Follow by Email

Monday, February 26, 2007

a conversation...

This was an email I recieved from an old friend from my childhood...I thought I'd share the dialogue. I've removed a few things to protect the identity of the "innocent"...ha.

Enjoy....

_________________________________________________

Hi Jason,

I hope you received my email from yesterday. I will keep this short.

It's Sunday morning. I am at my computer listening to a sermon because my wife and I are at odds about a church to attend. My wife is not saved. I turned my back on God about 9 years ago while I was in the military. I married my wife, knowing in my heart it was wrong.

This last year I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to the point that I have given my life back to God. I have talked to my wife about this change in my life and it has caused a tremendous strain on our marriage. In the last two weeks, I have talked my wife into picking a church with me. The agreement being that it NOT be a Baptist church or a Catholic Church.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I have had alot of guilt in my heart about this agreement. As you know, I was raised Baptist, with all the legalistic, "Thou shalt not or else" teachings. I thought all these thoughts and feelings that I was having were sent from Satan. Trying to keep me out of a fundamental, Bible Teaching, Bible believing church.

I just got done listening to your sermon from Feburary 10-11, 2007. I am more confused now than ever. Were the things our parents taught us wrong? Are the thoughts in my mind and heart from God? Should I be concerned with not attending a Baptist church? Can I have the same relationship with God and not study my Baptist Distinctives? Seriously. I consider myself a babe in Christ. However, I want what is right for my family. What is God telling me? What "religion" am I looking for? I felt guilty last week for considering attending a Methodist church. Is it guilt or brainwashing from my childhood?

I have been praying and spending time in God's word this last month. I am finding myself looking for somewhere to go?

Any thoughts about this would be greatly appreciated. Please keep me and my family in your prayers.

Love in Christ---


"John Doe recovering religionist"

___________________________________________
Dear "John Doe recovering religionist",

I did recieve your email...it was a pleasant surprise. I'm glad to hear that God is on the move in your life right now, though not without roadblocks as you've shared.

To answer your question in this email...I believe the saving grace in my church experience was my family. If they weren't who they are, I would have chucked the whole thing, because it was barren of life to me. The older I got, the more out of touch and unrefreshing it all seemed. I got sick of the "no's and the don'ts and the watch out's and the beware's and the caution's". It's like we were known more for what we were against that what we were for.

But when I would return home from school or church and see my parents refreshing and honest love of God, I had no choice but to believe it's reality. Then it was just a matter of finding an atmosphere that hit me and fit me. So much of the environment of the Baptist movement (not all Baptist churches by the way) that we were a part of was so militant and fundamentalist, stiff and stoic, rigid and relationally bankrupt. It made much of things that were no big deal and downplayed the core issues of the faith. It hated charasmatics, homosexuals and the big bad world out there, and loved exclusion, seperation and isolation from anything that wasn't Christian. I don't see Jesus living that sort of quarantined existance. He was totally living the gospel in the everyday lives of everyday people. Whores, tax collectors, the demon-possessed, outcasts, invalids, the diseased, etc. That was why he came...not for the healthy, but the sick. I started to wonder why my life was so sterilized and sanitized...so seperate from the aches of humankind. I had to unlearn tendencies to judge and characterize people and move toward them loving with unconditional love. Something I was dying to be free to do, by the way. We're created to function with this spirit.

And yet, I longed to stay pure and holy. I didn't want to chuck off all bonds of obedience in my efforts to move to the dark places and the dirty people...I wanted to have a righteous life in this world without being self-righteous. I wanted to be holy without being holier-than-thou. You know what I mean?

This is a long answer to your question, but I'm trying to say that Baptists are great so long as they love Jesus and long to follow every bit of who he is. But there are a ton of other demoninations that are pleasing God and making a kingdom difference as well. You really have to go and make an evaluation church to church these days. You can't make your decision based on the denomination anymore, if you ever could to begin with. The questions I ask about a church are: "Is this church passionate about following hard after Jesus?" "When I enter this building, do I sense freedom, joy, life and relevance?" "Is there a love for the Scriptures and a desire to apply the Bible to everyday life situations or am I bored and unstirred?" "Do I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place through the music, message and people gathered here?" "Does this church have a heart to connect to the world through relevant and sensical methods of ministry?" ...

It's not like I don't care about "inerrancy" or the "virgin birth" or the "deity of Christ"...but what I find is that most churches agree on those things...the ones that don't I wouldn't go to. What most churches don't agree on is practicing the Scriptures in a life-giving way. They are either dry or dull or drab or dorky. They don't relate to life. They don't stir the human soul. They prepare you for death, but not for life. It's like walking into a time capsule when you enter the "sancuary". This shows a huge disconnect from real people in the real world. And it's not Jesus...it's just not. When he walked this planet, he connected with and attracted everyday lives...not just Bible-believing, eternally secure, King James only zealots of the faith. In fact, those were the kinds of people that he ticked off...they didn't like Jesus. He was not who they were expecting as the Messiah. It's because Jesus made sense to the world more than he made sense to Religion. That's a key component of real faith. Does this connect with Humanity and the Human soul?

Anyway, I could go on and on...but you don't have time and I honestly don't today either. But I want you to follow your heart as you seek to be where God wants you to go. I could care less whether it's a Methodist church, Presbyterian church, Charasmatic church, or a Lutheran church...what matters is whether the particular church you're going to is honesty seeking hard after God...biblically and culturally.

I hope this is of some help to you, old friend.

thanks for writing so honestly...that's where it all begins.

Jason

Saturday, February 24, 2007

good blog...

Here's a blog from my drummer and friend that hits the nail on the head...

My first Christian college disappointment...

I'm agitatied... for real.
Let's start with the following disclaimer: Cornerstone University is a great school to be at, and I feel and have felt at home since the first day of classes last semester.
There it is.
Now then, in my New Testament class we are learning all about Jesus, his minsitry, and the Kingdom of God. It's all good stuff. However, I'm having a real hard time with this book we're reading, 'Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ'. Quite literally this book goes into the very details of Christ's life, including scholarly theories on the exact date his ministry started and ended, an entire section of a chapter devoted to the argument of the unridden colt and whether or not it was pre-arranged, seventy bible verses giving clues to the hour Jesus was born, etc. I dare say that if the author of this book had more pages to fill, he would have theorized that Jesus was allergic to peanuts.
I'll tell you who is thinking about peanuts, and that's me. A detailed account of Jesus' crucifixion is what set me off just now, and part of my homework tonight was to answer the question,
"Between what hours was Jesus crucified?"
This was my actual answer, and is what I'll be turning in tomorrow:
" Does it really matter? This question seems quite irrelevant, as do others in this chapter..."
Dan and I were talking about this today over lunch, and he recommended that I blog about it. So here I am, venting one of my first exegetical opinions from higher-education-land-- here's the main point:
There are too many details and distractions in this crazy world we live in. They take away the meat of truly meaninful things. Scholars don't need to focus on when Jesus was born, but why. They're wasting their time arguing about the pre-concieved plan for Jesus to ride the colt into Jerusalem, when the simple fact is that it happened and there's nothing that can change that. It frustrates me to read paragraph after paragraph on the hour-by-hour theories about the exact medical pain experienced on the cross, when the main point is that he died for all of humanities' sins.
These guys that helped write this book have big, scholarly, almost egotistical blinders on, and I think it's leading students reading it to care less about who Jesus was and what he did. Instead, they're worried about what his favorite color was and if 'blue' is the correct answer on the homework or not.
Get my point?

Thanks Dave VanKuelen...

Friday, February 23, 2007

do they have mommy's and daddy's?

Last night Heidi was struggling with the girls...they were being--oh, how shall I say this--difficult. Yeah...difficult. Difficult meaning selfish, irritating, and naughty. She had this brilliant idea of showing them a episode of Oprah (please keep reading regardless of your opinion of Oprah) which showed the realities of orphans in Africa and their desperate plight. I've seen this before and it's just life-altering.

I wasn't there, but Heidi was telling me that the girls watched with wonder...especially Aly. Aly had been struggling with "not being thankful" that evening and watching this was stirring her. She turned to Heidi when it came to a close and her eyes were watery. Heidi asked her if she was ok and she just burst into tears. She said, "I'm sorry for not being thankful." and then said, "Do they have mommy's and daddy's?" Heidi shared with her that many of them don't. She cried all the harder. Her spirit is so tender and sensitive.

I wish I felt that sort of knee jerk compassion for humanity. Though I must admit, I have come to a richer understanding of God's love for this world in recent years, I still have so much hardness inside of me that needs broken up. I still don't let my heart feel all that it could...I protect myself from being too affected by the brokeness around me. I don't let my heart close enough to the pain of others to taste their tears and feel their fears...it's like there are survival mechanisms in place to keep others at arms length. What is that?

My heart's desire is to feel tears well up in my eyes at the sight of orphans and widows, homelessness and hopelessness. I mean to let my heart go to those places of deep hurt feeling every bit of the pathos that Jesus needs me to feel in order to emulate his heart to this world. Without Sym"pathy" and em"pathy"...I don't stand a chance of following in the steps of the Relational Rabbi. To be "moved with compassion" as Jesus was. I want the supple heart of my daughter today. A heart that takes in the brokeness and breaks with it. The older I get, the more I have to hold my heart accountable to feel these things. It's just easier to drift toward self-protection.

What a great idea my wife had yesterday. There is nothing that attacks selfishness like brokeness. May we find ourselves moving toward the mess as a church...it's not only where we belong...it's where we only just begin to believe.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Isaiah 61 - part #5

His Thoughts:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
“He” has sent “Me”. You can look around, but I don’t think you’re going to find a more absurd phrase in the Bible. What is He doing sending the likes of us to accomplish so great a mission? As Paul said in 2 Cor. 2, “Who is equal to such a task?”

Do you ever feel unqualified by your talents or disqualified by your behavior? I do. Do you ever feel too uneducated, too small town, or too inexperienced? I do. So many humans have such an inferiority complex that they can’t climb out from under the weight of their own unworthiness. They are reminded by the inner jury of their own soul that they are guilty of unspeakable personal felonies leading to a verdict of GUILTY. You can just see them living life with a “guilty as charged” sign hung around their neck. For people like this, it’s nearly impossible for them to accept God’s invitation to join him in this rescue mission to recover the jewel of great price, the human soul.

They can’t wrap their arms around the idea that God would send them in his stead. His reputation on their shoulders. His success dependent on their movement. People’s healing hanging in the balance with us standing in the gap on behalf of God. We are the ambassadors…the spokesmen…the reps of redemption. This is a tall order. This is an epic invitation in need of a heroic volunteer. Who is equal to such a task?

No wonder the hero’s and heroine’s who live out this mission are called “oaks of righteousness” by God. They are the strongest breed of believer. They are the deepest rooted in their allegiance. They weather storms and shelter pilgrims. They are slow growing and long lasting. And their presence reminds people of the splendor of God…they are “display” booths of his truth that endures to all generations.

I’m a part of a church plant…so I love the phrase “a planting of the LORD”. It’s something that he is always doing as the gardener of the gospel. He is planting type of God. He is growing people and grooming people to GO. To be on mission. To live out an organic experience of God in this world, to this world. I happen to think that church planting is the best kind of “planting of the Lord” to display his glory…but that’s just my bias. ;)

He sent Us. Holy Hope coming through Fragile Followers. Unreal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Isaiah 61 - part #4

His Thoughts:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
Replacement. This is a crucial aspect of the gospel. You can't be a trouble-shooter alone. You can't just tell people what's wrong...you can't even get away with just telling people what's right. You have to provide a replacement for what they are currently leaning into. You have to stay with them through the process of rehabilitation.

Rehab is a word that's thrown around quite a bit these days. Whether it's someone recovery from alchohol abuse or a stroke, rehab is the process by which people learn how to either regain function, or learn a completely new function. It is the antidote for dysfunction. Rehabilitation is what is being discussed in this text.

When someone is grovelling in the ashes of insecurity or self-hatred or shame, it does no good to point that out to them. It's like telling a cripple that he can't walk or mute that he can't talk...they know that. The transformational dynamic of the gospel comes when someone trades beauty for ashes. When someone can insert or inject beauty into the person's life story. When someone can vacuum out the ashes of condemnation and put on a crown of value and validation. When someone can rehabilitate someone from a place a uselessness to usefullness. This is the goal of the gospel...the replace the old with the new.

When someone is anchored to discouragement and depression, it's futile to masterfully preach at them about their self-loathing tendencies or their propensity to drag others down around them. They will be like, "Thanks a bunch, Mr. Obvious!" What they do need is a committed friendship that, with tact and timeliness, can pour the oil of joy into a moment when it's least expected. Someone to point out the things that are going well and worth living for. The person who finds humor in the darkest places and is honest about their own journey through the valley of the shadow of death. The person who knows the therapy of massaging the oil of gladness into someones stiff and bound up soul muscles. There is nothing like a good massage, is there? This oil that Isaiah speaks of is essential to the healing of the soul. Without it we run on treadmills trouble-shooting and never move toward freedom-shooting.

I think the reason why this replacement/rehabilitation model is so unpopular is because you actually have to love the person to do this type of gospel work. You can't just do a drive-by wave or a friendly "pat-on-the-back-I'm-praying-for-ya'-brother" type of transation. It means that you're in the trenches with this person feeling the arrows wizzing by your own head as you seek to protect them and fight for them on their battlefields, not yours. This is where inviting people to church misses something fundamental in the discipleship process. It's more about getting into their world with them than it is inviting them into your world. Don't get me wrong, some people need to retreat from their world in order to see the light, but it always starts with climbing into the story of the soul you're trying to rescue. We, often time, are counting on our environment to do the work for us. "If we can just get them here, the rest is history." When, in reality, the best thing to do is live among their daily routines and see where the breakdown is occuring. Getting people to dress up and smile on the weekends doesn't take much, it's getting people to understand what is killing them the other 167 hours of the week. You don't know that until you befriend them in their realm of existance.

You have to love people to live "this" gospel message. It's a long-term rehabilitation relationship often times. It's a replacement therapy that takes the kind of love the lasts. We need theologians and therapists. Maybe we could coin that term, "Theo-Therapists". It has a ring to it, doesn't it? That's what I want to be.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Isaiah 61 - part #3

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
I was wondering today if you're beginning to see yourself in this passage. To me, it's impossible for you see what God is saying in His Word until you see yourself in God's Word. To climb into the particular passage you're reading and to swim around in the story is by far the most important part of Bible Study. When you read it from a distance trying to extrapolate truths and tips and techniques, you rob yourself of the reward and strip the Scriptures of their narrative power. So, try it...climb into this picture you're seeing...move about in the text and ask yourself questions like, "Am I following Jesus into people's lives around me?" "Am I meeting people's needs or pointing out their faults?" "Am freeing anyone from fear, doubt, bitterness, hatred, or insecurity?" When you find yourself in the text and let the text get into your blood...you carry it with you into your day.

When I climb into this text, I can't help but make an observation. It's important to note that a brokenhearted person will look like nothing of the sort half the time. They won't be grovelling in their own hurt and shovelling out the shattered shards of their glass heart when you meet them. They will be composed a lot of the time. They will be funny, together, balanced and well-to-do. They will be good communicators and better showmen. They won't let on for a second that their world is falling apart and that significant chunks of their heart are hanging by a thread. They won't go there. They won't crack open the fear, the wounds, the hangups and harrassment. They won't throw you a bone if you ask them if there's anything wrong under the hood. They will be looking snazzy and slick...on the outside.

When you are looking for a person imprisoned in need of freedom, you won't often know it when you're met one of these slippery buggers. They often time seem to be the most liberated people in the room. But often what appears to be free-spirited is often free-falling. They make their appearance as a calm and collected enjoyer of life. They party hard. They have tons of friends. They are always on the go. They are making and spending money with the best of them. They drive nice cars and wear nice clothes. They even tithe and clap when the worship leader goads them to do so. They smile when something's funny and laugh when they're caught off gaurd. But know this, behind the folds of the drawn curtain there is an addict, a soul dependent on the drug of something to hold them together. They have their own defaults and coping mechanisms to maintain survival. They have escaped hatches and evasive tactics giving them an out when reality is too much to bear.

And people that think they can see...always pontificating about this and that like they've been there and done that...they are blind as bats more than not. In fact, Jesus said that when people think they can see, what they don't realize is that they are unknowly showing their cards of myopia at best, blindness at worst. Fast talkers, big talkers, know-it-alls...they just aren't what they appear. You wanna know why I know this? I am one at times. I can come aross all "richo and suave'" and yet be walking on pins and needles in my heart nursing deep insecurity and binding up blindness under the wraps of refinement.

So today, when you're out looking for brokeness and blindness and bondage...look no further than yourself. And that guys working next to you or that woman in the cubical beside you...they are more messed up that they look...beleive me.

Isaiah 61 - part #2

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
What is the good news? What is the gospel? This is a question I've been asking myself lately. For years I would have proceeded by taking you on a stroll down the Romans Road, or given you four simple happy hops to Heaven, or given you the ABC's of the faith: ADMIT that you're are sinner, BELIEVE in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, Confess that Jesus is Lord. Presto! There you have the gospel in a nutshell.

Or I would take people on a quest of diagnostic questions baiting them towards the question: "If you were to die today, where would you spend eternity?" followed by another cornering question: "If you were to stand before God and he was to ask, 'Why should I let you into MY Heaven...what would you say?" (After you wet your pants, of course!) Mind you, these people thought they were answering a random survey and within two mintues I'm asking them to bow their head and bend their knee repeating a Sinner's Prayer in heart felt consecration. This is sharing the gospel...at least this is what came to my mind when I thought about the gospel.

I remember going on a "Gospel" trip to New York City for my evangelism class in college. I was a freshman just barely cutting my teeth in ministry. We packed in a church van (you gotta love those) and headed to the Big Apple. Upon our arrival, we had a crash course in street smarts and the "Shotgun Gospel Method" we would all have a chance to try out in the subways. The guy told us that as people got onto the subway, we would wait for the door to close, stand up on the nearest seat and with lightning speed, share our testimony with a "creative altar call type of invitation" at the end of the quick sermonette. We had about a minute to start and wrap up the whole deal, because the subway stopped about every minute unloading and loading people.

As it came time for me to perform this awkward and unusual form of verbal invasion, I remember feeling my heart pounding in my temples. I wasn't sure if I wanted to faint, run, puke or soil my pants, but make no mistake, I was dreading this "opportunity" to share the gospel. It didn't feel like "good news". It felt like selling merchandise to uninterested bystanders. I was the slick saleman pitching the deal of a lifetime. I was the auctioneer talking so fast I was making myself dizzy, not to mention everyone sitting in this moving rectangle trying to mind their own business. I took my stand, swallowed hard and performed like a stiff puppet. I'm not sure what I said, all I know is that people just looked down at the dirty rubber flooring and bit the bullet until they reached their destination. No one made eye contact. They put up with me. It's almost like they were letting me do whatever I needed to do to reach my evangelistic quota. It's like they knew I was doing this for a class grade...they weren't the lab rats, I was. I was embarrassed, violated, and dehumanized that day. Ever since, whenever there are groups getting together to street witness or go "door-to-door", I feel myself get hot and sweaty all over. There are phobia-like symptoms.

The gospel isn't a prayer, it isn't a trip to the inner city, it isn't a sermon, it isn't an altar call, it isn't a questionaire, it isn't a diagnostic test, it isn't a list of specific verses memorized in a calculated order, it isn't John 3:16 plastered on a poster and held up at a sporting event, it isn't cold turkey conversation with a perfect stranger on an airplane...though these are the things that initially come to mind for many. It's more like the aforementioned verse...a life of healing, caring, loving, listening, restoring, enjoying, ennobling, impassioning, freeing and befriending. It's a life of feeding, clothing, housing and counseling. It is above all relational and real. You shouldn't even know you're sharing the gospel when you are, because it's so much a part of your everyday routine. People shouldn't feel like you're pawning something off or pitching a product or selling a trinket...they should feel like they just had a conversation with someone who has a peculiar passion for life. They should feel like they just encountered something contagious, infectious and inviting.

That's what people felt when they bumped into Jesus...I wonder why?

Thoughts on Isaiah 61 part #1

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
I’m not sure when my expiration date is, but I have one. It’s breathing down my neck with its warm exhale reminding me that my time is short. I have but one life to inject my vaccine of goodness into this world, I simply must spend it doing this kind of ministry:

Ennobling the poor.
I want to bring nobility and dignity to those who feel like society's suckers. I want to believe in them and help them succeed. I want to acknowledge my own poverty of spirit and allow that to sink in to the soil of my soul. I want to yoke myself with the impoverished, feeling the weight of having nothing. This is what I want.Binding up the broken.I want to handle fragile hearts with care. I want to be a haven for the hurting and a bastion for the broken. I want to draw poison out of wounds and stay by their side as long as it takes for healing to occur. I want to breathe belief back into their jaded and jilted heart. I want to see beyond the crooked smile to the cracked heart beneath, and then I want to pick up the pieces and put them back together by the grace of God. This is what I want.

Freeing the captive.
I want to reach through prison bars to touch the captive within. I want to break through the thick walls that people erect around their hearts. I want to sing freedom songs, pray freedom prayers, preach freedom messages, and have freedom conversations. I want freedom to be the feeling that people have when they walk away from an encounter with me. This is what I want.Releasing the lost.I want to be a beacon in the night for those wandering in darkness. I want to cast a vision for the blind that brings sight to their hollow eyes. I want to be a seeing eye dog for those who have lost the will to want. I want to speak shafts of light into the dungeons where their dreams are chained down. I want to unleash the paralyzed passion pent up in humanity calling it out of hiding and into daylight. This is what I want.

Comforting the mourner.
I want to draw along side the crestfallen extending my arms as a refuge of refreshment. I want to collect tears and lift heads. I want to quell fears with the assurance of my friendship. I want to get on the ground with the fallen, shed tears with the crying, and clear a path to the nearest smile. This is what I want.

Beautifying the ugly.
I want to see the beauty in the ghastly. I want to cultivate a buoyant heart than floats when everything else is sinking. I want to breathe beauty into hearts that feel like worthless wastes of time. I want to reintroduce people to their original glory that throbs just beneath the wreckage that hides the holy. This is what I want.

Gladdening the hopeless.
I want to make people happy. I want them to experience the joy of being alive and to celebrate the smallest things that remind us of the preciousness of life. I want to distract them from their pain by attracting them to their purpose. I want them to remind them of the good and motivate them to give it a chance again. I want to find humor in disappointment and joy in suffering. I want to smile at Satan and wish him farewell as I enter into life armed with joy. This is what I want.

Praising the depressed.
I want to listen until my ears bleed to the sullen soul in need of a centering friendship. I want to sing lullabies to mentally ill rocking in their chair and staring at the air. I want to hold the hand of the disabled and peck the cheek of a widow with a kiss of kindness. I want to wink at the world with a “yes” in my eye providing that gust of wind for those whose sails have been flapping in the breeze. This is what I want.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is all over this kind of life. This is the anointed life. This is the good news. This is the gospel.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Art of Listening...

The Art of Liistening

Time is dealt to everyone
Without respect of age
Glories stream as moments pass
Between the boy and sage.

What will we do with this, our life?
What story will be told?
Will lasting memories be shared
When we grow tired and old?

I ask myself these questions now
So I’m not left to mourn
The life I led upon this earth
E’er since my soul was born.

Each thing we do is spiritual
It drips with the divine.
There is an art to living life
That makes each second shine.

The sculpture’s not the only one
That shapes and carves and molds,
A listener can do the same
When art’s applied to souls.

As someone shares you enter in
With everything you’ve got,
No word is shared without response
No piece will be forgot.

Each tone is noted with great care
Each thought is cherished deep,
There’s no excuse for drifting off
And letting your heart sleep.

When listening becomes the art
It was designed to be,
A life is given back its worth
Reviving dignity.

Each nod I give could be the thing
That heals and binds up wounds,
Each question that I gently pose
Could be the salve that soothes.


And as I guard my clumsy lips
And keep them tightly closed,
The opportunity is ripe
Where secrets are exposed.

For no one shares the deepest things
Unless their heart is heard,
If they can’t see an artist’s ear,
then they won’t speak a word.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak
So says the book of Truth,
Yet time and time again we see
Most Christians are aloof.

Where are the eyes locked on the lips
Of those who share their fears?
What ever happened to the skill
Of leading with your ears?

This art of listening is rare,
So few have learned its beauty,
This world is filled with silver tongues
Where are the ears of ruby?

I feel it’s time for things to change
Starting with our hearts,
then listening can once again
Become a living art.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Friendship...

Loneliness (or Aloneness) is usually ranked as the top reason for suicide. The only thing worse than feeling alone, is feeling alone around a group of people.

Most people who attempt suicide report a rich fantasy around the event, a fantasy that includes being noticed after death by those who have ignored them, causing regret among those they feel have wronged them, and teaching a lesson to those who have harmed them. When people think of suicide they often feel that they will be able to watch what happens after their death.

The reason for this is that most people live in seclusion from others and crave the type of closeness that would bring about the kind of pursuit, affirmation and heart-felt friendship that is experienced at a viewing or a funeral.

What is it about a funeral that is appealing?
1. Everyone stops what they’re doing to talk about this person’s life story.
2. Everyone adjusts their busy schedule in order to attend.
3. People travel from far and near and gather for the purpose of honoring and remembering this person’s life.
4. It’s a time when everyone focuses on the best facets of this person’s heart.
5. You get to see how much people really cared about this person.

People are starving for friendship, companionship, partnership, and camaraderie.

C.S. Lewis quote – “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, “sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near you friends.”

James 5:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…”

Community is the cure for the human heart.

Every void, vacancy or vacuum inside my heart has been filled with friendship over the years. I have been made whole through friendship along the way that have healed hurts and filled emptiness....

I learned about computers and the military from Andy Falanga.
I learned how to play sports from Kenny Clifford.
I learned about construction and hunting from Art Jones.
I learned about adventure and risk from Buddy Rathmell.
I learned about faithfulness and commitment from my dad.
I learned how to pray from Jeff Reichadnater.
I learned how to play the guitar from Jerry Hines.
I learned about writing from Ryan Fry.
I learned how to cut hair from Jake the Barber.
I learned about stamina and endurance from Coach Jacobs.
I learned about how to interact with other races from Ted Boykin.
I learned about humility from Dan Dundore.
I learned how to cry from Dwight Peterson.
I learned about deep love and devotion from my wife, Heidi.
I learned about the power of reading books from Matt Fry.
I learned the power of memorizing Scripture from Dan Hayden.
I learned how to preach from Ken Rudolph.
I learned about world missions from Jeff Barrows.
I learned about brotherhood from my brother, Tim.
I’ve learned about volunteer EMT work from Layne See.
I’ve learned about giving sacrificially from Dave Gringhuis.
I’ve learned about the priority of purity from Marcus Burton.
I’ve learned about an engineers mind from Brian Kuieck.
I’ve learned about dreaming big from Ed Vance.

Wholeness can only be experienced through deep friendship. You will stay broken, empty and incomplete without the companionship of a kindred spirit to help you see things that alone you would be blind to, hear things that alone you would be deaf to, and feel things alone you would be numb to.

Hebrews 3:12 – “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of your ay be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Suicide will happen without friendship. You will either kill yourself physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but make no mistake, you will die somehow.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My 200th blog entry...

Do you ever wonder if you were created for something special? I mean something unique to just you? Something that no one else can do, feeling something no one else can sense? Living a life only you can live and seeing your surroundings in such a way that no one else can fully relate? Do you ever just sense that your instincts just move you toward things that you can’t really explain to others? Certain proclivities that sit outside of reason, outside of mere logic? Do you ever house thoughts that you wonder where they came from and why your sub-conscious won’t just leave you alone with little questions that mock easy answers? Do you ever wish for things that you know you can’t have, yet find so much joy in the wishing that it’s almost like you enjoy wishing more than having. Like C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our best havings are wantings”. It’s like you have more than you could ever want, when you want more than you could ever have. And it doesn’t find it’s origin in discontent, it’s more like an inconsolable secret or something beautiful inside us that sets us apart from the rest of creation.

Do you ever wonder how much of your brain you’re actually tapping into? Like there is so much more that you were created to mull over and master and mess around with than you’re giving your mind credit for? It’s like life is pregnant with possibility and you’re strolling through it unaware and un-amused. I’m sure it stems from some form of depreciation…a reduced estimation of what it is we are, and what it is we are capable of experiencing. Appreciating life is so much more than thanking God for the air you breathe or the health you enjoy…it’s looking at the intricate design in things and reveling in the complexity of those otherwise ordinary objects. It’s letting your eyes survey the whole of an object absorbing the infinitesimal nuances of texture and consistency in a thing. Even more profound is the exceptional nature of another human being. To show up in a conversation with antenna raised and probes poised. To take in language mixed with tone and timing allowing it to hit your body, then mind, then soul. This exchange is nothing short of marvelous, a brushing against the miraculous. Every human heart distinct and yet universal. Every word common and yet strung together peculiarly. Peoples hairlines and facial creases, one of a kind. A person’s body language and responses to silence or sound, exquisite and exceptional. A person’s story, well, need I even mention that no two are alike. This is what makes life green and growing. This is what makes mornings new and days divine. And to listen to the soul when words are not sufficient, that is priceless indeed. Humans are walking art forms, rare art forms all bunched together with other rare art forms. From biological inexplicabilities to spiritual gravities…they stand apart, alone.

But how easy it is to clump ourselves all together in an effort to simplify our lives. This reductionism tends to sterilize life and paralyze the capacities of the human spirit, in my opinion. I suffer from this disease (if this is what you want to call it) as well. I want to typecast and profile just like everyone else. It frees up more time for me to watch T.V. and not be bothered by the injustices that envelope me in this world. I can plan much better when I keep “wonder” at a distance and domesticate my wild stirrings. But this must be some of what God was saying when he said, “We’re always learning but never being able to comprehend the truth.” To pack our heads with facts and figures and yet never move toward the truth, the truth of what unadulterated life really is. We employ systemic strategies and miss the meaning. We embrace movies and avoid people. We love books and loathe our own life story (an important tale for sure).

There is nothing so fascinating and adventurous as the story of one’s life. The plot is thick with suspense. Moments of truth are all over the place. Defining decisions that shape the drama replete throughout the history of our lives…and what’s more, they are yet to come in the seconds to follow your cursory reflection of the past. This story is written and being written as your lungs inhale and exhale. As your blood absorbs oxygen and distributes it to muscle and skin and bone. As your eyes dart to and fro burning images into your retina like a high powered camera. All the while, we as humans sit idly by and curse ourselves with complacency. The adventure is happening and we’re waiting for it to start. All because we don’t appreciate what it is we have, who it is we are. Godlings, I tell you. We are the offspring of the Creator. The image-bearers of Deity Himself. We are nothing less that walking reflections of the Infinite. This has got to mean something.

Do you ever find yourself pestered with ideas that come out of nowhere? When this happens to me I immediately resort to condemning myself for “thinking too much”. But it’s what I love most about being human. I heard it said one time that “the heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.” I think this is true. Most of the time, this underworld is reminding me of something I tend to forget. That life is a gift, a matchless treasure to be valued and held in the highest regard. It is teeming with elaborate, though obscure details that won’t be seen by a soul needing to get somewhere fast. They won’t be experienced by a hurried heart. They wait for the slowpoke who stops along the way to attribute value to life. The stargazer, the rubbernecked tourist who can’t take in enough sights and sounds wanting to catch and carry each experience storing it away as a memory. These are the persons most alive, most awake, afoot and astir with open eyes and ears. I want to stay this way…even if it does seem a bit silly to say so.

I live in a relatively small world, doing things of little consequence in the light of the universe and it’s goings on. But I find inside myself a desire limited only by my imagination…a longing that invites me to pass into the other side. “Further up, and further in” as Lewis calls it. This ache evokes such a stab of joy that at times I can hardly bear it. I felt it in the coffee shop just this morning…it sent chills through my body. I mean never to lose this sensation, this touch of heaven, this draw towards the beyond, the beneath. It’s there that I find most of the best things in life…just below the surface. The writing of this indescribable essence is a joy in itself. If I could pass anything on to someone…it would be this offering.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

too see about a girl...

I'm going home to see about a girl.

...(those that haven't seen Good Will Hunting won't have a clue what I'm talking about.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

The church...

Something I wrote for our church when we had a service at Fallasburg Part...I just revisited it and it was a good reminder of what's what and who's who. I get swallowed into a modern/post-modern mindset of church so easily...maybe you do to...

Acts 14:26-28
“On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them…”

The reason I love this verse is because you clearly cannot gather a building together…this can only be describing people. This may be a news flash for you, but the church has always been about people. Four people. Forty people. Four-hundred people. Four-thousand people. It makes no difference. Wherever the people are, that’s where the church is.

The building is to the church what the body is to the spirit. It only resides there; it is never to be confused for being the thing itself. Maybe the confusion stems from how we talk about the church. “Where do you go to church?” “At our church we have rockin’ worship!” “Did you hear they are building a new church over at Impact?” I’m sure this is where the breakdown occurs. When this is how you define it, you confine it. The church is not a place…and, for the record, it is not a person…it is a people.

We gather today not at Impact, but as Impact. Buildings are torn down and burnt to the ground, but the Bible says even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the church. You can shut up the doors, but you cannot shut up the heart. Regardless of what happens to the property…the church moves on.

The church gathers together weekly to share in God’s greatness. It’s not a monument to gather under, it’s a movement to get caught up into! When the church gathers and unites, there is no stopping the church…it will accomplish the purpose that Jesus died to perpetuate in the world.

And that is why we gather today…as Impact. Because no building will ever define or confine us. No prescription or description will hold us inside four walls. This is worship without walls. This is movement without measurement. This is people without property. This is God’s church…we are Impact.

_______________________________________

Get a load of these verses…
Romans 1:23
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

...
Psalm 98:7-9
“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord.”


My personal rendering of this passage…
“That sound you hear…that is the sea singing a symphony to God…resounding with the loudest voice you’ve ever heard in your entire life. And just when you thought your ears deceived you, the world whispers words to accompany the sound of the seven seas. The rivers rejoice with an applause that builds to a climax drowning out the music of the mountains. It’s like creation is chanting back and forth in its adoration and adulation of how great God is until all you hear is a holy roar exploding from the earth heralding the presence of a God so good that even creation can’t hold it together. And you thought only people worshipped.”
_________________________________

Here’s the deal…as we gather today, don’t think for a second that worship is simply singing on Sunday morning…it’s so much more. Worship is in the rustling of leaves, the rippling of streams, and the ripening of an apple. When we box God into an hour on Sunday Morning, we commit the gravest crime imaginable. Take a look around you right now and soak in the song of creation.

____________________________________
Some of my favorite quotes on Worship:

"The humblest and the most unseen activity in the world can be the true worship of God. Work and worship literally become one. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever; and man carries out that function when he does what God sent him into the world to do. Work well done rises like a hymn of praise to God. This means that the doctor on his rounds, the scientist in her laboratory, the teacher in his classroom, the musician at her music, the artist at his canvas, the shop assistant at his counter, the typist at her typewriter, the housewife in her kitchen -- all who are doing the work of the world as it should be done are joining in a great act of worship."
- William Barclay

"When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart."
- Lamar Boschman

"Worship is celebration. All of life is a festival: being persuaded that God is everywhere present on all sides, we praise him as we till the ground, we sing hymns as we sow the seed, we feel his inspiration in all we do."
- Clement of Alexander

"To worship is experience reality, to touch life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is breaking into the shekinah (glory) of God, or better yet, being invaded by the shekinah of God."
- Richard Foster

"Worship is a lifestyle not an event!"
-Chuck Woolley

"Worship is celebration. All of life is a festival: being persuaded that God is everywhere present on all sides, we praise him as we till the ground, we sing hymns as we sow the seed, we feel his inspiration in all we do."
- Clement of Alexander