back from sabbatical

I’m not sure how many people have noticed but it has been a few weeks since I have posed anything on my blog.  It isn’t out of lack of anything to say.  I just wanted to get into the habit of writing for me again.  When I started the blog it was simply a creative outlet.  I love to write so I thought that I would publish some of what I had written.  Over the last couple of months I began writing what I thought others might like.  So the material, although it was my own, is almost guided by my readership and my own barometer of what others like to read.  I just wanted to announce that I took a little bit of time off for a few reasons and I thought that I would share what I learned about myself in the process.

I might be a bit narcissistic:

I feel significant in this world when I am praised. If you are this way, you know what I am talking about, it’s a struggle.  This is why I took time off from posting stuff.  A few weeks ago I caught myself thinking, “people will really like this or relate to that.”  So I have a little folder on my computer of unpublished stuff because I know had it been published I would have been tracking bit.ly clicks or google analytics results.  As I get older the need to die to my selfish desires is increasingly screaming louder in my life.  So, I am going to write just for me for now on.  I might find times when I don’t have anything to say, so I’m not going to post.

My sense significance has been off:

I feel significant because of a lot of things like family and friends and maybe some accomplishments.  But ultimately I need to understand that I am significant because God made me in His image and loves me enough to forgive all of the stupid stuff I’ve done.  When that’s your understanding of who God is, it is very silly to think of your significance based on a position, or something you’ve done. I’ve been drawing my significance from the amount of people around the world who read the blog.  We all search for meaning and significance every day; sometimes there is a realization that your life lacks it.  This is a harsh realization.  For me I realize the most that my life lacks significance when I try to feel significant from something that I’ve done, I think my writing and the things I say will get better when I realize that my creator passionately loves me.

Honesty is still the best policy:

I’ve been a little surprised at the response to some of my past posts.  I’ve gotten e-mails and text messages from people who think I have it all together and have answers.  I want to be honest with my readership and let you know that I am on a lifelong journey of living my life in a way that is consistent with the scriptures and makes God attractive.  So in doing so, there are ebbs and flows of life.  I make mistakes, life change happens and the world changes.  I don’t have the answers and I don’t have it all together, I am simply working it all out, sometimes in a public fashion.

So I am getting back on my blogging horse.  Love you all who are walking this journey with me around the globe.  Although this blog is for my benefit, I hope it will in turn benefit you.

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pain

In 2005 I missed my mom’s birthday for the third year in a row.  I wasn’t even in the same state.  I remember calling her from my rental car to wish her a happy birthday.  As soon as she answered I said, “Happy birthday mom.”  And from there I don’t remember the rest of the conversation.  I was crying my eyes out.  It was a big cry too, there was full-blown snot coming out of my nose, wheezing, it got hard to breathe, then I got the hiccups.  I cried for about thirty minutes after I got off the phone with my mom.  I just sat in the rental car and cried.  I remember going to Wal-Mart then driving back to the parking lot and I broke down in tears again.  By this time I was on my 6th straight day working 18-hour days at a shelter for Hurricane Katrina victims.

I remember after this random cry I pulled a crisis counselor aside and asked to talk to her for a little bit.  I told her what had happened.  I didn’t want a few days in a shelter to turn me crazy.  When I told her about my breakdown her only response was, “that’s great.”  I was confused because when men cry, it usually isn’t great.  She said, “don’t worry you’re normal.”  She then went on to explain that the 450 people in the shelter all have one story to cope with, I had 450 stories of pain and brokenness to deal with.  It was the natural reaction of my body to cry, it released the stress and pain.  She then said something cheesy that you might expect a crisis counselor to say, “crying cleanses the soul.”  She told me that if I didn’t cry randomly after experiencing what I have then I might be a psychopath.

I was thinking back on this experience today.  I was thinking of Paul’s prayer to the people of Ephesus.   He prays for them to be rooted in love and to have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  This is a cool prayer because it isn’t for something tangible like a physical need.  It is simply for them to understand how much God loves them.  I took on the pain and brokenness of 450 people for ten days and I was an absolute basket case.  Do you smell what I am stepping in?  Do you see where this is all going?

How much love does it take to bear the brokenness and pain of billions?  How much must Jesus love humanity, to take on our pain and brokenness?  It’s a load to carry, think about how much of your story you’ve told to certain people.  Maybe you haven’t even unloaded the whole thing on someone because it’s too big of a burden to carry.

I wish I could give some really good advice on how to cope with your pain and brokenness, but everyone copes with the pain differently.  I can’t do that but what I can do is pray that you one day will grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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stuff

We all have stuff; it fills up our bedrooms and our garages.  After a while the stuff becomes fixtures, we pass by and do not notice it.  Some people even form an emotionalconnection with stuff, because it works for us.  That new shirt is so cool, the iPod or iPhone is making everyone else lust, therefore you have moved up the cool ladder.  Sometimes marketing is so good that it convinces us that we have to own a certain product in order to survive.

Who wants to be the PC guy?  Don’t you want to spray a male body deodorizer on you and have beautiful women flocking you?  Doesn’t it make sense to use an antiperspirant that not only makes you sure but also attracts beautiful people?  Guys, didn’t you know that if you buy a Red Bull energy drink you will perform better sexually?  We buy into this lie that if we buy certain products we will become a certain person.  But like I said, I think that’s a lie.

In Christianity we fall into the same advertising traps as some of these products I just wrote about.  “You have a God shaped hole in your heart.” “God is the only solution to your problem.”   The problem is that God is not a sham-wow.    That’s not the way He works but that’s the way we treat Him.

I wonder sometimes who owns who.  I wonder if we own our stuff of if it owns us.  Have we become slaves to paying off credit cards because of the useless stuff we buy?  Have we become slaves to saving money for the newest, latest and greatest gadget?  How much have we given ourselves over to the market?

Mammon in the New Testament was the false god of money and greed.  Jesus famously said, “no one can serve two masters, you can’t serve both God and Mammon.”  Jesus recognized the issue of money and stuff as more of a power and control issue; something that we serve, rather than something that serves us.  I’ve seen some amazing Christian business people who allow money to serve them, not the other way around.

I think Jesus saw Mammon as a direct competitor to the kingdom of God.  There is a story of a rich young man that asks about inheriting eternal life.  Already there is a sense of entitlement in his question, after all aren’t you entitled to an inheritance?  Jesus’ response to the man who has so much wealth is to give it all away.  I don’t necessarily think that this story is universally applicable, but I do see why Jesus asked this of the ruler.  He was entitled, he deserved, and he earned it, but you can’t earn God’s grace.  Because he rejected what Jesus asked of him, he was exposed, he was not autonomous, he was a ruler but the god of greed and money ruled him.

I think Jesus really wants us to experience freedom, so we can show that freedom to others.  In America we are bound so much by consumerism.  How would your life change if you decided that what you own wouldn’t own you?  What if you practiced the opposite of greed, generosity?  What does freedom look like for you?  Maybe you give the useless stuff away; maybe you sell it and pay off the bills.  Maybe you and your family need to start looking at Christmas and birthdays differently.  But what does it look like for you?

***The god Mammon has historically been a bull, the bull that is pictured is located on Wall-Street in New York City.***

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salt

There is this crazy story in the Bible that I am not sure what to do with.  In the book of Second Kings Elisha is presented with water from Jericho that is bad.  No crops wouldgrow and animals wouldn’t drink it, it was just bad.  Since water is so essential to life this is kind of a big deal.  The prophet said, bring me some of this water and he dumped salt in it.  Suddenly all of the water in Israel was cleansed.  This is a strange story, but it is kind of cool.  Salt in the Old Testament was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel.  All sacrifices were sprinkled with salt and even the wood that the sacrifice was burned with was covered with salt.  Salt was a big deal.  It was meant to be a reminder of a covenant.   The promise of God and his people is that no matter how bad you screw up, he will always take you back.  Salt symbolized all of that.  That God’s grace and redemption is huge.

I never really knew what to do with this story until the words of Jesus jumped into my head, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Looking back on all of the uses of salt in the Old Testament this is really a powerful statement.  We can read it as; you are to be living sacrifices.  We can read it as; you are to bring God’s covenant to the world.  Or we can look at it as; you are to bring life to the world.  Either way we read it this is a huge reminder of who we are called to be.

I think the call of Jesus is to a way of living that displays the covenant between God and mankind.  He is always here, no matter what we do or how far gone we think we might be.  There is always a second chance.  What if we live that way?  What if God’s redemption was so prevailing in your life that it utterly changed the way you interacted with others?  What if you actually were the salt of the earth?

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