Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh Cardamom!!

So I was putting away some Mexican Vanilla bean that my friend Gabe gave me, and I wanted a canister to put it in, you know, store it in a cool, dry place. Well, I open this canister that used to hold Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai (very good I might add), and what do I find there but a bag full of fresh, green CARDAMOM PODS! Now, this may not mean much to you, but when I needed Cardamom about a month and a half ago for some Chai and didn't have any more pods left, I sure could have used this! Instead I bought some more at Whole Foods. In any case, I just couldn't believe that I had that there and that I didn't know about it! And I said, "God, why didn't you tell me about this?"
His response? "You didn't ask."
I could feel him almost laughing.

As I go into this new year, I don't want to take for granted what I have. I want to know what I've got and utilize those resources to their fullest potential. Like Cardamom. Something I'm realizing is that we often have what we need right now. Yes, there are things that we will need later to do bigger and better things. For instance, I am going to need more people to team up with to produce theatre with. But are those people all really "out there" somewhere, or are many of them right in my own backyard, people I have begun to live and play with in the here and now? Or take the issue of space, for example. I am going to need a theater space to produce shows in, and this is something I'd like to begin pursuing more in this new year. But while I'm researching spaces, properties and the like, are there other spaces I can use in the meantime? I want to have another "Show and Tell" party soon, this month actually. And the thought occurred to me a few weeks ago: Why not get some actors together, direct them in one of my short plays (just 7 minutes or so), and produce it right there at the next Show and Tell? We'll have the audience. Why not do it? So hopefully I can get my act together and do what I need to do to make these things happen.

Timing is important, I know. But so is doing. So is utilizing the resources that are right in front of you. I, for one, am a victim of laziness and lack of structure, laziness and lack of structure that I create. So in this new year, I am hoping to become more steadfast and more structured in the things I am pursuing: my love relationship with God, the development and production of two one-man shows, researching what I need to do to get a building (or what I would need in teaming up with others to do so). And where I am lacking, I can reach out to ask others for wisdom and help.

God help us use the Cardamom we already have for good Chai and more in 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reward of Risk....No Regret

I watched two Christmas movies with some friends tonight, one very light-hearted and another deeper in tone. Both had their moments of inspiration, but what struck me most was the risk some of the characters took, especially romantically, and the rewards they received in return. As is the case with most movies, the rewards of each risk were almost instantaneous. Not always so in real life. But there are rewards none of the less.

There was one scene in particular where a father was encouraging his young son to pursue a girl that he was "in love with." The dad told the boy something to the effect of, "Go for it, son! Tell her you love her, and see what happens, or you'll always live to regret it!" In this case, the boy's pursuit of the girl ended up in him getting what he wanted, her love in return. But what struck me the most was the reward of having risked, whether or not things would have turned out well for the boy.

Earlier this year, I took a similar risk. In some ways I have felt good about the risk, and in other ways I have felt disappointed, as if I lost somehow, since my affections were not returned. I have learned that moving on would be in my best interest, and it has been helpful, but there has still been a sense of loss, or failure rather. But as I was watching this movie tonight, I felt as if something broke off in me, that weight that said, "you tried and you failed." Instead, I could hear God saying, "You did try, and you didn't fail because your trying means you won't live to regret having never tried at all. You did what you could, and I am proud of you. Now you can move forward, knowing you are more of a man for putting yourself out there. You went for it. You took a risk. Good for you."

The thing is, risks don't always beget happy endings as they do in movies, at least not in the way that we would always like. In my case, I'm realizing that my reward was in the risking. I don't have to live with regret, and I'll be that much more ready to take the next risk whenever it arrives.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Version 2: Paradigm Shift in the Sand

I had a revelation last night:

The desert is a place to learn about Providence over Performance. It's a place where one can learn to trust in what God provides apart from one's ability to perform well. I'll unpack this more in just a bit, but let's add one more element: Progress.

Here's my natural way of thinking, which I'm calling version 1:

1. Performance -------> Providence -------> Progress

But this way isn't the truth. It's a recipe for burn-out.

Here's a better way of thinking...version 2:

2. Providence---------> Performance ------> Progress

In version 1, my performance is the catalyst for God's providence (or any kind of provision), which in turn creates progress.

In version 2, my performance is the natural outflow of what God is already providing, which leads to progress.

Version 1 is on me; Version 2 is on him.
Version 1 requires self-sufficiency; Version 2 requires God-sufficiency.
Version 1 depends on control; Version 2 relies on trust.

Which is safer? Me or him? Self-sufficiency or God-sufficiency? Control or Trust in God's control?

Oh, it feels safer to trust me...It feels safer to rely on myself. And it feels safer to have "control." But nothing ever works out like this, not for long anyway.

If one can learn to rely on the provision of God in a desert period, when she cannot possibly provide for herself out of her own ability to produce, then when she gets out of the desert and into a more fruitful season, she'll know that the fruit is not the result of her self-creation but of God's sustaining blessing.

Jesus underwent this very testing in the desert. A more fruitful season of life was coming for him, an amazing three years which would culminate in some of the most mind-blowing, reality-altering accomplishments on the planet. But none of these accomplishments were of his own making or own doing. He was continuously dependent on the Father's love and the Father's power given by the Holy Spirit. Jesus learned this amazing reliance in the desert.

Let's look at the dynamics of this as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Boom! So there you go. I won't unpack all of this, but I find it very interesting that each of the the devil's attempts at tempting Jesus had to do with performance, action, control.

First the devil tries to get Jesus to manipulate the stone and turn it into bread. But Jesus isn't going to just take matters into his own hands. He's learning to rely on the Father and what the Father tells him to do.

Then the devil wants Jesus to incite God, to test the Father, if you will. In other words, "I don't see God activity right now. If you are really who you say you are and if God is who he says he is, then make him prove it. Do something to get him to respond. Here! Jump off this really high place and get him to send some angels' to save you. Let's see God do a trick!"
But Jesus wouldn't manipulate his Father. He trusted that the Father knew what he was doing and didn't have to prove himself.

Finally we see the devil say, in effect, "Well, obviously the God you're worshipping isn't getting you anywhere, so worship me instead and I'll give you everything you want instantly. Kingdoms, authority, you name it. Worship me, and it's yours."
Once again, Jesus stands his ground, trusting that the one he worships and loves, the one true God, his Father, would provide what he needed and accomplish all the big stuff in the right time. Jesus didn't have to take action in worshipping something else in order to instantly get what he wanted.

Do do do. Perform perform perform. Control and manipulate!

Wait...Trust...Believe. Rest. Receive.

I'm opting for version 2.

Death before the Dream Come True

I've decided I'm going to work on writing two musicals at once, instead of just one. I'm writing a King David musical for kids, and also one for adults. Both deal with similar themes, and both may include some of the same music. Both are one-man shows at this point, and one will hopefully morph into a large-cast production at a later time. But one must start somewhere, right?

As you can see from my recent posts, hunger in a desert period is something that has struck a deep chord with me lately. I am also intrigued by this in the life of King David. I see David as a man who was given a great promise from a very early age and struggled with the delayed fulfillment of that promise for years to come. At several points in the Biblical narrative, others in David's life have to reassure him that he will indeed inherit the promise that God has made to him regarding his kingship over Israel. At times, it looks as though David is not entirely secure about his future as Israel's king. If I had a raging, demon-tormented King pursuing me with armies through multiple assassination attempts, I might question God on this as well. "So, what was all that about becoming Israel's next king? 'Cause right now I don't know if I'll make it to see the sunrise tomorrow, much less become the leader of this nation."

Put yourself in his shoes. Now add to that conflict the fact that your best friend, the king's son, is next in line for the throne. And even though he, your best friend, has sworn his allegiance to you, relinquishing his birthright to the throne, who's to say that he won't change his mind and turn against you once his father dies, leaving the kingdom up for grabs?

Here's something interesting to consider...David wouldn't kill King Saul, his chief obstacle to receiving his God-given inheritance as Israel's next king. And David wouldn't kill his own best friend, Jonathan, who would have been next in line for the kingship. Somehow David trusted, through all of the doubting, that God would deal with Saul in his time and would turn the kingdom over to him as promised. But I don't know if he ever considered that his best friend would die at the same time. I am not saying that God killed Jonathan or that Jonathan would have gone back on his word to David regarding relinquishing his birthright to the throne. I just find it interesting that at a time when David's chief obstacle (and once-loved fatherly figure), King Saul, was removed, David's best friend Jonathan (and a potential threat to the kingdom) died as well. David lamented the loss of these two great men in his life, enemy though one of them had become, and his grief was so great that he wrote a song about them, memorializing their greatness. It is right after this huge personal loss in David's life that he becomes ready to receive the kingdom of Israel, which he had long since been promised.

I suppose the reason this strikes me so much is that I have been grieving the loss of a friendship recently, or at least a major transition in that friendship which to me, signals the end of a very long season of richness and beauty in our communication. I have been struggling with God some this weekend as a tender wound in me has been jostled, wondering how it is that something so very good and so long-standing could so suddenly be brought to a close. Part of my desert experience, if I can be quite honest, is the absence of this close friendship in my life. I miss my friend dearly, but I know things can't go back to the way they were, especially if I am to maintain a healthy progression of moving on in my heart and being able to live in the here and now, locally and presently.

So I am strangely encouraged as I look at David's life before his kingship. He too experienced deep, personal loss. And it was almost immediately after that great loss that his greatest fulfillment came.

I think I'm onto something...Releasing my grasp to take hold of the future that God wants to give.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Healing takes awhile sometimes.

When roots are deep and uprooting hurts,
which is better:
to lament the pain?
or celebrate the depth of the roots that were there?

Ready to be re-planted. My roots are tingly, aching for some rich soil.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hunger Continued

A friend of mine posted a comment on facebook in response to the last post, "Hunger Filled," which prompted me to write this quick follow-up. I don't think I will come up with all of the answers in this little tid-bit, but I figured it'd be worth exploring a little more.

The comment my friend made had to do with the difference among types of being filled: emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I think the following passage can provide us further insight into ways of being filled.

"Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

'Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?'

Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.' " -John 4:6:15

A few observations:
1. Jesus was legitimately tired, and he asked for a real drink of water. I think Jesus was legitimately asking for something to quench his thirst. Simple enough, yes?

2. Jesus is able to legitimize our need for physical sustenance while simultaneously pointing to the need for quenching our spiritual thirst. You can see this even more so if you continue reading the parts of the passage that I left off.

3. Jesus is holistic. He cares about every part of our lives, physically, spiritually, emotionally. If you read further in this passage, you'll see much of the spiritual component. We've already seen the emotional in Luke, where Jesus is saying, "Blessed are you who weep, for you will be comforted." And there are other instances of Jesus multiplying bread for people to eat, his first miracle in which he turned water into wine, and so forth. Jesus cares about all of our needs. And he can meet them all. Question is, will we let him?

I can say for myself that it's hard for me to trust in a God I don't see, who I don't hear audibly, and whose ways of speaking to me seem very sporadic and very creative. I'm a creative person but sometimes I don't want creative speech! I'd rather have it spoon-fed to me easily where I can immediately understand it. It's much easier for me to talk to a friend or get on facebook or email and try to get my needs met that way than it is to take a moment and ask for Jesus to speak. 'Cause he's so foreign in some ways. But though those other things fill to varying degrees (facebook very little, in my opinion), he's the one that fills the most, when I get it. So how can I get it? How can we get more Jesus?

I'll let you know when I found out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hunger Filled

It is possible to be hungry yet filled? If one is filled, does that mean that she cannot experience hunger at the same time?

I've been hungry lately. And I have been filled. But I am still hungry. Is that okay? It seems to have been okay for Jesus. Let's take a look at something that struck me this morning during a casual reading of Luke in the Bible.

At the beginning of Luke 4, we are told that "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry."

Two things stick out at me. The first is that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit BEFORE going into the desert. It's almost as if he went there not to get filled but because he WAS filled. As Bill Johnson said not too long ago, it was as if Jesus going into the desert was a way of testing what was already in him, just like putting a patched tire under water to prove its ability to hold up (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.) So as I have been in this desert season, I am encouraged to realize that maybe one of the reasons I'm in this sandy place is for the Spirit to show how much of himself is already in me, giving me an opportunity to experience this reality of his presence even more so.

But here's the other part that interests me. Jesus was hungry at the end of his time in the desert. He was hungry physically, and I wonder...could he have been hungry spiritually as well? Is it possible to be so filled by God and by good things yet to still be hungry for more? Is it okay that I am experiencing more of God's provision and episodes of deeper intimacy in this desert yet still longing for more romance and validation?

Once again...Jesus was hungry. He hadn't eaten, he felt that hunger, and that was okay. I sense Jesus saying, "You know, you're hungry. And that's okay. I'm with you in that." Just because one is hungry doesn't mean there's some spiritual or even physical deficiency. Jesus actually commends hunger, at least spiritually speaking. As he was teaching his disciples on a hilltop one day, Jesus said,
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." -Luke 6:20-23

Whether you take these statements to refer to physical needs (poor = little money) or spiritual needs (poor = spiritually poor, as one of the other Gospel writers recorded), Jesus seems to be saying something very definitive: To be in a place of unmet desire, for some portion of your life, is a natural thing, and God actually says it's a place of blessing. Why? I don't have the full answer for that, but I think part of it has to do with the statement, "you will be satisfied." The desire will be met in some way, whether sooner or later. And in this passage, it actually looks like Jesus hits on some very basic and important needs we all have materially, bodily, spiritually, emotionally, relationally. It's all there.

I think what encourages me the most is this realization that Jesus was hungry. Legitimately hungry...And this in the midst of what many of us see as a spiritual peak.

I thought I was getting it wrong here in the desert, since I want to be filled by God yet I'm still hungry. I see now that I'm right where Jesus was at. And I can hear him say, "I'm with you."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More poetry this evening

We, are the fruit of his lips
He, the root of our tree
The legs to our hips
and everything that stands above

We are the produce of his field
The juice from his grapes
The wine pouring from his bottle
We are the liquid in the glass

He is...

We are...
the rain from his clouds
the rays of his sun
We are the ocean resevoir of his heavenly downpour

We are the cotton of his candy
The lolly of his pop
We are, the chocolate chip
in his cookie dough

He is the oven
We are the bread

We are the oven
He is the bread


You are the raindrops on my window pane
Crashing gently,
Trickling with violence
Ra-tap, ta-tat tat....tappa tip!
Ba-dip ba dip ba dip...
da rop...drop..Drip!