Weekend Photo Challenge: Home (the one to come)


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Home“. (I put up a funny response yesterday. Today is the serious one.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because of that paradox of sanctification in which God grows us less by medicating us than by exposure therapy. Nothing exposes my inner-atheist like thinking about death and reminding myself of my shocking lack of confidence in the hereafter.

That’s why this prompt for this week struck me so much. Having moved a few times in my life to vastly different places, and with my parents having moved away from the last place in which I lived with them, I still don’t quite know what to call “home”.
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Death & Taxes: Converting the Purse, Rejoicing the Heart


On Friday, I finally got my W-2. Saturday night, I did my taxes. It was a very, very encouraging experience. And not just because I’m getting a refund. Tax night was a time of deep celebration, reminder, and reflection on how God moves and changes people, especially me.

I’ve always had a big problem with faithfully giving to other things, especially my churches. Though I grew up going to churches, this was not a discipline I was able to observe at home. Eventually, waiting tables through college and having spent most of my adult life living paycheck to paycheck, I became an expert of rationalizing my lack of generosity to my church and other causes.

Some may think that this is certainly not one of the bigger crises in one’s life. After all, we each individually know what our ability to give is, and no church should reserve the right to tell us otherwise, right? Well…

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Weekend Photo Challenge: Illumination (of Richmond & my Soul)


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Illumination“. One of the biggest benefits of this weekly photo challenge is the chance to go through some of my old pictures and bring to mind favorite memories from the past.

The picture above was taken in 2006 in Richmond, Virginia while I was in college. It was after one of my favorite Richmond traditions: the Grand Illumination.

Throughout the winter holidays, the skyscrapers in Richmond are all lined with lights, lighting up the skyline in a way that it is not during the rest of the year. These lights are turned on all at once at something called the Grand Illumination, which takes place in early December. Not only are the skyscraper lights turned on, but the annual Christmas display at the Omni Hotel is turned on also. This display has lit-up mechanical reindeer, a giant Christmas tree, and the bell tower plays Christmas music on the hour.

After watching the Grand Illumination lighting from the bridge to Belle Isle, one of my favorite spots in all of Richmond (see picture below), we drove through the streets to see everything up close. The picture above was taken around the Omni Hotel as we passed their display.

But that’s not all this made me think of…

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I like answers better than questions {a reblog}

Here’s a return to some more meditative reflections on God and life by Kimberly Novosel at The Ooh La La Life. This is so true of me. It was an encouragement to be reminded. (By the way, I posted similar thoughts about a year ago in my post: “to “why?” is human, to “what” is divine“)

The Ooh La La Life

A year or so ago I sat down with the counselors from my church, freshly broken-hearted, folded my hands in my lap and said, “Ok, how do I heal from this?” I may as well have had a notebook and pen, poised to take rigorous notes. They looked at me for a moment and, ever so gently, pointed out that there is no checklist for sorting though emotions. Even further, they handed me a page listing the stages of grief and pointed out that they would NOT happen in order, some would last longer than others, and they would repeat an unknown number of times.

I guess I wasn’t their first type-A.

It’s true though, there is no path through the sometimes dense and dark forrest of the things we struggle with in life, whatever they may be. Not even a winding path – no path at all. You have…

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Christianity as Sin Management?

Anyone that follows this site regularly has probably noticed I’ve been taking it easy on the blogging this week. As my want to blog slowly began turning into a need, I knew I had to take a step back and approach it a little more leisurely.

This past week, our Executive Pastor preached a great sermon on the “I am the Vine, you are the branches”/”Abiding with Christ” section of John, and it really re-enlivened my taste-buds for time spent with Jesus. I knew I had to reassess my priorities. My near-daily blog writing was only possible because I was sacrificing sleep to do it (as I’ve done before), which in turn made it all the more difficult to wake up in the morning and do anything resembling communing with Christ.

And so, this week, I have been able to get up more easily, make my coffee, pour some cereal and do some devotional time.
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The Hope of Gethsemane (of Lent, Mortality, & Ashes)

I always have high and lofty hopes for Lent. Each year I have visions in my head of those amazing “spiritual” things I will do over these 40 days that will result in life-long and generational sins merely falling away from my life; my heart finally unburdened of the weights and yokes it has borne for so long.

And alas, God consistently and assuredly meets me in this season, but the time is rather marked by a sharp sense and sting of failure in these things I have dreamt of doing.

And so, I find myself here, five days into Lent, having already felt this weight of my own shortcomings and self-deception: dearest brothers confronting me in the facades I present to the world out of my own fears and insecurities, telling me how hard it is to love me; finding my heart wander to those old idolatries that I thought only marked my youth and immaturity; my social anxieties paralyzing me in my greatest opportunities of worship; falling short of the fast I have offered to God in this season; etc., etc., etc., etc….

And it’s right then in these moments that my greatest love–my Bridegroom, my Lover, my Hope, and my Healer: the Lord–meets me. Continue reading

And Thus It Begins: liberti home meetings & my heart

For all those in Philly that either do attend liberti: center city, have attended, or are interested in getting involved: this week marks the beginning of our new season of home meetings. I don’t know why, but I am so excited about this particular round of meetings. Yes, I lead one, but more than that, I feel that the season in which the church currently finds itself is one where a lot of growth (both painful and joyful) is imminent; and I think that these Liberti Home Meetings will be a primary catalyst for this growth.  [Click here for a complete list and map of our groups if you are interested in checking any of them out.]

In the past year and some change, throughout my involvement at Liberti, home meetings have been a constant source of amazing discussion, deep personal analysis, and action mobilization. I really can’t commend these things enough. My deepest relationships, and even where I moved into the city, were all fruits borne from my time in my home meetings.

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Dancing, Pride, & Sanctification

[photo by az. from Flickr]

Last night, I went swing dancing.

And it was amazing.

I hadn’t gone ballroom dancing (of any kind) in a while. I used to do it a lot more. Ever since middle school, I’ve been a pretty good dancer (believe it or not). In high school for a summer, I was even part of a community dance troupe, so I’ve done most all of the throwing girls in the air over my shoulders, around my back, and catching them in mid-jump — you know, all that stuff. At one point I was picked out of my school choir as one of the few people that would do the “more advanced” swing dancing moves in front of the choir in a concert we gave. There I did all the pulling girls between the legs and wrapping them around the back and all that. In college, many Friday nights were spent at Dancespace, where we would get lessons in ballroom dancing and then dance the night away. It would usually be my group of a handful of us college kids and a bunch of senior citizens. It was awesome. Our particular crew usually consisted of me, several girls that were very inexperienced in dancing, and a few guys that were super shy and not very good who were talked into going against their wills.

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For Advent: A Reform & Revive Repost by David Schrott

In honor of this Advent/Christmas Eve, I decided to repost an article on Reform & Revive written almost exactly a year ago by my good friend (and incredible photographer) David Schrott.  He is an amazing writer (and here) and an even more amazing friend.  This article reflects much on the year that brought the writing into existence with anticipation for the year to come.  Well, having been with him and watching him for that year, it was an amazing moment for me to read this and see all that has been done in his life.

The article has all that Advent is about.  It’s a reflection on the work of God in the past to build your anticipation for the work of God to come.  May this article stir you, sober you, and give you a sense of both the fallenness of the world that is and the glory of the world to come.  Here’s the full link:


Also, feel free to check out an article I wrote for Going To Seminary magazine for Advent called “The Beauty of Theology (an Advent Call)”

Lastly, if you’re in town (Philly, that is), my church Liberti: South Philly is doing what should be a beautiful Christmas Eve service tonight (details).

Merry Christmas Eve

Facebook for lent . . .

For lent, it was suggested that I give up Facebook.At first, I was very hesitant.Then I wondered, “why am I so hesitant?”I had been saying for a while that I would go a week or so off Facebook, but had yet to do so.Why?

This hesitancy revealed a very strong hold Facebook had on me.Whenever I got on the internet, I would check it.I would check it numerous times an hour, being disappointed every time that little red flag didn’t appear on the bottom right-hand corner of my screen.I would spend embarrassing amounts of time clicking through pictures, checking up on old friends, or reading notes.now these things are okay, but it had become a conditioned response to me getting on the internet.It wasted way too much time that I should have been doing work.

There’s this great booklet from CCEF on Procrastination.That is a topic I deal with greatly.I still do.I would rather do anything but my work.In this book, though, there is this great quote form the author, Walter Henegar.He talks about this peculiar thing that happened on the cross.When Jesus is about to die he cries out “it is finished!”, but here’s the thing: the majority of Jesus’ active redemptive work was yet to be done.He had so much of the world that was yet to be saved and brought to himself.Henegar writes concerning this:

Jesus could say this only because he had done “all the work the Father gave him to do.”The connection to my own [Henegar’s] sin was clear: Unless I’m doing what God has called me to do, I’m doing someone else’s work.When I procrastinate, I’m meddling in things that are “none of my business”—like a busy-body.

I struggle with needing to be God in my life.I need to control things.I need to be the one that determines what works I am doing.The second my passions are mandated to me, I suddenly will do anything I can not to do them.I have seen this in seminary.Facebook became my mechanism of controlling what things I spend my life doing and not doing.

So, I gave up Facebook for lent.

And I haven’t missed it, amazingly.(And for those wondering, yes I did take off the facebook-messages-to-my-phone thing)

When lent is over will I go back to Facebook?Yes, but I feel more equipped than ever to see it for what is: an ultimately unnecessary thing that can be used for good things in moderation.I do love Facebook, but just like anything, it can be made an idol.Lent is serving its purpose, I suppose.

Those Catholics are on to something . . .

p.s. – I still have Facebook set up to import the posts from my personal blog onto Facebook as notes.So, for those that see this on Facebook, know that I didn’t have to log in to get this on there.For those that get this far in the post, please pray for me.