Thursday, December 15, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Much of the past few months I have been caught up in doing. I've transferred licenses, renewed licenses, took over 20 hours of continuing education for licenses and designations. I've done actual business stuff like meet clients or call clients, or meet new people, network, etc. Kim and I have church shopped (to no-avail yet!), we've volunteered. We've hung out with friends, we've made meals, cleaned the apartment, readied our home to sell, sold, moved, resettled. Kim's written papers, and reports, and exams as she finishes her Masters degree. We've prepared documents for loans, and shopped for houses, and made offers, and counters, and inspections, and contracts. We're in the midst of packing again to move in next week. We've been running and sleeping and eating for 3 months. But, probably out of necessity, haven't had a chance to BE.
The downside to all of the doing, is we inevitably miss the big picture. I don't know why; maybe it is because doing is left brained and being is right brained. And my two sides of my brain have not had a chance to meet. But I do feel a disconnection of sorts. I look forward to settling down. And I hope you'll join me too. Because life is too busy, messy, and hectic when we focus in our tiny portion of the painting. We end up missing the opportunity to see the full masterpiece being created.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
One of a looong string of signs that God is and will be with us here. And today, one of the other people working with Kim in her LSU office mentioned that she'd like to speak with me about their financial planning!
And so we live largely out of blind faith as we walk through each day, doing our best to follow where God leads when we don't know entirely where we're going, where He is leading (or where He is!), and without (it seems to us) many resources to make things happen. . For business, I'm calling the people I can think of to meet, doing my best to set things up, and it seems that God is putting people in our path to take care of us in the meantime.
May we continue to trust in our Lord, even when we struggle to do so. May we continue to wrestle with Him and seek to walk under His wings.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Isaiah 35 speaks about a day when the desert will blossom with flowers, that "'your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.' and when he comes, he will open the eys of the blind and unstop the ears o the deaf. The lame will leap like a dear, and those who cannot speak witll shout and sing!"
But that day has already come...
Didn't Jesus do just that? Open blind eyes and deaf ears, give spring to lame legs, give voice to mute mouths...
But what has happened since? Another long period of waiting?
We have this tension that what we've longed for has come, but hasn't stayed. Our God has left and will return some day. Until then, we miss Him dearly and long for his return. Tension.
And we're charged to live in a way completely contrary to that in which we are currently living: Isaiah 53.
Do we live our lives constantly feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Opening out homes to wanderers?
This is our charge. How are we doing?
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
For both of us, we've had a wonderful opportunity to slow down, to rest, to breath. Especially for Kim, she's had an opportunity to think for herself and without the persuasion of all of those around us in life, church, work, and home. She's really had a chance to process through what she believes and what she can commit to doing to serve. It's amazing how much we run non-stop in every aspect of life and don't take enough time to process things. It's been a wonderful time for both of us.
For me, I'm more at peace, less critical/cynical, more in-tune with what matters, more aware of the truth that this world we're living in is not the end. We're headed to another. A renewed Earth. It's what my heart longs for and what strikes me when I see this world as it is. It's the sadness, the sickness, the fear, the anxiety that comes from participating and watching this world not as it is supposed to be but as it is. It's as if our Lord has placed a tugging on my heart that isn't going away. There is a reason that my heart is unsettled...we live in an un-restored Earth. And He will make all things new! It just hasn't come to fruition yet.
So, we've got some time left, you and I. What will we do with this life we have? How do we live in such a way to honor our Lord, to enjoy this life, to look after the least of us, and set our sights on the life ahead? I don't have a full answer to any of those questions yet, but I look forward to the journey.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
However, it wasn't always like this. In fact, it has never been like this until now. For years I would try to help our office by attempting to recruit people, but I never could. I didn't know what the problem was so I assumed that wasn't my gift. That other people were built with the necessary skills or personalities to recruit, but not me. The real problem was that I wasn't sold on it yet myself. For all of my effort and desire, I couldn't communicate to others any reason to do what I was doing because I hadn't experienced the benefit yet. That has now changed.
I'm finally at the point in my business that they talk about when you begin: the 5th year. Up until this point, it is survival mode and you're just trying to keep your feet under you as you build a client base making no money, getting told no every day from strangers and friends alike, and living a life of rejection. Then, you wake up and you're in the 5th year, and although you're not rolling in the dough, business has become much easier. You're not worried about going into debt, or having enough to pay the bills, or what this guy will say when you pick up the phone. It's good. And you know it's good because you experience it...
All of my life I've had a hard time recruiting Christians. In fact, I've never been able to do it. And like recruiting, I've played it off. "I'm not the evangelical type. I don't evangelize because I'm not gifted in that."
I am saddened to say...I think the reason I've failed miserably to share my faith with others is because I don't yet fully believe myself. I haven't experienced the joy of our faith enough to want to invite everyone to join in. Oh Jesus, what now?
Because I have been a Christian for a long time, and still have no idea what it means to live a life of faith and follow Christ right now.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
At 8am I reviewed our finances and realized that we were going to miss our financial goal this month to pay off Kim's care completely. Discouraged by this I thought through other possibilities that may allow us to succeed yet found none. It wasn't possible. Faced with anxiety about this, the scripture "rejoice in the Lord Always" came to mind. Good timing.
My 10am meeting this morning cancelled, ironically ushering in an opportunity to receive the call of someone I've been following up with for a while. Looks like he wants to do planning immediately and this will bring in enough income for Kim and I to hit the financial goal we had. I could claim credit for following up with this person for 2 years in order for him to call me now to do business, but I am beginning to realize the limits of my control and power. I did my role in the part, no doubt about that, but I'm like a musician who plays a few notes in a symphony performed by a much larger orchestra. There is something else going on here. Someone else making things happen.
I'm reading through a book right now...actually I am competing through a book right now as I try to finish reading a book before a friend who can read much quicker than I can. Inside the book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan describes our existence as mere extras on a movie. The movie isn't about us, it's about God. It is His story . In it, God creates universes, galaxies, worlds, people...He tells the history of mankind and of dinosaurs...discovery of invention, philosophy, and vaccines...of people going places and of coming back. It has lasted millions of years so far and is a beautiful story.
And what is our role? We have a 2/3 second scene as an extra. Because the 20 or 50 or 100 years we live on this planet is like a specin the wide universe of history and space.
So, I can't help sympathsizing with the dead cicadas on the parking garage. Their life exists of birth, burial in the ground for 13 years, then burstin from the earth to reproduce for about a month and die. A tiny blip on the life radar. Yet, with their strange lives do they not captivate our attention and turn our minds to questions of them and of He who created them? Maybe our lives should look a lot like cicadas; a living reminder of the Great Story happening around us and the Great one who makes it happen.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I had the recent opportunity to spend time with a good friend and the day stopped in motion.
It picked back up when we left, but at the time, time didn't matter. We spoke of faith, work, friendship, Jesus and found ourselves breathing in the mysteries of it all...words worth saying.
I'm guilty too often of wasting words. Of putting to death the power of this precious gift we've been given by speaking too much or too often or with very little substance. If we want to have power with our words, should we not speak softly and with reserve? For a soft word makes an ear lean in to listen and a voice not often heard holds the attention of us all.
So, I will be taking on a time of less words both in life and here. I wish you all well in your journeys too.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
So, Kim thinks I'm ridiculous for posting this, but I think it is wonderful! We were talking recently when I mentioned to her...
"It really has been raining a ton lately; but I guess April showers bring May flowers." To which she replied: "And you know what May flowers bring? Pilgrims."
Monday, May 16, 2011
Because it's not really about right or wrong, but simply perspective. For instance, Marty is a phenomenal teacher. He takes difficult ideas and makes them simple to understand yet still hard to live out. Quite honestly, he's brilliant. And while talking to him it occurred to me that he needs to be in front of as many people as possible. So his church needs to be one with lots of chairs that are open to Christians to hear him speak, be challenged, and then go live out what they have learned.
That's not where Kim and I need to be right now, but it is where Marty needs to be. Put it another way, I really have a hard time reading a whole lot. Does that make me unintelligent or unwise? Probably not. It means I'm not a reader. So I learn much more by personal observation or stories or music.
But where perspective really comes into play is our daily grind.
Last week a guest speaker from Dallas spoke at our company event. He told a story about how is son who had cancer fought through life to live it to the fullest. By age 7 he had his second bout of cancer, had 18 chemotherapies, 9 surgeries, over 1000 hours in the hospital and yet never once complained about it all. He braced it and lived right through it to the end. He loved life and especially playing baseball. So, the day before he died from cancer (again...age 7) he wanted to play baseball. It was the tournament and his team was tied in the bottom of the 9th. Bases loaded. He comes up to bat, so weak that he can barely hold the bat. Connor hits a single and wins the game. His dad had to carry him off the field since he didn't have the strength himself. The next day, he died.
Connor never once complained. Yet how many times each week, each day, each hour do we?
I found myself every day since then catching myself saying and thinking things like "I have to" or "got to" instead of "get to", forgetting that it is a privilege to live and work and play. So, today happens to be a knock out day for the me and I can't help but think it has something to do with the change of perspective, the change of heart that comes from thinking I get to instead of have to.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Immediately in just the first chapter of Psalms we are confronted wvith not only our own emotions and desires as humans but also with God's. We find those who are delighting in the Lord and what is God doing? He is watching over their path. The Lord is watching over those who seek Him. What a comfort, what a hope, what a peace, what a joy to know that the Master of the Universe is concerned with me and is watching over me to keep me close.
And it gets better the deeper we enter Psalms. In the second chapter we see God willing to let those who refuse him follow their own path to destruction. He allows us to receive what we seek. If we seek a life of destruction, He will allow us to follow that path. "But what a joy for those who take refuge in him."
This is the God we're searching for. This is the God who we yearn for. This is the God we know is far and near and here with us. May these next few weeks allow us to separate ourselves from the noise around us. From the media, from politics, from religion...May we quiet our lives enough to hear the whisper of our Lord calling to us amidst the noise.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
So there is some value at setting high expectations around achievement because it stretches our understanding of what is achievable, broadens our impact, and brings a greater reward. Great.
But what I have been finding lately is that often higher expectations also have an inverse relationship to thankfulness.
For the last 6 months Kim and I have been doing well financially. Month after month we're able to make leap after leap at saving, paying down debt, and giving. And so I keep track of it all and set goals to hit in order to make a bigger and bigger impact. I'm not satisfied with the same we did last month, let's go a little higher, set the bar up a notch, boost our expectations.
The problem is, I lose perspective and end up not being thankful for the amazing blessings that God has created in our lives. Time to stop, breath, and be thankful.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Kim mentioned to me this last week that she questions whether the bible is for real, if it's true, if it actually happened and how we know. This is a legitimate question and definitely worth considering. In fact, I remember asking this very question; since Kim's never had a chance to ask that question, the time is now.
However, I also wonder if in the midst of going to church each week and being taught more and more stuff, do we get caught up on the facts, the figures, the information, and ask questions of fact while missing questions of faith?
I find that often enough the very things that are essential to our faith: loving those who are hated, giving to those who don't have enough to buy bread, living life together with others, challenging each other to know God better, and knowing Him ourselves...often are absent in church. And so, I feel that if anything, attending and participating in "church" on Sundays leads us to ask questions about facts instead of God. Because most of the time, there isn't anything truly spiritual happening in church. We're all singing songs that have lost their meaning, or never had any, listening to someone teach us how to live, and we go home. And sure, some of us are involved in small groups where we hang out, read a chapter out of a book or the bible, answer some questions (learn how to live better) and go home. Where is the spirituality of this?
And so we miss out on the Spirit of God and learn stuff instead. Well, I don't know about you, but I really don't need to learn much more. I simply need to do what I already know I need to do. Of course I know I need to love others, I don't need another lesson to tell me to do, or how to do, or why I should do this. I simply need to do it...
This tension has been gnawing at me for weeks, maybe even months. It's why my mind has been clogged and I haven't been able to blog. But now, I feel like the flood gates have been opened (by the way, look out; I have many more blogs coming soon!). Why? Because we've decided.
After leaving church this Sunday I looked at Kim and said the very thing she was thinking, "we need to take a sabbatical from church." If anyone needs us Sunday morning, we'll be at home, resting and searching.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Anyway, we're baking them to take to a friends' house where we'll be hanging out after church on Sunday. Ironically, we'll be spending a few hours in the afternoon with two other families who attend two other churches, yet we are beginning to consider these families as our brothers and sister even more than the couples in our church whom we've known longer and spent more time. Why is this?
There's something about church today that detracts from community. This may very well be in my mind alone, but I feel that more and more church is an event, a Sunday morning reminder to check in with God to be sure, but an event mostly. I mean, is it possible for me to go to church without thinking about checking it off the list so we can do the other things in our day? And when we're there, are we not singing the same songs we've sung for years just with slightly different chord changes? Seriously, I'm not a poet laureate, but learning a "new song" at church that's chorus is "Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God Forever" is either a really bad joke or a mockery of the creativity and intellect that our Lord has placed into our bodies.
So, we go over to our friends house on Sunday to learn what community feels and looks like as we participate together. And we challenge each other to live deeply and seek Jesus with purpose and questions and anticipation. We talk about our struggles to know God more and how to walk in His footsteps and follow His direction and serve each other. We're trying to figure this life thing out together. We're trying to figure this church thing out together. What's it supposed to look like? How is it supposed to operate?
We could spend timing deciding if Pope John Paul II should be deemed a Saint like the current pope, Benedict XVI, has requested. But I'm not certain how that will really have any effect on any living creature (and as a subplot, aren't all who are saved, saints?). I guess if Pope Benedict stops by this Sunday we'll save an extra cinnamon roll for him. I wouldn't want him to miss out on a little heaven on earth action!
Friday, April 22, 2011
...As you may have picked up over my previous writings, I've found myself more in-tune with my struggle to love the Church. It turns out, I have a big problem with people who are claiming to follow Christ while hurting other people, be it with words, actions, or in action. There are so many screwed up things happening today in Christian circles that often times its hard to believe it has anything at all to do with this Person we know as Jesus.
In writing, I seek to journey through these questions raised by all of us in an effort to know Christ better. And by questioning the vocalized doctrine, tradition, actions, and beliefs of the talking heads in Christian circles, maybe we can better understand the Person of Jesus. Because honestly, there is a lot of mystery in our Lord yet to be discovered!
So, today let's all mourn the death of our Lord and prepare to celebrate this Sunday. But let us also mourn the afflictions and struggles of His people. Let us weep over the broken Church. Because through mourning we are healed. Through tears our struggles are identified and acknowledged and peace can infuse with our souls. May we celebrate this weekend not only the resurrection of our Lord, but of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we celebrate the rebirth of the children of God as we enter new life through Jesus; a life of love, compassion, mercy, humility towards our fellow humans.
Because whether we know it or not, like it or not, want it or not, we're all the children of God. Some of us are nearer to Him than others, some know Him more than others, and some running to and others away from Him. But our Lord made each of us in His own image, as His children here on earth. May we all be reborn into a life in which we honor our fellow brothers and sisters no matter what race, religion, ethnicity, or country in which we were born. It's time to hammer our swords into plows and join together in this world as family. And for all the places we do not see this happening, may we weep.
Monday, April 18, 2011
We are sick people. We all need Jesus.
From what I can read in scripture, Jesus taught and loved, and built relationships. He sees us all as children of God whether we know it or not. Whether we are running from God, to Him, or standing still. We're all God's children. So why are we compelled as Christians to decide who is in and is not? Or even further, why do we feel that it is our duty to tell other people who is or isn't a Christian?
In the midst of the recent drama with Rob Bell's new book, I've been trying to figure out why so many people took such deeply-rooted sides against him and his book. Perhaps it is because as humans, we seek to assign people motives to their actions. So, although many people hadn't read his book nor heard him speak they assigned him motive based on the current events and climate of debate.
For example, a friend of mine recently criticized Rob Bell as using the controversy to sell books. So according to this perspective, Rob Bell isn't bringing up ideas and questions to help us know God or spur change in our hearts; instead, he is simply using controversy as a platform to make money. Really? And yet you've never heard him speak or read his books and you know his motives?!
But if the change we all long for in our own hearts and for the Church as a whole to happen, won't this cause controversy on its own? Won't this cause growing pains? Won't this make some people inflamed and others ecstatic? Isn't this what we're really looking for? Someone to look us all straight in the eye and challenge us to love without reserve, with open arms, and with a fresh view of who God truly is.
Yet, by assigning motive to others' actions we shield ourselves from the ideas that could challenge and break our false beliefs and propel us to further love for both God and people. Because we're all children of God. Even those who don't agree with us.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Over the past two weeks Rob has been on a book tour and on a journey of the "worst two weeks of his life." Why the worst two weeks? Because it turns out that people can generate a lot of anger and hatred when someone expresses a view or belief that is different than their own. It's been unbelievable the condemnation that has sprung up from lots of leaders in christian America.
By the way, if you want to read a much better blog than mine on this subject, read this one.
What pains me is the fact that so many people can be so destructive against anyone on this planet!!! I don't care of you disagree with Rob Bell. But if you wail against his works and against him as a person how is that showing any love towards God or other people? Is not this attack against him simply an obvious sign that the attacker has abandoned God's call for us to love Him and others?!
This is why it is ever-increasingly difficult for me to have any affection for the church. I'm starting to think that I'd like the christian American church to disband; it would likely do more good than harm if it did so. Instead, a threat to theology, doctrine, or some other man-made idea causes an all out war against the very nature of who God is. Why would we sacrifice the love of God for a belief system?
**I have purposely not capitalized the words christian and church today as my small way of protesting the way our faith has been dishonored with these events***
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Kim and I are working on our front porch railings which are rotting. We're measuring and planning what wood we need to make 'er look brand new! (we live in Tennessee right?) Then, all of a sudden, there is a small dog next to us.
Friday, March 25, 2011
In business, spiritually, emotionally, gravitationally...stuck. It's like the pendulum has reached the top of it's swing and is lingering awkwardly too long at the top. Don't get me wrong, all are going well! Business has never been better, spiritually, I'm wrestling with God and faith which is a good place to be, emotionally I'm probably a 7 or 8 out of 10, gravitationally...well, I haven't lost or gained weight in like 10 years.
It's the feeling of waiting that's driving me nuts! As if we've readied the ships, set course, and are ready to release the sails and let the wind push us onward, yet must hold the ship back from sea. Are we missing a passenger or cargo?!
Another opportunity to learn patience. For whatever reason, I feel like I'm at one of those points in my life where we all get to when we're ready for a life-change, we do all we can to get ready to make it happen, but God's timing turns out to be different than ours. If God is directing traffic, He must be letting someone else move because we're stalled.
So what do we do in the wait besides go stir-crazy? How do we actively, passionately, energetically, faithfully wait?
Maybe there are lessons to learn from our dog Joey. He sleeps and hangs out most of the day waiting for us to come home. Yet it is an active waiting, he's always listening for mom or dad to come home. And as soon as we do he's at the door wanting to tell us how much he loves us and missed us!
Is it possible that a dog "gets it" better than this highly advanced human? Joey, the Master of the Wait.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Even better...I decided to drive through my old neighborhood and see our old home to reminisce on older days. By the way-that was weird! It's like a foggy dream remembering things that happened 5-10 years ago. While driving down Sharp Road I had the thought: "what if our old house were for sale? What if we bought that and settled into it with a new life here?" Then lo and behold...our old house...for sale, which for some reason I envision as the path towards the typical American Dream and not of total abandonment to Christ.
We always have the temptation to step back into the crowd and away from God's guidance. But I know God isn't calling us to follow in that path. He's leading us elsewhere. We just don't know where yet.
I had the great opportunity to have lunch with an old friend from high school. He and I had gone to the same church growing up and ironically had a similar reaction leaving that church. We had seen all of the negative things that organized religion does and we want no part of that. It'll be interesting to see where we all end up.
Step one: step out in faith.
I feel that is what God has asked us to do now and that's what we're doing. I think we've received no other instruction because God is giving us the opportunity to choose or not choose Him. The trip was all about this one purpose. He showed me that life outside of his plan is an option and we can choose to go down that path. Once step one is finished, He'll let us know step two. But for now, we're trusting and learning and keeping our eyes wide open to see the truth and the temptations. Because too much is at stake to end up following a path that isn't God's.
May we all seek, all step out, and all come to know You more.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
What truly brings happiness to people? What truly brings joy? Dr. Martin Seligman's research says that locus of control, self-esteem, optimism, etc. contribute to happiness. But even more fundamental to our humanity is our desire for purpose in our lives. So, what is a strong enough purpose to live a life of joy and happiness? Is it really to work to bring in a paycheck to buy the things to support our lifestyle?
More and more I start thinking I'm a closet hippie, concealed in a suit.
I'm just tired of spending most of my life trying to get people to do things that only help themselves, but they instead fight against all of these things in an effort to buy the lifestyle they have been fooled into thinking they need. I know this because I've been one of them and because I work with so many of them.
How can we awaken each other to who we really are: children of our Lord. And that none of the things in this world matter when compared to knowing Him. So why do we make a big deal out of all this stuff, financial or otherwise? How can we spur each other to think not of this, but of the hearts of others and the heart of God?
Sunday, March 20, 2011
What a wonderful thing manual labor is! To see your creation take form before your eyes, to see progress as it happens and then the fulfillment is such a good feeling!
I really believe one of my favorite things to do is manual labor. That is why I like wood working, gardening, fixing things; there is something satisfying in it. But how much time have I traded these for other "entertainment" like video games or TV?
I've got to quit wasting my time on the things of this world that have no value. It's permeated my whole life and I'm just now at a point to identify the weeds in my mind and heart that have grown over the years. I need help identifying all of the things in my life that do not add to my betterment--or worse, keep me from loving God or people.
Plus, why wouldn't we all go out and enjoy weather that is 70 degrees and sunny this whole weekend? :) Pretty good deal.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I grew up thinking that God was a one-sided person. He only did things that I found to be good. He helped me get ice cream and chocolate chip cookies when I was 5, picked first for the team at age 10, a date at age 15, a home at age 20...but where was God when I flipped a three wheeler and nearly ended life too soon, or when the hurricanes ripped through Florida or New Orleans, or when a giant wall of water traveling 500 miles an hour blasts Japan killing thousands?
Is He there?
Because I don't think that the idea of footprints in the sand is very relevant to a hurting heart. Because I don't believe that God waits for bad things to happen, then simply cradles us in His arms until we stop crying. While that may be part of the story, I think He's at work before and during the tragedy.
I find it interesting that the cliche remarks often have much to say, but we've over-used them and so they've lost their meaning and in the process, end up annoying us. But I'll say it anyway. I believe that everything does happen for a reason. And God is orchestrating the grand symphony of events through an amazingly complex web. I also do not believe the worst that can happen to me or anyone else, is death. I believe the worst is not knowing our Lord. Everything else is rather a moot point.
So, although I grieve when trouble and difficulty come my way or affect a friend, or thousands around the world, I know God is at work. And even though I may get disease or poverty or death, I know God is at work in my heart and the hearts of others bringing us back to Him. Making a path available to anyone who would choose, to step out of the devil's playground and into the arms of our Lord.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
The title comes from the story of Joshua who asked God to stop the sun so the Israelites could finish conquering the enemy whom the Lord had told them to defeat. And what happened? God stopped the sun.
Basic tenant of our faith: God not only hears us but also responds! When we are following God's lead and ask for the impossible, our Lord responds!
This is so simple and obvious I'm sure to others, but I've spent much of my life speaking and not hearing. I'd listen for a while, but wouldn't believe I'd hear back. And I certainly haven't asked God to do the impossible. I haven't wanted to test Him. I've wanted to believe. But instead, I have ended up believing in someone other than God. Because God isn't limited to the imagination, strength, and ability of Matt. He is capable of what Matt thinks is impossible.
Surely if we believe this, this would change the way we think, act, believe, speak...Because God is not only alive, but active. So what's next?
God what would You have for us? What do You want us to discover? To change? To step out in faith to do or believe or trust You to do in our lives?
How can we best serve You? Honor You?
How can we best serve others? Love others?
Guide us. May we hear. May we trust. May we walk with your lead and ask for the impossible. May we believe You to make the Sun Stand Still.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
There is a song by Skypark that I've been chewing on for about ten years - Over Blue City. It's one of those songs that if you listen to it, it probably won't have much meaning at all for you. I'm convinced it was written just for me.
There is a line in the song that has been echoing in my mind lately (and for the past ten years): "that city blue that you once knew, means all the world to me." Early on, for whatever reason, I decided that city blue is New Orleans. And apparently it means the world to God. That's what I've judged. Because I believe that this song was sung from God to me.
When I studied at Belmont in Nashville, I attended a church for a time called Judson Baptist Church (if you're picturing a Southern Baptist church in your head, your visualization is exactly right). After Katrina, the preacher at that time stood before an audience of eager learners and declared that this was God's judgement on New Orleans for its sin. I don't recall being more pissed at a preacher than that day. Because I knew many things at that moment: this guy doesn't know our Lord, he ruined a great opportunity to spur love, compassion, and mercy, and I was going to continue having a hard time finding Jesus in church.
Why? Because, that city blue that I once knew, means all the world to Him.
And now, in the midst of Kim and my battling through what it means for us to follow Jesus, it looks like our journey may take us back down to the city. So, please pray for us as we seek to follow His lead. Because while we believe He will provide for us, we disbelieve he will provide for us. We struggle to have faith and dive into what is likely to be a difficult transition.
A recent quote from my Utmost for His Highest: "We limit the Holy One of Israel by remembering what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past, and by saying, 'Of course I cannot expect God to do this thing'...We impoverish His ministry the moment we forget He is Almighty."
Lord, we believe; help us with our disbelief.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I don't know if I'm ready, but I want to be. I want to forsake all else other than the heart of our Lord. I just really have no clue how to do this! Can I get some discipleship here!
I stumbled upon this chapter in John recently (I say stumbled, because it is rare that I read Scripture...yes, I know...).John 14. It's jam-packed with good stuff, but I want to hone in on a few verses. 14:12-14 "Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."
Pause...deep breath...yes. Yes, that's what Jesus says...but none of us believe.
I do not think in all of my life I have heard a pastor, priest, or anyone else preach a sermon on this. Why? Is it simply because we don't want to over-reach and ask God to do big things? Or have we tried to rationalize like I do: well, Jesus was just talking to His immediate disciples.
Is it because we do not believe in His power? Believe Jesus?
I will tell you that I'm struggling with this one. Because I believe and disbelieve. I go to the office and, on a good or bad day, I have never seen these works that Jesus mentions. Am I working in the wrong place, with the wrong people, on the wrong continent? Does God not work that way anymore?
I think He does. But something has gone incredibly wrong. Wrong in our churches and in our hearts. It's like someone has gradually dimmed the lights on us so that now we're in complete darkness. We didn't notice at first, but now we're standing in pitch blackness!
Enter: Satan. "The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me."
This is Jesus' response. This is his life. His interaction with Satan is that the world will learn that He loves the Father. Beautiful. I want to mimic Jesus in this way. So that I can say, "Satan has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love Jesus and do exactly what Jesus has commanded me." Lord, let it be.
And so in this darkness we find ourselves, we are given an opportunity of greatness. Not to ourselves, but to our Lord. Because it is in darkness that light shines brightest right? I am starting to truly believe that if I begin to believe Jesus fully and do exactly as He commands, this life will look much different.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Don't get me wrong, they're working hard and being amazing stewards of what they have, but they are choosing faith rather than fear. And for their 5 kids, this is likely to be the greatest testament and teaching moment in history: they are learning to follow and trust Jesus as a family.
My Kim and I were over at their home Sunday and it looks like the kids were having a ball. Running around the yard with their newly adopted dog Charlie (or Chuck when the dog's getting on Jeff's nerves) the kids aren't missing a beat. In fact, in many ways, the kids are helping lead the family in faith.
Jeff told me a story about how someone bought a ton of food for their family and came fully stocking their pantry. When Kim announced to the family that God had provided them food, one of their children came into the room from playing a game, said "of course God gave us food" and went back to playing. Both Kim and Jeff first thought he was being rude, but then decided that he was completely right! Of course God will provide!
And so, we once again are led by the faith of a child.
Another thing Jeff said was that children who believe they have good fathers never worry about anything. They know they'll be provided for every need. And so they would be surprised if anyone even brought up the idea of being taken care of. Instead, children who have bad fathers do worry about these things.
The problem is, I worry about these things and my Father epitomizes good. Instead, I simply do not trust Him nor most of the time believe he is good. If only I could capture the faith like a child. Maybe we can.
Lord, may I truly believe You are good. May I trust You. May I believe that You will always provide for Kim and me. May I have the faith like a child that is surprised by the idea of not trusting You.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
"I wish I had what I need
To be on my own
'Cause I feel so defeated
And I'm feeling alone
And it all seems so helpless
And I have no plans
I'm a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land"
And all I see
It could never make me happy And all my sand castles
Spend their time collapsing"
No matter how much I tell myself that it'll get better, or it's just a bad week, or think about all the people who have it much worse than you do, Matt...my feelings don't change. Because although all of these things are true, they don't answer the question I'm really asking. They don't capture my heart.
And most of this week, that's where I stayed. My sandcastles were collapsing and I had no control over any of it. It turns out...I can't stop the tide.
"And I feel stuck
Watching history repeating
Yeah, who am I?
Just a kid who knows he's needy"
It took a whole week for me to get past myself and ask the right question that was at the heart of my frustration. Lord...
"Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough"
I am finding that most of my life is spent chasing things that are in addition to Jesus. Jesus + success. Jesus + wealth. Jesus + religion. Jesus + ___. And yes I know this will not be the last time I say this, but I'm tired of living in a Jesus + world.
Pete, our teaching pastor at Crosspoint Church quoted someone else today who said, "Religion always complicates what God makes simple." Too true. And I complicate this life that God made simple. Instead of grasping for control, trying to hold back the tides from sweeping my castles away, may I simply know that You hear me, are hear, and love me. And let that be enough.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Then for about 5 minutes within the 8 hours there was a breath of fresh air. A speaker from the international directors from Brooklyn, New York addressed the audience. For most of his speech I was locked in a state of limbo wondering if I would be able to restart my brain after the day, but for a few minutes in between the nonsense was words of truth and words of conviction.
He entered into a story of how one Lion's Club had helped him realize the true need around us. He participated in some sort of homeless service when the light bulb went on for him. And with his story, the light bulb began to burn brighter for me.
As he looked into the eyes of those families in such need in the metro areas of Brooklyn, he thought, "there but for the grace of God, me and my family could be there (said Douglas Alexander of a homeless shelter)."
How true is that?
If we had simply been born into a different family, a different country, a different continent, we'd be devastatingly poor. We obviously had no control over this; it was only the grace of God.
And this is why he became involved with Lions Club. Because the light went on in his heart that the lowest of all of us, could have been us had God birthed us into a different life. And now, his mission is to do exactly what Jesus has called us to: give sight to the blind, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless. Is this not all of our missions?
Why do we spend so much on time on the sidelines? Why have I spent 32 hours over the last 3 weeks playing Zelda on Wii instead of giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless???
Lord, please forgive me. Recapture my heart. And teach me to give myself in service to our brothers and sisters in need.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I woke up and made it to the office by 8am on a nice snowy day. No traffic because of the snow; no meetings because of the snow.
So, I asked God what in the world am I supposed to do today and decided to make some phone calls and wrap up my day at about 9:45am. I gave the day to God, for whatever he had in store and planned to keep no meetings, set a few meetings for the next week, and go home to our good dog Joey...but God had other plans.
Over the course of the day I ended up setting 7 meetings; keeping 4, and bringing on a new client. It was a good day!
But that's not the point I want to make. Because there have been plenty of days that turned out nil. There have been days when I walked in our home after a 10 hour day at work, having nothing to show for the day's work. Why? Because God gives and God takes away. And that's good. Because it helps me learn to trust. And I need a ton of help to learn to trust God.
Most of the time I start the day with a list of things I will be doing to keep control. But the days when I give it all up to God and say, 'whatever may happen, may I honor You Lord', I live out of peace and contentment. Some of those days I make no money, some are huge successes. But in my heart I am trusting God for whatever He has in store.
A while back, my wonderful bride, Kim, painted the scene out of John 21. If you make it to my office you'll see it hanging above my desk. It is a picture of a few disciples of Jesus' sitting in a boat fishing, yet hauling up empty nets. And here's the point: I'm convinced it's easy to trust Jesus when the days are good and everything I touch brings success. But I have to learn to trust Jesus when I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, but the results are empty nets. I pray that you continue hanging onto Jesus even when your hard work yields empty nets.
And one day, when God knows the timing is best, he asks us to fish on the other side of the boat...we won't even be able to lift the nets because the catch will be too big!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Sunday at church was one of those days when I felt the pastor speaking directly to me as if no one else was there. In fact, I'm not so certain he wasn't even there. It was as if Our Lord alone was sharing His heart and words with me.
The sermon was based in the book of Esther which, as the pastor told us, is the only book in scripture that never mentions God. No name of God at all. No Lord, YHWH, God, etc. He's not there. He is absent from the text. But He is not absent from the story. Far from it!
You can see God throughout the story weaving circumstances together, drawing hearts and minds to him. Yet there were no burning bushes, no parting of seas or plagues or famine or feeding of thousands, no miracles. It was simply the story of God's people, trusting and journeying through faith while God worked through the details in the mundane. Yet He was still out of sight.
I encourage you to watch this sermon once it is posted online as it speaks exactly to my blog entry from 1/23: White Sand Beaches. It is the sermon on 1/30/2011. http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cross-point-church-video/id301415948.
How is God active around us? How many times do we not notice? May we begin to see God in between the lines. Fully present, fully alive in the midst of the routine of our lives. May we know our Lord deeper and stronger than before. And may we continue seeking when it seems He is absent.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
No one saw it coming. He always engaged in class discussions, was outgoing, soon to be married, had a good job…so what happened?
Back in high school I knew a girl who was in a guitar class of mine. She seemed to be the girl who craves love deeply but finds none in her life stemming from her earlier years of abuse. At the time, she was dating someone who you could tell was in it for something other than love. She didn't own much courage or strength. She was a puppy ignored by its owner but still holding on for hope that his heart would turn to love.
Since we were in guitar class together I thought it appropriate to take time to help her learn guitar better and while doing so co-write a song with her. She didn't think she could write so instead it turned into me listening to her story and then sculpting a song from the heart as if I were her. Here is that song (sweetly as if a soft yet emotional prayer):
V1: Don't look at me, I'm not pretty anymore
These days have drawn me weak, I can take no more
V2: I'm exhausted inside, feeling so out of place
How could I deny, your loving face
B: I'm so weary, You are so strong
Let me rest in You to carry on
I'm so desperate, for your love
Let me rest in Your gentle arms
C: Lay with me tonight, Drive away my fears
Lay with me tonight, Wipe away my tears
I'm breaking away from this world
V3: I am one alone, left here so long ago
I long to see Your face, to feel Your sweet embrace
When Kim came home with the story of her classmate I thought of this girl. Because something happened the moment I played this song for her for the first time. Through the tears in her eyes I saw straight into her heart. It's as if this song had helped heal her in some way. I can't help but wonder if these were the words that she wanted to say but couldn't on her own. And I can't help but believe that having one other human being truly know her heart, she was healed in some way.
Now, seven years later, am I still helping to heal others hearts? Whose life have I impacted in this way recently? It's time to wake up! No more sleeping through this life that has been set before us!
Can any of us stand by and let one more life be lost? When all it takes is a song to be written, a conversation to be had, hope restored, and a life forever changed.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings talks of white sand beaches welcoming us home after death and it makes me ponder what this life is all about. Is it simply a birth into our full life? The few years we have here in this world simply as a waiting area for the next? If so, what is it we are here to do? Because honestly, in light of the spiritual realities and miraculous events that are chronicled in scriptures, by great thinkers, and even fiction cause me to wonder how much is beyond what we can see through our senses.
Likely, we've all seen God at work around us in some mundane, or other times miraculous ways. But why do we not see God's miracles more often? Is it because we don't have our eyes trained on the glory of God but on the things of this world? Or is God active in the mundane more often than the miraculous? Or are we waiting around for God to join us where we are to do miracles versus going and joining God where he is doing the miraculous? If God were working around us what kind of miracles could he do? We have food, we have shelter, we're not being persecuted, we can worship openly without ridicule or threat; where do the miracles of God fit into this? What would a miracle look like?
American Christian culture exclaims that there is so much more to this life than we're living for currently, but what does that look like here?
U2 sings they still haven't found what they're looking for…and they've accomplished the ultimate success, touched many lives, and impacted people globally physically, emotionally, spiritually. They've fought the fight of AIDS in Africa, global hunger, and spent a lifetime influencing the other artists of our time. And they still haven't found what they're looking for.
What do our lives look like if we have our eyes focused on the white sand beaches ahead of us? Does it look different?
Saturday, January 22, 2011
So I get the idea of not wanting to be uncomfortable by someone calling unexpectedly, but shouldn't our desire to build community, strengthen the Kingdom, and serve God trump our comfort?
Two friends of mine are going into missions and are in need of building support. To do this, they have to speak with many people to gain financial support while they are in the mission field. So, naturally they must call on people and network to find people who are willing to give and help them meet this goal. With this in mind, Kim and I have committed to help them by connecting them to others who may be able to do similarly.
So we sent out some emails to people to simply connect our friends to others and were surprised by some of the responses we received. A few people are excited and looking forward to speaking with them. A few others replied back to me that they didn't want my friends contacting them although they believed in what they were trying to accomplish. They didn't like the idea of a stranger calling them. Why not at least listen and see how they can help? Why are we often simply afraid of being too uncomfortable with a mere phone call to step out and help one another?
Why do we let this or anything else keep us from responding in any other way other than open arms to our brothers and sisters? When given an opportunity to help someone else, why would we turn away? We could help through prayer, friendship, financially, networking...but instead, we simply refuse to be disturbed!
How often do we keep our doors locked, arms closed, and phone off so that we won't be disturbed by others who are simply asking for help? Surely, this isn't what Christ meant when he said whoever wants his life must lose it. How do we unwind our do not disturb lifestyles?
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It's interesting how strong yet fragile we all are. When faced with threat or catastrophe we often find hidden strength to survive or even save others. Through natural disasters the best of us become bold and lead others to safety, we jump in front of the bullet, we protect our children and families. When called to action, we answer.
Yet, we live as if there is no call to action, as if we have no idea how to reach our potential.
Take the TV show "the biggest loser" for example. Episode after episode depicts heavily obese people finally realizing their own mortality and awakening the desire to lose weight to save their lives. Undoubtedly, they previously had looked themselves in the mirror and didn't see the reality: their weight is literally killing them.
Enter: life change.
It takes a life-transforming experience to discover what was plainly in their vision all along. And with this discovery of truth, their courage is strengthened and they lose 100 pounds, gaining their life back in the process.
How many of us are waiting for the wake-up call in our lives? Is reality staring right back at us in the mirror, yet we are blind to see it?
It's startling to think that we may have a life-threatening problem like these people and not know it. Could there be something obvious in my life that I'm missing and God is whispering to me to address? Can I not hear Him?
Marty used to tell me that one of his daily prayers was that God wouldn't have to get his attention, but that He would always have it. Makes sense. God knows that it takes significant shifts in our lives to get our attention; it's less painful to simply stay connected to Him. And I guess that's what Kim and I have learned most this past year: how to simplify our lives enough for God to keep our attention.
I pray we live in such a way that God always has our attention. Lord, may you have our hearts.