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.

Pushing It

I’m sick.

No, I’m really sick.

Breathing is difficult.  Head is spinning.  Photophobia.  Coughing.  Influenza.

How did this happen?  I rarely get sick.

I’ve been working as a janitor, a custodian for a church.  One of my jobs is to clean the carpets with a big extractor (carpet cleaner).  It is self-propelled.  Pull the trigger and steer basically.  Only trouble is it doesn’t go very fast.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself pushing it.

And do you want to know how much effect my body has on pushing a heavy machine that is set to go a specific speed.

Zero.

I have been doing that with God, with my life.  Pushing and pushing to see things happen.  Working really hard to get some where, to make things happen.  Trying to be a good husband, a good dad, a good servant, a good man.

Pushing it.

Influenza.

Broken immune system.  Fatigue.  Depression.

Today, I picked up my guitar and sang for no one but God.  I played, not to practice, but just to spend time with Him.  In my impatience and scattered thoughts, I had about a fifteen minute window with Him.

It was good.

I’ve been pushing too hard and too long against a life that won’t “get better”, circumstances that I can’t change, a past that won’t go away, a God who is immovable.

Here’s what I can do.  Be grateful for the good life I have.  Accept the circumstances of my life as a product of my decisions AND the Grace of God on me.  Forgive my past and let it go.  And ask what He wants instead of telling Him what I want.

And I can rest and cough and shiver and ache…

And heal.

You Can Dance

One of the things I’m learning as I walk out this journey is that I am really not alone.  Oh, I feel alone a lot of the time, but I’m really not.

When I am struggling, in the thousands that make up my church, others are struggling too.  When I am fearful, in the people that make up the staff of my church, there are those who are fearful too.  When I am sad, defeated, broken by pride and shame, my family is sad, defeated, broken too.

And when I don’t know what God is saying, where He is leading me, others are questioning too.

Yesterday, I heard one of our great leaders express this.  We know something is coming.  We know God has great plans for us, individually and corporately.  We just aren’t seeing it.  God isn’t answering our questions right now.

So what do we do?

Admittedly, I tend to start answering my own questions.  “I should do this or that.”  I get angry at the vacuum, depressed because I am unseen.  I build walls and protect.

God suggested a new tactic as I talked this over with Him.

“You can dance.”

It would be easy for me to tell you what that means.  But I think it really means different things for different people.  So rather than explain myself.

I’m just going to dance.

Love you guys!

Never too Far

First off, thank you to those who expressed to me how they miss it when I don’t write.  It can be easy to listen to the lies that say my writing doesn’t matter, I don’t matter.  I have appreciated the encouragement.

I was praying the other day and realized that I had once again turned to complaining.  This is all too common.  Strangely common also was that this was during a worship service.

I know!  I shouldn’t be complaining during worship.  It just seems that so often when I am declaring His greatness it step right into wondering why my problems feel so difficult and why can’t He do something about them.

And really, maybe it is a bad thing, complaining in worship but in one sense, I’m “ok” with it.  For me, the whole idea of falling on my knees, raising my hands is a coupling of two ideas.  One is God’s greatness.  The other is my complete dependence on Him as His broken, flawed, desperate child.

Anyway, in the midst of worship, in the midst of complaining, a theme arose around Psalm 23.  Different parts of it came out but I got stuck on “your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

I haven’t read a commentary on this so maybe I’m seeing it wrong, but I think a rod is for whacking and a staff is for yanking.  I mean, the rod is what was used to smack the sheep if they weren’t moving along or going in the right direction.  The staff is like the shepherd’s crook that has a hook on one end, which I think is used to pull a sheep back.

I’m not finding a lot of “comfort” in these ideas.  I said something to that effect to my King and He said, “find comfort in knowing I will never let you go too far.”

So, in the immaturity I show, the messed up marriage that I am half of, the ineptitude of my parenting (and now grandparenting), in my complaining and anger and fear and distrust of my Lord, He will prod, He will yank, He will guide me always back to Him.

I would run.  Life seems so hard sometimes.  But, He promised He would complete me.  And, as much as I am “me” (more so), He is God.  I’m not so bad He can’t handle me.

 

Cheers!

I was in church this past Sunday and listening to some awfully good preaching by the way.  For a moment, I was distracted by the noise coming from our children’s area.

Coincidentally, the preaching was about our responsibility to pass our faith on to the next generation.

I listened to the noise and the word and was glad I go to a church that is passing on the faith.  We keep it real and actually believe in the God that we talk about.

That’s a good thing.

But then I hit a wall of seriousness.

See, we can talk all we want to and believe all we want to, but our chances are silenced if we don’t capture the hearts of mom and dad.

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  And I want to put a challenge out there.

I want to be a better dad, love my family more.  And that won’t come by my believing less.

That means I need to start praying miraculous prayers for my kids.  I need to start believing and speaking about my amazing God to my kids.  I must start living like I trust Him with my whole life, not just bits and pieces.

My kids are all adults now.  Psychologists would probably tell me that I’ve lost the opportunity to influence them.  And maybe in some ways they’re right.

But we’re not dead.

There’s still a new day every morning where I can laugh because of the joy of Jesus in my heart.  There is still beauty to witness and love to share.  There is still the miraculous to experience.

Together.

And once we start cheering, we simply join ourselves to the chorus, the cacophony of victory that is only beginning to swell in God’s Kingdom!

I Can’t Breathe

Worship is one my favorite experiences in Christianity.  We have an awesome worship team at our church, excellent musicians, hearts that love Jesus with all they have, lights, big screens.

But lately, I can’t breathe.

I sing but I’m afraid to pour it out, to let go.

I am going through a season where I don’t have enough.  We pay the bills.  We even get McDonalds or Chick-fil-A sometimes.  But we are just surviving, no money to dream, no extra to give when we see a need.

And it’s all my fault.

I thought…

I thought.  I thought.  I thought.

But things didn’t turn out the way I planned.  Dreams I hoped for died.  And it feels like everyone has turned away from me as I lay wallowing in the ashes of those fires.

It changes worship.

“You’re a good, good Father.”  Why Lord?

“Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”  Where are you, my God and King?

Our big, fancy mega-churches with comfy chairs and temperature controlled sanctuaries can’t take away the pain of what seems like abandonment.

I think about churches around the world.  Some hiding, many so small that the world will never know they existed.  Churches where believers die at the hands of government or suicide bombers, or apathy.

I think the beauty of the bride, the church of Jesus Christ, shines from a queen, not a princess.  A princess has everything perfected for her, protected for her.  A queen stands with her King, fights beside Him, rules with Him, dares with Him, suffers and dies with Him.

Our churches can give the illusion that we are all princesses, that we are safe and comfortable as we lift our hands in praise.

But that isn’t what is real.  What is true is that many that walk through the doors can’t breathe.  Life has kicked at beaten every bit of joy and peace out of us and we can’t see a way out.

That is where our life is found.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Blessing will come, through the cross.  Peace and joy will come, through the cross.  Life, real life will come only through the cross.

I can breathe, through the cross.