A Life Well Lived May 8, 2013Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Christian, Dallas Willard, death, formation, Jesus, life, spiritual, spirituality
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After announcing a quiet and private battle with cancer just earlier this week, it was announced today that philosopher-theologian Dallas Willard passed away today at 77. Having heard Dallas a few times in my own studies of Christian spiritual formation, I’m appreciative to have rubbed shoulders with one who is so humble regarding his impact on the lives of so many and who has so fervently longed for each of us to walk hand in hand with Jesus as Savior.
Yesterday, Willard’s son-in-law Bill Heatley posted on Facebook an excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy:
“Those who live in reliance upon the word and person of Jesus, and know by experience the reality of his kingdom, are always better off ’dead,’ from the personal point of view … we live in the knowledge that, as Paul elsewhere says, ’Jesus the Anointed has abolished death and has, through the gospel, made life and immortality obvious.’ (2 Tim 1:10).”
Today, Willard brings this quote to life and does so wholeheartedly. May we, too, long to be better off dead.
I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you March 28, 2013Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Anaheim, Christianity, community, daddy, Disneyland, Easter, fatherhood, Jesus, Jewish, Mickey Mouse, parenthood, Passover, Peter Pan
We just came home from our church’s Passover Seder. Wow–what a treat to celebrate the Passover meal this evening with our friends and church family, the same meal that has been celebrated now for many millenia to usher in the Holy Week!
A few weeks ago, Ellie and I were off to Disneyland for a quick morning trip in the park. As passholders, it’s a privilege to go to the park for just a quick trip and then back out before naptime. We set off for Fantasyland, that part of the Magic Kingdom where height restrictions don’t exist and where we can easily find a ride or two for my little two-year-old. During our last few visits, the Peter Pan ride had either been closed for repairs, had an extremely long line, or as it was one time we waited, the ride malfunctioned just as we were about to get on it.
This ride is one of my favorites. You’re in a suspended-from-the-ceiling pirate ship that appears to be floating, just as in the movie, allowing you to see the sights below—a miniature London complete with Big Ben, Neverland and a few scenes from Barrie’s story Peter and Wendy.
Needless to say, I was excited to share this ride with my baby girl when we visited. And so we waited. As I explained what we would see on the ride, I could see my own excitement and desire in sharing these things with her, in passing on the fun of what awaited us. There was a fleeting thought of Jesus’ words to His disciples at the Passover meal celebrated tonight: “I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22). I have greatly desired to share with you, this. And this is the picture I had as I waited for the line to go forward, thinking thoughts of “Dear one, it’s almost here. This ride that I’ve wanted us to go on for some time now.” So it was similarly for Jesus with His disciples.
Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says that these words of Jesus best translate as “with desire I have desired.” He writes that it is as if “our Lord’s meaning seems to be, that, having purposed to redeem a lost world by his blood, he ardently longed for the time in which he was to offer himself up. Such love did the holy Jesus bear to the human race.”
And so as we love and yearn and desire great things for others, may we have this perspective in mind. As we enter this Easter season, may we remember that our Lord Jesus willingly—no, longingly—went to the Cross so that He could convey to us something we couldn’t have otherwise. That is a “wonderful thought” that would lift anyone off the ground.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Calm Trust in the Midst of Uncertainty
January 23, 2013
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As I look to the future, we have some question marks on the horizon related to a new chapter that awaits us down the road. It could mean moving, saying goodbye to what we’ve counted on for the past several years. It could simply be a temporary relocation to the other side of town. In any case, the mere fact that there are questions marks looming is enough to raise some levels of panic in my psyche.
And it’s here that I notice an inner need to begin to control. To try to bring some stability to the swirling question marks of my current reality. If you were to talk with some of those around me recently, you might find them saying I’m a bit more irritable as of late. Whoops! When you and I don’t have some ability of groundedness, I’m amazed at what can happen as our grasping for some small semblance of normalcy begins to unravel. Granted, some of this desire is required– we need to know what we can count and we need to know what not to count on. I need to be able to count on family around me and knowing friends are with me through thick and thin. But any time we’re given these questions, it’s difficult. It’s a hard place to be.
This was the reality of the people of Israel as they waited for exile. They knew from prophets that it would happen. They just didn’t know when or how. And so it was here that Isaiah reminded them that “the Lord would be their rear guard,” and the same is for your and me today as well. As we encounter whatever awaits near those imposing question marks of life, He is there in the midst of it.
And so, this brings about a desire to wait for Him To wait. And to trust. Even though this trust is not full of calm. No. Calm implies a lack of excitement or disturbance. And the mere fact that these question marks exist brings this about—what fun things could await us even with the tentativeness of the current situation? No, calm it definitely isn’t. But in remembering that the Lord has gone before us, just as Jesus went to Galilee ahead of His disciples, I can look for His presence today. I can seek Him out and not fear. And so I trust, clinging to the Cross of Christ.
Merry Christmas! December 25, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: celebration, Christmas, fun, incarnation, Jesus, merry, Once in David's Royal City
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As each of us celebrates the birth of the Christ Child today with family and friends, I want to wish you a merry Christmas! I’m so grateful that this newborn Jesus, who was to become our Savior-King, sympathizes with us as well. Nineteenth-century musician Cecil Alexander said it this way in his song Once in David’s Royal City:
For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
Jesus is not simply God come to earth, but He came wrapped in our own humble flesh, making His arrival like no other birth beforehand or afterward. In this Christmas season, I pray that you remember the wonder, joy and hope that Jesus brings, made all the more amazing because of His incarnation—His ability to compassionately recognize our struggles, feeling and sharing in the human condition. And may this knowledge bring you great joy and confidence in the year ahead. Peace to you and yours!
And the Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulders: A Blog for Advent December 13, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Advent, Christianity, Christmas, congress, doomsday, Fiscal cliff, hope, Isaiah, Jesus, life, mayan
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In recent weeks, conversation in our home has included words and phrases like “second term,” “fiscal cliff” and “unrepresented.” And as we’ve entered this time of Advent, it’s been wonderful to focus on something more stable and less unsound than the raising of a debt ceiling, party lines that are supposed to be crossed instead of bickered over, and that uneasy feeling inside that Washington and Sacramento just don’t nor probably can figure it out.
Lest I make my first politically motivated blogpost on Enjoying the Surface, let me share with you this past Sunday’s church service, where the familiar passage in Isaiah 9 was read. This is the prophet’s passage about the Messiah that would one day come to Israel and save it from evil attacks and raise up a new era of hope and restoration where “the government shall be upon His shoulders.”
What a minute. . . . Did that passage say “the government?” Referring to those same ones that can’t ever seem to figure it out in their own wisdom (my southern friends would say insert a “bless their hearts” here)? “Shall be upon His shoulders”? What did Isaiah mean here? Would the coming-soon Messiah be a political leader that would finally end Israel’s political restlessness and restore it to what had been under King David, and then some? Whoever this Messiah was to be, they were to be radically different than anything Israel, or the nations of the day—or the nations of our day—had ever seen.
There is new life in these words. Words of hope. Of longing. Of a desire for settledness within. Of a conviction that the desire for wholeness that each of us hold so dear was to be brought to Israel by that long-awaited Messiah.
I find as well that these words of Isaiah are also words of caution—caution about not looking to my fellow man to fix the issues of the day. For Isaiah, the words were a call to a recently liberated people to not look to their surroundings for their long-term hope. For us some millennia later, the message is the same. One’s fellow man cannot provide any sense of security for the long-haul. Rather, that security can only come from the One for Whom this Advent is all about.
And this is what is so amazing about Advent, about that first Coming of the Messiah. For that long-term security and hope is found in that helpless Babe born in a manger. So profound and paradoxical of a birth—the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that one night, says the Christmas carol. Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the “Light of the World” and it is in Him whom we can find a hope that doesn’t go away. May each of us seek Him in this season.
Look, Dad! The plane! The plane! November 29, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: anxiety, Christianity, fatherhood, fundraising, God, KLM, mission trips, planespotting, provision, Romania, Trust
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The year was 1978. The location was a mysterious island in the Pacific where visitors came to live out all sorts of fantasies at a sort of hotel. The proprietor of this hotel was a Mr. Roarke, whose assistant, Tattoo, would shout, “The plane! The plane!” upon the arrival of these guests by air. And it was here that the episode began. Visitors began to live out things they had only dreamed of—reconnecting with lost friendships, finding large hidden treasures, discovering new parts of themselves they had never realized, and the like.
Fast forward twenty-two years. The year was 2000 and I was in southern California studying at a private Christian university. My summer plans involved a mission trip to Romania and our team of eleven needed our last bit to purchase plane tickets, yet another chunk to cover our costs in-country. As a college student, I’d seen God’s provision before—tuition payments were a regular opportunity for Him to show that He was truly the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. But this trip was important (didn’t He know that?) and an airfare purchase to Europe for roughly a dozen of us was a bit larger of a purchase than this kid had seen, or made, before. Our travel agent had found us a great deal, lower than we had budgeted for, on KLM, that wonderful Dutch airline with its Smurf-blue planes. Tickets were purchased. Sure enough, that daily Smurf-blue flight was easily spotted from the skies of my school, which happened to be right under the LAX landing path. As we prepared for our trip, the appearance of KLM Flight 601 into Los Angeles was a regular reminder of God’s provision, the fact that I was under His care and that worry was not needed as I lived in His plan.
Fast forward to 2012. This week actually. Living in the same area still, that Smurf-blue flight still makes itself known on a daily basis. And I happen to see it just when I need it most—at a time when I begin to once more doubt God’s goodness, His presence in my life, His protection over me and my family. Then, out of the blue (pun unintended), there it comes. And it’s a reminder just the same as it was before—that God is present, that He is with me, and that He is calling me to things I’ve never dreamed of. For many of the last few years, the appearance of that flight comes just when it’s needed. So, as I wondered this week about what lay ahead for my family as we approach the holidays, property tax bills, a fiscal cliff and the like, I hear my baby girl say to me, “A plane!” as we’re by the window. Could it be? Sure enough, I look up and it’s my Smurf-blue reminder of the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God, from His care for His children and from the knowledge that I am His.
Now, the fun begins in translating this to my little one, of God’s provision for us, and how He reminds us of it in the most inconspicuous of ways.
Somebody Once Believed Jesus Had a Wife (Repost) September 19, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Christianity, Jesus, papyrus fragments, religion
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The problem with today’s headline story is not the discovery of an ancient document that suggests that someone once believed that Jesus had a wife. There were many false and unbiblical teachings in ancient times, just as there are today. The problem is the media can very easily make a minor story into something sensational that appears to threaten historic Christianity. (read more).
The issue here deals with timing of these papyrus fragments. Todd outlines this in greater detail.
Dancing Mice and a Heroic Pursuit September 11, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: acceptance, being known, Christianity, Cinderella, daughter, Disney, Jesus, love story, parenting
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A dream is a wish your heart makes, or so it’s been said. Because no matter how your heart is dreaming, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true. Such are the words that have flowed through my home in song in weeks past. Most of you will quickly pick up on the fact that these are lyrics to one of the songs in Disney’s Cinderella.
Yes. We have entered a new era of parenting—the love of Disney videos on the part of my daughter. And while it’s fun to show her classics like this story about the housemaid-and-stepdaughter who lives in a high tower and still remains perpetually cheerful, in some ways we’re not doing much of anything other than helping open those preexisting places in her of hope and of longing. Hope and longing for something bigger than herself, of adventure and of intimacy.
And while my daughter would not be able to articulate these principles as stated above, it is very evident that she has come prewired for that longing. Remove those singing mice that can do wonders with a sewing needle and you have something far greater. As Brent Curtis and John Eldredge said it, in “these two desires of adventure and intimacy come together in us all as a longing to be in a relationship of heroic proportions.” You have a story that all of us desire—epic gestures of pursuit, passion, and ultimately being known and accepted.
This story echoes an even greater Story, the story of One who transcends time and space to care and redeem for those He loves. Thanks be to God that we have the opportunity to be a part of His Story.
Tags: Christian, everyday lessons, Father's Day, Fiji, Jesus, lost dog, prodigal son, spiritual growth, terrier
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This morning, as I woke up to make coffee and start the day, I noticed a small white blur outside the front window. “What was that?” I wondered. A small tuft of white went by again and I saw a dog walking by. No leash. No owner following it. As the dog walked by, it looked lost. Somehow it had escaped from its yard and was wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood.
Having my own dog, I knew that I’d want someone to retrieve him if he ever got out, so I made my way outside and called the dog over. It was a white male terrier of sorts, and a quick look at his dog tag told me his name was Fiji. Thankfully, Fiji had a responsible owner and there was a phone number. Phone in hand, I dialed the number on Fiji’s tag and told the lady at the other end that I had her dog. It was 6:30am, too early in my opinion to disturb anyone, but this was Fiji! This was important.
After a few rings, someone finally answered and Fiji’s owner had had no clue that he had escaped during the night. I gave the woman my address and she immediately made her way to my home—a good half-mile according to Google Maps—and Fiji quickly claimed his dogmother. Both dog and woman were thankful. Off they went in the dogmother’s car. All in all, about a 20-minute encounter. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about this morning.
Since that time this morning, I’ve thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 15 where He gives us the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. The lost sheep, found by the shepherd who left the other 99 and called his friends and neighbors together to rejoice upon its being found. The lost coin, found by the woman who sought it out by sweeping the house and searching the nooks and crannies of her floor, who upon finding it called her friends and neighbors to rejoice upon its being found. The lost son, forlorn and ashamed of his actions, found by a heartbroken and miserable father who could finally rest since his son was finally under his roof. A tired and wiser son could also finally rest since he was finally safe under his father’s roof.
Two-thousand years since Jesus’ stories above, today’s run-in with Fiji echoes this joy. It is but a small taste of the joy that is found not only by us as we press into the Lord, but the joy He has as we do. And not just our joy, but that of His community as well. Luke 15:7 and 10 tell us that “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Wow. As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, go and live with the knowledge that God, our Heavenly Father, wants to celebrate you and your continued seeking of Him.
Be encouraged, and do not give up.
The night of sleep that awaits Fiji tonight will be like no other.
Peaceful. It’s the life we, too, were designed for.
The Now and Not Yet June 1, 2012Posted by dcostillo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Christianity, curiouser, divorce, Friendship Park, Jesus, now and not yet, spiritual formation
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But what do I mean, you ask?
Well, it’s weird in that we are promised the blessings of the resurrection life, yet are stuck on a broken planet. Weird in that we are told of a crown of glory awaiting us, yet are stuck in fragile bodies. Weird in that the heaven of streets of gold awaits us on day, yet we are stuck in a land of war and greed. I find this weirdness best described in the Church’s term about this very concept—the “now and not yet.” The Apostle Paul said that we see things now through a mirror, darkly. You have an idea of things, but not the full picture.
As a child, I remember many a Saturday morning waiting for my father to come pick my older sister and I up for the weekend. His arrival at my mom and stepdad’s, in my mind, was to give rise to a succession of events that would be wonderful, taking my sister and I to his home where a world of different rules, different traditions and different people awaited us. We had an idea of things ahead, but not the full picture.
There was always something mysterious about the agenda for the weekend. Would we visit with my grandparents and enjoy their company? Would we spend time at the tidepools, casting rocks for Maggie the golden retriever to fetch out on the breakers? Would the weekend allow for a visit to Friendship Park with the climbable bubbles (pictured) in the playground, begging for a game of hide and seek? We had some idea of the weirdness of the weekend’s agenda ahead, but not the full picture.
The wonder of a weekend at my dad’s is the intrigue I picture the disciples having as they waited for “when the Helper comes, who will testify of [Jesus]” (John 15:26). Who was this Helper and what was He to help with? How? Who said they needed help anyway? And what sort of help would He provide? What sort of things would the disciples be able to do with the Helper’s help? Like Alice, we too cry “Curiouser and curiouser!”
The disciples found out just how deep the rabbit hole went on Pentecost Sunday, which we celebrated this past Sunday, when they saw the power that they received. The Apostle Peter shows a great example of the Resurrection Life, of the power that was received by the early Church, and that is also available to those of us who reach out in faith to Jesus today. It’s the unleashing of God’s power from heaven. It’s the power to forgive when circumstances just don’t make sense. It’s the power to go beyond what we feel we’re able to do. It’s the power that can only come from a God who knows that the life we live in is truly weird in that we know of His promises now and His promises not yet.
This power, yearned for by everyone, is what is called for in Emilie Griffin’s Souls in Full Sail. She writes:
What we need most is spiritual courage. We need a biblical imagination to see God as He really is, in all His tenderness and power. Before us, there is a whirlwind, and in the midst of the whirlwind is I AM. I AM to whom all the world yearns; I AM, who yearns for His people with a boundless love. I AM is the one who drives all loves, who guides all paths, who walks before us on the yellow brick and every other road. I AM will give us the heart, the mind, the sense of being full, not hollow, who will satisfy all our yearnings and bring us home at last. His city is more than emeralds, more than sapphire and rubies; all perfection reigns there; in that city the falsehood of our perfectionism is burned away by the fire of God’s enduring love.
What sort of God do we serve that gives us this yearning but not the full picture? It is a God of grace. A God who knows that I can only take things piecemeal. It is the God of Moses who covers his eyes because, while wanting to see Him fully, he could only see His back as the full glory of the Lord would have crushed him. It is the God who allows you and I to make our own decisions, to have free will and wants growth and health for all of us more than we ever will.
I AM is there in the midst of our life’s weirdnesses now and He, too, is also in charge of the not yet that lies ahead.