Love is spelled T-I-M-E

I had to remind myself to read the bible today.  Totally forgot to pray.  I had other things on my mind.  Maybe ok for someone who doesn’t know Jesus, who hasn’t walked with Him for the past 34 years.  Definitely not ok for me.

I sing my worship songs every Sunday.  I feel His presence and know a taste of His glory.  Now it’s Wednesday and I’ve forgotten to pray.

It is so much easier for me to focus on the things I’m angry about.  The financial worries that consume my life.  The promotion that I’d so much like to get.  I think about my sons and the life events they are going through.  I miss my daughter, my son-in-law, my grandson.  Tick-tock.  Time’s a-wastin’.

I have books to read, books to write.  Movies I HAVE to see.  Music to practice, instrumentally and vocally.  Plans for future.  Recruiting, discipling, encouraging.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.

Where am I supposed to find time for You, my Sovereign?  Where do I find the reserves to invest in You, the Source of all life and truth?

There is truth to finding the time, making the time to spend alone and quiet with God.  But that isn’t all He requires.  Think of a marriage where for one hour a day you sit quiet and talk.  Good, healthy, beneficial.  But only as a starting point.  We were meant to live every moment together, quiet and crazy.  It isn’t a check list – there I did my time with Him.  It is an on-going relationship where He promises to “never leave us…”  We need our quiet time with Him.  We need even more to include Him in every moment of our day.

Talk to Him like He’s there.  Rant about your frustrations like He cares to hear how your day is going.  Sing to Him when you feel like singing.  Mention you love Him when you’re not sure that He’s sure.  Ask Him questions.  Tell Him your fears.  Spend your day with Him.

Tick-tock.  Make it count.

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Stop Being A Jerk

A simple command that doesn’t require too much thought.  Added to this is hearing it from God.  Not the start you want to your day.

I was complaining.  Again.

Things go wrong in my life.  Things that I thought would happen just don’t happen.  I struggle with sin.  I fall and get back up.  And then I wrestle with depression and guilt.  I feel so distant from my wife, my kids, my God.  Why Lord? 

Then I’m swearing at the guy who just cut me off.  I’m angry and sullen all day at work, every moment wishing I could quit this place and do something meaningful.  And the really sad part is that this is a familiar pattern.  I swing on this pendulum fairly often and you’d think I’d just get off this ride, but no.  Here I am again.  Wondering why God hasn’t come through for me.  Questioning why God allowed me on this earth.

Then His answer comes.  He actually couched it in terms that I won’t use here because I don’t want to offend.  But he speaks to me through words I can understand and relate to.  His voice was no less loving than at other times.  There was nothing of disappointment or condemnation.  He was just being straight with me.  I love that about my King.

And what is the truth?  I was being a jerk.  I know better but I was pouting, having my little temper tantrums, saying things that do not honor him, hating.  And what do I expect?  A miraculous light to shine down on me and all bad attitudes, imperfect thoughts, humanity is removed.  The saint, who is Matt Hawkins, shines forth in glory.  And all that is, was, wrong can be laid squarely at the feet of my choices.  So make different choices.

Satan will tell you (he tells me) that you can’t choose.  You are stuck in a pattern that you can’t break free of.  One of the many wonders of worship is that it is a time to make another choice.  We sing to our God because of His greatness, His power, His love.  But inherit in that worship is the idea that we are changed by His presence.  We become something greater having been with our God.  His glory shines through us.

So make a different choice.  And stop being a jerk.

The Power of Love (part 2)

The reality of love is something so much greater than we allow it to be.  We say that love sees us values us for who we are.  This is so true, but it is incomplete.  God’s love also sees us for what we can be.  It is why he sees an addict and places things in their way, problems and blessings, to set them free.  It is why the issue of homosexuality is dealt with so harshly in scripture.  It is why sin required the sacrifice of the cross.

The adulterous man cheating on his wife, abandoning his children does not need accepted where he is.  The angry, hateful child does not need understood.  The alcoholic does not need genetic engineering to rid him of his curse.  We excuse and justify, demeaning righteousness to compensate for our weaknesses.  We placate and seek narcotics or a vast array of chemical alterations to change who we are and why we act the way we do.

God seeks to set us free.

It is sad and strange that we dress Him in the aspect of one who would keep us bound to rules and edicts.  It is sacriledge to think that He wants us to be something other than who we truly are.  Remember that “it is He who made us” – He is the designer of us and we were made with particular skills, purposes, innovations that are unique to us.  We are not copies of our parents (nor photo negatives).  And we are certainly not defined by our weaknesses, addictions, sexual tendencies or anger management issues.

Love looks at the object of its love with the ability to see past the scratches and dents, the rust and dirt, the chipped paint of the walls that we build around our hearts.  These walls that tell us what we can and can’t be.  It looks on the inside and seeks to draw us out into the light of itself where anything is possible and we show the glory of our Artist.

The Power of Love

What is happening with the family today?  I’ve seen so many children that are chewed up in grinder of divorce.  I see them go from happy, silly, wonderful kids to depressed, angry, addicted young men and women.  Life happens, and everything isn’t the parents fault but I can tell you what makes a difference – love.  Simple, cliched, churchy answer that somehow gets lost in the struggle to know what love is, what it looks like but the truth is, love changes the rules for everything.  So many of us have made choices throughout our lives that should leave us hopeless, despairing, giving up on what is precious to us.  But then love enters and we find a reason to go on.  The children are left with holes in them, parts of their psyche that are simply missing without a father to fill those gaps, a mother to help them grow.  But love enters and we see that our lives do hold value, we have a purpose and a destiny.

“So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…”

The lines to a song that show so poingnantly how God shows Himself to His children.  God does not love us as a distant, aloof creator that seeks merely to draw those worthy enough to His side.  In the act of Jesus’ sacrifice we see His willingness to give all to win us.  But, in one sense, it didn’t end there.  He meets us today with touches of His love.  A song, a scripture, a word from a friend…the sunrise, a rain shower, a hand holding mine, all show that God is present and active.  But do you see that we are an active part in so much of how God chooses to demonstrate His love.  We can not solve all the world’s problems – I’m not sure we’re supposed to.  I think we start by looking for Him and believing that He is there.  Then we move to seeing the needs of those hurting around us – even though we are hurting.  As we try to find our way in this maze, we guide people along the way.  The blind leading the blind but we can feel His warmth on our face.  We speak His truth.  We tell of His love.  We demonstrate it through kindness and touching those God brings into our path.  We see His love as we show love.  Then we are joined to His heart, caught up in the whirlwind of His presence.  Then we have and give LIFE!

Where is God When I’m Stupid?

I would like to say that the problems in my life have a deep psychological meaning, that they stem from the abuse that I experienced as a child or financial struggles that I face today.  It would be convenient to say that the distance I feel with God is due to fatigue or the stress put on me by my family.  But the reality is I’m a sinner.

My title for today is intended to be a play on words associated with the book, “Where is God when It Hurt.”  It is not intended to disrespect that book or the very real hurts that many experience and cope with.

But that isn’t my problem.  I just seem to do the wrong thing over and over again.  I am blessed by God and know His presence so closely that I sometimes sense His physical touch on my shoulder, my heart.  He has healed so many hurts from my past bringing forgiveness and new life.  And yet, I still fall.

Does He leave me during these moments of weakness and failure?  Does He stand back and “tsk, tsk”, shaking His head in disappointment that I can’t get things right?  And why did He choose me to be His child, His son, when He knew I’d be this way?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I know He must let us go to walk on our own like a parent takes their hands from a toddler, knowing it will fall but knowing more that it will never walk if it doesn’t fall.  I think there is an element of disappointment in my wilfulness and self-serving independence.  But there is, more so, an element of pride and joy over my tenacity and daily return to Him for strength and purpose.  And, though I truly don’t know why He chose me, I can rest in the fat that He did.  He knew everything and still scooped me up into His arms and called me His own.

He promised He will never leave me or forsake me.  He will never leave you.  He is right there with you in the storm.  Even when we’re stupid.

I Don’t Feel So Good

As I look around the world and see the ever present scourge of depression that manifests itself through addictions, mental disorders and suicide.  When I see families torn apart by divorce, infidelity, abuse, neglect and even incest.  And when I gaze on my own heart as I rise and fall, succeed for a moment and then fail.  I can’t help but see a correlation between these struggles.  There is a deafening cry, “Make me feel better!”

I have long wrestled with addiction and sin and have come to the realization that the point of my downfall is that moment when I decide I would rather “feel” better, even if only for a moment, than do what I know is right.  The sadness that seems to reach down into my soul becomes overwhelming in its need to be assuaged.  The pattern seems to be set before it even begins with the resulting “crash” a foregone conclusion.

Worship can enter this realm and become, at least in my opinion, akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Consider this:  Do I sing songs at church because it makes me feel better?  Do I listen to the pastor or pay my tithe salve my broken soul?  Do I allow my hands to droop by my sides because I can no longer raise them in praise to my God?  If you answer yes to these questions, then it bears self-analysis, a heart check to determine whether worship has become a thing you do to feel better.

If we look at the bible, we see so much that is written to encourage us, to lift up our hearts.  But worship is not about us feeling better.  Not even considering that the goal of “feeling better” is transient and often unattainable.  Our lives, lives intended to be in a constant state of worship, are designed to glorify God, to praise His holiness and awesome power.  Because of the fact that God doesn’t change, His attributes, His glory do not alter, we can only find life when we honor Him regardless of how we feel.  And, I believe that in this, when we let go of our need to “feel better” we will find the presence of God is more than enough to give us joy – something that can not be taken away.

What Has It Cost Me?

I have been overwhelmed and grateful for the responses to this blog as people have poured out their sympathy for me and the struggles that I’ve gone through.  My concern for this, and I am concerned, is that you’re not hearing what I am saying.

I know, I know.  A good author should let the words speak for themselves.  The message each person gets will be and should be different as God speaks through what I say to give a particular word or thought that pertains individually.  However, the commiseration is unfounded and I would like to clear the air on this.

What did I lose by walking this path with my Jesus?

1)  Self-reliance – I am not nor will I ever be adequate to handle what comes my way.  I should never again tell Him, “I got this.  I’ll take it from here.” 

2)  Fear – Because I am not dependent on me, or man, life’s circumstances, fate, I have nothing to fear if something goes against what I had planned.  I “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.

3)  Condemnation – God doesn’t look at me like, “why aren’t you doing better?  Why can’t you do anything right?”  He actually looks at me with pride and joy (even still, this is hard to believe) because of my heart for Him.  I am His child.

4)  Hatred/Bitterness – I don’t have to react to what people say or do to me.  This is tied to fear and condemnation because my defensive reaction to those stimuli illicited the response of hatred.  I can love because I am free to love.  Fear and condemnation bind me, enslave me to addiction, to selfishness, to confusion.

I have lost nothing in this fight except the years I wasted doubting my Lord.  But even those are redeemed as I rest in Him today.

A House Divided

Soon after the military I got married and we began having children.  Our first was a little girl and within the space of 5 years we had added 3 rowdy boys.  I was also going to school full-time, working and involved in church.  A full roller coaster for the beginning of a marriage.

I tell you this, not to share all that was good and bad about those years, but to give a backdrop for where I was spiritually.  So much going on, so many blessings, struggles, adventures, stresses but it wasn’t enough, never enough.

I also began applying for pastor positions with depression and anger following each rejection, each “unanswered” prayer.  Nothing was enough, no one was enough and I so often turned on God questioning His concern for me, His trustworthiness.  This pattern has continued for many years.  Many, many years.

I knew the gifts that God had given me.  I had a good understanding of my level of intelligence.  Being a father and husband had both bolstered my confidence and humbled me in ways that no other experience can.  But I was incomplete.  I held a place of emptiness that nothing could fill, nothing could take away.

How can a person accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, walk with Him, pray and believe in God’s sovereignty over all and yet live in a way that demonstrates little but fear and self-reliance.  I have heard so many times the phrase, “Jesus is not Lord at all until He is Lord of all.”  But in my heart I knew that, more than my confessions of Him and more than my broken dreams, He was my Lord.  Somehow, there was a disconnect.

Please don’t misunderstand, during all of this time, I continued to lead worship, bible studies, teach sunday school and encourage youth in their day to day walks with God.  I spoke from an honest heart of who I knew God to be.  How can I worship with my whole heart, sensing His presence and honoring Him with my life, my voice, my song and still doubt everything He does.

It made no sense – still doesn’t.

Running in circles

I get up in the morning and go to work.  I log on to my computer and the first thing I check is my e-mail.  That sounds pretty typical of people these days.  Ah, but what am I looking for?  I check job postings at my work place, check job sites that I frequent, check my other e-mail account and then do it all again with mounting frustration and angst.  What is going on? 

Oh, dear friend, I am looking for that nugget, that promise, that hope that all is not lost.  I’m searching and reaching for that place, that opportunity, that freedom that tantalizes but remains so out of reach.  It is ambiguous for I truly don’t know what the real object of my desire is.  I simply know that I don’t possess it yet.

Then the anger comes.  Why must I remain so desparate?  Why do I feel so trapped in this circumstance, in this life?  God, where are you?  You promised!  And the heavens are as brass, no answer, no touch.

In these moments I am faced with a choice.  I will believe that God is good or I won’t.  I have so often questioned this and for too long believed the latter.  But, what is real?  What is true?  I can not accept religious answers now.  I can not operate in blind faith.  My mind reals with questions that will not be silenced by platitudes.”Who are You?” I shout at the sky.

Today is the first day…

As I listened to the worship band this past week it hit me once again, “why am I not up there playing?”  I’m a pretty good musician and have lead worship many times in many venues but here I sit (well stand I guess).  I have read over other sites that ask for input from participants and so much of what they say comes from right where I am.  Many of us are old, many are women (though there are more men).  They are guitarists, keyboardists, vocalists, bassists and I’m pretty sure at least one was a didjeridoo virtuoso.  But they all sounded the same to me.  “Why can’t I do more?  Why won’t this church hire me?  Today’s society just wants blah, blah, blah.”  It begs the question, “where is God?”  And how about, “Can He get me where I need to be?  Does He care?”  What motivates us to worship a God who allows us to be rejected, ignored, replaced, hated? 

I submit to you, my friends, that He is worthy of worship.  I purpose to enlighten and encourage you (and me) with ideas and snippets from my stumbling walk as to how He has moved and loved me.  He has done this despite my constant complaining and arguing, leading me to a place of hope and fulfillment, though it is not where I would’ve chosen to go.

Maybe this will help you in your walk too.