Wednesday, September 27, 2006

excuse me?

have you ever listened to politicians and wondered if anyone's right?

I'm sitting here in Sweetwaters (kind of) working. The lady at the table next to me is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. She's spent the entire afternoon interviewing policital candidates. I'm not sure for what office, but she's had one right after the other sitting at her table since about 1:30 this afternoon.

The interesting thing is that every politician she's talked to genuinely wants to make a difference. Each one is aware of the problems faced by our city and state, and every one wants to do something about them.

But everyone of them has completely different ideas as to how.
One will come in and talk about "trickle down economics" and how it will help boost the economy. The next will come and talk about what a terrible idea trickle down economics is and give a list of reasons why it won't work.

Both arguements seem perfectly reasonsable. But they can't both be right.. can they?
With so many politicians and so many opinions, it's no wonder we never really get anywhere.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

what does it take to make a sacrifice?

Lately I've been thinking alot lately about altars and sacrifices. We often talk about being "living sacrifices", but what does that really mean? We talk about laying our lives on the altar, but..again... what does that really mean?

This pic is a replica of the Altar of Burnt Offering from the Old Testament tabernacle built by the Israelites.

If you read through the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, you'll find seemingly countless types of sacrifices that had to be made for various reasons, seasons, and celebrations. Though some were grain offerings, many required animal sacrifices. Imagine what this altar must have looked like after an animal sacrifice.

" If the annointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the Lord.
He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the Lord. (This pic is of the "slaughter area" just inside the tabernacle.)

Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the Altar of Fragrant Incense that is before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull's blood he shall pour out at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering at the entrace to the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering - the fat that covers the inner parts or is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys - just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed for the fellowship offering. The the priest shall burn them on the Altar of Burnt Offering. But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts and offal - that is, all the rest of the bull - he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap." - Leviticus 4:3-12

That's what a sacrifice looked like in the Old Testament. It was bloody. It was violent. At the base of that altar had been poured the blood of hundreds of animals. It wasn't neat and tidy and wrapped up in a nice little worship song.

Though I'm grateful that we no longer have to go to this length to atone for our sins, sometimes I wonder if it wasn't a better system. You're not going to subject yourself, or an innocent animal, to that unless you're truly repenting for your sin. You don't do something like that unless you mean it. But how often do we, myself included, sing a song or pray a prayer of devotion and sacrifice to God that's half-hearted?

I guess my over-arching thought is this: if this is what "making a sacrifice" looked like in the old testament, and I'm now meant to be a "living sacrifice", then being a "living sacrifice" isn't pretty. It isn't easy, neat, attractive, or quick. It's painful. It's bloody. It means pouring out everything that's me. Everything. There was nothing left of the bull that was used in the sin offering. Similarly, there should be nothing left of me. Just as I'm sure the bull fought against being sacrificed, so I fight against it. I kick and protest and fight back. Even as my life's blood is being poured out I'm fighting for survival. The process of becoming a living sacrifice is a painful battle of wills between the human who wants to live and the spirit who knows it's better not to.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a day of good-bye's, pt. 2

This morning, Eric Asp re-posted a blog about the Zolder. This is Zolder 50's last week in their current space.
As I read Eric's post, I felt compelled to post something of my own. I too have many memories of looking out the Zolder windows on to the streets of Amsterdam.

Our last time there, I took this picture:

I took it at about 1am.
I've only been to Amsterdam a few times, yet I feel like I've spent countless hours gazing out these windows. I'm so drawn to Amsterdam. Sometimes I long so much to be there, my heart hurts. I've spent hours staring out the windows of the Zolder, praying for the city. It strange to think that the next time I'm in Amsterdam, the next time I'm gazing out the windows of the "Zolder", the view won't look like this.

I still remember the first time I saw the Zolder. It was a year and a half ago. My first missions trip to Amsterdam. We walked up the seemingly endless staircase, through the doorway, and into a space that had clearly been set apart for God and His work. It sounds silly to you I'm sure, but the first time I stepped into the Zolder, I got choked up. The atmosphere was powerful. Filled with God's presence.

It was comfortable, warm and inviting. I've worshipped in that space. Prayed, laughed, cried. I've deepend existing friendships and built new ones. I've seen God move powerfully in my life and the lives of others. I even helped make the mosaic at the top of the stairs! So many memories... and I've only spent a grand total of 6 weeks in Amsterdam! So I can't imagine how powerful and emotional the memories are of those who live in Amsterdam and have called the Zolder their church home.

But, as Eric said, thankfully the church is not a building, it's a people. I think the external changes symbolize changes that are happening internally, not just in individuals but in the Zolder as a church. God is working and moving in and among the people of the Zolder. I think the location change is evidence of that. God has something in mind. He has a plan for the Zolder. I think the move will open up ministry opportunities the haven't even been thought of yet. I think it will solidify the truth that the *people* are the church. Though moving a church's location is often viewed as a bad thing, I think it weeds out those who only want something that's convenient or cool, and binds together those who are truly committed. They will be a stronger church for having gone through this together.

I'll miss the view from the Zolder windows. But I look forward to returning to Amsterdam, seeing a new view, and creating new memories.

a day of good-bye's, pt. 1

this morning I said good-bye to a great friend.
This is one of my earliest memories of him. We were sitting at Detroit Metro Aiport, waiting to leave for a missions trip to Amsterdam. I remember this because he was showing us his hat, which had velcro, removable name tags. It was the start of a beautiful friendship!
Jeff is one of the greatest people I've ever known. His joy and passion for God are genuine, as is his love for others. We spent a lot of time together on the Amsterdam trip and quickly became close. He was almost instantly like a brother. We spent a lot of time together when we first got back from Amsterdam, too. Time talking about and processing the trip, and just trying to figure out life in general. Our friendship was unique right from the start.

See, most friendships (at least... most of mine) start tentatively. Most friendships go through that awkward "getting to know each other" stage, but for some reason, Jeff and I skipped that part. I'm not sure why, but we did. We seemed to feel comfortable with and close to each other almost immediately. Though I'm sure he's used to that, it was a first for me. And it was a tremendous blessing. Jeff has taught me so much about feeling free to express my emotions. God has used him to show me the beauty and power in embracing and enjoying your individuality, instead of trying to hide it. I'm a freer person because of him, and I can't say that about many people.

This morning I was blessed to watch Jeff get baptized. In true "Shrilly" fashion, it was unlike any baptism I've ever seen. The fountain outside of the Royal Oak public library will never be the same! I'm not even sure it was legal but... whatever. It's wonderful to know that he's embarking on the next season of his life with the full annointing of God. It began to rain near the end... a baptism for us all. It was wonderful. And when it was over, I hugged him good-bye, walked back to my car, and cried most of the way home.

Though I know this isn't a "forever" good-bye, it's still a good-bye. And it's still sad. I'm certain Jeff and I will be in each others lives for a long time. But.. for now at least... ours will be a long-distance friendship, and that will be hard. I'll miss seeing his face light up as he tells a story. I'll miss his crazy sound effects. I'll most certainly miss his hugs, and I'll miss walking along the streets of Royal Oak talking about life or talking about nothing at all.
I'm a better person for knowing him and being known by him.

Godspeed and God bless, my friend. I love you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

oh yeah... "His ways are higher"...

... I always seem to forget that part.

I just read this quote on someone else's blog and had to share it:
"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the last few weeks, I've struggled a lot.. trying to hold onto things I have no business trying to possess or control. For some reason, I continually find myself in this mental and spiritual place where I think that *I* have the best plan for me. I think *I* have the best ideas about what direction to take and how best to use my God-given gifts.

A few weeks ago I applied for a job at a youth camp in (almost) northern Michigan. It seemed like a good idea at the time... except that I didn't feel at peace about pursuing the job. The thing is... I know the gifts and abilities God's given me. I know the calling He's placed on my life. But rather than trusting Him to guide me to the places where I can best use the gifts and calling, I think I have to do it on my own. Rather than trusting that He's already got me in the right place, doing the right things, I think I need to look for something else. God's given the gifts and calling, but I think that I need to possess the path; I need to control the direction. Consequently, I nearly always live with the underlying tension that's inevitable when your flesh is striving. It's exhuasting.

Earlier this week, it hit me that I'm right where I need to be, doing the things I need to do. If I wasn't, God would move me. It hit me this week that my repeated efforts to move myself never work out. It hit me that that must mean something. Like.. maybe I don't need to move anywhere. Not literally, not professionally. It hit me that I've been trying to possess the path. Control my direction. And it's not been working.

So... I've let go. Again. Maybe *finally* this time. Let's hope.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I wrote a story for a client last week about the Madrid fashion week. Its organizers made an unprecedented decision to refuse models whose Body Mass Index was below 18. As you can imagine, it sparked controversy, but has also sparked similar decisions in other countries:

"British eating disorder experts yesterday called for a new law under health and safety legislation that would ban the use of models under a certain body size. They said that after years of promising to clean up its act voluntarily, the fashion industry had to be forced into protecting both the health of the models it uses, and the impact their images can have on impressionable young girls and women."

Read the full story here: Role Models?

Maybe the tide is finally turning.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Sunday, Sept. 17, has been designated as the Day for Darfur to promote prayer for this beleaguered region of western Sudan. With the memory of Kosovo and Rwanda still fresh, the date marks one year since the U.N. voted to not allow state sovereignty to justify atrocities or prevent international action to protect victims of violence.

The U.K.-based charity Christian Aid published on its website that the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003, has displaced more than 2 million people and left more than 200,000 dead. A prayer rally has been organized in London outside the prime minister’s office on Downing Street where Archbishop Desmond Tutu will share a prayer he has written for the event along with other Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

Christian Aid has found its humanitarian relief work increasingly difficult to continue under the peacekeeping efforts of the under-resourced African Union forces. In late August the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling on the government of Sudan to “consent” to a robust U.N. force with the primary role of protecting civilians and humanitarian workers. Khartoum has steadfastly refused. (Assist News Service)

Monday, September 11, 2006

America Remembers

We were busy that day. We had several shows going out that night and into the next day. I was at my desk, printing off a load sheet for the next truck. Our Logistics Manager came rushing into the warehouse. "Hey, we gotta turn on a TV," he said "my wife just called and said an airplane hit the World Trade Center."

We pulled one of the many monitors off the shelf, plugged in the cable, and turned on CNN. The pictures were hard to believe. All the smoke and fire seemed surreal. We started speculating. What could cause a plane to veer into such a large building? It was a clear day in New York, so weather couldn't have been a factor. When the second airplane hit, I remember feeling confused. Everyone got real quiet. The idea that both were accidents was hard to comprehend, but the idea that it was done intentionally was even more incomprehensable. A newscaster from the Pentagon was live on the air when that plane hit. He reported a loud crash, and said the building shook as though there were an earthquake. We watched the towers burn. We watched them collapse. I had been standing in front of the television watching everything. When the first tower collapsed, I remember sitting down hard into my chair, feeling like part of me fell with the tower. All I could think about were all those people, all the families who had just lost loved ones.

Shortly after the second tower collapsed, we turned off the TV. Most of us went home. Day to day work seemed unimportant. I drove home listening to news radio, and I think I was too stunned to think much of anything. I got home and watched the news. I remember thinking that the people who did this must have been planning it for months or even years. Which made me feel so unsafe. This plan to attack our country had been unfolding in our country, and we knew nothing about it. I remember thinking that our ideas of safety are so false. That there is no true security or safety except what can be found in God.

As heartbreaking and devastating as it was to watch these events, I remember thinking that people in other countries suffer these kinds of attacks everyday, and that while I would never wish this on anyone and would never think we "had it coming", our belief that we're somehow immune was naive at best and arrogant at worst. I remember wondering how someone could be filled with so much hate as to carry out a plan like this.

As strange as it probably sounds, I felt deeply hurt when I saw the celebrations that happened in some parts of the world as news of the attacks spread. I know that some people hate our politics. But how could anyone celebrate the loss of innocent life? The people who died that day weren't responsible for the policies and actions of our country. I remember feeling hopeless as I watched those celebrations. No one who knows or understands the hearts of most Americans would be celebrating. It made me realize that many people around the world equate all Americans with our country's political policies and actions - whether we agree or not. It made me realize that we're collectively held responsible for the decisions that are made by our country's leaders.

I didn't cry until the day New York officials announced they were calling off the search for survivors. As they closed the door forever on the hope of survival, I again grieved for the families and friends who now had to accept that their loved ones were truly gone.

Today, five years later, I don't know if we're doing better or not. We seem to have made more enemies. Despite our best efforts, I don't believe we're any safer. People bent on destruction will always find a way.

Five years later, I'm more certain than ever that we can only find safety and security in God. I'm certain that He grieved with all the families and friends who lost people, and that He grieves with them today as they remember.

Monday, September 04, 2006

ye of little faith. why do you doubt?

Yesterday I was reading in 1Samuel about Saul being annointed and called to be king.
In 1Samuel 10, God is going through His "formal" selection process, calling the king out by tribe and then by clan. But Saul is missing. In verse 22, it says that he was hiding among the luggage.
This guy has been annointed by God and yet he's hiding!
Then I realized that I've been trying to hide lately. God has cast a vision for my life that truly scares me. So I've been searching for an "out", a place to hide. I should be excited, and comforted by the fact that God wouldn't cast a vision unless He fully intends for it to happen. That knowledge should energize me and propel me forward. Instead, I'm hiding.
Rather, I was hiding.
Thankfully, God showed me myself in Saul's reaction and I've come out from amongst the luggage. I'm still scared, mind you, but trusting that God will be "faithful to complete" that which He has begun.