We Need More Strange and Dim

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Those words are from a beautiful hymn and if you haven’t heard it there is a short clip of the chorus embedded at the bottom of the page. You might wonder about a few things. Strange. And dim. Those aren’t typically positive things. Try asking your best friend or spouse if they could start being strangely dim for you. Some of them may be way ahead of the game or already there… others will just look at you weird.

The best way to explain why we want strange and dim in our earthly things can be described in a short camera tutorial.

Examine the picture at the top of this page. You might recognize Emmet from the Lego movie. Hi Emmet! Can I ask you to see what is behind him? I’m going to presume you can’t… even if I tell you. From left to right we have Chloe from Secret Life of Pets, A Camel from Prince of Egypt, the Ghostbuster’s car, Bob the minion, Teddy Pierce from Community and the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. How many did you get right? I’ll show you another picture in a moment.

That blurriness in the back that you can’t make out is called bokeh and most photographers will pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced BOH-kay. It is intentionally putting parts of an image out of focus using light and depth of field. You might start noticing that most pictures and even movies and TV use this effect because it makes the subject stand out. It separates items from the background and immediately draws the eyes in to what you want the viewer to look at.

To pull this off you have to do a few things that I will itemize below.

  1. You have to put the subject in focus.
  2. You have to open up the aperture to let in more light.
  3. You have to separate the subject from the background.

Briefly put, you have to put your focus on what matters. You can’t be a good image of Jesus if you aren’t even looking at Him. We must focus. If you have used a camera, you likely know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may have to zoom in and isolate the object you desire. You have to wait for lighting, move things around to get them in or out of view. Adjust settings, change positions, etc. You don’t just click a button and walk away. You may need to brace yourself against something to reduce arm shake, or get down on a knee to get the correct angle. Focus means taking time and really studying the subject.

We are taking an image. A likeness. The more time we spend on the subject, the more accurate the picture will be. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more reflective we will be of Him. We can’t just take a quick glance and claim Christ-likeness, its a lifelong process filled with blessings of pain and hope. And each step along the way we are perfecting our portrait of Him in our lives.

Opening up the aperture is widening the hole that lets light come in to hit the sensor. More light means a better picture and less grain. But as you do this it creates a depth of field. The more light you let in the easier it is to focus on what matters. The subject pops off the screen and looks incredibly sharp as it is contrasted against things that begin to blur away. The more depth of field you have, the more the focal point stands out. We need more light to look like Jesus. He is the light of the world and many of us turn out underexposed when we try and act like Him… without Him in our hearts.

If you need to, scroll back up and check out Emmet again. He is the only discernible thing on the page. The final way this happened is that I separated Him physically from the background items. If they all existed on the same focal plane (i.e. they were all side by side), there would be no way to visually differentiate them to create any depth. They would all be blurry, or they would all be sharp, but either way, no one would like the image. It would just be a jumble of items.

When we focus on Jesus, and separate Him from the garbage of this world, and let His light into our life… the stuff that doesn’t matter begins to blur. The junk disappears. The treasure in heaven becomes sharper, brighter, and closer and the things that will burn up with this world will darken into a distant background.

If what you want is Jesus, there isn’t room for the other stuff. We either take Him and only Him and we push back the lies and garbage that the enemy promises… or we buy the lies and enjoy the temporary treasures of this world. But look at what happens when you leave the camera in the same place and adjust the focus…

Now you can see the cool toys I lined up behind Emmet. But what happened to Him? Like I said, you can’t focus on both. If we make a grab for the strange and dim… we lose the Savior. Focusing on Jesus isn’t easy. But once we realize the things of this world are traps, garbage, and extremely temporary use-once kind of things… We can begin to see how its easy to find joy in seeing them fade out.

What are you focused on? What is keeping your eyes from locking in on Jesus? Why is it so hard to let go of addictions, pride, greed, lust, anger, and all of that trash? We hate it, we are ashamed of it… but we can’t seem to let it out of sight. Try focusing on the Master and letting His light in your life. And when things that seem important now start to slip away… let them! It’s the only way to get Him in clear view. That is when we can start to look like Him and draw others to the one we strive to imitate.

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I Wanna Be As Smart As a Rock

You have likely heard the expression, “Dumb as a rock”. I feel extra special because my coach in high school told me I was dumber than a box of rocks. It took many years, but I now know what that expression truly means. It can be found in the Bible… At least, this is how I’m defining it now.


I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:40

This was Jesus’ response to the pharisees who were telling him to quiet down His disciples. They were praising Jesus. ‘Stop them from praising Jesus!’ ‘no, if they don’t do it, the rocks will’. In other words… Jesus WILL be praised. The question remains as to who will be doing the praising?

I have a range of emotions when I visit this passage. First, I’m excited. I think of other scriptures that talk about mountains bowing down before the Lord and paths straightening, and trees singing. Wouldn’t these be sites to behold! (psalm 98, Nahum 1:5, Micah 1:4, Isaiah 55:12, 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:12, Matthew 3:9, Psalm 148:7, etc).

I don’t believe God created those things to be animated. But the fact remains that God did create those things and I believe that He can have them do whatever pleases Him. In short, it’s not beyond His ability to have the forest dancing if He chooses to.

So when I think in terms of God’s power and abilities, and all of His creation praising Him in unison… I get excited. But then I get very sad. Because if the rocks are singing praises, then it means someone else chose not to. Back to my high school coach… if he put in my backup, that meant I was sitting on the bench.

I would rather play. If I was on the sidelines, it means I messed up. I didn’t do my job. Not only was I not in the game, I was sulking in my poor performance and worrying over who all I let down. I think of Jesus on the cross and and how He knows who loves Him and thanks Him and praises Him for all that He did for us. And to think of someone choosing not to partake in such an event… It’s completely heartbreaking.

So when I think of the rocks clearing their throats and warming up their voices, I can’t help but wonder who would choose not to sing? Who would take themselves out of the game and sit on the bench on purpose? Was the cross not splintery enough? Was the beating not convincing? Were the miracles unimpressive? Was it too much love He showed? The healing, the forgiving, the resurrections… were these not our cup of tea?

Can you imagine a scenario where someone in this world saved your life? A real human made of flesh and blood performed a heroic action, and because of them you now live where you would have otherwise certainly died. Would you just walk away? Would you withhold a thank you or a hand shake? Upon seeing this person in your life, would you take a different path to avoid them?

I claim you would run to them and embrace them. They would have to ask you to stop hugging them. Some of us are so grateful, they may seek a restraining order 😉

Jesus will be praised. Either we will thank Him directly, or a box of rocks will take our place. Surely we are smarter than that? How embarrassing. Right there on the bench sits our backup. Our replacement. If we can’t muster up enough faith and courage to put God in His rightful place, God has crafted a stand in that will get the job done.


And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Matthew 3:9

How about right now? Can we remember what Jesus did for us in this moment? Can we say thank you? Can we open that mouth of ours and let nature take a break? Will you kneel before the throne? Or, will the gravel be taking your place?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

John 4:23

I know many will question whether the rocks will actually, physically, literally sing. First, I would say, if God tells them to, they will. I’m not willing to put God in His place by predicting how that will play out either way. But I will offer that it doesn’t change the message. Whether the rocks are simply witnessing a failed generation neglecting the Savior, or whether they will get an encore, the core of the message remains in tact. We were built to praise. We were given vocal chords and lips and tongues and rhythm and hearts and brains and freedom and salvation… If we don’t put all of those together and praise God, a great travesty has occurred.

Consistently in scripture nature points to God. The heavens, the skies, the seas, the creatures in the deeps, the stars… are we at least doing what the rocks are doing? I want to be constantly pointing to Him. Praising Him. I want to at least be as smart as a rock.


Photo by Oliver Paaske on Unsplash

Eating Meatballs With God

Last night my wife made meatballs. They were tasty! Our five year old boy was excited. “Meatballs!!!!!” he exclaimed. As she was portioning out the food to make sure we had enough for tomorrow, she mentioned he was getting 6 meatballs. His excitement turned to concern. “aw… I wanted 7”. He said it again when he heard no response. He was now sad. As he ate his food he kept mentioning how hungry he was and how desperately he needed more meatballs. (of course he was stuffed before he could finish what he was initially given).

If you have any experience with a 5 year old, you know the number does not matter. If she had promised 4 meatballs, he would have wanted 5. If she had mentioned 20, he would have needed 21. But what we can all relate to, even us seasoned adults, is that he did not enjoy his food while he ate because he was preoccupied with what he didn’t have.

Some of us are better about this than others, but I know many adults who still struggle with enjoying what they have and living in the moment. It’s this latter part that is more universal. Living in the moment. Forgetting the past and using the time given to you as you get it to make the most out of life.

We spend so much time idolizing or regretting the past and so much time worrying about or trying to expedite the future, we spend very few moments living in the present. The problem is that God doesn’t promise us an earthly future and He doesn’t care about our past. So the only thing we have that can connect us to God is the now. The moment we live in where we actually have the ability to be Christ-like (Christian).

We can’t connect to God through our past decisions, even the good ones. God doesn’t hold a grudge, He will accept us as we are, but He also doesn’t accept yesterday’s version of you. Our walk with Him isn’t a decision made in the past, its a constant, life changing, on going, daily, adventure where we live and breath while basking in the presence of our Savior.

We can’t connect to God through our future. It hasn’t happened. We can’t control it. We can’t make it happen quicker. The future is futility. Each moment passed is another future moment just out of reach. Tomorrow simply becomes tomorrow the next day. Even worse, Not only do we still have a tomorrow after tomorrow, but now we have another yesterday to pile on that we will likely regret or overly cherish.

So when do we enjoy life? When do we commune with our Lord? When are those moments that build up a fruitful and successful life? We miss them so often because they are so rare. Not rare in quantity but extraordinarily rare in our ability to choose them. They are the moments we have. The time that is given us. The present. The now.

We are given them every day. We have one right this minute. But when we fervently try to refuse the moment, it goes un-lived. Our nose is stuck in the rear view mirror while our foot has the gas peddle mashed in. We live only for the future while trying to change the past. We can’t serve two masters. We can’t live in two time frames at once.

This is not a new struggle. We have been cautioned to ‘stop and smell the roses’. But we have sped up. Stopping isn’t enough anymore. We need to get out of the car. Its the notion that we have control. We can back up and move forward at will and with great speed. And while we think we are having an effect while doing that, all we really accomplish is spinning the wheels over every useful moment until they become yet another regret in our mirrored past.

This might all make sense if our God who became man was still buried in a tomb. It would be fitting that people who seemingly worship the past would be the followers of an ancient god that once lived but now rests in a sealed crypt forever. We could ponder what he once was and how it could have been.

But since we are the followers of a risen King… a living God… our monument’s door is open and the insides are kept, clean, and EMPTY… so, past tense doesn’t really work for us. He wasn’t god… He is God. He is alive. And so our worship is to Him. It is with Him. Now. Today. Right now.

Our minds have become tombs of their own. Past conversations… what I should have said, what I would do if I had the chance, how I felt. They aren’t just full of regrets, but feelings, memories, expressions. One of the first things we need to do as we don the label of Christian, which means Christ-like… the first thing we need to do to resemble Jesus… is to blow the door off our own graves and let out the past.

Free it. Let it go. That isn’t us anymore. We can’t be the transformed person God wants us to be if we are clinging to the past. We can’t be renewed if we are prisoner to our mistakes and missed chances. Through Jesus, we have died to that life. When we climb out of that mausoleum, we are faced with the now. The moments that actually matter… the ones that contain that magical ability to live. To actually live free from regret and worry.

This is when we can grasp the Savior’s hand and walk with Him. And when we do that, there is no fear or worry, because our future becomes every waking moment, thoroughly enjoyed and gracefully lived to the fullest. This is where we can taste the meatballs and enjoy them in the moment. No taxes, no root canals, no bills, no traffic… just savory goodness.

Because this moment right here… it’s all we have… and it’s where God is. He isn’t in the worry over things not seen, and He isn’t found in the regret. He wants to eat meatballs with you, but we have to rise to our new life in this open, unclaimed moment and pick up the fork with thanksgiving.

We can all shovel food down our throats and effectively accomplish the task of eating. Each of us knows how to breath and we can turn oxygen to carbon dioxide with the best of them. But that doesn’t mean we are LIVING. The living God left his tomb behind. We are meant to join Him.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

When Will God Fix My Life?

One of the more difficult tasks I face as a Christian is to see the perfect and holy plan of God play out in a fallen world.

There are some great selling points in the Bible. Lining up behind God means I never have to fear again. God is my rock, my strength, my resting place. Rest! Oh, how I love the sound of rest. Peace is also promised along with never having to worry again.

Verse, chapter, and book, all line up to show the amazing, wonderful, and awesome life of a Christian. Sign me up twice!

Then I have a bad day at work. The car breaks down. The kid gets in trouble. My friends are all on sabbatical, I get sick, A loved one dies, moths have taken up residency in my wallet, and in this crowded world with so many people in my face I can hardly breath… I feel all alone.

Do you ever flip through the pages of your Bible like you just signed a bad agreement with a used car salesman? I have. This isn’t what I thought I had bought. Is there fine print in there? Where are the parts that talk about fun, freedom, and constant happiness? I could have sworn those were in there somewhere.

Part of my problem is my ability to selectively read. When its positive, I tend to take it as literal and immediate fact. But when the Bible mentions picking up my cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus… the one who stepped through torture, and death, I tend to feel like this part is more symbolic.

When the disciples faced fear while Jesus was in the boat with them… or when we are told that prophets are never accepted in their own home towns, or even when Jesus promises suffering and persecution… well I thought He meant that for everyone else.

When we look at Christianity as a fix to our problems we end up being sorely disappointed. It’s not a cure for sickness, nor immunity to pain or loneliness. God isn’t our genie and Jesus didn’t die to take away our pity parties. With Christ we still suffer and we will all die.

Jesus didn’t take away death, he defeated it. He took away its sting. He turned it upside down. Instead of death being the end, its now the beginning. Where it once was the defeat, its now the victory. Funerals have become celebrations.

When Jesus said, “it is finished” as He died on the cross, He created the ability for us to do the same. We get to bury our loved ones knowing they are in rest. They have now gone to a place where pain can’t get to them. After a life of loss they have passed into an eternity of gain. They will never be taxed, cheated, or mistreated ever again.

No more alarm clocks, no sickness, no barking dogs, no crying babies, no traffic… we retire from the pains and losses of this life. Jesus made this possible by going first. He heaped our sins on Himself and paid the price.

He didn’t sacrifice Himself to cure hangnails or stop cars from breaking down. He came to us to take the permanency away from death. His empty tomb is the real promise made. Yes, life is better with Jesus. Yes, God can and will do amazing things in this life… but we will still suffer. We are still human. We still live in a fallen world with a terrible enemy that wants to destroy everything.

The promise Jesus made is that one day, our grave will be empty too. And because Jesus paid that ultimate price for us, we get a choice. Do we want to spend our eternity on the other side of death with the one who causes pain, promotes sickness, breaks up families, destroys lives, and deceives… or do we embrace the man who meekly climbed on the cross?

The man who cured blindness, raised the dead, walked on water, prophesied the future, and exposed the true hearts of all He encountered… just calmly allowed human men to torture and execute Him. Why? I mean, really… why?

We have to grapple with that question and come to terms with our own understanding of why someone capable of commanding the weather and the seas would simply give up Himself. The answer I have come up with is that He loves me. He loves me so much, He wants me on His side of eternity. He loves me so much He doesn’t want me to be sick anymore. He doesn’t want me to lose loved ones. He can’t stand seeing me in poverty.

And His solution is Heaven. He is going to take us home. To the place where we belong. With death defeated, we will still die… but the grave becomes a cheap hotel on the way to an amusement park. It’s the temporary place holder until the amazing and indescribable happens.

So today, I’m going to stump my toe, deal with a headache, work a tiresome job, offend someone unintentionally and get offended. Soon, I’ll lose a loved one, get sick, and eventually die myself. And that is what I live for. I have a relationship with God that assures me that life begins with Jesus’ return.

Until then, there is an enemy who has everything to lose. More specifically, he has me to lose. He will lie, corrupt, and kill to get at me. But I love the one who loved me first. The man who gave it all to me… I will give to Him. He will call my name and I’ll run out of that grave.

But this choice we have… it isn’t made at the gates of heaven with one of the saints holding a list, like we see in so many cartoons. The choice is made while we still live. It’s the decisions we make in spite of the pain. It’s how we respond, how we act, and what we do with the minutes afforded to us.

If there was a really long line to get into a great club, would a complete stranger invite you to skip the line and stand with them? Would they give up their spot for some random person wandering by? No. But a friend might. I believe Jesus plans to vouch for His friends. He is going to mark our sins as “paid” when He recognizes those that chose Him in those darker moments of life. He has every incentive to because He chose us in His absolute darkest, most lonely, moment.


Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash