Happy Clean Imagination

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has seen God and lived to talk about it. Yet I know plenty of people who perceive God in other individuals and simultaneously embody what it looks like to live and love like Jesus.

Being able to recognize the power of a life set apart and yielded to the Spirit of God, in a measure, is the experience of seeing God. But how does catching that glimpse affect or change us? Or another question I’ve been thinking about: how does my heart become or perhaps stay pure?

I’ve narrowly missed preaching on mercy 2 times this year, and this week I will be preaching on the pure in heart, and I’m not certain why I agreed.

If I were to judge myself, which the Epistles suggest, might be a total waste of my time, I would not describe myself as particularly pure.

Like if purity had a spectrum: from ages to 0-14 I’d rate myself a 9, from ages 14-18, I’d rate myself a 4, from 18-22 I’d rate myself a 7 1/2, from ages 23-27 I’d rate myself a 3. From ages 27-32 I’d fall on any given day between a 5-9.

I offer you this perhaps as a condemnation of myself, but also as an absurd example of how I sometimes and many people probably define purity. Because here is the deal, if I told you just a speck of poop mixed into your bottle of water, you would not drink it (unless perhaps if the money was right) but you wouldn’t drink it with glee, and you certainly wouldn’t call it pure. It could be Fiji water or purified through osmosis, but once the fecies hits the water it is no longer potable.

And this in part is the reason I feel inept at preaching on purity of heart. I know my dark, my motives, my thoughts, my desires and no amount of desire to be completely blameless seems to keep me pure.

Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t, maybe I just finally need to take myself up on the suggestion of cognitive behavioral therapy and I will be decidedly fixed.

But I can talk about something I do know and have experienced: cleansing.

Psalm 51:2 Wash me clean of my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

51:6 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 19:12 “Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.”

If it were not for the tangible experience of forgiveness cleansing and the means in which the Spirit employs to convict me and hopefully mold my heart I’d be without hope.

Which is why I think being pure in heart comes with the implication that I will continue to take a bath. I will eagerly subject myself to perpetual pruning, purging, purification, no matter how painful.

I will, in the light, be confronted with the areas and motives I have concealed or manipulated in order to serve myself alone. I will mourn over behavior and repent of thoughts before they even lead to poor conduct. I submit to consequence and wounds on my reputation as ownership of my brokenness while equally holding steafast to forgiveneess upon confession.

And in the positive vain, I set my mind on things above. I think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is rightwhatever is purewhatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever I have learned or received or heard, or seen in Christ and those who follow Him– I put it into practice. (Phil. 4:8)

And as I think about those things, and anything else, I put it to the light to see if its real and enduring and loving and if it is not I must do the work to discard it. I do not tolerate the sin in my own life before I claim to have any authority or power to speak into someone else’s.

There is a difference between sharing your struggle, story or victory and trying to use said struggle, story or victory to bring healing to someone else.

But hopefully until then, we allow our heart (the seat of our intentions, imaginations and affections) be continually cleansed by the Truth and reality of a relationship with a good God who offered His Son’s blood. Imagine that.

Young Camel Knees

It was Eugene Peterson, who in the introduction to his Message translation of the book of James that taught me the nickname for the apostle James, the brother of Jesus, was “Old Camel Knees.” The nickname, which I think cute, was given to him because the amount of time he spent in prayer. The theory being that he so often prayed on his knees, repenting and asking forgiveness on behalf of others that he developed calluses.


As cute as the nickname is, it is also radical. It speaks to devotion and reverence to the Lord. It speaks of the holy gripping he felt when it came to injustice and the lostness of those around him. With the nickname, I also imagine at some point he had difficulty getting up. But maybe that image is not true.

I have to get surgery on my knee; I’ve never had surgery, never been sedated; at the same time I’ve never walked with a limp literally speaking for this long (only 3 weeks). Metaphorically speaking, I suppose someone could make a case that I’ve limped for longer, but let’s not, because I’m looking to keep a happy baseline in this season.

My prognosis is quite long, but to disgust you I will describe it: In my knee, I have a leaky cyst, arthritis, bone spurs, a bucket tear in my meniscus and a several-year-old ruptured ACL that has likely shriveled like a wilted flower stem beneath my patella. It makes sense that my prognosis was that long to coincide with the extraordinary loud MRI.

During MRI’s they play the sounds you would hear coming out of a power station during a nuclear fallout so that no matter what, your prognosis is not as bad as it seems (just an FYI in case you were looking for a fun thing to do on your next personal day off from work).

I say all this because it is surprising the things you can still do when you have tears and ruptures in an area that enables you to walk. I have found I am way more aware and honoring towards my left leg which I rely on much more for balance, though I previously looked down on it for not being able to kick as strongly. (I think my left leg only ever scored one goal in soccer during recreational regulation which is the only arena in which records without an agenda are kept)

When a part of the body is weak or hurt or limping along and is crying out angrily and in pain because it wants protection and wholeness, the other parts of the body will compensate, shoulder the burden because it When a part of the body is weak or hurt or limping along and is crying out angrily and in pain because it wants protection and wholeness, the other parts of the body will compensate, shoulder the burden because it recognizes the pain of the other parts. It recognizes that there is a rupture. Yet the ruptured part also can show great resolve and resilience in the face of wounding. Despite that resilience and resolve, additional woundings to the same area can then highlight the problem and prior wounds and may require desperate measures in order to be addressed and attended to. The wound needs help, needs repair. The wound looks to surgery, experts, physicians, leaders in the field to restore, at least to an equal position, but hopefully to a better place than can be remembered. No one expects things to get worse when they ask for help.

Which leads me to a prophetic word for myself and one for the Church and maybe one for you:

For me Hebrews 12:12, no 12:10b-13:

but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

In my season, I need my knee strengthened. I have been in a season of discipline and have been in Hebrews a lot over the last 9 months. I kept getting sent back to this passage even prior to my knee injury, but now it feels real. I felt like I had some fresh perspective and renewed excitement in walking in a direction for my life. In that same moment, coexisting with my movement, my knee failed me. I can walk but with a limp, and in the midst, God is calling me to live according to Proverbs 4:20-27 (read it I’m not copying and pasting).

The gist of that passage is obey the Lord, guard your heart, consider the path you’re on and heading, and be steadfast in that direction. Don’t be swayed from the call of obedience. I want to do that; I need help to do that in the natural and spiritual realm.

Then the prophetic word for the Church: is echoed in Hebrews 12 in the phrase strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. It hearkens back and echoes a passage in Isaiah 35 which follows Isaiah 34 which is a prophetic utterance regarding judgment on every nation. What follows in Isaiah 35, which always follows a pronouncement of judgment, is a promise of mercy, the promise of justice, and a promise of restoration.

Isaiah 35:3-7 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind, and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where the jackals once lived.

God is beginning to strengthen parts of the body, strengthening the hands of those who might heal, and He’s bringing stability the knees of those standing the gap in intercession with Christ. God is interested in protest along with prayer and prophecy.

God is interested in strengthening and stabilizing those who are His and saving those who are not. With anything else, He is interested in shaking anything that stands against His glory. He will shake it whether it is inside or outside the Church. Racism and disunity is shook; health, wealth, and prosperous ease is shook, comfort and pleasure is shook. God Himself, not shook. God is first and foremost interested in His creation, His people moving towards and returning to Him, who has all power in the midst of the shaking.

And after His people partner in restoration and the healing work He has planned, then it manifests blessedness. The other benefits of the Kingdom are added, when what is preeminent is relationship and partnership with the person of Christ, the King of the Kingdom.

When God’s people have weak hands and knees, He doesn’t expect His people to stay down, He’s confident they will get up.

My Friend Joseph

I have often thought that I have the best friends anyone can ask for. The quality and quantity of genuine friendships I have could keep a person full. And I have often desired to write a blog post about each one of my friends in a way that would highlight and honor them.

Today, it felt appropriate to write about my friend Joe. First some interesting facts:

  • I met Joe in Middle School gym class (met is a loose term because I am not quite sure we had more than a few passing words).
  • The next time I saw Joe was at Capital Assembly of God in Hamilton, New Jersey, on a Sunday morning in the summer of 2007. When I approached him, I am not sure he remembered me at all from Middle School.
  • A little over a year ago Joe moved into his first apartment
  • Joe has texted me everyday since the beginning of the pandemic to ask me if I am okay, except for a brief period where his phone needed to be fixed in which he appologized for not being able to check in.
  • Joe also texts me on most every holiday and every daylight savings change over and any time we are in a heat wave to make sure I stay hydrated. And every time he has received an attendance award at work. And every time he goes to an event that has to do with comic books, and most vacations he sends me pictures half of which are selfies.
  • In 2007 and 2008, I invited Joe to a few events (one event, either an an open mic night or Christmas Party, he said was the best night of his life) at the church I grew up in, Nassau Christian center in Princeton, since about that time he has taken a bus from Trenton to Princeton to continue attending there, though I have not attended since 2011.

These facts give some context for my favorite story about Joe, a story I cherish and offer you to cherish as well in order to convey the depths of friendship, solidarity, and in general what human beings are capable of.

In the summer/fall of 2008, Joe sent me an email asking if he could attend my college graduation in 2010 (yes, you read that right, 2 years in advance) which was in Virginia because “he had never attended a college graduation and would not be going to college himself.” I responded kindly and briefly, “Yes, Joe. I’d love to have you at my graduation.”

Truth be told I laughed and figured he would forget but I am a sucker for sentiment so it touched me that he asked. A year and half later after minimal interactions because the summer of 2009 I spent in Russia, Joe began to make preparations and reached out again seeing if he could still come to my graduation.

I offered to arrange transportation, but he said his dad would be driving him the 5 hours to come. He would arrive the Friday night before, but did not give me a time. When May rolled around, Joe showed up a little before dinner the day before my graduation. He came to Texas Roadhouse with my dad and my dad’s then fiance now wife Lorraine. I don’t remember what Joe ordered but I do remember about halfway through his meal, he took a 5 minute break to read a comic book he brought with him to the restaurant. It made me smile.

After dinner, we went back to my apartment where many of my friends had gathered just to hang out and laugh. Some of my friends wanted to get ice cream; I oddly enough was tired and didn’t want to go so Joe went with my friends. They came back within the hour and Joe suggested we watch, I believe Cars on DVD, which I narrowly avoided by convincing him that we would not have time to watch it. He understood and we continued to hang until about midnight.

I think that was a bit late for Joe, so he let me know he was tired and I agreed since I had an early morning to graduate the next day. So I said goodbye to friends and we got ready for bed.

Now I admit I should have been a better host and offered my room, but I was in college and just assumed people would be comfortable crashing on couches. I offered the couch and Joe politely declined. I then asked, “would you like to sleep in my bed and use my room?”

No sooner had the words left my mouth, Joe was in my room and seemingly tapped out for the night. I slept on the couch and it made me smile.

The next day was the graduation rigmarole, and I took pictures with my friends. I think Joe was in every picture. After pictures we went back to my apartment to figure out lunch and get Joe packed up. My mom came with me into the apartment, and I had left my cap and gown in my room, where Joe had slept. My mom and I were sitting on the living room couch where we could see into my room and I saw Joe pick up my cap and look at it.

I turned to my mom and said, “10 bucks, Joe asks if he can have my cap.” She said through slight laughter, “No, he won’t ask that.” I replied, “I know Joe; if he asks I’m giving it to him.”

A few seconds later Joe walks out and says, “Hey Jimmy, do you think I can have this?” Looking over at my mom I smiled, then back at Joe, “Yeah Joe, you can have it.”

Joe’s father had stayed in a hotel and took Joe back to New Jersey after my graduation lunch. It was one of the kindest things someone had ever done for me.

Since 2010, I maybe have seen Joe 3 times. I remember trying to invite him to a Marvel movie a few years back but he declined because he only likes DC comics even though they make far worse movies.

Every time Joe would drive in my car, he would bring Cd’s. I remember one time listening to “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson on loop an entire car ride. I remember feeling giddy inside seeing how many times he would hit the back button. It helped that it’s a great song honestly.

I have never had a sad moment with Joe. Joe is the kind of person that not only is it better when he’s around, but he is also always encouraging. Joe is not wealthy, not priveleged and is unassuming and generous. Joe has great parents and a sister that I may have met once who lives in Missouri. And Joe is my friend.

From Left to Right: Victor, Derek, Me, JOE!!!!!

The only other picture I have of Joe, he’s in the background with the Mets hat and sunglasses. He loves the Mets!