on humility / advent week 3

Service goes against the grain of a society that runs on the clockwork of self-care. It’s countercultural, upstream, challenging the irony of a world that advertises altruism and plasters benevolence to billboards — but really, we’re bankrupt.

Sometimes my mind jumps to exception, but I’m halted by the question that comes in the every day.

I order coffee and the faint fuzz of a dollar bill grazes my hand. I drop it in the jar because tipping is what I do to be decent, because I’m always constructing my concept of self from a first-person narrative. I sit down and I’m thinking of all I need to do, my thoughts are a dripping stream of deadlines and desires, and the common denominator is me. 

What do I want? What do I need to get done? What do I think? 

Sitting in the early morning glow of a Christmas tree it hits me, halting, illuminatively – how simple His coming was.

He came so humbly, so impoverished. The promised King was called the Chosen Servant; God, fleshed-out and unflinching at the feebleness and filth of what He entered.

I think back to a coffee shop when my thoughts were circles of self, how much my own perspective consumes my horizon, how easily I fall into the self-righteousness even of wholesome thinking. And the irony hits me then with the weight and bitterness of the silty bottom-of-the-cup: the humility of Christ is what saved my life, yet most days I live in the enormity of His sacrifice with a scarcity of servanthood.

Christmas is the thing that puts all pretension to shame; Jesus, taking a heavenly bow into the dust and debris of our humanity. In the most miraculous inversion of all, High became low. 

The promise of the Chosen Servant comes full circle when Jesus said “…the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” 

The Son of Man turns earthly economy on it’s head and calls us to the pure purpose of His kingdom – 

It’s never about us, but only ever about Him. Any gospel that allows us to live in the comfort and idolatry of self is a false gospel. The Jesus way is the counter-culture way, where High became low to show us — the last will be first in the only Kingdom that lasts. To follow Him is to make much of Him, and I can’t carry my cross if I’m wearing my own crown.

Sitting in that Christmas tree glow, the bitter pill of conviction finds a chaser in the glorious grace of His presence. I know I’m His – and it makes my heart ache with the loveliest of longings – 

Jesus – soften my heart and teach me to be a servant after Yours. Empty me of the silty illusions of grandeur and strip me of the trappings of pretension. Take me, broken and humble and longing, and make me even more so – 

Isaiah 42, Matthew 20

on reflecting / advent week 2

Light is the beginning, the first thing He spoke into existence, breathing life into dawning. Light is the life-bringer, the necessary ingredient, the thing we most need but are entirely without on our own. 

Light’s the thing we’re always chasing.

Year after year, the darkness is deafening. We’re inundated by news, inoculated with narratives that claim to elucidate but only push us further into the dark. Even roller-coaster years that seem to take the cake for disaster are just speedbumps along the spectrum of time, because we’ve always been light-starved. Bob Dylan sang that the times are changing, and there’s something to be said for a catchy chorus but there’s more to be said for the constant, common thread of our condition.

We’re running hard after something, anything, that will save us from the shadows creeping in. We’re sprinting until our lungs are burning because we rejected the Light that first gave them breath and we’re gasping, grasping. We’re searching for a social program, thinking ourselves enlightened, applying a theoretical framework that attempts to explain and reform the shadows.

But we don’t need reforming — we need redeeming. We don’t need enlightenment — we need illumination. Want to talk about irony? Light’s the thing we’re always chasing, yet the thing we’re always running from. 

“Let there be light” was the first thing God said, and those words trickle down through ages, pooling in a promise that Light would dawn. And the promise came full circle in the temple when Jesus spoke it himself — “I am the Light of the world…”

We’re lost in the dark until Light breathes us alive – and then He calls us to reflect Him. 

I realize how quickly I forget His call, how quickly I become a self-mirror, how easily the stuff of earth consumes me. In order to be filled to reflecting with Light, I must first let Him empty me, just like He breathed life into emptiness in the beginning. 

Christmas is the dawning of Light that slays the shadows and makes the darkness tremble — Jesus, bursting through the darkness. And my heart is bursting with the longing to make known the Light I’ve found.

When you’re really filled with Light, reflecting is a reflex. 

Jesus, Light of the World – fill me to reflecting. 

on abiding / advent week 1

2020 was the year of a pandemic, and “unprecedented” was the catchphrase. It’s been repeated so many times I wonder if we’ve forgotten what it means. Really, when it comes to pandemic there’s nothing new under the sun. Since the dawn of time, we’ve been plagued with a pandemic of pride that promotes the myth that we can fix things and tells us we deserve better. 

But we can’t fix anything and the only thing we deserve is death — and history says it better than I can. For millennia, Israel waited for the promise of deliverance in the Righteous Branch, and we’re inhabiting a parallel of desperation — we’re plagued, unfaithful, undeserving.

But God did something unprecedented.

At Christmas, undeserving met unprecedented, because God came to dwell with us, unmerited Grace cosmically colliding with rebellion and sin. He came, not theoretically or as an abstract theological idea, but tangibly — the Branch we can grab a hold of, the Branch that reaches for us and initiates our rescue, the Branch that saves, the Branch we can hang all our hope on.

It’s not a quaint colloquialism to stick in your pocket or stitch on a pillow; it’s a rubber-meets-road truth, and I know this because I’ve experienced it. 

In moments when disappointment has poked and prodded me into deep despairing, I’ve found a deeper hope in the Branch. In storms that have threatened to undo my resolve and every ounce of trembling composure, I’ve found anchor in the Branch. In a season tangled with bitter hurt, I crawled along the Branch in desperate dependence, and He led me into open pastures and bound up my wounds. In the daily weakness of my flesh, I must grab hold of the Branch that gives me strength to walk in the Spirit.

I need Him – desperately, constantly.

The promise of the Righteous Branch came full circle at a supper table when Jesus said “I am the true Vine…”  and I’m amazed at His fulfilling every detail of every prophecy and every promise. He provides, He nourishes, He sustains; I know He is the true Vine because the very life inside me attests to it. The only way to abundant, eternal, fulfilling life is in communion with the Vine. 

At Christmas, undeserving met unprecedented and our depravity met deliverance in Jesus, the Righteous Branch, the true Vine.

The Branch that reaches out to save is is the Vine that invites us to abide with Him, and I grab hold of His salvation and I accept His invitation. Daily I’m learning to abide and daily I’m drinking of the abundance in dependence.

Isaiah 11; John 15

firsts: part 1

The first time I understood what meek meant was at my uncle’s funeral. The preacher speaking was a deep-drawling southern man–I remember his voice as thick as the air, hot and humid Oklahoma atmosphere.

Previously I had an idea of meek, constructed from snatches and bits of conversations and books and sermons. I’d adopted a meaning from the scattered pieces of other’s thought and experience. Meek: quiet, humble, and submissive.

But I listened to the pastor describe my uncle and to sum up a character profile he said it: “Heath was a meek man.” And all of a sudden I didn’t have a definition–I had a person in mind. My understanding was no longer based on a piecemeal definition but on a real-life representation. It didn’t matter whether I knew exactly what meek meant because I knew someone who was meek.

I understand what meek means because I knew someone who understood their position before God. I know that meekness isn’t frailty, it’s fear of God; it isn’t docility as much as it is simple dependence. I know all this because I know someone.

Sometimes I still wonder with the ache of a family full of mourners, years later–why the meek missionary was taken in his prime. But I know the meek missionary knows heaven now and I know the blessing remains, fresh out of the mouth of Christ–

“Blessed are the meek…”


The first time I went to Chick-Fil-A I was an eleven-year-old Washingtonian ignorant of the fast-food mogul of the South–so much so that all I ordered was a Coke. I was later asked incredulously why I didn’t at least order an iced tea.

It was October in Dallas, which corresponds to an unreasonably warm Seattle July. I was eleven and life loomed, unpredictable and frightening to me. That was the year of health crisis that wore the family fabric down, thin and tired. I felt it, as a eleven year old trying to make sense of life with a self-imposed firstborn posture of maturity.

It was the summer of succumbing–when we all watched my three-year-old sister continually succumb to infection that spiraled out of control and sent her hooked up to IV and the rest of us gathered around the hospital bed. Time after time, no warning.

That was the year that my mom just lived at the hospital sometimes, with my baby sister who had any adult I knew beat for pain tolerance. That was the year I spent my birthday with a visitor’s badge in a hospital room and eleven smelled like latex gloves and hand sanitizer.

I was an anxious mess that year, my mind continually reeling with ‘what if’s?’ and fears that were retrospectively irrational. I was obsessive, compelled to feel safe and okay and it kept me up til 3am most nights. The chaos made me crave control and I felt so small and scared.

My first Chick-Fil-A experience was with a friend as good as family. He was my parents’ friend but he felt like my friend, too–so much so that at I asked him to baptize me when I was eight. It was October in Dallas a few years later and he asked if he could take me to Chick-Fil-A. Milestones.

I don’t remember much about our conversation but I remember him telling me I had nothing to fear. I remember his open Bible and his earnestness and the words of Jesus spoken to my anxious heart. I’ll always remember my first time at Chick-Fil-A and I didn’t even order an iced tea.



It’s been a head-spinning year, when reading the news feels like a courtroom hearing–all of us desperate for a verdict but dreading the sentence. Almost every week this year, I’ve felt like I truly can’t keep up with it all. Making sense of current events and sorting through sources in an attempt to simply be educated is a mind-numbing task. 

The hope for progress is proving increasingly obsolete, because reality spits in the face of improvement. The world isn’t getting any better. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt breakable–like a news story could send me over the edge, like the thought of a child in poverty could lead me to launch a massive relief effort (been there, done that). I’ve never been able to shake reality of a world so weighed down with tragedy and suffering. 

This week, I’ve found myself wishing I could shut it all off. If there can’t be a reset can there at least be a pause?

But there isn’t, and there won’t be. So I’m writing this–because I need to vomit some thoughts, because I need to cry with words, because I want to talk about the One and Only Thing that’s good. 

As much as I would like to shut it all off, I can’t–but more importantly, I shouldn’t. Following Jesus cannot coexist with sheltering myself from the reality of a hurting world. Following Jesus also means that my entire life must be oriented to sharing the gospel. If I’m dismissing reality or shutting out suffering, I’m doing it wrong. If my empathy and efforts aren’t ultimately purposed to bring people to Jesus, I’m doing it wrong. 

The gospels are a character sketch of a God who engages with suffering. Jesus ministered to people who were hurting. Jesus ministered to people who were treated unjustly. Jesus changed the narrative for people who felt unseen because He saw and He cared and He made sure they knew it. But Jesus’ ministry is better than a suffering solidarity program.

He came to seek and save the lost.

broken glass on wooden surface

We’re a world that has long despaired for justice and equality in a man-eat-man climate of rights and fights. We’re a fractured system because we’re a system that rejected God. We grieve our own reality and wonder how a good God can really exist, and we forget that the reality of our suffering is the result of rejecting a good God. Make no mistake–there is no indifference in the character of God. More than just, He is the definition of just. He didn’t stumble across the virtue and jump on the tag-along-train. Justice exists because God does. 

I know this–His heart is grieved at injustice. His heart is grieved at murder. His heart is grieved at the hatred of creation, pitted against creation. His heart is grieved at senseless violence. His heart is grieved at the slaughter of the unborn that has destroyed generations. His heart is grieved at the reality of a world lost without Him. His heart is grieved at the slackness of the church to obey His command to go and tell. 

I read the news and I feel breakable. But I can’t shut it off or shut it out. I’ll engage with suffering, and I’ll let it fuel my passion to make Jesus known. 

In a world drowning at the intersection of information and ignorance, in a world that is hungry for justice and longing for peace, in a world that is on the precipice of perishing into a Christ-less eternity–I’m taking hold of that One and Only Thing that’s good. I’m clinging to His Word. His Word says to put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace as shoes for our feet. And I can’t help but take that as an invitation to step into it. 

Don’t shut out the suffering. Don’t dismiss it. Step into it, and step with your gospel foot forward. 

Don’t step in sync with society’s shallow attempts to eradicate the symptoms of a fractured system. Step with the readiness of the gospel, which meets broken people in their suffering and sin and shame, bringing true Solution to the root problem of a fallen world. 

In a world so pained with desperation–I want to be breakable. As the Body of Christ, invited to His table to break bread and partake of His salvation–we must be breakable. We must have hearts that are easily broken, spirits that are easily moved, feet that are ready. If we’re crucified with Christ, we live with Him, and if we live with Him we’re called to live like Him–and to live like Him is to live easily broken, humbly, consumed with the mission of God and fixed on eternity. 

Keep me breakable, Lord —

the piano man + the melting pot

rosalind graf

I’m perpetually preoccupied with the idea that art and culture are a melting pot–inseparably intertwined. There’s a cyclic co-dependence, when experience inspires art and art influences experience, and the cycle pulls us in, Records and Rembrandts alike. Culture fuels art and art feeds culture and it’s transcendent in retrospection and magic in the moment.

The true magicians are the ones who steward this cycle well, who express themselves authentically in a way that enables audience introspection. They create art that embodies the purpose of connecting us to ourselves and then to the world; retrospectively, reactively, responsively. Thanks to artists like these, we can trace ourselves through history and we can see the threads composed of culture, composing culture. We understand more, and we feel more understood.

The trouble with being a walking throwback (yours truly) is that one’s music champions are on a decline, fading into oblivion or actually dying…

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holy week reflections: Resurrection Sunday

I imagine how that morning must have come
with jolting relief —
after two day’s agony and shell-shocked numbness.
And after two thousand years of living in the wake of that Sunday l realize I could use more shock.
The wonder of the resurrection cannot be overestimated.
Sunday shows us Jesus, the God.
Kings have come and servants have served and men have died, but only God could reverse death.
Sunday we see Jesus as the complete culmination of every claim: the Perfect Atonement, the Victorious King, the Living God.
Sunday holds the climax of existence
because the empty tomb confronts you and me and everyone,
because the risen Christ demands a response.
Jesus is God. Every theory that argues otherwise is as futile as the stone that tried to hold Him in.
He lives, now and forever, reigning and ruling and redeeming.
That Sunday, the jolting relief turned to joyful rapture —
and millennia later we’re still caught up in awe and worshipful wonder.
Hallelujah, the Lamb has overcome.

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holy week reflections: Good Friday

The more I know God the less it makes sense—that He would assume flesh and take up the common thread that binds us all—death.

It doesn’t make sense because the more I know Him the more I know His perfection and magnitude —
and the older I get the more I know my own depravity. 

Earthly wisdom balks at the paradox of the cross.
Because it doesn’t make sense,
because it really is the foolishness of God that saves those who believe.
Jesus’ humanity reached climactic clarity at His crucifixion; God in flesh, bleeding out the blood that makes us flesh.
Any doubt of Jesus’ humanity drowns in the blood that pours from the cross.
It renders the myth of a distant God obsolete,
because Friday we see Him inhabiting the fullness of our condition —unimaginable pain and anguish. 
It doesn’t make sense —
stranded in the abyss of sin that broke our communion with the Father —
and Jesus comes to bridge the broken gap with a broken body. His body is the bridge that makes us right with God.
It’s only Jesus.
And I see Him bleeding out and my heart pours out gratitude for the foolishness of God —
the power of salvation for everyone who looks to the cross.

holy week reflections: Thursday

It’s upstream from the cultural tide—this union of kingship and servanthood.
Jesus was the miracle-worker;
people hung on His every word in pregnant silence.
And I imagine a split-second of the same silence that night in the upper room,
when the God Who rolled up His sleeves at the dawn of time, setting the universe in motion —
rolled up his sleeves to wash dusty feet, sparking a revolution that turns all earthly economy on it’s head.

Splendor, stooping — challenges my thinking. It makes me wonder why we trust our own ideas of greatness, our narratives of success or our scripted laws of the universe.
It makes me wonder why I still make such idols of my own desires, plans, and ego.
It brings me to my knees, this Holy humility, and with shame I realize how often I shirk from rolling up my own sleeves.

Thursday, the eve of the most hellish day in history, and Jesus washed feet.
He calls us to communion with Him and invites us to abide.
Thursday shows me that fully abiding means adopting His posture —  stooped in service, emptied of self.

Mark 10:45 ; Philippians 2:5-7

water of life
Photo by Samad Deldar on Pexels.com

holy week reflections: Palm Sunday

I can smell the dust the day Jesus arrived—

Simply & without grandeur
Yet heralded by hosts—human & heavenly
We’re in between two comings yet so often too content to prepare. Complacency is catching.
Eagerness is eternal, because I know that after I’ve been with Him a thousand years, my heart will still be eager for the sound of His voice
& I’ll still rejoice at His touch.
In the now & not yet
I hope to prepare the way well—
To lay everything I have before Him,
To make everything I have an offering fit for a King.
They laid palms on a Sunday
& two millennia later I hold out palms, proclaiming praise & pleading for a swift return.
The King is coming!