Sherry and I celebrated our 41st anniversary yesterday. It began with me letting her sleep in. Very good thing! I have this hugely powerful rule inside me: “Thou shalt not wake a sleeping woman” that goes back to pre-verbal times. But this went even beyond that. It made our hugs and kisses greeting even warmer :).

Church was good. Jay preached and when he spoke of Christians needing to grow up, he used a photoshopped picture of a cute baby sitting down with my head on top. It’s shown up from time to time and never fails to get a laugh. My love for babies is very well known because of my use of grandgirl pictures. This one of Elizabeth shows why!

After a good nap time, I took Sherry on the surprise adventure. We got in the car, headed west on Burnside to a destination unknown to her. As we got closer to the US Bank building, she suspected the Portland City Grill on the 30th floor of the building. That was right and good.

The view looking to the South and East was exquisite. Showers and sun were playing with each other. Patterns formed in the Willamette River between the I-5 and Hawthorne bridges. The tiny fruit fly on the window dropped by from time to time, serving as a QC inspector. He was quite satisfied. Peking Duck and Chinese buns were perfect both in preparation and connection to our love for Taiwan and anticipation of our upcoming trip to Shanghai. The salads (with chilled forks) and entree were set off by the hearts on the table and the welcome card signed by the restaurant staff. Even though we were quite satisfied, the celebratory dessert was outstanding, especially set off by the perfect coffee (one day Sherry will learn to like fine coffee!).

Midway through dinner, motion outside caught my attention. It was a large hawk swooping. As I watched he swirled around, up and down, beautiful in the bright afternoon. I pointed him out to Sherry, but he was behind and she couldn’t see him. After a bit, he responded to my request and flew right in front of the window so Sherry could join in the LORD’s wonderful exclamation point on an outstanding date day.

We tried to remember previous anniversaries. Our fifth was in our first year at seminary. We probably couldn’t even afford McDonalds! Our tenth was at Fuller but not memorable. Our fifteenth was a trip to the Oregon coast. Our twentieth was spent apart. I was teaching at Ecola Hall and Sherry was working. It was super special because Cyndee and Debbie arranged for 10 roses to be delivered to each of us! Twenty fifth was celebrated two years late with our Alaska trip. A highlight was the visit to Glacier Bay with many connections. Our thirtieth was therefore 2 years early with our trip to Israel. Our fortieth was nearly a week at Depoe Bay and the post is on this blog! I highly recommend multiplying anniversaries, especially with total trust and deep love.

Makiya continues about the same. I was teaching at our Sacramento site last week, so I haven’t been down to see her yet. I’ll update her status when I can.

I’m putting a journaling page on the blog (see it to the right). It will be some posts of just stuff so closer friends can know what I’m thinking and doing.

Enjoy Jesus!

Prayer Battles

IMG00158 I had the privilege of entering into a prayer battle this afternoon. At the suggestion of McKenzie Tompkins, I went to visit Makiya Van Buren and her parents, Dan and La Donna. Makiya was born with a large hole in her diaphragm so her stomach, intestines and such pushed into her chest, interfering with her heart and lungs. The doctors predicted death within an hour but the prophetic word LaDonna had been given that Makiya would be healed prevailed.

Makiya is now six months old. She’s in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Emanuel Children’s Hospital. Neither her lungs nor the blood vessels serving them have developed as they should. LaDonna has found that there are some powerful atheists on IMG00160 the medical staff who remind her that she has the right to pull Makiya’s ventilator and let her “go in peace.” But watching this beautiful little girl do pretty normal six month old things before she slid off to the peaceful sleep in this picture made fighting the prayer battle for healing and life a privilege.

Another of their children had six strokes in his upper brain also lead to a “he’s going to die or be a vegetable” prognosis. Prayers lead to him waking up fully alert and the life of a very normal, healthy boy. His brain is completely free of all marks of the strokes in his brain.

Join with me in praying for Makiya’s healing, for courage and peace for Dan and LaDonna. We talked about Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” They want His testimony to be powerful in the whole situation.

I thought of other prayer battles I’d been in, as I drove through the gorge headed for the CBNW meetings (see below). There was the fight with the spirit of death above the needles, praise prayers at Multnomah Falls, the deep cleansing prayers above Bonneville Dam with the children delighting in butterflies and tiny waterfalls. There were strong battles after The Passion of the Christ and the ones where the affirmations of what Abba did according to Colossians 2:13-15 lead to great victory. There were far too many to count, events of the soul too personal to recount here.

ntl_faceoff2_satan_090312_mn An up coming event is the ‘Nightline’ Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?. (link here). Deepak Chopra and Bishop Carlton Pearson will argue he does not. Mark Driscoll, my co-author, pastor of Mars Hill Church and Annie Lobert, founder of “Hookers for Jesus” will argue he does and that he’s impacted their lives. The debate will be Friday March 20. The “Nightline Face-Off” will be televised on Thursday, March 26, 2009, on and at 11:35 p.m. on “Nightline”.

I wonder if the devil will tune in?


sadnessSadness is because of a loss or separation. It’s a painful thing to lose someone or something that you care about. Sadness is associated with feelings of loss, loneliness, disappointment or especially with helplessness. It is the feeling when you’ve lost something important or when something bad happens to me or to someone else, something like illness or accident. There is nothing that can be done to restore the relationship or heal the wound.

When sad, people often become quiet, less energetic, and withdrawn. It can be a short term down or a persistent and intense lowered mood when the pain that brought the sadness doesn’t go away.

Sometimes it is hard to think straight because you cannot get your mind off your loss. Sometimes when your mood is sad, you just feel like being alone for a little while. Or you might want someone to comfort you or just keep you company while you go through the sad feeling.

Sadness is something that happens often in Bible. One example is Psalm 31:

9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. 

10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. 

11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends– those who see me on the street flee from me. 

12 I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 

13 For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life. 

14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

The best thing is sharing the innermost soul with my friend, with whom I can talk without editing. When that’s not possible, I may deal with sadness by puttering, doing very routine things, like washing the stove top or folding clothes. I may look at interestingness images on Sitting quietly with Sherry is always good. There is the walk to the top of Mt. Tabor or silent prayer. These have happened many times since the great sadness of two years ago and so many times before and since as I join in the suffering of hurting people.

When is the sadness going to end? Never, I think. Not so long as Jesus is in heaven and I am here. What happens until then? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

There is much comforting to do, but only as as comforted from the LORD.


Leading workshops at the Multnomah Mission Conference is a great experience I enjoy a lot. I have done several on themes around “what if I run into a demon?” It struck a chord because this year’s had about 160 participants! My Thursday session was on the theme “Does God want me to suffer?” I didn’t expect many to show since it’s a downer and also the last day has a lot less attendance. But 75 or so showed up and they were eager to wrestle.

The question comes from passages like this:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(Mar 8:34-35 NIV)

It surely seems that deny self and taking a cross would hurt! And losing life is an outcome. Many have taken this in a sort of masochistic way: I need to choose to suffer so God will know my devotion. That sort of thing is common in paganism, of course. Christians pick it up, too, particularly in Catholic circles with the emphasis on penitence. I know good people who deliberately choose unhappiness thinking that will please God, proving they love Him. I know I was raised that way. It’s still hard for me to do things that bring only me pleasure. Like buying a tin of Altoids was very difficult. Weird when I think back.

On another level, I hear godly people say they never say they don’t want to do something because they are sure God will make them do it. Margaret Clarkson’s “So Send I You” was deemed the greatest missionary song of the twentieth century. Verses one and four are:

So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaided, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
So send I you to toil for me alone.

So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long, and love where men revile you-
So send I you to love your life in Mine.

Kind of a bleak picture, but what is the “ideal” Christian life. I also remember that I was disappointed when I got to the mission field and discovered that while it was hard in a lot of ways, I’d never done anything that was more fulfilling!

As I think of suffering, my theologian brain finds it helpful to categorize. Not all suffering is the same. God does want some, but not all suffering

(1) illness. It seems that this is not what God wants for us. the only time we see God moving illness is in judgment on sin.

(2) sinned against: I just got an email from a student asking me to help her in response to being raped. Long story, but I have to say I can’t believe God wanted that for her. Sin is against God’s will, though not out of His control or something that derails His plan.

(3) Persecution: God doesn’t particularly want us to be persecuted, but He does want us to be faithful to Jesus and that may well get us persecuted. In the US, we don’t get much outright persecution for being a Christian (though Christians get it for being jerks!). We sometimes get snickered at, slandered and passed by because we must be bigots. 1 Peter, our next series at Grace, has a lot to say about people who were having a hard time staying faithful because they were suffering so much.

(4) Joining others in their suffering: This one is God’s will for us. He definitely wants us to be like Jesus, leaving our place of comfort to join others in their suffering. While people can get overboard on this, most are way under committed on this. I just preached the last message in our Isaiah series. self centered life of Judah is what makes God so angry.

So does God want us to suffer? In some ways, yes. What of Mark 8? Deny self? That’s what Isaiah was saying: the life that’s satisfied with personal spiritual growth is a life of sin. It will neither succeed nor lead to fulfillment. Take the Cross? That means identifying with Jesus. Revelation 12:11 puts it very well: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

I know in my own life, the greatest joy and greatest pain comes in joining with Jesus in the sufferings of people, especially the widow and orphan people Isaiah speaks of. They are the forgotten ones, the powerless ones, the ones Jesus lifted up. There’s lots of sadness there. But there is unparalleled delight when God moves and healing comes.

But I’ve learned the hard way: don’t go past the empowerment the LORD gives. Paul puts it this way: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
(2Co 1:3-4 NIV). I can comfort only with the comfort with which I’ve been comforted. If I go beyond that I only jangle.

So much to reflect on.