Dusty or Not

One of my favorite books of all time, probably in my Top 3, is Thorleif Boman's "Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek." I use it almost like a devotional, reading parts here and there, finding different things in one reading that I never noticed before. He talks about the Hebrew tendency to attach a meaning or attribute to anything physical. "Flesh," "flowers," or "grass" is used to convey weakness, the transitory, or the temporary. The "sun" and the "moon" are signs of God's daily grace and mercy, while "gold" naturally conveys opulence. But the one that usually interests me the most is their use of "dust."

Dust carried with it a very related spectrum of ideas. To show extreme grief, they poured it on their heads. It was equated to death, Sheol, and the grave. When speaking to a superior, it seemed common to refer to oneself as no more than "dust and ashes" to communicate humility and smallness.

And man was created from "dust."



I believe that some of us struggle with prayer.

There are a few things that can get in our way when it comes to having a great prayer life. It might be the expectations we have on the when to pray and what to pray about. We might be confused about the sort of “prerequisites” needed before we can pray (is my faith strong enough, was I good enough today, etc.). It might even be the doubts that can plague us; doubts like what if it doesn’t happen or what if it’s not in God’s plan.

But I believe the biggest hindrance can be us not understanding the purpose, or being confused by it.  The “why we pray” part. I mean, the outcome of a situation has already been determined for the most part, right? So what’s gonna happen is gonna happen. Time has been laid out, the plan has been made, so am I just praying so that my will aligns more with his? Am I praying for myself to be more accepting of his will and what he wants to do? And God already knows and supplies what we need, so what things am I asking for?


Frames and Foundations - 4.23.11 1145

Picture by Darren Robertson

Thirty has been on my mind for many years now.

I know mid-life crisis things happen to people normally around 40, but I've always felt 30 would be that point for me. Where am I at in life? What have I accomplished so far? Can I still accomplish some of the things I wanted to? Are there doors closing? Are there doors opening? Am I old?

Sometimes it feels like leaving my 20s means leaving behind fresh opportunities. Almost as if once you hit 30, that's it. Life is established. The road is set, the path taken. I'm fighting this mindset because I know it's not true, but it has settled pretty deep in my mind and I'm having a hard time rooting it out.


Have You Considered Job - 4.5.11 1110

Have you ever gone through the book of Job?

I’ve been reading it with some guys on (some) Monday nights, and not only has it sparked some lively discussion, but it has really gotten me to think about how old some biblical concepts are, specifically the concept of a Christ.

Job is allegedly one of the earliest written books of the bible. And while he is reputedly Semitic, he’s not an Israelite. So what we have with this book is an ancient perspective on God, as seen through the eyes of a non-Israelite, meaning we also have a nearly undeveloped image of God. Job does not have the Exodus event to draw on, or the Law to refer to. There is no Abrahamic covenant or promise of reconciliation through the seed of that covenant. All Job has is the raw, unrefined, basic understanding of God’s operation with humanity. If for nothing else, this book of poetry offers us a fascinating insight on, what is essentially, the old testament equivalent of a non-believer, and how this “Gentile” (for lack of a better word) sees God.

With a specific variable. Suffering.


Stations of the Cross

a friend of mine is promoting a daily devotion and meditation on his blog by inviting fellow writers to write about one scene of the passion week. this one is my contribution!

take the time to read the submissions. i know a few of these guys and they have some really awesome things to say.


S.T.E.L.E. - 3.30.11 0910

What are you gonna be known for?

What legacy will you leave behind? What ripples through time will you cause? What future events will you influence through your actions?

What will you be remembered for?

A stele is a real thing, I didn't make it up I promise. It's a pillar that is stood upright and has inscriptions and stuff on it, meant to serve as a monument.

It's also the central cylinder in "higher" plants. It's ok if you want to forget that, I'm focused on the other definition.

When I started listing qualities a few years ago that I wanted people to associate with me, I wanted to also turn them into some sort of acronym that I could remember. I could have made "steel" also, but how lame would that have been. Everyone does that. Then I remembered this word (apparently from my days as an archeologist), and I was hooked.

A monument. A reminder.

Someone others could look at and be forced to recall something.

I want my life to be a stele for God to use. When my life crosses paths with other people's, I want them to look at me and be reminded of Christ. I want my life to point towards the relationship someone can have with the Father.

But above all those things, all those qualities, there's something else I hope God will eventually be able to use me for.


That grizzled old man image comes to mind and I don't want to get there to fast, but I do want Christ to be able to use me to help his people stay on the path or navigate life's treacherous waters. I want him to have confidence in me, that when advice is given it's coming from him, not me. I think it takes a lot to finally get to that point. A lot of hard work, discipline, life experience and troubling times. Honestly, it's a bit of a scary thought, but it's a path I've asked for and am committed to.

You might say it's my heart's desire.

To stand before God, a hundredfold talents in hand, and have him say, "Well done my good and faithful servant," drives me forward, guides my decisions, and keeps me praying. Scripture is pretty clear that wisdom only comes from God and I'm not expecting a Solomon, wish granting moment anytime soon, so what I do instead is pray. Pray that one day he will see me worthy enough.

Upright enough. Strong enough. Solid enough.

To be a monument. To be a rememberance.

To be a stele for his name.

"E" = Encourager - 3.30.11 0830

"Lord, make me and Encourager, that I may support your people"

What does it take to be the kind of person who's words bring life rather than death?

What does it take to be the kind of person who's words embolden their listeners rather than weaken them?

Barnabas. Son of Encouragement.

Imagine so encapsulating a positive quality that people actually change your name to match it. I'm not sure if this is what happened to Barnabas but it's not a stretch to consider it.

A few years ago I spoke to some college kids about who they wanted to be. I told them that who they are in 30 years will be determined by the decisions they make between now and then. Then I suggested that if there is a certain way they want to be looked at, or a certain quality they wanted to exhibit, that they had to determine that now and start working towards it.

Encourager has always been one of mine.

Since the day I realized that you have control over your qualities, I've wanted "encourager" to be associated with me. I've wanted to be the kind of vessel for God to use whose words would support, uplift & strengthen his people through tough times.

I want to remind people that there is hope.

That's what it means to be an Encourager. You support and strengthen people with the hope that Christ brings, that God offers. If you can get someone to the point where they know not all is lost by reminding them who else is on their side, you've accomplished something great.

The tough part is reminding yourself of the same.

No one can do it alone. If I'm going to be a Barnabas to others, I have to have Barnabas's in my own life. If I'm going to encourage others, I have to pray for God to keep me encouraged.

And so God, I ask that you make me a pillar of encouragement, so that I might help support the Body of Christ.


"L" = Learner - 3.24.11 0900

"Lord, make me a Learner, that I may be humbled by your people"

Humility is a spectrum. It's a loaded, revealing attitude that contains such a variety of hues and colors that almost any coveted quality can be distilled to having humility at the heart. Such is learning.

You cannot grow or mature in life without learning from others. But, as odd as it may seem I'm sure, you cannot learn from others without first recognizing that they have something to teach you. This can be hard. Especially when looking at someone who may be less educated, younger, or in a phase of life you've already been through. Come to think of it, it's hard when the person is in a later stage of life than you too! In order to learn from others you have to humble yourself with one thought, they know more than you.

I've had a number of partnerships in my life where I was the mentor of someone else. The richness of a relationship like that can only be fully realized when you see it as a two-way street of information. As you are guiding them through life, they are teaching you how to communicate your thoughts. As they encounter struggles, you are learning how to be a companion.

Most people have some level of a pride issue and I am certainly a part of the fold. For whatever reason, I don't often feel like I'm at a loss in my decision making or life struggles. More often than not, I feel like the answer is obvious.

This will be my downfall in becoming like Christ.

If I cannot grasp this pride by the horns and pray every morning to learn something new and be humbled, I won't grow. I won't mature. I will remain a child of Christ, never becoming a man of God. That's why I included this line in my morning prayer. It's a recognized fault of mine that I desire to teach more than learn, to mentor rather than be mentored.

If you can't be taught, then what you teach will become outdated.


"E" = Example - 3.18.11 0845

"Lord, make me and Example, that I may inspire your people"

The center word of my morning mantra is ironically also at the heart of my fears of being a follower of Christ.

I am afraid of leading; afraid of being followed. There's just so much involved with it, so much that can go wrong. Lemmings off a cliff. Domino effects. Millstone around my neck. When I think about others following my direction and guidance a part of me freezes up or shies away. "Who am I," I ask. "What qualifies me to do this?"

Despite this obvious reluctance that I have to being in front, however, God continues to foil my plans. It's like when someone asks a group of people if they want to volunteer take one step forward, and everyone but me takes one step back. What the crap!?! He didn't say we could do that!

I have story upon story of me trying to run from the mantle of leadership and God hog-tying me into it anyway. So, to save both of us the effort (and me the rope burns) I started to seek out the positions instead of running from them, but with a very specific mindset.

A good leader inspires.

I don't picture a good leader as someone who points the direction out to others and says, "That way." That's a traffic controller. I don't picture a good leader as someone who sets the standard bar at a certain height and says, "Here's where you need to be." That's a dictator.

I picture a good leader more like someone God can use to awaken potential in others, with or without the leader's knowledge. An example to that other person of what they have the potential to be. I think a good leader never asks something of their people that they wouldn't do themselves. Leading by example. A good leader equips their people for success, making sure they have everything they need to accomplish the task ahead.

But most importantly, a good leader stirs up something deep inside God's people that drives them to be better than they are.

That is what I mean when I ask God to make me an example that inspires his people. I do not want others looking at me and saying, "I want to be like that." I want others to look past me, by saying, "If God can do that through Kyle, what can he accomplish through me?"

That's the type of example I see Jesus talking about in the gospels, especially John's account. He kept reviving potential in his people to accomplish so much more for the kingdom than they thought they could. In fact, the death, burial, and resurrection removes the largest obstacle for a fully connected relationship with God, a relationship that could inspire each human being into becoming a useful vessel for the kingdom.

And so I ask God to make me an example, that I may be used to inspire his people, to reach their full potential as a follower of Christ.


"T" = Teacher - 3.11.11 0750

"Lord, make me a Teacher, that I may lead your people"

The second word in my morning prayer is Teacher. When I read about Jesus' ministry, I see him leading primarily by teaching and example. Even at the sacrifice of his solitude he would hardly ever pass up a moment to illustrate a truth to the lost sheep of God's people.

Why was it so important to him?


"S" = Servant - 3.9.11 1020

"Lord, make me a Servant, that i may know your people"

I chose servant as one of my little morning mantra words because of how much importance Christ assigned to it. Not to be served, but to serve; the Suffering Servant; the last become first; the concept of Servant Leadership. Some of the most life altering, soul changing stories I've heard come from an act of service.


Morning Mantra

Lord, make me...

          a Servant, that I may know your people

          a Teacher, that I may lead your people

        an Example, that I may inspire your people

          a Learner, that I may be humbled by your people

        an Encourager, that I may support your people

STELE, that I may be made wise by you.

I wrote this based on a concept Henri Nouwen talked about in his book Here and Now: Living in the Spirit. He mentioned it as a way to keep focused, just repeating a word or sentence or simple prayer. He says:

"...any word that reminds us of God's love and put it in the center of our inner room, like a candle in a dark place...so long as we keep the candle in our dark room burning, we can return to that light and see clearly the presence of the one who offers us what we most desire."

In the mornings that I remember to repeat this to God and myself, it helps me to stay focused on the priorities I have for the day and the ultimate, underlining motivations I should have for my actions. I have found this to be very helpful, and i hope it inspires you to do something similar.

Proverbs 3:13-26


Dirty Feet - 1.28.11 0930

Donald Miller writes about an idea in his book Searching for God Knows What that has sparked a lot of thought for me in the past. He says that at the fall Adam and Eve began to draw their self-worth and value form other people rather than God. As humanity began to grow, some people were raised and respected more than others, and everyone began looking for ways to be raised and respected by comparisons. Appearance, athleticism, skills, anything really so as not to feel left in the dust behind everyone else.



"God" is Impotent

When I went to Hope International University there was this really old guy that you would see walking around the campus. He was a professor, but unless you had him as a teacher you probably would never meet him. However, just by hearsay, you would know his name. Medford Jones. You knew there was something important about that guy, like the kind of person that carried a lot of clout in his respective circle. The same kind of vibe the senior elder of a church might carry. Time had taken his toll by the time I started going to school there, and you could see he was weighted down by experience. His face said he chose his words carefully for impact.

He was invited to speak at Chapel one Tuesday morning, and I was excited because of the kind of man I had heard him to be. A strong leader, one who had made his ripple in society. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember crystal clear something about the sermon. I remember that when he said “Christ,” there was strength. 

It was the first time I remember hearing the name and thinking it carried power with it.

For the entire thing I was trying to figure out what it was about how he said Christ that made it reverberate the way it did, made it sound so powerful. I was taking a class on speeches at the time and wanted to be able to duplicate it when I spoke to my audience. Was it the volume? The conviction? The belief in the name that caused it? Why is it I’ve heard plenty of sermons but never had the name carry such weight?

Then I realized. It wasn’t how he said it at all. It was that he said it. 

Everyone has their own definition of God. Ever notice that? “God” calls up different images in different minds, even in fellow Christians. The loving father, the great observer, tallyer of wrongs, maybe even the creator. You can use “God” for non-believers too. For them it could be Allah, Buddha, or anyone really. For some it’s the wicked tyrant that did them wrong, for others a source of strength. For most people it is a well thought out term that we can attach our impressions on without changing the word itself. This renders it virtually powerless. 

Because it means different things to different people, it is a watered down word. Talking to someone about “God” doesn’t do anything to address the presuppositions they might have. A sermon preached with “God” as the focus won’t carry the strength or the dynamic needed to show the outsider that our God is not their God. 

But since it is watered down, it is safer. Easier to use.

That is why Medford’s sermon stuck out. He said Christ, not God. He made no mistake about who he was talking about and his audience knew it too. For many, especially outsiders, I believe Christ is not a fully developed image. The name may carry images, but they’re a bit more malleable, workable. 

The image of God needs the filter of Christ to separate it from the world. 

All other “Gods” can be distilled down to fundamentally the same thing. You work to get closer to him, get his favor, get what he has to offer. But Christ brings something different to the table. With Christ comes grace. Sacrifice. Relief. Freedom. With Christ comes a friend who can look over wrongs and help you through the mistakes. With Christ comes a man who can relate to what you’re going through, because he’s gone through it too. It is Christ’s name that lends power to a message.

Medford passed a few years back, but obviously his impact has not. I think it is because he had the strength and conviction to not back down and use God as his foundation, but Christ.

When next you are talking to someone about the gospel, either a friend or an audience, challenge yourself to not use the term “God” even once. Use “Christ” instead.