Friday, September 26, 2014

Like a mist...

"I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you."
(Isaiah 44:22)

Guilt & shame tend to be big stumbling blocks for many of us.  We all have parts of our past that we're not proud of.  Times we've completely blown it.  Moments we've not only let ourselves & others down, but God as well.  Often we're able to overcome these events & move forward... but occasionally we don't.  Sometimes they're so big, so life-altering, that we're never the same again.  Ever.

Yet even when we can move on from our past sins & failures, they often cling to the dark corners of our conscience.  They may not make much noise or cause many commotions.  But they're there.  And we know it.  They cast a cloud over our soul... reminding us of their secrets or deep shame.

We were not meant to live int he grip of our past sins.  As beloved children of God, we have been forgiven, cleansed, and redeemed.  Isaiah 44 uses imagery we in Hawaii are acutely aware of: clouds & mist.  I remember living in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as a high school student.  Many afternoons the clouds would roll in a a gentle, light mist would fall down upon us.  We knew it was raining, but it didn't really feel like rain at all.  It was fabulous!

God has swept away our failures like clouds blowing through the Big Island.  Our sins, which we once felt were so big, have become like a fleeting midst through the power of God's forgiveness... never to return.  Our response?  Simply to come back to God, wholeheartedly.  We've been redeemed.  We need not cower in shame & guilt any longer.  We have been set free.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations."
(Isaiah 42:1)

We all love being told we're special and beloved.  It doesn't happen that frequently - even by people we know love us deeply (let's change that!).  So when we are given that gift of grace, it's such a blessing.

In the book of ISAIAH, there are four passages known as the "servant songs."  In general, Isaiah speaks of the nation of Israel as a whole - when they're at their very best.  But it can also be a prophetic voice for a specific person (or persons), like Jesus (or other significant spiritual leaders).  That's usually how the modern-day church reads them.

Yet here in chapter 42, as we encounter the very first of the servant songs, we get such a warm & accepting intro: "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights."  How cool is that?!?!  What a wonderful gift to be told that by God.  That we're "chosen" & that God "delights" in us!

Thinking about the grand sweep of scripture, God does delight in us!  But not because we've done anything special or earned God's favor in any way.  We are beloved because that's how God is wired. That's how God "rolls"!  He has put his spirit within us.  We are delight-full!  Now let's live like it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


"Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power & authority before all time and now & forever. AMEN."
(Jude 24-25)

It's one of the most beautiful benedictions in all scripture.  It's also the benediction used int he United Methodist Church's Book of Worship at the end of a funeral service.  It's eloquent... poetic... comforting... & inspiring, all at the same time.

Having just seem my mother move from life to LIFE, it also takes on a deeper meaning for me now.  My mom's body was slowly failing over the past decade.  In fact, this past July she lost her balance and fell in a parking lot, breaking her nose & scraping up her face quite a bit.  Having ascended to Eternal Life now, she is no longer in danger of any more "falling."  God holds her up.

She also now "stands without blemish" in God's presence.  All physical blemishes have been removed, of course.  Whatever bodily form she has is without weakness.  But even more than that, any spiritual blemishes (sins, faults, failures, etc.) have also been erased by Jesus.  She's forgiven, loved & set free from all of that.  Thus,a s she stands before God's throne, there is much rejoicing (by her and us!).

Why? Because she has put her faith and trust in God.  My mom walked this journey of life hand-in-hand with the Great Shepherd.  I praise God for that.  AMEN.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On second thought...

"But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, & quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless."
(Titus 3:9)

I remember having a discussion in seminary about orthodoxy (right beliefs) vs. praxis (right practices).  Is it more important to believe correct doctrine... or live your life in the right way?  Of course, the easy way out is to say, "BOTH!"  But often that doesn't seem to happen.

I know a fair amount of fellow believers (both pastors and laity) who seem to go out of their way to engage in theological debates and disputes.  They relish in sharing their "orthodox beliefs" with all around them.  I tend to cringe at that prospect.  It's not that I'm afraid to say what I believe... maybe I'm just a cynic.  I tend to think that most of us have already made up our minds about most of what we believe, and arguing really don't make that much of a difference.  Few people seem to come to the faith through argument & debate.

On the other hand, I seek to put great stock in how I live out my beliefs (my praxis!).  Following Jesus' example of loving others... offering grace & forgiveness... and giving myself away to those in need... I have no problems putting a TON of energy into these endeavors.  Methodist founder, John Wesley, once said: "In the essentials (and he meant God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit & the Bible), unity.  In the non-essentials (which is everything else, including most doctrinal debates), liberty.  And in everything, charity (love)."  I agree.  How we treat one another & live out our lives makes all the difference to me. So the author of Titus' advice rings true: "avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, & quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless."

Friday, September 19, 2014


"A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.  No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed of the Lord shall walk there.  And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy & gladness, and sorry & sighing shall flee away." 
(Isaiah 35:8-10)

So much of what I think about and read these past few weeks has been filtered through the lens of my mom.  I've always loved this passage from Isaiah 35: the Holy Highway... when God's kingdom shall come to fruition.  I've loved the image of a safe way "home" for all who have been displaced, distanced, and separated from God can return to the LORD.
Today, however, I read it as the pathway my mom traveled as she journeyed from life to LIFE.

The ravenous cancer no longer attacked her.  
Her body wasn't "unclean" anymore.
She's been redeemed by the Lord.
She returned to Zion with everlasting joy upon her.
Sorrow & sighing (which I saw as the pain moved through her in waves) is finally gone.

Welcome home, Mom.


[NOTE: I've been continuing to journal, but have been VERY REMISS in updating this blog. So instead of waiting to catch up on the numerous blog entries... I'm going to start sharing what I've been writing most recently.]

{from Sept. 18, 2014}

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in you grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now, I'm sure, lives in you."
(2 Timothy 1:5)

My mom died on Sept. 6 this year.  I had the privilege of being with her for the final 5 days or so.  It was an amazing journey to walk through with her.  Cancer had ravaged her body, but not her mind or spirit.  She was in a LOT of pain when I first arrived (late Tuesday, Sept. 2), but once we made it to Hospice (Friday, Sept.5), that was all taken care of.  She died very peacefully... surrounded by me, my dad, and my brother, Andy, in her room.  We were watching my son Ezra's college soccer game online - cheering, laughing, talking & including her in the conversation (though by that point she couldn't respond as she was sleeping constantly).  She slipped away at halftime (at least that's when we first noticed).

Today is my first day back in Hawaii after being away for 18 days.  The scripture journaling passage today included Isaiah 25 (the Heavenly banquet when death will be no more) and 2 Timothy1, where Paul reminds Timothy of the strong faith of his mother (Eunice) and his grandmother (Lois).  How appropriate.  

Women have long been a primary means of passing down the faith in families (and congregations).  Mine was no exception.  Both my birth mom (Sylvia) and my 2nd mom (Pat) had a strong & dynamic faith.  It has shaped who I am today, I know without a doubt.

Praise God for them both.