I’m So Amazed

I’m so amazed by your mercy

I’m so amazed by your love

I’m so amazed that you came down on Christmas Day

I’m so amazed by your greatness

That You gave it up for me

I’m so amazed that you came down on Christmas Day

God’s Word that made the stars in the heavens

Became a child one Holy night

Let go His father’s hand

To reach for everyone

So they could finally be alive

 

There’s more to this but didn’t want to plug my own poetry.

 

I wanted to write a song to explain what I thought of Jesus and the audacity it took for him to lay aside his position in heaven to rescue us.  I wanted to express, somehow, an appreciation for what we treat with ignorance and contempt so much of the time.  Words are so inadequate.  Our hearts, our minds can’t wrap themselves around what took place.

We are coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Our hearts can be so caught up in trappings, in dealing with family, in buying and preparing, and rushing.  Every year we hear the words, see the movies, read the stories.  Can we forget everything, if only for a few minutes each day, and focus our attention on Jesus, who left it all for us?  Can we take a deep breath and listen for His voice, His heart?

 

Thank You daddy for the words and melody for a song.  Thank you so much more for what can’t be explained.  Thank You Jesus.  My Hero, my King.

English: "Do you recognize Jesus?" i...
English: “Do you recognize Jesus?” is a collage that I made from oil pastel portraits which I drew in Chicago in the summer and fall of 2010. It can be folded in three and used as a Christmas card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)   

 

 

 

Take the Long Way

My wife and I rush most of the places we go to.  We’re always just a bit behind.  But lately, I’m having trouble wanting it anymore.  So much of my life has been about the destination, getting there.  But many of the more recent nights, I’m finding myself just enjoying the sound of her voice.  I like talking to her too but I really like to hear her.

I’m wondering whether God’s purpose for my life is not so much about what I get to be when I grow up but the time we spent on the way.  The old Jewish people said it best.  “May the dust of your Rabbi always cover you (or something like that).”  They meant that we are to walk so closely with our teacher, spend so much time in his presence, that his dust covers us.

I’m questioning so much of my life right now.  A lot of “what ifs” are bouncing around in my head. What if no one reads my work, or cares that I existed?  Through it all, I have a feeling that I might be doing something right by simply talking to God, pursuing Him, listening for His voice, bringing my fears and failures to Him.

I think, in the end, when I hear, “well done.”  It will not be because I did something great.  It will be because I held His hand.

And that’s actually, really cool.

I Think He’s Dead…

No, I’m not.

I’m tired.  I’m discouraged.  I’m beat up.  I’m hurt.

BUT I’M NOT DEAD!!!

Do you realize the freedom and power in those words?  And, the pervasive truth?  The world, satan, my own flesh would like me to act as though I’m dead, to lay down, quit, give up, stop fighting the battles you’re never going to win.

But I’ll tell you a little secret.  Come closer.  I don’t want anyone to hear this…..

I’M NOT DEAD!!!  I’M GOING TO WIN!!!!

I bet you’re wondering how I can say this in the face of monumental decision catastrophes and an almost maniacal adherence to failure.  The absolute truth is, my life is not dependent on me.

Some people, probably none that would ever read this blog, charge forward knowing every decision they make is the right one.  They write books on “being a better you” and “making the most of every opportunity”.  Some even add the aspect of faith to their claims.  “Step out in faith” with the claim that you can ask for anything and God will give it to you if you have enough faith.

I’m not like that.  I’m a coward where God is concerned, and typically, only step out on faith in myself, which is ridiculous since I’ve proven singularly untrustworthy.  But God…

Another powerful set of words… BUT GOD!

God is good.  He takes this heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.  He takes my head of stone and replaces it with something more functional also.  He takes every failing effort, every step in the wrong direction and uses it to bring glory to Himself.  He takes my striving, pitiful offerings and uses them, divides them, shares them with hearts that can weed out the useless drivel and find nuggets of love and truth.

And even if He doesn’t, hear this, listen please, I’m not dead.  He hasn’t given up on the potential that He saw in me when He called me to be His kid.  He has given me another second to live, to breathe, to touch, to speak.

He’s given the same to you.

PS:  Missed blogging for a week because of crazy work, church schedules.  My apologies.

Bitterness of the Soul

Anger seems to be such a default response in me.  Consequently, I deal with depression, fear, anxiety, addiction.  They go hand in hand.  I constantly battle with bitterness.

I am no longer charming, or young.  I never was tall or good looking.  I’ve never been able to “sell” myself.  I have ear rings and a tattoo mainly for one reason.  I wanted to shout to the world, “accept me for me, not for what you want me to be.”  And have, for most of my life, dealt with the subsequent rejection that ensued.  See, I was the black sheep of my family, always in trouble.  In church, I was the one who asked too many questions, raised too many doubts, didn’t take things by faith.  In school, I didn’t accept authority just because of their position.  Respect was something you earned from me.  Friendship, trust, were things that were not given to many.  What seems so laughable to me is that I was accepted by many, part of many groups,  but always as one on the fringes.  I was a jock but not one that excelled, in the clique but not.   I was a brain but of lesser intelligence.  I was a druggie that no one ever saw take drugs.   I was on the fringes but too close to the cliques to be a real part of the fringe element too.  Friends with everyone but friends with no one all at the same time.

So much bitterness has come from this, and I think I was not alone in this.  I turn that bitterness on God.  Every lost opportunity, every chance that I didn’t take, was because He wouldn’t let me in.  “Yes, you can be a Christian, but I can’t really use you for anything great.  You just don’t fit the mold.”

Now, the reality is that many who are in leadership are looking for a type.  Young, charismatic, super-talented, years of experience wrapped up in someone who just graduated.  I had been told that, even at the age of 30, I was too old.  Now, some 21 years later, I am done for sure and no one will even listen to me.  I have been told that, should I take a more public role, it would actually hurt the efforts to attract the younger crowd.  Statistics are quoted, there is documented evidence.

And with all that, I can’t walk away.

See, the God that I serve doesn’t look on the outside.  He looks at my heart.  He sees past all the anger and fear and calls me to walk with Him.  And He isn’t done with me yet.  Amazingly, He is still in the business of using me even though I fight Him so much.  He knows my issues and has decided that I shouldn’t be tossed, I have a purpose in His kingdom.  I can’t fathom this because I have actually made a pretty concerted effort to get Him to reject me too.  Bitterness does that.

He just continues to love me, to heal my brokenness, to hold me to Himself.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I have a feeling that there are many, many people who feel the way I do.

Bitterness be gone.  I’m choosing to trust….and rest.

What’s It Worth

A Bowie knife with a ten inch blade, leather, calf-length moccasins, a motorcycle jacket, a cowboy hat, a guitar, these are things that over the years I have valued.  A list of what would make me happier, make me more of a man, complete me.  I worked hours upon hours shoveling manure, sweeping floors, delivering newspapers, flipping burgers.  I woke up early many mornings, worked late at night too.  All to purchase these necessities.

Now, I hear your laughter.  I take note of your mocking tones.  Some of you may actually remember what I looked like with my ensemble all together.  Oh, but I was cool back then.  Actually, I don’t think I ever was trying to be cool as much as I was trying to be different.  To this day the greatest compliment I think I’ve ever been paid was the day a guy told me I was an enigma. 

But I digress.  

What do I value in myself, now?  I have always thought I had something to say and that people should listen.  I always thought that I was a leader, a pastor, a musician.  And I have poured vast amounts of energy into being those things.  And it has been a let down.  Can I say that honestly?  The things that I thought made me worth something have all turned to dust!

Why?  Why has what I have valued and found confidence in all become pain, sadness, disappointment?

Jesus said that where your treasure is, your heart will be too.  And my treasure has been so much placed on me.  Now I’m a pretty good guy most of the time, but I make a horrible god, especially for me.  Though I would never believe it to be true, I have put me on the throne, laid my offerings at my feet, bowed in worship.

I say this to my shame.

It is as though I am the lover that accepts the adoration and sacrifice of my groom, my husband and only speaks words of hate, the fattened cow that takes from this lavish feasts and complains because there is no candy.

I was worth His life.

What is He worth to me?

I Am a Saint

Could I share with you all the thoughts that run through my mind?  Would you hear me and know me better if you could see the murder, the depravity that wells up inside of me on a daily basis.  I think not.  I lead worship and pray with men.  I am overcome by God’s presence and His power in my life.  I talk with Him, hear His voice, walk with Him through my days.  But still fail and struggle and wrestle and whine and pout and ….

Satan whispers in my ear, shouts to my heart, “You are a loser.  You will never matter.  Your life does not and will not make a difference to anyone.  When you die, you will simply disappear and no one will mourn your passing or notice your absence.”  He goes on for a while and I’ll not bore you with all that he says.  But understand, it is a lie.

Does he say things like this to you?  Does his voice of condemnation crush you with its lying truths?  Do you see in yourself the hopelessness of your life and know that you have failed.

Good.  We all need to be humbled from time to time.

Now, stand up.  Put on your armor.  Lift up your sword.  Shout out this battle cry.

“I AM A SAINT!!!”

“GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN ME THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD”

We are His children, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  We are not condemned for our sins were paid for on the cross of Jesus Christ.  We stand covered by His blood, washed clean, filled with the Holy Spirit.  Warriors of the cross that live victorious who overcome the evil one by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.  This is truth.  This is the reality that cannot be removed or shaken by anything other than our unwillingness to believe it.

I AM A SAINT

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.

My Theophany

Have you ever seen God?  I think I catch glimpses of Him from time to time, though I’m not sure.  His face is often obscured by the humanity surrounding me, the worries and concerns that I carry and my arrogant ability to only see myself.  But yes, I’m sure that was Him that I saw.

The other day we had a single mom and her kids over to our house.  My sons love her sons and they play together though sons are adults and hers are very young.  The youngest boy is taken with my oldest choosing often to want to just sit with him, rest on him.  But my son was not the image of God that I saw.  There was a particular moment when this boy looked at me and smiled.  In the midst of his growing fatigue and childish fussiness, he looked at me and smiled and I saw God smiling.  He was not particularly pleased with me or for what I had done, not admiring my children or our guests.  He was pleased with family, with life, with love.  I think God knows that we are fussy and childish, selfish and even bad.  But He chose for us to walk together, yes to help and serve, but really just to walk together.

I have seen God in the sunrise.  The vast panorama of color and beauty.  Brightness and awe that seems to bathe my senses and release them from the fixation on accomplishment.  His presence, in those moments, renders me insignificant in comparison to the grandeur before me.  And yet, elevates me beyond myself as I know these occasions are shared, intimate, just my God and His awestruck child.

I see Him less now than I have in times past.  When I first came to Him I didn’t know you had to speak to Him in certain ways, using words that only church people understand.  I hadn’t heard that you can’t know HIm or that experiences with Him are products of emotional outbursts and immaturity.  I was still under the impression that if I talked to Him, He would talk to me.  I still believed that if I looked for Him, I would find Him.  My wisdom, my experience and maturity have grown like weeds over the flower of my faith in Him.

Interesting that God first met man in a garden.  Maybe, even then, He saw me, knowing that He would have to pull weeds, cultivate and fertilize the soil around my heart.  Maybe, even now, I can see myself as God does, in the smile of a child.

That Guy

I’m driving down the highway this morning.  It’s early.  The sun isn’t up yet and there’s very little traffic on the road.  I see him approaching, though there’s very little time between when I first notice the headlights and the beginning of him riding my bumper.

I don’t want to be that guy.

A friend of mine is in a custody fight for her children.  Her ex doesn’t want the kids but he doesn’t want to pay child support either.  The courts have it all worked out so that the kids are hurt, no one wins, no good will come of it.

I don’t want to be that guy.

Last night my wife criticized something I was working on.  I lost my temper and spoke harshly, unlovingly to my bride of twenty-three years.

I don’t want to be that guy.

Funny that the more I stand for me, protecting myself, living for myself, the more I become like that guy.

I want to be the guy that stands up and shouts the praises of his God.  I want to be the guy that loves beyond reason, beyond hope, not for what he gets but for what he has the priviledge of giving.  I want to be the guy that would die for his country, unapologetically but without arrogance – American.  I want to be the guy that you can trust, you can count on, you would die beside.  I want to be the guy that is a good friend, a strong man, a holy warrior for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Funny, but it seems the closer I hold on to Jesus, the more I become the man I want to be.

It is a good day!

I deal, daily, with children who have lost their fathers.  Some to sexual sin, some to alcohol, drugs, fear, anger, bitterness.  Some have died in war, senseless accidents, disease.  I get to see, first hand, their hurts, their brokenness, the fear that reveals itself in so many ways.

Has God gone crazy?  Has He forgotten us?  Why are these children hurt so deeply, so permanently through no fault of their own. 

And just to be clear, some of these children are no longer children.

Can I take a simple message to deal with the age old argument of pain and God’s sovereignty?  I don’t think so.  The arguments are too complex and emotions run to high for platitudes and cliches.  But I can tell you this.  God has not abandoned us or neglected His duty, His promises.

We sing a song called “Light Up the World (Desperation Band)” that contains the line, “I’m gonna believe that churches will become Your hands and feet.”  I know that God has not abandoned His children because I’m still alive.  You’re still reading this post.

See, we can say that nothing can be done to help all the hurting in our world.  We can say that it is too much to ask for me to lay down my life for the cross of Jesus.  But, that doesn’t heal the losses, the torment.  We can say that we are too ruined to be of any use, to bring any healing, but that won’t mend our hearts or stop the bleeding.

God made us to be His Body.  His blood runs through our veins.  His thoughts course through our neural pathways.  And we are alive.  This is such a gift, such a responsiblity to not look at each day in the light of what will happen to me, but to see it as an opportunity to affect our planet.  To be light, to be salt, to bring truth, to bring love, what an amazing adventure He calls us to.

It is a good day to be alive.