The Lazarus Effect [SSL 310]

Jesus uses a shocking and hilarious hyperbole “a camel going through the opening of a needle” to speak of how absurd it is to think that the rich can be a part of what God is up to. His students are dumbfounded. The camel is the biggest animal they know about, but the opening of a needle? How tiny.

We might say, it’s easier to play golf by using a boulder for a golfball or it’s easier to climb a greased pole the size of the Empire State building with no arms and legs.

This means It is patently absurd to think that the rich will catch on to what God is doing and join in.

Yet, we also know that some wealthy people were part of the Kingdom of God in the Bible and some were as early Christians. Something is different about those people that is rare and inspired and few of us will catch on for ourselves. Enjoy the episode and pass it along.

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Eps 181: The Way Up is Down; Guest, Marlena Graves

My conversation today is with Marlena Graves about her book “The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself”. (Like me, Marlena is originally from Puerto Rico and grew up in Pennsylvania. Her Spanish is way better though.) She’s a professor, an activist, has worked in ministry, and authored a number of books. Now working on her PhD. at Bowling Green University in Ohio.  Stop by the extras page to get all the show notes and links HERE: 😃. ( | Episode 181)

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HOW Confession Heals

hearseesayOne aspect of the pre-Easter season (Lent) is confession…

Well, not really. The majority of Evangelicals avoid or ignore the command to confess and even the concept of confession. One great excuse is that we don’t have to be like Catholics who have to answer to a priest for our sins and then do penance. We don’t need a mediator between us and God. How empowering!

But, ignoring or avoiding confession also gives us a chance to hide in our sin and deceive ourselves and others…hum…not so empowering! That’s like putting our soul in jail.

True and thorough Healing and transformation come in and from the context of community.

Jame 5:16
International Standard Version (©2012)
Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But –Why would confessing heal us?

There is a kind of cleansing that happens in confession. That’s why it’s not optional. It’s not just a purge from our end either.

Revealing ourselves to others has transformative power. Thousands of 12 Step followers will tell you countless tales of life-altering transformation that came through this route.

Simply put–God purposefully makes healing real and possible when authenticity happens with others. It will not happen on our own. This is by design because it makes us healthier to be connected in such a way.

There are no AA groups with 1 member because that would ensure failure. Healing works the same way for all us in that regard. Isolation keeps us stuck and unwell. Blind.

The Holy Spirit uses our honesty and uses our transparency and does his good work. Transformation! A confession is not just an apology (“Hey, sorry I made you feel that way.”) but rather it’s a careful decision to be authentic, to expose one’s self to the light of truth, to change, and to take a new course. So it is blessed.

This is the power and efficacy of prayer and repentance.


In the next post I’ll cover who we should or could confess to…

Do you think it matters who we confess to? (leave me a comment or voicemail)

Do you confess your sins and shortcomings regularly? (leave me a comment or voicemail. Yes or no and why or why not.)

 It’s easy to forget to visit this blog, because you’re busy. I know how that is. I update with new content about 3 times per week. You can get the new stuff sent to you AND you can use my content as well. So, click in the side bar for new content delivery and please check out the Permission Policy page for the rules for fair usage. Thanks for spending some time here today. :)


LASTLY- Is there anything you should confess? You are invited to do that here, or simply admit to confessing to some other human here (if you want to confess in another venue).

photo image found here:

Sin and Riptide?

escape riptide daigramI love this handy-dandy safety chart on riptide. As you swim inland a rip current will prevent you from coming to shore. It will pull you under and drag you out to sea. Even in shallow water a strong swimmer can drown in rip current, so get wise to the wicked water and read it!

In the start of a new series leading up to Easter, my pastor (Jeff Byerly) began on Sunday talking about Recovery. Using themes from the 12 step program (and the Celebrate Recovery organization) he mentioned that even though we don’t all suffer the torments of pronounced addictions, the path to healing remains the same. This is one of the benefits of a support group like Celebrate Recovery. It functions like a life guarding outpost when the rip current is subtly strong.

Whether we tend to get into co-dependent relationships, spend time looking at pornography, succumb to retail therapy (shopping), fixate on eating too little (or feel the compulsion to eat too much) our compulsions and hang ups read like a similar story, a human story. A normal story.

The most piercing portion of the talk came when Jeff referenced some thoughts from C.S. Lewis…here I’m paraphrasing from Jeff’s paraphrase…but it goes something like…

–Bad people really don’t know that much about their badness— (maybe some of you Lewis fans can point me to the exact reference)

In sinning (which is the normal but deadly stuff of life), we go along with things as they come. We don’t distinguish much as we do mostly what we please. It’s only when we resist, try to consistently do what is right and good and when we try to go against the opposing and fierce force within and without that we run into a kind of riptide trying to pulling us under and kill us. Goodness then is a right mirror showing what still needs work in us. It reflects an ugly picture we don’t care to look at.

Paul really fleshes this out in Romans….What a great devotional read this makes. (Go on and click here for that)

So, it is in doing right where we come against the reflecting pool that shows us how bad are really are. Simply because we have terrible failures. We hit a snag. The contrast our need of rescue. Without the challenge of doing what we know is right, we never really assess the weight and scope of our sinful ways. But, my, how unpopular this concept is. Off-putting and out of vague. Time for a few reassuring pats on the back… But try to be unwaveringly good for a while, and we see how true it is.

And how you’ve ever noticed how self-satisfied people are? It’s probably because they aren’t making much of an effort at consistently doing what is right. They haven’t been humbled by failure. They’ve rarely seen felt this opposing monster for themselves because the room is too dark.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way too at times, “Well, I’m not so bad. I’m certain not as bad as most people.” Trust me, the day will not pass before this thought is likely to cross my mind as well.


It’s that kind of subtle self-dellusion that can thwart our willingness to be a part of the ongoing sanctification of  the Holy Spirit. He works us over and makes us over. It’s that mauling process, if you will, that does the hard work. So, Jesus said, “Only the sick need a doctor.” He was of course talking to sick people at the time, only they didn’t think of themselves that way. There’s nothing more hopeless than that.

If we ever went a whole week noticing and noting all the strays from what we know is right and good and set about to only do right…WATCH OUT. The proof of our weaknesses, problems, and short-comings will pop up like an angry bee sting.


Fatigued then, in a fight to do what’s right, sometimes we realize it is in he surrender to our powerlessness that we find rescue. It’s counter-intuitive as much as swimming out to sea is when you’re almost drowning. But it works. This is part of the powerful of observing a season of Lent.

The great relief from sin and that sort of deadly riptide comes from repentance and forgiveness. This theme is never more potent than when we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday. More on this sort of thing in posts to come. Please click for updates (right sidebar)


Have you felt this kind of riptide?

(You can leave me a voice message with your thoughts, if you’d like. Click the voicemail tab on the right)

rip current image found here:

Discernment Series: Defining “Consolation” and “Desolation”

This is the 2nd week of the Discernment Series.

This time it’ll be good to know about the terms Consolation and Desolation as described by Ignatius of Loyola in his work Spiritual Exercises.

BUT FIRST…some of you who know me know I’m not a Catholic. I’ve been trained at a decidedly Evangelical Seminary, called…not-so-creatively “Evangelical Seminary“. So why am I going on about a 500 year old book from a counter-reformation Catholic?

In short, because your soul will be blessed.

Because the tensions from that time (1491-1556 CE) aren’t here in force now so we can learn some very useful things that align with basic Christian theology. The major hostilities at the time made listening to what God was saying “on the opposing side” quite difficult. (Things were hostile to the point of murder on both sides, no less….how Jesus of them?!ugh.) So, from the point of my tradition, Protestants rejected both grimy bath water and baby.

In general, Catholics rejected what they considered a heretical and a rebellious front to the unquestionable authority of the Church, and didn’t see what was coming from Reformers as helpful or biblical ideas for doing church differently. (It took about 500 years at Vatican II to incorporate many of those needed Reformation era ideas, but a surprising number of them went through and were accepted. Masses conducted in a language understood by the people listening being just one of them. Then, it takes 50 years or so, so I’m told by Catholics, to see them flesh out at the parish (local church) level.)

SO Now-
We’re at a point (I’m generalizing here) where we don’t have to fear reading other streams of Christianity from that time. No one will be tied to a stake and torched, not literally anyway. I think we’re okay accepting that God has much truth to impart from devoted believers with various backgrounds, and this willingness to hear can aid our spiritual growth.

Ignatius was convicted and motivated to “find God in all things”.
I like that about him. This is the way we live incarnational lives. This is how our worldview and our true selves get put right by the love and dominion of our Savior and Creator, and his Son, the enfleshed God, Jesus Christ. While I find some of the ideas, concepts, doctrine, and long-ago language of Ignatius foreign to me, I don’t let it unsettle me. Instead, I let the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and guide me while I read. I pray with the ideas and ask for guidance. I admit I have a lot to learn. I leave some things behind and take in what is transformative and what will make me more like Jesus, the Christ.

Not every but of it will help me or you, but enough will that I bother to write about it and include those outside of my tradition and experience in my blog to open our eyes to some great advice and sage wisdom for understanding how to discern God’s will in transformative ways.

So now for “consolation” and “desolation”

Ignatian teaching has it that these are two terms that help us decipher what is from God, and what is not. At first blush, we may assume that consolation is “happy…yeah God…feelings” and so forth. Desolated might be unhappy ones. But, hang on while we dig a little deeper.

For Ignatius, Consolation is a word to describe interior stirrings that are aroused in the soul that has been inflamed with love for God as Creator and Lord, and too every creature made by the Creator. It’s marked in every increase in faith, hope, love, and interior joy that bring a filling of peace and quiet. A drawing closer to God. A soul in consolation may weep too at the recognition and repentance of sins, and also the relief of the abiding grace of God. A godly grief may be a Consolation, though a difficult patch to get through. Most importantly Consolation is a gift. We don’t arrive there by techniques or things we do. God graces us with consolation.

Desolation is indeed the opposite of consolation, but note how Ignatius writes about it,

“I call desolation what is entirely the opposite (of  consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love.  [In desolation] the soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.”

Desolation then is all the stuff that stirs our souls and draw us away from God, regardless of the subjective feelings. Some in desolation will not recognize it as that. They will be oblivious. And plenty more will not associate what feelings they have with interior stirrings of the soul. Maybe they’ll blame the government, the economy, circumstances, or other things instead.

So, now that you know which is which, listen and tune in to your interior stirrings. Consolation and Desolation are not mere feelings. They have to do with a conflation of responses and influences that are the movings at the soul level (our core).

Note when you are in consolation. Note when you sense desolation. Get a feel for the movements and workings of God. Begin to distinguish them from the ungodly ones that come from the Enemy or the ungodly parts of yourself.

Next time I’ll talk about the uses and aims of both consolation and desolation in God’s work on us.

To read the (English) PDF of Ignatian’s “Spiritual Exercises” click here.

(Don’t miss the next installation of the series. Use the sidebar to get the next update.)