All for Love – Poem of the Day

Lord Byron – ‘All for Love’

O talk not to me of a name great in story;
The days of our youth are the days of our glory;
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty
Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.

What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled?
‘Tis but as a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled:
Then away with all such from the head that is hoary—
What care I for the wreaths that can only give glory?

O Fame! if I e’er took delight in thy praises,
‘Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases,
Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover
She thought that I was not unworthy to love her.

There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee;
Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;
When it sparkled o’er aught that was bright in my story,
I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.

I came upon this poem a couple years ago, and I find myself coming back to it.  It’s become one of my all-time favorites. The beauty and value of love and youth are so easily taken for granted, but so much more valuable than what we typically consider as “fame” or “glory.”

The further I get from my teens and early twenties, the more I appreciate those years and the love and the youth of those days. It was sometimes dramatic, sure, but it was lovely too.  I find myself so fond of those years. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

When we are young we try our best. There is an innocence about it.  But we are indeed young, and sometimes do stupid things as a result of our youth. And as painful as that can be, there’s beauty in it.  There are valuable lessons found there.  There’s a peace in knowing that, if you could, you may do some things differently, but you can’t – what’s done is done, what’s said is said. All we can do is carry those significantly good people and places and moments with us – the ones we love- in our souls and think of them fondly and learn from them. And we can trust that, though sometimes we don’t know what we are doing, God is able to work anything out for the good if our hearts are following after Him.

When we are young we dream of achievement and success and, yes, glory.  But as Byron writes, true glory is the presence of love in your life – whatever love that may be.  A wife or daughter – brother or sister – mother or father – this love is true glory.

What care I for wreaths…?

So if you have love in your life don’t forget to bask in the glory of it all.  It’s what gets us all through.  

I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he told us to love others.  And I think it’s part of what makes God so glorious, because He is the source of love God first loved us – mistakes and all.  We don’t have to prove it, or earn it – just to accept it.  And that’s a truly beautiful thing.


Crossing Rivers

No Man is an Island

Rich Mullins, one of my favorite poets/prophets/musicians of all time, has a song titled ‘We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are.’ Many of Rich’s songs have been part of my soundtrack during this cancer journey.  In this song there is a line that says, “We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Forged in the fires of human passion, choking on the fumes of selfish rage.  With these our hells and our heavens so few inches apart we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are.” [Song Below]

Of course this flies in the face of what we are told by pop culture. The world tells us we can do anything! All on our own!  We are great just as we are – self sufficient, all I need is me. As another brilliant and poetic wordsmith (cough cough), Katy Perry, sings in her song ‘Roar,’ “I went from zero to my own hero.”  (For the record, I will admit I tend to jam to Katy’s music in the car from time to time.) But Christianity states something else – we are empty vessels with out the power, forgiveness, love, and grace of God in our lives – especially in the hard times.

And not only that, but we need people in our lives.  We need family.  Community.  We were made for it.  Built for it.  We simply can’t lead a fulfilled life without it, no matter who we are. There is simply no substitute for a group of solid, trusted, dedicated people in your life to support, challenge, and encourage.

There have been so many that have embodied this support system for me over the last year. From childhood friends, high school friends, Louisville friends, YWAM friends, college friends, friends in the photography/wedding community, past clients of Honey Heart, church friends, and so many more. Our beloved families and our dear church Life Group shouldered much of the load and I will always be grateful especially to them.  If I didn’t have this support I truly believe I would be a different person today.  The darkness would have taken root and brought me further down, I truly believe.  God used these beautiful people, some I don’t even know, to keep me above water.  I’ll always be thankful.

“No man is an island…every man is a piece of the continent, part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  – John Donne

If we are truly our own hero, we will be either living constantly in the sad shadow of our own bloated ego, or we will be severely disappointed when we fail ourselves or someone else, or perhaps both.  We can’t and never should be our own hero.  We must be anchored and stabilized by something bigger and higher and fuller than ourselves – God and community.

To attempt to make spirituality a private affair is to reject part of our very nature and walk inside of a loneliness that God himself has damned. – Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

This has been one of the main lessons I’ve learned.  I am weak, frail, selfish without the grace of God in my life. I am only strong through Him and through those around me. It’s Christ who gives me strength.  It certainly doesn’t come from me alone. It’s through Him and the people He sends us to help that we can spring fresh with joy and vibrant life. The thief’s purpose is to kill and steal and destroy. My purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

Crossing Rivers

Below is a beautiful song by Leon Bridges called ‘The River.’  Baptism is a beautiful and powerful demonstration of what has transpired in our lives through God’s forgiveness and Christ’s atonement. Jesus was baptized in the same river that Joshua crossed to enter Canaan – the Promised Land – the beautiful land God set aside for his people.

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Christian baptism enables us to cross another river of sorts – the river separating the lands of sin and the land of grace – another land God has set aside for his people – the ideal place God’s beloved people will dwell – the New Promised Land.  But crossing this river is not just a one-time event.  And it’s not just an individual act. Every day we must choose to wash ourselves by crossing that river – and in effect bathe ourselves in His forgiveness and grace.  It’s a journey. And we need others to help us along this journey. Thankfully our Father is still there to take us back and wash us white as snow once again.


Learning How to Pray

When I first found out about my cancer diagnosis, I immediately prayed for a miracle.  So many others also prayed that I would be healed, that this tumor would miraculously disappear.  So many people, with much more faith and much holier than I, prayed to God for healing on my behalf.  Like Jesus, we prayed that God would take this cup from me, and like Jesus, God didn’t answer that request.

The tumor didn’t disappear.  I wasn’t healed.

This got me to thinking about how I pray.  I am glad I and so many others prayed for healing.  The Bible teaches that we should present our requests to God and healing is a great request. Miraculous healing happens today.  I’ve seen it.  But sometimes physical healing just doesn’t happen.  Sometimes God doesn’t take the cup that we have been handed.  And I’ve been struggling with that reality ever since.

Sometimes we don’t get what we want, no matter how good or noble the request may be.  

During the days leading up to surgery I began reading Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It is a journey through Psalms 120-134, otherwise known as the Psalms of Ascents. It’s an incredible study and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Many of those psalms stood out to me, but one in particular.  In Psalm 123 the psalmist sings that he is “filled with contempt.” He’s mad, he’s hurt, and he doesn’t understand the prosperity of the mockers and the proud.

But he doesn’t ask for vengeance. He doesn’t plead for prosperity. He doesn’t even look for healing.  The psalmist has just one request:

God’s mercy.

The psalmist knows the character of God – and he knows that above all he is “gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love” (Neh 9:31).

Eventually, I stopped praying only for healing. I began to pray something else.

I began to realize that maybe I need something higher than physical healing.  I realized that the road of surgery and chemotherapy was the road I was on, like it or not. Maybe God wants to use this trial to make me better, more able to relate to others. Who knows? Regardless, if I am on this road I desperately need the mercy of God above anything else just to make it through.

So since then when I pray I take on the attitude of the psalmist in Psalm 123 – I simply ask for God’s grace and mercy.  For though I too am filled with contempt – contempt of cancer, of the pain, of the darkness and despair that can threaten to crowd my mind during this chemo cycle – I choose to rely on God’s great mercy to walk this road.  And when I do, God in his mercy never fails to flood my heart with peace.

Often times, we don’t know what to pray.  What do we say?  What do we ask for?  Sometimes it’s hard to even find words.  Now, when I don’t know what to pray, I pray for God’s grace and mercy.  Because that’s what we really need to live in this crooked world.

It’s hard when God doesn’t answer our prayers.  Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.

Just before Jesus was to endure his incredible suffering on the cross he pleaded with God twice.  He said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36.

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We should present our requests to God.  He wants us to. But if we truly trust God as the greatest of Fathers, if we truly believe that God is the essence of Love, then above all we will choose to put His will over ours. No matter how hard that may be.

Some days it’s hard to make that choice.  For many of us, it takes time to make that choice. It’s okay to be hurt and angry for a time. Some days it’s hard to pray at all. It’s a daily process, to be sure.  Some days I fail to rest in God’s will above my own.  Thankfully God is gracious and sheds his grace and mercy on me despite me.

Because we know that He knows suffering, He sees our hearts, He is with us giving us grace that surpasses understanding even in the midst of it.

…though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.   -It Is Well with My Soul

An Update and An Inspiration

For this post, I thought I would give a bit of an update on what’s going on with us these days and talk about someone who has truly been an inspiration for me during this time.

The Update

The last month has been a wild ride, to be sure.  Four weeks ago today I had surgery to remove that blasted tumor. I was in the hospital for 8 days, and under house arrest for two weeks following.  As I discovered, lower abdomen surgery is a real kick in the pants.  The recovery has been intense, but it’s gone well.  This week is the first week I’ve been able to really walk around almost normally and without much pain. I even photographed half of a wedding this past Saturday and it went well.

One thing I’ve learned – walking is a big deal.  There are a lot of muscles that go into walking around! That first 6 days after surgery it was all I could do to even put one foot in front of the other. I could barely get out of bed. When I did finally make it up, I had to use a walker and needed someone to hold me up – and even then it was a struggle.  So now – I’m so thankful that I can walk.  Under my own power. It’s a big deal.

The surgery was very successful.  Everything went great.  And most importantly, there was no other cancer detected anywhere. Thank God.

The next and last step is more chemotherapy – which will begin October 12. It will go through mid February or so.  I know it’ll be tough, but I’m going to tackle it with all I’ve got.

The Inspiration

Kailen Combs Taylor has been a friend of mine for a long time.  She and her family are very dear to my family. We all grew up going to church together in Louisville. She valiantly fought a long, difficult battle with cancer and, unfortunately for all of us, passed on from this world to the next last week.  She was 25 years old.  Kailen and her husband Bryan were married back in December of 2010 and we had the privilege of photographing their wedding. [Below are links to our blog post of the wedding we published right after.]

kailenBryan 12.18.10

When Kailen found out my cancer diagnosis, she texted me right away. She encouraged me and gave me lots of practical advice from someone who had been through it all. Kailen was a light.  Anyone who knew her could attest to how much she shined the love of God despite what was going on in her life.

Her faith is such an inspiration. Here is a text she sent me on Aug 20,

“We pray for y’all and y’all pray for us and God will be faithful to meet us where we need Him! I just figure if I am obedient to simply keep walking, moving forward, and putting forth some sort of an effort; then God has no other choice than to show up, right? …God hasn’t let me down yet.”

Well, we can now say that God has definitely shown up to Kailen now, more than ever. She is now in His presence, completely whole, completely full of Joy, and radiant in the glory and grace that we can’t even imagine here on earth.

As for me, I hope to live out even half the faith and bravery that Kailen lived. She is such an inspiration and I’m so blessed to have known her.

This passage comes to mind when I think of her…

…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.        -2 Timothy 4:6


Learning Season – Worry and Pride

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Two months, actually. That is for a number of reasons: It’s been a fairly busy time. Wedding season, family life, and church kept us hopping. Also, for 5 weeks I was on undergoing chemo and radiation, which takes a bit of a toll; and lastly, because it’s really been hard to put words to what has been going on in my head and heart.  Numerous times I wanted to sit down and write, but the words just weren’t there.

I don’t know if I have them now, but it is time I at least try.

The next step is surgery – on this Thursday 27 August. I’m a bit nervous about it if I’m being honest.  But I know I am in very good and capable hands.

So a few people have asked me what I’m learning through all of this.  It’s a good question. The next few days I’ll address some of what I’m learning here on the blog.

Firstly, I’ve realized how worry is a plague.  When I worry, I make myself weaker.  Worry makes God smaller, not in reality, but in my own mind. It’s as if He doesn’t know, he can’t help, and it’s all up to us to figure it out.  But the great thing is, we aren’t left to ourselves. We have a Great Help in time of trouble (Psalm 46).  Corrie Ten Boom once said, “worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of it’s strength.”  I think she’s right.

When I found myself faced with a crisis I began instantly worrying about my family and my career and what was going to happen. I found myself doing things my own way before praying about it at all. The worry indicated that God wasn’t as great in me as I thought.  I see what John the Baptist was getting at when he said, “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:11).

There was a reason Jesus told us not to worry (Matt 6:34). Maybe it’s because when we worry we put more stock in what’s happening in the moment than in who God is and what He has done not only in our lives, but throughout history. God has done a lot.  I would do good to remember it more often.

The second thing I’m learning: when I found out I had cancer, I realized I was sick.  I needed help.  But in reality I was sick and needed help all along. I believe all of us do, to a certain extent. Augustine and Aquinas both taught that pride is the root of all sin. And like any weed, it needs to be struck at the root. My prayer is that through all of this I would be purged of the sin that so easily entangles.

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There is nothing more counter-Christian, nothing more contradictory to the message of Jesus, than pride and selfishness.  Because like cancer, if left unattended, it will squeeze any true life and hope right out of you. The Bible constantly warns against the insidious sin of Pride.  In Proverbs it says that God actually hates it (Prov 8), it’s the opposite of love (1 Cor 13), and James states that God is actually against or opposes the proud (James 4:6).  There are so many more passages I could cite, but the point is clear. Pride is the absolute worst, or as CS Lewis says, “the utmost evil.”

That’s why Jesus came so hard against the pharisees.  They lived and walked in pride. They saw themselves as better-than-thou.  Holier-than-thou.  Their pride blinded them to the truth – that they were just as in need of God’s presence and grace as the next person.

The truth is, I’m not better than anyone else.  And I certainly can’t do this on my own.  I am a sinner saved by the surpassing Grace of God and I constantly needs His mercy.

I love this line in Donne’s poem “Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness,”

Christ’s Cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;

Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me;

As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face, 

May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

We are constantly fighting the consequences of the first Adam (sin). But maybe instead of fighting it, we should choose to continually embrace the work of the second Adam (Jesus) – salvation, redemption, the presence of God in our lives.

Tomorrow I’ll share about how I’m learning to pray.

What I’m Listening to Lately

My favorite worship band. Mary had this song playing the other day and it really struck me. “Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender…”

Here is another from the same group…



The Day I Found Out I Had Cancer

I’ve always heard anesthesia was nice, but now I know – it’s great. I remember going in for the colonoscopy a little nervous, very hungry, and very exhausted after a long and intense night (those of you who’ve had this procedure know what I am saying, right?). I had never had an IV. I had never been admitted to a hospital at all. Yet here I was going in for what I thought was a procedure that wouldn’t find anything and was probably pointless. I was having some minor stomach issues, but no pain, no discomfort really. But the Doc said I should get it checked out. So there I was.

After going into the room for the procedure, the doctor came in and went over my info. He said it was very unlikely we would find anything serious given my age and symptoms, but we will check it out and it’ll be just fine. Then they put me to sleep.

The next thing I remember was waking up to Mary’s face – she had tears in her eyes. She said, “Gabe, I have bad news. They found cancer.” The tears started to fall. I remember being shocked and thinking maybe I was still dreaming. I tried to shake out the fog in my head. I asked if they were sure, and she said yes, they found a tumor – 5 inches long – in my colon.   I remember feeling stunned. Blindsided. I still feel that way to a degree.

[Sidenote:: As I was sitting in the hospital there that day I thought of how I love it when people get blindsided on reality shows like Survivor or the Bachelor. That is my favorite part – when they go in to a rose ceremony or tribal council all confident and cocky, then get voted off. The shock and disdain of their reaction is fantastic, isn’t it? I smiled at this and I thought about how I just got a taste of my own medicine. #blindsided]

So that week followed with a series of tests, meetings, a lot of prayer and a lot of shock. We had to wait over the Memorial Day weekend to get the results of the PET scan that indicated if the cancer had spread anywhere. That was one of the longest weekends of my life.  Thankfully we got a good bit of news when we found out nothing has spread – it has remained in that location. It was nice to get good news.

So it turns out that I officially have stage 3 colorectal cancer. I’ll start treatment – radiation and chemotherapy – this coming Monday, June 8th. I will go in for radiation 5 days a week for 5 weeks, and take the chemotherepy pill every day for 5 weeks.  That will be followed by a 5 week rest period, and then surgery after that. Then we will most likely do post-surgery chemo for a time.  It’ll be quite a journey.

I hadn’t officially announced it yet, but I was selected for an Active Duty position with the Air Force as a Chaplain. We were gearing up for a total life change. We were wrapping our heads around moving in the near future. I was excited about taking a new full-time job. We felt sure that is where God was leading us next. Now it looks like that is on hold for at least awhile.  It’ll depend on how everything goes.

We will definitely continue with the photography business. Mary and I both love it and I should still be able to work most days during the treatment. I certainly still plan on being at our weddings on Saturdays. And I will continue to work at First Alliance Church on a part time basis as well.  They were more than generous in offering to keep me on staff, albeit in a different role than before.

This has been the most difficult couple weeks of my life and Mary’s life, for sure. It is still all hard to believe, to take in.  I’ve had every emotion imaginable: hurt, anger, fear, disbelief, confidence, and most in between. I’m told that’s normal. I’m doing OK though, just trying to take it one day at a time, trying to not live in the ‘what-ifs,’ and trying to keep a broader perspective through all of this.

The amount of support we have already seen and felt from our friends and family has been astounding. The prayer, texts, calls, cards, messages, meals and words of encouragement means everything. Without all of this I honestly don’t know how we would be making it. So thank you to all of you – you know who you are. Both my family and Mary’s family have been amazing. We are so grateful for them especially. The kind words, the support, really does wonders for the spirit and soul.

I know this is going to be tough. I know it’s doing to be dark at times. But I also know that God is with us in the valleys of life and even in the shadow of death. He will give me grace and strength when I have none of my own. Every great story has conflict – and this is mine. I’ve resolved I won’t be defeated by this.  I want to use this setback to grow closer to Christ. I want this suffering to drive me to Him, to drive away the sin and selfishness that is harbored in my heart and cause me to grow closer to His heart of love.

I am so thankful I have Mary, an incredibly strong, amazing person to help me through this.

A few passages of scripture have really been encouraging to me over the last couple weeks.

The Light shines in the darkness, Yet the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

No matter how dark things may get – I don’t need to lose heart, because the Light has already won.

And I just came across Psalm 121 a couple days ago.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?

It comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth…

The psalm doesn’t suggest we will never face pain or hardship. The psalm talks about God as our guardian in the midst of trials, our strength when we seem to be in danger. Our God is present in our dark times, he is with us at our lowest points in life.

As Psalm 46 says, God is our ever present help in time of trouble.  I’m banking on that more than ever these days.

And I’m also banking on the help and support of family and friends.  I know we will need the support and help more than ever in these days.

We would be so grateful for your prayers for healing. For grace. For divine strength.

If you would like to stay updated on what’s going on or would like to know how to help, visit our site: and/or email

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Lessons from Teddy Ballgame // Keeping it in the Family

It’s baseball season – my favorite time of year. Every year I try to read a baseball-related biography. As I was considering which one to go with this year, I realized I didn’t know very much about the man known as the greatest hitter ever. I knew he was the last person to ever have a .400 batting average for a season, that he was a WWII hero, and known as one of the all time greats, but that was about it. So I picked up Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville.  It is a great biography – well written, interesting, comprehensive. [Ted was known for some incredibly salty language, so go in accordingly.]WilliamsMontville

Ted Williams’ life is much more interesting than I anticipated.  His was a fascinating life lived at high speed – totally fearless, and always his way. Here’s my first takeaway from his life…

Family Must Always Come First 

Williams’ father left at an early age, leaving his mother to raise two young boys in San Diego. His mother was a member of the local Salvation Army post where she became so heavily involved that her boys were left to virtually raise themselves.  They had hardly any supervision, support, or nurture from their mom.  Ted and his brother Danny were left to rely on aunts, uncles, and neighbors. Ted channeled his passion, his energy, his hurt into baseball. I’m sure Ted’s mother thought her main ministry was as a soldier and evangelist with the Salvation Army.  I’m sure she did great work in that ministry.  But she neglected her children in the process and it had drastic effects that still echo today.  Before God trusts us with a ministry or a mission, He trusts us with our family – it’s our first calling.  Care and ministry of our family must always take priority.


Ted Williams said he hated God, he had a history of treating women terribly, and was an absent father himself.  Ted’s outlook on God, women, children and life in general was determined by the way he was brought up.  Because his mother thought serving at the church was more important than caring for him and his brother, be became angry and it impacted the rest of his life.

Our families must come first.  If we neglect our families for the sake of our ministry, we are, in effect, abandoning our first ministry. 


Ted Williams – 1950

If there were a Mount Rushmore of baseball players Ted Williams would probably be on it. He was truly great.  He was the epitome of dedication, persistence, hard work, and immense skill all wrapped up in one package. But as great a player as he was, he was equally bad at having a family.  He generally lived for himself, with little to no regard for his kids or wives. When Ted became older, his son John-Henry took advantage of his father, squandered much of his money and became generally regarded as a pariah.

After Ted’s death, all his children took up numerous lawsuits with each other, with Ted’s former wives, and others. At his death there was no joy, no celebration on an amazing life – just anger between his kids.

When we neglect our families, there are consequences that last generations.  This is a great lesson for me: no matter what I’m doing or the seeming importance of my job, nothing will be more important than raising my kids and being there for my family. Nothing.

What the Bible Says About It…

You shall teach them [the law of God] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

I have a few more thoughts on his life.  I’ll share in the next post.  Thanks for reading!  I welcome comments!  If you have any, leave them below.  I’d love to read them.

Easter – Let’s Party

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter People and hallelujah is our song.”  –Pope John Paul II

Maybe we are doing it wrong.  Maybe we aren’t celebrating enough for Easter.

Easter – it’s about Life.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we were given a second chance.  We were given life.  Why don’t we celebrate that more than we do?

Maybe we pass around some pastel-wrapped candy, maybe we go to church and maybe we sing some nice songs and hear a good sermon, and maybe we go home have a nice lunch with relatives or friends, and then maybe we go home and start work the next day. Which is all very nice.

And that’s it.

The NCAA Final Four & championship game is this in the next few days.  And whether it’s Kentucky, or any of the other three teams that win, students will be wreaking passion-fueled havoc all over, fans will be out flying their car flags, their house flags, wearing their colors, hash-tagging and bragging for weeks and months after the final game. And they should. Their team won. They should be stoked about it.

But when it comes to Easter, sometimes us Christians look at it as just another nice little holiday and move on.

If that’s how we treat it, we are missing an incredible opportunity to party!  To celebrate the fact that Easter is to celebrate the living, risen Jesus. Shouldn’t we be happier about that? Jesus rose.  We won through him.  He conquered death, and if we accept him, so did we.  Let’s celebrate that!

For the Christian, Easter isn’t just about spring time and candies and eggs and rabbits.  Easter is about the unrestrained, life-giving truth of the resurrection of Jesus, the abolishment of Sin, the gift of abundant life now and eternal. 

It’s because of Easter we can have life, and have it to the Full (John 10:10) – so now that we will soon be on the other side of Lent, let’s really live it to the full.


© Honey Heart Photography

N.T. Wright makes this excellent point in his great book Surprised by Hope

“Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air?  Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our litergies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

Easter is the most important holiday of the year for the Christian.  Without Easter, we don’t have Christianity.  Without Easter we are left fending for ourselves in a cruel and cut-throat world. Thankfully we aren’t.  And we don’t.

Let’s take Easter back.  Let’s really celebrate it.

Wright goes on to say…

“We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.”

So this Easter, let’s really party it up.  At church, sing loud and proud – you’ve been given life.  At home, have a party – a feast – have fun. If you’re on twitter, hashtag it up.  Tell everyone.  Through Jesus, we won. We have new life.

As the great poet George Herbert wrote in his poem Easter Wings,

           Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:

The Fight for Joy

Eleven friends of mine from The Mix at First Alliance embarked on a weekend in the Smoky Mountains a couple weekends ago. Of course, like any good retreat, we had a theme: Life, Liberty, and the Fight for Joy.

Here are a few reflections on the subject…

Our beloved Declaration of Independence states that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m wholeheartedly behind that. The thing is, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about our personal happiness. But it does seem to say some pretty strong things about the importance of Joy in our lives (Phil 4:4, 1 Thess 5:16; Luke 12).

The truth is that Joy is a fight, a choice. The world, and the Enemy who roams it, does their very best to bring us down, to make us worry, to cause us to be riddled with anxiety. Our enemy wants nothing more than to have us dwell in the misery, negativity, and the “what-ifs” of the sad and broken world rather than the reality of life, joy, and redemption that God has given us through his Son Jesus.

That’s how James can tell us to consider it joy when you face trials, or how Paul can tell us in Romans to rejoice in our suffering.  It’s because our Joy comes not from what is happening now, but what has already happened – life and Salvation through Jesus.

Photo Mar 07, 14 52 06

Perhaps the Bible, from the Psalms to the Epistles, talks so seriously about Joy because that it is what truly sets Christians apart from the rest of the world. It’s how people take notice that there is something different going on in our hearts something bigger in our lives than just our physical circumstances. We are anchored in whose we are rather than what is happening.

In essence, our joy is a direct result of the love in our heart given to us by a God who is infinitely loving, powerful, and totally in control.

So when the inevitable difficult life situations arise, may we walk it out in faith believing that the Joy of the Lord is our greatest strength (Neh 8:10).

Angrily Speaking

This Fall I studied the book of Jonah with the young adult group at my church.  It is truly a fascinating story full of sailors, killers, super-plants, destructive insects…oh yeah and a giant, man-swallowing sea creature. It sounds like it should be the next Biblical movie blockbuster, right?

So, there is a verse in Jonah that jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to shake it.

In the last chapter (4) Jonah is angry at God.  He’s angry because God didn’t destroy the city of Nineveh like Jonah wanted him to.  The whole city turned to God and they were saved from destruction for their terrible wickedness (they are called a “city of blood,” known for ruthlessness toward Hebrews).  That they weren’t punished made Jonah pretty upset – upset to the degree that he wanted to die (vs 3).  Jonah just couldn’t deal.

Then God asks Jonah a question (the first of 3 questions God asks Jonah in this chapter), “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Most of us get angry from time to time.  Sometimes anger comes and leaves quickly, other times anger moves in our hearts and sets up a permanent camp. Either way, we all experience it for one reason or another. In these days, with all that’s happening in the world such as Ferguson, the NYC grand jury verdict, the political landscape, the economic landscape, ISIS, Ukraine, and so much more, there is plenty of anger to go around.

The question God asks Jonah is a good question for all of us: “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

Um…maybe not

Often times we really don’t have a good reason to be angry if we are honest with ourselves [See: cut off in traffic, long line at the store, Starbucks is out of pumpkin spice latte, spouse doesn’t load the dishwasher the right way, etc].

In those times we are just more concerned about our own agendas, our own preferences, our own lives than anything else.  Sometimes we simply need to get over ourselves.  After all, Paul writes how Christians should look to other people’s interests over our own (Phil 2:4).  Think, if only we did that more how great that would make the world in which we live?

Um…maybe so

On the other hand, often times we do have a good reason to be angry.  Anger is often a result of deep hurt (see: being abandoned, lied about, cheated on, abused, betrayed, etc). It’s natural to be angry when we have been hurt or seen others hurt. And God understands this hurt.  He knows it well. Jesus suffered all of those same hurts and much much more. The author of Hebrews writes that we have a High Priest who knows and understands our weaknesses (4:15). God empathizes with our hurt.

It’s not wrong to be angry.  Anger is a natural emotion. Jesus himself was angry (a great study for another day).  But living and dwelling in anger is unhealthy.  It keeps us from experiencing the full joy of life God wants for us. Living in anger keeps us weighed down, burdened, blinded, and not able to reach our full potential for joy & happiness.


Image © Gabe Lawson

The problem with Jonah was that he couldn’t see past his own hurt.  It was like a giant wall blocking him from any perspective.  That’s what anger does to us – it blocks us from really seeing anything except what’s directly in front of us.

Jonah forgot that before God spared the Ninevites from punishment, God spared him too. When God first called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah ran from God and boarded a ship to the end of the world. He was subsequently thrown overboard to die in the sea, but God sent a fish to rescue him.  Jonah didn’t deserve to be rescued. After all, he deliberately and intentionally disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God saved him anyway.  And in the belly of the fish Jonah sings God’s praises saying, “In my distress you listened to my cry,” and “Salvation comes from the Lord (ch 2).”

How soon Jonah forgot these praises when God extended salvation to people he didn’t think deserved it.  Anger blinded him.  Anger caused him to forget that God saved him too when he didn’t deserve it. Jonah wasn’t living in the joy of his own salvation. He was living in the bondage of past hurt, causing him to forget the very salvific nature of the God he served.

Let’s not make the same mistake Jonah made.  Sure we may have good reason to be angry. But instead of living in anger, let’s view it in relation to the character of God and what he has done for us. It’s all about what we decide to focus on.

Have we been hurt and mistreated? Yes, and it’s certainly unfair. God knows this.

But we have also been saved from death by Jesus taking the punishment of death in our stead (Galatians 3). Like Jonah, we were saved from death even though we didn’t deserve to be saved at all.

When life is viewed from the perspective of Christ and the Cross, it makes it a little easer to let go of that hurt, anger & bitterness.

Letting go of hurt and anger is not easy.  It is most certainly a process. It takes courage to let the anger go. It takes the grace of God, to be sure. But once we do, we will experience a fresh feeling of liberty, hope, and joy.

Let us not be weighed down and blinded by hurt that we didn’t deserve.  Instead let us live in the joy of knowing we too have been, or can be, given life that we don’t deserve.

Scripture on anger:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.  – Psalm 37:8-9

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. – Proverbs 29:11

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20