One of my favorite things to say about wine is:

“Don’t be intimidated, remember wine is just agriculture”

It is simply the process of harvesting, preparing and bottling up the fruit of a farmer’s hard work, the soil of a particular location grapes of a specific plant. There is nothing magical or mysterious about it… which is probably why it is so magical and mysterious… it seems so simple

But I guess I have to concede that wine also has an arcane poetry in this understated alchemy. The bottling of the earth in which the plant grew, and the wind and air that rustled through its vines, the water which rained or flowed to the roots to nourish and develop berries basking ‘neath the fire of a distant glowing sun.

But remember: don’t be intimidated.

And here I stumble upon the tension that I experience. I want the simple explanation; to reduce everything down to a manageable pocket-sized nugget. But my heart is often far more significantly emboldened when I get lost in the terrifying wonder and intricate magnitude of what God wove and fashioned with the deceptively simple, spring-loaded…

“Let there be light”

…don’t be intimidated

And so I sit with a glass of wine, staring deep into the redness, wondering at what is wrought within.

It is not just something to be consumed, but to be experienced.

So I sit. I still myself. I swirl the wine.

The light reflects and shines through the redness, the tidal waves contained with a hemisphere of glass; a sea of colorful and flavorful organic compounds dancing and playing. Amid the tannins, the flavinoids, the esters and sugars I am reminded… “This is my blood that was poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins… do this in remembrance of me.”

And in the stillness, I am confronted with the sobering truth: “Don’t be intimidated” is TERRIBLE counsel.

Because deeper than the agriculture, more mysterious than the alchemy, more beautiful than the refractive hue is the deeper truth, the fuller wonder and the realer realization. Within and without this glass, everything points to the beauty and terrible majesty of the body broken and blood split, to the good glory of God’s great gospel.

But, oh, how easy it is to overlook, and how quickly the cross is presented as a concept, a symbol, an icon; reduced to a manageable nugget. Because of this, I invite you to join me in observing lent starting on Wednesday. Lent? wait you were talking about wine, isn’t lent about depriving yourself? It isn’t about not eating chocolate, it is about being disciplined and approaching Easter with a desire to wonder. Join with me and take forty days to intentionally prepare, remove obstacles and to examine the cross in its fullness. (What is Lent?)

And the next time you pick up a glass of wine – be intimidated, it is much more than just agriculture.

Imagine… 200 miles…. 33 hours… 12 member team running through the Arizona desert for a cause! Well that’s the Ragnar Del Sol Relay that takes place on February 24-25, 2011. The Ragnar Del Sol Relay stretches from Wickenburg to Tempe, AZ. I am joining Arizona Youth Partnership’s twelve member team will be participating in the relay to keep resources available for under-served communities.

What is Ragnar?

The Ragnar Relay is a 200 mile relay race from Wickenburg to Tempe with 12 runners per team. It begins on Friday, February 24th in the morning and the ends on Saturday, February 25th in the afternoon. Each runner runs 3 legs of the race that range from 3.5 to 9 miles and vary in difficulty.

Why?

Together we are raising money for Arizona Youth Partnership’s (AzYP) Basic Center Program for Homeless youth in rural Arizona. Arizona is ranked 4th in the nation for families living in poverty. AzYP has recently taken steps to secure community support and funding for a Basic Center in Kingman, Arizona.  This program is designed to prevent homelessness by providing a temporary shelter for youth ages 12-18 who are in crisis.

How can you help?

One of the ways that I am helping with this is raising $500. Every tax deductible donation will go directly to support Arizona Youth Partnership’s Basic Center Program. Click here to go to my donation page. Also feel free to check out the goals of the Basic Center Program below and my “Runner Profile” for this years race.

The goals of the program are:

1) Provide emergency shelter and services to runaway and homeless youth (RHY) and their families.
2) Provide outreach, support services, and referrals to youth at-risk for runaway or homelessness.

Race Profile

Like Ragnar, fun is the name of the game… this profile reflects that.

  • Name: Michael Miller
  • Nickname: Mike… or Dash Rawhide: Zippy McChafkins as a Cowboy
  • Runner #: 3
  • Amount of miles: 22.4 miles
  • Race History: In 1482 BC the a cultural phenomenon began on the island of Fartlek, where teams of twelve domesticated chinchillas were raced as a way to determine if the local tribe of the Saucony would stay on the north or south side of the island.  What they feared the most was that they would anger the gods and usher in Ragnar-rok. Unbeknownst to them the local population of chinchillas didn’t enjoy running, but preferred sitting back and drinking daiquiris, and soon organized and moved to Key West. Having no way to determine what part of the island to live on, they decided the only option was to assemble teams of twelve to run around the full 210 mile circumference of the island and hope that would be enough to assuage the expectations of the island gods. What came from this tradition was the cultural race of Ragnar, which has been observed for the past 3,500 years. Betcha didn’t know.
  • Personal philosophy on running: Running with friends is far better than running with hungry lions.
  • What is your favorite running quote? To a runner, a side stitch is like a car alarm.  It signifies something is wrong, but you ignore it until it goes away.
  • Why are you running the Ragnar?  Because I love running, I love road trips and I love AZYP… I don’t know why I wouldn’t.
  • If you happen to drop your phone in a cattle guard, what is your strategy to get it out? Hire a chinchilla with the promise of a daiquiri to scamper down and grab it for me.
  • What is your greatest fear running Ragnar this year?  I don’t know if I have any… possibly that I will have to run in denim
  • How will you pass time between each of your runs?  Taking pictures, cheering on other runners and talking trash about how my van is better than the other van.
  • What is your training strategy?  I’m training for a marathon the month before, so after that my goal is to keep up the training and get as many “kills” and zombie “kills” as possible.
  • Imagine: You are running 8 miles uphill at 6am. You receive a picture text of a wonderful breakfast that runners from the other van are eating. What do you do?  Nothing, there are some people who can’t hang… I’m not so soft, and I have no problem running 8 miles uphill at 6am. Enjoy your breakfast, we’ll send you a picture of lunch .
  • Describe the feeling of finishing Ragnar. Have you ever seen the joy brought to a chinchilla if you buy them a daiquiri? Yeah it’s something like that.
  • At what mile will you regret signing up for this? Mile 42… but I wont have to run that far.
  • What do you like/dislike about running overnight?  Not seeing the ground dip away when you are running on dirt trails, but when you look like someone out of Tron, it is all worth it.
  • What’s your favorite post running food?  Roasted Chinchilla… okay, no … Anything that Kari makes.
  • What is your favorite Ragnar memory?  Hands down it was progression of Andrew laying on the ground and the lost/retrieval of the phone from the clutches of a cattle guard. If I had a close second, it would be cheering Gauri on during the last leg, I loved her adamant perseverance and the camaraderie of a team that was going to cheer through any pain.

Of the many things that I love, I derive a significant amount of joy in listening to music and finding new artists. Many of you who know me have probably experienced, and subsequently worried about me, as I “geek out” over a new discovery. Near to my appreciation of music, is my love of letting people know about new songs/artists/sounds I’ve stumbled upon. Every week I am going to be introducing a new (or new-to-me) song that I am currently enjoying… and try to convince you on why you should love it too.

About a month ago I was listening to Pandora and heard Gotye (“go-tee-yay“) perform “Someone That I Used To Know”, and was immediately surprised at how fresh and yet familiar the sound was. Reminiscent Phil Collins, the Police and Toto it is a modern re-boot of all of the sounds I love from the 80s. It is whimsical and reflective but with an a chorus that is livid and impassioned.

While the break-up song will always have a place in music, Gotye takes the convention past the angst-y one-sided lament that we see (e.g. Ain’t No Sunshine, With or Without You or the classic favorite Cry Me a River). Halfway through the song it shifts into a duet bringing the reality that is true with any break-up… the other person. It is a “formula” that I am amazed isn’t employed more often. It takes it from a song that I would honestly love anyway, to a solid favorite. It also reminds me that sometimes the best innovations are the most obvious in retrospect.

The rest of “Making Mirrors” is easy to let play again and again, despite how amazing all the songs are, “Someone That I Used to Know” is my favorite of the collection.

I am not the only person who has this opinion. The covers of this song abound. Have a listen, and check out the two covers included.

Taking an already amazing song and rearranging it so that it can be played by 5 people on one guitar (which I might like as much as the original), or sung a capella by a beat-boxing quintet is worth your time.

Trust me.

Someone That I Used to Know

Gotye

Someone That I Used to Know

Walk Off The Earth

Someone That I Used to Know

Pentatonix

Have a great day,

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to his way of loving.

excerpt from Thomas Carlisle’s “You Jonah”

The past six/seven months have been packed with transition and learning, and I haven’t had the will or wisdom to write. Today while sitting at a Starbucks praying through a project at church and what it looks like to have a heart for missions I realized that much of “Thoughts from a Runner” really could be summed up by the book of Jonah.

One particular similarity knocked the feet from underneath me this morning…

The past eight years as I have grown deeper in my walk with God. I am beginning to see that this growth has been a constant process of God calling me to live a life on mission, me fighting it and then, through His amazing grace inviting, and molding, and shaping me to have his heart for the people around me.

  • Ministry at the University of Arizona
  • On Mission in Kazahkstan
  • Reaching College Students in Australia
  • Helping lost people find their way back to God in Tucson
What does this have to do with Jonah?

Jonah is such an amazing book because we can see God still working to teach, to reach his thick-skulled missionary with the truth of who He is and His heart for the nations. That the entire book of Jonah is about God working on Jonah’s heart. What I realized this morning is that, like Jonah, I can many time miss the point of the storm, the sailors, the fish, Nineveh and most importantly a gourd tree.

A gourd tree?

When I got back from Australia I was blessed, due to no real effort on my part, with the comfort of an amazing community.

At the end of the book of Jonah, after everything God has done, Jonah still doesn’t get this call to live a life on mission. God uses one more approach – the miraculous tree (Jonah 4:5-11). A climbing gourd springs up quickly, and offers Jonah protection against the beating sun. The community that I was a part of was totally God given and such a blessing. What we see in the story, is that as quickly as the tree grew it withers and dies, the victim of an attacking worm.

Jonah is… annoyed.

At that point God again turns to his missionary-student, using the tree as a lesson. The creator of heaven and earth, the God of human history, of wind and waves, who spoke the universe into being, who just miraculously redeemed and restored the entire city of Nineveh to himself, tenderly asks Jonah, “Are you really so angry about the tree?”

Jonah in anger and frustration responds: “Yes, angry enough to die.”

God’s response to such bitterness is so beautiful. Despite everything that has happened up to this point, He is still calling Jonah to join him on mission, to “his way of loving”:

“You are sorry and concerned about the tree, though you had nothing to do with growing it, a plant which came up in a night and withered in a night. My heart and concern is for the great city of Nineveh, with its 120,000 who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”

While I wasn’t aware of it until today, I have been quietly discontented and annoyed with God causing the comfort that I experienced with this community to wither away. Despite this, over the past few months I have experienced a tender questioning: “Are you really so angry that I took that community away? What about the city around you?”

If I’m honest my response to God has been at times just as mature as Jonah’s.

By God’s grace, however, I am growing not only an awareness, but a deep heartfelt sorrow and concern for the 1,020,000 people in the Tucson area who “do not know their right hand from their left.” Beginning to sincerely yearn to proclaim the gospel students at the University of Arizona. To share hope and good news with broken families in the foothills and South Tucson alike. To show God’s grace and love to the thousands of international refugees who call the Old Pueblo home. To join with other Christians to come alongside the numerous military families who currently call Tucson… home.

As God works on my heart, I am growing to care more about the rescue and redemption of those in the mission field that God has called me to than I do my comfort.

It has been a hard lesson, and this thick-skulled man is grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace, humbled by God’s provision as He has provides fellowship and community, and most of all, in awe of God’s tireless and tender call for me to join his missionary heart – to live a life focused and dedicated to “Helping lost people find their way back to God.”

Canberry Sauce from a can… a can of red bull. I doubt I will be drinking much red bull over this holiday, but I am thankful to its marketing department.

I love my church. I love the leaders I am blessed to serve with. I love the community and what God is doing through all of us.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been incredibly busy and I haven’t had made the time necessary to get back to writing. That being said I have been learning so much and I am excited to share it with you soon.

Today I wanted to post a video that gets at the heart of where we are headed as a church. We have been praying through our vision of “Helping people find their way back to God” and we are starting into the next chapter on that journey.  Take a look at the video, and then if you can join us this Thursday, August 25th at 6:30pm to hear more about where we are headed (childcare is provided). Check out www.tucsonrevolution.com for more info.

Oh, Have I Messed Up

Posted: 07/15/2011 in Personal Walk, Worship
Tags: , ,

Over the past week I have been studying through Psalm 51 preparing for a sermon this weekend. I have been aware of this Psalm and been able to recite a good portion of it for years, but this week it has been cutting to deep places in my heart.

I have looked at repentance and thought about forgiveness in a way that glorifies me far more than it glorifies the wondrous cross. I have spent the past week looking deep in my heart and I live out and advertise the “pretty places” the easily admirable. Now I know that I am seen as fully righteous, not out of my own merit, but becuase what was fully accomplished by Jesus… but I spend my time trying to prove to God and to others that I was a “good and worthy investment”.

So, today at work, over more coffee than I would like to admit, I have been praying through what Paul wrote to Timothy as he was encouraging him toward leadership:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

 1 Timothy 1:12-15 (ESV)

This might be a strange connection to Psalm 51, but it is where God has been taking me. I look at what Paul says and the statement “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” seems like it would be a perfect and ideal appeal to authority. Of course Timothy should take him seriously… but then Paul messes it all up, becuase of what he says next… “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”

WHAT?!?! Paul what are you doing? And then I realized he is standing in the mercy of the cross and saying “I don’t deserve this!… please know that. This is about grace. Its about the cross. Its all about God and HIS great, glorious, Gospel.

And returning to Psalm 51, sitting with the Holy Spirit, I see David, a murdering, lying adulterer talk through so much, pleading for God to do a restorative work and then he gets to:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.

David is not content to be forgiven, clean, elect, to have a right spirit, by… I am blown away, because David, a man after God’s own heart, is not content UNTIL… his brokenness… heals others.

I look at my sin and I have wrestled with: “My sin, my past it disqualifies me from being used” or “I’ve got to be totally triumphant until I have a witness.” Often my prayer is for God to erase those things so I may never have to talk, or think about them again.

But David (and Paul) have passed through such horrors, and their plea is… if you could remind me of my salvation, you could use this so that sinners would know and glorify God. To put it another way it is as if David in this Psalm is praying:

“God, I know I have messed up. Oh, have I messed up. I have killed, and raped and my baby is dead… God, would you cause people to come to Christ… through my messed up, broken life.”

And here is my prayer: God, help me to be consumed with the scandalous beauty of the cross, to sing loudly of your great glory and profess with boldness and brokenhearted joy the awesome redemptive work you have done in my life.