Monday, March 31, 2008

Humility in sharing the Gospel

Last week I was in Glorieta, New Mexico, at the Dying to Live conference, organized by the University of Oklahoma Baptist Student Union and University of Southern California Christian Challenge (BCM). The week, praise God, changed a lot of lives.

Our speaker and his wife are well-traveled missionaries who have spent much of their sharing the gospel in countries where it is dangerous to do so, and dangerous to convert to Christianity. Over the course of the week, they painted a picture for us of lives lived in service of the advancement of the Gospel - with humility, willing to get out of the way of all that God is doing. His points were so important that I'd like to highlight and comment on a few of them. (It's not quite as good as liveblogging the conference, but it's something, at least!)

His wife opened the week with the observation, "Serving God is not a matter of location but of obedience," and this was a continual theme throughout the week. Whether in North Africa or East Asia or Midwest America, the key factor in the advance of the Gospel is our obedience to Christ - not where we are. God longs to bring salvation to this world. He died to bring salvation to the lost. While we were certainly encouraged to consider where God might call us to serve (and rightfully so!), he and others were faithful to remind us that all of us are called to serve. Some may be more particularly gifted to the task of evangelism and "missions," of course, but all of us - without exception - are called to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that Christ commanded.

I was glad when he pointed out that this meant that many are called to go where the gospel has not been. He told an amusing story of his own discussion with a missions sending board. When they asked him expectantly about his own "call to missions" - some personal experience in which he felt God was telling him to particularly pursue overseas missions - he simply recounted reading Matthew 28:18-20 and realizing that all are called to share the gospel. The anecdote highlighted just how foreign some of our ideas are to a simple reading of the Bible.

Indeed, one of the primary themes of the week was realizing that there are many things we do - many good things, even - which are not necessary. While the structures we have built in the West - our denominations and seminaries and institutions and printing houses - are in many ways good things, they are not necessary things for the gospel. (That is not to say we ought not value them: for without them we could not have the blessing of rich teachers like John Piper available to any American anywhere. These are good things. But not necessary.) When we strap our conventions to the Gospel, we hinder it, and we can get in the way of all that God is doing. We can, through our good intentions, bring increased persecution to our brethren in nations less secularly free.

The contrast between secular and true, spiritual freedom was highlighted effectively at numerous points. Not least were his examples of the true stories of people he has known that have undergone extraordinary persecution - years in jail, beatings, and so on - who have nonetheless considered themselves perfectly free to share the gospel. This was a stunning contrast to our state here in America where most Christians are in bondage to fear of misunderstanding, fear of ridicule, fear of man, to share the gospel on a regular basis. We who are freest in the world, from a secular perspective, are often less free in reality than our brethren who, from the world's eyes, are far less free.

He asked us to consider the fundamental question: "Is Jesus worth it?" Is he worth my life? My wife's? My children's? My friends'? It is far easier to declare Christ worth our own lives, I think, than it is to declare Him worth those closest to us. Could you watch your loved one die for your actions of declaring Christ?

He asked us to be mindful of how we evangelize - both here and abroad. He asked us to understand that our actions, however well-intended, have consequences. Many of the believers he has seen undergo persecution did so not for knowing Christ, but for having a non-transferable, culturally structured Christianity.

At the same time, he noted that persecution is normal for Christ-followers, however much we may believe the contrary here in America. The primary cause of persecution in the world is people coming to Christ. We are not to pray for there to be no persecution: we are to pray for those in persecution to be faithful witnesses. He argued - and I agree - that the measure of the move of Christ and His good news is the amount of resistance. (Indeed, as I was discussing later with a friend, we might even take the stance that persecution is normative, based on the evidence from the world at large and from history.) This, of course, poses the question: just how much is the kingdom of God advancing here in America?

He encouraged us to understand the importance of oral transmission of truth. 80% or more of those in the unreached peoples of the world are illiterate. If we are to reach them, we must know Scripture. We must hide it in our heart. We must memorize it - specific passages, and entire stories. And how much more able will we be to share truth, even here in our own cultural context, if we know the truths of Scripture by heart, rather than always having to open our Bibles?

The needs of the lost always exceed the needs of the witnesser.

He shared with us a number of stories of how God is moving in supernatural ways among our brethren across the world - and how He is adding more to our number. The miracles of healing God is doing among Hindus in India, the dreams and visions He is giving to Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, and the ways in which He unites seekers with missionaries are incredible. God is not hindered even by our lack of initiative: He is bringing salvation the world over. He is accomplishing His purposes for the Gospel. (The two questions this raises, of course, are, "Will we be involved in accomplishing those purposes or not?" and "Why is our faith so dim that our first tendency on hearing these stories is often doubt?")

Humbling were the reasons that Christian-background believers gave for their unwillingness to reach out to those around them.
  1. "They are too lost. They cannot be saved.

  2. "We don't want them to be saved."

  3. "Converts have fooled us in the past."

  4. "It is not cost-effective to reach them."

  5. "The persecutors will destroy our church."

  6. "They will marry our daughters." (Yes, this really is the racism it sounds like.

  7. "We will lose our leadership position." (Big deal in a country where this is often the only leadership they can have.)

  8. "Pay us to reach our neighbors."

  9. The heartache of betrayal.
All of these ought to break our hearts to pray for our brethren in persecuted places - but it also ought to make us stop and ask whether we are perhaps guilty of these same kinds of sinful thoughts and behaviors.

One of the significant issues he raised was baptism, as relates to practice overseas (rather than as relates to doctrine). He suggested that examination of the New Testament and realization of the consequences of missionaries baptizing local believers should perhaps lead to a reevaluation of our behavior. Every baptism recorded in the New Testament was administered within and witnessed by the local community; all but one were within a local believing community (the exceptional case of the Ethiopian eunuch). For a number of reasons, including the perceived superiority of the missionary's baptizing, he argued that it is far better that local believers do the baptizing. They do it on a different timetable, after faith has been proven. They do it in the context of the evangelization of the family. They do it in ways that are less likely to cause persecution for the outsider: if persecution comes it will be for Christ and not for the missionary.

Your call is not to a place, but to lost people.

God's will is not a safe place - all clichés to the contrary - but rather the good and right place to be. (Aslan is not a safe lion... but he is good.)

There is a challenge to those called to missionary work - whether abroad or in the US - to remain among the lost, rather than shifting to "pastor" mode and getting caught ministering only to the saved. There is thus a necessity for teams such that those called to evangelism can pass on those they have brought to Christ to others to disciple them. This is best accomplished within the setting of local believers if possible, so that their reliance is on Christ and their own community rather than on outsiders. Moreover, once a missionary has won a few hearts to Christ - or discovered those already won - it is his or her job to act more as "bait," drawing in possible new believers and getting them in contact with in-culture believers. We must decrease so that Christ may increase!

Two fundamental questions to ask in the cause of the gospel:
  • How does truth travel in your culture?

  • What would you do for Jesus if you were not afraid?
The single consistent theme, hammered home again and again, was that we must have utter humility in sharing the gospel. We must recognize our own expendable nature. We must be willing to get out of the way and let God move how He wants, not how brings us the most credit or glory. We must let the glory of Christ, the advancing of His kingdom, and the salvation of the lost be our only goals - never our own gain.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

- Chris

Friday, March 28, 2008

in respondeo (in response)

I couldn't be clearer before, and would not do so because I was unwilling to make public what had not yet been made public.

My MT leader, Chris Goree, was released from his position at the BSU on Wednesday. It was not a matter of any sort of ethical breach; rather it was a matter of a difference of direction.

I'm not picking sides. There's no point. And honestly, I'm not sure there even is a right side here. Both the BSU and Chris and Laurie are deeply committed to the cause of reaching people for Christ, making disciples to follow Him truly, and loving God and loving people. Sometimes people just go different ways - even when they are deeply committed to loving each other, even when they are committed to the same principles and goals. I thought of Barnabas and Paul. (And then, all the staff members we talked with brought up that example. And then Kels taught on it at Paradigm last night. God knows.)

I don't know what motivated this action by my leaders at the BSU. I do not need to. I trust God, even when (as now) it is hard to trust them. I don't know exactly how things are going to shake out, or even exactly what God is calling me to do in response to this. Ultimately, for this moment, it does not matter.

What matters is that we honor those who God has placed in authority over us. Respect them, trust them and follow them so far as we can in good conscience.

And praise God in the storm of emotions that come in a situation like this.

So many thoughts and feelings. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. Confusion - oh, how deep the confusion! Fear.

I am not afraid to cry, and it is not infrequent that I cry a little. But these past days, I have wept at times. And I am not alone. To say this is incredibly difficult would be to understate the case by orders of magnitude.

And yet -

And yet God is faithful. His grace is present. His love is real. His presence is a comfort.

"This is my comfort in my affliction: for Your word has given me life." (Psalm 119:50)

- Chris

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

At a loss

I don't know what God is doing. I'm very much at a loss at the moment.

I may explain this post in the future. I may just talk to you in person. I may not say anything at all.

I trust God. Not perfectly, but truly.

Don't worry about me; I'm fine (really!).

Do pray. Not so much for me. But pray.

- Chris

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ooh! Ahh! Amazing!

I simply must recommend you to my new favorite website. My dear friend Laurie Goree showed me this site while we were at Glorieta, and I am terribly excited by the possibilities it opens up.

My friends, you must check out

More particularly, you must look at the online Bible they have there. Some of the coolest features I know of on any Bible study website.

Want to study a particular verse in the original language? Click on the link at the start of the verse and you'll have multiple translations, and the original Hebrew and/or Greek immediately on hand. Want to find all occurrences of a word in Scripture? Double click it. Want to see background notes on particular translation issues? They're right at the bottom of the screen. Want to see an outline of the book you're reading? It's there on the right side of the screen.

And the rest of the website has some great tools available as well - examples, illustrations, etc. I can't recommend the site highly enough. Between this and Bible Gateway, I'm pretty well set.

(That's not to say that I'm not looking forward to a full release of Logos for Mac, though!)

God's grace be with you.

- Chris

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Captivating review

At long last, I'm back on track for reviewing books. (It's been five months... gah!) The last few months have been incredibly busy, and we had a snag with the books getting to me. Today's review is of John and Stasi Eldgredge's book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. Published in 2005, the book has become a continual bestseller in Christian nonfiction, and at the same time a subject of some controversy - especially as John Eldredge has been accused of ascribing to open theism. I'll largely be avoiding the issue here, since it's mostly irrelevant to the book itself. The book is the authors' attempt to speak to issues women face from sin in general and Western culture in particular. They open the book by proposing to "venture into this exploration of femininity by way of the heart" - specifically by posing the questions:
What is at the core of a woman's heart? What are her desires? What did we long for as little girls? What do we still long for as women? And, how does a woman begin to be healed from the wounds and tragedies of her life?" (p. x)

The remainder of the text is an exploration of the Eldredges' proposed answers to those questions.

The text consists of a brief introduction followed by just over 200 pages of text broken into twelve chapters. Each chapter consists of multiple sections, working through a thesis introduced at the beginning of the chapter or responding to a question brought up by the previous chapter. Each chapter is opened by a quote or three providing insight into the content and thoughts of the chapter. (The most memorable was their quoting C. S. Lewis as having said, "Even to see her walk across the room is a liberal education.") The content consists largely of alternating blocks of thesis and illustrative narrative, either from their own experiences (largely Stasi's, as one would expect) or from their interactions with others. The Eldredges answer the questions they posed by laying a foundation in the first chapter and then developing the ideas of that chapter through the text, primarily focusing on "what makes a woman come alive" by addressing her desire "to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty" (p. 8).

The authors carry the book as a running conversation with the reader, anticipating feedback and responding to it as they move along. As such, the language is light and conversational, the sentences easy to parse. The chapters are short and relatively easy to digest. The perspective of the anecdotes is indicated (in most cases; see below) by a parenthetical indicating who is doing the telling. Scripture is mixed in liberally throughout the text, to a demonstrative rather than expositional effect. Each chapter neatly ties up its own questions and thoughts, while introducing a particularly incisive statement of the thesis developed throughout and transitioning toward the next chapter. As a whole, the text built to a conclusive finale that left the reader fully satisfied, at least from a literary perspective.

The book has a number of outstanding merits. It is well-constructed, and has excellent flow from idea to idea. The ideas presented are excellent, and mostly in accord with Scripture. They Eldredges are in fine form as they recount story after story both of immense pain caused by the destruction of the imago Dei - the image of God - in the Fall and immediately follow with stories of healing and hope. Their succinct and accurate demonstration of the ways in which women grapple with their role in this world - with their very selves - is excellent indeed. They paint with a broad brush, of course, but a largely accurate one, as they note the ways in which women have been trampled upon and broken by both the world at large and their own selves. Women are beautiful (and in more than merely their appearance) in ways that are a marvel to me. They see the world in ways I cannot.

They dealt responsibly with wounds delivered to women by both men and women, refusing to slip into a neo-feminist "blame men" mentality. In what I think was probably the best chapter in the book, they dealt with the power a mother has with her daughter, and with the remarkable "sister" relationship that women have with each other. Throughout the book, the Eldredges emphasized the healing power of Christ and His desire to make women whole: to make them as they were intended to be by stripping away all the false layers that have built up as futile defenses against the world, to make them beautiful in Him. This consistent return to Christ was a breath of fresh air in a culture dedicated to self-therapy and self-healing.

One significant weakness included a number of niggling editorial failures: the explanation of what, precisely, Alter is - it's a translation of Genesis by Robert Alter, a Hebrew scholar - until five pages after introducing it, or failure to tie up various stories opened for illustration in the text. At one point the authors claimed that "saints from ages past" said something and then immediately and without transition quoted John Eldredge's book Wild at Heart (p. 35). Throughout the text, transitions between authors were sometimes unclear (specifically, the indeterminate use of "I" in a multi-author text as opposed to the more standard "we") when, as occasionally happened, they forgot to parenthetically note who was speaking. Existing transitions between voices are often choppy. These sorts of mistakes simply frustrate or mislead the reader in small but unfortunate and thoroughly unnecessary ways: this is what a good editor is for!

More significant were the assertions that were at best left undemonstrated by Scripture and at worst wholly unsupported by it - even, perhaps, contrary to it, however well-meaning. In the former case we have their recounting of the Fall - but without a single use of the word "sin" and only the pithy, "When a man goes bad, as every man has in some way gone bad after the Fall..." (p. 50) to even address the issue of depravity and our need for Christ. They continue by noting of man their belief that "what is mostly deeply marred [by the Fall] is his Strength" (p. 50), and of woman that it is "her tender vulnerability, beauty that invites to life." Insofar as these are a part of the image of God planted in us, they are somewhat right, but they miss the fact that it is actually that imago Dei that is marred, and our relationship with God. Strength and Beauty (if they are indeed men and women's primary God-reflecting attributes, another unproven assertion) are but the parts of the image of God, and that is the fundamental loss that makes this lesser loss that the Eldredges do mourn so grievous: a point which they could (and should!) have made.

Later, they tell story of a woman who abandoned her active ministry to her church and to unbelievers to "minister to God" (p. 208) - what this looks like is unspecified, except that it meant her abandoning every active role in the community of believers. As such, it's hard to know exactly what is meant by this, but the Eldredges do comment that this woman was chastised by her church for abandoning the Great Commission. If indeed she has ceased to share the Gospel in lieu of "ministering to God" I find myself with several questions. First, what exactly does that mean? Second, how is obeying God's commands - indeed, Christ's final command to His disciples while on earth - not ministering to God? Finally, how can we possibly fulfill both the greatest commandment and the one like it - loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving our neighbor as ourselves - if we are not actively engaged in the proclamation of the gospel? Though the reader was expected to sympathize with the woman referenced, I found myself sympathizing more with the church leaders who seemed to be dealing responsibly with her error. This example was murky enough - and prominent enough - to address, but a number of similar examples cropped up throughout the book.

Somewhere farther along that continuum is their assertion that "Beauty is, without question, the most essential and most misunderstood of God's qualities" (p. 40, emphasis in the original). They failed to provide any Scriptural evidence for this assertion, and it left me somewhat mystified: God's dominant attributes as portrayed by Scripture are probably His glory, His holiness, and His relational nature. Beauty is a component of those, but it certainly does not dominate them; as such I find it difficult to swallow the assertion that beauty is unquestionably the most essential of God's attributes. (For clarity, searching Scriptures for passages on the beauty of the Lord or the beauty of God [including all wildcards] turned up a grand total of two passages. Searching for passages about "the glory of the Lord" [excluding all variants on the phrase] finds at least forty. This is no insignificant assertion.) I am willing to grant that the Eldredges perhaps meant this in a way that can be reconciled with the teaching of Scripture, but there is clearly an issue here.

Worse than this, however, was their seventh chapter (and a theme throughout the text), "Romanced." The entire proposition of the chapter is that God in Christ is wooing women to Himself as His Bride - each individual woman. This is a fundamentally wrong assertion: no single individual is the Bride of Christ. It's also an incredibly common assertion in Christian circles these days - I don't know how many times I've heard variations on "Jesus is my boyfriend" or "I don't need a husband; I have Christ." I can appreciate the sentiment behind these sorts of statements, and behind the Eldredges' chapter, but the truth is that these are wrong. They are not merely misapplications: they are a fundamental misunderstanding of Scripture - a uniquely Western one, with our preoccupation with individualism. Every single passage of Scripture cited by the Eldredges in this chapter was either addressed corporately to God's people or from one individual man to an individual woman (as in the Song of Solomon references); none of them are from God to an individual. (This is simply because at no point in Scripture is an individual ever called the Bride of Christ: only the Church is.) They conclude the chapter with an address to the reader: "You are his Betrothed, his Beloved, the beat of his heart, and the love of his life" (p. 126); and they conclude on the second to last page of the book, "You are sought after, pursued, romanced by the passionate desire of your Fiancé, Jesus" (p. 217). But this is simply not what Scripture teaches. The Church is his Bride. More importantly, His deepest intimacy is not with the Church, incredibly though that intimacy is, but with Himself: within the Trinity. This is dangerously wrong: for it sets the individual in a non-communal context in her relationship with Christ and it places us higher than God the Father and the Spirit in Christ's eyes.

It is my sincere hope that these were simply misstatements on the part of the authors, or a lack of clear communication of their ideas from their minds to the page - but regardless of their intent, this kind of thinking is leading many astray, to our great loss. We need an understanding of these texts that is not pinned on proof-texting and a theology centered on our own individual selves. We need an understanding of these texts that points to the Church and to God, not to individuals.

Ultimately, I have to call this book a very mixed bag. Much good is to be found here, and to be clear, the Eldredges were not setting out to write a text of deep exposition of Scripture's teaching on femininity, but rather to examine a picture of what femininity should look like and how to get there. I found much of value here: glimpses of women as the most beautiful part of God's creation, as tender-hearted reflections of His love, of equals who stand alongside men and complement their strength with relationship. But when all of this is mixed with the serious kinds of error addressed above, it is a dangerous combination: for without discernment, we may swallow all the bad with the good. The friendliness of the book and the ease with which it may be read have contributed to its popularity, no doubt - but I fear that it has also been the individualism and the unfaithful treatments of Scripture: treatments of the sort that Satan loves to twist to his advantage even where it was simple error on the part of the authors. I cannot recommend this book to any but discerning readers, and to them I might suggest other books with a better Scriptural hermeneutic (as I will when I come across them).

- Chris

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let His glory be our end!

Let His glory be our end.

That's all I really want in this life. That His glory really, truly be my chief end. Not just in the words I write, or the things I say, but in who I am, what I do, all of my life. I want Christ first. I want the power of the Spirit to manifest the love of the Father through me so that many will see the greatness of Jesus Christ.

I saw a tree budding yesterday. My heart leapt, for what, precisely, I know not: but vaguely I understand that it was in delight at seeing the new life springing forth. There appears to be only death in trees over the winter. Especially this winter.

An ice storm destroyed many of the trees in Norman in December. The havoc wrought was immense, the financial damage across the Oklahoma City region calculable but significant. Cleanup continues even now. Decades old trees were destroyed, bowing under the weight of a quarter inch of ice on every branch. Limbs crashed to the ground, their falls sounding like the reports of gunfire: smashing roofs of cars, damaging houses, cluttering roads. It was ugly.

Months later, something interesting has happened. Norman is an old town in feel: though it is largely well kept, the sheer overbearing weight of the many trees, the fallen leaves, the darker skies have often made the town less beautiful than it might be. And in the aftermath of all that destruction, as the efforts to remove all that was brought down draw to a close... Norman is prettier than it was, in many regards.

To be sure, there are still scars, both visible and not: the pale ends of branches shorn off, the stumps littering the ground. But the sky is more open, the land clearer and the trees less tangled. There is room for new growth. And the growth on the trees that survived seems somewhat more miraculous this spring: because those trees might not have survive, almost didn't survive. Those first shoots of green, never less than astounding, are now enough to make one shout aloud for the glory of their shooting forth green again.

The destruction was a tragedy, in some ways. But it has produced life.

God works like that in our lives, sometimes. He takes great and terrible things, horrible events, and from them shapes beauty. There is an inherent beauty in tragic stories well told: and so also it is with our lives. Though our own plans would surely never include many of the pains we endure, the story is better when told thus, we agree in retrospect. I would trade none of the pains I have endured for an easier way if it would cost me the relationship with God that has grown from those.

As a character in one of my favorite pieces of film said, "You have to die... it's absolutely no good unless you die at the end... In the grand scheme, it wouldn't matter... No one wants to die, but unfortunately we do. You will die someday, sometime. Heart failure at the bank, choke on a mint, some long drawn-out disease you contracted on vacation. You will die. You will absolutely die. Even if you avoid this death, another will find you, and I guarantee it won't be nearly as poetic or meaningful as what she's written."

We have a choice: to surrender our lives to the Author of the story, trusting that it really is the best story for our lives, or to seize control for ourselves. If we choose the former, we will have the opportunity to see tragedies - even our own death, whatever and whenever that may be - ultimately work for the grand tale being told: work for the glory of Christ. Meaning is in Christ, and in Him alone.

A life without Him - or even so-called "life with Christ" but without making Him Lord, making His glory our supreme goal - is not life. It is death. It is a lie.

Christ is truth. Christ is life. Christ is salvation. Christ is the gospel.

He's worthy dying for. Not just giving up our physical existence to violence of some variety or another: giving up our wants, our ways, for His - dying to ourselves that so, in becoming like Him, we become as we were truly meant to be and learn to live, to have true joy, to enjoy purpose and meaning for our existence, to let Christ be our all in all.

Let His glory be our end!

- Chris


I cried tonight. There is much that I have had little to no time to process emotionally: that I will not have time to fully process, instead of in bits and pieces here and there, for some time yet.

It's okay.

Small rant:
I want us to not be okay with mediocrity. I want people to give straight "yes" or "no" answers when asked if they can help, not "probably" which really means "no." I mind "no" far less than the dishonesty of saying "maybe" or "probably" when one really means "no but I don't want to offend you." It's foolish.
Rant concluded.

It is time for sleep.

I will have much to post, soon: perhaps on the morrow, briefly? I know not for certain, but I hope.

Praise be to God for His encouragement: oft through unexpected means and places...

- Chris

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I'm back. I think.

It's been a while...

Last month was busy. This one is no less so, but is so in different ways, I suppose (as is often the case). This semester is no less busy than the last, either - probably more so.

I've been thinking, off and on, about all that God has been teaching me - how to communicate it. Honestly, I've been at something of a loss. I'm learning much. But it's hard to even qualitatively describe, much less to quantify in such a way as to be communicable with words. They're, for lack of a better way of describing it, great sweeping vistas that are slowly opening before me, incommunicable as of yet because not yet fully understood.

Being a girl's boyfriend is an entirely different thing, in some sense, from being a girl's friend. There are many things that are the same... but there are things that are uniquely different, peculiar to this different stage of relationship. It is as though I am simultaneously made aware of my role as a man and of my utter inability to measure up in that role. I am not capable of leading this woman rightly. I am not able to do this perfectly. (Before any of you jump out, I know that perfection is not attainable in the here and now - but that does not mean I desire any less to do perfectly by Jaimie in this relationship.)

I know that I will hurt her at some point. That breaks my heart. I long not to hurt her. I long to be a "perfect" boyfriend - to get everything right, always be kind and gentle and caring and attentive and wise. But I will not... And so I thank God for the grace He so freely gives us, even as I pray that my mistakes will be few and far between. I pray that He will take even the places where I do fail and use them for His glory and our good.

There is a sense of responsibility that is deeper, more profound than I have experienced before. I imagine it must be merely a pale shadow of the responsibility that a man feels (if he is in any way in tune with God and the demands God places on men) for his wife. That thought (rightfully) intimidates me a bit - in a way that encourages me to press on in my faith.

But my relationship with Jaimie is far from the only area in which I am changing and growing.

I continue to be passionate about the gospel, about this campus, about my hall and my friends and my colleagues. I long to see God move here. I see opportunities for God to move on this campus and I yearn to see others leap at them as much as I do. I want to see myself leap at them as much as I ought to. I want to see a people broken for Christ - utterly surrendered to His will. That passion is slowly deepening, solidifying. Vision is slowly emerging. I have not merely abstractions but the shadows of plans - and that is a good thing, the answer to prayers.

Jeremiah is an interesting book. It is a book of contrasts - indeed, a book of ironies. It is profoundly literary. I was struck most by a passage in Jeremiah 3 where God asks the rhetorical, "Will I redeem such a people as this?" In context, the expected answer is clearly "no," but what is striking is that His actual answer is "yes." He is a God who delights in saving people, rescuing them, saving them - even when they do not deserve it.

This, combined with my ongoing fascination with the God of glory presented throughout all Scripture, combined with my sense of urgency about the gospel, combined with my incredible awe at the fact that we are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation... I am awed, humbled, encouraged to press on in prayer and in vision-casting and in doing. I am emboldened in all these things to continue in the work that God has set before me.

I have been slowly pondering what to do over the next year here at OU - what direction to take in terms of ministry: how to place myself most strategically, how to be most effective, how to make the most impact, how to prepare for the time after college most effectively. I have been considering where God would lead me after college, and my ideas are shifting, changing, far from solid. I have several thoughts, all of which are thoroughly appealing at some level: grad school, seminary, work... I do not know where God is leading. I know that, as of this moment, my inclination is to finish undergrad, get a decent job and pay off what little debt I have and save somewhat so as to be in good shape to go wherever God leads, and then possibly go to seminary for training and equipping for the works God has for me. I do not, however, know if that is what God has for me, and His plans are infinitely better than mine. (I have made the mistake of not asking God His plans for me before, and it's a mistake I hope not to repeat!)

And in all of this, coming somewhat full circle, I am encouraged by Jaimie. It is not only responsibility and weight that our relationship brings - but also much joy, much encouragement, much delight. She encourages me to press on. She reminds me that I am not alone. She helps me to understand that God does use me, and often in ways I do not - sometimes cannot - see. And this is good. It helps me to press on. It gives me hope, and I have desperately needed it. It can be hard, sometimes, to press on, when one does not see the fruit of one's labor (and sometimes even when one does).

But then, that is faith: to walk on, assured of what one hopes will be accomplished and with the conviction of all that one does not see coming to pass.

So I am learning faith. But that does not say the half of it. And in all this, I have not said the half of it. As I said, it is yet beyond me to even understand fully, much less communicate.

But, that said... I'm back.

- Chris

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Day. Night.

Blue-grey skies swept with striated,
pleated braids of cloud.
Bitter wind sweeping across the plains,
dashing itself against tall cold edifices of stone.
The sound of nothing rushing furious across the lakes.

Stars, masked by a haze of moisture.
Moon wreathed in a halo of thin cloud.
Streaks of white illumined by pale reflections of flame.

What would be called a gentle breeze
but for the rain gently seeping from the heavens.
A long day,
when hearth calls and book yearns to be read -
but neither can be answered.
The scent of clear.

Unceasing soaking.
Runoff: the soil too full to hold another drop.
Coursing streams,
invisible under the lightless sky,
dig furrows in the earth,
swell banks to overflowing.
Hints of translucence tantalize but never materialize.

A gradual,
inconsistent clearing of the heavens.
Tattered curtains tugged hither and thither by the cross-wise gales that bluster across the earth,
gray smudges on the corners of them,
the indigo canvas they conceal blurred by a higher layer still.

The orbs in their stately arcs glimmer alone:
sharp points of night -
of light -
of night alone.
Occasional spots of darkness mark the final passing of yestereve's quiet storm.
The wind is falling,

Blue skies,
golden sun.
Warmth soaking through the air and the ground.
The smell of the color green.
Sweet breezes tugging at the still brown blades of grass.
The first locus blossoms of the year.

Oh glorious!
Filling the sky,
sweeping grandeur,
singing sweet a song of majesty.
and wonder,
and reverence,
mixing one marvelous tangled skein of emotion.
For all that...

A glorious surge of warmth,
a land that is moist but no longer damp,
trees lifting their boughs up as if in some exultant praise.
The faintest hint of a breeze stirring their still dead leaves,
the air apromising the final passing of those leaves and the coming of their children.

Temperatures fall below comfort,
promising another swift change in season.
Still and silent but somehow not quiet.
the calm before the storm?

It rises again,
that great titanic sprite of the air,
leaguing with the dryads.
A downpour is coming.

A downpour is come.
flame and water and thunderous sound.
Violence from on high.
The earth is not yet recovered from the cleansing of days before.
turgid rushes of power sweeping away all in its path.
Passersby beware.

Gray and blue and gray and blue:
like night and day,
but ash and water in their stead.
penetrating to the deeps.
Ice crackles on the tops of small ponds left by the downpour of night last.

Clouds again,
the heavens swept bare of starry light or moon.
Chill and bitter breath a hint of the day to come.
No thunder,
nor falling ice;
no fanfare,
nor proclamation:
just a promise of snow to come.

Promised snow uncome.
Gray skies cold and silent,
speaking no word save the wind.
Why silent?
Why barren?
Why bare?
Why not the white wonder?

The faintest frost across the grass and soil.
The lightest touch of snow across the ground.
The sweep of stars across the sky.
The tug of wind across the trees.
The glow of moon across the lakes.
The taste of spring to come across the week.

And it was good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Black and Pink Ball

Last Friday night, Jaimie and I attended the Black and Pink Ball (as I did with friends a year ago). It was one of the best evenings of my life (bar none) for sheer enjoyment and fun. Spending the evening talking and dancing with the most amazing girl I know, who looked positively stunning, was incredible and unforgettable.

That said, here are some pictures (click to view full size)!

Jaimie sitting across the table from me at dinner (great food at an Italian place called Victoria's here in town), smiling her beautiful smile at me.
My new favorite picture with me in it. We were at the ball itself here, with the best backdrop we could find without washing out our features.
Practicing our dance moves - or rather, looking like we are so we can take a cool picture.

You can find the rest of the pictures from that night, Valentine's Day, and some other randomness here. Enjoy!

I'm so blessed to have this girl in my life... God has given me an incredible girlfriend, and I cannot wait to see how He works in our lives.

Today marks one month of our officially being dating!

- Chris

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Just words, today.

Comforter? Healer? Friend?
Where? Here.
When? Now.
How? *shrug*