Monday, June 29, 2009
These are a couple excerpts from Donald Millers new book coming out in September. It's about our lives as stories and whether our stories are memorable or deplorable. So many of my hours are deplorable, absolutely deficient of meaning and worthy of being blotted out of all memory...this disturbs me deeply. Maybe it shouldn't, but I'm not mature enough yet to talk myself out of feeling horrible about my own life's fallow, callow, shallow plot. It bothers me. This little collection of writing speaks about these musings. Every paragraph comes from a different chapter in the book, so don't fuss about the fluidity of the content...it's my fault, not Donald's. Call it proof texting.
If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it,
you probably wouldn’t cry at the end of the movie when he drove off the lot testing the
windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home
and put a record on and sit in a chair to think about what you’d seen. The truth is you
wouldn’t even remember that movie a week later, except to feel robbed and want your
money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who got a Volvo.
But we spend years living those kinds of stories and expect life to feel meaningful.
Maybe that’s why we go to so many movies, because our real lives don’t feel meaningful
The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it. You don’t even remember
half of half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth. I’ve got this
friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice
cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down. The last time I talked to
Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories. He’s the only guy I know
who remembers his life. He said he captures memories because if he forgets them it’s as
though they didn’t happen, it’s as though he hadn’t lived the parts he doesn’t remember.
I thought about that when he said it and I tried to remember something and I
remembered getting a merit badge in Cub Scouts when I was seven, but that’s all I could
remember. I got it for helping a neighbor cut down a tree. I’ll tell that to God when He
asks what I did with my life. I’ll tell Him I cut down a tree and got a badge for it. He’ll
most likely want to see the merit badge, but I lost it years ago and so when I’m done with
my story God will probably sit there looking at me wondering what to talk about next.
God and Bob will probably talk for days.
You’d think God would just come out and tell us what to do in the Bible. But He
doesn’t. He mostly tells stories, and He rarely stops the story to say what the point is. He
just lets the characters and the conflict hang in the air like smoke.
It’s harder being a human than it is being a dog. When I’m at the dog park, I never
know what to say to the other dog owners. We’re all there so our dogs can exercise, but
the awkward conversation kills me. The other day I asked what kind of dog one of the
owners had and they said something, and then I asked the other and they said their dog
was a Lab like mine. I said Lucy looked like a seal when she’s wet and her ears are
pinned back, but nobody laughed. And I stood there feeling uncomfortable while our
dogs sniffed each other’s poop without the slightest hint of self-awareness.
And part of me feels like God is more pleased with the dogs’ interaction than He
is with ours, as though they are the ones having fun with the scenes He gave them, and
we are still trying to figure it out.
There you have it. As I read his brainstorming about the power of story, particularly the human story, I was laid bare once again with my own responsibility--that is my ability to respond to known realities--to tend to the plot of my story with delicate care and custom precision. So many of my days are "exploits in killing time". This is bothersome, really, really bothersome.
Even in obscurity, I want the passing of my life to be measured in meaningful frames, each frame giving meaning to the next, moving methodically and melodically like a river's current. I'm not looking for explosive adventure, I'm looking for a constancy of consciousness that finds itself swimming the marrow instead of wading in the shallow.
Here's the the storied life.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Can there be anything so precious
as a heart set free?
Eyes released from darkness seeing afresh
The starkness of life’s true reality…
our spirit’s liberty.
My life was meant to count…
To amount to something more than chores
and boring motions leading to
where nothing matters.
Can you gaze through the haze?
The maze of confusion and delusions
Polluting original beauty and glory
Stealing the story we were created
To live, to breathe, to be.
Will you let it slip through your fingers
Continuing to linger in the shadow
Instead of feeling life in the marrow?
Will you surrender to resignation
And isolation filled with hesitation
Or will you stand and fight
Against the blight of sin’s curse
For better or worse leaving your heart
On the battle field wielding your sword
With the dream of freedom
Beating in your breast.
What could mean more than this kind of life?
This is for the freedom fighters…my savage kingdom-companions.
overthrow my tension,
not to mention my vain
inventions of You.
Who sees through to the true.
where few care to go
to get to know the glow
of my deep heart.
come and rage over my rage
fill every page of my
soul with the Calm that comes
from the palm of your hand
where my nail came to land
as Your Father had planned
before time began.
come and clean the places
that scream for revival
where nothing can rival
that shrouds all the gory
that lingers in silence
feeding the violence
that flows in my spirit
I can practically hear it
yelling to harm me
then turning to charm me
away from the river,
the only Life-giver
that seeks to deliver,
this quivering, shivering,
trembling, rambling, rippling
Brook of Jesus, Your Child.
Come, Refreshing River.
I continue to struggle with the whole idea of "learning". It seems that it can be the greatest enemy to "loving" at times. You would think that learning more would translate into loving more...but often times, it only makes it more sterile and mechanical. Pretty soon you don't treat God like a person to be loved, but a subject matter to be learned.
In life, the more I learn about someone, the more there is to love of them. But I guess I don't even use that term to explain what is really taking place. I usually say, "The more I get to know them..." That is what is missing in Christian education...people are learning more about God, but not getting to know him. Does that make sense?
It's easy to start viewing him through constructs and systems of thoughts instead of as a person wanting true friendship with you. When that happens, you don't engage in deep worship...rather you get lost in deep thinking. I don't have to tell you how over-thinking can kill relationships on a human level, all the more so with Jesus. Yes, we must have correct doctrine in order to know him accurately, but we can't let knowledge replace knowing.
All that to say...I can’t let information to replace intimacy.
Wings of Grace
Cover this place
With the shadow of Jesus’ arms
With the echo of Calvary’s charm
Heralding the call to all to fall
Back in love with their First Love
Who loved first and awakened
Our thirst for more than
The boring chore of religion.
Son of Grace
Unveil your face
To be seen by the humble
Who tremble and stumble
And stutter and mutter
In the presence of such beauty
The Lamb slain in pain
To rain down love from above.
How can it be?
Whisper of Grace
Fill my ears until tears
Well up in gratitude
At the magnitude of your faithfulness
Shrouding my filthiness.
Raise your voice of mercy
And unearth me from the soil of sin
That I’m buried in which
Seeks to kill me and fill me with me
Instead of you.
Downpour of Grace
Rain down on this place
And find a home in our hearts
That roam in the dark
Trying to cover the scars
With lovers who are
Weak to clean the places that scream
Wash over our hurts,
Recover our hearts,
We need you.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The following words call for an active faith family. The prefix attached to each of these words assumes that someone will take the word that follows the prefix and press it into the heart of another. It’s exciting to wonder what the church would be like if these words became our lifestyle…hmmm?
Embalm – to make fragrant
Embattle – to fortify and arm
Emblaze – to light up, to set on fire
Embody – to incarnate, to give body to
Embolden – to give courage to
Embosom – to embrace, to cherish, to surround or shelter
Embrace – to clasp in the arms
Employ – to make use of, to call into action
Empower – to authorize, to enable
Enable – to make able, to make possible
Enamor – to fill with love, to captivate
Encamp – to place in the camp
Enchant – to charm greatly, to delight
Encounter – to meet with
Encourage – to give hope, to give heart
Endear – to make dear or beloved
Endow – to provide a talent
Enfold – to wrap up
Engage – to bind oneself to by promise
Enjoy – to make joyful or happy
Enkindle – to make blaze up, to arouse
Enlighten – to give light to the truth, to reveal
Enliven – to make active, vivacious, interesting, cheerful
Ennoble – to give nobility to, to honor
Enrapture – to fill with pleasure and delight
Enrich – to give greater value to, to adorn
Enthrall – to put or hold under strong influence, to fascinate or captivate
Entrust – to turn over to, to assign care of
Envelop – to cover completely, to hide
The call goes out...
significant vital pressing
central imperative chief major
momentous crucial fundamental key primary basic necessary indispensable
requisite serious dangerous grave noteworthy considerable large
The response is life altering
“what is the most important thing in life?”
I can change the future
It’s impossible to know the future, but you can change it. History is made when people think about the future, when they live their lives on purpose for something that truly lasts…something that endures. This question of what is most important in life has sent my mind on an exploration to find the “pearl of great price”. Much like the parable, it has captured me so that I long to risk all and surrender all to say I found it and cherished it. The flurry of activity in my life keeps me from reminding myself that there is something central…something core to be sought for and lived for. I immediate look around me and ask myself, “What lasts forever?” In a world of spoiling and fading, what has enduring value beyond my life, beyond this life? There is only one thing.
People never die
I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing in life, once you come to know Jesus, is people. They will never die…their souls live either happily ever after or horrifically ever after. You may say, “what about the glory of God…isn’t that central?” I’m not debating that, I’m just trying to get to how. How do we bring God the most glory? Worship songs, Bible Reading, Camp attendance, Prayer meetings, tithing…what makes him come alive? I was thinking about the words of Jesus, “I have come to seek and save those who were lost!” Pretty clear…his mission was settled and his vision was cast. He came seeking people…broken people, lifeless people, empty people, busy people, successful people, mean people, wretched people, happy people, apathetic people…he came for people. His life was people. His time was spent for and with people. He thought about people, healed people, conversed with people, asked people questions, pursued people, challenged people, invited people into life, attended parties with people, hung out with people, discipled people, cried with people, laughed with people, and ultimately died for people. You don’t just die for causes, unless the cause involves people you deeply care about. Jesus didn’t give up on people. He always was looking for ways to get to know them so that he could target his encouragement with custom made words that would awaken the spirit of the listener. He looked for friends…he made friends. He balled over his friend who died. He shared most of his adult life in ministry with 12 close friends…it’s like he knew he couldn’t live without close friends. But he only made close friends so that he could serve PEOPLE with them. He didn’t form a clique, he took the friendship to places of ministry. The friendship had a purpose beyond growing closer. It expanded to serving together…which quite frankly is where memories are made and hearts fulfilled. Don’t you ever wonder why you’re busy, but rarely fulfilled? It’s because it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” Whenever something stops at getting…it rots. That’s why the Christian life for a good majority of Christians frankly “rots”.
Because of the call to love people and make a difference in their lives, it would only make sense that one of my greatest fears is to come to the end of my life and realize that I had little impact on the souls of people. Again…when I think future, I make history. And when I talk of making a difference, I’m not talking about the ego-centric motive of being remembered and praised for accomplishment, I’m referring to having the basic need to know that your life mattered for something deeply and dearly. Too many live for themselves and wonder why they feel a massive disconnect and possibly even thoughts like, “What’s the point of living?” Suicidal thoughts aren’t only felt by the manic-depressives. They are experienced by all those who long for eternal value and find themselves washed up on the shores of superficiality. You can’t live there for long before you are haunted with thoughts of Confusion and Emptiness. Imagine being on your deathbed someday and looking back only to find that most of your life was spent on job performance, making money and impressing people. You would die a thousand deaths before took your last breath. In fact, most people are already dead…they’re just waiting for their bodies to catch up. Isn’t it funny that when you spend your life trying to impress everyone…you rarely make any deep and lasting impression on anyone?
I was lying in bed once with my wife and our conversation drifted to the subject of freedom, particularly how hard it is to live abundantly without freedom of the heart. As we were talking, my head pounded with the thought, “People need to be freed, and I intend to free them!” It was almost like I didn’t say it. Up to that moment, I was fighting to stay awake, from that moment on, I was fighting to go to sleep. “What is whispered in your ear, shout from the rooftops!” What an incredible set of words our Lord left us to digest. I sometimes wonder if I miss the blessing of revelation because I don’t take it up to the rooftop and shout at the top of my lungs what God has laid on my heart. From the mouth of God to the heart of the child, to the lungs of the ambassador, to the lips of the preacher…”Free People!” Do I intend to do it? Sometimes based on my stamina, I wonder. I get so discouraged so quickly. I lose heart one lap into the race. This is where Paul’s final plea grips my heart, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!” Fight, Finish, Keep. Three things that I lose sight of in this battle…and before I know it, survival become my primary goal, not people. Many days I wake up and feel alone, overwhelmed, and insufficient. I don’t feel capable of changing lives or the future. I wonder if my efforts are futile and my energy spent in vain. I see little fruit and lots of hurtles. I question my calling and whether the task is greater than my ability. But the glorious invitation remains, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?” God’s pounding heart for people seems to cadence like a drum in my spirit and I begin to move toward the sound only to find a happy and holy God smiling at the other end of the voice. With a thunderous whisper he leans forward and says, “Heaven awaits your arrival.”
Heaven will satisfy
We wonder that though don’t we? Why are we so resistant to leave? Why aren’t we more drawn to the golden streets and the crystal sea and the glittering mansions in the celestial city? Deep inside we don’t believe that heaven is as good as what we see around us outside the freedom from sin. We question whether our true desires will find fulfillment or if we will be disappointed at the gift of eternal life. We dread the thought of spending forever singing, bowing, singing some more and then going to our sterile mansion of gold in our sterile robe of white. Something inside wants to get dirty, run wild and yell loud. Something desires exploration, conquest and accomplishment. Something yearns for laughter, fellowship and wrestling. Picnics on the mountaintops, canoe trips down a quiet river, campouts without mosquitoes, slumber parties with comfortable pajama’s, competition among peers, adventure involving unknowns, grilling out with friends, flying without the assistance of an airplane, going on a walk with Jesus, plunging the depths of the ocean without scuba gear and not needing to come up for air. Grabbing a dolphin by the fin and slicing through water like a knife through butter, getting alone and listening to God’s heaven breath with holy lungs, creating games never before thought of, dancing with friends around the throne of God, jumping with the disciples in mosh pit, going jogging with friends through the rain forests, playing sports with childhood heroes, enjoying new creations of the Lord never before experienced on earth. THIS is what we WONDER. Is it worth it to give it all for God?
I can’t wait to spend time with people I touched and had a part in changing. I wonder what it will be like to have people come up to you and say, “Thanks for opening my eyes and never growing tired in the battle.” You see, everything you give and every moment you live will be remembered for all eternity. I know that there won’t be any tears in heaven…but I do think there will be the ability to look back in reflection at what could have been. Nothing done in God’s name for his glory will be irresponsibly forgotten. Each act of love invested in the soul of another will be rewarded. People will remember you, Paul even says that people in his ministry were his glory and crown of whom he would glory in Christ Jesus. He always seemed to value people above any other priority. He lost sleep over people, He stayed up through the watches of the night praying for people, he worried about people’s growth, he was jealous for people, he fought for the hearts of people, he spent time writing letters to people while in prison, “I never stop thanking God for you always remembering you in my prayers day and night”….wow!
People need to be freed, and I intend to do it!
This collection of thoughts was burning out my insides; I had to get it out. Sometimes I feel as if I’m going to explode with pent up passion! I want my life to end with an “!”, not a “?”. I have been called to raise up an army of people who love the Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbor as themselves. It seems to me that unless we are asking ourselves what is most important, we will never engage in the eternal. Our lives will be spent instead of invested and our hearts will die young and live cold. It is no secret that unless your heart finds pleasure in what God finds important, it will find it elsewhere. And as the Psalmist so appropriately writes, “Better is one day in your house(pleasure) than a thousand elsewhere.”
I want to free people with my freedom. It won’t be easy, it’s sure to be lonely, but that is where eternal pleasure is experienced. God’s smile will be my pleasure. I want to free people…I want to free people. I am compelled to. I must. I want others to join me, but that is not a prerequisite. People need to be freed, and by God’s grace, I intend to do it!”
(based on a true story)
Once upon an eternity…
A band of simple folk gathered as one…
They dreamed with the heart of a child
Reaching for nothing short of the miraculous
Their passion was contagious.
Their courage was infectious.
The life of their heart was the heart of their life.
But the heart has its enemies.
And this growing band of dreamers…
Encountered a resistance beyond their wildest imaginings
The hope of their community rested on their bravery in battle
The fate of each heart hung in the balance
The eternal destiny of rested on the courage of this fellowship.
This was a battle they must fight.
This was a battle they must win.
It has always taken the holy rebellion of a humble few
To birth the revolution of the world.
It’s coming soon…
It’s already here…