Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Idols Under My Skin

The other day was frustrating... Sarah (my wife) had a lot of work to do, our kids were sick (Eva spent a couple of nights in the hospital), and I had work piling up around me and was in a REALLY good mood (that is blogger sarcasm). Basically, I was grumpy with everyone and finally Sarah sat me down and said, "What's wrong?" And I started talking and a whole bunch of stuff spilled out that I did not even know was bothering me but was festering in my subconscious.

Then Eva went to the hospital for walking pneumonia and I spent the week running my son around, trying to accomplish SOME work, updating concerned friends/grandparents/everyone as to Eva's status. I know I ate and slept but don't remember much- it's kind of hazy.

During all of this (relatively) minor disaster I thought to myself just how big stuff becomes little and little stuff becomes big... that is until you get whacked with something like this. We piss and moan about how we want/need more money, better job, different spouse (other people, not me), how annoying school/job/home is, and how we want _____________. But that blank is, almost certainly, a "little" thing- but that little thing now occupies a lot of brain space as we contemplate how to improve or change or eliminate that thing.

The past few days I have not watched movies, played video games, eaten healthy, gone to the gym, read much, or spent time with a lot of people who are directly seeking me out- all things that I try to do when life is going well.

However, the "big" stuff shrinks in size when life is well: we neglect family (at times), watch stuff we should not, read meaningless magazines, kill hours at malls/coffee shops/bars, we play video games and worry about people's opinions of our lives (most of whom are not that involved with us). We forget to call that friend back or tell people we love them because our minds are busy with all of that "important" little stuff.

I think this is why, as Americans, we can be the most guilty of idolatry. Our lives are good. We have free time. Expendable money (well, some of us). So the little stuff grows in importance while the big stuff shrinks.

My daughter can make me crazy: she is wound up, noisy, can pester me and her mother, and needs a lot of attention so she can seem draining. But when push came to shove that 30lb. little girl taking an ambulance trip reminded me of big an little... and just how big she needs to be.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Comes First

It's true, God didn't write the Bible- at least not in the sense that He did not heft a great and holy pen and script verbatim what we see to this day. The writers of the Scriptures were entirely and wholly (and holy) inspired by God to write what they did but God Himself we only see write on two occasions: the first being the first of the Ten Commandments; the second would be Jesus writing in the sand as an adulteress is about to be stoned.

When you stop to think about it, the fact that God wrote IN STONE with his finger is pretty wild so as I am taking time to really read those famous Ten, I felt a little guilty about my first thought after about verse 8, I thought, "Man, God is kind of repeating Himself because the Second Commandment just seems to repeat the first." So I kept reading for a few chapters and went back and re-reread chapter 30 of Exodus and then it hit me (I can be slow so forgive me): God's First Commandment is not a rule, it is a choice in paradigm, stating, "You will have no other gods, only me" (The Message translation).

God is saying to us that we should read the rest of these Commandments, listen to them, follow them- but they are not the point. They are not the point anymore than it is the point of marriage to not commit adultery or the point of being a parent is to not beat your child. The point is love. If you love your spouse you will, by default, not commit adultery and if you love your child you will not beat them. Love dictates this, inspires this, lifts our hearts to the point where we don't have to be told HOW to love only inspired to love better.

So again, the First Commandment is not a rule but a choice between legalism and relational love with God. Between outward masks of piety and honest confessions that none are righteous and that we all need God because we are not going to make it on our own.

John, in his biography of Jesus, tells us that Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness... will be added..." The searching, longing, finding of the Kingdom is first in the list, righteous comes as a natural by-product of love, not as a prerequisite of a relationship with God or event to attend church.

Recently I was having a conversation with someone who had just become a Christ-follower during one of CRUX services and we sat after our Tuesday discussion group and they said to me, "I am just afraid of telling people what has gone on in my life- they would just be too shocked."

I replied, "If you looked around this room (there was a large gathering of us) and could have seen everyone's baggage you would have seen rape victims, recovering alcoholics, porn-addicts, drug-abusers, miscarriages, abortions, and attempted suicides- there is not a lot we haven't dealt with here."

They said, "I guess my view of Christians has been really wrong."

I guess so, but why? Because as the church we (generally speaking) have not practiced the discipline and necessity of honest and brutal confession so as we do enter into a real love of God the transformation that takes place within our hearts is so private that no one is inspired by the change. We learned to wear a well constructed mask whether we grew up in church or came in later: we pretended to know what words like "righteous", "worship", "redeemed", and "holy" meant and then pretended that we did not curse, fool around with our boy/girlfriend, smoke, party, drink, watch R-rated movies, or look at pornography. Those were some good looking masks.

And when some unfortunate member of our mask-wearing brotherhood was caught at church or elsewhere without his mask (or it just slipped off) we were quick to denounce him or her. Given this, are we honestly surprised that the church has been said to be "full of hypocrites"?

God knew this and so gave us the First Commandment, "No other gods, only me". Only your spouse, only your child, only your best friend. Only a unique and amazing love that would inspire, draw, and lift you to where you only wanted to be close to a God that so wanted to be close for you He paid a debt you could not.

The heart of the following nine Commandments lies in how we choose in the First one. Legalism or relationship? Rules or love? That is the lens with which we see the world.

Don't buy it? When is the next time we see God write? When a woman is caught in the act of breaking one of the Ten Commandments, what does Jesus do? An act of love.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The LD

Some REALLY cool things have been happening within our community for the past several weeks: Crux on Sunday nights has had amazing music and we are doing a sweet series on God's Top10; we had Micah Kephart from Reach4Life in to promote a benefit concert (we raised over $1000) and 5 bands came into to play for FREE; and then our discussion group on Tuesday nights, which has been meeting at my house, has been blowing UP with people coming out to talk and hang-out. So I decided to post a few pictures so people could see what is going on. Here you go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dark Comedy: Disturbia Redux

So I ran into an old friend on facebook... and thought I was happy to see him. Then he posted this. So if I go missing, now you all know why. Just kidding, he was a cop and we did a lot of really stupid stuff back in the day and if anyone else sent me this I might cry. If you don't feel like following the link then just watch it below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meeting God on a Run

When I was only in 4th or 5th grade we went on our yearly vacation to Sarasota, FL. One morning I was happily playing in the sand with my brother Christopher when my happiness was shattered by my shirtless father jogging over to us and telling us to go get our shoes: we were going for a run. So we went, grumbling, and put our shoes on and proceeded to huff, puff, and whine for two miles on the sand.

Yesterday, for the billionth time, I met my dad at the local gym and then ran and lifted until I was gasping. I had a blast.

This friend of mine named Kenny keeps telling me that our job as Christ-followers is to tell people about God's personality- to talk about Him in a way that conveys to people that we know Him (as best one can know God). This is fascinating to me, to read the pray, engage others, and read in way that is a pursuit of understanding God better so that we can better complete our meaning in life.

This "knowing of" of God is not a checklist anymore than me being friends with someone. Being with someone means just that: being WITH them. It may include time alone with that person, going to a movie, out to eat, going to each other's homes, watching shows together, giving each other books or whatever else you may do. But you aren't taking perpetual gauges on how many movies you have seen with them or how many hours you have talked with them- that would seem like you are "cheapening" the relationship to checks on a list.

So when we are not spending time with God in conversation or engaging in a faith community or reading Scripture we shouldn't feel guilty about THOSE things... instead what we should do is evaluate why our relationship, knowledge, and love of God is not driving, inspiring, and making us WANT to do those things.

The reason I went on that first run was out of fear/respect of my father: I didn't want to and it was uncomfortable as I had anticipated. But after years of seeing positive results both in my physical body, mental happiness, and in my relationships with workout partners I have realized how much joy has been brought to my life by that initial discomfort.

God is like that. We may not enjoy the run at first, we will huff, puff, and whine... and years later look back with a grin.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Poaching Wild Animals

The holidays, as always, had some enjoyable and some stressful moments in them. As the years have passed it seems more and more difficult to really come up with things you want for Christmas. It's not that you don't want stuff it's just if you really want something as an adult you go buy it... so the presents have gotten smaller in some ways but more significant. The same is true for the adults in my life- I know they can buy their own things so the things that I get for them tend to be more significant than expensive.

Really though, what I want more and more of, is quality time with the people in my life. I want coffee breaks, meals, movies, and events with them. I want to experience the life in the best and worst times, making memories with them and loving them when it is difficult and when it is easy. I desire this because family is like this and so I think true friendships are born the same way.

What I mean is that families are dysfunctional. All of them. In some way. And what makes a family great is their ability to talk through issues and not just bury them. There have been family get togethers where I could barely walk because of all the elephants seated in the room- those elephants being the secrets and issues that everyone has but no one is willing to either try and fix or even acknowledge.

There are two parts of the Bible that always come to mind as I think of relationships: the first is when Jesus is talking to a group and tells them if they have "somethings against their brother" they need to leave their sacrifice right there and go make it right; next is Romans, chapter 14, the Message translation says that correcting other believers "behavior" at the table of God is terribly rude.

The reason I pause in my mind at these two places is that in the new year I've determined to be better relationally and to do that I either need to fix issues faster (you know, maybe actually apply Jesus to my life :-) or get over it and tell my mind to shut up. The older I get the more I find not only that I want love people more but that to truly live as Christ has called us that I need to love people more.

May your community be a rich one... and best of luck if you decide to join me in hunting elephants.