Lots going on

I have a lot going on. Work is busy. Our family life is busy. I’m in the middle of upgrading another blog and it’s going to take a lot longer than I thought. That’s one reason I’m still up. My pillow beckons me . . .

I’m crosseyed from staring at the computer screen, manually restructuring tables, upgrading software fully 2 years out of date. Ah. . .

And I’ve got it so good. I’m blessed – tonight I went to church to pick up my daughters and their friend Taylor and I ran into some of the amazing people from our student ministry. That was – well, it was just great! It’s amazing what encouragement a few high-fives, a quick conversation with Stroke, a bright smile from Tamera, a great time spent catching up with Mego, watching Kevo, Brad and Candice practice, and a friendly poke in the arm from Jenny can do for a guy. And I had a fabulous “daddy-date” with Molly at Del Pueblo. I plan on doing the same with Bethany later this week (hang in there Beth!). Bethany gave me a sweet hug tonight – that’s gold!

I’m going to the guitar center and IHOP with Andrew tomorrow night. That will be very cool. And I played a soccer game with Blake tonight – man, he’s so good.

I’ve got a beautiful wife who really loves me. And – as much as I complain – I have a great job that I don’t deserve. And I still have a place to serve at church (the pastor search team) – even though I remain in a state of low-level grief over being called out of the Student ministry. I miss them, but I know that was the right thing to do and God is in control.

Amidst all my complaints that “I don’t have the time to do what I need to do” I am reminded that I have precisely the same number of hours in the day as Jesus Christ did.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

– Mark 1:35-39 (ESV)

Perspective . . .

Lord, thank you for everything. May I become more like you.

A note about Bloo 0.16 – Cascading Themes

If you don’t have an inner-geek you can skip this post.

I’ve been working on Themes in this release. Got a decent amount of work done this weekend, although I’m still fretting through the best way to organize the code.

Bloo 0.16 (hopefully to come out in the next week) will include Cascaded Themes. A “theme” controlls the look and feel of a user interface – they are also referred to more generically as “skins”. Often times on blogs or other sites the skins are controlled simply by changing out the CSS. A good example of this are the skins on Thinklings. While this is easy to do, it is limiting.

Themes are a somewhat WordPressy concept and are more full-featured than just finagling with the CSS. Themes can alter every aspect of a page if they so desire. WordPress accomplishes this by allowing you to place your page templates in a theme directory and select the theme. There are a specified number of templates you can place there, and they have to be named a certain way.

The Cascading Themes coming in Bloo 0.16 take this a bit further. No longer are you limited in what you can control – a Theme can include not just templates but new SnapOns (what’s a SnapOn? Um, I’m working on the docs for that – so I’ll ‘splain later 🙂 and you can have as many package files as you want to control as many aspects of the blog’s look and feel as desired. And – here’s the cool part – a theme can “cascade” from another theme. In other words, say that you have a certain number of elements that every theme for your blog will include (such as the blogroll, About message, etc). You can place these elements in a base theme and then cascade the other themes off of that, as many levels as you want.

I’ve got this working in my development blog – it was actually not much work because of how Phoo and Bloo are already structured. I’ve been very pleased, if I do say so meself, with the way the structure of this software lends itself to enhancement.

I have a few more details to work out, such as whether or not to cascade the CSS specs – in other words, whether to combine the CSS for the base theme with the CSS for the cascaded theme. I’m thinking through that issue now and leaning “yes”

But bottom line, I’m doing a major engineer’s victory dance at the stokedness of this all. It will make more sense when I release it with the look you’re seeing now (this theme is called “Blue”) along with the older “Classic” theme and a new theme I’ve designed called “Bloo’s Riff”. I’ll also include the ThemeSelector SnapOn so that you can choose the look that best fits your mood when looking at Out of the Bloo.

And if I do this right I’ll actually, for the first time, publish the spec for how to create a theme and open it up for any of you who have an artistic bent and want to submit a new theme for the blog. That will be very cool if I get any takers on that.

Hopefully 0.16 comes out in a week or so. Watch me for the changes . . .

“. . . I will have mercy on No Mercy”

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”

– Hosea 1:2 (ESV)

This is the first thing the Lord said to the prophet Hosea. The first thing. Not to make light of this, but I would love to have seen the look on Hosea’s face.

There was worse to come . . .

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy [Lo-ruhama], for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People [Lo-ammi], for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

This seems like a breathtaking rejection, does it not? A few things strike me. First, the word of the Lord to Hosea truly changed the course of his life, affecting who he married, how his kids were named, everything. Consider Hosea; the messages he’s received from the Lord have caused him to marry a hooker named Gomer and now they are raising little Jezreel, No Mercy and Not My People.

Hosea was faithful. The prophetic message that was delivered through him was harsh, and he suffered for it. His family became a living picture of Israel’s unfaithfulness and of God’s rejection of her.

Yet God’s rejection was not final. It’s late, I’m sleepy, and I have no words of wisdom to add to what you are about to read. I only ask you to drink it in, because it’s blowing me away. This is the ending of chapter 2:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,

and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her.

And there I will give her her vineyards

and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,

as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

“And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

– Hosea 2:14-23

God you are my God! The priviledge of even uttering those words is beyond me. I am undone at the thought of it.

Thank you.


Well, not “literally” cool.

Our air conditioner has gone out (compressor).

I’m at home waiting for the repairman to bring out our new unit. We’ll see how this goes. Good thing it’s not summer and we live in a temperate zone.

Ha ha ha – I crack me up. I just checked – we live in Houston and it’s a million degrees outside! And now inside too! 🙂

But it’s all good. We can afford this. God provides.

And that’s what’s cool.

The need for confession

From Matt at Gad(d)about:

. . . something amazing happened at one of our friends’ church on Sunday. An assistant pastor was welcomed back into the fold after leaving and falling into sin. The pastor preached on sin, on redemption in Christ, on restoration in the Body. Then the man got up and apologized to the church, confessed his sin, and asked to be restored as a member. He just wants to attend church and sit at the foot of the Cross. He was broken and contrite.

The pastor then took the mic as the man broke down and sat in a pew. People were expecting some kind of ceremonial “we love you and we welcome you back.” Instead, the pastor looked intently into the audience and said, “OK, I know some of you out there are going through the same thing, the same kind of sin. You need to come forward and repent.”

After a few seconds a 20-year-old man from the back row that people barely knew came to the front. He started the grab the mic and was prepared to confess as well, but the pastor just spoke to him quietly and prayed for him as he sought forgiveness. Then others started to come.

It didn’t take long for half the church, about 100 people, to come forward. It was a full-blown church renewal. God has used the brokeness of this man to speak conviction into these people’s hearts.

That night one of the more prominent members of the church called the pastor. This man told the pastor he had scheduled to commit suicide that night, that he had been despondent for months, and had been thinking about death ever since. That act of contrition changed his heart, and the Holy Spirit renewed him. He said he has been dramatically changed and has a new desire to live to honor God.

Confession. It appears to be one of the main vehicles that God uses to bring revival and restoration to his church. In the case described above it touched over 100 people, including one who was planning on committing suicide.

Confession is scary. When you confess your failings and sins to someone you are opening yourself up to rejection and judgement. And yet the Bible has this to say:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

– James 5:16a (ESV)

The context of this verse has to do with physical healing, but I believe it is appropriately applied to emotional and spiritual healing too. And notice the balance – confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. We are to unburden ourselves of the weight of our failings as we carry the burdens of others in prayer to our Father. That is fellowship. That is beauty. And it’s what we’re called to do.

I find confession hard. I don’t have anything spectacular to confess; I mean I don’t drink, smoke or chew or hang with women who do. But there are plenty of those internal sins that tend to take root in my life. Petty jealousies. Greed. Pride. Sloth. Envy. These are the biggies. It’s the ongoing and frightening battle between my love and desire for God, and my love of self and desire to be my own god and to chase after the gods of this world. Part of me is with Moses atop mount Sinai, with unveiled face, communing with the Lord. But another part is down in the valley dancing before the golden calf (I think I’m doing the “frug”). Wholeness is elusive.

Yet wholeness and healing can come – they are coming. Through confession and repentance. Through the work of the Spirit. To revisit a passage I blogged on yesterday:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

– 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV

This all brought to mind something Jared at Thinklings recently wrote:

1. The churches are broken.

There are lots of reasons for this, and they’re not all broken in the same way, but the things the churches are currently doing aren’t helping and most of the things the churches are doing to fix themselves don’t work

Yes, many churches and people are broken and are in need of healing. I am beginning to think that what we in the church need is confession.

[hat tip: The Broken Messenger]

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?”

I’m feeling just a bit low tonight. But this helps . . .

“Has the rain a father,

or who has begotten the drops of dew?

From whose womb did the ice come forth,

and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?

The waters become hard like stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen.

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades

or loose the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,

or can you guide the Bear with its children?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

Can you establish their rule on the earth?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

that a flood of waters may cover you?

Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go

and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts

or given understanding to the mind?

Who can number the clouds by wisdom?

Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

when the dust runs into a mass

and the clods stick fast together?

– Job 38:28-38 (ESV)

This is just a snippet of the monologue of the Lord to poor, grieving, hurting Job at the end of the book of the same name. There’s something about these words that bring me great comfort.

The answer I would give is, of course, the same as Job. No, Lord, I can’t do anything described above. I can’t bind the chains of the constellations, or tip the waterskins of heaven. I can’t send forth lightnings. I don’t know the ordinances of the heavens. Half the time I can’t even find my socks.

I just love this passage. Because He can do all of these things. And what a comfort that is! our God is amazing, ahd He reigns in power!


“From one degree of glory to another”

It is a grave error and a massive conceit to attempt to usurp the role of God in another person’s sanctification process, telling God, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re not working fast enough.”

So writes Dan Edelen in his post A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Oh I needed to read this today! Dan refers to this passage:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

– 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV

That’s a great word. We are all being transformed into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. It’s a process that does not end while we’re on this earth. “One degree of glory to another” – wow! There is hope for me after all.

But what of others? How do I treat them as I observe them at their place on the journey of sanctification? I’ve had some wise friends caution me recently that I am far too impatient with (and discouraged by) others who aren’t “getting it” as fast as I want them to. Dan presents a view of sanctification as a numberline, from -10 to +10, with +10 being the image of Christ:

But what are we to expect when someone starts at -9? Is +7 a week after meeting Jesus possible? A month? A year? A decade? If we can’t distinguish the difference in the sun’s arc across the sky from one minute to the next, how confident are we that we see with the eyes of God that one minute difference in the arc of a person’s sanctification process? To go back to the 2 Corinthians 3 passage and its note on “degrees of glory,” there are 180 degrees in a U-turn. A long obedience in the same directionThat’s a lot of tiny steps to take. Being made to look like Jesus is not a blink-of-an-eye affair, but one of a lifetime of minute, resolute steps. As Eugene Peterson’s classic book on discipleship is titled, it’s “a long obedience in the same direction.”

There’s not a person reading this now who doesn’t know at least one Christian out there who’s taking a long time to break out of the negative numbers on the depravity scale and into those higher, positive sanctification digits. Yet what does it say about us when we screw up our faces and rail that the ex-biker who spent ten years smoking crack isn’t where he should be after meeting Jesus two years ago because he smokes cigarettes now instead of crack? Sure, he’s down to just a pack a day from five a year ago, but still. And just why is it that he takes so long locating the Book of Habakkuk?

I really, really needed to read this today.

Go read the whole post if you get a chance.

Search me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)

This is a frightful request to make. Yet I find myself making it more and more these days.

I read other Christians in the blogosphere speak of their brokenness, and I reflect upon my own. Though redeemed I contend, daily, with the condition of being human in a fallen world, in my fallen body. In his novel Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis tells of the interaction between Ransom, a man from Earth, and a race of creatures, the “Hrossa”, inhabiting another planet. It slowly becomes clear to Ransom that these creatures do not have a sin nature. As he learns their language he realizes that they don’t even have a word for “bad”. The closest servicable word they have is the word “bent”. I remember one point in the novel when Ransom, in speaking of the human race, shamefully confesses “We are very bent”.

I am very bent.

I am becoming more aware these days of what an enemy to good and rational thought my mind is. My mind tells me things that simply aren’t true. My mind rationalizes my motives, keeps me blind to my failings, invents failings for me to fret about that aren’t even real, misinterprets the motives of others, and constantly circles around the little god of self. My mind couldn’t identify a grievous way in me even if it wanted to. And, I can guarantee you it doesn’t.

I need another set of eyes looking at this problem. There is both a thrill and a great fear in asking the Father to examine my life. A thrill because I know he can and does know my heart far better than I do. If anyone can identify a grievous way in me, my Lord can. And he can lead me in the way everlasting!

But the fear comes from the vulnerability of being unmasked under the bright light of Truth. Of being “searched”. In my worst moments (which are all too frequent) I’d prefer not to spread ’em and get the divine pat-down. I’ve got too many secrets.

But Lord, I know I need it. Search me, try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is anything in me that grieves you. Cleanse me, heal me, and lead me. You only can I trust to do this.


Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.

1 Kings 18:42b (ESV)

Moments like this in Scripture strike me. The prophets of Baal have just been defeated. Elijah has just told Ahab that the rains are coming.

And there is this moment of interlude. All is quiet. The rains are gathering off in the distance, but they are so far away that they can’t be seen yet, not even from atop mount Carmel. Ahab, who is of the earth and has no ear for heaven, is off eating and drinking. Elijah has his knees to the earth, the blood of the false prophets staining his hands and robes even still.

He has seen the fire, even now remembers the heat upon his face as the fire that he called upon the Lord to deliver descended from the skies and devoured the offering. He closes his eyes and still sees the dazzling light.

The rains are gathering but around Elijah the air remains still. All is quiet. Elijah kneels. He kneels and trembles and breathes deeply to still his beating heart. It is the interlude. His servant stands quietly by his master.

Elijah will soon run in triumph all the way to Jezreel and, later, into the wilderness in fear for his life. And God will meet him there in the desolation.

But he doesn’t know that yet. He simply kneels, face between his knees, and breathes into his garments as he prays. It is an interlude, and the parched landscape waits expectantly.

The rains are coming.

Words are like angels

And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

– Mark 1:13 (ESV)

I wrote last week that Words are like evil spirits. By this I mean that words carry great power, and sometimes it is terrible power. They can truly “haunt forever”.

We don’t realize the power of our words. The other day Blake, my seven year old, told me about something mean some big kid said to him when he was three! He has remembered those words for four years.

I can remember hurtful things that were said to me twenty five years ago. How about you? Do you have a long memory for words? If so, welcome to the human race. Words can hurt, and they can even kill. How many suicides have words contributed to?

Words are a potent, precious gift that God has given uniquely to the human race. They carry great and terrible power.

As I considered these things the thought occurred to me that words can also be like ministering angels, pouring out healing on a wounded soul. The picture that comes to my mind is a picture of Jesus in the wilderness, famished and weary from his fasting and spiritually beset by the enemy. God sent his angels to minister to his Son.

Likewise, our words can be like ministering angels to those who are hurting.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

– Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)

The word “fitly” in this proverb suggests to me not just a word used at the proper time, but also a word that “fits”. We are not called to flattery, to false encouragement, to platitudes. We are called to speak the truth in love to those around us. And to do it in a timely fashion. The writer of Hebrews calls us to exhort or encourage one another daily, while it is called “today”. And “exhort” is a good translation, I believe. Encouragement is not just saying “there, there, everything will be alright.” Encouragement involves exhortation, speaking the truth to someone laid flat out on the battlefield, so that they might be set back on their feet to fight another day. Encouragement can be loud, it can be soft. At times it doesn’t involve any words at all.

Have you ever felt like you should encourage someone but because of timidity or pride or some other reason you didn’t? I certainly have. I’m learning to say words of encouragement, at the right time and in the right way. It takes practice. I can be clumsy with my words.

But a clumsy word is, I believe, far better than the deafening silence of an encouraging word that is never spoken. We all need encouragement. We want others to encourage us – not falsely but in truth and love. Jesus calls us to do to others what we want done to ourselves. An encouraging word spoken at the right time can be like an angel sent from God to strengthen and soothe a wounded soul. And to break through the lies of the enemy, to soften hearts, to knock down strongholds, to break the deceitfulness of sin. A word spoken rightly can be used by God to save a soul from ruin.

I speak thousands of words every day. I pray that mine can be used by God to bring healing, to instill courage, and to reveal his love and glory to others.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

– Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)