April 2013


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click on to this link to hear the talk on beauty in the broken.
2.10.2013 Brokenness
click on the link at the bottom right of this site to see the video “drawing me” which is in the end of the talk.

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I remember the anxiety I felt with the thought of walking Joelle to school every day. This was just prior to her kindergarten years. And indeed I struggled. Each walk back from school I thought, “When I get home I gotta rest.” Joelle’s school is barely a half a block away from our house. Everyday, I would get home and sit down for five to ten minutes just to recover. More if it was a cold winter day.

That was four years ago

Two years ago, while Joelle was taking swimming lessons, I decided instead of just waiting by the side of the pool, I would jump in and try to swim a bit. My goal was modest, to see if I can make the width of the pool. All I did was half a width. But it got me going. After a month I made the width and I thought to myself, I am going to try to make the length by the end of summer. One the last day I did it.

Then Joelle took up basketball. I would shoot around with her and got winded very easily. But I had the motive to get better because I wanted to keep up with her. Last fall I started going to the gym by myself. I shoot around and sat down every time I got winded (about 15 minutes at first). I thought, “I would be pleased if I could shoot around for an hour without having to sit down.” And it happened. I shot around a whole hour. No running, nothing quick but I shot shots. Then a thought entered my head, “Why don’t you try running (slowly) up and down the court.” It was a scary thought, as I hadn’t tried running in several years. I always overstressed my lungs. A walk was all I thought I had.

But I tried, once up and then back the length of the court. When I got back to my original spot under the basket, I went to the side, sat down and took five minutes to get the wind back and stop the burning in my lungs. Then I thought, “I am going to go for more.” I had the goal of ten lengths of the court. I made that. So I went for twenty. Took me a while. Often I had thought, “I am not going to make it but it is good just to shoot for it.” End of last year I did it. Then I did some research and found out about 63 lengths of a high school court is one mile. I divided that in half and came up with my new goal – 31.5 lengths.

Truthfully, if anyone told me I would be doing a half a mile I would had thought, “You don’t know what I have or how futile all attempts have been. You don’t know about my connective tissue disorder that took away 50% of my lung capacity and that my lungs are filled with scars that will never function again.” Many times I got winded just getting out of bed! How would I ever do a half a mile.

And today, April 11th at 10:30 in the mornings, I did 31.5 lengths of the court.

That is the background of my facebook post: I’m weeping in rejoicing. 31.5 = one half mile. I’m sitting here alone in the gym weeping.

I have been weeping as I write this out now. Because I am the recipient of an amazing moment, I am struck so powerfully in this moment.

Now one practical correlation to all this is that I have not had a cold or flu for over two years. I don’t know why. I am not taking any magic medicine and my diet is not any better. I just simply have not. This is significant because in the past any attempts to improve my lungs would be thwarted by a simple cold that went through the Warden household. Joelle would be over it in a few days. Likewise my wife would be done with her cold in four. But for me, my immune system couldn’t fight it off and I would have it for months. Then my lungs would be more inflamed and the coughing would do damage. It was two steps forward and three steps back. That was the cycle of all past attempts to getting stronger. I wasn’t getting anywhere but worse. The mystery is that I haven’t had the common cold or flu for two years and those years my body has made these advances.

I give full credit to many saints at that time who were praying for me. “The prayer of a righteous one avails much,” as James wrote. No words can express my gratitude.

I have been told that perhaps this renewal of strength in my body is so that I can have the energy to go places to speak and promote Resisting Grace.
Grace is not given so that we can do his bidding – My God is not a utilitarian.

Another has alluded that it is a gift for my faithfulness.
Nor is grace given as a pat on the head for being a good boy. My God is not patronizing.

Sometimes grace is simply like rain. All I can do is collect it, appreciate it and use it to make the most of what I have.

And worship.

Seeds and Tears I B

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When I am in touch with my burdens, passions and longings I often tremble. My hands shake a bit. My chest slightly tightens. Senses, in general, are elevated. Eyes are a bit moist. I am starting to use this self-awareness as a realization that I am getting in touch with a deep thing in my being. I try to write and speak out of that place and often times find it hard to put burdens, passions and longings into words. It is a difficult task for me and based on countless conversations, I observed that it is by nature, difficult for all us fallen beings.

Sometimes when it comes to revealing me, I find myself packaging my words in frames that are filled with theological, cultural or psychological jargons. Though these frames may be helpful, many times they are not truly authentic. That is, it is not fully me but acceptable images of me. It is a way to make it acceptable or even understandable to the other that I tell it to.

It takes many levels to have deep authentic expressions. It requires a language of emotions, longings and needs. Word we identify as what we are internally experiencing. But the words only are identifiable if we practice self-reflection. Self-awareness is required to have authentic expression. But too many of our actions seek not to get in touch with our emotions, passions, needs and longings. Rather our actions seek to avoid it because it moves us into a very anxious and uncomfortable place. Our solution is not to face that but avoid it. That is our compromised solutions. We won’t get past that until we own that.

The grace of God allows for our frustrations with our limited, fallen efforts in self-expression. He calls to “Pour out your hearts oh people.” (Psalm 62:8) That is a call to authentic expressions and self-awareness. Sometimes authentic expressions are moans, growls, giggles and sighs. Words can get in the way. Even this we struggle with because we want to be and have been taught to be in control. Yet he understands our struggle with this. His Spirit comes alongside our spirit and groans for us when we in our weakness cannot. (Romans 8:26)

When I have a moment when passion is translated through the internal muck that is my soul, when passion is translated into authentic expressions of words, my vision is renewed, it feels like something has been unlocked in me. It is my vision for life, mission and God.

unlock

bff2b860438e3928bd19be3c14b8122eThis would be a typical teapot we would have at home when I was young. It is the bamboo handle that stands out in my memories.

Anyone know where this short story comes from? I remember it from my early days as a believer. I was 18 and struggling.
One afternoon an elderly couple entered a lovely teashop. A busy waiter directed them with a wave of his hand to sit at a table in the far corner. Upon the table there was a beautiful teapot. Delicious looking scones, sandwiches and cookies surrounded the teapot. The man started to turn to go back to the counter to explain they didn’t have enough money for such a feast when the teapot began to speak.

“Please sit down and do not be afraid. My master wishes you to be His guest. Take and eat whatever suits you while I tell you a story.” Startled but curious, the couple sat down to listen to the teapot’s story. You see there was a time when I was just an old, hard, gray lump of clay. I was very sad because I felt so useless. One day a master potter came along and picked me up. He began to pat, twist, turn and reshape me. It really hurt so I asked Him to please stop. But He simply looked at me with a kind smile and said, “Not Yet.”

As the teapot spoke, it poured out tea for the couple into delicate cups that never emptied or grew cold. The teapot seemed to glow and light the dark corner like a lamp as it continued its story.

Next He put me on this wheel and He began to spin me around and around. I got so dizzy that I couldn’t even see where I was going, and I began to feel ill. I begged him, “Please let me off!” And he replied, “Not yet.”

The worst was yet to come, however, My master then put me into the oven. It was so incredibly hot that I cried and cried to be let out. But all He said was, “Not yet.”

Finally, the oven door opened. He took me out and set me on a table. I thought, Whew! Thank goodness that is over! But then He began to paint me with this awful smelling stuff. I could hardly breathe when He put me back into the oven for a second time. It was even hotter than before! I thought I would die for sure. Just when I was ready to give up, He gently lifted me from the oven.

After a long rest, my master came by and picked me up. I could clearly see my reflection in His eyes and saw that I had been transformed. I was now beautiful. He told me that it was my reward for being so patient and strong. I asked Him how I could repay Him and His face lit up.

My Master then explained my purpose to me: “Pour out your story to everyone you meet. Don’t be discouraged, if they don’t hear or understand you. Keep your lid open a crack so I may fill you with my spirit where ever you may be. I will guide you all the rest of your days.”

The teapot then seemed to glow even brighter as it finished sharing, “It is such an honor to serve my Master that I have been filled with joy ever since!”

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Suffering is not grace but the context in which grace resides and grace takes that residing context and makes it instrumental to its good work in us. The residency of grace always transforms. The context transforms from suffering to glory in the lives of those surrendered to grace.

I have recently gotten together with friends I have not seen for thirty years or so. In catching up with each, the one theme that runs in everyone’s story is that life hurts. As we talked it was story after story of being broken. It is inescapable. Every friend has been marked-scarred. There is death, divorce and disease throughout the storyline of many.
What divides the stories is how their hearts/faith responded to the pain it, either being softened or harden.

Each encounter deeply moves me. All sadden me. What divides my response is that some inspires me and others frustrates me. For I see some become better and others become bitter. What has been the dividing line between bitter and better is those surrendered to His grace and those who have not. It is not that they have something innate in their personality to make it through suffering better. For those in the camp of glory and grace comes all types of personalities and histories. Neither are those in the camp of bitterness are of one personality trait. They are as diverse as the other group. It is simply, to my observation that they some have surrendered and in that surrender, have trusted and others have not.

One day suffering turns to glory in its fullness, until then we know it in the shadow of the grace we cling to each day in the context of our struggle.

To those who have surrendered and trusted along the difficult path of death, divorce and/or disease, I just wish to tell you I see your beauty and rejoice.

To those trapped in bitterness, I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear of the grace He has and that you would be able to surrender and trust.