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.

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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.

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!

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.

You’ve Got My Attention

Her little eyes peeked over the edge of the table. The blueberries she loves were just within reach between the two oblivious, conversing adults. A smile lit her eyes as she quickly grabbed a handful and stuffed them in her mouth.

Then . . . she waited.

I had seen her and she knew I was watching but she wanted to make sure. I sharply (playfully) called her name. She scampered away laughing and I laughed too.

Now I always cringe when I compare my actions to God’s. After all, He is divine perfection and I’m, well, not.

Lately, I feel like God has forgotten me. I work, sleep, eat. Nothing I do seems to matter, to make an impact on the world around me. I try so hard and no one cares.

I cry out, “what do You want from me?” And no answer comes back.

Until I watched my granddaughter. I had watched when she walked over, watched when she got lower and crawled up to the table. I waited till she peeked over the table. I saw her every move. She has my attention as soon as she enters my house.

I don’t have to cry out for God’s attention.

He’s never taken His eyes off me.

No Reservation

I so often feel like I just don’t have a place.

I came to this life looking for a table.  I came to church wanting a seat.  I came to people wanting acceptance.  And in each case, I walked away feeling rejected, unwanted. 

I met Jesus and sensed His acceptance, His joy and loving embrace but the voices in my head were so loud.  I turned back to seeking the approval of humans.

So many years still looking, still wanting a seat.

It’s just not going to happen.

I hang out with lots of people like that.  Pretty sure everyone in my family feels that way. 

So to all of us I say there’s freedom in this. I can honor God without reservation.

Just as me. Just as you.

I can’t prove anything of personal value. My songs, my voice, my heart are rightfully judged as inadequate.

Doesn’t matter.

I can sing anyway. I can live anyway. Simply because He calls me to sing, to live, to be.

And maybe, if I do, it will inspire and free others to sing, and live, and be.

Is Anything Too Hard…

“Behold, I am the Lord , the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV

I wonder if you’re like me.

I don’t think I have trouble believing that God can do anything. I believe He actually parted the Red Sea, raised a shepherd boy up to be king, sent angels to surround an enemy army, calmed the stormy seas, fed the five thousand and conquered sin and death.

I just don’t believe He can use me.

It’s easy for me to see Jesus working for and with others. I particularly love to see my wife and her ministry and hear how God is speaking through her into the lives of young people.

But, I have a temper. I don’t obey. I spent too much time in the Army and in factories for my mouth to say the right things. I get depressed and fearful. And, well, it all boils down to the fact that I just don’t obey.

Since I was a child my mantra has been, “you can’t tell me what to do.” With everybody!

God says “jump” and I say, “now wait a minute…”

I don’t want to be this way. But then God says “jump” and I say, “oh, I can’t do that!”

Why did He choose me?!

His voice speaks into my heart then.

“But child, I did choose you. It was not because of how great you were or what I thought I could accomplish through you. I chose you because I love you. Whether you ever DO anything for me or not.”

I feel sad. I stress and struggle and feel like such a disappointment.

What I need to do is rest!

In the end, it’s all about Him. He lifts me up. He accomplishes His will through me. He makes me willing and able. No glory belongs to me, all of it is rightfully His.

The greatest pastor, musician, evangelist, whatever deserves nothing of the glory that we give them (even if they think they deserve it). Because without Him, we are nothing.

So if you are like me, quiet your heart and the voices shouting their condemnation. “Fix your eyes on Jesus…”

Trust Him.

And rest.