He’s In The Room…

When I became a dad, my perception of who God the Father is changed pretty drastically.  Now, every night I tuck in my girls and we go through a big routine.  Maybe I have a soft spot based on my fear of the dark growing up that I talked about in my last post.  Maybe, I am just a softy as my wife likes to call me.

There are two truths to these times and I will start with the simpler truth.  Often, part of this routine if for me as much as it is for my little girl.  Every night after I put her in bed, she will say “daddy, sit” and point to the bed.  And I usually sit there for about 5 – 10 minutes.  It is for me, I enjoy the stillness.  I enjoy the quiet and I enjoy the moment of peace where ideas and thoughts come to me.  This simple post included.  That is for me.  It is often the only 10 – 20 minutes, I actually feel disconnected from technology and away from the noise that is daily life.  That is a time for me.

And then there is the part that is for her, and it made me think of the Lord, our Father.  It is simply this.  He’s in the room.  You see, as I sit there listening to my daughter breathe and toss and turn, I do not always respond to her.  Sometimes, the darkness in the room hides her ability to see me and she will start to cry.  I often remain silent.  I do not rush in and calm her, nor do I speak.  I simply sit and listen.  It hurts.  It is hard not to solve her problem of fear and re-asssure her that “daddy’s there”, and this is how my perspective on God has changed.

Just like she wants to cry out for me, I often cry out for Him.  I often question why I am scared in the darkness.  We all do don’t we?  I cry out for him and doubt He is there, but He is in the room.  He is always THE Father and He is helping us to grow.  He is in the room.  He hears the cries, and while it may be naive, I like to believe that on some small scale it hurts when He cannot simply rush in and calm the fears, but we must grow.

The nights I let my little girl cry for me are hard, but she must learn that even in the darkness, I will be there in the morning.  She must learn that we have to go through scary moments in order to grow.  That while it is scary and hard…your father will never give you more than you can handle.  And we know that this is true.  As a parent, you learn to become in tune with your children and you learn their cries.  You learn the ones that are scarier than I simply need comfort.  You learn the ones that are pleas for help…and so you intervene.

As I have been a father my faith has deepened and been stretched because, there are lessons that you cannot learn until you are a parent.  There are passages in scripture that take on a whole new meaning when viewed through the eyes of a parent.  As a dad, I see my heavenly father differently and while it may be selfish, He becomes more human to me.  I sympathize as He hears His son cry out on the cross in the darkness.

I see him sitting in the corner hoping that His son will remember that He is in the room.

And we all have this same blessing and gift.  We are all welcome to scream and fuss and cry out for the father, but we must also remember that even in the silence…He is in the room!

Advertisements

Afraid of the Dark

Confession time…I was scared of the dark for most of my life.  Since I was a kid and up until my mid-twenties, I hated being alone in the dark.  I would often watch my brother so that my mom could go to school and I hated the hour or so after I would put him to bed and was in charge of a quiet house.  As I got older and moved out, I hated being at home alone and turning the lights out.

Maybe it was the fact that my car had been broken into on two occasions, or maybe it was just the weird noises that a house makes.  But I would stay up until my body could not function any more and would have to force myself to sleep.  I would rather watch those late night infomercials selling food dehydrators and magic hoses, than turn out the light.

This was true for most of my life, then the darkness changed but I was still afraid of it.  I quit being afraid of the darkness, but went through a season of darkness in my life.  My life was consumed by darkness entering my heart.  My parents divorced and my father and I did not speak.  I went from being a strong student to one that barely passed.  I went through a rough relationship that damaged my sense of self-worth.  I also probably did plenty of damage to others on my own.  I have tried to apologize to any parties I might have hurt.  If I missed someone, I pray the Lord eases their heart and heals the wounds that I inflicted.

I went from a place of fearing darkness to letting is abide in me.  It took hold of me and I wanted to commit suicide on more than one instance.  Depression is this darkness that entered my life.  I still fight it to this day.  I still battle the urge to see myself as less than worthy of love or belonging.  I get wounded easily and the darkness can creep in from time to time.

After everything attacked me, I can safely say that the first thing that pierced the darkness and helped me to start down a different path was the Lord.  He did not reveal Himself to me in some great moment of clarity, but rather through the people that continued to love me despite my shortcomings.  These people included my family and a few close friends.  They were not pastors or priests or preachers.  They did not pray the darkness away, they simply loved me for me.

Through them, I found the strength to not take my life.  I found something worth living for.  Slowly through them, I started a journey that one day lead me to the foot of the cross.  They did not disciple me or expect me to recite scripture, they simply asked me to seek the Lord.  That is it.  They reminded me to not give Satan a foothold in my life, or he would win and deceive me.

Fast forward to college and the darkness came back.  I was once again primarily on my own.  I was not a bad person, but the depression battles became more and more frequent.  I graduated and life went on.  I battled the darkness and tried to grow in my walk, but I was afraid of the dark.  I was afraid of being nothing and being worthless.  I needed to know I had value.

I would say this is when I finally met with the Lord.  I wanted to meet Him on my terms, but we all know how that works.  I actually hit the bottom.  I found myself depressed and there He was.  I did not have a mentor, nor did I have a close-knit group of believers to help me.  I just had the promises I found in Scripture and a few books I was reading on the character of Christ. I read a book on how Christ desires a relationship with me and intimacy.  That book stirred a spark in my life and sent me on a quest.  To find the real Christ.

So I started a bible study on that very book.  It became a new source of light in my life.  For the first time, I felt like I was actually changing and revealing Christ to others.  I hoped, I was.  Through this study group, more light was found.  I met my wife here.  She loved to argue at times (or discuss with passion if you want to use those terms) but she was a light and she poured that light into my life.  From there we got married and now have two kids.  More light, more reasons to not fear the dark but rather to reveal the light.

I do not hide that I battled and still battle depression.  I get down on myself and sometimes the darkness can creep in.  But I have more and more light around me.  I have more and more reasons to seek out the light with boldness and without fear.  The Lord’s hand has been in it all and He is using it for His glory.

I never overcame the darkness, the Lord just moved enough light into my life so that I stopped being afraid.  There is always hope if we can hold on for one more day and no matter what…He loves you!

 

Convicted…

Last week was a very difficult week.  I could not shake a funk that I was in.  I just felt like it was baby peaks and extreme valleys.  I battled all week to just be ok with how everything was going.  I am not 100% certain if I was overwhelmed with everyday life, feeling beaten down, or tired.  I really did not know.

It was almost impossible for me to even step back and celebrate small victories.  It was hard for me to be content with the simple truth that I was blessed beyond measure.  It just seemed like everything was stuck in neutral or reverse.  And sadly…it was everyone else’s fault.

Or maybe that is where my mind wanted to go.  Maybe that is what I wanted to believe.  I wanted to tell myself that no one really cares about how their actions affect you or hurt you.  But that CONVICTED me…

What am I doing, or not doing that might be hurting someone else?  How are my actions affecting those people that mean the most to me.  Maybe, just maybe, I feel that everyone has a problem with me because I simply am acting like I have no care about them.  Am I not respecting what they want or need?

I ended up waking up extremely early for me on a Friday and just sitting in stillness.  I read, I prayed and I was convicted.  It was hard to look into your own heart and say, that these things need to change within you.  It is hard to say, these things hurt, but what can you really do about it?  It is hard when you truly have to accept people for who they are and not for who you want them to be in your life.

I was convinced and convicted that I cannot change anyone and more importantly, I should not want to.  They are who they are and that can hurt at times.  People have been raised in different situations and different behaviors have been accepted as good and other behaviors as bad.  I am not here to redefine good and bad based on what I want or what I expect.  That is foolish of me.

I was convicted that the only person that I can control is me.  I must look and see what I can control and what I am doing that might be hurting someone else’s walk with Christ.  If I am to call my self a Christian, then I am a part of this thing we call the Church or Body.  It is hard to be honest with ourselves in this day and age.

Culture as a whole has shifted to the “it’s someone else’s fault” model or the “if you don’t like what I do, that’s your problem” not mine.  It is always a way to shift and divert attention from ourselves.  We end up finding more and more ways to remain in the dark about how to truly grow in Christ.  He will convict you of the things that you need to let go of and change.  You will know He is speaking to you.

The question is, how will you respond?  How will you answer His call?  What are you willing to change for the betterment of His Kingdom?

Struggles

It seems this week, that many people that I know and care about are struggling.  They are facing any number of battles from stress, to relationships to just an overwhelming doubt of their own self worth and value.

The fact that anyone is struggling hurts and makes me wonder why.  It always leads to that question about why do we hurt, why do we struggle with things like depression or anger.  Why is it that as a believer, I struggle.

Believing is not enough.  I am sorry to say but simply believing does not help us.  We have been trained to say tell ourselves that we will get through this and that we will be stronger on the other side.  We are told that God does not put an obstacle in front of us that we cannot conquer.  And we truly want to believe this and we want to will our way into belief.  But believing is not enough, we must put our trust in Christ.

We must not only believe the things we tell ourselves about nature, but we must also trust that through faith we will come out on the other side.  We must believe that the sacrifices that we feel we are making, are worth it and are what the Lord desires of us in this moment.

There is growth in the struggles and the pain.  The struggle is there to increase our dependence and trust in Christ.  It is not something that is easy to accept or go through.  Depression still sucks (I battle it more than I want to admit), but I am slowly starting to see that my depression is nothing more than my letting selfishness take hold of me.  This is in my case, and I do not presume to know what everyone else is going through.

But often my struggles come because I want to fight Christ or fight with someone else so that they will do things my way or give me what I want.  My emotional struggles seem to stem from this desire of mine to control my situation and not put Christ in control or larger not trust Christ with the small details of my life.

I cannot speak to what anyone out there is dealing with, but I can encourage you to trust in the promises of the Lord…daily!

Two Movies…Two Vastly Different Messages…Unconditional Love and Knowledge

Tonight, I actually watched two movies.  I took a break from my usual routine with my wife and girls out of town to go out.  I watched two movies that made one think about their purpose here on earth.  What are we supposed to do with our time.  For the record, I watched “Lucy” and “God’s Not Dead”.  While, I am obviously a believer in the Lord above and Christ, this is not my attempt to say one movie was better than the other.  It is not my attempt to even say that both movies were not interesting.  There were good points to both.

I would even say that “God’s Not Dead” does not touch on what the first stirred in my from a belief standpoint.  The truth of the matter is that after watching the first, I felt that I was pulled into the world of trying to figure out what it would look like for us to live up to our full potential.  This is not to say what would life would look like if we used 100% of our brain, but about recognizing what our highest calling is.  As I watched the first movie, I saw what one person would do in order to serve themselves and serve the world at large.  It was based on knowledge and understanding how things work.  There were some great things touched on about our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us.  But ultimately terrible things were done in the name of protecting this gift of knowledge and ultimately power.

For me though, I struggled with this as I am a firm believer that to reach our true potential we must learn to live and love unconditionally.  This is just my opinion and I am always willing to be proven wrong.  But in my life, the greatest piece of growth that I have had comes through giving of myself.  I have had people tell me that I need to take care of myself and not everyone else, but the truth of the matter is that by serving, I recharge.  I do struggle, I do find it hard to give some days.  I get angry, I want to quit, I want to run from the people that I think might take advantage of me.  But I also recognize that the people that push my buttons, probably need someone to not have conditions on helping them.

I would say that if we truly want to advance to our highest self, then we must always be willing to give.  We must be willing to let go of all the things that we hold so tightly and give those away.  That is the way that we pass on the power of who we are to others.  This world is crazy right now; wars all over and economic scares.  But we get over all of that through finding ways to love and sometimes that means loving someone who seems unlovable.  For me that is what it means to be Christ-like.  For me personally, to withhold love is to judge.  To withhold love is to fail to acknowledge that we are fallen and that I am undeserving of love.

What a lot of things boil down to for me, is ultimately what do I value?  What has the higher price in my opinion?  You see, to me…love has the higher value.  And I say that simply because knowledge is rather easily attainable and cannot truly be lost.  Other people can acquire the same knowledge and we can always be pushed to gain more knowledge.  Love on the other hand, and more importantly unconditional love, is something that cannot be attained through our desire to have it.  We cannot be loved by someone because we want it…they must give it.  Someone has to give a piece of themselves to you and they trust you with that.  We do it as parents, spouses, brothers and sisters  (although that can feel forced at times).  We do it in our friendships and we do it as the sons and daughters of our parents as we mature.  We choose to love them and give of ourselves for them and instead of dealing out pain for the acquisition of knowledge, when we love we take on most of the pain for the sake of those we love.

We are willing to accept someone else’s burden and take ownership of it when we love them.  Love seems to be the ultimate calling for us as it is to accept that we will hurt and be okay with it.  It is to accept the truth that when we love someone without conditions, then we are living out this thing we call faith.  Genuine unconditional love, is the message of the cross.  It is an amazing message that we often miss in our daily lives.  And other times, we say that we know that is the message of the cross with our mouths, but we do not believe it.

I have learned in my life that it is not about proving how much one knows.  I have learned that there are people smarter than me with more knowledge than me.  I used to get into arguments to prove my faith was strong.  I would debate and study and acquired vast amounts of knowledge about my faith and other faiths.  I had this arsenal of knowledge and no matter how many arguments or debates I entered, I was doing little good or furthering the kingdom in any way.

But what happens when one chooses love?

Faith RX’d – Faith Workout

Decided that the Faith RX’d Workout for today resonated with me, so here are my thoughts…

READ

Romans 5:1-11

REFLECT

Peace is something we all desire – in our relationships, in our world, and in our own hearts.  It is what we seek, but what does it really mean?  And, how is it attained?  Biblical peace is defined as “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is” (Thayer).

So, our quest for peace is really a desire to be safe with our God.  It is a state of contentment that only comes from knowing how we stand with our God.  This week’s passage teaches the only true pathway to peace and contentment is through Christ.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

RESPOND

1.   Do you feel at peace with God?

2.   What parts of your life still lack peace – family, friendships, work, school, etc.?

3.  What times of difficulty in your life have actually helped you seek peace with God?

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Psalm 37:11-ESV)


 

The biggest thing that I felt am impact with is the idea and notion that we should feel at peace, no matter what is going on around us.  No matter what trials and obstacles sit in front of us, peace can be found within us.  As I have gone down the rabbit hole so to speak, it seems that the human body was designed to be at peace.  That we can lead healthier lives by keeping stress down (look up the impact of cortisol on the body).

Christ desires us to see the bigger picture and that is that all the chaos and things that keep us from finding peace are irrelevant and honestly, meaningless.  The drama at the office or even within your own family is not something that we should allow to take control of our lives and distract us from the Grace that is given to us.

As I read through the verses in Romans referenced above, the fact that there is a line that can be made from perseverance to hope is something that I really needed to hear and focus on today.  I struggle with many things and a lot of them simply come down to wanting to do everything right.  I want hard work to pay off, but I often want it to pay off immediately.  And many times it seems that it is going the opposite direction.

I lack the peace that comes with BELIEVING that perseverance can and will lead to hope.  That my job(s) and my job performance are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  I have a higher calling and part of that begins with demonstrating peace in the storm.  I am working on finding that peace despite my circumstances and not always having the results show up when I want them.

How do you find peace in the storm?

Tonight I Didn’t Go To Bible Study…

Tonight, I did not go to Bible Study.  I pulled myself out of the loop.  I had a really rough and long day.  In the past, I might have run to this group and put on the happy face, shared my stories, my revelations, and all things me!  I could have read the chapters and been just fine.  I probably would have even been encouraged and touched by many of the brothers and sisters that are in the group because there hearts are there.

But tonight I didn’t go to Bible study…and I am still standing.  Lightning didn’t strike me down and more importantly than anything…I felt like I finally got some real time to experience Christ.

I had a terrible day and needed the Lord to do something.  I had felt abandoned and abused and on the drive home…I was reminded of the gift that is a marriage and parenthood.  The Lord tapped my shoulder and said…no matter how bad your day, I have given you these people to come home to.  They love you in spite of your flaws.  They have learned to love you and see you the same way I do…as “perfect”.  Just as you have chosen me…they have chosen you.  They trust you to be a leader in the house and set an example for them.  You not only represent them, but you represent Me.  You had better decide to love like I love.

I started to perk up and not feel quite so down.  So I rejoiced a little…and sat in silence hoping to hear more.  One might call this prayer – only I didn’t say much.

Again, I “heard” some truth…I realized it isn’t about church services and Bible studies.  It is not about religious activity but about sharing Christ.  It is not about always talking about Him.  It is not about the Scriptures I have memorized or can use to demonstrate my superiority.  It is about “sharing” or revealing or living out of Christ.  It is about Christ and when you love people, you are sharing Him.  When you choose not to judge, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to listen, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to put yourself on the cross for 15 minutes and be what one person needs you are sharing Him.

The biggest thing that kind of struck me, is they might not even know you are sharing Him with them.  He has changed me, and that is what I am sharing.  I am sharing the new me…and He is the builder of that new me.  People need to know that they are loved…unconditionally.  And that includes me.  And that is something I can do…if I am willing to let Him live through me.

And ultimately, I ended up at the Subverisve blog…It was refreshing to be reminded that I am valuable to the Body as a whole.  That while the world may dump on me, possibly even reject me, there is a place for me in the Kingdom…and bigger than that, I am a vital piece of this thing known as the Church.   I have been at the center of many a discussion or debate about the “right” way to do church.  Is it with a pastor or is it in the living room?  And tonight, I cannot say that one way is the right way, but I can say that if it points you to Christ and I mean makes Him come alive in You, then that is where you need to be.  If your church experience leaves you with knowledge and no fire or passion for the son of God, then you might want to re-evaluate where you are at.  If you cannot share the Christ that is in you, in your church world…then maybe you have to move on.  If your church life sends you out into the world feeling empty and forsaken, then it is not Christ.  The power of the Spirit from Christ will send us each out into the world ready to share Him with all.  It will allow us to love with grace and compassion.

I am reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite artists…Andrew Peterson.  In a song about marriage he has a line that goes:

“The only way to find your life, is to lay your own life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price for the life that WE have found”

I know the song is about the marriage between a man and a wife, but it is also about the marriage between Christ and the church.

The only way we find our life, that is our life in Christ, is to lay our earthly life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price to pay for the life that WE, a united body of Christ with one another and with Christ, have found.