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.

Beauty

Hollywood, Nashville, New York, and much of the modern church say you must be beautiful for me to listen to what you say.  The importance of your word is directly proportional to the face that speaks.

I would mention names but then that would take away from the honesty, heartfelt worship and real suffering that are a part of some very beautiful people.

My point isn’t to take away from what they say.

I don’t mean to offend, and I’m preaching to myself. But, if you’re “ugly” and you feel unheard, part of the problem is you.

Two things are at work. First, do you really believe in the God who called you? If you do, then preach it, sing it, live it, share it.

Second, who’s your audience? Who do you want for an audience?

Side note: I don’t accept that we have an audience of one. Remember, Jesus said we were to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. AND love our neighbor.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

I want the big audience. I want everyone telling me how great and deep and amazing I am.

I don’t want the audience that can only stand to listen to me for two minutes (unless I’m reading a book to them). Or the one that gets bored with my intellectual dissertation. Or the one that hates my God, my Bible, my faith, but still needs to see me love them.

We ask, “who am I? Why would they listen to me?” And allow ourselves to be quiet. We ask, “who are they that I should invest my time, pour out my heart and soul?”

I think it is time for the ugly to speak up, to let our voice be heard. We have a unique perspective on God’s love, His calling, a relationship with Him that the beautiful, the popular, the successful need to hear.

Most of them only see their ugly.

And as His light and live shine through us. . .

We become beautiful too.

Waiting On A Starry Night

Christians and prayer are a strange combination. We are ones who trust in an omnipotent, all-loving God and yet believe in our ability to manipulate the system.

Even when He says no.

I often think about my son that died. He wasn’t technically my son, but he was still my son. It hurts so much still that he is gone.

I prayed the prayers, sang the songs, believed in God’s power to heal. But, he still died.

He is still gone.

So what good does it do to pray?

I believe that our prayers move the heart of God, that our approach to God calls out the armies of heaven on our behalf. I believe that amazing, miraculous things happen when we pray.

But wait! There’s more! (TV infomercial voice)

I can’t manipulate or coerce the Great God that I serve. Shoot, my attempts to manipulate and coerce my wife are failures at best. And she’s just a human.

But I can join Him. We can talk.

That’s why I like the imagery of waiting on a starry night. I come out of my house amd look to the sky and see a God who is so much bigger than me. He surrounds me. He surrounds my whole world, figuratively and literally.

And I look to Him. My eyes, my heart, my prayers are open.

More an act of rest, don’t you think?

Home

There’s a passage in the Bible (Matthew 7:21 ff) where Jesus is talking about a sad scene from heaven.

The picture is this: people coming before God and telling Him about all the great things they have done for Him. And His response will be to say, “go away, I never knew you.”

It got me thinking.

A close second on the saddest events of that time will be this: I arrive in heaven and God allows me in. He even says, “I know you.” And I realize as He speaks that I don’t recognize His voice. I don’t know Him.

Some would say that it isn’t possible but I don’t know.

If it’s possible to prophesy, cast out demons, do mighty works in God’s name and still end up in hell, all because we never really had a relationship with Him. Then I think it’s possible to have entered into a relationship but allowed the voice of fear, the voice of the world, the voice of condemnation and shame, my own voice to be so loud, so dominant, that I never really listened to Him.

I want to be one that hears His slightest whisper, that seeks His voice in every situation, that stops long enough, is quiet long enough for Him to speak.

And it’s going to come down to the choices I make today.

The best scene will be Him saying, “I know you.” And me falling in His arms and saying, “Hi dad!”

Like I just got home.

Hungry

I pretty much start every post with a feeling of needing to apologize.  My understanding of so many things is very limited.

This one is no exception.

Being an overweight person makes anorexia such a foreign concept but it plays into what I want to discuss.

So…  Sorry.

God has been hitting me with an idea from several sources so I feel the need to share.  I have some thinking that is just messed up.

A person that is healthy doesn’t treat food like a checklist.  The variety and tastiness of a healthy diet is not something forced, something that must be coerced.  It is actually a joy.

But then we look at our spiritual diet.

I was starving so I forced myself to read a verse out of the Bible.  I was overwhelmed so I threw out a ten second prayer.  I feel surrounded by problems, attacked on every side so I went to church and left as soon as the preacher said “amen”.

We have all been in that place where we feel like we can’t even get off the floor.  We can’t lift our hands in worship.  The songs won’t come.  There are no answers to prayer and no one seems to be listening.  The words on the page mean nothing.

The condemnation that religion would heap on us in those moments is a lie straight from the pit of hell.

But to stay there, or to never step into the fullness of a relationship with our Father, is equivalent to anorexia. Patterns of behavior based on false images, unhealthy concepts of who I am, and who I should be.

And we are dying when we should be so alive.

And so, like the anorexic, we have to force ourselves to eat, spend time in the Word and talking to God, until our taste for food returns. We have to spend time with people, many who are struggling just as much or more than we are. We have to look beyond ourselves and the absolutely screwed up view we see. Then reach out a hand – one to our healer, one to someone who needs healed.

We need to be hungry.

We need to be thirsty.

And start eating.

Election 2020

I used to wish I had a large audience for this blog, forum for deep discussion, encouragement, healing. I know some people listened, received, but it was very few.

Tonight is no different.

As I watch the election unfold, I realize that nothing I say can alter the outcome, no one will change their opinions on masks or presidents.

But maybe, just maybe, you can hear this.

I confess I have been fearful these past few days and tonight, as I was praying, I told God about it. He gently reminded me, “do not be anxious about anything” – Philippians 4:6. He reminded me of one of my favorite songs.

He spoke to me about his promises. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

And ended by bringing me back to the place where He is my everything. No matter who is president, no matter where we are with a pandemic, or as a country.

He is enough.