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.

A Dream I Want To Keep

My sons and I went to see the movie “The Finest Hours” last night.  So, that probably had a strong influence on what I saw.

I have recently been going through ANOTHER crisis of faith.  Angry with God, myself, the world.  What is my purpose?  What difference does it make how I live, what I do?  No one loves me.  No one cares.

I hope that you have no idea what I’m talking about.

For those who do, it’s all lies.

I had this dream that I was the captain of a ship that was sent out to rescue.  Now there were many tucked safely in the hull of the vessel as I brought them peacefully into the harbor.

I looked down to scan the crowd and my eyes fell upon my wife.  She was wet and cold.  Her eyes were filled with tears.  But, they were tears of love and gratitude.  She was proud of me.

I had come for her.  I had rescued her.  And, I had brought her safely home.

I work in a factory.  I play and sing my songs for NO ONE!  I have never realized many of my dreams.  Maybe I never will.

This one I won’t let go of.  This one I would die for.  This one I will live for.

It’s a good dream.

Accurate vs. Real

I am sitting in my fear and unwillingness to move.  Sure that I will fail and that all my hopes and dreams will come to nothing.  In this mental desert, I find myself dwelling on Moses.

Moses was a great man of God.  He was humble and decisive.  He was courageous and powerful.  He was a lot of things that I would want to be as a man.  But he had problems, too.  It is interesting to me that when God tells him to go confront Pharaoh in the scene at the burning bush, Moses is found arguing with God.  “But Lord, who am I?  I’m a nobody.  I don’t speak well.  What if no one listens to me?”  What is surprising me right now is that Moses had legitimate arguments.  I’ve heard this story a thousand times and right now it is surprising me.

We don’t know everything about Moses but I am sure he had a speech impediment.  He had lost all standing in Pharaoh’s court.  He was now a shepherd in the desert of Midian, working for his father-in-law.  No land, no title, no army, no presence.  And no one did willingly listen to him, not even his own people, initially.

What is stopping me right now?  I have no money.  I have been a failure for so much of my life.  My wife doesn’t trust me, doesn’t believe in me, and she is justified in her opinion.  No one is listening and most of the time I feel like no one should listen.

That is accurate but it isn’t real.  These arguments work and rightfully hinder any ambition Moses had, that I now have.  But not in the face of the greater reality of my King.  He determines what He has called me to.  He walks out the process, knows the end from the beginning.  He commands favor and allows hardship.  He speaks over each challenge, each obstacle.  And because of Him, the accuracy of my failings becomes nothing, the truth of who I am becomes meaningless in light of the truth of who He is.

And in this, He is glorified.  He is praised.

“Well that’ll never work!”

The world is going to tell you how you can’t, how you won’t, how it’s impossible.  It will point to all your inadequacies, all God’s inadequacies.  They will make sure you remember prior failures, dreams that died, hopes crushed.  And, in case you haven’t given up yet, they’ll make you aware how little you can change, how dumb the idea is and how tired you already are.

That’s the world.

It always makes me laugh to hear people talk about God and His rules.  The picture is painted of a God that looks down sternly on His children, waiting to zap them if they get out of line.  His angry look is intended to keep us from sinning and doing anything stupid.

Anger is usually pretty poor at keeping evil at bay and, can I get real here for a second, He knows us.  Do you think He envisions us never doing something stupid?  Nah!

He is our creator God.  He is creative.  He created imagination, intuition, dexterity, intelligence.  And He put it in our hearts.  He put inside us a warrior’s heart, a couragious heart, and a curious mind.  Those things have to be knocked out of us.  Questions come naturally, not rule following.

He clarifies what won’t work but it’s actually a pretty short list.  It can be summed up in two statements.  “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” And, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This does not inhibit creativity, it frees it.  It channels it in healthy directions.  It moves it to bring life, not destruction.

My picture of God, at least the one I’m trying to wrap my mind around, is of a God of laughter who looks down at His kids, amazed and enjoying the myriad ways we show His love.  He opens His hands to bless as we move in His Spirit.  He casts down the walls, the hinderances, the enemies that stand in our way.  He miraculously intervenes to show His glory and power.  He enters to make what should be impossible, not only possible but completed, finished, accomplished.

Do you dream?  Do you believe?  Listen to Him.  I hear Him cheering you on!

Retirement

Just when I think I’m getting over myself, I get hit with something else.  I’m reading in Leviticus and saw today that it was a stipulation for Priests serving in the Temple to retire by age fifty.  What, that’s ridiculous!  My inner response was incredulous, but deep down, it was fearful of God asking that of me.  Do you want me to “retire”, to not lead anymore, to not play or worship?

Understand, if God ever asks that of me, I would totally know why.  I’ve been a mess and remain a mess.

In that moment of fear, I felt His hand on me, “no son, not yet.”  

I don’t know about you.  But, if I’m eighty and can still play and dance and sing, that’s what I want to be doing.  I want people to see me on stage and know that my love for God went beyond looking cool, being a star, trying to get the girls.  And yes, all you worship leaders out there, we’ve all had some mixture of those motivations over the years, secret’s out.  When all that is laid aside, when those dreams and desires are gone and burned up, I want people to see that I, at the core of my being, was completely, certifiably, irreversibly insane for my Jesus.  I want them to know that His sacrifice is what I live for, His mission is my calling, His love is what I share.

I’m fifty-one.  And just getting started!

Jesus, Pay Attention

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.” Matthew 24:1

Another strange portion of scripture (at least to me).  Why would the disciples need to point out the temple to Him?  Jesus had been there before, you may remember.  All I can think of is that, on this occasion, He didn’t show any evidence of being impressed, He didn’t take the time to notice His surroundings, He wasn’t paying attention.

Why?  Sure, He had some other things on His mind.  He knew that He would soon be betrayed, rejected, crucified.  Maybe, He just didn’t care.  It’s not hard to imagine that the creator of the universe would not be impressed by any building, ever.  I think He would be particularly unimpressed with a building designed and built to show off the greatness of a human king.  Perhaps He was focused on what He had seen in the temple, the money-changers, the greed that was so evident there, the mess they had made of God’s plan and will for their lives.

And His response, all that is so impressive, that you admire so much, it’s going to be destroyed.

Sometimes, all too often, I question whether Jesus is paying attention to me.  Like a spoiled child, I whine about my “needs” not being met, my wants, my dreams unfulfilled.  Does He just have other things on His mind?  Am I not important to Him?  Does He see the things that I long for as silly, frivolous, warped, wrong?  The things that I think will make such a difference, my purpose for being here, means nothing to Him.

The only problem is I know the verses that say He cares, He knows the number of hairs on my head, He sees me.  Maybe, He’s so busy saving me, protecting me, loving me, molding me, shaping me into His image, that He won’t waste time on my crying.

I doubt He’s very impressed with me, except the way a dad is impressed with everything His children do.

Yeah, I forgot about that.

dadandchild