A Delight-Filled Day…

This past Sunday, I spent the day with my son. I began school this past week and have been hard at work trying to get my life together, purchasing the tools I will need for the next three years of classes, ordering the books, trying to find a vehicle to save time cycling to and from work, and beginning my first tentative academic responses to the mission laid out for me by each class. I rented a car for the weekend in order to save time and aid in my search for a pick-up to buy. So, Sunday I decided to go downtown and hang out with Baird. Originally, I thought I would go to church where I usually do, and pick him up for a late lunch. Instead, I asked Baird if he wanted to go to Jacob’s Well in mid-town KC. JW is a cool church. I love the vibe of the music, which has an alternative feel. I also loved the speaking of JW’s founding pastor, Tim Keel. Tim has since followed God’s call on his heart to New Zealand… I kinda wish God would call ME to New Zealand… JW has been searching for a new “teaching” pastor for a year, and is in the final stages of deciding on which person to extend an invitation to. Before the divorce, we attended JW, and it holds a unique place in my heart.

So I called Baird and asked if he would like to go to church with me, eat lunch at Gates Barbeque… Best bbq in Kansas City and therefore the WORLD!…  and then hang out at Broadway Café in Westport. Baird loved the idea… especially Gates… and we decided that I would pick him up at 10:15, to make it to JW by the 11:00 service.

I was looking FORWARD to Sunday!

Before classes started, I began reading a book titled: “Sabbath” by Dan Allender. It is another book in The Ancient Practices Series published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I only read into the first chapter, and had to lay it aside once school started. However, the introduction and first chapter made a distinct impact on my understanding of Sabbath. The faith tradition in which I grew up aligned the concept of Sabbath with going to church on Sunday: Sunday School at 9:30, Church at 10:45, and then church AGAIN at 6pm that evening. They also defined Sabbath more by what you WEREN’T supposed to do, rather than what you WERE supposed to do. For instance: Don’t work, don’t eat out, don’t watch TV, blah, blah, blah… Therefore, I have always had a low level of guilt which accompanies each Sunday. Thankfully, I am breaking out of that dysfunction. Looking back at my past and most recent experiences in church, I find that there are two ends of an emotional spectrum to which the Church has difficulty expressing, or giving room for expression corporately: Joy/fun and Grief/sadness. The concept of Sabbath, as defined by Allender fits into the Joy end of the spectrum. Allender defines the experience of Sabbath as, “a day of delight that delivers us to joy.” In fact, the manner in which Allender describes Sabbath sounds more like a party than a somber day spent mining the depths of the ontology of God. Instead, it sounds like God walking through the expanse of his creation with a smile on his face as he encounters the beauty there, followed by a deeply significant word… “That’s just VERY COOL!”

 Another aspect of Sabbath which Allender suggests is experiencing “the holy”:

“The holy is not located in one designated and agreed-upon space, such as a church, a monastery, or a stunning vista that captures a breathtaking view of a mountain range. The holy comes in a moment when we are captured by beauty, and a dance of delight swirls us beyond the moment to taste the expanse of eternity in, around, and before us.

The holy usually comes in unexpected, utterly surprising moments where the gift of goodness opens our heart to wonder and gratitude. It may come as we are traversing a familiar ski run and the play of light and shadow creates a stage of grandeur; or in awakening in your new home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after six months of language study and realizing that for the first time you dreamed in the native language. These moments of delicious surprise are pregnant with delight.

Delight doesn’t require a journey thousands of miles away to taste the presence of God, but it does require a seperation from the mundane, an intentional choice to enter joy and follow God as he celebrates the glory of his creation and his faithfulness to keep his covenant to redeem the captives.” pg. 3-4

These thoughts were in the back of my mind as I gained speed on the entrance to I35 heading north into the heart of Kansas City. As I drove, I listened to a cd I had recorded with some of my favorite artists. I was listening to Santana when a guilt-producing thought came into my mind: “It’s Sunday, you really SHOULD be listening to Chriiiiiiiistian music!” Old habits rarely die easily, and guilt is firmly entrenched in the crevices of my brain. Suddenly, from the recesses of my mind, came a thought:

“You are driving with the windows down, the wind blowing through your hair, listening to music that you love…. Isn’t that delightful? Allow yourself to enjoy the blessings of the experience and this beautiful day. THAT IS SABBATH!”

I took this new thought to be the voice of God to me. And I think he said in a slightly quieter voice, as if under his breath: “…besides, I like Santana too!”

Although I could be mistaken on the last part…

I was then able to become fully present in the beautiful moments of that day:

The light coming through the old stained glass windows of Jacob’s Well…

The music…

Being in church with my son…

The children dancing in the aisles to the music…

The incomperable briscuit at Gates which is always served piled between two pieces of plain white bread…

The bread sticking to the roof of my mouth…

The Cafe Mocha with the beautiful foam artwork on the top from Broadway Cafe’…

The wonderful conversation with my son that always begins, meanders from subject to subject, and never seems to end until it must end, with each of us knowing we will pick it up again… later…



Simple things which were certainly, “… a seperation from the mundane, an intentional choice to enter joy and follow God as he celebrates the glory of his creation and his faithfulness to keep his covenant to redeem the captives.”



If His Grace is an Ocean…

I am acting as a facilitator in a Divorce Care small group this spring. Two of the leaders asked me if I would consider it and I agreed. Walking through the DVD presentations always helps me remember where I have been throughout the last year, and then how life is right now. Going through the emotional morasse of seperation and divorce is a confusing trek through the wilderness. So much about who we have been in life is completely shifted. The mental and emotional map of the landscape of life is torn and obliterated. We are lost, and the identifiable patterns of grief have taken hold on our personality.

My first time through, I was so impressed with the courage of my patners in the small group process. It is quite unnerving to walk into a room with strangers, and begin to tell a very personal story. Yet telling and hearing is a large part of the healing process. After being cut so deeply by another person, I am amazed that we would still reach out to others. And yet, that is the best thing for us to do, to reach out of our personal darkness and begin to assess the new reality. A group of people going through the process of laying aside our past lives and adjusting ourselves to the new. We must redraw our mental and emotional maps to see life now, redefining ourselves in the process.

Personally, I have been gaining traction in my life. I am making headway and have attained goals which I have chosen, and frankly have chosen me. My divorce was final January 26, 2010. I am enrolled in George Fox Seminary to pursue a Master’s level degree in Spiritual Formation. It is an online program which allows me to live anywhere and still take the classes. The great part is that I must travel to Portland, Oregon once a semester for a couple weeks on campus. I have never been to Portland, and look forward to the adventure of exploring, what appears to be, a city of the new century. George Fox is a university founded in the Quaker faith tradition. I was particularly interested in that fact, since my great-grandfather was a Society of Friends minister throughout the early half of the 20th century. Something just seems right in pursuing the degree within theological reach of my ancesters…. full-circle, so to speak.

I had a conversation with a very dear friend the other day in which he told me that he had never really experienced God. He was raised in the church, where his family was intimately involved in ministry, but his parents’ marriage ended in divorce. The word which most described his faith context at the moment was and is “agnostic”. He is very intelligent, and views the world with a mild skepticism, guarding himself from the selfish intentions of others. His view of much of the church is somewhat jaundiced, or at least this is my observation of him, and the trendiness in style of worship kind of seems like a sales pitch. But, ultimately, he hasn’t experienced God…. so he finds he can explain many things about modern religious experience. He says there is a divide inside of him, part of him holds to a belief in God, but another side of him questions the personal nature of God.

Although I have always felt God in the big areas of life: success, nature, mother with child, when I performed well… I always felt God was disappointed with me in my weaknesses and failures. As I have written before in this blog, I spent the majority of my life living by a secret formula:

Church + Family + Performance = Worth

This formula remained a secret to me until all the areas on the left side of the equal sign were in ruins. I was left with no personal belief of my own worth to the world or to God. But somewhere in the ashes of my life were embers of a passionate love of which I was unaware. This love manifested itself through other people when, to my own view, I deserved no regard from them. Also, the ashes began to stir with new heat when I saw God bring about beautiful things into my life. Although I had hoped for the good… well, if I were to be honest… I had even stopped hoping… to hope would have been a step up. Yet hope entered my heart, from outside my circumstances. I cannot explain to a skeptic with enough logical eloquence to convince them of this reality. Love is a “faith” thing. Love is a leap into the darkness. To receive love is especially so, when your experience has been rejection.  To receive love and know it is from God, requires a raw faith, which is also a gift from God. I have found that I was able to receive this deeper, raw faith, only when I was emptied of all the things with which I had been trying to fill my heart. God destroyed me, in order to remake me. God allowed me to be rejected and alone, so He could speak His own love into my heart.

Sunday night, I attended a church service oriented towards 20 and 30- somethings. I love those types of services because they tend to be raw and honest. There is less polish and more scuffs. If such a service were a room, it would have peeling wallpaper with wooden floors and deep scrapes in the wood. The furniture would be a scattering of misshapen chairs painted different colors and surrounding a couch with worn arms and no legs. Strangely, such a room has an authentic beauty, especially if it is your home. This particular service was about God’s love. I am always drawn to music. If the musicians use their gifts in a worshipful manner, as if they aren’t performing for a group of people, but for their own benefit and as a celebration of God’s gift of life and music; then I am able to join in. But if it seems to be more about the “show”, then I have to concentrate on other things in order to “step into the stream of grace”, as I once heard a speaker put it.  On this particular night, God was there. There was a gentleness to the place. I really didn’t know the music, so I listened until I learned each song, and then sang. For me, singing and worship seem to go together. My spirit frees itself of its inhibitions when I begin to sing… full voice… expressively… let ‘er rip… so to speak.

And yet, on this night, the lyrics of a couple of songs, seared into my heart. Like a knife, they cut deep into a place  of which I was unaware. A place where I still felt lonely… unloved. God has been sending me waves of grace lately. Looking back on my life, there have been times I wish I had acted differently. Mistakes. Poor judgements. Words I would love to take back. Actions I wish I’d taken. It’s like a little kid who comes across a newly poured, concrete driveway, reaches down with his finger and begins to write. Over and over his finger traces the words until the concrete begins to harden and the pathway of each word becomes not his choice of the moment, but a trench of past actions. The words are set. Unchanging. For all to see, never to be erased or changed. And that is how we see our lives if we use the eyes of humanity and reason. But with the eyes of faith….

The words of our lives are

written in sand on Mercy Beach

where tidal waves of grace

inch by inch

take away the words which were once

our tombs.

And yet…

These same waves

dissolve the walls of sandcastles

 we build which make us feel


but in reality

isolate us.

As each wave rolls and more of each wall dissolves away

we learn we are vulnerable.

And mercy can finally reach us.


He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us so

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.