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!

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?

Be Different…Be Relevant…Be Real!

We like to talk…I like to talk.  I like to think that what I am saying is relevant.  I like to believe that what I am sharing IS for the Lord, but I have a confession.  A lot of the time, it probably isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I dress it up in a nice Christian package.  I will use words like Jesus, Holy Spirit, love, forgiveness, and abide.

BUT…

The words are hollow because no one needs to hear them.  In a continuation from my last post..it is time that the words we share are relevant and not just a simple regurgitation of other things we have heard.  It is time that what we share is not something that we have said 100+ times and always seemed to get a pat on the back for.  It is time to be different…be relevant and be real.

That is to say that when we look at the verses in Scripture that encourage all to share when we gather, we take those seriously.  But we have to share what is being revealed to us.  We have to share the questions that arise in our weekly walks, in our daily walks.  We have to quit looking at the Bible, just to simply…well…look at the Bible.

I am guilty and I confess this to all my brothers and sisters out there, that I have, on occasion, phoned it in.  This though is my call and request that we finally commit to changing the script.  We have to care about those in our communities and the times that we are together needs to add to their needs being met.

I have found myself frustrated lately with things like prayer requests that only last a week.  A brother or sister will ask for prayer, only to have that request forgotten the next time we get together.  Another member in the body may be struggling with someone else during the week and we ignore it because it was not on the schedule for this week.  We must continue to read our assigned book, or to read our assigned Scriptures.  The whole time we ignore a real need that is in our midst.

It is time to be different…be relevant…be real!

If we want to witness Christ moving, we have to do two things.  The first is that we have to be honest with our brothers and sisters about what we might be struggling with…AND we as a body have to move and act on those needs.  When the Lord shows you something, share it…someone might need that reminder.  When you have a need…share it…someone might be able to meet it.  OR maybe we can meet it together.

If we are truly going to be the manifestation of Christ in this world, we have to stop being in love with the sound of our own voices…we have to stop thinking that we are simply here to share our knowledge.  We have to be like Christ and actually be in the world.  We have to be in the lives of our brothers and sisters.  We have to share our lives with our brothers and sisters.

We have to be willing to be different…be relevant…and be real…with one another.  God Bless!

It’s all about me…Jesus!

There is a common worship song that uses a refrain of “It’s all about you, Jesus”. The point is true enough, and it often will lead to a preacher saying a prayer along the lines of “We want things to always be about you Lord…Just as the lyrics say, it is all about you…” and so it goes. Great sentiment and I even think that in the moment that is what believers want, but what happens when the moment ends?

What happens when the worship time stops. There is a transition that takes place. When we go to church, we all know and recognize that the building we walk into is a place of worship. We all walk in nicely, sit down, look up a couple of Scriptures or read a few verses, sing some songs of praise and then we listen to the man with the gospel gun shoot some truth on us. We are dismissed or the service reaches its conclusion and we walk outside.

We leave the place of worship and enter the world. Things change, we change. We must hurry to get to our cars so that, God forbid, we do not get stuck in the parking lot for more than five minutes. We have to run to get to the lunch meeting place to beat the crowd and get a good table or hurry home to change out of our “good” clothes. And the process continues. We rush and rush to get away from that place. We rush and rush to get away from church. That is a lovely picture of the state of Christianity today. We are always in a hurry to get away from the Lord. We like to hide in saying “God is everywhere”, but it is our hearts and our attitudes that change as we run out the door and into the sunlight.

If the true Church, the Body is going to have any sort of real impact on the world of today, this concept has to change. We have to run to the Lord, we have to rest in the Lord and we have to let go of our wants and desires for the sake of the Kingdom. Everything that I am saying is clichéd, but people do not hear it.

We live in a reality where it is all about me. Christianity today has no desire to be about the things that mattered most to Jesus. Christianity today has become nothing more than a cool slogan on a t-shirt or a logo to be sold. Salvation is slapped into a 30 second prayer and discipleship is the newest twelve-step program. All we need is an infomercial and a clever salesman and we can make millions…oh wait…we got that too, who wants to get rich?

I look around as the landscape of Christianity is changing. It seems to always be about membership drives, and building funds and it saddens me. Our church is slowly beginning to take on the traits of the world, which Jesus spoke against.

So what is the solution? The solution is understanding the problem is us. The problem is the Body that is failing. The solution is the Body as well. The Body must recognize the illness that is infecting it and fight it. As the Body we cannot accept and settle for this mentality. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard of following the Lord. We must shed our “me” mentality. We can no longer go through life living selfishly.

I am what some would call an emergent, I guess.  I believe that each member of the body has something to offer and something to share with the rest of the body.  I believe that if the Church is truly going to reach its potential, then we need to quit silencing the members.  If the Church is going to be the radiant bride it is meant to be then egos must be left at the alter next to sins.  If the Church is going to change every nation and every corner of the globe then each part of the Body needs to understand what salvation really is and that it is more than a simple prayer. Salvation comes at a cost and was paid with a heavy price.  Salvation costs two lives…Christ on the cross and ours here and now.

How do we fix the Christianity today?  We quit being sheep for the wrong shepherd.  We start realizing that we are called to be more than men, women and children sitting in chairs or pews.  We quit acting and start being.  We follow the Lord, and we truly acknowledge that it is all…about…Jesus!