Casting Your Net

“Staring at the shoreline, wishing for some hope, the weight of empty fishing nets is more than twisted rope.”

These lines from a band called “Five Iron Frenzy” came back to me just in time yesterday.  It speaks of a time after Jesus was crucified when the disciples were all but despairing.

I have been there.  I am there right now.

They thought that God had called them to something great.  They had argued about who would sit at Jesus right hand in His kingdom, who would be the greatest.  And then they watched Him die.

But then He rose, after all their failures and betrayals, he came back.  No discussions of self-importance, no more grand ideas.  They had messed up and they knew it.

So they returned to fishing.  I’m never going to be great.  I will never be anything.

And then, they fail at that too.

“See the figure on the shore, He speaks as plain men sing.  His hands they still have holes in them, Glory to the King!”

Then Jesus, THEN JESUS, my hero, my King…

“Try one more time.”

“But I’ve been trying.  Everything and everyone is telling me how I’ve failed you, how much a mess I’ve made of my life.”

“Trust me.”

“I hear they’ll hang you upside down, stretched across their boards, for hearing distant voices and crossing to the Lord.”

Peter ended up hung on a cross too.  But we’ve got to see beyond this.  He lived a life, found a love worth dying for.  In casting out his net one more time, he found what he had always, unknowingly, hoped for.

I’m tired.  I don’t know how to keep trying some days.  Maybe you can relate.

Don’t give up.  A life worth dying for is just on the other side.

Do you believe?

What started me on this journey of writing over these years was a belief that our real struggle in life is in what we believe.  Not what we intellectually assent to, but what we believe in our core.  I have sought to write about things that challenge the way I feel about the circumstances life throws at me.

I believe that this journey has lead me to a deeper place of faith,  a place where what I believe about my God, what I know about His love for me, is greater than it was three years ago.

So what do I do with that?

How do I act and live and love in return if He loves me so much and believes in me as much as He does?

I have learned to be bolder, to act as though I have power and life to give to my world.  I protect myself less and others more.  I am learning to do ridiculous things, request things pray for things that I have no business doing or asking for.  I find myself leading more and following less.

My knees are still knocking, and my heart still beats to fast.  I still remind myself that I’m too old, too broken, too stupid, too worthless, but I move anyway.  I hear the condemnation from my enemy and the ridicule from those who are broken like me, but I step out.

What’s coming next?  I’m not sure.

But, I believe.

Land of the Free

Shameless Plug:  Don’t miss the video at the end

I love my country.

There are a few things that can bring me to tears every time.

The sight of a baby being born.

The thought of my Savior dying on the cross to save me.

The words and melody of the Star Spangled Banner.

“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It sends chills up my spine.

Freedom is something that we talk about so much in this country.  Freedom of religion, freedom from religion.  Freedom of speech.  Sexual freedom.  Freedom to choose your own identity.

Lately, we are debating the freedom to go to the bathroom in whatever location we choose.  Seems to have fallen from the lofty ideas that it originated from, but, that’s where we are.

Side note:  Any man who chooses to exercise their right to go to the bathroom in the ladies room while my daughter or wife is in there, better be ready to go through me.

Anyway…

As I have watched these debates, and various other debates throughout the years, it would appear that we are running from freedom, not to it.  Sexual orientation, pornography, drugs (marijuana, opiates, whatever), hate crimes and hateful song lyrics do not release us.  They and the other ideas that surround these arguments do not bring freedom.

I have many friends that are mired in these things that speak, sometimes so eloquently, about the freedom they are experiencing.  But, it’s all eyewash.  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Satan has been doing this since he first made contact with humanity.  “You can throw off God, be God yourself.  You’ll be free if you disobey His commands, run from His love, despise His perfect design.”

And for all these years, we’ve believed satan’s lies, and the lies we now tell ourselves.

I know slavery.  I now know freedom.  Real, healing, blessed, calming freedom!  God never wanted slaves.  God never designed us to yield to anything or anyone but Him.

We can still be the “Land of the Free”, and it doesn’t even matter where we call home.

That’s Not Him

A very dear friend of mine died last week.  The viewing was Monday and I was able to go.  I didn’t want to go, it is so hard to say goodbye.  I knew I should though.

As I stood in the line waiting to walk past the casket, I noticed the beautiful flowers, the pictures of my friend, the family chatting with loved ones.  It was beautiful.  Strangely enough, I noticed how handsome my friend was, in pictures.  I never noticed before.  I guess some of us are obtuse that way.

As I got closer, I caught glimpses of the body that lay there.  I then started trying to get a better look at the same time as I was trying not to look.  The person I saw lying there did not look like my friend.

You see, the person I knew was not a smiley type person.  He just had the power to make you smile.  He was not bubbly or exuberant, he just made you feel warm and loved by his presence.  He noticed things and remembered things that let you know you were cared for.

I found none of those things in the visage resting before me.  That somber, lifeless countenance did not compare with the friend I knew and loved.

Inside my heart I cried, “that’s not him.”

Now I know it was his body.  I said my goodbyes and knew that I would not see my friend again this side of eternity.  But I was right, too.  That body was not him.  This flesh and bone that clothes me, is not me.  With Jesus, I am eternal.  In Him, clothed in His righteousness, I am holy.  We who call on His name become something more, something greater than our outer form.

In this, we have hope.  Hope that is greater than our sorrow, greater than the unknown, greater than anything we face.

Honk, Honk . . .

Or, toot, toot!

What sound do ships make?  Like when they’re coming in….. like right now.

Good people, Christians are playing the lottery, going to casinos, investing and working so much overtime.  They’re still digging for gold, drilling for oil, waiting for that one big break.  They’re hoping for the raise, the promotion, the private office with the title on the door.

Solomon, the Israelite king, wisest of all kings, would call this “chasing after the wind.”

And it is such pointless effort, when your ship has already come in.

Do you think money will solve your problems?  Of course, all churchy people will say no, but how are we living?  Do you think your job, your portfolio, the car you drive will bring peace, joy, fulfillment?  We all say no, but what are we pouring our lives into?

Jesus Christ, His will, His plan, His life has been and always is the only thing worth my time and effort.  He alone can place me where I need to be to find joy, goodness, love.

And He is already inside of me.  He is already acting on my behalf, fighting for my protection, orchestrating all of heaven and earth to bring me the best of everything!

So what are we waiting for?  What are we longing for?  He is here!  He is ready to bless!

Miracles are about to happen!

Grab a Towel!

I never thought about this before.  

It was tradition in the ancient cultures of the Middle East to wash guest’s feet when they entered a home.  Typically this was performed by a servant.  According to some, in the absence of a servant, the job fell to the lowest person present.  Every organization has a pecking order, those who serve and those who are served.  Usually this is established fairly quickly.  One problem, Jesus didn’t have any servants (He still has trouble locating them), and He tended to turn pecking order ideas all upside-down.

So here’s the scene (and it probably wasn’t the first time):

They arrive at a place where no servants are present.  Maybe an argument ensues, “your turn…I did it last time…I do it all the time…”  You know how “kids” are.  Wait, I’ve seen adults act that way (Christian and non-Christian alike).

And since our Lord and King was not a type A person (you know, bossy, tough), I imagine Him hearing the argument and quietly getting up, grabbing a towel and going to work.  But think, they were shocked by this.  He hadn’t done it before.  Did He usually let them argue it out?  Did He usually offer bits of wisdom to admonish them?  In another scene, when he visits a leader in the community, He just doesn’t get His feet washed (an insult by the way), until Mary shows up with kisses and perfume and tears.

On this night, the night before He died, I think there might have been a sense of heaviness, a feeling of something about to change.  John felt it and wanted to be so close to JESUS that he leaned on Him during the meal.  No one wanted to be the one to set aside their self-concept, no one wanted to set aside their fears or concerns.  They may not have even thought of arguing, consumed by their own thoughts, foot washing was not paramount.  But Jesus, though He knew what was coming, though He had His own concerns and fears about what He was going to face, took off His robe, wrapped Himself in a towel and served.

I get weighed down by worries.  I see only uncertainty in my future on earth.  Fear can almost overwhelm me.  I want to be noticed and valued.  I want greater responsibility, greater dreams to dream.  I don’t want pain or embarrassment, humility, obscurity.

Maybe, instead of shoving myself forward into the limelight (or wishing God would) . . .

Maybe, instead of hoping for fame and glory (yes, I still wish for these things) . . .

Maybe, instead of considering how to up my position, leverage myself into power, be a mover and shaker in this world . .

Maybe, I should just go grab a towel.

Angry, tired and frustrated

I had all sorts of great titles running through my head this morning but they wouldn’t have been honest.

I have been sick for the past week.  Suffering from vertigo, looking at perhaps a long recovery time.  Hearing the words I’ve written to others but not feeling them, not believing them.  Remembering the dreams and hopes that I laid down, taking them back off the altar and wanting so bad for them to come true.

So, this morning I face a new day.  I am debilitated.  I weigh too much.  I am so out of shape and so far from what God designed me for.

A light breaks over my heart right now, in this moment.  It is the backdrop for the cross in my life.  Will I pick it up again?  Will I deny myself and follow Him?  I’ve seen too much, been through too much to believe that my will can accomplish anything good.  I struggle and fume, maybe this time, maybe I’ll win.

Satan throws at me every self-made man, every wealthy success story.  Those who have the cars, the house, the power position.  He lets me know what he offers.

And I reject it.

I want to be the hero of my own story.  I want to be the one who submitted his will so fully to Jesus that He has only to nudge and I’m there, He has only to call and I’ll answer.  I want to be the one who lays everything down and lets JESUS shine through.

That’s a life worth living.

We are not consumed 

I have been praying over some difficult situations lately.  There are several things that are weighing on my heart.  There are so many things that we’ve lost, so many dreams unfulfilled.  I am aware of hurting families, lonely singles, broken marriages, the addicted, the depressed, the discouraged.

At my job lately, I’ve been working a lot of hours.  Sometimes I am amazed at the strength God has provided.  It’s like I am a machine that just goes full steam, nonstop.  I did twelve hours yesterday and didn’t feel all that tired.  The ride home from work reminded me that I am not a machine.  Machines don’t get back pain or have trouble walking into the house.

I thought of the verse:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭22-24‬ NIV)

I just kept repeating the phrase, “we are not consumed.”  

Broken hearts consume us, but we are not consumed.  Sickness consumes us, but we are not consumed.  Hatred, bitterness, fear, sadness consume us, but we are not consumed.

How can we go through life, friends dying, hope crushed, some facing pain and sickness, torture, catastrophe and not be consumed?  It doesn’t even matter if you are a Christian or not.  Living begs the question, “how are we not consumed?”

And maybe you feel like you are consumed.  I feel like that sometimes.  “I can’t take anymore.  If one more thing weighs me down, I’ll die.”

But, I AM NOT DEAD!

I can take more.  I can still move.  I will take one more breath, think one more thought.  You will too.

All because of the love of God.  

As I say this, I see a picture that was posted recently.  The guns of Isis warriors pointed at and poking a small child.  I do not believe that child lived, and it’s last moments were horror.  That is an environment where God’s love has been shoved aside, where man has fully denied God’s heart and run after evil.  That is what would consume us all if God’s love was removed.

I will not accept lethargy, complacency or apathy.  Depression and despondency will not rule my days.  I will wait for the Lord and live in such a way that I bring honor to Him. 

Because I am not consumed.



All the Glory

I can’t write without Him. I can’t play without Him. I can’t sing without Him. I can’t love without Him.

He is Jesus!

It isn’t just a trite saying. I’m not trying to Impress my religion on someone, or impress with my holiness (ha! If that was even possible). It is just science.

The explanation for the chemical pathways, the presence of enzymes, neural functions and higher emotional and intellectual processes has been understood, in part. And yet, there is still so much that can not be explained. And the more we understand, the more questions it raises. We are left with a feeling that all life is miraculous. The fact that any life is possible is just a miracle.

I have seen the evil of this world. The fact that we have not annihilated our own species is a miracle. The hope that we can fix ourselves is misplaced. This country, America is a miracle. And we are not alone. Even in the poverty of what we would call third world nations, there is love, there is joy.

So to You, my God, my King. For not giving up, for loving us and pouring out your spirit in us and through us, I give You all the glory. I give you all my praise and honor!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

He is jealous for me,

loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,

bending beneath the weight of His wind

and Mercy

All of a sudden,

I am unaware of these afflictions

Eclipsed by glory

And I realize just how beautiful You are

And how great Your affections are for me

I sang those words tonight, sang them with everything that is in me.  But do I believe them?  Do I live them in such a way that would lead me to leap off of a cliff in expectation of His arms beneath me?

Quite honestly, I don’t think I do.  The season I am in has me reeling as I find myself with no options but to wait on God.  I have done what needed to be done.  I have been faithful in what God has given me and nothing is turning out right.

I need a job.  I have not had steady, life-supporting work since April.  Because of trying to work, I have no unemployment, no insurance, and no where else to turn.  Our finances, our utilities, our home are all threatened and life feels like it is on shaky ground.

Do you know that there is no better place to be?

Time to put up or shut up.  When you can not depend on anyone but Jesus, you realize that you never could depend on anyone but Him.  I realize that all along, I was really dependent on myself.  And that is a bad place to be.

That is not my home, my refuge.  That is not the rock I would build my house on.

He is my strong tower.  He is my refuge, my fortress.