"I think I'm going to start blogging again." I said to her over our morning coffee date. "That's good!" she replied because she's awesome and supportive. "Why'd you quit in the first place?"It was a valid question that I hadn't even asked myself yet. The fact was I was frustrated that I had worked so hard on every post. Prayerfully considering every word. Searching my soul for hope and truth. Dredging the mud and mire of my heart hoping to produce good art. And my last post had a grand total of 30 views.I was just frustrated that no one seemed to be paying attention to what I felt was solid writing. I was frustrated that other blogs that I had deemed inferior got thousands of views and that blogger received sponsors and book deals and launched a lucrative writing career. While I felt like just another useless voice in the crowd. So I quit.Feel free to judge me if you like. I'm judging myself. This is a confession of sorts. I'm showing you my weakness and letting you decide what you want to do with it. Denounce me as an insincere jerk or relate with my honesty. Either way I'm cool with it.After I had expressed these frustrations to my wife she looked at me for a moment, making sure my selfish rant was over and she asked me one of those questions that I hate and love because they mean more than what they seem on the surface:"Well, what's your point in blogging? Because if it's to help and encourage people then you're already doing that..."One of the reasons I love her is that she said the positive and left the accusation unsaid. ...if your point is becoming known, if it's getting a book deal and ignoring the people that read and need encouragement...then you're missing the point.The problem was that I had caught the western disease of wanting so desperately to be a hero. I had confused being "known" with being good. I felt this pressure to do "great things" for God and when I tried and failed it felt like I must be a bad writer or God doesn't love me enough to use me to reach a massive audience. This crooked way of thinking had permeated my cells. Confusing being known/popular/famous with being good/talented/loved.I recognized that grossness in myself and so in reaction I stopped blogging for a few months more. I had to try to suck the poison out. I have always known that a humble life lived before God isn't a bad life...I just had to kill that western cancer that told me otherwise everyday.There is a difference between being a hero and being a saint."We want to be heroes, we don’t really want to be saints. The difference between the heroic vision and the saintly vision is a fundamentally different way of viewing the purpose of life." -Brian Zahnd
So as I sit down to write online again I have to ask myself: What's the point?My hope is to spread hope. To remind folks that feel less than perfect, that probably won't step inside of a church that they are not alone. I try and fail everyday. Sometimes the most saintly action is getting back up and trying again.I hope to connect with a loving Creator by trying to create...and reminding others that they can too.Even if it's just to an audience of One.Sorry if that was corny. Here's an intelligent quote about the difference between heroes and saints. Thanks for reading.“For the hero the meaning of life is honor. For the saint the meaning of life is love. For the hero the goal of living is self-fulfillment, the achievement of personal excellence, and the recognition and admiration that making a signal contribution to one’s society through one’s achievements carries with it. For the saint, life does not so much have a goal, as a purpose, for which each human being is responsible, and that purpose is love, and the bonds of concern and care that responsibility for one’s fellow human beings carry with it. These two paradigms, the hero and the saint, and the way of life that descends from each, are really two fundamentally distinct and genuinely different visions of human society as a whole, and even of what it means to be a human being. They are two distinct and different ways of asking the question of the meaning of life.”
-Francis J. Ambrosio, Philosophy, Religion and the Meaning of Life
If you ask pretty much anyone what their favorite class was in school most would answer gym or recess. This was not true for me. I dreaded gym. I loathed the "free periods" in gym most of all. The source of my hatred for these classes was not hard to find. It was always towards the beginning of the class.
When it was time to pick teams.
Most everyone I know has a story about how tough it is to get picked last. How the rejection can eat at a soul. I was pretty much always picked last. Even more than twenty years later I can remember the "cool" kids arguing over who would be stuck with me on their team. "I got stuck with him last time, it's your turn!" "No way! He's the last one you HAVE to pick him!"
I would usually excuse myself to sidelines. I would offer to "sit this one out" so I wouldn't bring anyone down with my presence.
I understood why I wasn't chosen. I was never particularly athletic. I was slow and uncoordinated, I had terrible asthma that led to horrible coughing fits.
Still, understanding why I was left out didn't make it hurt less. It didn't make me feel less isolated. Less like a waste of space.
This is why I am drawn to Christ. He picks those that would be picked last, or not at all. When Christ walked the earth he picked dirty uneducated fishermen for his team. He picked those that would betray him, those that would pretend like they had never met him. He picked one that murdered Christians before being knocked from his horse. He picked the liars and the left out.
He chose to surround himself with prostitutes and tax collectors (traitors). People that were called notorious sinners. Those that the religious establishment wrote off as rejects, scum, losers, unclean.
He chose me for his team. He hasn't given me the option to sit from the sidelines and watch. He doesn't let anyone just watch. He knew my ups and downs. My shortcomings and failures, and still he chose me to be seated with him in heavenly places. He chose this uncoordinated loser to run the good race and fight the good fight.
And because he chose me I will go to my grave singing his praises.
*photo Credit http://superstock.com
My wife have this recurring joke about relationships. We call it "picking a car fight."
A car fight happens when a couple is at a party or some public gathering and one half of the couple embarasses the other, or snaps at them. The couple goes through the rest of the public gathering with a tension building between them. Once the couple gets into their car and once they are on their way the tension erupts where neither can escape. This is universal. Every couple I know has experienced a car fights. Part of the game my wife and I play at parties is "spot the upcoming car fight". A man telling an embarrassing story about his wife. Check, that's going to be a car fight. Someone snaps at their spouse over an imagined slight. Check, that's going to be a car fight.
There's something about a long drive somewhere, when you don't have media blasting to distract you, or other people to put on a happy show for that leaves nothing but the raw emotion. Everything that has been simmering comes boiling over.
What about your relationship with God? What about when you're disappointed with Him? I know a "good Christian" isn't supposed talk about these things. But this is life. When He decides to remain silent for a season to teach you patience when you desperately need an answer. When He says "no" to something you feel like you need. When friends and family seem to turn their backs and you feel like God is silent too. What then?
About a month ago I had what can only be a car fight with God. So far 2013 had been a terrifically difficult year for my wife and I, financially, spiritually, with work, losing loved ones. You name it, it had been a struggle. And then the capper: my house flooded when we were on vacation. That morning I had met with a contractor before work to get an estimate on the first thing I needed to do before rebuilding walls, laying carpet. I need to waterproof the basement. I had prayed and hoped and begged for something reasonable. The estimate came in on a couple of thousand more than what the insurance had paid. Before doing anything else I was in the negative.
I thanked the contractor for his time. Told him I couldn't afford it at the moment and began my drive to work. While there in the car, I finally let all of the building frustrations of the past year out towards God. The straw had broken the camel's back. I told Him I felt let down, I felt abandoned. Like I had put my trust in Him and been put to shame. My tone became accusatory and angry. Frustrated tears streamed down my face and for the first time in a lifetime of belief I emptied my heart of every frustration, every disappointment, every time I had felt like He had let me down. I was no longer sweeping it under the rug and saying "Your will be done" and swallowing my disappointment.
I talked and talked until I had run out of words. His gentle response still floors me to this day. That quiet, still small voice said to me...
"Son, now I know that you truly love me."
I didn't just pack up and walk about away, I didn't ignore my hurts. But like one in a relationship with someone I truly love I had a car fight. I expressed every ugly and honest part of me. And God loved me anyway...and knew that I loved Him.
The man that the Bible calls "the man after God's own heart" was so brutally honest with his disappointments with God when he wrote the Psalms. That is what that moment was for me. A Psalm. A brutally ugly moment of honesty followed with "still you are my God and I will follow you."
I encourage you, have a real and honest relationship with God. Not just giving Him your best, but giving Him your worst as well. Because He wants all of you, honest and true. Write a psalm, give Him what you have been hiding from both Him and yourself. That moment was so healing for me and I'm betting it would be healing for you too.
*photo credit http://livebyquotes.com
There is a balancing act to every Christian's life. It's the balance of being called to "clothe yourself in humility" and the call to greatness.
The Bible says (in a couple of places) that God draws near to the humble but resists the proud.
And who could blame Him really? A truly humble person is so much better to hang out with. They are more interested in what the other person has to say. A humble person is comfortable in their own skin. In fact, they're not thinking about themselves at all, much less worrying about themselves.
There's a lie that tells us that humility is having a low opinion of oneself. That humble people hate themselves. The lie screams that to be humble you have to tell yourself "I'm no good. I'm worthless. I've failed again. Why would God ever love a sinner like me?"
I know this because I've believed the lie for more years than I care to admit. I thought to be a good Christian I had to crucify myself. Tell myself how terrible I was, how much of a failure I was, how much I hated myself.
These are lies that I believed and this is NOT humility.
We have a tendency to overcomplicate things here on this side of the paper sky. We hold ourselves to a perfect standard and destroy ourselves when we fail, but Jesus has already borne our sins on the cross. To try to force perfection within ourselves is like telling Christ "thanks for dying and everything, but I don't need it. I got this." Accept yourself, warts and all because Christ already has.
I know I have faults, I know I mess up, but God loves me as I am. Not some perfect future version of myself. Not my potential. But He loves and died for who I am. Right now.
If God can accept me as I am, then so can I. When I fail, I pick myself up and try to do better next time. No more laying face first to the earth, wallowing in my own self hatred.
That being said, I say a person can be humble and believe that they have greatness inside of them. No one ever achieved greatness until they believed it first.
In Donald Miller's Storyline he shares a story that resonates this fact.
"Years ago I read a book by Dwight Eisenhower in which he talked about his mother's belief that every child should be raised to understand if they didn't exist their family would fall apart. Imagine that for a second. Imagine a world in which every person understood they were needed in the world, that they could be the solution to a problem. Eisenhower is best known for being President, but before he was President he led troops in World War II, uniting the allies in the fight against Hitler. And why? It's likely because he was raised to believe the world needed him and even expected something from him."
I believe there is greatness inside of me, that I am meant for great things. But more importantly there is greatness inside of YOU! I believe YOU are meant for great things. The world needs you.
An "awe shucks" attitude and self hatred won't get us there. Is there a story burning inside of you? A business? An idea for ministry that you are afraid to try because you think it's too big only for others? Do it! Seriously! There is a huge possibility that only you can.
Don't believe the lies. Humility is simply caring more about others, not caring less about yourself. Mine the gold from your soul. Go and be great. Please. The world needs you...really. I'll go with you.
Creative thinking...don't be afraid.
I have a friend that is a filmmaker. He isn't famous. He hasn't made anything for a studio, but once every year or so he pours himself into a script. Imagining every detail, every shot, every lighting cue...and then...he makes it.
He is a filmmaker.
Once a week or so we get together in one our favorite coffee shops in the city to discuss stories, ideas, unknot tricky plot points and dream.
He is convinced that the world is split into two different kinds of people. Creatives and non-creatives. He says that creative people create because they have to. They aren't given a choice. They are just being who they are.
I think everyone is creative. I just think people that are considered "non-creative" simply haven't found their creative outlet. Or they are afraid to try.I think everyone is creative because we were formed in the image of God. God is the most creative force in all of existence. He CREATED existence. Everything you see, feel, hear, taste and touch is something He dreamed up. He designed chords note by note, He created melody and harmony. He paints with every color. His
palette is endless. He sculpted the complex curves of the mountains, He painted the breathtaking nebulas that we can only now photograph.And we were created in His image.
So, if we are all creative then why does it seem like only a chosen few are creating? It's because it IS scary to try. It's so much safer to stay put not move. If I never try I'll never fail.
Here's the thing about Dreaming. When me and my filmmaker friend dream, we never dream about the results. We don't hope that one day he'll be a famous director, or that'll I'll have a book that's a bestseller.
We dream about the work. We imagine the movies, the stories, the books. We hope for the best but don't get bogged down worrying whether others will like it or get it. Just the creative expression.
What have you wanted to do? Try it! Make the work the reward. The freeing feeling of unabashed creativity. That's when I feel the most like myself. After I've written. After my Art has washed from my soul the dust of everyday life.
You are a creative. Now go and do.
**photo credit http://thinkjarcollective.com
You are Necessary. And the sooner you believe that, the sooner you'll bond with
God in living a great story.
-Donald Miller "Storyline"
This will probably be one of my most vulnerable posts I will ever write. If you're looking for glib jokes and Sci-Fi references, come back later, I'll have better posts for you. If you are uncomfortable with someone being metaphorically naked for a moment, with someone ripping open their rib cage and examining the contents, then move on. I'm not offended
I've said before that I would see myself as a burden to those that cared for me. But the truth of the matter is it goes way deeper than that.
I was never the cool kid.
Never on the cutting edge of what was trendy.
The last time I was at my parents house I found my old yearbooks and flipping through and seeing myself from twelve years ago staring back at me. I wanted to talk to that kid. That kid with the pain in his eyes. That kid that was so clearly uncomfortable in his own skin. That kid that felt like no matter what, he would never fit in, was never allowed to fit in, was not invited to the party. I wanted to tell him it would be okay.
The sad truth of the matter is that it goes deeper than that.
I've heard it called "the spirit of rejection". I've heard it called "self-hatred". I've heard it called plain and simple depression.
At my darkest moments throughout my years on this earth a familiar scene plays out:
I'm in the bathroom, brushing my teeth or washing my hands or shaving. I catch my eyes in the mirror. Lean against the counter, getting closer to my reflection and whisper three words.
This scene played itself out so many times over so many years it never once occurred to me how unhealthy this is. How wrong this is. How much it grieved God's heart to hear this over and over.
I don't even know what I expected from myself. Was it perfection? Something more? One thing I did know was that I would never treat another person the way I treated myself. "That person is made in the image of God!" I would exclaim "There is so much good, so much truth inside that person."
And then I would see my reflection, look straight in those accusing eyes staring back at me and whisper it again.
Here is the truth: I was seeing a lie. A fiction. A figment of my own imagination. I am not some broken twisted wretch screaming for the mercy of God. I am not "the chief among sinners" to steal a phrase from Paul. I am not God's mistake, an afterthought that He is far too busy for.
I am counted among the redeemed. Fearfully and wonderfully made. A child of king. Put on the earth to experience His creation. I am one of His prized, most valued. The spark, the fire, the passion that was present the day that God created my spirit still burns and it burns bright.
I say that to say this. I don't hate myself anymore. I am at peace with myself. I even like myself. Even in my worst days, even when I screw up and miss it by a mile. When I am irritable and flat out mean. I am still the creation of the King. A miracle by most accounts. Created for a purpose.
If you hate yourself...If you find yourself in a similar recurring theme. Know this: It isn't healthy, it isn't normal. IT ISN'T TRUE. You have taken a false identity. Don't heap the punishment on yourself that Christ paid the price for. "For you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"God created you and He created you with the power to bring light into darkness and order into chaos."
You might be scared but
Do it anyway!
-Ben Fold's Five "Do It Anyway
Some of you may be having a rough go of it lately.
And maybe some of have a dream that you feel is bigger than you. A dream that can be terrifying and you feel like maybe it would be better if you didn't try at all. Well give this video a viewing. I bet you'll have a difficult time staying in a bad mood after watching. plus...FRAGGLES!
"If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time.
And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm. "
We live in an instant society. A culture where everything is demanded to be supplied immediately. We have fast food, instant coffee, our movies and television shows all stream instantly to all of our devices. We all carry phones around so that we can all be reached instantly.
Everything comes fast. Everything comes easy.
The contradiction in the way we live our lives is that we all know down deep that nothing worth having comes easy. It's universally known that fast food is terrible. Instant coffee is an insult to all things actual coffee. Most of the movies streaming are schlocky B movies (though there are great things on Netflix like Doctor Who). And the best times we having building relationships with one another is when the phones are off, the twitter feed is silenced and we aren't waiting for the PING of our phones letting us know we have another "like" on Facebook.
I dare you right now to think of the best moments of your life. When you changed and you felt the world change around you. Was it when you were comfortable? When everything was coming easy? Or rather was it when everything was hard and you overcame something to get an amazing victory that lasted your entire life? I'm betting it was the latter if you are being honest with yourself.
And yet our culture continues to push instant and comfort and ease on us. Tricking us into believing that this is what we want. That this is what's best. And then we look at mountains, the most breathtaking views and nature and we know that they were not instant, not quick and easy, but the result of thousands of years.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now take this fact that we know patience is better, that fruit we've worked for tastes sweeter than fruit freely given, and let's apply to what we think about God.
We pray and expect instant results. That's things will immediately be different in the morning. The sun rises and things are the same and we get disappointed in God. But here's the thing:
The sun still rises.
God plays the long game. He works in you and through you for the entirety of your life. While you are waiting He is quietly and patiently performing surgery on your heart. Cutting out the things you don't need, don't truly want. He looks months, years, decades into your future, preparing you for eternity. Knowing that you cannot stand before Him face to face until you have a face. When your legs are prepared to stand before Him.
This is His great love for us. His great kindness that we call cruelty. We're children screaming at their parents about how much they hate them because they couldn't have candy for dinner, while the loving parents know the candy will make the child sick.
And so we wait, knowing this time is slowly transforming us into people of substance that can quietly stand like the mountains against the horrors of the world that come and go like the mist on the breeze.
We are being prepared for eternity.