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Monday, May 21, 2007

I just cried...

I don't cry much anymore. I used to cry alot early in ministry. Things would pierce me often. Beautiful things, tragic things. I would be moved to tears quite frequently.

But I don't feel tears running down my cheeks much anymore. I must be maturing. Yeah, that's it. I'm coming to terms with growing up and handling pressure with dignity and poise. I'm getting used to brokeness. I'm expecting disappointment, and thus, I'm not shocked when it comes around the bend. I'm anticipating let down these days. (I say these things with a bit of mourning in my heart.) I don't want this to happen. I don't like what's happened and happening inside me, but I'm not sure I can prevent it. But I mean to. (Can you sense the incongruence of my emotions?)

I walked into the coffee shop today and saw a couple that I have grown to love, Dave and Cynthia Beach. He is a counselor, she is a writer and a college professor. They were fixing to play some cards together. (They said that it was something they used to do when they first got married and whoever won got to pick the kiss of their choice from their partner....ummhmmm!) We started talking and it didn't take long for us to get to the heart of life and the life of the heart. As I shared some of the questions and aches of my heart as of late, they continued to probe and speak truth to falacies and fraudulent feelings.

As I shared something that was heavy on my heart regarding the universal church and her fragile state, I started to cry. Mind you, I was sitting on the wood floor at their feet with tears coming out of my eyes, lip quivering and nose running. I was caught off gaurd by the level of my emotions over the things I was witnessing in the worldwide institutional church. I think part of the pathos was related to my recent discovery (mid-life crisis) that I can't do very much to change its trajectory. Maybe a better way of saying it is that I am coming to realize how small I am and how big life is around me. I mourn the fact that my best efforts fall woefully short of what is needed to turn the tide. And on the other hand, I'm wrestling with the feeling of resignation over whether the tide needs to be turned at all seeing how fragile and futile my own heart is in the mix. Who am I to point fingers and grind axes and split hairs. I'm a little man. A little, little man. I've never felt littler to be honest. This could be a good spin-off of this whole mid-life crisis!

As I picked myself off the floor and hugged this couple, I realized that I was crying for the local church in the middle of this coffee shop. And I didn't care one bit. The tears spoke all the words that I muster at the moment. And it is those tears that I hope never to lose. The tears that give evidence of my beating heart for the kingdom and my vested interest in the church and her advancement.

"Zeal for his father's house consumes him." Psalm 69:9

If I lose those tears, that passion, that pure anger...I lose everything.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If my life was a movie...

My friend, Micah, and I were talking down at The Bite for lunch. He's a good buddy. He is a worship/teaching pastor at a church called Engedi in Holland. He has two ear rings. He spikes his hair in various directions. He's trendy, edgy and postmodern. His clothes look very European. I like him, he is artsy fartsy, like me.

We were talking about story...the power of it. The necessity of living in it and out of it as it relates to ministry. We were talking about our lives as a story and how boring our stories are on most days. We talked about how long a person would watch a movie of our life. We laughed as we admitted that people would be walking out after 10 minutes asking for their money back. Most humans live such unstoried lives, boring as all get out.

The plot of our days is predictable and contrived. The drama that emerges is over stupid things that are both inconsequential and forgettable. Our relationships are many times banal and surfacy. We have such small dreams and are far too easily pleased. The conflict that fills our heads and our schedules is over silly stuff that can't even lodge itself in our memory banks for more than a week.

The smallness of our stories lead us to vulnerable places of temptation. We are seduced by worthless things only because our lives are often not worthwhile. We are attracted to lesser lovers because our interaction with "glory" is so rare. Movies provide a psuedo-story to live in. Music licks our wounds. Television grants a portal into the "more" that we're looking for, a vicarious brush up against transcendance. It feels good momentarily until we realize it's not really happening to us. We are onlookers salivating for a story to live in that is compelling. Wishful thinking and thoughtful wishing. This is, for many, the best that it ever gets.

I think people might stay in a movie of my life for about 10 minutes max. They would find it very "American Dreamish", very safe for the most part, very sterile and unoriginal. I think they would wonder why someone took the time to capture it on film. I would say my childhood had some of the most rivoting plots since I lived from a very child-like heart (this gives you the best chance of lively living). I used to take risks and dream big. Now I find most days blending into each other without many distinguishing variables. I get bored to death on some days tired of the same-ole', same-'ole. Nothing dicey happens most days. I just trudge to and fro and I hate it. I want to live for something huge. And here's the kicker. I am living for something huge...the kingdom of God for crying out in the night. And yet there is something so normal about my days. Something so "the same" about me. Something so ridiculously monotonous and laborious.

Why isn't the greatness of my cause leading to a storyline that would make a human stay in the theater for more than ten minutes. I don't want my girls growing up in a small story with a sorry dad bereft of dreams. I don't want boredom to be the banner over our home. I don't want my kids to be looking for a greater story to live in than what I'm providing for them. I want everything else to look like a demotion to prosiac passivity. I want my life to be a mosaic of meaning teeming with adventure and fraught with danger for a great cause. I want surprise and suspense to greet us every morning as we wake to a new day. I want to create environments that challenge us to new levels of living. I want to be random. I want to be caught off gaurd and to catch my kids off gaurd. I want my wife to wonder what tomorrow holds. I want her to know that I won't let life gut me like a landed fish. I want her to know that I will not let the movie of our life be forgettable. I will work toward creating a story worth living in and living out.

Now that I say that, I have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm just getting all lathered up about something I wish I could change, and half think I can, but half know I won't. I'm just being honest. I want to live a storied life...I'm starting to think that the life of family literally depends on it for survival in this wonderless world.

10 minutes...how long do you think someone would stay in the theater to watch a movie of your life? It's a question that I think is worth asking.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lilacs...

What a beautiful day! I spent some time down by the river this morning with my friend, Dave. We took time on a walk down by the river to smell some purple lilacs that were in full bloom. There is not a smell, come spring, that stirs more childhood memories than that one. We had a huge lilac bush in the front yard that would put off so much of a frangrance that you could smell it when you pulled into the driveway after school. It was a smell that said, "School is almost over." It said, "You can play outside again." It spoke volumes about longer days and deeper delight. I remember one time when I grabbed a handful of lilac flowers and went out into the woods; I laid down in a field and covered my face with the lilac buds. I just basked in the sun intoxicated with fruit of spring. It's funny how drawn to beauty and good sensual pleasure I was at such an early age. I would hide it from my friends and family because I thought it was quite queer. But I couldn't keep from being drawn to the joy of God's creation and the natural wonder that surrounded me.

On days like today...I can hardly stay inside and get any work done. I feel like a Jr. Higher looking out the window in History class waiting for the clock to stike 3:00pm. The small hand just wouldn't move fast enough. Today, my penchant for the outdoors is almost irresistable.

I love that my parents moved us to the country when we were little. I love that we had a garden and had to cut wood for winter heat. I love that we had a well and a barn. A tractor and a huge lawn. I love that my dad loved to be outdoors and invited me to spend time with him there. Some of my fondest memories with him were spent in the woods. It's where I felt most connected to my fathers, earthly and heavenly. It's the place when I felt that they were almost one in the same. When I cut wood with my dad I felt God's pleasure.

Days like today make me feel like a little boy inside. On the one hand I have so much responsibility and so many people depending on me, but on the other hand I feel so small and young inside. It's almost like I've tricked people into believing I'm capable and credible when in actuality, I'm a little boy trapped in a 32 year old's body trying to get out. The little guy inside comes closest to getting out on days like this where I feel the tug of yesteryear bidding me backwards to where my heart once found such rich pleasure and purpose. I feel like taking off my shoes and wading into a creek for crawdads. I feel like climbing a tree to the tippy top and swinging with the breeze. I feel like diving into a ditch after a downpour and wading in the whelming flood. I feel like sitting outside and closing my eyes and listening to the birds talk to each other about whatever birds talk to each other about. I feel like leaving behind dutiful demands and chasing after my dreams.

These are the feelings that a simple lilac can unearth...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

freedom...



















This what happens when a guy who gets befriended at a homeless shelter comes to know Christ and takes the dive (baptism). This is Bob. He wants to be free. He is free. Can't you tell?

Monday, May 07, 2007

revenge...

I was talking on revenge this week in church from Romans 12. It was a subject that I didn't think I struggled with much, quite honestly. I'm not a vengeful person by nature and I'm really easy-going and carefree most of the time. So I initially thought of myself as somewhat free of revenge. As I read the Word preparing for the message...something odd started to happen. It started reading me. I typically take the Word and tear it apart looking for hidden truth lodged within. But it started tearing me apart looking for hidden truth lodged deep within. And it found some stuff. Some really dark and foul stuff that I have repressed in concealed corridors of my soul.

I realized that I'm living with some things to prove and some people to pay back just like the rest of the human race. I thought I stood removed from the bitter pack of people who have rage and wrath harbored in their hearts. But I've got some of that poison working its way through my own veins. "my own"...hahaha...I'm seeing that I feel the need to be redundant to affirm the fact that I need to take a sort of "ownership" of this issue. It isn't just my life...it's my own life. I have this cancer spreading in "my own" heart as well. This is important to see and own.

I wonder what I'm trying to prove to people based on little injuries along the way. Here are several that came to mind...
That I’m smart.
That I’m skilled.
That I’m strong.
That I’m savvy.
That I’m sensitive.
That I’m secure.
That I’m silly.
That I’m serious.
That I’m social.
That I’m serene.
That I’m spontaneous.
That I’m sound.
That I’m satisfied.
That I’m spirited.
That I’m sincere.
That I’m storied.
That I’m scholarly.
That I’m successful.
That I’m suave.
That I’m stirring.

It's important to note that some, not all, of these needs come from wounds or voids in my past. I have to show someone something, to pay someone back or prove someone wrong about me. I need to set the record straight or settle the score. I have to make up for some deficit or some surplus in my personhood or personality. If someone has hinted at an imbalance in one area or another...I feel a need to prove that I'm balanced and so I set out to move the fulcrum a touch to the left or right to recover an equalibrium with my "inside" self translating into a balance being seen in my "outside" self. This happens from the earliest of memories to the present. It's funny how you don't have to teach humans to recognize voids and to fill them with whatever they have to in order to survive. So you grow up with learned responses and conditioned tactics of recovery in order to prove that you're on top of your game, that you are never caught off gaurd, never taken by surprise. If there is a vacuum or a vacancy...I will be or do whatever it takes to be the well-rounded, good-natured person I need to be to be what I sense you need me to be. These are the conversations going on inside the head that lead to modes of operation and knee-jerk defaults. I can't believe how much "good" change and growth that has happen in my life because of midguided motivations. Jealousy. Pride. Revenge. It's scary.

I just want God to purge me of these foul schemes. I want to make room for God's wrath, to make room for God's love, to make room for God's grace, to make room for God's justice....so that I don't have to carry the weight of proving something to someone, or paying back someone for something. This could rob me of years of my life if I don't "let it go", "give it up", or "lay it down". I can't carry the responsibility of judge and jury. I just can't...God didn't create me to fulfill those responsibilities...those are His. His alone.

It's hard to function apart from these strategies of survival. But I can't carry them anymore. I need to let God divy out justice, and dish out the verdict. He's the executioner. Not me. I have to let go of hurt. I think freedom waits on the other side of this thick and heavy veil. Lord, tear it asunder, from top to bottom....from heaven to earth, from You to me. Rend the heavens and come down!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I used to wonder....

I used to wonder how pastors could get depressed, I don't anymore.

I now wonder how pastors can keep from getting depressed. There's so much bondage and baggage. So much hurt and hate. So much pride and prejudice. So much anger and angst. So much fear and frustration. So much doubt and disallusion. So much greediness and neediness. So much sin and sadness.

I hate the gravity of depravity I feel at times. I can hardly stand it. I sometimes just want to cry. I think I will.