I know that I haven't posted since May 3rd.  I also know that I spend way too much time apoligizing for not writing more on this blog.  My goal this year was to post at least once per week, but once May hit, I found myself nearly speechless.

Early this month, Erin and I got to go on a date with two good friends of ours.  We took the day and went to Atlantic Station in the city to see the Bodies exhibit and take Erin to California Pizza Kitchen.  We also took the opportunity to walk through Ikea and John and I tried out all the chairs.

The Bodies exhibit was really amazing - if you're ever near it, I'd recommend it.  Having grown up with a mom who is a nurse and other family members in the medical field, then becoming a pastor who frequently visits church members at the hospital, I feel like I've learned a good bit about the human body.  I've always found our systems facinating and a good insight into the character of God. 

If you've never heard of the Bodies exhibit, their website explains it this way:
This Exhibition--which features actual human specimens--allows people of all ages access to sights and knowledge normally reserved only for medical professionals. Take the opportunity to peer inside yourself, to better understand how your elaborate and fascinating body works, and how you can become a more informed participant in your own health care.
The first room you enter begins by displaying our skeletal system.  The plaques and posters on the walls give bits of information on everything you see.  The next area shows off the muscles of the body.  Then the nerves and brain, the veins and arteries, the heart, the reproductive system, and so on.  They actually found a way to remove the nerves from a human body intact.  Likewise with our blood vessels. 

As we walked through, I couldn't help but think how magnificently and intricately God has created us.  The way that our organs all work together and the capacity of each to do its job is unfathomable.  In the midst of so much science, it was undeniable that our phisiology is no cosmic accident, but the work of a Supreme Craftsman.

Then I was reminded that, though we are beautiful and a tribute to God's love, we are not perfect.  Just three days later (a day after my last post), on May 4th, I watched a 36-year-old husband and father of two lose his fight against metastatic malignant melanoma.  For a year and a half, I witnessed his efforts to go through medical trial after medical trial, then chemo, and finally heavy doses of narcotics, all to try to fend off this unconquerable foe.  Jason's form of melanoma is considered incurable so far.  Some people have recovered from it, I know one of them, but those occurrances have never been able to be explained by doctors or researchers - they were true miracles. 

Early on May 4th, I went to see Jason at one of our local hospice centers.  They had stopped all treatments and the goal was for hospice to treat his breathing for a few days and send him home with 24-7 hospice care.  The end wasn't supposed to come that soon, and even at that point, we expected to still have a few more days, if not weeks, with Jason.  It wasn't so.  In just hours, he went downhill quickly and we witnessed him breathing his last just before four in the morning.

I've been asked by more people than I care to remember just how God could let this happen.  Why do such horrible things happen to people, especially those still in the prime of life?  Having wanted to shake my own fist toward the heavens, I needed to ask that question for myself.  I knew the answer as firmly as I know that 2+2=4, but grief is rarely that rational and explanations aren't always the best consolation.

The fact of the matter is that though our bodies are works of art, molded by the Potter, and set into motion with incredible internal timing, our bodies are still imperfect.  They fail, they slow down, they stumble, the fall, they fall apart, and eventually, they all die.  We are succeptible to cancer, viruses, and cholesterol.  None of that means that God loves us any less.  In fact, because of that, we are able to see God's love more clearly.

You see, God isn't even the cause of these things.  No, he didn't need one more angel in heaven.  Jason's work certainly wasn't done here.  It wasn't the wrath of God and God didn't have other plans for Jason.  His time wasn't up.

These things are a part of the reality we live in.  To blame God is to deny that his heart was broken too.  I believe that the God of love who created each of us with such grace is not a smiter or afflictor.  I think we do enough of that to ourselves.

So where was God in all of this?  He was by the side of Jason Capes.  Every step of the way, though none of us could feel what Jason was feeling, God could.  Though no one else could find the right words to say, God knew Jason's heart.  God doesn't cause bad things to happen to us, but because God is who he is, we never have to endure those things alone.

Now, God is walking beside Jason's wife, son, daughter, parents, sister, and everyone else that mourns his death.  We are not alone and we have certainly not been forsaken.


Book Review: Radical

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
I'm really diggin' the chance to preview books before their release date.  A new book coming out this week is Radical by David Platt.  The subtitle says alot about the book - "Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream".  It's a conversation that has come up many times in recent years simply because many of our churches have trouble distinguishing between the two.  Somewhere along the way we decided that a Patriotic American must be a Christian and that a Christian must be a Patriotic American.  To be critical of the American Dream at all disqualifies you to be a true follower of Christ in some circles.  Platt gets us back to differentiating between the two so we can seek a vibrant, deep faith that is true to the message of Christ and sometimes contradictory to our American ethic.

It's an excellent, and much-needed message for many in the American church today.  I realized this last summer when, on Independence Day weekend, the congregation weakly joined together for a well-known hymn, but joined in an sang aloud when one of our members sang "God Bless America" for the offertory.  It's clear that many Christians need to refocus on Christ.  Being an American is great and I know we are people of great privilege and opportunity, but Christ is more.  This is a fact that has evaded the preaching and the devotion of our churches for many years now.

Listen to David tell you about his book:

I thought it was a good book.  Well written with stories to illustrate every point.  The first chapter caught my attention and pulled me right into the book.  I really can't expect anything less from a pastor that has achieved as much as he has. 

The book makes really good points and like any good sermon it comes with a response at the end - an invitation if you will.  David invites his readers to join in what he calls The Radical Expirament - "a one year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring" (back cover).  There is a companion booklet and a small group study to go with it and I believe that if this takes hold and people will actually follow-through with this message and commit to doing something truly radical in their own lives for their faith, the world will be impacted in deep ways.  I hope and pray that it does.

Radical is on point when it comes to understanding that Jesus never promised to make things easy for us or that there would be a non-chalant avenue for us to have a meaningful relationship with Him.  It pushes you to think about the true message of Jesus - one that calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, even to Golgotha. 

The book is well-written, but a little slow in spots.  The chapters are short and good for reading in spurts.  The first chapter, as I mentioned before, will pull you in.  Some chapters make their thesis very clearly at the beginning, followed by several pages of stories that reiterate the point over and over again.  I found myself reading some chapters to get the point and moving on to the next.  This book is definitely worth reading, but don't let yourself get bogged down in his efforts to drive the point home. 

Waterbrook Multnomah has free copies of The Radical Question - Platt's supplement to the main book - for anyone who wants it (as long as supplies last).  You can get that and read the first chapter HERE.

*This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Get your copy at the link on the right or HERE.