Sunday, January 27, 2008

Read this!

Rarely in my life have I met men of such deep Godliness as Dr. Del Tackett. He blessed me (and, I'm sure, many others) with this blog post... be encouraged.

- Chris

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Unbrief Life Brief

It's been a while, it seems, since I've taken the time to reflect much on my own life. I've been busy: with school, ministry, and work. Yet, without taking time to reflect, my ability to contribute well in those areas will fall measurably over time.

Let me sum up. No. That will take too little. Let me explain. (First one to catch the reference and how it's been modified gets 4 Krycho points.)

I've been back at OU for fully three weeks now, and it's been good to be back. This semester is going to be a good one - though, like all, it will have its challenges. I don't know what those challenges will be, yet, of course, but I'm excited to see what God does this semester. Whatever He allows will be for my good and His glory. There are many things that have me excited for this semester.

Perhaps first and foremost among those things are the wonderful ministry opportunities God has laid before me. On Monday nights I'll be coleading a small group with Beth Powell - going through The Truth Project with some of the people from the BSU. We're both immensely excited about all God has in store there. (Which reminds me of some prep work we need to do tomorrow for our first meeting on Monday!) Tuesday nights, I still have Ministry Team, and I'm excited beyond description about all that we will be learning this semester as we study some of the minor prophets and examine how God spoke to His people throughout history. (Chris Goree will confirm that I nearly shouted with excitement when he first told me about this study.) On Wednesday nights, I'm attending a systematic theology class with PJ and Katie King (huzzah!), and on Thursday nights I have Paradigm - our large group worship and message with the BSU - and am on the Glorieta planning team, which has thus far been an incredible blessing and opportunity to serve. I also am getting to meet with Chris Goree, who never ceases to encourage me and bring God's word in a way that helps me press on towards Christ and away from sin (and to smile, as well!). Last but certainly not least, I get to continue meeting with the guys I'm discipling, and all of them are, in very different ways, incredible encouragement to me: to see all that God is working in their lives, and to get to be some part of it, is an honor beyond compare.

My classes this semester are also shaping up well: I am taking only 12 hours (though that really comes closer to 15 when one takes into account that I have another 0-hour class and a lab in the mix), all of which I believe I will enjoy. Though there will be a good deal of work, my schedule is such that, so long as I am faithful and diligent with my time, I will have relatively free weekends in which the majority of my work will consist of reading and composing: tasks in which I delight, and which I generally find relaxing and refreshing rather than tiring. My physics classes are work, but enjoyable by and large, and I believe will be more so as I move from the "busywork" stage of the lab into the actual labwork. (The one downside with the lab is my meeting time: at 9 pm on Monday nights - after The Truth Project and an RA staff meeting and a full day of classes. It will nonetheless be largely enjoyable, I think.) Composition lessons remain enjoyable. I just finished a rather lovely (if I do say so myself) setting of Psalm 142, which I will attempt to post at my website sometime soon, and I'm about to begin work on a choral piece, probably setting another Psalm (though this time, probably a praise-oriented Psalm, to contrast with the work I just finished on what is essentially a lament and plea). My Honors Colloquium is also looking very nice, with interesting material and topics.

I'm working out every morning with my friend Britt Clay, which has been enjoyable (in a painful sort of way) and also helped me have more energy throughout the day. It helps that we are getting up at 6 am to work out, since I'm a morning person that requires motivation to get up early (since I also very much enjoy the late hours of the night). The discipline and focus of getting up early has been a great help already this semester, not least in that I find myself far less tired and more able to concentrate throughout the day. Playing Ultimate on Fridays is further exercise and enjoyment, and working towards fitness has been pleasant in every way (save the pain in my muscles).

That's a lot. But it's not too much: to the contrary, I find I am more excited about this semester and all that it holds than I have been about many previous semesters with less work on my plate. I have long been aware that having many free hours does little to fulfill me; nor does merely having hours filled. Rather, having hours well filled with tasks of worth (as I do this semester) delights and encourages me. This is the desire of my heart: to live a life fully, to leave no task undone that is mine to accomplish, to be a true and faithful friend: all that God might be more greatly glorified!

Relationally, this semester (as all before it) looks very different than I might have expected. Different friendships are emphasized than before, and old friendships have in some cases been renewed, in some cases continued to fade away. My best friend is married now; and two of my good friends here are newly married as well. In the midst of all the changes, the constants here and there have been pleasant. It has been good, too, to slowly be growing closer to family. (I need to call all of them tomorrow; I miss them.) To my great amusement and joy (yes, at the same time), some of my great fellowship has included friends I've never met in "real life" - only in the internet... funny how the world works these days, and amazing how God orchestrates things to His purposes.

To sum up, I suppose I should conclude that I am content in all these things, and delighting in learning daily to follow Christ more and more: to dwell more deeply in His word, to spend more time in prayer, to engage more productively in fellowship. I am learning to walk with God. It is as though before I was moving in spurts, followed by troubled staggers, then great spurts again, and so on in a great cycle. Now, for the first time, I feel as though I am finally learning to walk: steadily and surely pressing on after Christ's example, striving for the upward call of God, pressing on though I have yet to attain. His glory is ever more pressing in my mind, and the urgency of the gospel and its great efficacy compel me to pursue those around me with a greater fire, even as my thoughts are kindled with praise to the Holy One, the Lamb of God.

May the grace and peace of our God and Father keep you through the power of Christ Jesus as the Holy Spirit indwells you richly, no matter what come!

- Chris

Friday, January 25, 2008


So, some changes are headed this way in the next few days/weeks. I'll be retitling this blog. It's also now located at instead of, which is easier to tell people and easier to remember. My posting rate should remain much the same, but may slow a little while I'm making the adjustments and as I'm continuing to develop a picture of exactly what my contributions and interactions on Soli Deo Gloria are going to look like. No worries... I'll be around just as much.

I'll be putting up a life update post tomorrow, as well as posting some thoughts I've been mulling over about worship over at our group blog.

God's grace be with you!

- Chris

Monday, January 21, 2008

New blog news!

Well, I've started on a new blogging venture with several friends - in addition to, not in lieu of, this one. The site is still being developed, and the guy coordinating it has yet to post the first post as of the time I write this, but I am terribly excited: it's a place where four like-minded Christian young men will be posting our thoughts on God's work and all that He is teaching us. I've no doubt we will end up posting responses to each other, as well as our own random thoughts, and the read should be interesting. You can find us at Soli Deo Gloria (or copy and past the following into your browser:

God bless!

- Chris

Sunday, January 20, 2008

To ponder a tree

Trees are weird. I mean, really... if you take the time to stop and think about them, they're weird. They only sort of make sense.

A large trunk covered with old dead tree parts - the bark, without which, they couldn't survive. Roots, stretching down into the grown, pulling water and nutrients out of the soil. Branches extending up into the sky, twisting and themselves branching many times, covered in leaves: soaking in the sunlight so vital to a tree's life.

And most of them just look strange if you actually stop to look. (Most of us don't, most of the time.) They're shaped in ways that defy our design aesthetic. Seemingly random twists in the branches. Branches that split out of a tall central trunk, or that the tall central trunk simply becomes in a cleaving that is completely smooth and organic but somehow abrupt as well. Limbs jutting up into the sky and down toward the ground, bending now one way and now another as they sway in the wind. Roots, gnarled and twisted and usually invisible, plunging deep into the ground: knobby anchors that tether the tree against the wind and the rain and the storms - the inverse of the branches in their own tangled splitting and crossing under the surface of the earth.

Like I said: trees are weird.

They're also incredible and amazing.

I don't think I would have thought of trees. Certainly not as they are. My mind works too singularly, too unidirectionally. The subtle turns in the branches, the splitting where you least expect it, the husk of older tree material used for artistic protection against the elements... all beyond me. But more so, the idea itself. Trees. They're just big oxygen machines, in some sense - but they live. They breathe. They pull nutrients from sky and soil in an unceasing but unconscious process of resource management that is unparalleled in both its simplicity of concept and complexity of execution. The cell cycle of trees is amazing: so different from animals, so elegant, so flexible. The way the system works together over the course of seasons and years is astounding: conserving energy throughout the winter - even sacrificing parts of the tree (like the leaves) to survive, then growing quickly and efficiently with rapid nutrient intake and throughput in the spring and summer: it's an incredible process.

And they exist for more than the need for oxygen for animals. Most of that work is done by algae. No, God mostly made trees, I think, because they're cool, crazy - and beautiful.

Think about it: trees didn't have to be the wonders they are to do everything they do. They could have been simpler geometrical constructions had He desired, absent the incredible aesthetic that defines them, that leaps into our mind when we think tree. And so it is with all. Yet this great Architect delights in more than function: form is as much a part of His design - elegance, mingled simplicity and complexity, eye-pleasing curves.

And more than that: when He made us in His image, He gave us eyes that could see, hands that could touch, ears that could hear, noses that could smell, mouths that could taste, and - oh so much more importantly - minds that could know beauty, that could stop to ponder trees. Incredible.

Most of the time, though, we don't ponder - not trees or anything else. We scurry here and there, worried about the minutia of our lives and, too often, failing to live. We are here for the glory of God - but it's difficult to live for His glory when we miss all the evidences of His glory that He leaves around us.

So stop and think about trees. And if you've already had your mind blown by trees, consider squirrels. Now those are crazy...

- Chris

Friday, January 18, 2008

Part 4: Ablutions sans Absolution

I sit in my room - my cell - and weep, sometimes. No, not sometimes. Often, really... perhaps even daily. I don't know. The days blend together; the nights refuse to end. I don't think I've slept a full night in six weeks. This torment: how long can it go on thus? Is all my life doomed to be this sort of agonizing and tempestuous hurtling from darkness into darkness? Am I damned to an existence only slightly better in this life than in the fiery one I feel ever more sure is ahead?

I have begun to doubt the existence of this ephemeral concept called hope. I have none. I remember when I did: but only barely. Hope. What is it? What use is it? The mind, fixated ever on the imaginary, on that which is not, instead of that which is. Lies propagated and promulgated by an absurd emotion which has no place in dealings with reality. Imagination may have once been a good thing, but it is fouled by our sin: it offers no reprieve, no escape from the darkness of the world, from the grayness that entraps us. Nothing I see convinces me otherwise.

So I sit here. I do my duties: cleaning the floors, sweeping and mopping. I do my meditations - just another opportunity to note the foulness of my heart and sink into greater guilt and shame. My ablutions are - what, exactly? They give me moments of that abominable hope. I grasp at those moments, but they slip ever from my grasp: like trying to hold air in my hands, to fix in my grip the oil of anointing - pointless. Ablutions I may perform: but no absolution is granted me.

Grace. I taste it, in those moments, when the Fathers pour the water, when the cup and the loaf touch my lips, when my confessions are done, and then... and then it is gone. Again and again. Grace, so near, and yet so vastly unreachable. As though ever beyond the grasp of my fingers, no matter how I strain: for no work of mine can erase my dept and the penalty I have incurred. Yet what else can I do?

I want to be a simple law student with a promising future again. I want to go back. Back to the days when everything was sensible. When I did not know the truth: this horrible, frightening truth of our misery and our inability to please the God who made us. I want to be a man alone with the great problems of the world before me to solve, and no insurmountable weight of sin pressing down on my mind.

But I cannot. I can never go back. I know too much.

That night in the storm changed me. I promised God. And He saved me. That was all: His end of the bargain complete. I gave my life. Oh, yes, I gave this life: and how! A life now caught in the torment of sin: oh wretched despair that claws at my soul, tears open wounds of my childhood, reminds me how much my father despises this life that I now live. (Do I agree with him? I begin to, I think, no matter the bargain I made those many months ago.)

In all this time, I have thought much about -

A knock at the door. My superior. He wishes to speak with me; I must compose myself, must somehow not give away to him the rage and the guilt that fill me equally this afternoon. He knows, of course: he is no fool. But my pride - another sin, no doubt! - will not let me speak with him on this.

And if he asks? If he asks?

I know not what then...

My countenance falls as I move to the door, I try to compose it, I fail, and everything begins to fall apart: moving in slow motion, I see his own face: grave, kind, severe, tender (how can those mingle?) as he begins to speak.

And his words are the question I fear most.

"Martin, you have seemed troubled. What is wrong, my son?"


This is part of an ongoing work of historical fiction.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Not-quite-random thoughts

A few thoughts before I run off to class today:

I'm definitely a morning person. I love working out, showering, reading my Bible, checking e-mail and my itenerary - all before 8:30 am. By the time class starts at 9:30, I've already had a good morning and can have a productive day. It makes it much easier, too, in that I can usually enjoy my evenings instead of cramming them full of homework.

Breakfast is good.

The book of Isaiah is amazing. The picture it paints of God: I believe Isaiah understood more of the breadth and depth of the character of God than almost any other author in the Old Testament. From the fierce judgment to the tender compassion to the jealous protector: it's all there. Everything we see of God's nature in all Scripture is written in incredibly elegant poetry in this book. When you put it together with Hebrews and the Gospels, it's a pretty powerful punch of Christology.

I like not having classes on Tuesday, and only having one on Thursday (and an easy one at that!)

My mom makes the best zucchini bread known to man. Bar none. I can say the same about her chocolate chip cookies.

RA work is a lot easier and more enjoyable when you can get off campus somewhat regularly. Being "at work" all day every day is just a really bad idea when it comes right down to it.

Saturating one's life with prayer is an incredible blessing. It's also a lot of work. But the communion with God makes it worth it.

Passionless existences are the norm. Which is sad: they shouldn't be. Our lives were meant to be grand, and we reduce them to mere rote (and worse, meaningless) repetition of trivialities. Even the trivialities are meaningful; mostly we simply don't look hard enough. And too easily we forget that passion for Christ and excitement of the emotions aren't the same.

Life can be hard. It can be, as my dad says, trudgery. It's also incredible, if you just stop to look at the sky for a minute and actually think about what you're seeing. Once each day, once each night.

Stop and think about trees. You might be surprised what you learn. Not just from the trees, but from the stopping, and from the thinking. We don't do much of either here in the West.

And classes have at last begun for me today. Away I go! Peace be with you all!

- Chris

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Curious, the turns this life takes. Never expected, but rarely in ways that completely surprise us, either. I've no idea what this semester holds, and if I did, any such idea would indubitably be thoroughly dissimilar to the ultimate outcome of the months ahead. This I know: God is supreme, and will do better than I could imagine.


Sometimes I feel like life is one great rondo: A B A C A D A E A F... only sometimes the A section changes just enough to throw you for a loop and leave you completely surprised (A' and A'' for any music theorists out there). And you never know what it's going to come out as. For all you know it could be A B A B A C A' B A D A'' C A' E A F... But there's so much repetition of the same themes, ideas, memes if you will. And sometimes the change is as simple as a different soloist on the refrain.


Years make a difference. More than we realize, sometimes; or perhaps we simply forget. But in the days that pass, as they slowly sum up to the full turning of the earth about the sun, we change: we grow, we alter, we think thoughts we have never thought before. We know God and we know each other and we know ourselves more than we did before.


I'm like a golden retriever in loyalty: but hopefully more intelligent.


I got a speeding ticket last weekend. Story for another time. God taught me something about integrity. Not that the ticket itself is that big of a deal or that important, in the grand scheme of things. But we are to honor Him by honoring the laws of the authorities He has placed over us - even when we think them foolish. Our thoughts are less than germane. Our obedience, on the other hand, is very relevant.


I'm tired. I think I shall sleep now. Soon, school will begin, and things will then be different: eindeed, even more different than I know, I am certain.


Peace be with you.
- Chris

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"as is"

How easy - to see the world, recognize that
it is as it is,
and then to accept that we cannot change it.
How readily we grow accustomed to
merely trudging through this life.
"This is how it is.
Sometimes there is excitement,
and sometimes there is not."
But - but!
are excitement and passion
one and the same?
Are lives meant to be as they are?
Our existences to be merely hours?

Or are we meant
for better
and we settle for
because we have no
grander vision, no
clearer picture
of a way that is better - imagination destroyed
by the toils of the world and all its myriad troubles?

I believe
this life is meant to be redeemed.
I do not believe
the great swirl of color
that was Christ's temporal existence was
a picture only of Heaven;
nor His calling
an idea only of what we will then be.
No! No, indeed: for He calls us
in the now,
in the moment,
in the passing instances -
that fill our days -
to live as He did.

Redeem the time, for the hours are evil. Walk as wise, not as unwise.

Say, "Carpe diem!" but the status quo may never change.

Status quo cannot our status remain. And yet
if we change it;
if the status quo is no longer status quo;
if all that we have come to accept
as "as is"
no longer
is as is -
if even we dare to dream as much - we tremble.
What is there but this?
The world cannot be shaken by mere men,
can it?
No! No, indeed: for He came to die
for "as is"
that as is
might no more
be "as is".

But if He came for
"as is"
and we accept
it as is
because it is,
then are we walking in

hoped for assured,
unseen conviction:
kneels opposite
"as is"
and demands
as is bow the knee no more to
"as is".

Light the fire!
Kindle the torches!
Loose upon this world a flame
like it has never known
save in flashes 'cross the centuries:
a glimmer here, a spark there,
an explosion now, a long slow burn again...

They say "Do not expect too much.
Life is not always filled with sparkles."

And they are right -
but I dare not expect too little.
Life may not be filled with sparkles: but we may be sparks instead.
Life may not be filled with excitement: but we may fill it with passion nonetheless.
Life may not be filled with brio: but we can be - should be: are if aright - its vivace.

There is more! greater! higher! nobler! fuller! joyfuller! grander!
in every moment, yes every moment every moment every moment
of every every every day than we dare to dream of,
much less imagine,
much less hope
oh never dare to hope
and to believe is beyond belief.

Though we tread valleys,
we are the ennobled carriers
carriers of bright blazes:
we are the conflagration made flesh.

We lose our passion, perhaps because we let our eyes grow dim?

Mistake not: passion and excitement are siblings but no twins,
and the twain are not the same.
We may breathe passion in our dullest day,
persist for passion's sake not despite its absence.

And we must! We must,
oh how dreadful the need for lives
of submitted passion,
of surrendered thirst for glory divine incarnated:
feeble bodies unfeebled by their glorification of Him who glories, Whose glory is.

When fire ruled every heart, no matter how poured down the rain:
Then "as is" became as His glory is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A year of hope

New. There is much new. This is a new year. But it is not the newest thing. The newest thing is also, in many ways - all the important ways - the oldest. It is hope. This year has much hope in it. I do not know what it will contain. But I am filled with hope. Not the sort of emotional exhilaration that comes from anticipation - though of course there is a place for that in our lives - but rather the steady assurance that God is going to move in remarkable, incredible ways in the year ahead. I have no idea what that looks like, for my life or for any other. But I have hope.

Hope is a frightening thing if you place it where it does not belong - that is, anywhere but God: on any circumstance, on any person, on any thing. God alone is faithful. And if we hope in Him, if we hope Him, not what we want Him to do - this hope is assured to be rewarded. No matter what come, that hope will be fulfilled. Hope is marvelous.

And I am hopeful. 2008 is a year of hope. Because it - like every year before and every after - is a year that is God's. And that is more than enough.

- Chris