church

saddleback church and cnn. who would have ever thought those two words would ever co-exist? i just finished watching pastor rick warren's interview with senator barrack obama and senator john mccain. it was an interview filled with questions concerning faith, religion, personal moral failures, what defines the rich, and a myriad of other incredible questions that consume the minds of the american people.

the presidential campaign this year is one where my vote is utterly torn. i greatly respect each candidate in ways that surface my support. it was this very interview that aided in the direction of my decision come november. the perhaps unfortunate facet of my personality is i tend to form opinions based upon my emotions - generally (not always may i emphasize) i am not one who digs deep into research, facts, and statistics; rather i await an emotional response and then a reaction follows.

what i did discover this evening that i have not fully caught sight of is confidence. there is something to be said for wisdom brought to existence through years of life. this is an advantage of senator john mccain. there was an overwhelming portrayal of soundness in the answers he exchanged with pastor rick warren and i believe in order to appropriately lead an entire country, one must have a firm foundation on which to stand. senator john mccain, though delivering more stories rather than cut and dry responses, exposed his position on issues that i too stand for.

we ought to have interviews such as this one that took place tonight for every presidential campaign. it was a 2 hour viewing of 2 men, sharing with america their honest and personal positions on the issues such as abortion, education, human trafficking (the question that resonated most to me) war and many others that matter most to our country, to the good of the world, and even to the heart of christ. 

Aug 12, 2008


i watch the incredibly outlandish opening ceremony of the olympics, gasping for justification over the price tag of the entirely uncalled for event, and my heart is torn over the impoverished countries that can not afford proper nourishment.

strolling through the booths at "the pageant of the masters" art festival and reflections of the 1, 2, 3 carat rocks of jewelry designers blind my vision. now all i can see are bloody, horrific images of the inhumane brutalities and wars involved in the diamond industry.

each time i go to feed the homeless community of san diego i watch them gather around the offering table and dig deep into their shredded clothes pockets for a dime to place in the bucket - willing to give their only currency out of a heart of gratitude and i weep over my self consumed mentality.

i run through the streets of del mar and rancho sante fe and i am shaded from the hot sun not by the tall, reaching eucalyptus trees; but by the monuments of financial success we build for ourselves otherwise known as a house, that were once upon a time purposed to be a safe haven for families.

washing my face at night, brushing my teeth, or taking a shower no longer poses as a proper hygiene regimen. the amount of water i waste while shaving my legs or wait for the temperature to rise is now directly linked to a kaleidoscope of heart-wrenching colors that form into the shape of dehydrated children.

god is doing something to my heart and i cry out for mercy. justice begins with me.

Aug 10, 2008

nikon and emmaus


on friday i set out on a voyage; a visual search for an artistic portrayal of the road to emmaus. an old friend had asked me if i would be willing to share my photography with him for a teaching he was doing on the victorious story of luke 24. thrilled to do so, i set out with my d200 and bible bookmarked in luke at 4:45 am to capture dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight. what an adventure!

this story is one of my many favorites found in scripture. what i like so much about it is that is exudes absolutely everything we experience in life. it is a passage that covers the incredibly broad spectrum of emotion and of the unfathomable grace and room god extends to us to be deeply pierced by such emotions. it is a reading saturated with the hopelessness of death and the victory of life. it is a vibrant picture of how one must die in order to truly live.

generally i photograph what moves my soul. i never take along an agenda nor do i carry a box that confines what i shoot. this project opened up a new challenge for my imaginative palette while i was out capturing the corners of san diego county, i reflected on my own road to emmaus that i had walked years ago and in doing so; god had brought my heart to literally feel what the 2 men in the story felt as they walked together. this had transformed what began as a simple project for a friend into a 21 hour day of prayer and worship. 

psalm 130 - thoughts on community in my wilderness

the dark night of my soul

sets in

unbearable weight piles upon

the yoke of

fear i carry.


stifling layers of pain

crack and shatter

my spirit

so weary.


i wade through the blackness

in search of your morning.


crimson stains of sin

blindfold the light

of love's salvation.


sisters and brothers come quickly

peel open my eyes of green

to gaze into

mercy's liberation.


dear friends i plead

walk with me that i may taste.


darkness comes before dawn

let us wait like watchmen

and let us wait together.


from the depths hope flickers

crushing burden of shame

now weightless as feathers.


dancing in fields of joy

redemption beams.


of friends you stayed

upholding till i receive

guiding me to embrace.


lord you failed not

exchanging my night

for your radiance of grace.  

giving father

in the beginning

was the stillness of the word.

the word that rested

so quietly

within the heart

of the father almighty.


breaking the silence

of timeless stillness

the father did speak

words of delight

and words of desire;

breathing into existence

the glorious creation

of his one and only

beloved son.


longing to give

his son so dear

an inheritance so priceless.

living word of passion

spoke into being

a lovely bride and partner for life

to reign with the son

forever by his side.


"she is yours" my son dear son

"cherish her" this bride i give

who's value and worth is purely birthed

out of relationship

intimate, sacred, and true.


as i give so shall you.

speak into her

words of truth

love her as a jealous bridegroom

"fight for her" oh son of mine

for as she is yours

she also is mine.