It’s enough.

I think I’m often looking at myself and my relationship with Jesus and other people through a lens of “how can I do better?” My quest (framed in terms of JRR Tolkein) is often one where the question is “how well should I be walking the ring of power into mordor?” as opposed to “Am I walking the ring of power into mordor?”

I think that’s the thing that I miss so very often. That forward motion of any sort (small stumbling steps or giant leaps) is still forward motion. Relationships are choppy business sometimes. I find that the closer you get to another person–the Lord or otherwise–the more you realize your own imperfections and brokenness.  The closer I get to Jesus the more I realize that I need His help to even want to walk with Him.

I heard Richard Dahlstrom say once that a relationship with God is like a marriage. Every day you get up and bring what you have to the relationship. In my experience with the Lord, some days that doesn’t look like much. Some days I might feel amazing about it, but other days what I bring looks more like brokenness and frustration with life and very often with Jesus. He’s not a tame lion, y’know? Sometimes that is scary, frustrating, and confusing.

What I see reflected in the Gospels is that what Jesus wants is for us to bring what we have. Not what we don’t have. Not strive to implement the perfect ideal of what relationship with Him or anyone should look like. We are to come as we are.

Example. In most (if not all) of the gospels there’s the story of Jesus feeding a vast quantity of people (4-5 thousand+) with very little. The crowds draw near to Jesus to hear Him speak. They’re there all day. When the disciples note that the people need to be sent away to get food, Jesus says, “You feed them.” The disciples then say something about “How can anyone feed so many people?” He asks them what they have. It’s incomparably small. In the telling of the story that sticks out in my mind (slightly different retellings happen in the gospels) they have five loaves and two fish. In one account the food comes from a little boy in the crowd.

Allow me to emphasize that.

7 items of borrowed food and somewhere between 4 and 5 thousand men (not counting women and children).

Jesus response to what they have is, “Bring them here to me.” He didn’t say, “WHAT?! How on earth do you expect me to do ANYTHING with that?” He said bring me what you have. 

Miraculously, the people are fed with food that came from a random kid in the crowd, despite the disciples’ incredulity about everything relating to the project.

Reading this leaves me with the conclusion that what we have and where we are is enough. It’s enough for God to work through. It’s enough for us to learn. It’s enough for us to witness miracles. It’s enough for us to be surprised at His graciousness in using such stubborn and disbelieving people.

I think that feeling like we’re not enough is important. It helps us get out of the mindset that we were ever meant to be. However, I don’t think that this is something to beat ourselves up about. It ought to be something that drives us to thrust all we are and all we have into the arms of God saying like the Archbishop in that scene from the film Romero, “I can’t…You must…”

When He says, “bring them to me.” I think we should think of this as bringing Him everything. All our doubts, all our fears, all our hesitancy, all our frustration, and all the seemingly useless scraps of good things that we struggle to find within ourselves that must be borrowed from strangers and children.

In the story, before Jesus gives the food to the people (before He uses what we bring Him) He blesses it. The smallness, the frailty, and the meager nature of our lackluster offerings do not hinder Him in blessing them, blessing others, and blessing us.

When we approach relationship with God and others we need to recall that what we have is all we have. We cannot arrive before we get where we’re going. God welcomes us as we are. It is enough. We draw near and offer our ashes and in exchange we receive beauty.

Let that sink in.

Where you are is enough.

What you have is enough.

It’s as though the Lord says to us “Bring it…and expect miracles.”


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Ok, ok, the nachos at King’s aren’t as good as the matador. I admit it.

I recently made a push towards trying to convince myself that nachos at King’s Hardware in Ballard were better than the matador…I think I did so for two reasons:

1) There’s more cheese on King’s nachos. Hands down.

2) I don’t have to get them on a schedule.

However, those things alone really don’t make them better. Just more convenient. SIGH.

As I sat at King’s with an old friend we talked about life and ate over-priced, not-the-matador nachos. In retrospect things in both of our lives sounded rather tumultuous. In good ways, but tumultuous  nonetheless. As I finished my monologue about life I realized that I’d been talking for a long time. At this point I looked at him and asked, “Hey man, what do you think about all this? I’ve been talking for a long time.”

He looked deep in thought and replied, “I’m grateful to be able to walk through this with you.”

Y’know, I think that might have been one of the most encouraging things I’ve heard in awhile.

I suspect that God is expressing the same sentiment. At least I hope He is.

Easter was on Sunday. It was a truly wonderful day that served to culminate a truly wonderful weekend. Holy week was a valuable time.

In any case, not to be repetitive or to simply reiterate the same old stuff, but I was struck by the theme of the Gospel being one in which God Himself walked with us so closely as to become one of us, bear our burdens, and then to redeem them and us.

My friend might as well have been preaching a sermon on Easer Sunday.

Maundy Thursday–Reflections on the Lord’s Supper

I already blogged for Good Friday the other day. It was early, I’ll try to be on the ball with today. Today is the day in which we celebrate Jesus having the last supper with the disciples. Shortly thereafter, betrayed by one of His own, Good Friday starts in earnest.

Out of all the things that happen in the midst of this day the thing that stands out to me most is communion. For those of you who know me well, you’re aware that I’m a theological old codger on the inside. Traditional forms of liturgy and perspectives on communion fill me with a deep satisfaction. I thrive in Catholic and Anglican Mass. I just drink it in. One of the significant reasons is that these services FOCUS on communion.

The bible passage that we will likely focus on this day is the one where Jesus institutes the Lord’s supper. It goes like this in Luke:

And when He had taken some bread and (P)given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

20And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is (Q)poured out for you is the (R)new covenant in My blood.

This event carries significance for all Christians, but I try and own that for myself. I am reminded of several things. One of which being as Jesus describes His body broken for us He says “Do this” very obviously we are taking Him literally in continuing to break bread. However, the church is also referred to as the body of Christ. My friend Jordan asked me once if when we hear that should we assume that when He says, “Do this” He is talking about being broken for others? I think this is a serious question to consider. The model of life that Christ sets for us is entering into our brokenness and meeting us there. Bearing it. Good Friday. It seems to be a fitting conclusion to allow ourselves to be led do the same in the lives of those around us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “A brother is not a brother until you bear his burdens.” I guess that means entering in through Christ into the brokenness of others. Starting with those closest to us.

The other thing that communion reminds me of is the unconditional nature of God’s love and forgiveness. It is extended to me regardless of how much I feel unworthy, lackluster, or a failure. It’s like jumping off something high.

I used to be scared of heights. I think at some level I still am, but I’ve trained myself over the years to be able to do it without stressing. This past summer I calculated that in a single afternoon I jumped around 700 feet (15 feet at a time). Each time I did so it cost me some emotional effort. Communion is like this for me. Grace scares me. The idea of a love that is unconditional doesn’t make any sense to me. How could anyone love me like this? and more over, why would they? Why would God?

In communion I come face to face with these questions and I choose to accept the grace I don’t understand. It costs something to do this. The price being my own sense of what I think I deserve from God, my own self condemning thoughts, all the things that I allow myself to think week to week. At least once a week I lay these things down because to receive communion means to receive the cross as the thing which defines me. God’s work in Jesus is the final word about me, my worth, and who I am. As I step up to receive the bread and wine (usually juice) I shed my preconceptions of God, myself, and others. I find myself accepted, loved, and welcomed. As I look to my right and left I recall that we all are in that space together. God does the same with each of us.

Something happens in Communion. Something special. Something mysterious.

On this day, as we remember the beginning of the Good Friday, I’d like to take a moment to remember what Jesus’ choice in the matter was about. In choosing the will of God He chose humanity, He chose Brokenness on our behalf, and He chose us. He still does. We’re loved. We’re not abandoned.

Holy Weakness (Did you catch the pun? Ahhh shoot!)

Yoga continues to be the theme of my Mondays. Last night after yoga my best friend posed the question, “Is it good for you if you always get a dehydration headache afterwards?” That gave me pause, but I will decide that after my five class pass expires. Thus far the space has been a really good time for me to get some Jesus-connection ahsinah (or however you spell it). I say it that way because Sean (yoga instructor) is always saying things like “Now we’re going into plank ahsinah.” He throws it on the end of words. Last night I had good sleep ahsinah. See? I can do it too.

The thing that I realized yesterday (as I do nearly every week) is that I am not great at yoga. I enjoy the heat of the room while I’m there, but in looking around and noticing how much the heat makes me relatively unable to be a full participant and stay conscious…I realize that I’m not great at it. I try and make yoga time a space into which I welcome Jesus. I’m not doing anything other than being unnaturally sweaty and stretching about and I find that it’s a good time for me to put things aside and just be present.

Last night I noted that I am pretty weak at yoga. Then in deeper reflection, I noted that I feel pretty weak lots of times. This seems like a recent development, but I assure you it’s only the noticing that’s recent. I think I’ve been wearing blinders for awhile and a bit at a time they are being removed. As this has happened I am increasingly aware of my own shortcomings and the manner in which I adjust for that (striving for perfection and beating myself up emotionally when I don’t get there.)

As yoga ended yesterday I strolled out into the little garden behind the studio and stood there steaming in the refreshing air. As I stood there I talked to Jesus and as I entered back into the room it came to me. There is something holy about our weakness as people.

No, I’m not getting all eastern-religiony on you. That isn’t the point. The point is that we’re in Holy Week. We’re drawing nearer to Good Friday. The day on which we celebrate Christ entering fully into the brokenness and weakness of humanity on the cross. The day in which the Lord took our burdens, weakness, failures, and sin upon Himself and in the ultimate expression of solidarity with mankind the Son of Man died. I’m not going to fill in the rest just yet because you know the end.

I want to take a moment and think about that. That God enters fully into our weakness. He met and (I assert) continues to meet us there. The apostle Paul talked about this saying “When I am weak then I am strong” in response to the Lord revealing to Him that,  “My power is made perfect in weakness.” If God enters fully into our weakness in Christ, if our weakness implies our strength, and if His power is made perfect in our imperfections…then it would seem that weakness isn’t bad.

It would in fact seem to be good. Very very good.

I think I’m realizing that this is where we need to be. Aware of our weakness, aware of our shortcomings, but realizing as people in Holy Week that God meets us in these things. He doesn’t withdraw. He doesn’t abandon us. Even when we’re so overcome by our sense of “I suck” that it might not be apparent. If the presence of God implies a holiness, then His presence with us in our weakness makes our very sense of imperfection and brokenness somehow holy by association.

Here in Holy Week as we lead to Good Friday we get the chance to be reminded that in Christ our weakness is transformed into strength and our imperfections to holiness. It doesn’t say that these things suddenly become easier to bear, deal with, or enjoy, but hopefully in retrospect we can look back and see that God had never left us in these things. That these were times in which He was very present and that we were really owning a holy weakness that led us to the point of reckless dependency on the One who is truly with us.

A song for you

I remembered this song that Tim and I listened to in Ireland. It's money in the bank. So I thought I'd share it 




I've been a wild rover for many a year
And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer,
And now I'm returning with gold in great store
And I never will play the wild rover no more. 

chorus: And it's no, nay, never,
No nay never no more,
Will I play the wild rover
No never no more. 

I went to an ale-house I used to frequent
And I told the landlady my money was spent.
I asked her for credit, she answered me "nay
Such a custom as yours I could have any day." 

chorus

I took from my pocket ten sovereigns bright
And the landlady's eyes opened wide with delight.
She said "I have whiskey and wines of the best
And the words that I spoke sure were only in jest." 

chorus 

I'll go home to my parents, confess what I've done
And I'll ask them to pardon their prodigal son.
And if they caress (forgive) me as ofttimes before
Sure I never will play the wild rover no more. 

chorus



Wilderness….back by popular demand.

I wrote this yesterday and felt like it was a bit too processy…but then my best friend requested it back and I realized that those of you with RSS feeds would be confused. So here you go: yesterday I wrote Jesus a letter.

Dear Jesus,

I get it. I’m in the wilderness. I know this is where you have been, where you are leading me, and where you’re meeting me. Moreover, I wouldn’t choose to walk away from this. For to do so would be walking away from myself, you, and the people I care most about. This is where I am.

I’m still going to throw it out there that this is hard. I get distracted easily. I don’t feel confident, prepared, or particularly faithful.

I want to trust you better. Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t seem to trust you at all or do very little. I wish I didn’t remind myself so much of the Israelites in Exodus who whine about being in the desert the whole time they’re there.

Still, unlike them, I don’t think you’ve led me here to die of thirst (unless hot yoga kills me by accident which makes it my fault.) I believe you’re up to something good. I think you have been the whole time. I don’t get it. I don’t know that you’re trying to be explicit about what you’re doing either…but I will give you room to be mysterious and to have plans that are beyond my grasp. They always have been up till this point, I doubt that this will change now that I’m a bit more realistic about my confusion.

I guess this is all a way of saying that I’ll be needing lots of your help. Like usual, except this time I think I really am starting to understand more of my need for you to help me, even in doing worthwhile things.

It’d be great to have a cloud or pillar of fire lead me in this…but honestly, I will settle for the Holy Spirit giving me just enough to walk with you through this as faithfully and honestly as I can.

Maybe you’re willing to help me to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It could be that just being here without immediately giving up is a miracle in and of itself. It could be that the tension and discomfort I’m experiencing ought to be taken as a sign of you working…Yeah…That sounds about right.

Sigh.

Well, here I am. In need of your help…as always.

Sincerely and with as much love as I’m able to give you,

Chauncey

The roar of the waves.

My Aunt lives in Longbeach, WA. God willing, next weekend my best friend and I are heading down. It’s going to be money.

I haven’t been there in about a year. Not since my niece’s baby dedication service.

Time was when the Handy family would caravan–emphasis on the VAN–6 hours from Bellingham to Longbeach. Often times I would get to sit in the far back amidst our food cooler, bags, and other things. I would pretend we were in a space ship and those other space ships were after us. Imaginary laser battles and dogfights would break out as our car slowly and securely changed lanes at the hands of my dad (a man who was a police office for 20 years) or my mom (a school bus driver). I’ve grown out of imaginary lasers thank you…I’ve moved on to imaginary lightsabers…

As the trip progressed the antsy-ness of youth would set in. It felt like I’d been sitting FOREVER. I had to pee SO BAD. When would we GET THERE?

When I was younger in the trips, my brother and sister were there to try and keep me entertained. We told jokes, I bothered them, they bothered me. Sometimes I read books, but when you’re six…no amount of reading can occupy the boundless energy. The Simon and Garfunkel tape we’d listen to helped, but wasn’t a solution…Strangely enough though there was always something that helped as we reached the end of the trip:

The promise of the ocean.

I think I’ve loved the ocean as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure that the first time I really noticed it was an my aunt’s house. Staring over the endless horizon of crashing water causes one to feel small, insignificant, and somehow…comforted. When we got to Longbeach, one of the first things that needed to be done was to go walk on the beach. Either that or sit on the couch and watch as the waves crashed upon the shore.

The guest bedroom in my aunt’s house is one of my favorite rooms in all of existence. It has a big soft bed and windows that softly let the light in. The windows look out over a seemingly endless field of rough sea-grass and when you wake up, you’re not angry. You’re absurdly at peace. No matter the time. Why? I’ll tell you. It’s the ocean.

The crash of the waves on the beach becomes a dull roar. The sort of roar that you can either stay awake to listen to or can use as a means of falling back asleep.

To me the ocean and it’s noise are reminders of the things that don’t change. Things like God’s mysterious hugeness or His unrelenting love for us.  It allows me to rest where I am and remember  in the midst of important things. There is no need to do anything but be still and listen.

The roar of the waves may be one of God’s gifts to me during Lent. A space where being is already included in just getting there. I wonder if there is a way I can take the roar of the ocean with me back to Seattle afterwards.

Maybe then, I can somehow share the stillness it brings me…with some of  you.