“You know what to do …”

It’s been three months since a bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

A few nights after the bombing, I watched with the rest of the nation as the police closed in on the surviving bombing suspect. I saw the tweet from the Boston Police department that inspired a sigh of relief heard round the world.

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Later, as I settled into bed, I took one last look at Twitter – and I saw this:

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I stared at the phone for a moment.

I knew what to do.

I just didn’t want to do it.

I didn’t want to pray for a man who was so cold as to create a bomb desgined to project nails into the body of a little girl.

I didn’t want to pray for the man responsible for so many people losing their limbs and facing a lifetime of recovery.

I didn’t want to pray for this young man who killed a little boy, a young woman

I didn’t want to pray for a man who was involved in the shooting of a police officer.

But, the tweet was right. Jesus did tell us to pray for our enemies.

It was one of the moments I had no words.

And three months on, I still don’t.

I don’t remember if I mumbled a weak, half-hearted prayer that night. I don’t remember if I came to God with an honest prayer that I didn’t know what to pray.

I do know this: Words never escape the Holy Spirit. When I come half-hearted, doubting, honest, reluctant, but desperately wanting to follow Him, the Spirit himself intercedes.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26, ESV)

And so I come, stumbling, towards God …

the sole ground of my hope …

A complete reversal occurs.  It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ.  It is in fact more important for us to know what God to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.  The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ  rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the last day.  Our salvation is “external to ourselves.”  I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.  Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Roadside worship {a throwback Thursday post}

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is from April 11, 2006. Nothing special. Just a snapshot of one of the earliest posts in my blogging life.


This past weekend’s travels took me to Camp Sonrise Mountain in Western PA. The camp is quite cool in that you can park in Pennsylvania and walk just a few yards across the parking lot into the dining hall and BAM! you’re in Maryland. I’m told that elsewhere on the camp you can actually wander into West Virginia.

I’m actually not much for camps. I’d take a cheap hotel anyday over a cabin. Of course, I really like hotels like the Omni in Pittsburgh, where I stayed for the National Youth Workers Convention, but that is usually far above my price range.

The part I do like about such adventures is hanging with the youth even if they aren’t kids I am used to being around. This time, there was no one from my own youth group, but the kids were still so much fun and so full of personality. I also finally got to see Narnia. It was a great movie, but I’m not sure I understand all the fanfare. Sure, there were some allusions to Scripture, but I don’t think people who don’t already know the Bible will have much of a clue as to what those allusions referred.

As usual, I loved the driving part. More tunes. More singing. At least on the way home. The way to the camp Saturday morning was rather wet and slick in spots. I saw the remains of an accident that happened hours earlier on the interstate. Since all the vehicles were still there, I thought it must have just happened, but I found out later that the accident had happened long before I had been there. I guess it was not cleaned up yet because someone had been killed. I had a feeling as I passed it that no one could have survived that sort of collision. Crashes like that are something I just don’t think about when I am driving. I wonder if anyone else does.

The way home was so much more fun. It was a gorgeously sunny spring day with a crystal clear blue sky. I actually stopped at one of those little visitor center kind of things along the interstate more because of the photo ops than any educational value. It turns out this big slice out of the mountain that was created to make room for the highway is actually a nifty geology classroom.

But, it can be more.

Minutes before I pulled into the parking lot, I was singing along with the Passion 2006 CD (as usual as of late). More specifically, I was singing along with the chorus, “Our God Reigns.” As I looked at the splendor of this mountain pass and the delicacy of the daffodils and the sheer beauty of a cloudless sky, I was amazed all over again by the grandeur of our amazing King and Creator. As I made my way down the stairs from a lookout platform, I realized that at some point along the way, I had begun singing the song again.

So, worship can indeed happen anywhere – even along an interstate with the noise of traffic whizzing past.

Passion, Creation and the mystery of mercy …



A stormy week gave way to a gorgeous sunset above the Creation stage in Mt. Union as Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill and Christy Nockels launched into Passion night at the festival.

I was excited to be there, excited to participate in the worship and (most of all) excited to have friends from church with me. I so hope a few of them will come along to Passion 2014 in Atlanta next January either as doorholders or as students.

As usual, Louie Giglio’s message blew me away with its direct, honest, challenge to embrace the mystery of the Gospel. Here are a few highlights I wrote down before the cellphone battery died:

  • When you can add it all up, God must not be involved.
  • Where there’s a holy God, there’s the healing power of Jesus.
  • There are more who are for you and more who are with you than who are against you.
  • The Creator is saying to you – you are a miracle and you’re beautiful.
  • His plan for your life will blow your mind.
  • The God who dreamed up the indescribable universe is the same One who knit you together in your mother’s womb.
  • God does not make anything less than beautiful.
  • Nothing you have done and nothing that has been done to you can stop what God has planned for you.
  • He is the God of the immeasurably more.
  • You have to raise your expectation about what God is going to do in your life.
  • God can put you wherever he wants you.
  • The gospel is the engine that drives everything in life.
  • If the gospel doesn’t stir something in your heart, you will never get to where God wants you to be.
  • If you are over the gospel, maybe you never had the gospel.
  • Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive.