At Least I’m Consistent

Several people were laughing with me, at me last night at our church’s youth group.  I’m competitive, a little aggressive, love to have fun, and love the people around me.  Apparently, those things bring out something that surprises people a bit.

I’m loud!

Not just a little loud, but really loud.  I laugh loud.  I scream loud.  I encourage loud.  I groan loud.

If they really knew me it would not shock them.

When I go to a baseball game, I cheer.  When I coached my sons teams, I cheered.  I yelled at the referees (sorry about that one).  I shouted encouragement to players on both teams.

At the factory where I work, I’m loud too.  I say hello loud.  I shout down the aisle.  I laugh and joke at full volume.  I sing praises and lift my hands unashamed.

When I’m at church, I worship at the top of my voice.  I cheer for the pastor and the good things he says.  I applaud and whistle and jump and dance.

Do I deserve some glory for this?  Do I deserve a medal or some special recognition?  I don’t think so and it wouldn’t matter.  I will probably be loud on the day I die.

See, I get depressed sometimes.  I feel sad and alone.  I fail and do the dumbest things, sometimes.  I know that many people feel the same way and those around them don’t even recognize it.  Pastors need to know when they said something good.  My family needs to know when I’m proud of them.  And if I look a little foolish, I’m okay with that.

So, why am telling you this?

This week, this Sunday, today, can I encourage you to be a little louder.  Let people know you are glad to see them.  Let your pastor know he’s preaching the word.  Bless your family.  Love a little more.  Worship with all your heart our great King, our Savior.

That way, if you’re louder, I won’t seem so bad.

Let God Write The Story

I know a man who has failed time and again.  He is so sure of his failing, he can not allow success.  If things are going well, he simply forces failure on all he is trying to accomplish.

Let God write the story.

I know an old man who has betrayed his wife, his children, many times. The guilt and condemnation he feels over all the hurts he has caused, the overwhelming shame that darkens every day, tell him he can not be loved.

Let God write the story.

The woman who had an abortion so many years ago.

The teen awaiting sentencing.

A child bound in slavery of a type no one should ever face.

Let God write the story.

We don’t believe that He is, sometimes.  We want to help Him.  Maybe just skip ahead to the good part.  Or just read the last page and close the book.

But, if we let Him, He can write something amazing.

It will have pain.  It will be terrifying at times.  It is a God story after all.

Don’t grab the pen.  Don’t rip out the pages.  Don’t speed read over the details.

It’s a good read, a beautiful picture.  Let it capture you.  Let Him capture you.

Let God write your story.

Forgiveness

What happens when we won’t forgive?  Rightly described as a poison we drink ourselves, unforgiveness eats away at everything we are and live for.  It kills our hopes and dreams, sucking life from every facet of our being.

I am finding forgiveness difficult right now.

Some hurts reoccur with a regularity that makes it so difficult to let go of.  Some offenses cut so deep that they will not heal with band-aids and platitudes.  Marriage, brothers, parents, old friendships are where these things happen.  It finds no ground in the new relationship, the acquaintance, for they are easily let go of.  But in the soil of what should last, we find the place that seeds of anger, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness find their environment for growth.  The place where we are hurt, and then hurt again, and again by those who should never want to cause us pain, that is where this poison does its work.

And out of this venom, we lash out at those around us, hurting others out of the hurt that we feel.

And nothing can stop this juggernaut of destruction.  It will go on ad infinitum, through generations, through changes in culture and politics, despite all that we do to cover it, to medicate it, to deny its existence.  And the only way out, the only thing that can set anyone free, is to forgive.

I will not hold to your account the debt you owe me.  I will not make you pay for the wrongs I have suffered.  I forgive you.

This malignancy will no longer live in my heart, in my family, in my church, in my home.

I forgive you.

Emergency

Two Silos
Two Silos (Photo credit: jbdenham)

For our Thanksgiving celebration this year we admitted not one, but both of my wife’s parents to the hospital.  Large family gathering with six people missing.  Children playing, laughter, food but so much was lacking.  We watched the football games but knew that dad would have enjoyed the Lions winning.  We ate our fill but still felt empty with mom not picking on someone or saying something that  made us laugh.

And it makes us question things.  What did their lives mean?  What was the point of it all?

They lived as simple farmers, raising kids and crops.  They lived for and loved Jesus with everything, though they never witnessed to millions or held a large crusade.  They held their doors open, accepting many a wayward child to their table, to their hearts.  And I’ll always be glad that they allowed me into their family, a rebel punk so far from their ideal son-in-law, but loved just the same.

They attended a small church that did very little but serve and give and feed.  Disasters were met with quiet, busy hands that rebuilt, restored, cleaned and fed once again.  Anyone was welcome and Jesus was held in awe, in reverence.  Life was taught and lived with humility and grace.

My mom and dad (they’re mine too) never gave much thought to themselves, driving all of us crazy.  The injuries he sustained still make us cringe and shake our heads since it rarely stopped him from finishing his work.  The strokes he endured.  And, though frustrated and discouraged, he never allowed his faith in God’s goodness to waver.  The pain she tolerated, often barely able to stand, yet always helping, always serving, always giving.  Quiet, peaceful was this woman, but oh, she had fire too.

My heart hurts right now for them, for this family, as they go through this difficult time.  But I’ll take my cue from them and not feel sorry for myself or for them, there is no reason to.

They are a blessed people.  They are a family that loves each other, stands with each other.  They would give the shirt off their backs to anyone in need but family means more.  I get to be a part of that.  I get to see their love and faith in action, beyond fanfare, beyond glitz and rhetoric and fame.  I have seen joy knowing them.

I have known joy being a part of this family.

Quite a legacy, no matter how long they stay in their earthly shells.  A gift that, with all my heart, I would give to my children.

Be The Man!

 

Who wears the pants in your family?

 

It’s easy to look at life, at your job or ministry, your family, and question what is going on.  I spend so much of my time asking God why something is happening and what it means for my future.  I want to be happy and fulfilled in what I do.  I want to be a man of faith, a good husband, a loving father.  My family should see me as a voice of truth and reason in this crazy world we live in.

 

But all the while there is this dark undercurrent that I share with so few.  I am a failure.  I can’t do things right.  I am stupid and a disappointment to myself and my King.  He gifted me with so much and all I can do is complain, not trusting Him with everything I know that He is always good.

 

So the cycle continues, dominated by fear and anger, I push others away.  I want something so badly that I lose sight of others, I lose sight of God.  And in those moments of blindedness, I fall, I lose, I hate.

 

So what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

 

This is what I think.  My priorities are screwed up.  When I lose focus it is conjoined to putting good things above God things.  And what are the God things?  Number one is my wife.  Then comes my family.  This is not a cliche.  This is not a marriage seminar.  This is just reality.  Are things out of wack?  Then I’m not putting God first and His priorities are not defining my priorities.  And for all you pastors, leaders, ministers, deacons and elders, God does not care what you are doing as much as who you are loving.  God doesn’t care how big your church is as much as He cares about you cherishing the woman He gave you to walk through life with.

 

So be the man.  Lay your life down.  Sacrifice your life.  Give up your will, your plans, your dreams.  Trust in the God who knows you and holds you in His almighty hands.

I’m talking to you, bitter worshipper.  And God, I’m talking to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be The Man!

 

Who wears the pants in your family?

 

It’s easy to look at life, at your job or ministry, your family, and question what is going on.  I spend so much of my time asking God why something is happening and what it means for my future.  I want to be happy and fulfilled in what I do.  I want to be a man of faith, a good husband, a loving father.  My family should see me as a voice of truth and reason in this crazy world we live in.

 

But all the while there is this dark undercurrent that I share with so few.  I am a failure.  I can’t do things right.  I am stupid and a disappointment to myself and my King.  He gifted me with so much and all I can do is complain, not trusting Him with everything I know that He is always good.

 

So the cycle continues, dominated by fear and anger, I push others away.  I want something so badly that I lose sight of others, I lose sight of God.  And in those moments of blindedness, I fall, I lose, I hate.

 

So what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

 

This is what I think.  My priorities are screwed up.  When I lose focus it is conjoined to putting good things above God things.  And what are the God things?  Number one is my wife.  Then comes my family.  This is not a cliche.  This is not a marriage seminar.  This is just reality.  Are things out of wack?  Then I’m not putting God first and His priorities are not defining my priorities.  And for all you pastors, leaders, ministers, deacons and elders, God does not care what you are doing as much as who you are loving.  God doesn’t care how big your church is as much as He cares about you cherishing the woman He gave you to walk through life with.

 

So be the man.  Lay your life down.  Sacrifice your life.  Give up your will, your plans, your dreams.  Trust in the God who knows you and holds you in His almighty hands.

I’m talking to you, bitter worshipper.  And God, I’m talking to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family and Friends

There she goes again.  Nag, nag, nag.

Why did God put me with this woman that seems to do nothing but drive me crazy?  And for that matter, why did He put me with all these people who seem bent on my destruction?  Why did He command us to fellowship with each other?

Hebrews 10:25 says we shouldn’t give up meeting together.  But most churches have so many that are bitter and angry with the church, complaining and arguing over minutia, wounding and cutting with words and deeds.  Why did God put us in this dysfunctional, insane, inharmonious cauldron of humanity that He calls His bride?

Short answer:  Because we need each other.

It isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun.  It is bloody and painful and hard, oh, so hard.  And really, the premise of these questions is misplaced, wrong, evil.  “Why did God put me with this woman,” assumes that He could have, should have put me with that perfect woman that never drives anyone crazy.  It also carries the connotation that if I had been placed with said perfection, I would then be perfect also.  HA!  He put us together, all of us, because that is what He has chosen to work with.  Can you imagine how many old testament floods, fire raining from heaven events, Jehu type cleansings there would have to be to eradicate imperfection from this planet.  Needless to say, we’d all be dead.

Can I see that the things that hurt me, bother me, anger and frustrate me are much less about their problems and so much more about mine?  Can I look at those around me and see the blessings God has given?  Can I serve them and love them with a full heart, knowing that, should failures and aggravations set the standard, I would be the first to receive my pink slip of life?

And dare I say it?  It’s like sex.  If you are desiring sterility, asepsis, you are sure to be disappointed.  If you go into it, knowing and accepting that it will be messy, it can be a lot of fun.

Who’s Your Daddy?

I have the best dad in the universe.  No seriously!

He constantly watches out for me and gives me personal advice for everything that happens in my life.  It gets kind of irritating sometimes because I argue with him even though I know he’s always right.  Funny though, I feel better knowing that I can trust him, though I do wish he would let me win from time to time.  I do get bothered by his constant supervision too.  I mean, I’m a grown man that can think for himself.  Do I really need his constant correction when I do something wrong.  He seems to let some of my brothers slide so much on some areas but not me.  Of course, I don’t know everything going on for them, but really he seems to favor them over me almost all the time.  They get new toys while I have to keep playing with the same old, worn out junk.  They live in nice houses while mine is just, well, not as nice.  It’s not fair.  He lets them do so many stupid things.  But, if I stray an inch from his goal for me, he is all over me with scripture I read and music I hear.  When I think about it, though, I can see that we’re closer to each other than some of my brothers are to him.  Somehow, even though I want things, more of him is worth more than more stuff.  And, I have to say, it is nice to know that he sees me.  I don’t think I could take it if I thought he didn’t care about my life.  So I guess I can accept his vigilance.

My daddy is really strong, too.  He beats up on the other dads in my neighborhood everyday.  And, he even lets me kick ’em in the shins from time to time just to help me be more like him.  I really want to be more like my dad.  The other day we beat the snot out of lust and impurity in Battle Creek, MI (yeah PK).  It was awesome!

I could go on and on.  The greatest thing about my dad, though, is that with Him I feel safe.  I don’t mean safe like boring, routine, never try anything safe.  I mean like, I can do anything!  There’s no such thing as impossible.  I can take the greatest risks and know that He will catch me, complete me, remove me if need be, keep me.  It gets pretty exciting though, I have to say, I still get scared sometimes.  I know I’m safe but don’t always believe what I know.  He always catches me, even when I’m scared.  And I think I’m getting better at trusting Him.

Does your dad sound like my dad?  If not, I’d love to introduce you to Him.  See, I didn’t even tell you the best part.  I’m adopted.  My old dad was mean and hated me.  He hurt me over and over.  Then, my new dad found me and asked me to be a part of his family.  All I did was say, “OK,” and He took me in.  He loves kids.

Maybe He can be your dad too.