Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Creation Of Evolution: Why Does It Have To Be Either / Or?


Benjamin came home from schoo the other day, upset that he has a science teacher who's entrenched in the evolution camp and does not believe in creation. Now he and I have had this discussion many, many times that, since he is wanting to go into technology and will be taking a lot of science classes this will be something he has to face a lot. I think he was surprised, however, when I told him that I don't believe one has to be either a believer in either creationism or evolution. And I don't. I am tired of the either / or that has been drawn in the sand by both scientists and religion. As someone who is not scientifically minded, but loves to watch documentaries on the subject and attempts to read books on different subject matters (particularly about the universe), I find that the more I discover about our world and the universe it's in and that there are other universes and possibly multiverses, fills me with awe and wonder that I worship a God who is not only a Creator but is so much greater and vaster than all of that.


Somebody whose shows I enjoy watching are Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is also very vocally antagonistic against creationism and faith. In the past, he has arrogantly said things like, "God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance." Or "The question is not why 85% of our most brilliant scientists reject God - it is why 15% do not." He thinks faith is nothing more than superstition and a "philosophy of ignorance." While I respect his intelligence, I can do without his arrogance.

I was watching an episode of his show "Star Talk" where his guests were the evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins and Jesuit priest James Martin discussing this very issue of science versus faith. Benjamin stops for a moment, listens, and then asks, "Why are you watching this?"  I answered, "Because these are all very bright men. I may not always agree with them but I can always learn something from them."  And I do. Science expands, not diminishes, my faith.


Bill Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy for those of you who used to watch his TV show) said that at best, he's an agnostic as there is neither definitive proof for or against the existence of God.  About faith and religion, he's said in interviews, "People get a lot out of being religious. They have a strong sense of community and mutual support. So, what's not to love? Our goal in science is to discover universal laws of nature. That pursuit fills me with wonder. If one's faith requires one to abandon or ignore natural laws, well, that person is going to have trouble reconciling religion and science. Otherwise, I don't see any conflict." Nye grew up Episcopalian but left the faith. "I abandoned my religious teachings after I read the Bible twice - cover to cover. It took me a couple of years. I followed along with maps and a few study guides. There are two questions that get to us all: Are we alone in the universe? And, where did we come from? For me, science provides a much more satisfactory way to seek answers than does any religion I've come across. With that said, the universe is mysterious and wonderful. It fills me with reverence for nature and our place among the stars; our place in space."


I look at the stars and, like Van Gogh, think, " . . . but the sight of the stars makes me dream." And these are the dreams of God. 

For me, both faith and science should begin with a sense of wonder. As one of my favorite scientists, Albert Einstein, once said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." From this, he continued, religion is born. I agree. Of course, for me, it is all the Divine Mystery.  God is bigger than my conceptions and when I think I know God, it is merely an idol I have constructed. As Saint Augustine wrote, "We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God." The sense of wonder is at the center of faith. And faith is not faith if one does not continue to do so, continue to ask questions, continue to delve deeper. Religion, not faith, is born of fear and a desire to have all the answers.

In Milton's Paradise Lost, Adam asks the angel about creation that occurred before his human existence. The angel essentially asks him, "Why do you want to know?" I love Adam's answer, "The more to magnify His works." That is how I approach science and understanding. Whenever I learn more about creation, I grow in my astonishment of the God who created it.

I cannot help but feel overwhelmed whenever I stop to look up at the night sky. As Psalm19:1 tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Neil deGrasse Tyson would feel the same but not go a step further to ascribe that feeling as one from God. He sees it only as a connection to the universe.


Science shows me that God is, indeed, bigger than my questions, that I can never fully understand or know Him. When I read, "In the beginning, God created . . ."  I marvel that He created with such variety.

There are 10,000 different species of birds in the world.


There are over 2 million different species of marine life.

There are over 20,000 species of butterflies.

Over 400,00 types of flowers.

And no one knows how many different types of fruit there are, though they do know that there are over 1,600 varieties of bananas. Clearly, God is a a God who wants to delight us with all of this. I cannot help but think it gives Him pleasure to see us bite into a juicy summer peach. Or a strawberry.

This is obviously a God who delights in His creation and wants us to marvel at how varied are the works of His hands. He wasn't just interested in creating to create, He wanted to really WOW us with it. To knock our socks off. It is supposed to lead us to worship.

And just look at the creation of humans who are made in His image. Did you know that there are over 7*1027 atoms in a human?

I'm amazed when I learn more about the biology of humans and the complexity of genomes and DNA. Did you know that in the average human there are as many as 60 to 100 trillion cells?  That the DNA is made of four letters of genetic code that create codes for thousands of proteins that the body produces and the large number of traits they govern?



On a larger scale, there are over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That's just in the observable universe. I don't know about you but that takes my breath away. It fills me with a holy sense of awe and gratitude.

Does a Big Bang contradict creationism?

Not to my mind.

Scientists cannot explain what caused the event to happen in the first place. They say that time and space that are both contained in the universe only came into existence after the Big Bang occurred. That there is no "cause and effect." They are left with mystery.

Those of faith are willing to make that leap from mystery to the Divine Mystery.  What created the Big Bang?

I would imagine the voice of God speaking everything into being would have such magnitude and force behind it. I, however, do not believe it's all random, luck and chance. I believe God spoke the language of creation. As a writer, the strength and importance of words is deepened by the concept of the universes and all they contain coming from the lips of the Creator who is the Word. This is beautiful theology and poetry at the same time.

I don't believe we came from primordial ooze or that we are descended from . . .


Although I do allow him to ghost author on my blog from time to time.

Nor do I think we're accidental or that everything was random and by chance. As Pope Francis, who has a degree in chemistry, said, "The earth's origins were not chaotic, but were created from a principle of love." It's a divine love that created us for fellowship and, once created, was found "good." We were created with purpose.


I also believe that God created animals to adapt and evolve. I believe he created human beings distinct from other creatures. They were created according to internal laws that allowed them to develop. We continue to evolve. God created the cosmos, created man and by doing so gave them meaning.

At the same time, I don't believe that the earth was created in a week's time or that it's only 6,000 years old. I'm not a literalist. I'm not a young earth creationist. I'm not a follower of Ken Ham's theories and won't be visiting his museum in Kentucky. Nor do I believe that Satan planted dinosaur bones in the ground to deceive us.

I believe in carbon dating.

I believe that the earth is 4.543 billion years old. This does not diminish my belief that God created everything but gives me perspective. Unlike the scientist who cannot explain the first cause when they ask, "What caused everything?" I can believe that God is the uncaused cause.

Neil deGrasse Tyson says that when he has is a sense of wonder but feels no need to describe that as God. He is unwilling to take that next step which is the step of faith.

To me I am constantly in wonder of a God who is the author of neurobiology, microbiology, psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and the creativity that brings forth Mozarts, Tolstoys, Einsteins, and the ability to ask, "Why?" or "What if?" He is a God who is greater than our questions and our small answers. He is an infinite and unlimited God. He has shown his greatness through the biodiversity of this planet and throughout the universes. Many would say that such thinking means we are not the center of the universe and I would say, "YES! You're exactly right. But we never were to begin with. God was and is the center of all things.


I don't know how God works or what time frame He created all things in. But I don't need to. That's not the important thing for me to grasp, that He created does. Too often we cannot see the Truth because we're focused on facts. Facts and Truth are not always the same thing. One can have facts and miss truth. The physicist Michio Kaku said, "The fact of the matter is that we are dealing with the cosmic questions of existence and meaning. Thomas Huxley, the great biologist of the last century said that the question of all questions for science and religion is to determine our true place and our true role in the Universe. For both science and religion it is the same question." 

It's funny, something Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it" reminded me of a statement by Flannery O'Connor who wrote, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." He in science, she in faith. Yet the two are connected. Both should begin in the question. How? Why? Both deal with the nature of being. Both science and faith allow us to enlarge our vision of God. Both science and faith can help purify each other from any false absolutes. The Nobel Prize winning English physicist Nevill Mott said, "Science can have a purifying effect on religion, freeing it from beliefs of a pre-scientific age and helping us to a truer conception of God. At the same time, I am far from believing that science will ever give us the answers to all our questions."

But I think Christians do a disservice when they either want to deny or ignore science. What kind of faith does one have if asking questions causes your belief system to crumble? Faith is not falling in love with our false fantasies.


I love what Madeleine L'Engle said on the matter when asked on a college campus if she felt there was a conflict between science and faith.  Her response?

"Of course not. Why should there be a conflict? All that the new discoveries of science can do is enlarge our knowledge of the magnitude and glory of God's creation. We may, and often do, abuse our discoveries, use them for selfish and greedy purposes, but it is the abuse which causes the conflict, not the discoveries themselves. When they upset the religious establishment it is not because they have done anything to diminish God; they only diminish, or - even more frightening - change, the current establishment's definition of God. We human beings tend to reject change, but a careful reading of the Scripture reveals the slow and unwilling acceptance of change in the ancient Hebrew's understanding of the Master of the Universe, and the Incarnation demanded more change than the establishment could bear. But our fear and our rejection does not take away from the truth, and truth is what the Bible instructs us to know in order that we may be free.

Neither our knowledge of God and his purposes for his creation, nor the discoveries of science are static. I must admit that scientists are often easier for me to understand than the theologians, for many theologians say, 'These are the final answers.' Whereas the scientists - correction: the best of them - say, 'This is how it appears now. If further evidence is to the contrary, we will see where it leads us."

I think she's right about rigidity - on both sides. When we close our minds we show open ignorance. We both have to be open to the questions and the wonder. To again, return to Einstein, "Anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burned-out candle."


So I do not think we have to choose either / or between science and faith; the Darwin or the Ichthys bumper-sticker. One should not have to disconnect one's intellect or one's soul in either pursuit. What I think we need to do is allow God to allow us to get new glimpses of Him through His handiwork. We will never know all the answers and that's okay. As God told Job:

Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know.


A great website to read more on Christianity and science is:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Transcending Transgenders, Tax Collectors, & Westboro Baptists


While calling on one of my big box stores this week, I ran into an associate who used to work in the toy department but whom I hadn't seen in awhile. It was like a shock of cold water because he was clearly transitioning to becoming a she. Hopefully my initial inward reaction didn't show outwardly. I talked with him for a few minutes and then he went back to work. As he walked off, I noticed the harsh or disgusted looks of customers and that I got a few myself for talking with him. 

As I went back to my work, I could not help but continue to think about this young man. I know very little about his life and what choices led him to where he is today, but I would love to sit down and find out more. I love what Eugene Peterson wrote, "People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored." Everyone has a story that they want to share, to know that they are being heard, and I am someone who wants to hear them.   Without judgment or condemnation. I'm sure he gets enough of that in his life already.

For graduate school, I went to an ultraconservative Christian university. While there, I met more young men and women who were gay and lesbian than I ever did at my liberal arts undergraduate college. They were closeted and struggled gravely with their sexuality. These were Christians who were terrified of coming out for fear of rejection by their families and their churches. Many had prayed repeatedly to be delivered from their sin and questioned why God wouldn't change them. Whenever someone came out to me, it was nervously and with great fear. How would I respond? They seldom looked directly at me when they told me. It was always one-on-one. And it usually ended with, "And I'll understand if you don't want to be friends with me. . ." My heart broke to hear this. My response was always, "I'm still you're friend. This doesn't change that. Mine is not a conditional friendship. I will stand by you and love you as your friend no matter what."  I shared tears and hugs with them. I loved them.

One of them asked me, "Do you think I'm going to hell?"

Having grown up in the church, the answer I was programmed to respond with was, "Yeah! Of course." But that's not what I found myself saying, "Only if you reject the grace of God just like anyone else who does." Did I just say that? And then I said, "Last I checked in the Bible, homosexuality was not the unforgivable sin."  What? Did that just come out of my mouth? I don't think the university's founder, Pat Robertson, would have agreed with me, but I have found we seldom agree anyway. And there are probably many in the Church and those who may even being reading this now who don't agree with me.

I know because I've heard them over the years. I have been in Sunday school classes and heard adults say hateful things like, "I would never allow one of them in my house!" or "I would rather my child die of cancer than be gay!" How unloving and un-Christ-like are such statements. It saddens me to hear such statements because there is nothing of our Savior in those hateful words. Jesus said the greatest commands were: love God and love others. Where is that love in what they were saying? Where is the compassion of Christ in those revealing statements? Scripture tells us that "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" so what does this say about their hearts?


What they don't get is that, if Jesus were walking on the earth today, those people are exactly who Jesus would be socializing with. He went to all the wrong places and hung out with all the wrong people of his day. He embraced the marginalized, the outsider, the lonely, the broken, the hurting, the fringe, and the unwelcome. This is part of why the Pharisees hated him so much. We know you're a great rabbi, but look at what you're doing and who you're hanging out with.  Jesus was not concerned about reputation, he was concerned only with loving people into the kingdom, loving people to his table. That's why he shared meals with prostitutes, sinners, and tax collectors (for a modern version of this, picture Jesus eating with guys from Wall Street). I'm glad he did because his doing so invited me to the table as well.

While eating at the home of Levi, the tax collector, the Pharisees were indignant and approached the disciples and questioned why their teacher would eat with such unclean, undesirables. Like Garth Brooks, Jesus had "friends in low places" or, like Randy Travis, "a better class of losers."

Jesus, overhearing them, replied, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually fit" (The Message). He was not only referring to those who knew their sinfulness but to the Pharisees who felt secure in their own self-righteous piety who would not dare taint themselves at the table of the lost. I'm glad Jesus did because that made me welcome at the table.

I love that there is no "other" or "outsider" with Jesus. And he doesn't allow us to have them either. He doesn't let us cherry-pick who we choose to love as all our neighbors. Oftentimes it's harder for me to love my brother and sister in the Church than it is those outside the body. I find it harder to pray for those who would cruelly carry signs that declare "God hates fags!" or protest funerals. Behind their hate is fear and the Bible tells us that "perfect love casts out fear." Pure faith is based on love, the unconditional love of God, but religion is what happens when faith is replaced by fear. Religion is what creates a Westboro Baptist and other congregations like them.

Christians need to respond in truth and love. They need to approach anyone with humility and compassion.

Consider this:

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young gay and lesbians (ages 15 - 24). 30% of youth suicides are gay and lesbian. These numbers go up drastically for transgenders. 4 out of 10 attempt to kill themselves. 41% of transgenders have attempted suicide. This is heartbreaking. Gay, lesbian and transgenders are real people with real hearts. They are fragile and hurting.

How does the church respond?

Do we offer a love that is healing or words and rhetoric that is hurting?

Do we offer them the love of Christ or the condemnation of Pharisees?


I have recently been reading the book of Acts and I came across this odd section in chapter 2 of Philip being told by an angel to take the dusty desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He obeys and does so at noon, which is under the harsh midday sun, the hottest part of the day (exactly the same time Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well). This is a time when travelers stay off the roads. I love how God calls us to unexpected places at unexpected times to meet unexpected people. 

As Philip is traveling down this wilderness road, he spots an Ethiopian eunuch sitting in his chariot, reading a scroll. Now I'm sure Philip would have preferred to pass this man by, after all, eunuchs were considered unclean and were not allowed to worship in the temple. Yet he overcame all social reticence and obeyed God's command to go to this man. The Ethiopian was most likely being read aloud to by his servant, after all he was the chief treasurer of Queen Candace. Philip approached and asked if he could help him understand what is being read. The eunuch, who was clearly frustrated, replied, "Yes, how can I understand if someone does not explain it to me?"

Philip then correlates the passage of Isaiah that was being read to Christ. He begins to share the good news with the eunuch. Not only does he come to accept the truths being shared, but as they are going along the road together, they come across a body of water. We don't know if it was a pond or stream or even just a puddle, but the Ethiopian eunuch is excited and announces that he wishes to be baptized. In fact, his exact words are, "What is hindering me from being baptized?"

I'm sure the part of Philip that understood that eunuchs were impure and unwelcome to worship in any temple or synagogue could have rattled off laws forbidding this act, but he didn't. Whatever obstacles there were, he understood that none were greater than the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Philip, like Christ, knew love was always greater than the law. 

The Ethiopian eunuch was embraced by the love and truth of Christ. He rejoiced in this acceptance. He, like Philip, would then go on to do as the closing of the book of Acts tell all of us, "Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ!"  

We worship a God who, while we were still a far way off, runs to us. He is unconcerned with socially appropriate responses. He is a Father who's overwhelmed by a love for us that caused Him to create us in the first place. He runs to us and embraces us. He doesn't demand that we clean ourselves up first, either, but draws us into a big, full-embraced hug despite our stench and the filth that covers us from head to toe. We go from unloved to beloved in an instant. 


Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." And Jesus has called us not to judge but to love. In fact of faith, hope and love, it is love that is considered the greatest of these. I approach anyone with humility, grace, mercy, compassion and, hopefully, understanding. I offer only friendship to those who want it. As I said before, I will listen without judgment or condemnation as I don't sit on the throne and have not been called to be some spiritual Judge Judy here on earth. I have to remember "specks" and "planks." 

Jesus said in John 15:9, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you," so to do I respond in that love to people who so desperately need it. 

I'm not here to debate or argue or get caught up discussing the media or the LGBT "agenda." I am not interested in adding more vitriol to this issue as there is far too much of it out there as it is. I simply pray that anyone who reads this does not do so in outrage that leads to being enraged. My goal is not to provoke, but to ask only that we reach out as Jesus did. His only confrontations and words of warning were for the religious not for the bruised reed or smoldering wick. To the latter he responded in tenderness and healing. I ask only that we, as his disciples, do likewise. 



Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Theology Of The Doxology


I grew up in the Presbyterian church. The services followed a familiar pattern of liturgy, so much so that I knew where we were in the service by what was being said or repeated (responses were most often mumbled by the congregation). And I definitely knew the service was over when we got to the Doxology.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him, above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

For me this was something to feel relief over because it meant church was done and I could rush out to the car and pull off my coat and tie (Yes, I was expected to dress up for church. None of that t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Certainly not flip-flops and shorts). Though most repeated the Doxology, few seemed to feel anything for what they were singing. It was just a part of the routine. 

As I moved out of elementary school, our family ended up leaving the Presbyterian church. First to a Word of Faith one that met in a hotel. There I would be shaken by the fact that there weren't hymns nor an organ. They did something called speaking in tongues and they laid hands on people and those people were slain in the spirit and fell to the floor. These people danced in the aisles. They shouted and raised their hands. They did not sing the Doxology. They did not do liturgy. Liturgy would quench the Spirit. It was all about the Spirit and one's faith. Everything hinged on one's faith. If you were sick, it was a problem with your faith. If you were poor, it was a problem with your faith. Name it, claim it. Rebuke the devil from coming against you. God wanted to bless you. Blessings were health, wealth, and prosperity. Was that what the writer of the Doxology meant when he wrote, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow?"

I struggled with that. What they said didn't connect with what I read in the Bible. Jesus was poor and didn't have a home, not to mention he died on a cross. Was his faith not strong enough?  What about his disciples? And this church only talked about wealth, yet God seemed more concerned with the poor and warned against the love of wealth.

Their praise was all loud and full of emotion. This carried over into the Pentecostal church we attended.

Yet I find myself at a point in my life where I am missing that liturgy, that ritual and the Doxology (we do bring it out sometimes in our Baptist church). I miss celebrating the liturgical year as we used to (Baptists would say that it becomes too rote and that it's not in scripture so it has no place). I have been reflecting a lot on the Doxology.

First off, what is a Doxology?

It's from the Greek "doxa" which means "glory, splendor, grandeur" and from "logos" meaning "word" or "speaking." Doxology is a short hymn of praise to God in various forms of Christian worship, ofted added to the end of canticles, psalms and hymns.


Where did it come from?

The words were written by Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken in 1674 but the music came from the Genevan Psalter in 1551 and are attributed to Louis Bourgeois. Thomas Ken was an orphan and raised by a sister.

He would go on to become a scholar at Winchester College and received his B.A. from New College, Oxford. He would go on to spend most of his life at Winchester College and Cathedral. Along with preaching, Thomas liked to write songs for students to sing.

The Doxology was first published in the 1695 edition in A Manual of Prayers for the Use of Scholars at Winchester College.

Later Thomas Ken would go on to become chaplain to King Charles II, but would later be imprisoned by King James II because of Ken's Protestant thinking.

At his burial, the Doxology was sung as the sun began to rise and they lowered the casket of Thomas Ken into the grave.

Praising God for his blessings comes from verses like Ephesians 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Notice those blessings are not of the Word of Faith variety).

Ascribing to God all glory comes from verses like Romans 11:36, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever."

And, lastly, the affirming of the Trinity, comes from Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Sometimes, I find myself singing this as a form of prayer in the mornings when I rise or at night before I go to bed to remind myself of the deep truths contained within those four lines. Little did I know that it's author Thomas Ken would be proud, as that was why he had written the Doxology for his students in the first place.







Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Silence: The Biblical & Biological Benefits


This past weekend, my wife and I were having a discussion on Lent and why our Baptist church doesn't have Lenten services or follow the liturgical calendar. Somehow, during our talk, she suggested, "Why don't you give up music for Lent?"

WHAT????

Was she crazy?

She knows that I love music. It comes right after books (Surprised she didn't go for that one). Right before coffee and chocolate. Was it because I'd just downloaded some new music off iTunes?

The next morning, after I dropped Cava off to school, I headed down I-85 to call on a store in South Carolina. Driving along, the morning was overcast, and I found myself turning the radio off. I would drive in silence.

I must admit, my mind began to race with busy, crowded thoughts. My body shifted a bit in my seat anxiously.

Couldn't I at least listen to NPR? NPR's not music.

But I didn't turn the radio back on.

No, I felt I needed to be in silence.

Silence requires us to not only turn inward but to focus outwardly on God. Would He speak in the still-small whisper that he spoke to Elijah?

My mind continued to dart about like squirrels in the yard. How was I supposed to center myself, silence my thoughts and focus on God?

Saint Basil the Great wrote that, "Silence . . . is the beginning of purifying the soul."

Is that why so many of us avoid it?

Is silence like our vegetables, we know they are good for us but we would still prefer to eat the Krispy Kreme doughnuts?

I know I typically have my iPod playing, or the radio on, or the TV on or something to fill the silence. And you can't go to a restaurant or into a store without being inundated by music and, in some places, TVs going with music playing. We cannot think or hear, either ourselves or others amidst all this jumble of sounds.  Many times so much noise makes me restless and agitated. Today it was the silence.

Yet scientists will tell you that there are many health benefits to taking time out during your day to just be in silence: Doing this helps:
- lowers blood pressure
- boosts your immune system
- boosts your brain chemistry
- reduces stress
- keeps plaque from forming in arteries
- reduces pain

The Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote, "Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation."

This got me to thinking about how even many of our churches are filled with noise and do not make a space for silence. We like our praise and worship with guitars and drums and keyboards. We want to hear sermons. It makes us uncomfortable to sit in silence.

Are we afraid of where the silence will lead us?

Was this why I was having such a hard time with silence?

Silence is a spiritual discipline.

Psalm 62:1 says, "For God alone my soul waits in silence . . ."

Do I take the time to worship God in silence?

I definitely don't practice enough making my own space for silence and solitude in order to just be in the presence of God without an agenda but to simply allow him that time without intrusions. In the silence, I give God alone my attention. Silence is a gift.

Do I offer that silence to my wife? My kids? To others? Listening to what they have to say without other noises intruding? Simone Weil wrote, "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."  Why? Because it is focused on the other and not ourselves, whether that be God or a family member or friend.

Life too often fills us our ears and hearts with such busyness that we crowd out the whisper of God's voice.

Yet silence is the place where we can find nourishment and peace.

I would have thought that in such a time that Psalm 46:10 would have popped into my thoughts, "Be still, and know that I am God . . ." but it didn't. Instead Exodus 14:14 did. That verse says, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still."

He was telling me, "Do nothing. Be at rest. Be at peace. Let your mind be easy, without distress and fear. I will take care of you."

Lately, I have been full of discouragement. It would be very easy for me to doubt God, to question Him, but in this silence He was reminding me of what really needed to be done: nothing.

Into the silence of my heart He whispered.

That morning I found God met me there in the silence. This should not have surprised me because, as Emily Dickinson wrote, " . . . Silence is infinity."











Monday, February 22, 2016

A Prayer For Monday


I'm not a morning person. I'm not a Monday person. I don't do either well. So when I need to start my day off in prayer, I don't always have the right words to say because words don't come to me yet (it's all monosyllabic until at least after 9 am).

How then can I coherently speak to God when I can't to my wife or kids?

That's why I turn to the prayers of others, including the Psalms. Sometimes saints of the past have the prayer that's in my heart and right for what I want to pray for my day.  

The beautiful one that found me today is by Teresa of Avila.  I can pray it not only for myself, but for my family and for others. 

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly
where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith.
May you use the gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love
that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing
you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing,
dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Amen.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

John The Baptist In The Wal-Mart Parking Lot


Not sure what it is about me, but I tend to get approached by homeless people in the parking lots of Wal-Marts. Most often those who approach me are men, some bear a striking resemblance to John the Baptist with their wild hair and crazy eyes. Very few of them will actually look directly at me when they ask for money, more often, they look downward.

I never just give them money, but will inquire as to why they need the money.  If they say it's because they are hungry and want to buy something to eat, I will then offer to go with them to the nearby MacDonald's or whatever fast food place is nearby to buy them a meal. As Deuteronomy tells us that if there is someone in need, ". . . do not be selfish and refuse to help him. Instead be generous and lend him as much as he needs" (15:7-8). 

Some decline and walk away, but there have been those who agreed. After they order and get their meal, we sit down at a table. I notice the stares we get from customers around us. They give hard looks at the homeless guy. They probably notice his smell. What they don't do is see him. What they see is a problem. What they see is a homeless person, not a person. Or they merely see an alcoholic or drug addict.

How many of us pretend not to see them at all sometimes?

How many of us start to fidget with the radio or just look elsewhere when we're stopped at a light where there is a homeless guy standing there with a sign, begging for money?

I have.

Plenty of times.

But what happens when we begin to engage with them?

I will sit there with them as they eat and just listen to them share their stories. Some were vets. Some had a series of misfortunes that landed them on the street. I have met the educated and uneducated. I met one who talked to me about science and the universe. His hero was Albert Einstein. I met one who had a degree in art history. But no matter what their story is, they are people. They are created in the image of God. They are all loved by God, so much so that Jesus said you would always find him among them. Jesus said, "Whatever you've done for the least of these . . ."

There's a Scottish proverb I love that goes, "Do not judge by appearances; a rich heart may be under a poor coat."  This can be true. I've met them.

It's hard not to judge them or to blame them. But Christ hasn't called me to do either of those. He has called me to love the poor. He even tells us to throw a party for them in Luke 14:13. I must admit, I am wary of inviting the poor into my home. I am much easier taking them out to get them food or buying them a warmer coat or socks.

Proverbs 19:17 tells us, "He that has pity on the poor lends unto the Lord; and that which he has given will he pay him again." Pity here is not looking down on someone and thinking, "Poor guy." No, pity is the feeling of compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others. Compassion is love in action. It is being moved to the point of doing, not just thinking or feeling sorry for someone. When Jesus was moved to compassion, he healed and he fed.

I remember when one showed up on our doorstep asking if he could do some work for us so that he could buy a meal to eat. I told him, "We don't really have anything we need done, but I will be glad to fix you something if you'll wait."  He thanked me. I went inside and fixed him a sandwich, got one of those small bags of chips, and a bottle of water. When I gave it to the man, he was very appreciative. He had not eaten in a couple of days. At the time, I think this gesture made the biggest impact on Benjamin who witnessed it all. And I have taught him that, while I never just give somebody money, I will ask the need and see if I can help with that need.  I explained that by doing so it honored God. Getting my Bible, I also showed him how Proverbs 22:9 says, "A generous man will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

Our kids need to see us be like Christ who was "close to the brokenhearted" and "crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). We cannot just complain about the poor or dismiss them as drug addicts or alcoholics who simply want money for their addictions.

Shane Claiborne said, "How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?"

As I have said many times, I love the prophets. They were men who sought after God and understood deeply that to do so meant taking care of the poor. Listen to what Isaiah taught, "And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday." (58:10)

Are we not called to be light in this world?

When those who come to us with open hands, we should respond with open hearts because that is the heart of God. We need to be a Church for the poor. Pope Francis has said, "For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God's work and practicing the works of mercy."


As Jesus stated in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Let our lights shine as we feed, comfort, and love the broken, the dispossessed, the poor, and the outcast. Those who are on the fringe of our society are on the closest to the kingdom.






Friday, February 19, 2016

A Must-Read Review: Surprised By Oxford


What if C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen wrote a spiritual autobiography?

It would be Carolyn Weber's wonderful memoir Surprised By Oxford. Her writing is bright, funny, delightful and profound. It's her story of being an agnostic who comes to study romantic literature at Oxford University and finds herself being, often unwillingly, drawn in by God and by a young man who turns out to be not only tall, dark and handsome but also a Christian. Having relied on her intellect for answering life's greatest questions, she finds faith incompatible with intellectual pursuits. But that young man shared the gospel with her and she cannot unhear what she has heard. And this disturbs her. She also cannot dismiss his words because of the seriousness of his mind as well as the "deep joy" she saw in him and other Christians she begins to meet.

There is a sense of wonder to her stumbling forward into faith. This spiritual journey is humble and thought-provoking, much like the work of C. S. Lewis. Both have a depth to their writing and yet it is easily accessible to the reader. They don't write down to the reader nor do they write to impress. They know how to tell a story, their story, with a deftness that gives the reader genuine pleasure to come along. Like Pride and Prejudice, this is also a love story: at first for greater learning, but like Lizzie Bennett, Weber reluctantly finds herself falling in love with the young man and with God. Both to her surprise and consternation.

Carolyn Weber writes of love:

There is nothing more powerful, more radical, more transformational than love. No other substance or force. And do not be deceived, for it is all of these things, and then far more than that. It can't be circumscribed by our desires or dictated by the whim of our moods. Not the Great Love of the Universe, as I like to call it. Not the Love that set everything in motion, keeps it in motion, which moves through all things and yet bulldozes nothing, not even our will. Try it. Just try it and you'll see. If you love that Great Love first, because It loved you first, and then love yourself as you have been loved, and love others from that love . . .WOW! BAM! Life without that kind of faith - that's death. Therein lies the great metaphor . . . Life without faith IS death. For life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving and you'll really start living. There is no other force in the universe comparable to that.


For those who love great English literature, you will delight in her interspersing bits of Romantic poetry throughout the book, as well as U2 lyrics. Since I'm a huge fan of both, I was instantly pulled in and marvelled at how those two things also formed a connection to her conversion. God uses whatever means necessary to woo us.



Like both Lewis and Austen, Weber writes with a wit and intelligence and a warmth that is highly readable. She draws you in with her story, her struggles, and her honesty.  I highly recommend Surprised By Oxford. It is the perfect book for an afternoon reading, in a comfy chair, and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea.

Also, here is a link to her wonderful website:
http://www.pressingsave.com/

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Atonement, Patti Smith & Kendrick Lamar


In this day and age, the word "atonement" is not a very popular one - even in many churches. Too many view this word as a huge negative, like penance (it's definition's a real hootenanny: voluntary self-punishment as an outward expression of repentance. This has all sorts of images of hair shirts, self-flagellation, deprivation all in an attempt to be closer to the suffering of Christ). It tends to be avoided in most dialogues, coffee shop conversations, or church pulpits.

Just Google most popular preachers and Christian teachers and writers to see how few of them deal with this subject matter. Let's face it, this is not a topic that is going to sell books or gain viewers in this modern age of feel-good theology. Atonement does not allow for consumerism and self-indulgence. Unlike new car ads, we don't like the "getting what we deserve" message atonement offers because it brings us to the foot of the cross to decide the question that Christ asked over and over again of people during his ministry on earth, "Who do you say I am?"  The cross and atonement means we are forced to look not within ourselves but at a bloodied, battered Jesus hanging there: forgiving us and loving us even as he hangs there.


We don't like atonement because it is radical. It's subversive. It's extravagant. It goes against the grain of our culture. It is the realization of a brutally raw love God has for us.

And because atonement means we are separated from God.  We prefer a go-with-the-flow, pluralistic God of acceptance who asks nothing from us, expects nothing from us, and has our live-and-let-live attitude. There is no all roads in this but a choice. This is a faith of costs.  One of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross." It's not about comfort, it's about the cross. For many, this is where they turn away. This is not the Messiah they wanted. Like children, we want the sanitized and sentimentalized bible stories of Jesus. Cleaned up and safe. Jesus was never safe. That's part of why he ended up on that cross.

Atonement means "at one with." Or, as Madeleine L'Engle calls it "At-one-ment." It means to reconcile and was coined by sixteenth-century English theologian William Tyndale.  Most would question why they need reconciliation since they aren't so bad and are pretty good people. We don't like the idea that we have to seek forgiveness. Atonement and the cross are offensive to us. It definitely goes against the American idealism of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps or that we can work our way to heaven. Human depths can never reach heavenly heights. Not on our own. Since we cannot ascend, He must descend. God bends down to reach us.

I remember going to a Lenten service with an unbelieving friend, who asked me to go with him. He was okay with everything until they began to sing:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

When we came out of the church and got into his car, he slammed the door with, "I can't stand all that blood stuff. Why can't it just be about love?"  He missed that it was. The very point of Lent is the leading up to the cross, the death, and the Easter resurrection. By his own admission, he told of what kept him from acceptance. He could not face that he was bad enough to need the blood of Christ to atone for him. Many are of the same mind. They like Jesus as the teacher or the prophet. They like him as a "good" man. Like Thomas Jefferson, they prefer his moral teachings but not anything that reveals him as the Son of God (especially miracles and resurrection).

We are unwilling to accept a Jesus that doesn't match our expectations. Certainly this was true of Judas. When he discovered that this "Messiah" was not the militant leader who would overthrow Rome and restore the kingdom of Israel, but was a servant savior, his love turned to hatred. Jesus does that to all of us. He reminds us of who he is and, as Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, "He reminds you of the difference between the two of you and you start hating him for that - for the difference - enough to begin thinking of some way to hurt him back."


On her 1975 album Horses, Patti Smith opened her recording of "Gloria" with the declaration, "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine!" It was a defiant statement that struck a chord with many who were filled with doubt, disbelief, and disillusionment. Later she sings, "My sins my own, they belong to me." Looking back on this recording, Smith, who grew up Jehovah's Witness, would say, "I'm not against Jesus, but I was 20 and wanted to make my own mistakes. I didn't want him taking credit for what I do." How many others are like her? They cannot accept Jesus. That opening was a shaking of the fist to challenge the idea that Jesus had to die for her sins.

We mistakenly believe we are not guilty of anything. We might think ourselves wronged, misunderstood, and imperfect but certainly not guilty and definitely not sinful. Many trivialize what they do as being merely bad habits and not sin.

There are also too many in the church who have this attitude. They view themselves through a secular perspective. They are unsettled by atonement and it makes them uncomfortable, so they avoid the topic all together. Easter is only a time to dress up in their newest, finest. The cross is indecent. It is shameful. It is for common criminals and doesn't belong among decent, hard-working men and women who hope for a heaven.

Fleming Rutledge wrote, "If we cannot look at the cross, then we cannot look at ourselves." Why? Because Jesus tells us the truth about ourselves so deeply that we want to crucify him for it. Jesus is the Truth. Often we cannot face that. Truth requires us to face that there is untruth within ourselves, duplicity, and lies that we tell about ourselves. There are no masks or disguises that can hide us from him. The cross is our unmasking. It lays bare all our self-deception and excuses. Yet the weight of the cross was nothing compared to the weight of our rejection of him.

Many cannot accept this truth. They cannot believe it. The French poet Paul Verlaine wrote:
I know I ought to love you, but how could
a poor thing like myself, God be your lover . . . ?

The cross shows us our unworthiness but Verlaine fails to see that in accepting this, by laying it at the foot of the cross, we are made worthy. It is more than a mere prayer, but in a true laying down of self and acceptance of his love, his grace and his mercy.

Like children who believe a simple "sorry" is all it takes, the church is also filled with those who believe a simple sinner's prayer is all that's needed and they are good and covered. This is not true repentance. We must seek honest forgiveness. If we don't truly seek forgiveness (as more than mere apology), the Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides wrote in Hilchot Teshuvah: One who confesses in words and has not in his heart resolved to forsake sin is like one who immerses in a mikveh (ritual bath) and keeps holding a poisonous snake. Unless you cast it away, the immersion is useless.

John the Baptist called out upon seeing Jesus' approaching, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

I've heard it said that sin is that which keeps us from being what God created us to be. It separates us from Him and from ourselves, as we become focused solely on self and attempting to fill the emptiness with the escapisms to avoid introspection and the realization that what we are really seeking cannot be found by escaping but in surrendering.

Flannery O'Connor wrote that the central Christian mystery is that the world has, " . . . for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for." She understood that the very act of atonement through the cross was ultimately an act of love by God for us. 

There have been many myths about gods coming to earth in the form of man, but only Jesus came not for power but to love. He came to love us: the miserable, the afflicted, the outcast, the lonely, the heartbroken, the oppressed, the desperate, and the unloved. He came to call us his "beloved" and to make us his bride and call us his own.


In stark contrast to Patti Smith's opening to "Gloria," 28-year-old rapper Kendrick Lamar's intro to Good Kid was:
Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins.
I believe that Jesus is Lord.
I believe that you raised Him from the dead.
I will ask Jesus to come into my life and be my  Lord and Savior.
I received Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him
from this day forth.
Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me, with your precious blood.
In Jesus' name.
Amen.

Lamar has spoken of how he was led to Christ by a friend's grandmother in the parking lot of a Food 4 Less. He was baptised in 2013. Having grown up in the streets and not the church, his songs are modern parables where one finds Jesus amidst the profanity. He admits that he may be the only "preacher" many young in the gang culture will hear and he has said, "I got a greater purpose. God put something in my heart to get across and that's what I'm going to focus on, using my voice as an instrument and doing what needs to be done." In another interview, Lamar said, "My word will never be as strong as God's word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work." He does not chase celebrity, drink, do drugs, but writes with great honesty about his struggles and his searching, and about the redeeming love of Christ. 


He often gets asked why he puts Christianity in his music and he replies, "Because that's a part of who I am. A lot of people in the industry are scared of that, but I couldn't stray away from that, that's how I think on a daily basis and my music reflects my actual life so I'll always continue to put that type of message in my music." The Truth got a hold of him and now he won't deny it 

Philip Yancey wrote, "Whatever else we may say about it, the atonement fulfills the Jewish principle that only one who has been hurt can forgive. At Calvary, God chose to be hurt." This is not some impersonal, existential God who is distant and removed from us. This is a very personal God.

Atonement on the cross was a history-pivotal moment in the ultimate act of self-giving love on behalf of a holy God who longed for us to be in fellowship with Him. Atonement is an intimate act. It is act that offers us unconditional love and freedom. Theologians Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker wrote that, "The atonement created a deeper love for God than would have been possible without it . . . creating the prospect that human hearts could be transformed from fear to love."

The message of the cross is that God loves us. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes on Him should have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

As Sara Groves sang in "You Did That For Me":

Man of sorrows
Well acquainted with grief
Drug down to the city dump
Spread eagle on a cross beam
Propped up like a scarecrow
Nailed like a thief
There for all the world to see

You wore the chains so I could be free . .  .  


We can debate it. We can deny it. Or we can accept it. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Gospel Of John


I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of biblical movies because they are often inaccurate and poorly done or they are over done (i.e. the old Hollywood biblical epics that were pure spectacle). Very few of the movies about Jesus have moved me. Most have left me cold and indifferent. One of the most faithful film adaptations was Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew in which the dialog is taken strictly from the gospel itself. Pasolini, a controversial figure and was shot in the style of Italian neorealism. 


Netflix currently has one for streaming that was done by the Lumo Project entitled The Gospel of John based on my favorite of the gospels.  For those unfamiliar with the Lumo Project, their goal is to film each of the books of the gospel using the text from those books as the exact words for their films. As their site also states:  The film has been informed by leading world experts' latest theological, historical and archaeological research on every aspect of life in first century Palestine. I love that the actors look like what people in the time and place that Christ lived look like. 


This film also shows all side of Christ, including how he could be confrontational and in your face, much to the anger of the Pharisees and many of the people around him. 



The Gospel of John was shot on location in Morocco and is the first they have released of the four. One can also chose between watching the King James translation (narrated by actor Brian Cox) or the New International Version (narrated by actor David Harewood).  The actors are also Middle Eastern and come from Arabic and Iranian descent. The actors even speak in Aramaic (the tongue spoken during the time of Jesus) in the background, though the narration is all in English. 


Beautifully shot, The Gospel of John transports one to the world of First Century Palestine and one cannot help but be moved in hearing those first words spoken:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

This film does an amazing job to present the life of Christ in all of his divinity and humanity. It took the filmmakers five years to make this movie and it shows in the depth they have brought to this project. 



To find out more about the Lumo Project and the Gospel films, here is a link to their official site:


Here's the trailer for the film what Lumo Project is attempting to do with these films.



Here's the official trailer for The Gospel of John:


You can also follow them on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/TheLumoProject

You can stream this film on Netflix of download it from iTunes. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Jesus Record


One record that I could have included in my list of music for Lent and Easter is the one that has had the biggest impact on me: The Jesus Record by Rich Mullins and a ragamuffin band. He meditated on the very nature of Christ and out of that came this album. Central to his life and his music was Jesus. Christ permeated how he approached everything. Unlike many, the cross was not just a symbol for him and grace was not just a sentiment. "Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect," he once said, "I wanted to believe in Jesus."

He understood that others would not be drawn to Christ through arguments and presentation, but in living out the gospel. He knew this because that's what he responded to. ". . .I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who knew Him."

At times, Rich was a poet and psalmist, at other times, a prophet.  He believed in speaking the truth unconcerned that it might make many (mostly the religious) uncomfortable. He was unconcerned with comfort but only in following Jesus.  His ultimate message was about a God who loves us in a "reckless, raging fury" that He would give His only Son. "If there is any meaning in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, it is this: that there is a God who created us, and who loves us so much that He would stop at nothing to bring us to Him. And I really suspect that of all the things we think we want to know, the only thing we really want to know is that we are loved. And if Jesus means anything, He means that you are loved."

One of the biggest influences on Rich was Brennan Manning and his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. It was from the book that he got the name of his band The Ragamuffins. Here's a brief sample of Brennan's teaching (of whom I was fortunate to attend one of his workshops):


Like Christ, Rich was drawn to the poor and to those who often went unnoticed. He once said, "I take comfort in knowing that it was the shepherds to whom the angels appeared when they announced Christ's birth. Invariably throughout the course of history, God has appeared to people on the fringes." It was this very notion of Jesus identifying so much with the poor of this world that inspired the song "You Did Not Have A Home." One of my favorite parts of this song is:


So I guess You had to get sold
'Cause the world can't stand what it can't own
And it can't own You
'Cause You did not have a home 

Another song off the album that took up this message was written by Rick Elias entitled "Man of No Reputation." A song Rich couldn't get through without crying. 

But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection
And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were
He was a man of no reputation

He himself followed the model Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi gave and lived among the poor and poor in spirit (teaching music to kids on a Navajo reservation) and, despite being worth millions, chose to live only on the income of the average American; giving away much of his earnings. Many found him odd or crazy, but Rich Mullins didn't care. He was never interested in pleasing man but in pleasing God. It was this that made him have a far greater impact than most musicians, even long after he died.

This album confronts both the mistakes the disciples made and our own about who they thought Christ came here to be. No better example of this comes from the lines in the song "All The Way To Kingdom Come":

We were looking for heroes
He came looking for the lost
We were searching for glory and He showed us a cross
Now we know what love is 'cause He loves us all the way to kingdom come  


Best known for his anthem "Awesome God" and for the songs he wrote for Amy Grant ("Sing Your Praise To The Lord" among them), his music became so much complexer as he, like a psalmist, wrote songs about his struggles (including loneliness) as well as his ardent love for a Savior who loved him passionately first. His music transcended his pain as it always offered hope: hope in a loving God and a compassionate Christ. One of the best examples of this was in his song "Hard To Get." In this song, he wrote:

You who live in heaven
hear the prayers of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love  
and who get hardened by the hurt
Do you remember when you lived down here
where we all scrape to find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did you forget about us after you had flown away
Well, I memorized every word you said
Still, I'm so scared I'm holding my breath
while you're up there playing hard to get

Words that are brutally honest. Uncomfortably so. Many would not even dare speak those words out loud, even if we thought them. It's about doubt and fear. Later in the song he admits he's lashing out at the One who loves him the most, like a child wanting to know from his parent, "Are you listening to me?"


By the end of the song, he admits:

I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

This hearkens back to what Rich once said about closeness to God:


Rich also understood that Jesus knew our loneliness, our sorrow, and our suffering because he, too, went through them here on earth. As he wrote in his song "Heaven In His Eyes":

But why is a man as wise as He
Weeping alone in Gethsemane
Could it be because He's afraid we'd never see
The heaven in His eyes

Jesus died on the cross because he knew that was the only way we would see heaven in his eyes. 




The album was made posthumously after Rich Mullins' death in a car accident. Recorded by his band the ragamuffins, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Ashley Cleveland, and Phil Keaggy. 


"Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours," he once said. Just as Jesus loved him with wild abandon, so, too, did Rich love Christ that way. His life showed that he thought himself only a sojourner here on earth. 


His music, his writing, his witness, and his life had a profound influence on my own and I have been forever changed by the honesty, vulnerability, the depth and beauty of what he had to offer. 


"One day it won't make any difference how many albums I've sold, but I will give account of my life to God. What I think He'll be most pleased with is to see that we truly lived, that we were the person He created us to be." - Rich Mullins