28 December 2012

We Have Choices, Not a Right

I was thinking about the choices we have. We have the choice to do what is right or what is wrong, but we don't have the right to do what is right or what is wrong--only the right to do what is right. There are laws that we choose to either break or keep, but we don't have the right to break them--not really. We have the choice to steal from people but not the right. We have the choice to be rude to people or polite--but we don't have the right to be rude. A lot of the times I think we get choices confused with rights. It's probably an American pride thing. Or maybe a human pride thing.

The same thing is true with God. We have the choice to obey God or the choice to sin. But, we don't have the right to sin. We and all of creation rightfully belong to God, who created it all for us--for Him. We don't have the right to sin, only the choice.

In a way, it sounds like we have lost something, like we are not fully free. Not sure why we would want to sin anyway when it comes down to it. But even if we have lost something, we have also gained so much more.

If we really think about it, we have the distinct honor of mattering before God. God made us and cares about us. We may not have the right to sin, but we have the right to God's love, mercy, forgiveness, and all the other blessings that come with the territory of belonging to God. We may not have the right to do whatever we want, but that means that we have the privilege of doing things that God wants.
Why do we want to do what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do, which happens to also be the right thing? I don't know. But I do know that I don't mind it all that much. I matter to God. You do too.

23 December 2012

Country Song

Carheart coats and baseball caps
Old pickup trucks and ammo
Late nights, old rusty coon-traps
Cricket songs and front-porch bands
Sunday services dressed in cammo
Big bear-hugs, and callused working hands

Cowboy boots and Copenhagen
Wrangler pants and a country swagger
Bumper stickers that are still votin’ Reagan
Deep tracks left from Bud’s mud-tires
Where a fancy drink is an ice-cold lager
Dirt roads with friends and bonfires

Bailing hay in boots and overalls
Where a good date is barn-dancing
Up at the crack of dawn, deer-calls
Living and dying for freedom
Respect is important as romancing
Looking forward to Christ’s Kingdom

The Life We Have


This life we have,

It’s our fields of wheat, corn, and clover
A Song of love that hasn’t grown colder
A song about us that’s never, never over
The knowledge that you can cry on my shoulder
Miles and miles of clear blue skies
The simple song of love in your eyes


It’s not much, but I can’t think of anything I need more
It’s a simple life, built by the hearts of two
It’s the holding the one that I would fight and bleed for
It’s believing in a love that remains true
It’s my favorite tune on grandpa’s fiddle
It’s so much love for a child that’s so little

Just me and you and the little life we dreamed of
Country sunsets, full-moons, and the smell of spring rain
Knowing the world’s better with us teamed-up
It’s feeling the weight of the world’s strain
Seeing your wide smile at the end of a long day
And never running out of words to say

You may like these Goes Without SayingTime is in the Way if you liked this

21 December 2012

Master of My Fate


What we’re told to do, that is what we spend most of our time doing. It is a crippling thing that robs us of the freedom that we generally as humans thirst after. Anarchy would be one way to literally fight against the system, but is really not any better than the problem it aims to destroy. I have been thinking what can be done to fight back against a system that is constantly telling us what to do. One thing has occurred to me, to but alone respond to circumstances is to make circumstances your master—to have the course of your life dictated by the daily chances that are thrown your way. I do recognize that managing chaos will always be a part of life, but it should never be the sole focus of life. There is a time to let things take their place, but there is also a time to fight back. It’s tempting to set a rule, such as twenty percent of time should be spent dealing with circumstances and the other eighty percent on intentional goals, but there is no cut-and-dry set-in-stone formula to rely on.
If we are faced with a forced decision by circumstances, there is still a choice. We do not have to choose the one that people would like or that we would like. There is freedom in the decision then. We always have a choice.
Another way we have a choice is to go beyond what the circumstances require us to do. From so many places we learn to do what is expected, no more and no less. But when we decide to do more than what is asked or required, we are choosing our own destiny.
There is always room for freedom even within the smallest box that anyone can ever put us in. We always have choices. We are impossibly free. Freedom is really the only thing which we can’t escape from. At best, we can give up our freedom to another, but that still requires a choice and a decision, and a the very same every day after. Freedom is never as far away from you as your will to choose is.
Having the courage to have a will that is a different matter entirely…

19 December 2012

It's Personal


“It’s not personal.” That is what people always say when they are about to do something that hurts you in order to benefit themselves. “It’s not personal,” they says as they treat you unfairly as though you are not as valuable as they are. Truth be told, that is actually kind of personal. It’s as though they are saying that you are not as valuable as they are, that they are justified in being selfish because they are worth it and you are not.
For a long time, I had this idea that I should never take anything personal. I have the type of personality where I can shrug off an insult with relative ease. I can take a slap to the face and walk away with a smile. But, I’ve taken a closer look at that way of thinking—is that really the right response? When people wrong us, isn’t it the natural response to be offended. Is that really wrong. Is it wrong to feel wronged when we have been wronged? When I word the question that way, it sounds obvious. Why would it be wrong to feel wronged when we have been wronged. If we slam our fingers in the door, we feel pain, why is this any different? The simple answer is, it’s not.
When we don’t allow ourselves to take things personal, we step away from one aspect of what it means to be human. We accept attacks and don’t allow ourselves the instinctive reflex that is meant to protect us.
Let me explain what I mean by that. When we deny ourselves the courtesy of taking things personal, we are not dealing with the wound. When someone hurts us, we are hurt. Ignoring the hurt won’t heal the wound. We need to face the pain—take it personally. When we accept the fact that we have been wronged and take it personally, we are acknowledging the fact that we are human, that we have the ability to feel and be hurt. We realize that we are hurt and that matters because we matter. It’s showing ourselves respect.
Although that is the main point that I was trying to make, I should mention that we don’t have the right to hold grudges and become bitter. We need to acknowledge the wound, and then forgive those who inflicted it or else the wound will never heal but grow worse and worse, perhaps even becoming infected and spreading. So, feel pain, and then forgive. Take things personally, but then forgive the person.

18 December 2012

Naked Before God, Loved by God


When Adam and Eve heard God in the Garden, they hid themselves. Whatever happened when they sinned, the realization that they were naked before God set in. There has got to be a deeper meaning than they realized that they had privates. Something about them changed to where they were no longer able to stand before God. They needed something to cover themselves up. They were no longer whole to stand before the God who is completely whole in every way. They had been separated from God. It’s really big  news that sin separated them from God. Later on in scripture that truth is reavealed along with God’s plan to reconcile us to Him once more. And inevitably that is what happens. And as great and amazing as that is to think about. The fact of the matter is we (most of us realize that Jesus has brought us back) don’t actually live like we have been bought back.
I was laying here trying to go to sleep, mind drifting from topic to topic as usual. Then the thought challenge occurred to me: imagine you without everything, just you. In a way, imagine the completely naked you. Just the who you are deep down. What  does that person look like? Who is that person? Then the realization hit me. We are still trying to cover up our nakedness from God. We are trying to conceal our flaws, faults, and failures. It’s different for different people. Some have big homes, others prestigious jobs. Some it may be family. But at the end of it all, we are truly naked before God. We can’t hide from God. He sees us. He sees us in ways that we fail to see ourselves. He sees the deepest corners of our hearts that we have hidden from ourselves and from others.
Imagine with me a cute little girl. Young and precious like children are. Her dad gives her a tall glass of milk and some of her favorite cookies. Sitting down at the kitchen table together, they share the time in mutual love—unspoken, but true and strong. Suddenly, the little girl spills the milk. Instantly her little hands go up to cover her face in an attempt to hide from her mistake. Of course, the good father who poured her the milk is not angry. He know that his daughter will spill the milk from time to time. Yet, the little girl still hides her face.
We may be adults, but we are still children to God. We are still tender young children. But, we don’t see ourselves that way near enough. We see ourselves as clumsy kids who stumble into sin and error, stupid kids. And we try to hide from ourselves, or rather hide ourselves from God. But we can’t hide from God. Worst of all, there is no reason to hide from God.
After the little girl spills the milk, the good father scoops her up in his arms and tickles her. He does not go out of the way to punish her, but reinforces the fact that he loves her even though she spilled the milk.
We can hide in so many ways, but we can’t hide from the truth that God sees. God sees children whom he holds dear and precious to Him. If you have any reservations in accepting this, try thinking of God as your father—a perfectly loving father who is literally love. A father who loves you, the you that is often hidden. 

17 December 2012

Underestimate Me


We seem to constantly underestimate ourselves in every way. When was the last time that you thought you could do something, that when you started to work on it with all you had, you were unable to accomplish it? Most every time I have ever tried to accomplish something, I have discovered that I am able to be successful at it. I suspect the very same thing is true for  everyone. When we were younger, our parents, if they are good parents, tell us we can do anything that we want to if we work at it—and we believe them. Somewhere along the way, though, we quit believing that we are enough, that we have what it takes to accomplish the challenges that we face. We start to buy into the lie that we are weak and unable no matter how hard we try.
There are some things that we can’t do. But most of the things that we think are impossible, are really quite possible if we are willing to put in the effort and  not allow ourselves to become bullied around by circumstances. There is a lot of talk about having a high self-worth, but it would really be better to have an accurate understanding of true-worth. Rather than try to convince ourselves that we are really valuable, which seems to say that we are not valuable, but it is important for us to think that we are so we need to convince ourselves that it is true, why don’t we figure out what our true-worth is—that we have what it takes if we work hard.
Everyone can become truly great or become truly pitiful. The difference is in large part realizing what greatness is and being willing to take the steps to reach it.
Do you ever grow tired of underestimating yourself? I know I do. 

When Words Are Not Enough


It’s so surprise that words are not enough some times. Words are limited. They are just representations of meanings. We can take words and build a complex meaning from the relatively simple meaning of single words by building sentences, but there is a limit. We have all been at the point where there are words that we know and use, and then there is the meaning that we want to communicate. When we go to say that meaning, the words are not enough. It usually happens when we are trying to say something really important, tell someone what you really feel about them, say sorry for something, ask forgiveness, or ask for an apology.
It’s as though the human mind to invent words is not as great as our ability to feel and experience meaning. It’s as though our hearts are stronger than our minds. We have amazing minds, but they are weak compared to our hearts, which can understand things that our minds can’t, feel things that our minds don’t understand, and know things that our minds can’t grasp. The human heart is spectacularly deep and powerful. It can experience great depths of negatives and of positives, of love and hate, peace and disharmony, and a million other things—some of which words can’t discuss—only hearts.

11 December 2012

Shadow of Sorrow


In the shadow of sorrow my heart beats slowly to the sound of tears falling to the ground.
In the starless dark night I search for you memory, the only light in my future.
In the silence staring/waiting/listening for your twinkling eyes to lift my heart’s fallen leaves. 
Brick by brick’s weight tall, the realization of your absence sinks me deep in melancholy.
The earth of my spirit is broken like clay music from the quake of your gone.
Only the grey-scale hope of past pictures turns back the pages of my life to a time of happiness.
All the light of my soul now rests within your memory, buried in a thick/sour dust of future alone.

"I think my goal in writing this was to write something that was sad, yet not quite understandable. I think that I succeeded at that"

04 December 2012

Authentic You


Being authentic is a rare quality. It’s tempting and easy to allow the expectations of others to shape us into something we are not. We do it to fit in, to be accepted. But truthfully, you are not really accepted if people are accepting you based off of a façade. In the end, it makes us feel cheap. To not be authentic about who we are has a way of making us feel that we are insufficient in ourselves and we must become something else to be accepted. When we are accepted for being something we are not, we are truly being rejected. For a while it feels good, and we can convince ourselves that it is good. But it eats away at the soul and leaves it empty.
I’m not advocating that we should be able to say and do and act any way we want and be accepted by others regardless of that. That is not what I am saying at all. I am saying that we should be authentic, be sure enough of who we are that we don’t need the approval of everyone in order to feel good about ourselves. When I say people should accept us for who we are, I’m talking about things like types of food, humor, level of introvert/extrovert, morning or evening person. There are things that people should reject us for, and things we should reject in ourselves—that is a different story though.
What I mean by authentic is knowing who you are. Understanding likes and dislikes, goals and ambitions, strengths and weaknesses, and then not deviating on those when people try to influence us to do so. If you don’t like sports, don’t pretend you do, if you don’t like poetry, don’t pretend you do, if you are out with friends and they are all acting stupid, you don’t have to.
We ought to know who we are, understand what we are doing in life, and not change that because someone else thinks we should. People are more valuable than that. It’s degrading to conform.
One of my favorite things is when I see someone do something that is completely uncool. I think it’s great because I know that they are not worried about others, that I am seeing who they really are. I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who they really are. They just have the dignity to be open. They are strong enough to accept the criticisms of others. In one way they are vulnerable because people can attack them for being themselves, but on the other hand, they are strong because they are fortified within the deep-seated understanding of their identity. That is the way everyone ought to be

Commit to Commit

Some people complain that the Bible is too complicated and difficult to understand, that no rational God would communicate in such a way. I question that if he had written it in crayon or finger-painted out for us a nice little book that people would find any less occasion to complain. Had He written down a simple 100 
step guide, people would dislike the simplicity of it. If he randomly came out of bushes that burst into pink fire, people would ask why he can't just show up in person. If God showed up in person, they would question why a powerful God would reduce himself to such things. If he spoke only from mountain tops and clouds, people would be upset that he didn't come down in person to talk to them when he wanted to say something to them.
The critic can always find an excuse to act the part of a critic. Having a critical mind and making the effort to scrutinize things is important, but there comes a point where being a critic is a form of cowardice--a non-committal excuse to believe in nothing except the inability to believe anything firmly.
Perhaps there is a place in thought for decision and commitment to belief. Perhaps there is a reason to use reason--draw a conclusion even. I find it the ultimate paradox that people who fancy themselves as resting on a higher intellectual tier than others dismiss their ability to know anything for certain. Knowledge has a way of making people stupid. Wisdom has a way of making people smart. It's easy to get that confused.
Had God written down a theological defense of himself, people would complain that there is more to being human than crunching data and facts. I really don't mind the way God chose to communicate. It has worked for thousands of years.

26 November 2012

The Wolf and the Voice

A wolf sat resting in the illuminating beams of a bright moon. It was the most peaceful moment in the young wolf’s life. Everything was at ease, at peace. There was no fear or rush. As he sat there, his eyes began to grow heavy and his head to slouch down on his paws that he gently stretched out in front of him. What a grin slowly stretched out on his face. A single deep sign escaped from him into the night air. Just when he was about to tiptoe into dreams hard-earned during a day’s work, he heard a howling. For a wolf, hearing howling is not particularly unusual. This howl was not the sound of anyone he recognized though, certainly not anyone in his pack, and it sounded different in a way that he could not fully perceive.

Heart pounding and mind in a haze of panic, he sprang to all fours ready to pounce if an assailant presented himself. His whole body was on edge, filled with adrenaline and suspense. But, everything was normal; there was not even the faintest indication that there was anyone around, certainly no danger lurking nearby.
There were no cries from anyone else in the pack to indicate that anything was happening. Trusting the pack and their ability to sense danger, he shrugged it off as an imaginary sound, probably a dream. Reclining once more on the rock where he was a seated king, reigning above a valley that stretched out far into the distance and eventually losing itself in the dark, he resumed rather quickly his previously at-ease state of mind. Before a few minutes passed, he found himself once more knocking on the door to his dreams. Just before he stepped though the doors, he heard the call again. The same howling uncharacterizeable voice.

Again, he sprang to all fours crouching and ready to attack whoever was assaulting the peace and the calm. Hearing the howl but once could have been a dream, but twice, now he was sure there was someone or someone out there. Whispering under his breath, he inquired of the night, “where are you?” It had been a rhetorical question, neither warranting nor expecting a reply, yet that is just what he heard.

The reply came from all around, seeming to emanate not from a source but from everywhere around, perhaps even the rocks beneath him. The reply was spoken by a voice as unfamiliar as the howl and had been. It rang out in a mocking tone that evoked anger in the young wolf. It said, “I’m surprised that with all your howling and prowling and sense of hunting that I was able to catch you so off-guard. Are you new to being a wolf?” Shooting searching, frantic glances every which way, the young wolf could not catch even a glimpse of the  voice’s owner.

Half from fear, half from anger, he intended to rend in two whoever dared speak to him in such tones at such hours. “Show yourself, and I’ll show you the reward for your insolence!” he shouted at the top of his voice. Several long moments of silence rife with tension passed, and the young wolf spoke out again, “Well? Are you afraid to show yourself?,” but before he could finish speaking, his sentence was cut short by a query from behind him. This time the voice came from a familiar face. “What has gotten into you?! It’s nearly the end of night. Have you gone mad?” It was the young wolf’s mentor and the pack leader, strong and fearless, cunning and crafty, and no one to antagonize at any hour, especially not at the end of a long night of hunting.
The young wolf replied in fearful humility, “I’m sorry sir, I had a terrible dream,” pausing to invent the latter half of the lie, “I was confronting the fear, rooting it out of me like you taught me to.” The lie was an appealing one, playing in tune with the ears of the pack leader and his ego very pleasingly. “Well, I laude you for your loyalty and commitment to becoming a warrior, but keep it down.” With that he turned and left the young wolf alone once more.

An unsettling nervousness eventuated itself among the many folds of silence that now ruled the night air in the quite of the pack leader’s voice. Separated from the rest of the pack, he felt the urge to seek the security he knew he could find in the pack’s numbers, but realizing the urge was born of fear he shamed himself from taking any action on the fear. “I’m a wolf,” he growled, “Wolves don’t cringe in fear or cling to one another when an enemy even as strong as a bear attacks. We are strong individually and together invincible. I won’t budge. I won’t move, not an inch from this rock,” he uttered the whole pep-talk in a passionate, but markedly hushed voice to himself.

No sooner did he speak the thought than the voice spoke yet again. This time hearing the voice, being wide awake and on edge, the young wolf shrieked piteously a muffled shriek. “That is a good self-talk you gave yourself, better than some coaches I know. Am I all that scary. There, there, don’t fret yourself little wolf.”
Snarling in a burning rage, the young wolf combusted into a frenzy of rage. Leaping into the air, he attacked every direction. After a few desperate minutes of exhausting, aimless attacks his strength crumpled beneath him.

There he sat, unable to do more than rest on his haunches. He was still very much a pup, resting on the transient line between adulthood and childhood. He wanted the comfort—the consolation of his parents—the assurance of their strength. But equally he wanted to feel the wind beneath his wings, to lift himself from dependence and to feel the excitement of independence.
“Little wolf is tired. Doesn’t know what to do.” The voice spoke again. Leveling out, the young wolf thought to ask for answers instead of war. “What do you want?”
“What do I want? What do I want! Just to have a little fun, that’s all.”
“This isn’t fun—not for me.”
“Why not? Too old to play?”
“I’m a wolf. I am a warrior. I don’t have time for games. If you want to fight me, then fight me. If you want to play games, go elsewhere.”
The young wolf was surprised to hear the confidence in his own voice. To hear the stability and strength in his voice, a voice no longer fearful, no longer weak, but that of a wolf. The voice, too, seemed taken back and a pause followed.
“You speak as though you control what I say and do. I can do whatever I want.” The voice had taken on a different quality than before. It spoke similar words, but lacked the sense of command that it had.
“You are afraid to even show yourself. If you were as mighty as you try to seem, you would have shown yourself before now. Only those with a need to hide take refuge in doing so,” the wolf again said with command and courage.
Another pause fragmented time before the voice answered. “Look up.” Looking up, the young wolf saw nothing.
“What is this, are you trying to distract me?”
“No. Look up. I’m in the sky.”
Looking up, the young wolf saw no one. The moon, the stars, that was all that there was above.
“I don’t see you.”
“Oh, but you do. I’m the moon.” Startled by the statement, the young wolf focused his keen eyes fully on the moon.
The moon spoke once more, “It’s my job to teach you to howl. Most wolves naturally learn to howl by just seeing me, but I saw you struggling and wanted to help. No one but you can hear me, but I’m real.”
The young wolf looked at the ground in shame, “I try to, but I can’t. I can’t howl. All my brothers and sisters can, but not me.”
“Yes you can!,” said the moon with a tone strangely encouraging.
“How?”
“Do what I do. Many years ago, I taught the first wolf to howl. There is something in the heart of wolves. Every wolf must learn to howl or an emptiness will consume their courage. A wolf gets strength from howling.”
“Why are you doing this. Why were you mocking me earlier?”
“I was testing to see if you are ready to become a wolf. I now know you are.”
The moon then let out a simple howl. The young wolf tried to follow the moon’s example, but let out a soft yelp instead.
“Try again.”
The young wolf tried again with little improvement.
“I don’t understand. What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you. In fact, it is weakness that drives a wolf to howl. They don’t really understand why they howl, but there is an emptiness inside them. When they see me, they just naturally cry out. There was a time when wolves knew that one of my jobs is to help wolves with their emptiness. That was so very long ago. Over time, wolves have forgotten why they howl at all. It has just become part of their identity. You see, you are different than the rest though, you are stronger than others.”
“If I am so strong why can’t I do something as simple as howl?”
“You are strong enough to get-by without howling. But if you ever want to be everything you should be, you must learn to howl. Now try again. It comes from your heart though. Not your throat. Feel it deep within, there is something missing. Cry out the loneliness you feel for the thing that is missing, what you must become.”
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, it suddenly made sense.
*              *              *
Years later, the young wolf, older now, remembers that night each day. When he leads the pack through a battle, it’s a source of strength. In time, the moon and the wolf became close friends. 

24 November 2012

Good In A Jar


Give away your joy. Give away your love. Give away your life. Giving is a contradiction. By definition, to give is to take something from you and give it to another. The idea of giving is to lose something so that another can have something, but that’s not the whole story. Giving is one of the most selfish things really. It has a way of making you feel good about yourself. Giving takes something from you, but then gives something back, or maybe makes something that was not there before. However you want to look at it, giving is gain.
Giving is usually not gain of the same thing, but it is gain of something precious and impossible to make for yourself. It's like you traded something you had for something that you need.
Giving does not have to be a material thing, and it doesn’t have to be anything big or grand either. Giving can be little things like opening a door for someone, saying bless you when someone sneezes, a simple smile at someone who looks like they need to be reminded what peace is, or helping someone capture a picture of with their loved ones. Doing good is easy and simple in most cases, it’s only when good is withheld for a long time that doing good can become very difficult.
But, go ahead and give to people. Give and receive back. You may not receive anything right away or from that person, but you at least received the justification to know that you did something good—you have permission to feel good about who you are and what you do. Good is meant to be done. You can’t store good in a jar, or a bank account. Good is an action. Give it away and it will come back. Keep it for yourself and it will turn rancid.

Too Dang Thankful

In a way, Thanksgiving Day does not remind me of the things that I am thankful for but rather makes me realize how unthankful I am. Rather than reinforce a deep and strong understanding that I am very blessed, I am forced to look the truth of the matter in the eye—the truth that every single day that I live is sponge-bath of things, experiences, and relationships that I have no claim to because of any earnings of myself, and all while remaining unaware of the obligation I have to be thankful. At best, I could try to stake a claim to the wealth that I have by arguing the intrinsic value of human life, which then makes what I have not a blessing but the fulfillment of what is right and good for me. But when I propose that argument to myself, I am left with a hungry question, “why do you have such an intrinsic value while so many millions of others do not?” I have no answer to that question, and, indeed, there is no answer that I can rationally muster. The only thing to do is to change, to change and become thankful for the inexplicable prosperity that I have.

Prosperity does not make anyone thankful or even more apt to be thankful, it merely takes away their excuse to be unthankful. I have no excuse to be unthankful, and  no reason not to change and become thankful. I hope the same is true for you. I hope you are as thankful as you ought to be. I know that I have never been more thankful than I have a right to be; I’m not even sure if it is humanly possible to be too thankful.

19 November 2012

Love is Not a Lonely Word


Love is not a lonely word. Love almost always refers to something between people. It’s not a singular word. Love is best expressed between people, towards people, and for people. There are not many other things that are felt jointly. One person can full well have lots things like peace, joy, sorrow, hope. Love on the other hand is difficult for one person to have. Love is a shard thing. I don’t want to call it an emotion or go into detail in trying to define what exactly love is—that becomes quite the difficult task. But looking where love is, it is between people. It’s true that people can love them self—and need to—but love is almost always directed away from the person who has it. 

It's OK, not being perfect

I don’t know about you, but a feeling of perfecting is far more common than a feeling of perfection. Seeking perfection is a cruel business and pays poorly.
Everyone wants to be perfect but no one is. If we seek out to become something that we will never become, then we will never find success. We may as well be looking for the fountain of youth or a city of gold. The difference between your friends watching you get in a boat to search for a land made of gold and them watching you try to be perfect is they don’t see anything wrong with you trying to be perfect. All that means is that your friends and most other people are caught in the same trap as you. They want something that they can’t have and are disappointed when their rational brains argue with them about it.
The fact of the matter is we are all still being made; we are all paintings still in the works. Rather than look at what’s not yet done, it makes more sense to focus on what things are done and descent. But, no matter what, your painting will never be perfect—no painting ever is.
I for one try to spend less time touching-up what I've done and more time painting what I haven’t. I’m going to do what most painters do and tell people that that one big thing in the middle of the painting—I did that on purpose. There is only so much time to work on one painting, I’d rather have the whole canvas painted in colors, than one corner looking pretty good at the end of this life.

Strong by Holding Up Another

Left stagnant with only bloodless ambition, the heart longs not for things to weigh down a shelf or fill a house but rather the embrace of a loved one, to look into another’s eyes with love and to see love reflected back, to embrace another in weak arms--to find those very same weak arms become strong by holding up another when weak. Strength rests in the heart and spreads through the rest of the body, growing from tiny seeds. The will to love must be as strong as only love is or the drive to reach beyond doing and into the realm of being will never be realized, and love must be realized or it is not love at all but a wish. And needs to be loved. In this way, love is not one thing but two--it is a substance that lives only by the process of being spent on others—and it is the action of being spent on others. You can’t weigh it except in the heart; if we try to weigh love in big thoughts, our mental scale will topple down on itself and only reveal the fact that we can’t know love in our heads. We can only know it our minds that we can only know it in our hearts.

10 November 2012

Misty-eyed Memory

Looking though a misty-eyed memory
And remembering time spent, me and you

With heart-filled clarity I can still see
And cherish moments that we lived and made

Time can’t take away from the gift we had
or take back the laughs that echo from the past 

04 November 2012

In Memory of Summer


The day had been blaringly hot, but now the long shadows of summer stretched themselves out like a lazy porch-dog. The stifling heat dimmed along with the sun and the coolness of evening dawned within a light breeze that teased the skin with fleeting, cool touches.

07 October 2012

Redeemed

In thinking about what it means to live by grace, I had the realization that it means that the past is just that—the past. It should no longer holds sway on us. It was as though sin had a choke-hold on us, and we should have been Sons and Daughters of God--part of His family. That was why God created us. God desired to have a family. In desiring a relationship with us that was free, God created us in a dangerously free way. He created us with the ability to choose good or to choose evil, it was our decision. Because Adam made the wrong choice and brought sin into us and broke the family ties, we were separated from God. We had lost the right and privilege of being righteous before God, of being able to stand before Him. But God, being rich in mercy and being love, did what is impossible—he loved us anyway.

We often keep sinning even now that sin no longer has authority over us but our dishonoring God and His Son when we sin does not nullify the Grace of God or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we accept God’s gift, that’s it. We were undone by what we inherited from Adam, but God’s rich love restored us through Jesus Christ. Sin does not have any right to us; we should not give it any more thought.

When we become consumed by sin-consciousness, we concede a victory that has already been won by God and His Son to the enemy. You see, we no longer have the right to sin, and sin no longer has a right to us, and we should no longer spend our time thinking about something that is already past away. We have a debt to righteousness, and are righteous. When we fail to realize that the victory is won, it’s as though the victory was lost—at least on us—and we must not allow our own weaknesses to reduce the greatness of God’s love any longer.

03 October 2012

Arrogant Science--Opinion


I hear people often speak of science arrogantly. They say things like science is better than religion because it changes when it is wrong, or I like science because it actually explains things. Those statements are irritating for a couple of reasons. In the case of the first statement, it’s not saying that science is good because it recognizes when it is wrong, it’s actually saying science is better than religion because religion is wrong, but too dumb to realize it. It’s also usually said with a condescending tone that implies that people who believe in a religion are ignorant, and wrong. In the case of the second statement, where people like science because it explains things, people are implying that science is better than religion because science explains things whereas religion does not. But that’s not true! Science does explain a lot of things but so does religion. Science explains why two single strands of DNA are paired together to form a double helix, but religion explains that it’s wrong to kill and eat another person and what the meaning of life is. Do you really want to play the doesn’t explain anything card?

It’s these little tiny slights that compound over time to abrade away at the barrier where religion and science meet; that point of contact gets raw and painful to bear and is taxing to take passively. And the worse thing about it is if you were to confront someone who uses the phrases I outlined above, they would not back away or try to tone down their slights. If anything, they will probably come around full-swing and attack bluntly.

I stand on that line between science and religion. I recognize the importance of science and I recognize the importance of religion, and I cannot in good conscience relegate science to center-stage and pretend that science is somehow better than religion. Science explains how things are, religion fulfills, what I thinks is the greater question, why things are. It is good to memorize words, but it does no good if you don't know their meaning.

21 September 2012

A Prayer


Oh, LORD my God, surly you are great.
Your ways are the ways of uprightness, and the example of perfection.
You speak and the mountains melt as though they were ice thrown into the furnace.
Your power is greater than all the legions of the hands of darkness gathered together with one accord.
Darkness flees before your presence, the sound of your voice splinters the ground beneath my enemies, the hearts of brave worriers become as dust when they see your might.
 Wholly I am blessed profoundly and so vastly are my blessing that a lifetime of journey could not carry me from them.
 My adversary calls my name and violently condemns me to my face and comes up quickly to destroy me, but you my God turn your heart of compassion and mercy towards me, you deliver me from the encompassing armies formed against me.
You turn your might against my enemies and they flee until their feet bleed, and they cry at last in the far wilderness, tired and weary they do perish those who rise against me.
My God, my eyes do recognize your greatness, and my heart proclaims with joy overflowing your unyielding love. My table breaks under the stress of the blessings you have laid upon it, surly I am unable to eat even a portion of your rich gifts you abundantly poured on me for they are so vast.
 Of myself I produce corruptness and folly, yet your immeasurable grace you poor over me till I am cleaned once more.
Though you have just cause to condemn me, you throw the judgment down thunderously and it shatters on the ground and it is trampled on until it turns to fine powder and blows away forgotten and seen no more.
Joy overflows within me until my eyes overflow abundantly. I am tossed in a sea of doubt and frustration; drowning in despair I shout a cry of wretched fear but the sound of my destruction crushes my voice and I myself cannot even hear it, I desperately stretch my hands to you, and you answer my need.
 Your mighty hand, my God, it stretches down from above and lifts me up out of my darkest hour and sets me above the power of darkness geared against me, and from above I look down and no longer do I fear because I know you brought me safely to where you are.
 The powers of the world do rise to destroy me, but they find no strength to stand, and they fall before me because of your presence.

Darkness Swept Away the Details


The darkness fell down quickly within the cool autumn air as if it were one of the vibrantly colored leaves that were so quickly fading, drifting downwards, and beginning to dress the ground in a warm cloak of leaves, the earth’s vanguard against the cold winter months that were soon to follow. Darkness swept the details of daylight away; objects folded into the night revealing the bare face of darkness. Quietness pervaded the atmosphere leaving the streets vacant and entirely lonely except for the singular sound the steps of just one man made. His long legs took short steps that moved in a noticeably fatigued motion that bleakly grated against the sidewalk.

Where should it go from here? Any suggestions? 

16 September 2012

The Transformation


In the past my heart was broken and bled,
I was a lost soul falling into a fading future
No matter what I ate, I never felt fed
Nothing that I depended on was truly sure

I was searching for answers everywhere,
Heart so empty I could hear my lost voice echo inside
I’d look in the mirror and see only me in despair
My smile was a lie that I tried to hide behind

It’s difficult to imagine that was me
The worry, pain, and confusion I’ve forsaken
When you find the Truth it makes you free
The change that God makes can't be mistaken

No matter what the color of the skies
Even if they rained down from above
I will one day look into my Savior’s eyes
One day I will hear the angles sing of God's love

I have that as an ever present hope ahead
The weight of the world can't hold me down
The path is right and I won't be mislead
I am one story of many that speak of His renown

Awe of God's Word


There is no substitute for reading the Bible. There is no other book or book written about the Bible that compares to it. I have recently read several great Bible-based books and books about people living lives dedicated to an inspiring extent to God. The books made me laugh out loud at some points and cry at others and shake my head in awe. But, no matter how great any book I’ve ever read, they lack something that is difficult to define that the Bible only has. There is a depth to the God’s words that makes them so much more than anything else written. It’s perplexing and deep. Just a few verses from the Bible can occupy a mind for days or hours.

Other books have a momentary appealing nature to them, but once read, it fades away and there is little desire to read them again. Yet, the Bible becomes more and more exciting to read and re-read. It has a depth that can never be overestimated. Years ago before I had much understanding of the what was in the Bible, I had this idea of what it contained. The unfolding of greater understanding over the course of time has dwarfed my guesses of the Biblical depth of God’s Word. I am amazed at how I can still be amazed at the things that I read. I can’t name anything from any other author that I have read fifty times and still find myself overwhelmed with amazement and that I can still cherish.

God’s Word is probably only a reflection of God through a foggy mirror, which only partially reveals the magnitude of God, and yet the magnitude of that foggy reflection is an idea that I still can’t fathom to ever be able to fully grasp. If you have not read the Bible for a while, I encourage you to pick it up. Pick up a modern translation like the ESV or NIV, and read something that God wanted you to know. Think about it; think deeply about it. Don’t rush through it and breath in the meaning in long deep breaths. There is a world of perplexity, love, simple truth, and hope waiting to be illuminated in your mind, and to illuminate your heart. Maybe give it a read if you haven’t.

Do you relate to my appreciation of God’s Word? Have you yet experienced the awe of God revealed in His Word yet?

14 September 2012

OK Without God


It’s true that people can do ok in life without God in many ways, but for those who try, there is always going to be an empty place that God was supposed to occupy. People can stick a lot of other things into that space and it numbs the emptiness--but only partially.. However, there are certain times in life where it is absolutely impossible to get around the fact that we need God. Today, I was reminded of the fact that God has changed me more than I realize. For me, I understand why I’m living, where I’m going, and where I’ll end up. For people without God, they don’t have the types of clarified answers that I do. They may have answers the difficult questions such as purpose and meaning for life, but the answers fall short in situations that are very serious.

For instance, a colleague of mine recently experienced the death of a grandparent, then, a few weeks later, mother was gone too. Even for those with God, that would be very traumatic, but this colleague of mine is in a much worse place—one where God is a silly “belief”. When asked to sign a condolence card, I was at a loss at what to say. What is there to say, “At least your mother lived for a while, though cancer did end her life sooner than normal, at least she existed for the moment that she did, and she will live on in the memories of her loved ones until they die too?”

Being trapped within such a hopeless state of emotional pain, numbed only by time and perhaps alcohol until memory fades away and the bloody truth is forgotten--those thoughts hurt me to consider. Thinking about what this person must be feeling and thinking hurt me. Just imaging—empathizing—is more than I can stand.

With God it’s simple, still painful, but the passing of a loved one is just that, a passing. It’s not a final farewell. With God, life has a purpose and meaning. We live to serve God. God loves us, we love Him back. We get to live forever and serve Him more. It’s simple and explains so much.

What would you tell someone who believes and will perhaps never see a loved one again? What would you do?

10 September 2012

Live on Purpose


It’s easy to get lost in the details of life and never address the question written in the details themselves. The meaning of life is the question we can ignore, but it should be the first that we answer. Life should proceed in the direction that our meaning directs us in, yet so many people don’t have a meaning for their life, other than to deal with the next thing that comes up. There is no goal or reason for any of it for them. It’s just they do one thing, which leads to something else. It all seems so extremely empty. I don’t see any way that such a life can ever bring any real joy. There is probably some momentary fun, some laughter, and some enjoyable moments, but without an overarching purpose for any of it, the laughter rings out like an echo against the empty space of a meaningless backdrop. Why any of it? In the gears of the cosmos, what difference does any of it make?

If the question, “what difference does it make?” sounds depressing and is something that you would like to avoid thinking about, you probably don’t have a purpose for existing, at least not one defined in broad enough terms to be useful to you. Your purpose should be so deeply set in your mind that at any moment you can connect what you are doing to that purpose. Your life ought to be lived on purpose. What you do should have a reason, there should be something that you are working on.

I work on parts of my personality and disposition in order to build me into the type of person that I need to be in order to live out my meaning. I frequently catch myself engaged in things that are not a part of my meaning, as I should. It’s important for a meaning to be important enough to live for. A person’s meaning for life needs to be clear enough that it will speak up when departed from.

It’s not my place to tell you what your life’s meaning is. You should figure out what it is and you should live it. There is nothing more fulfilling than to meet the fulfillment of your purpose. Life only makes sense when it has a purpose. Any meaning outside of the real purpose is a lie that distracts just long enough to occupy the time. Time should not be occupied; it is the most limited of all resources and should be carefully spent. Live life on purpose.

06 September 2012

Offend People if You Need To


Something about being a human pushes us to believe that it is wrong to offend people. It’s as though we have a heard or pack mentality that drives us away from saying or doing anything that in any way could be construed as offensive.  On the surface, it sounds and looks like that is an ideal way to treat other people. But the simple fact of the matter is it’s not.

It’s important to be willing to offend people. It’s important to be willing to offend people because occasionally people are in a place where what they are doing is wrong and they are so convinced that it is right that the truth is offensive to them. There mind’s eye has become blind to the possibility of them being mistaken. As a result, the truth is offensive to them. However, not everyone who is wrong about what is right is so utterly convinced that they are right about what is right and they are open to suggestions that can lead them away from misunderstandings. However, if we are unwilling to speak the truth, then people who actually could change will not ever hear or see the truth and have the opportunity to shift their perspective and enter into a new, better paradigm.

In an almost contradictory way, then, being willing to offend people is truly an act of love towards others. No one wants to admit their wrong, but no one wants to continue to be wrong and have no one tell them about it either. Most people have been wrong about something at sometime in their life. The realization that they were wrong was probably unpleasant, but everyone who is honest with themselves would admit that they are glad they were shown they were wrong. So, being willing to offend people means being willing to step out and do something that is uncomfortable for you to do something that is uncomfortable for the person you are confronting in the hope that you may bring some positive revelation and change to that person.

I should point out that I’m not saying do everything you can to rub people the wrong way. If you are right about something and need to correct someone about it, there is a way to present your perspective in a palatable way that leads to the kind of change that you seek. In every way possible, you should do whatever you can to speak and to act in a way that leads that person to change. If there is a way to correct someone in a way that does not offend them, then clearly that is the best option. The problem is it’s not always possible to tell what is offensive to someone before saying it. So you have to be willing to say something that could be offensive, but try to say it in a way that is not offensive. It takes discernment and patience to speak to someone.
And whatever you do, don’t yourself become offended. If someone becomes offended and you become defensive to them, that only compounds the problem and will likely reinforce what they believe. After all, you are no better than they are. You became offended just like they did. If what you are saying is so much better, why do you become angry when someone questions it. Aren’t you sure of it?

There is a lot to be said about speaking to people in a discerned confrontational way. It takes work and understanding to season your words to taste good to people of different backgrounds, but it is an obligation to do what we can, and to make the learn how to and to make the effort to reach out to people who need help.

Isn’t that what you would want people to do for you?


05 September 2012

Outsmart God


The other night I was praying before bed per habit, but during the day I had allowed busyness to consume my peace and overrun the priorities that I thought I had firmly established in which God rests on the highest pinnacle among my values and thoughts. So, I found myself in a stupor of exhaustion after being thoroughly thrashed by a day spent relying on myself and spending myself out foolishly rather than take a minute to slow down and take God’s helping hand that is always outstretched towards His Children. In the moment of realization I started to pray for people other than myself, partly because I felt guilty before God for not giving Him the time He deserves, and secondly I was thinking in the background that I could make it up to God if I showed some humility and esteemed others’ needs higher than my own.

I was laying there eyes closed praying, and then it hit me that I was completely wrong in what I was doing. First, praying for others to make up for what I did was wrong. Second, God does not need us to “make things up to Him” he is big enough to take whatever we do wrong and steadfastly love us and forgive us. Third, I was somehow thinking that God would not recognize my heart in the matter and see what I was doing. After realizing what I did, I could not help but be mad at myself.

It was as if I was trying to outsmart God. God can’t be outsmarted though. You can’t really make things up to God. When we do things wrong, all we need to do is recognize it, tell Him you are sorry, and then do everything you can to change whatever it is about ourselves that caused us to err. That’s it. We don’t need to pray more, pray for someone else, or anything else. And no matter what, you can’t trick God into not seeing what it is you are doing. God judges us on our hearts, that is what He values—not outward actions. Outward actions are good if they are good, but good done for the wrong reason is not an acceptable offering to God.

Have you ever been there? Can you relate to me?

01 September 2012

Gotta' Know What You Want Before Getting It

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of knowing what it is you want—to know what it is you  are aiming to get out of life. There is a lot of talk about finding out who you are, but very little talk about what it actually means to know who you are or why it’s important to know who you are. Knowing who you are is not passive information, it’s an equation that should be used to calculate the way you live. Knowing what you want is a huge part of knowing who you are. It’s really impossible to separate the two actually. Knowing what you want is almost a rephrase of knowing who you are.  I like saying it as knowing what you want better. The idea of not knowing who you are paints a picture in which one sounds entirely lost whereas not knowing what you want sounds like you need to find a direction for you. It’s a distinction that I think is worth making.

Now, the reason that it’s so important to know what it is that you want out of life—what it is you are after—is because you will never be happy with what you have no matter what it is because you will always be hoping and looking for something else even if you don’t know what it is. Having a lot of things will not make you happy, but having the one thing that you really want will make you completely happy. You can’t get what it is you are looking for until you first recognize what it is you are looking for.

People spend a lot of time guessing at what things will make them happy. They get busy running out and doing and buying things to complete the space where purpose should be. Having things and doing things will always seem empty and useless, and lack the required purpose that explains why it’s important.

Having a purpose and meaning for life is crucial to experiencing life in a way that means something to you. A lot of people avoid ever confronting their reality by hiding in one in which they are overly occupied in trivial things that are little more than a distraction from their greater purpose. So, in all of this my encouragement is spend some time figuring out what it is you want out of life. If you know what it is you want, then any effort that you take in order to get it will not outweigh the value of achieving that goal. Make the effort. Do the work. Know why.

31 August 2012

Make Promises You Can Keep


Not infrequently have I head people use the expression, “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep,” but I never took the time to think about the implications of actually taking that to heart. In thinking about it, I realized that the statement has an opposite that is not directly stated, yet still rings out from behind the words in the original. If you should not make promises that you can’t keep, then does that mean that you should make promises that you can make? Probably not, at least not always. But for a moment, I made the thought experiment to see where it would lead, and it led me to think up the phrase, “don’t keep people from making promises that they can make.” I think that this is the real inverse of the first cliché. People often use the phrase about not making promises unless they can be kept as a way to push people away or to keep people from doing things for them. But is that really right? Why try to keep people from making lofty promises?

In the worst case version of the cliché, people actually take it severely enough to make it a guiding principle that overarches major life decisions and relationships. Rather than allow people to open up to them and to open up to other people as well, they are walled-off by the thoughts of not making promises that they are not guaranteed to be able to keep, and they keep people who want to promise things to them away.

The simple fact of the matter is that life is complicated and does not always throw us what we expect. Never making a promise is a guaranteed way to keep one’s word intact, but it also excuses one from ever saying that one will do something for someone. I think that it is really about fear of commitment at the root of the thinking. Rather than be willing to stake a claim and to bet all the chips on one outcome—to work towards that outcome through pure exhaustion if need be—it’s easy to give in and say that it’s  really impossible to make that type of promise.


Sometimes it’s the right thing to do to allow people to promise you things, and to bet that they will keep that promise. It’s wrong to indiscriminately disallow any hint of a promise that someone makes, and it’s also wrong to accept any promise that anyone makes. However, it’s not wrong to judge the merit of a person and their word and to be discerning as to whether or not they can be trusted to keep their word.

If someone promises love, devotion, honesty, or effort to change something about themselves, and if it is a promise that you think can keep and those types of promises and you want them to keep and make those promises, why say no? Maybe you could even help them to keep that promise and to encourage them to keep that promise rather than simply writing them off as a sure failure at whatever it is they are promising.

A promise is not always a guarantee, but you can be certain that it’s an indication that the person is serous and passionate about doing what it is he or she said. Maybe give people a chance to keep a promise. Maybe allow people to commit themselves. You may just find that people are able and willing to go beyond your expectations. Perhaps you have decided to expect too little from too many people.

26 August 2012

Time is in the Way


Time and space may stand in the way,
but that can’t erase the feeling I wake up with every day

My heart races as I walk the streets searching faces to find you,
and I long for when your heart embraces mine too

I’m slowly falling apart at the seams more each day,
And I live each day chasing after dreams of some day

You are out there now, hoping for a heart that’s giving
and ready to grow the love that’s worth living

Don’t give-in and give-up searching for the right one,
The one that is right now out there looking for you

Keep your chin up and cheer-up and eyes open,
And if you fall down get back up again and keep going

I don’t want to miss you when finally do pass by,
And then have to live each day missing you until I die

You may like these Goes Without SayingTime is in the Way if you liked this

25 August 2012

God's Perfect Love Casts Out Fear


Recently I made the decision to sit down in an uncomfortable seat and dine with anxiety and fear. Pushing the comfort-zone as far as possible is an important part of life, and particularly to mine where what I want to do is far out of my reach unless I run to it—through much uncomfortable territory. I found myself realizing I was anxious and fearful, which is a step in the right direction because at least I have the presence of mind to realize my own state of being. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being fearful. That is not the way to live life. That is not the way things ought to be. So, being a problem solver, I got to thinking about what fear is, what drives it, and how can I stop from becoming afraid.

The verse, 1 John 4:18 came to mind: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” I started thinking about what that actually means. First off, it tells me that when I experience fear, I am not being motivated by love like love should motivate me. It also says that when doing and being only what is loving—is to be perfect. Several other verses about God and Love came to mind. 1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The part of the verse that really came to mind was “God is love.” The other verse that came to mind was 1 John 4:19, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

It was a confrontational thought, because being fearful means I don’t know how to or am not being loving, and that means that I don’t know God, at least not completely. It also means that God is not abiding in me as He should—because I am separating myself from Him.

So, fear is being unloving and stepping away from God. But, what to do? Where was I going wrong? In what way was I not being loving. I believe verse 17 clarifies and ties together the point in verses 16, 18, and 19. Verse 17 says, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” In verse seventeen where it says “by this is love perfected,” is referring to God’s perfect love. Remember, we love because He first loved us. We can love because we know that God loves us perfectly even when we don’t love perfectly.

When fear starts creeping in, rather than think about punishment—embarrassment, getting fired, and so on—I should realize that God loves me perfectly. That should give us such confidence that we don’t have to fear. Why be afraid, when in the presence of the mighty and wonderful God and creator of existence I am loved.

Perfect love does cast out fear, but not my love, and not any person’s love. The perfect love that casts out fear is God’s love for me, God’s love for you.

This makes perfect sense right? Does a child feel fearful when held in the arms of a loving father or mother? No! God is an all-good, perfectly loving father. His perfect love casts out fear. 

17 August 2012

Love People to Death, Love People from Death


It struck me as odd this morning in my daily reading and meditation of several Bible passages how biased the typical view of love is. It’s as though there are two main groups of people within Christianity—at least that are most noticeable—there are those who are loving to everyone and then there are those who are loving to everyone. I will clarify what I mean by that in just a moment, but let me first say that both are very sincere and trying oftentimes with a lot of heart and effort to do the right thing. I’m not trying to put anyone down, I’m trying to put down a misunderstanding with the hope of lifting people up by sharing an insight.

So now for the clarification that I promised a few sentences ago. What I meant in saying that there are two groups of people that are by definition, trying to do the same thing, was that both views are right in that they recognize that love is the right answer. However, both have a different understanding of what love is or what it is to be loving to people. Me, being a very disagreeable sort of thinker, I am saying that both are off the mark of what it is to be loving and that love is really a balance between the two extremes set by the two groups.

Ok, the two perspectives. The first one is that love is the answer to everything. No matter what a person says or does, the right thing to do is always to love them. They believe that love means looking past and beyond every poor decision, sin, and to never be judgmental. After all, we can’t walk in their shoes. People with this understanding of love stand on the conviction that this view of love and their treatment of people eliminates errors though it’s strength and ability to overcome. Love is the answer. Some Christians take it as far as to sound like a certain group from the 70’s that spoke of peace and love, man. The people who truly live this love are admirable in so many ways, the ability to overlook wrongs and the heart of compassion and mercy is an amazing testament to their obedience to do what they believe is right in complete disregard of conflicting pressures. They completely go against the grain of the culture that drives like a machine to find and fix problems—even in people.

The other perspective is the converse of the first one. These people like to fix sin and people. This frame of mind is one that seeks to build and design love in life and in the lives of others though disciplined head-on collision with errors, confronting them one by one and eliminating them. There is no mercy for sin. A thief should be punished so that the pain of his actions will testify strongly against the error and thereby persuade a change in heart. Righteousness may be a gift from God, but as God’s children we have an obligation to be righteous in word and deed. If we are dead to sin, then sin must be put to death with prejudice—and quickly too. If we are sanctified by God, we should not take God’s commands lightly and we should be fully sanctified in our actions and thoughts. Anyone who sins may be treated as sin, and whatever is necessary to defeat the sin—that is necessary. This frame of mind is honest and upfront about sin, and courageously confronts sin in all forms to weed it out.

We’ve all seen both of these views of love and seen the value of each in different circumstances. From the Bible we know that Jesus did the will of his Father perfectly. In all things he submitted himself to God to the point of death on the cross. So then, looking at Jesus should show us what love looks like. Jesus’ life if painted would be a portrait of perfect love. It so happens that we have a portrait of that life though the gospels that illustrate vividly the love that God intends for us to have in our own lives. Let’s take a look at that picture.

I recommend reading the gospels as books sometime if you never have. The Bible was not originally diced up in bite sized verses and chopped into chapters. It was written as books. Short books albeit in many cases, but still books and I don’t think that reading a few verses here and there is ever going to reveal God’s wisdoms that he wants to speak to us in the scripture. Reading and meditating on verses and chapters is certainly important. God’s word is highly complex and requires the attention to detail that studying it provides, but it’s also important to take a step back and look at the word as a whole from time to time.

When we take that step back and look at love from a distance in the gospels, what does Jesus’ life tell us that love is? Some like to point out that he did not throw the first stone. Others after reading the same passage will point out that he told her to sin no more. Some will point out that Jesus would eat with sinners that others would not dare to, then people will point out the way that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the Sadducees is very harsh and correcting—even condemning at times. Either saying that Jesus walked around and just harshly judged people all the time is not the full story, and neither is the idea that Jesus accepted everyone as they were and that was fine no matter what they did he would be their friend. When the rich man walked up to Jesus and asked what was keeping him from getting into the kingdom of heaven, Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll forgive you even if you do love money more than me. It’s fine.” No, Jesus confronted the man on the issue. But also notice that he didn’t beat the man over the head with the guilt. He told him what he needed to do, and the man went away sorrowful because he was so rich and didn’t want to give it up. Jesus softly told the man what was necessary. Presumably the man went away and did not do what Jesus had told him he needed to do.

In an odd way, love does not always trump sin. Jesus was loving to everyone and he still ended up being tortured and murdered horribly on a cross with criminals—who he also loved. Jesus maintained his stance and devotion to God and the Truth. He spoke that truth to people and asked them to listen to take its guiding hand and walk in the Truth. He tolerated sin in people offering forgiveness to those who had the heart to repent, but he did not simply accept sin. However, he rejected sin most usually in a calm and respectful way that would lead people to repentance rather than leave them recoiling for shelter.

Being loving is very difficult and takes wisdom and discernment. God says in James to pray if we need wisdom and He will give it to us. We will never have a simple guide that tells us what to do in every possible scenario. Rather, the right thing to do is to allow the spirit of God to guide our hearts and direct our minds in accordance with God’s will. That is the short and simple answer. We need at all times the knowledge and wisdom of God working within our hearts and minds to guide us into a proper walk in love.

In the end, neither perspective is wrong and neither is right. Rather, being loving is a complex mixture of both attitudes depending on the situation. Rather than look for a simple guide to how to treat everyone—look to God to supply you with the wisdom and discernment to act in love. He can and will direct your heart.

09 August 2012

Gentle Controversy


Controversy is a sea that we are always treading in. For some it’s worse than others, but everyone is constantly immersed in controversy, political, social, or religions controversy. All we can do is deal with it, or alternatively resign ourselves to a life as a hermit. As a Christian, I look at the controversy from a Biblical standpoint with the aim of understanding the proper way to handle the controversy.

There seems to be two general ways of coping with controversy, either not caring and staying as oblivious and un-opinionated as possible or to go overboard and to personally seek out and to allow the controversies to consume a large part of time and focus. Most people are not in either category entirely, those are extremes. However, both mindsets are wrong in a Biblical sense—which I hold is the only way that should even be considered a viable option--even for non-Christians, the advice the Bible gives is not going to hurt you. Controversy should never take center-stage in our lives. Our focus ought always to be to Love God with everything we have. Our relationship with God is paramount to everything else. However, as I said earlier, we still encounter controversy, and God has not left us uninformed on how He expects us to behave when faced with controversy.

In the Second letter of Timothy, there are some very pertinent passages explaining the way that God desires us to handle controversial discussions.

2Ti 2:23  "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
2Ti 2:24  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
2Ti 2:25  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
2Ti 2:26  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Does this resonate with you at all? Have you ever found yourself wrapped up in a “foolish, ignorant controversy?” I know I have. I should have nothing to do with that. It should be disgusting to me.
But why, why is it wrong to get overly involved in that type of controversy? It says in verse 26, it’s to help our opponent. That’s right, it’s God’s will to try to help our opponent. God is on our side, and that means that He expects us to love our opponents—enemies.

This does not mean that we are to be weak and allow our opponents to say and do whatever they want. It does say to “correct” our opponents--but in a “gentle” way. Do you see the message here? God does not want us to be rude and mean and petty in our quarrels, but he does not say to avoid quarrels either. Rather, when you find yourself in a situation that requires you to correct someone else who is wrong about God, do it in a kind and gentle way so that they may escape from the devil’s snares.

It sounds so very simple, but trying to put this knowledge into a mode of heart that guides us is more complicated than cooking your average microwave dinner. It takes extensive focus and determination to go beyond your view of things and to hold fast to God's view when confronted and offended. It is possible though, and it is right and worth the effort. God will pay you back for your devotion to Him, and people will pay you back by seeing the true desire and love that you have for them and for God. If that is what people see when they see you, and if that is what people hear when they talk to you, then you will have given the best argument for your perspective.

06 August 2012

The I Complex


I recently was thinking about a personal problem of mine, and trying to come up with a solution to it when it struck me that the problem was not a problem of my circumstances as mush as it was as problem of the way I viewed me in relation to my circumstances. The whole problem was that I was viewing people as objects to make me feel the way that I want to feel. In other words, I was thinking about other people in a selfish way. People are not meant to be used for the purpose of I, but to fulfill the purpose of I. People are not here to make me happy or to provide to me what makes me happy. That is simply using people, and it’s only a matter of time before the realization strikes that people are being used, and that will correctly cause a sense of guilt. We can’t demand any of the things that are truly important to us. We cannot demand love, kindness, respect, friendship, or a time commitment from others. We do not have the right. We are free to do what we please, but only with ourselves in ways that affect ourselves.

So then, what to do? Rather than thinking of a personal need and wanting others to supply that need, look at others and see how you can supply their personal needs. Rather than wanting someone to be something for you, want to be something to them. Try to work hard to help them.

It comes down to the statement, to give is gain. That statement sounds so foreign and backwards often because of the way our minds have grown accustomed to thinking backwards. However, there is nothing odd about that statement at all. And we naturally tend to think about that statement in a material sense, as in giving money or belongings to those who need, but the statements should really apply to all things. It is gain to give time, energy, love, thoughts, a word of encouragement, a compliment, and thousands of other things to others. People don’t really need material things here in America where we are drowning in our possession, they need things that we are. We should strive to become for others what they need. Who knows, maybe if peoples personal needs such as love, kindness, friendship were fulfilled by others more often, then there would be less of a draw to make ourselves feel better by buying things.

In all of this I am saying don’t try to fix yourself with things and people. Try to be what others need. Don’t try to make a friend, try to be a friend. Don’t try to make someone love yo, find someone who you can be love for. Don’t try to earn kindness, give away kindness. When you do, you have given to others and have opened up room to receive, but that can't be the goal but a byproduct.

Sociable

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