Family

The holiday season brings families together all across the world.  That’s where the trouble starts.

What a broken, messed up, ruined system.  Absolutely doomed to failure.  Dysfunctional parents raising dysfunctional children all throughout history.  You look at most of the heroes of Judaism and Christianity and then look at their kids.  Wow!  I mean wow and YIKES!

So why does an all-knowing, all-powerful God believe that the family, a husband, a wife and children is the best way to assure an environment where love, joy, nuturing, goodness, and life could be experienced?

And, it would appear that very few experience those things in a family.

Parents shake their heads at the “stupid” things their kids do.  Kids blame their parents for all the “wrongs” done to them.  Everyone feeling like the problems would be solved if the people in their lives were just different.

What makes a beautiful song?  Is it one that never strays into the relative minor?  Is it one that never displays dissonance, syncopation, complicated melodies or harmonies?

I don’t think so.

The best place for me to learn love, real, Christ-like, agape, self-sacrificing love is in the crucible of my very flawed family. And if I can see them as a gift, instead of the ruined, broken, sinful people that everyone of us truthfully is, I take one step closer to the heart of God.

And that’s why He believes in us, as fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. I think He knows that if we will choose love in the environment where the deepest hurts can occur, that we will choose love as we make our way in this crazy, messed up, dysfunctional world.

But hey, what do I know…

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Stress Relief

The book of Philippians says, “Do not be anxious about anything…”

Right now, my chest hurts, my skin itches and my digestive tract is in knots.

I am stressed out.

Work, car trouble, financial woes and don’t get me started on the dumb things I do.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So God, transmission died.  Work is piling up on me.  Seems like I work all the time but always feel like we don’t have enough to pay for everything, let alone have much fun.  I make so many mistakes at work I’m gonna get fired and I can’t seem to keep my mind and heart fixed on you.

Thank you for my children, they are really great people.  Thank you for my wife, she’s awesome!  Thank you for how you always provide, always see us through.  You’re pretty awesome too!

That simple!?

“And the peace of God, which goes beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Amazing, and it works!

Wait…

What are they doing? What happened now?! Oh man…

Hey God, it’s me again.

Faith In Humanity

I belong to a group called f3. Normally, we just work out together, exercise, encourage, insult and generally give each other grief.

Today was different. Our Q, the person in charge of the workout, wanted us to shovel snow off sidewalks, driveways in the neighborhood.

So we got to work.

As I was shoveling a driveway, an older lady (I can say that because I don’t think she was as old as me) came out and said thank you.

Yes, yes, your welcome, blah, blah, blah.

A few minutes later, as we were finishing up, she came out again. “Thank you, so much! You’ve restored my faith in humanity.”

Whoa, hold the phone!

I have heard the rhetoric of those who believe humanity will save itself. We will evolve to the point where we are perfect, no longer selfish, self-destructive, hateful creatures. We will become, oh, in a million years or so, loving, focused on the good of all, one with nature.

This is high grade horse manure.

No, I don’t want people to restore their faith in humanity. Apart from Jesus, and what He does by leading us first to the cross and then to the world, humanity has NO hope.

This is my problem with politics, with medicine, with psychology, all the things we look to to heal ourselves. They are the “splintered reed”, the thing that when we lean on it, pierces our hands. They not only fail us, they cause more damage when we depend on them.

Nothing I do. And the guys I hang out with would agree, nothing we do should ever restore your faith in humanity.

Can we point you to Him?

Guilty

Pretty sure I’ve written on this subject before, but it can be revisited.

I was a terrible father.  Did everything wrong.  A terrible husband, terrible leader, terrible Christian.  I was and am ashamed of all the mistakes I made.

Or so the enemy whispers (sometimes shouts) in my ear, my heart, my soul.

Do you feel this way sometimes, maybe lots of times?

The apostle Paul said in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation.”  How is that even possible when I know perfectly well that I am RIGHTLY condemned.  I am guilty.

Paul also said that he was the worst (1 Timothy 1).  Shoot, he spent most of Romans 7 talking about not being able to stop sinning.

Guilt is universal.

So how can we believe that there is no condemnation?  How can anyone have the temerity, the nerve to say there is now no condemnation?

In Christianity we talk about getting to heaven and facing the “judgement seat”.  The idea is passed down that we will stand before Jesus and be shown a “movie” of our lives, with the whole world watching.  When I think about that and remember so many of the the things I’ve done, even as a little child, I wonder how I will ever face this event.

Then it comes to me, I’m just going to look at Him.  I think I can handle what anyone thinks of me, including myself, if I just look at Him.

There are artists who have depicted Jesus on the judgement seat, stern, cold, disappointed.

But in light of the CROSS, and Romans 8 says, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” I think all I will see is love. All I will hear is, “this one is mine.”

And that’s where I should be looking now. The voices of condemnation don’t heal. Even the overwhelming guilt doesn’t lead me to repentance. You can’t pay for what you’ve done, the ripples go far beyond our reach.

Stop looking at you. Keep looking at Him.

And tell the voices to shut up.

Perfectly Imperfect

We have a small picture of my wife and I when we were just getting ready to leave for our first real date.

How did someone that drop dead gorgeous ever say yes to going out with a mook like me?!

And how do I repay that kindness, that audacious blessing and gift?  I’ve done a pretty poor job of it, so far.

Today is a new day.

Despite the fact that we didn’t turn out the way I had planned, scarred and bruised, sometimes angry and afraid, we were held.  We were held together by loving, strong hand.  Not our passion for each other, not our faith, not our commitment to holiness.  We were held.

We had passion for each other, an understanding that even when we were hurting and furious, we still loved.  We would forget.  We would say things to lash out, to guard our wounds, simple revenge.  Our passion could’ve killed us.

We both had faith, a faith that God brought us together, planned for us to meet and fall in love.  We would lose sight of that in the face of our selfishness, the lies we listened to, our humanity.  We had to be a divine mistake.

We were good people.  Hard working, church going, servants of Jesus.  But in this, I was the worst.  Going back to pornography, alcohol, oh the many ways that men “check out.”  Holy?  Hardly…

Ah, but today is a NEW day.

I can remind myself.  I can look once more at the face of my Father, see His grace and mercy. Be grateful for all He has done. I can look back at who we were and see better who we are right now and choose to love.

And let myself be held.

Not a perfect system I suppose.

I think I can LIVE with that.

Our lives may not go down in history, Our story may never be heard. But it doesn’t matter and I’ll tell you why, Our names may not fit into any love song, But her hand fits just right in mine.

Control Freak

Talking to some friends yesterday and somebody said I wouldn’t let my kids read Harry Potter books.

Not true…

I know my kids (who are now all adults with families of their own).  If I would’ve said you aren’t allowed, they wouldn’t have been able to help themselves.

Chips off the old block.

What I told them is that I would rather they didn’t.  And it had very little to do with how bad the writing is.

I think there are only three powers that I can control.  Two of those my only control comes from my submission to that power.  The one remaining is me.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”

He was referring to Satan when he said this.  He tempts you with the idea that he can give you power that you can control.  It just never ends up being true.  The “power” always, ALWAYS, ends up controlling you.  No one is exempt.

Jesus went on to say, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Check yourself on this, does watching a movie or reading a book lead you to thinking, “I want more of God’s power.”  Or does God’s power sound kinda lame compared to casting spells and flying in a game of quidditch.

What an old fuddy-duddy!  It’s a kid’s series for entertainment.  This is a stupid argument used to justify various levels of pornography, horror/slasher media, and multiple addictions.

I would remind you that if it’s not coming from Jesus, it’s not intended to entertain you.  It is seeking to steal, kill and destroy.

Steal your identity.

Kill your passion and compassion.

Destroy your heart and soul.

Sounds melodramatic but what can I say?

He’s a control freak.

Friends with Benefits

I shamelessly try to come up with titles that will get people to read my blog.

Sometimes…

It’s all just so I can introduce people to my King!

You want to talk about friends with benefits?  Wow!

Forgiveness.  Eternal life.  In heaven.  Holy Spirit power!  Gifts and promises!

And, He is someone I can talk to any time, about anything!  I can yell at Him and He listens.  I can whine and complain, and He cares about my hurts.  In Him, I find peace, safety, a refuge.

All other friends, no matter what the benefits, do not even compare!

Fix It

In this day of drugs and vaccines, therapy, machinery, politics and police we are made increasingly aware of our NEED to have someone fix our problems.

And I’m no different with God.

I go through these vast seasons of prayer wanting God to make me a better man, a better husband, father, human.  And, to be sure, I need fixing.

Problem is, I can’t be fixed. 

And to blow your mind like it did me, God doesn’t want you fixed.

Yeah, I thought that was the whole point, go to church, read your bible, pray the right prayer, sing the right song and all will be made holy and whole.

Those things have failed, all of the, in so many lives.

Here’s what I know, if I married my wife thinking I could fix her, use the bible, good verses and teaching, to make her be better, I simply push her further and further away.  If she thinks she can manipulate, condemn, deny and berate me into being better, she will only succeed in ruining what could be so beautiful.  Marriage was not designed for this.

Conversely, if I come to her with the hope that she’ll fix me, if she thinks that I will solve all her problems, we will both be vastly disappointed.

Marriage is about two very flawed and broken people learning to love each other despite and maybe even because of their issues.

Side note: I am not including abusive relationships. There is evil in the world and there are evil people. If we understood Satan and his purposes in our lives, we would see that abuse is his realm.

But God does not treat us this way, either with abuse or manipulation or condemnation or any of the other tactics we tend to see His love through. The “LAW” can never save us. He just came to be with us and make a way for us to always be with Him.

He designed us uniquely, placed us in our specific family and environment, knowing our future and everything about us. And He loves us, right there.

And if we never get better, He will love us anyway.

If we can see His word as guidance and truth from a loving Father, to keep us from hurting ourselves and others and not rules and regulations to bludgeon us into perfect behaviour, then we will know Him more, His heart more.

And that will bring more healing, more peace, more life than any drug, vaccine, therapy, machine, politician, or police can ever hope for.

Shattered and Broken

Life is complicated.

The answers that humanity gives us are often complicated too, leaving us confused, without any real sense that we’re any closer to truth. The simple platitudes and cliches we hear betray us in that, despite the temporary warmth they provide, we know there’s more. More that’s required of us, more that has to happen, more that we still aren’t understanding.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Look on the bright side.

They’re in a better place now.

God is Love.

Be Holy as I am Holy.

So many.

Granted that the last two are quotes from the Bible and so are absolutely true, they are both tossed around by people, good, well-meaning people, to say things about God and life that are absolutely not true.

Does God demand that we come to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ? That, though He is love, His holiness requires a compensation that none of us can afford?

And does His holiness require a level of holiness, perfection, spiritual enlightenment from us before He can use us, before He can really be a part of our everyday life?

I think, if we’re honest, and we say yes to the first question, we must say no to the second.

And, just so we’re clear, yes is the correct answer to the first question. Which means the payment for us was paid and we are given a choice to have a relationship with God, or not. And that choice has eternal ramifications.

But, to my point, can we ever say that we have reached a point where God can and should use us?

The best of us are shattered and broken. The stories we love to hear, the legends, often cover the humanity we are embarrassed by. And when the humanity is revealed, we become angry and disillusioned. Anything good that was done or said is destroyed, discredited.

Can we not take joy, comfort, peace, strength, boldness from knowing that God is using us, is speaking through us, is shining out of our broken and shattered lives? Can’t we silence the lies of our enemy with the truth that it is never about us, never for our glory, only about Him? His mercy. His grace. His glory.

P.S. I love this video for the song itself but also for all the long-haired, tattoo covered, weird and crazy people I see singing in honor of my King and letting me know I’m not alone.