Thursday, March 31, 2011

A different kind of mountain top experience

Day 27
it's a down hill battle
and it's all up hill from here.

I know I’ve mentioned the time I spent working on the mountain as a ski and snowboard instructor. I thought you might be interested to know how exactly that happened. My high school was just a few miles from the mountain and lift tickets for locals were cheaper than a value meal at a fast food joint. The very first time I strapped into a snowboard I was with my best friend Jonathan. I had a brand new board my parents had given me as a Christmas present, some goggles I bummed off my buddy in lost and found, and a pretty killer jacket I nabbed from the thrift store where my Mom was the bookkeeper. Being skiers for a number of years, Jon and I opted out of taking snow boarding lessons and decided to wing it. To our credit we handled the bunny slope pretty well and after an hour or so we felt like it was time to step up our game and take it to the next level.

On skis I had made that Range View run a hundred times and could cruise the trail from top to bottom, full tuck, in under three minutes. On this particular day it took Jon and I just under two hours to make it down. I’d say two thirds of it we spent on our butts, backs, knees or with our face in the snow. I spent the next three days of my vacation in bed, too stiff to move. If not for the fact that I already owned the stupid snowboard I probably would have quit right then and there. Not only did I own the board, I begged for it, and there was no way my parents would let me turn back now. So I took lessons for six weeks from a long-haired hippie with dreads and purple sunglasses. By the end of the season I was a better rider than I ever was a skier. I still spent my fair share of time with my face in the snow but at least by then I was biting it on black diamonds instead of bunny trails.

I wish I could say that I started teaching out of some noble respect for lessons and how much they helped me. In a round about way that’s true. I fell in love with snowboarding and found out instructors not only got to ride for free but actually got paid to do it. I do accredit my love for teaching to that season of life. There was something exciting about spending every weekend with a class of 15 or 20 students who each came from different ethnic, age, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Finding a way to take the basic principles that were necessary and make them relatable to everyone in the group.

The first thing your supposed to teach your students is how to fall. There’s a right way and wrong way to do it. It may seem like your setting them up for failure but the truth is when learning something new like that, you are going to fall. If you don’t do it correctly you are going to get hurt. On the other hand, if you know how to fall, the damage is less impacting, you get up quicker, and you can continue the learning process.

I think in some ways this is how faith works. As believers we get so concerned with not falling, failing, or making mistakes that we never learn how to fall gracefully and get up quickly. The truth is all of us fall. James says, “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2) and Paul says, "We all fall short of the glory of God." So I think, for some of us, we are living in the tension between religion and faith. Religion looks over our shoulder and says, “Oh my God, what have I done”. Grace looks forward with faith, hope, and love and says, “Thy kingdom come they will be done”.

When I was teaching I was constantly telling my students, “Don’t look at the ground! Look where you want to go. Where your eyes are is where you will end up.” And it’s the same for us. Where our eyes are is where we end up. I think it’s good to acknowledge our faults, to be open about them, and to let the light cover them. Whether we are in faith's green circles or black diamonds there’s going to be something that gets us off our feet with our face in the powder.

As brothers and sisters our call is to help each-other up. To be empathetic, because we’ve been there too and probably will be there again. And to remind one another to keep our eyes up. Romans 12 16-18 and 21 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Breaking and Entering

Day 26
Breaking and entering into your uniqueness

Not long ago my friend Mark, the photo journalist, and I took a road trip across the south. I met him in Texas and we spent the week before Christmas with no real agenda other than to end up in Florida. It was one of those trips that was more about the journey than the destination.

A few miles outside of New Orleans there’s a Six Flags that was abandoned after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Mark and I had heard about this location from a friend. The theme park has been shot by many well known photo journalists, mainly as a piece for their personal collections. We slid our car around to a side entrance that was hidden from the main road and jumped the fence.

It was like a time machine in some ways. Beyond the looting, vandalism, and water damage were snapshots of a facility that was quickly evacuated; photos of workers' families remain in upper level offices, Profit and Loss statements blowing around the grounds. I even saw a dressing room sign for my friends' band in one of the doorways; they played a show there just a few days before the storm.

Exploration. Most of us gravitate towards it in one form or another. The scientists explore protons, romantics explore each other, and the rest of us explore the Internet. We look for the next video of laughing babies or clever cats or the coolest of un-cool bands that no one's ever heard of. We have been exploring Gods creation since He created it. Discovering new lands, new Galaxy's, new sounds - humanity loves cultivating "new".

Which is how I got to the topic of self discovery. We as humans are created beings, carrying a unique deposit of God’s image. Doesn’t it make sense that we would desire to explore the creation that is “us”? Just as getting to know others is uncovering the God in them, getting to know ourselves is a way to unearth the God in us.

12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

I don’t believe the encouragement to pay close attention to your self is connected to “teaching” by chance. It seems like there’s this subtle nudge to dive into who God has made you while still remaining tethered to the Word. It’s like repelling or cave diving; you wouldn’t just start your descent without being attached to someone or something at the top. Introspection can be dangerous but when the goal is uncovering who God has formed us to be, it can also be freeing.

For Mark and I the excitement wasn’t that no one had ever been to that abandoned park. It was the fact that it was a mysterious place to us. There were conceivable dangers, possible rewards, and a whole lot of unknown for us to find on our own. At first it was quite intimidating and then things started to become familiar. When we had taken our share of photos and memories we snuck back beyond the fences and set off to discover something new.

The next few posts will discuss ways to jump the fence into our own Imago Dei, become familiar with who He’s made us to be, so that our “progress may be evident to all... to ensure salvation both for [ourselves] and for those who hear [us]."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Damn That's Good

and other thoughts on the image of God.

Excerpts from Emersons’ Gnothi Seauton (Know Theyself)

God dwells in thee.
It is no metaphor nor parable,
It is unknown to thousands, and to thee;
Yet there is God.

Give up to thy soul-----
Let it have its way-----
It is, I tell thee, God himself,
The selfsame One that rules the Whole,
Tho’ he speaks thro’ thee with a stifled voice,
And looks through thee, shorn of his beams.
But if thou listen to his voice,
If thou obey the royal thought,
It will grow clearer to thine ear,
More glorious to thine eye.
The clouds will burst that veil him now
And thou shalt see the Lord.

Therefore be great,
Not proud,-----too great to be proud.
There is nothing else but God
Where e'er I look
All things hasten back to him
Light is but his shadow dim.

Shall I ask wealth or power of God, who gave
An image of himself to be my soul?
As well might swilling ocean ask a wave,
Or the starred firmament a dying coal,-----
For that which is in me lives in the whole.

I have a friend who is genuinely fascinated with her own reflection. It’s not even a matter of vanity, she just gets distracted easily by mirrors. It never fails, we’re walking through the mall and she’ll linger just a little longer as we pass the more reflective windows. Though I feel like this is just a more demonstrative example of something most of us do. We love our image. Our culture is obsessed with it.

Thinks about your morning routine, think about how many things in that routine are for your actual health and longevity as a human as opposed to something that helps you get to that final check in the mirror before you start your day; so we can look ourselves in the eye and and say, “okay, let’s do this”.

How about when there’s a new baby and everyone discusses whose eyes or chin the child has.
We love our image, we love the idea that a child could hold part of that image. That in some way they could be a reflection of us. Sure some of us are obsessed with our image in the opposite way. Wishing we could be more this and have less of that but it’s an obsession none the less.

I’m not sure that this sentiment of self fascination is completely bad. I wonder if it’s not just misdirected? In Genesis we overhear this conversation that appears to be between God, the spirit, and “the word” , where God says, Let us make man in our image. So then we see Adam, made from dust, and given life through some sort of deistic nasal CPR. And this is where life begins with man kind looking into the eyes of love, with the sweet aroma of loves’ breath as the first fragrance. Love is looking back at man, and maybe there is excitement! “He’s got my eyes, and my mouth, oh! oh! and my hands! “

I mean it’s not like God hadn’t been taking a moment to appreciate everything else He’d created to “see that it was good”. So God breathes life into Adam, and Adam awakes intimately close to the face of his creator and God sees the first born of humanity and says, “this is very good”. Sometimes I wonder if the phrases we use to define God like, “God is good” and “God is love” don’t get lost a little. God IS Love, love doesn’t define God, God defines love...What is love? Love IS “GOD”. I think we mix it up sometimes and so when God does something that doesn’t align with our understanding of love we assume that it can’t be of God. Is it possible that Gods ways are bigger than our understanding of Love? Because allowing your only born son to be murdered brutally in front of your eyes doesn’t sound like any love I would be apart of. Not until you zoom out over 10 thousand or so years of human history in need of a dynamic act of compassion and see that Love sent it’s very essence wrapped in humanity to radically repair the damage done when the first of humanity allowed the scent of love to leave his breath and be replaced by the scent of lust. The subtle perversion that severed our intimacy with Love itself.
Maybe “this is very good” could be read as God saying, “this is very me” Like a parent to a child or a painter to a vibrant canvas; it’s that moment after you’ve made the best meal of your life and it’s presented in a breathtaking fashion on the table awakening all of the senses; and you sit back with your hands rested behind your head; and all you can say is, ‘damn that’s good”.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Broken vs Unwell

Day 24
If you’ve ever had someone take care you when your sick, you know the tension of being so grateful, yet feeling so helpless. There’s literally nothing you can do in that moment to pay back the kindness, you can only receive it. I’ll be honest not so deep down inside, I love to be taken care of. Because for those one or two days it’s acceptable to do nothing but get better. Lot’s of naps, and juice, some tv, and maybe a little ice cream. Essentially you get to act like a six year old in the name of getting healthy.

Being unwell makes us less productive in our work, makes us a threat to others in many cases, and usually is a cause to slow down for a period of time. I see so many of the people I counsel and converse with who understand this principle in the natural but totally miss it spiritually. They are afraid to slow down, to stop serving, to put ministry on hold. Meanwhile they are un-well, their spirits are aching, and they are in need of some relief.

If you know anyone who has survived Cancer you know it’s often referred to their “battle” with cancer. Why? Because they did whatever it took to become well. When you fight that hard for wellness, you better believe it’s a battle.

There are many ways our spirit can become unwell. Sometimes it’s a soul wound from loosing someone close to you. It can be from business in ministry or family or work where we reach the point of burn out. Even the end of a serious relationship can bruise our soul. The process of two becoming one may come to a greater fulfilment in marriage but it starts much longer before that. That’s what a truly loving relationship is, it’s the process of two souls intertwining and being bound together with the third element of faith making a three strand cord.
Eccl 4

9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

So when that relationship is severed the soul is confused there is a lot damage done by the ripping apart and untying. There are lots of ways to incur damage to your spirit, to become unwell. But how then do we become well and why is that important in the first place?

Mat 19;19 “...and Love your neighbor as your self”. I want you to notice the word AS there.
The Greek word can most definitely be translated “in the same way”. Which makes since we usually love our selves with a spirit of self preservation. We, for the most part, don’t let “us” go hungry, thirsty, naked, without a place to sleep, or completely devoid of human contact. And I honestly believe that for those who God puts in our path that need help we should love on them in the same way.

That word “as” in Mat 19 can also mean “as you go” or “while you are” it’s a continuous action. I truly believe we can not love others in the healthiest ways unless we are taking care of ourselves. As we are taking care of ourselves, keeping ourselves healthy and loved than we can pour that on other people. And the source of our filling must be the love of the Father.

Neh 8;10
Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

It is not selfish to take care of yourself, to get well, to be healthy. If anything for those who are in Christ it’s an expression of love for those who God will use us to serve in the future.

Galations 6
...but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Let me quickly explain that there is a difference in my mind between serving out of brokenness and serving out of un-wellness. We are all broken and God is a God who loves to use the broken. We have flaws, we are not perfect, that’s His job. Sometimes we beat ourselves up to keep pushing and we end up serving out of a place that's unwell and it's not our best.
I believe God wants us to be well. and to love others as we are loved My mother describes the difference like this,
“Brokenness I think it is a willingness to be vulnerable about our struggles and pain and deficiencies; but willing to be obedient to God's leading, to continue to serve others in need. And
unwell, I feel, means that I am not walking with the Lord in heart and spirit, and if I attempt to minister, it would be in my own wisdom not Holy Spirit guided wisdom, therefore I am unwise to serve in that state.”
And I would agree and say often it is our brokenness and our transparency that is the beginning of wellness and healing for our soul and spirit.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Grief

what death can teach us about how to live.

Day 23
I was talking with a friend who had recently lost her father. He was young and it was rather sudden. His condition declined rapidly and in ten days he was gone. We were talking about how
in those times of mourning empathy can sometimes get lost. When you’ve just lost a parent or child the story of a friends aunt or dog passing away doesn’t seem quite rateable. In my experience part of that grieving process is fighting the subtle sense of pride that comes from inside. That feeling that says, “you don’t know how I feel” or “you couldn’t possibly understand”. Because on the surface we want to be alone. But why? Why do we push away the loving consolation in trade for our solace? I believe it’s rejection.

Loss, is a club that many people are a part of but no one wants to be in. And it’s very hard to relate to those who are in it, if you haven’t been there. Loss leaves deep impressions. It’s like pushing your hand into one of those memory foam mattress’. It takes time to decompress. And that pressure often causes us to impose our hurt feelings on other people. We become less trusting because someone or someones along the way abandoned us at a time that was “inconvenient”.

I first experienced death in a very real way in first grade. My cousin was accidentally ran over in his grandfathers driveway and he did not survive the impact. He was only a few years younger than me. I didn’t fully understand but I saw the pain that hit my family and the way it eventually destroyed his. When I was 12 my grandmother lost a battle with cancer, this time the pain was more personal because for the 11 months preceding her death most of the family my mom and myself included, were by her side. We tried every possible option natural and otherwise, but there was no reversing it. The deepest impression of grief on my soul came just a few weeks before my senior class trip. It was a Wednesday, I would usually stay at my friend Chris’ house on Wednesday nights so we could go to church together. I had just gotten my license and my parents didn’t really love me driving on the NH roads late at night. About an hour before church I got a call from my mom begging me to come home. We fought for a while and then I got in the car and made the 30 min drive back to my house. Her face was flush and my immediate thought was, “who died?”. She stood there with my Step Dad, they were holding eachother and she said, “honey, I’m so sorry, Rodney is dead.” “He had a heart attack just a few hours ago.” Rodney was my moms ex-husband, a man who in no un-certain terms was my Dad. He was my godfather, and he and his wife were ironically enough two of my parents best friends. Rod was the reason I started playing music, the one who helped me design my first website, the man I talked to about all my girl troubles, he even taught me how to pirate music.

I remember running into my room and looking at the gun in my closet, it was a little bolt action 22, but I was feeling so much pain I didn’t know what to do with myself. Thankfully I didn’t do anything harmful to me or anyone else, at least not in the physical sense. Instead I put on my strong face. I tried to be the soldier for my parents and everyone else. I locked down my emotions, I made it through the class trip, and a few weeks later a soldiered through graduation, I even made it through my first semester at college. My second semester however, I was at a prayer meeting on campus and for some reason no-one showed up except me and Mike. Mike and I had been in a band together in NH and he kind of followed me / I talked him into coming to school with me so we could be rockstars.

MIke knew something was wrong and that night he pushed my buttons, and he kept pushing them, bringing up a past I wasn’t ready to face, pouring salt into wounds that had been covered up but not healed. He kept digging in, making me talk about it, about Rod, about how mich I loved him and how mich I missed him and what he meant to me. Mike wouldn’t let up, I was angry at God and mike knew it and he wouldn’t let me go until I got honest. And I got honest, I yelled, I swore, and finally I cried, for the first time since that moment I shared with my 22 I cried. So hard in fact I passed out for a few minuets. And though opening up and breaking down didn’t make it all better it started the healing process. I process I could not have done on my own.

The truth is we all grieve at some point, and we all hear these words, “If there’s anything I can do...”. They sound so hollow and so empty at the time, but they also mean everything.
Love believes all things, hopes the best, keeps no record of hurt or wrong. So when you lose someone you love, is it possible to not hold it against them? To love them in their absence. More importantly is it possible to not force the pain and rejection we feel, the abandonment, the longing, on those who are trying to be there for us. Just because one person leaves me, hurts me, let’s me down, doesn’t mean everyone in my life is out to get me. It just means I’m wounded.

It’s okay to be wounded. we just can’t live there.
Romans 12
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Mike didn’t just make me grieve, he grieved with me. He climbed deep into my story and so even though he had never experienced loss in the same way that I had, his empathy was real and sweet and freeing. I had to be willing to let him in sure, but he had to be willing to come in the first place. Being family, together, as believers, is hard. It’s messy and frustrating and sometimes hurtful. But it’s also beautiful and redeeming. Follow the voice of the holy spirit and if you are lead to come along side someone, even if it’s tough, do it. If I have no arms I can not hug, with no feet I can not walk beside you, If I have no mouth than I have no comforting words to say...with this in mind how much more important is it for us to be the “body” of Christ. To be a hug to the hurting, to walk beside the broken, and to speak life to the lost and dying. Amen.

New And Improved and other myths of happiness

Day 22
A while back I was going through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course. One of the lessons was about communicating with your spouse. He was communicating that in most relationships there are two personalities represented. One is the free spirit and the other is the nerd. Financially speaking the tight wad hoarder and the care free spender. And sometimes I feel like this is how we approach God and His Love. We think God’s love is free and open and hippie dippy or we think he should be revered, holy, and solemn. And it’s this differentiation that entire doctrines, dogmas, and denominations are built upon.

If there are two words we love in the west it’s “new” and “improved”. Not as much in recent years, but before the economies substantial downturn we loved all things bigger and better. Houses, SUV’s, Value Meals, we were all about the upgrade. One of the things Nashville is known for is it’s large selection of churches. Which creates what some call the “consumer” Christian. Someone who kind moves from church to church taking it its goodness until he or she finds a reason to become board or disenfranchised and moves on.

But isn’t this somewhat of a common thread through out church history over the last 200 years or so? There is a specific move of God or a unique encounter with the Holy Spirit for a particular people in an appointed place. It’s a beautiful anointed experience and then next thing you know there’s a book on the shelf with seven easy steps to get God to perform the same way again. So one pastor in England feels called to fast and pray for 30 days and documents his story and his encounters with God and then a small revival breaks out in his village. Our tendency is to look at that and say, “okay if I pray and fast for exactly 30 days, and pray like that pastor prayed, then God will send revival to my neighborhood too.

We make God a math equation. It’s like some sort of divine word problem where the end result is...THIS is how we do church now! Which is a very different conversation than, “this is how we do church NOW”. One assumes the past is obsolete and pushes toward new as the greater good. The other understands that while the fundamental truths of the faith are non-negotiable many of the systems and process are only for a season. It’s strange how with each revelation of grace we quickly turn God’s goodness into a system. We trade one form of slavery for another.
What was once “We MUST go to church on Sunday night because it’s part of keeping the Sabbath Holy” was Traded for “We value family so we don’t meet on Sunday night but members MUST go to a small group meeting once a week”. We trade hymns for “contemporary” worship songs. We trade wine for grape juice, stained glass for fog machines and pulpits for wireless headset microphones.

None of that stuff is necessarily bad until you start to despise the older and revere the newer as “better”. As with so many things in the Christian faith we trade relationship for a system. We’re taught that the reason we don’t cheat on our spouse is because it’s “BAD” and Christians shouldn't do bad things. I don’t stay faithful because it’s bad not to, I stay faithful because it’s unloving not to. Because cheating on my spouse breaks my intimacy and trust and relationship.
I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain because it doesn’t show love for someone I genuinely care about NOT because it’s bad. The same goes for many of our traditions.

As a worship leader I use contemporary songs the majority of the time because that’s what the people I”m serving connect to God the best through. However, there are times when singing a more traditional hymn is just right. It touches a place that the spirit is trying to move at that moment and thus it becomes “better” than something new. It’s honestly not about what is or is not “better” in the broad sense. Only what is good and right and true in that moment.

Please do not confuse this for wishy wash beliefs. God never changes. His truth is consistent. His love endures forever. The way experience God as a community of believers however, is an ever evolving process. For many years I felt uncomfortable when someone would recite the Lords prayer or the Apostles Creed. Why? Because I was raised in a culture that had moved out of religious and nominal Catholicism. The verse that was often quoted was, “speak not in vein repetition”... For us at the time the logical application was to cease all prayers and recitations for fear of being involved in these vein repetitions. The problem with that stream of thought is the key word in that verse is vein NOT repetition.

Many of the traditions we have set aside in our attempts to be “relevant” are rooted somewhere deep in the history of the church, and are not vein at all, but rather quite special. I’m not saying we should all go out and put stained glass in our meeting centers. I’m just saying before you discard something as passe’ look at the history. Take a little time to know how we got to where we are now. You might be surprised just how deep some of those roots go.

We’ve done a good job of keeping Jesus famous. We’ve traded cathedrals for megaplex facilities and bell towers for 80 ft. crosses on the side of the interstate. And all along the way someone has thought …”this is the best way to honor God”. I don’t know what the best way to make Jesus famous is. But I do have some thoughts on what He should be famous for. And it’s not a building, a ceremony, a music style, or a best selling book. If we seek to know and share God as the center of a true and honest relationship and fight the urge to make a system of ever changing new normals I truly believe something special will come of it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's in A name

Taking the family name for better or worse.
day 21
Over the last few years the term “Christian” has gone through some intense scrutiny. Many well intentioned believers have become hesitant to use that term because of all the baggage that is attached to it. At which point we developed all sorts of colloquial spiritual euphemisms as a substitute. When asked about our beliefs we answer with things like, I”m spiritual but not religious or I’m not a christian so much as I am a follower of Christ.

Isn’t it amazing how much power is in a name? A couple of words that come fully loaded with 2000 years of history for better or worse, from Crusades, church governments, revivals, and renewals to protests, outreaches, amazing music, not so amazing music and so on. It’s all there in this one word. Christian. Some of it’s embarrassing, hurtful, and destructive. Some of it is beautiful, redemptive, and compassionate.

My Mom got re-married to my step dad when I was five or so. I remember not totally loving the idea of their marriage at first. In fact I think I said something to the effect of, Why are going to have a wedding with him can’t you just marry me?”. Thankfully she declined my offer. Ten years later, when it was time to start thinking about getting my license and work papers I asked my parents an odd question. I asked if I could change my name. Legally I still carried my mothers maiden name. I had been sort of using my step-dads last name casually for years but the State is not cool with such in-formalities. I didn’t want to be the only one in our little family with a different last name. So we went to the courthouse, filled out the paper-work and presented our case. The judge granted the request and my “new” name became official.

I carry that name proudly. When I started my Advertising Company in 2007 I used my last name as part of the company title. But the Morris family doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. Our family history is full of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual misconduct, anger, abandonment and that’s just in the last two generations. Lord knows what kind of skeletons lie in the closets of the Morris clan 1200 years ago in Scotland. At 15 though, I wasn’t concerned with any such sentiment. All I knew was I loved my family and wanted to share their name.

And maybe that’s what the name Christian is. Maybe it’s less about an ideology and more about taking a family name. I mean, there are numerous references in scripture to us being the family of God and Jesus teaches us to pray “our Father”. And if it is a family name, doesn’t that mean we have an opportunity to do it justice, to carry it with pride, and try to bring just a little restoration? The truth is even will all of the horrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity there have been some beautiful ones as well. Those are the stories that need to be told, lived, and written. As believers we have a unique opportunity to re-define what Christianity means in our family, neighborhood, and spheres of influence.

Is it possible that Christianity doesn’t have to be shaped by Jesus fish and WWJD bumper stickers? Can we be known for more than having our own t-shirts and music? Is there a chance for us to show the world what we are about and not what we are against? We chose to be in this family for a reason. I hope that reason was as a response to a Loving God and not to attain some sort of fire insurance. The early church was known for it’s generosity, for how it took care of the orphans, widows, and needy. That’s how the gospel was spread, people experienced the good news, they didn’t just hear about it. Community is not sharing MY life with YOU, or YOUR life with ME, It's sharing HIS life with EACHOTHER.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bouncers and Bad Publicity

Day 20
God's image as our compulsion to love

it's a constant process. So many people they can't "see" God and so God gets mixed in with religion and it all becomes part of this whole cultural exhistance. The truth is we can "see" God if we are looking through the lense of the Holy Spirit...I can see Him in you, In the face of the poor and hungary, In the kindness of strangers, even in nature or unbelievers because they all carry traces of the Image of God

Jesus is moments from taking his last breath. Hanging on the cross, totally mutilated, exhausted, and surrounded by the darkness that had fallen at mid-day. Then Jesus asks a simple question of His Father. “Where are you, why have you abandoned me?”( Matthew 27) And the word abandoned is rooted in this imagery of being made an outcast. An outcast from what? It seems to be, from the intimate presence of God. Much like Adam and Eve after their sin, when God removed them from the garden. Their interaction with God changed. And it was sin that caused Jesus’ interaction with God to change at that moment, our sin, the sin of humanity. It seems Jesus was abandoned for a moment so that we could have acceptance forever.

I’ve never met anyone who was happy to be stood up, or excited to be left at the altar. It’s a horrible feeling and it quickly changes the way we perceive the world around us. In my early twenties I spent many of my weekends hanging out at bars and clubs, the swanky ones with the pulsing sub-woofers and drinks served from real glasses and a dress code. There was always a bouncer, that single solitary figure standing between you and what you only hoped would be the best night of your life, since last weekend. And most nights getting in was no big deal, flash the ID, get the glow in the dark stamp, and be about your business. But every once in a while something would go a little askew. The cover would be astronomical, or my over-priced pre-ripped jeans wouldn’t be acceptable for the dress code, or occasionally there would be a bouncer who just straight up didn’t believe the guy on my license was me. Let’s be honest I was insecure enough as it was, so being rejected but what I could only assume was either A. an ex Conn or B. a police academy reject, made me pretty upset. It would start with, “ I deserve to get in. It’s my right, and would wind up somewhere around, This club sucks any way, that guy’s a moron, I’m out of here.

And that’s how it goes. One min we’re waiting in line with great anticipation of something great, the next min. we’re considering putting a call in to the health inspector to “report some rats.” Because not only are we never going to that club again; We are going to do everything in our power to make sure none of our friends, family, or social network, go either.And isn't that how we as Believers act sometimes. We act as some sort of pseudo-spiritual bouncer for the kingdom. It's a whosever will may come with an "as long as" clause. Whether it be corporately or individually we make these little judgment calls on who is and who is not a good candidate for community and ultimately grace. WIth that rejection comes the repercussions. The Church has found so much of it's identity in what it's against that we miss out on the opportunity to show people what we are for.

Why is rejection so hard for us? God in his very nature is an eternally relational being. Genesis points out the when man was created God said, “let us make man in our image”. It would seem the dialogue is happening between God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Word. Which isn’t quite as strange as it sounds. Don’t we do this all the time. Twelve o’clock rolls around and your body gets hungry, and your emotions say I want a steak, and your mind reminds you that you can’t afford steak, and this internal dialogue between your brain, your emotions, and your physical need starts to happen until a decision is made. We are a less complex, assimilation of a God who is both personal and expansive. We are created in the image of that eternally relational being and thus it would seem rejection is contrary to the very foundation of our creation.

The longer I am a believer the more I really question if the Great Commandment and the ten commandments and the Levitical law and the letters of Paul that we have made such cemented Dogmas around are not more descriptive than prescriptive. I completely take II Timothy 3:16 at face value. I hold fast that the Word of God is true. But also try to be very clear that I worship The God of The Bible NOT the Bible itself. I really think much of that stuff was written as a survival guide and a love letter. Some of it was very culture specific for a people and a time and most of it is transcendent, good, applicable stuff. Love God & Love Others seems pretty relational to me, coming from a God who designed us in His image. A God that takes up titles like husband and father, a God who asks us to pray for his Kingdom to come, so that the space between Heaven and earth can close in just a little bit more each day.

We can "see" God if we are looking at each other through the lens of the Holy Spirit...I can see Him in you, In the faces of the poor and hungry, In the kindness of strangers, even in nature and those who are not yet saved, Because all of creation carries these traces of the Image of God. When we reject them we reject him. We love because HE first loved us. He Gave us the first fruits, the top quality selection, of His love. As we recieve that love we begin to see humanity as Image Carriers. We place value you on our believing brothers and sisters, we gain a compassion for the broken and the hurting, we tap into a desire to communicate with those who are not relationally engaged with God the Father to hear their story, share our own, and pray that the power of the gospel compels their soul to light up and walk out it’s deepest destiny. To know and be known. Love Others.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A quick note on love

Here are some lyrics from a song I've been working on with my friend Julia.

Wait - why’d you look at me that way?
You took my breathe w/ just one phrase
Then disappeared like yesterdays
I didn’t know I felt this way

For you now
Something has changed
And I never saw it coming
but you got my heart running in spades
I know that it’s no game

Lovers and friends
Lovers and friends
And you break up my day
You change all my plans

Lovers and friends
Lovers and friends
Sketching out hearts
With our toes in the sand
(Trading a walk in the park for a dance)
I’m so in love...

I love our Saturday’s
Coffee and a matinee
The sweet nothings that you say
They mean everything to me

Take my hand
We’ll drive the city home
I never will regret
having given you the best of my heart
Cause I know it’s just the start
Lovers and friends

Your kiss is like a roller coaster, your touch is like a movie scene
Baby come a little bit closer, you got me on the edge of my seat

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love Letters from Mt Sinai PART 2

Imagine if you were planning a trip to Uganda and had never visited Africa before. How grateful would you be for a letter written by a local or someone who had lived there for an extended period of time, a letter with advice on what was safe to eat, what plants to stay away from and how to interact with the natives. Maybe we should look at the law less like a rule book and more like a survival guide. What about the Ten Commandments? Well let’s look at what Jesus says about the Law.

The Fulfillment of the Law
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,a and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
25“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’e 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’f 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
An Eye for an Eye
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

or maybe more simply stated in Matthew 22

34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

And it seems like that’s all the law ever was. It’s relational. Look at the tend commandments, it’s like God was giving the children of Israel some practical advice on how to maintain good community. Like He was saying, “If you love me you will hang out with me once a week, you will keep me as the most important priority in your life, you will only use my name in high regard.” and “If you love each other you will take care of each-other, you’ll encourage each-other to be thankful for what you have, you’ll hold life to a high esteem. Maybe these commandments were more descriptive than prescriptive and all Jesus was doing by saying, I’m not abolishing the law but fulfilling it, was hitting a reset button.

The leaders of the Hebrew faith had almost 400 years between the close of the old testament and the birth of Jesus to “interpret” the law. And by interpret I mean they turned it into a non-relational, religious, who measures up and who doesn’t systemic approach to holiness.
Jesus was kind of saying, “Hey guys, listen, remember in the beginning when it was relational and love centered? Yeah, I’m here to bring it back to that. No more killing animals, no more priests or holy of hollies, it’s me.” Before we can sit on our high horse and point fingers at the Pharisees for “missing the point” we have to admit that we do the same thing. Let’s be honest it’s really hard to accept the grace that doesn’t come with strings and it’s really hard to believe that “obeying” the law could be so simple. Simple but not easy.

Love Letters from Mt Sinai

DAY 18
God Law Filled Love Letter

My friend Dan is a youth pastor. Dan was telling the kids about about Jesus feeding the multitude with the loaves and the fish. He was making a correlation between Jesus’ miracle and and the way God can do powerful and crazy things in our lives. Dan asked the kids to think of some examples of things they could pray for, areas they were hoping God would do something amazing. My favorite party of the story was the response of one of Dan’s Ninth Graders. Charleigh raised her hand and simply replied, “Jesus multiplied the loaves in the fish?, Like out of thin air?, Like some kind of magic trick?”.

I think what Charleigh was articulating was a sentiment that resonates with many of us. Sometimes we’re so busy digging out the deeper truths that we miss the beautiful STORY of the Gospel. I believe both approaches are valuable, but what seems to happen is that many believers spend years under life application teaching and miss out on the power of the larger narrative. I know for me as a teacher there is a constant tension to find that balance. It’s a tension that Jesus walked through so beautifully, referencing the Hebrew Scriptures, using parables, and making bold direct points.

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine, who is an assistant at the Sister church of the ministry I work with. She and I were discussing some different spiritual topics and the subject of “The Law” came up. What is the law, and why are we so afraid of if? Sometimes in an attempt to simplify things our theology gets diluted down to speaking points and Jesus covered catch phrases. Which is where we get ideas like, “I live by the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.” or “I’m a son I’m not a slave” , or even “We’re not under the law anymore, I live by grace”. None of which are necessarily bad statements. In fact they are amazingly powerful, beautifully rich statements when you know the 4000 years of history associated with them.

What is the Law? Imagine a nation that has spent 400 years in slavery. Uneducated, worked to the bone, and unfamiliar with anything other than the culture of their captures. This is where we find Israel as Moses leads them out of Egypt. Leveticus is a book often overlooked because it’s full of awkward and sometimes disgusting lists of things to stay away from. But the Levitical law wasn’t Gods way of taking people out of one form of slavery and placing them in another. It was a love letter to an otherwise ignorant group newly freed Hebrews. A way to protect the people that He cared so much about. (TO BE CONT>>>)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Forever Yours

A song that's hitting me today.

If my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear Your voice
I’ll hold on to what is true though I cannot see
If the storms of live they come and the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith I will believe

Pre chorus:
I remind myself of all that You’ve done
And the life I have because Your Son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours I am forever Yours
Mountain high or valley low
I sing out remind my soul
I am Yours I am forever Yours

When my heart is filled with hope and every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace rest upon me
Staying desperate for You God, Staying humbled at Your feet
I will lift these hands and praise I will believe

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dyslexic Worship...and Bad Band Names

Day 17
God as the receiver of our worship

The piano lessons started for me when I was in first grade. I hated them. I was much more interested in watching x-men or spiderman cartoons on Saturday than I was in learning how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb. This was in the early 90’s so there was no such thing as DVR or Tivo. But at seven years old I did figure out how to program the VCR. Beyond it’s interference with my cartoon routine, I just didn’t like it. I didn’t wan to learn the songs, I was much more interested in writing my own. Now don’t misunderstand me when I say write my own I mean, taking the four notes i knew went together and putting them in a different order.
I did the same things with Legos, didn’t matter what the instructions said I was building my own thing.

This was before the pandemic of ADD the only label the “system” had for me was dyslexia. The thought was that I couldn't’t focus because I couldn’t read. All that is to say, I suffered through piano lessons for almost four years before completely giving it up. Almost six years later I started writing poetry for an English assignment. Not only did I enjoy it, but I was actually good at it. Good enough that I started writing the poetry assignments for my classmates. I’m still not sure how the teacher didn’t catch dozens of poorly spelled well rhymed lines of iambic pentameter. It was this passion for writing that lead me back to music. I found that my poems started to come with melodies. Not necessarily good melodies but none the less. Eventually I started playing songs at church, our church at the time was a hymns only, drums are of the devil kind of church.

By senior year I had put together the stereo typical high school garage band. We called our selves “Barabbas” and had songs with names like “Blood Washed Stain”. We were going to be the next Jars, or Third Day. Oh, if only future me could talk some sense into high school me. I’ll never forget the first time we were asked to “Lead Worship”. The church was about an hour south and it was the bands first paid gig. We were supposed to lead worship for the morning service and congregation of maybe 75 and then do a coffee shop outreach gig in the evening. The problem was I didn’t even know what “worship” was and I certainly didn’t know any worship songs.

This also happened to be the time in history for Christian Music when every artist and their cousin were putting out a “worship” record. I picked up a couple albums from the book store, selected some songs at random and we learned them for our big show. Looking back on it now, it was certainly a train wreck. We sang the songs wrong, they had nothing to do with the message, and I’m not even convinced our guitars were completely in tune. Must have been my dyslexia.

It took me a long time to realize that worshiping God and worship music are not mutually exclusive. The very first time I lead worship for my church in New York one of the elders pulled me aside after the service and said, “hey that was really good, but maybe next time you could be a little less MTV and little more Jesus”. Which might sound harsh, except he hit the nail on the head, at that point it was still about the show. So, why spend so much time talking about music and worship? One reason is that I truly believe leading the community of faith into the presence of God is absolutely a call on my life and secondly to illustrate that even when we are called to do something it doesn’t happen over night. It was ten years before I was truly able to connect with God and serve others in a worship leading fashion.

Worship is not about music, just as much as my inability to do things the “right way” were not symptom of dyslexia. God is the author and finisher of our faith and if he truly is an author maybe we are simply scribes of praise, writing his truth on the hearts of the broken. Grace is God saying I LOVE YOU; and Worship is simply us replying I LOVE YOU TOO. John 4 tells us to worship in spirit and in truth. I really think John is building in this idea that our response to God is both mental and emotional. Whatever it is that we do that is connected to the heart of God and His heart for others IS worship. Whether that be singing, serving, praying, reading, or just listening; it’s all worship..

Second Timothy 2
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, together with those who worship the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Purple Unicorns on a Rainy Day

God as Our Strength to Serve
Day 16
If you have never wrestled with depression, it doesn’t really make sense to you. Imagine the feeling you get on a rainy day, you know that groggy, tired down deep feeling that sweeps over your body around two in the afternoon when it’s been raining all morning. Sometimes it only lasts a min. and then is gone as quick as it came. Well imagine how you would feel if you couldn’t shake it. What if lasted hours, weeks, years? That’s kind of what depression feels like.

When you feel that way, all the verses and encouragement and self help books on the shelf don’t seem to do much more than make you feel bad for feeling bad. Now I’ve never been diagnosed with clinical depression, never asked the doctor for drugs, I did try to self medicate myself with a silver can or a glass bottle a few times but it didn’t do much good. That being said, there are still days I don’t want to acknowledge the rising sun. Days where a shower is the highlight of my productivity between naps. Days when the love of God is is about as tangible as a purple unicorn.

The truth is every-ones struggles are different. But at some point I realized my wars with the me-monster were rooted in unproductive introspection and down-right selfishness. But my problem isn’t knowing that I have a problem. My problem is you can’t argue away a rainy day. You have two options, 1. get an umbrella and face the rain or 2. find away to get above the weather. It’s always sunny above the clouds, if you fly high enough.

Isaiah 40
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

And what are we supposed to do with that strength?

1 Peter 4
8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.11Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We are supposed to serve one another.
I am in no way claiming to have the answer to all depression. I fully acknowledge that there are those who live with legitimate chemical imbalances. But I would be lying if I said there’s not something beautiful in this idea of finding my strength and rest in a God whose yolk is easy and whose burden is light. It would be dishonest of me to say that I don’t believe the truest form of victory over the “rainy day” is to love and serve others.

If you want to see God do something amazing, need Him. The only way to see the light at the end, is to enter the tunnel and face the darkness. I’m just glad our God is a God of light, and that WE are the light of the world. If we can get over ourselves, be honest, and work together as the body of Christ we will shine and radiate and the darkness will hide.

1John 1
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another...

The Difference between Sons & Orphans

Day 15
When I moved to New York to start my ministry training I was invited by the Brown family to come stay with them. When I say family, I’m not talking about 2.7 kids and a dog, no, sub the dog for another 4.3 kids. Abbi, Wesley, Anna, Haddon, Hudson, Baxter, and Ester, for those keeping score that’s seven children. Seven is a big number when you come from being an only child for most of your life. Things work differently in a big family. The older one’s help the younger one’s, every one has different jobs, and if there’s not some sense of working together the whole thing turns to chaos.

Which is kind of what Paul says about the church. We all have different roles, but we are part of the same body. We all cary the same “family name”. There’s also an encouragement for us to aid one another in growth. We have a fancy word for it, it’s called discipleship. If you break it down it’s not more than the older ciblings helping out the younger ciblings, so the whole family works toward a common goal.

There are always disagreements and disputes and times where things are not as smooth as we’d like. But most of the time, for most of us, giving up on our family is not an option. It’s not like a social networking site where we just click a button and the relationship goes away. It’s work, but so much can happen when it starts to pull together.

I was at a conference and I heard this teaching on “sonship” vs. “the orphan” and What the speaker defined as “orphaning out” were, “areas that we are not allowing the presence of God to fill in our lives”... And it’s not like you are one or the other. “I wish it was something I could just pray off you” the speaker said, “but it’s not it’s something He needs to do in you”.

The notes from the talk look something like this.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

gossip dipped in prayer and other ways we miss out.

Day 14
Family Values (part 1 of 2)
Us as Sons and Daughters of God

Will and his wife Sandy were part of my small group before I joined. Will fixed computers and Sandy was a teacher. The two of them with their beautiful daughter made a pretty ideal family. Will and Sandy had insightful things to say during our discussions, were good about bringing snacks, and even hosted our meetings a few times when our usual spot was unavailable. One night my phone buzzed with a text message that said, “please pray for Will he’s been in a wreck”. So our small group sprang into action, one went to look after their daughter, others made some meals, and a few more went to the hospital.

Thankfully only Wills vehicle and the tree he played chicken with were hurt. That was the good news. The report came back that Will was quite intoxicated at the time. Luckily he didn’t even make it to the end of his block before crashing his car. None of us, not even Sandy new that will was fighting a prescription drug and alcohol battle. It was a shock, yes, but more importantly it was an opportunity to love.

Which is exactly what happened. The meals didn’t stop, nor the help with child care. If anything the outpouring increased. The next time Will and Sandy were able to come for small group our facilitator did something totally unexpected. He simply said, “I’d like everyone in the room to go around and say one thing about or reason you love Will. So we did. The group said some of the most encouraging things you could imagine. Not the least of which came from his wife. She valued him, appreciated him, and didn’t rip him to shreds, which no-one wold have faulted her for. It was a beautiful outpouring of grace in such a practical way.

Did Will’s problems disappear? No. Nor did his circumstances change overnight. There were repercussions to his actions, a reaping of the broken decisions he sowed. But for us, that day, we were simply called to love him. This, for many of us, helped build trust in the group, and started an openness in communication of our struggles and failures. And it’s that honesty that helps us on our road to freedom.

When Jesus teaches us how to pray in Matthew, He stars the prayer with two words “Our Father”. The Son of the Living God is showing us how to do the one thing he spent most of his life doing, talking to God. How many times do we see Jesus disapearing off to some hill to pray? I mean John 5;19 says,
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”
Which means every move Jesus made was in prayer and surrender. So if anyone is going to teach us “how” to pray it’s Jesus right?!

Okay so, “our Father”. Pretty specific, and very obvious that 1. It’s not about ME it’s about US and 2. We are a family. He didn’t say “My Father” he said OUR father. I feel like much of the church has spent so much time teaching about “the personal relationship with Jesus Christ” That we’ve missed out on the depth, healing, and power that can come from community driven believer-hood. The reason so many men, myself included, have had such a struggle with pornography is because their afraid to talk about it. We spend years trying to soldier through it on our own. And the enemy continues to try to make us feel like no one else struggles like we do. And this is not just with sexual related sins. It’s everything. I don’t even think it’s so much about trying to keep up appearances, though sometimes that is the case and that is it’s own pride issue. But I honestly believe many of us are not taught what it means to live in community and we are afraid to because of things like “Prayer Chain covered Gossip”. You know what I mean where we cover up our gossip of Jenny and Davids affair, with nice words like, “so if you could just pray for them” and Lord bless em’.

Seriously?! No wonder people are afraid to be honest. We all have the same Father, a father who does not keep a record of wrong. What keeps you from keeping no record of wrong? What do we gain from not embracing each-other. Hear me when I say there is a time and a place for those who are in community to call each-other higher. A place to lovingly correct ungodly behavior. I’m not saying we just turn a blind eye and act like ignorant dopes. But I am saying that unless we start building some trust, and some family values with one another and get over this, “I’m the only one on the road” mentality we are seriously missing out on what God has for US.
Galatians 6
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the FAMILY of believers.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Boring Call & The Amazing Response

God as our "life goal"

The very first time I came to visit Nashville was for a fundraiser. I was a college pastor at the time and one of the girls on our ministry team invited a few of us to accompany her to a benefit ball her friend was throwing. At the time I was still thinking that my future was as a recording artist and I planned on doing some ceasing some networking opportunities. The event was about as fun as I expected. Dancing, live music, horderves and so on. I was introduced to Phillip who is the manager for a few notable Gospel acts. But Philip is not the kind of guy you can scmoose. He’s just a normal guy from Indiana with a heart for the nation of Haiti.

Philip brought this passion to Darren. Darren used to lead a young adults ministry and was also a music industry guy. The passion grew into a mission and the mission into a bible study. Before long a group of penniless 20 somethings were making a substantial difference in Jacmel Haiti. They met once a week to study the word and decided early on that any money that came in would go directly to the people of Jamel. So all of the sudden, these musicians and singles we’re giving to something way beyond the scope of “normal” and it was adding up fast. To the tune of thousands of dollars.

That Bible study is now a church. A church that takes half a dozen trips or more to that little town in Haiti. A church that has given 100’s of thousands of dollars to begin changing a nation. It’s not a very large church less than 200 people and many of them or still penniless 20 somethings, only now they have spouses and families. It’s an incredibly boring story with incredibly exciting results. There was no big fanfare, no celebrity endorsements, no overnight mega church. Just a small group of people listening to the voice of God, being obedient, and changing the world one village at a time.

So much so that when the tragic earth quake hit in 2010 this church was there almost immediately. They had been there serving for three or four years prior and so those more intimately involved were able to use that familiarity to make things happen, dynamic things. This is what happens when we obey the voice of God, and do it for no other reason than because we love Him. And His heart is to love others and so as believers we start seeking to do the will and heart of God and it constantly brings us into the face of loving others.

When God breathed life into Adam, scripture says He literally blew into Adam’s nostrils. He you can’t do that unless you are intimately close. A pastor friend of mine put it this way, “It seems like God gets right down in the sand and blows into the nose of man, and so the very first thing man sees are the eyes of God. Man awakens to life staring in the face of Love.” And that is the gospel; awakening man to a new life that starts by being face to face with Love. Community is not sharing MY life with YOU, or YOUR life with ME, It's sharing HIS life with EACHOTHER.

My friend Ryan started this thing called “People Loving Nashville”. A few years ago PLN was a couple of friends making a few meals and feeding a handful of people. The last time I visited Ryan they had 30 or 40 volunteers serving 130 or so meals. And they were clothing people with a storage locker full of clothes, they were even in the early stages of rounding out their Gospel call by setting up times to visit the imprisoned and the widows. Ryan didn’t wake up with some huge vision of grandeur. He simply answered a simple call to love his neighbor.
Following God is simple it’s just not easy. But I truly believe as we allow Him to truly love us in all the wounded, broken, hurting places of our heart our souls will be restored and renewed and the desire to serve others will grow.

1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Monday, March 07, 2011

Red Bull; Flavored Jesus

God as branded by us
Day 12
I started working at Loon Mountain in the late 90’s first as a children's ski instructor and then as snowboarding coach. I’d work couple days a week in exchange for some extra cash and a season pass. Right around this time in history the U.S. was introduced to a new product in a tall, slim, shiny blue can. I’ll be honest, the only reason I started drinking Red Bull was because there were attractive girls, who were wearing not nearly enough clothes to be running around a ski mountain, handing the stuff out for free. I thought it tasted crushed up sweet tarts blended in a can with some carbonated water. But it was free and it worked, and eventually, like any good drink, I acquired a taste for it.

I still can’t drink one of those things or eat a Nature Valley granola bar with out thinking about cold days on a ski lift in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This no accident; marketing companies get paid millions of dollars to help companies create brand loyalty, so that we get warm fuzzies whenever we think about their product. This is something that Apple does really well. Making their customers feel like part of a special society of hip, tech savvy, consumers.

Have you ever heard the term “ambassador” for Christ? It’s usually something church people throw out when they are calling for some behavior modification. It’s often followed by a list of things that “God Hates” and believers “shouldn’t do”. And this is what Christianity has become known for; what it is that we are against and what we abstain from. I don’t know about you, but having my faith chalked up to arrogant moralism is not okay with me.

Those girls that run around handing out free cans of red bull are called brand ambassadors. They are strategically use to embody the image of the company. Young, hip, sexy, fun, and they work really hard to keep that message consistent. In marketing they call that cohesive branding and identity messaging. I’ve seen a lot of attempts by churches recently to “re-package” Jesus. They use words like relevant, and contemporary. The problem is when you try to mold Jesus to the culture as opposed to allowing Jesus to transform the heart of the culture something gets lost in translation. A songwriter friend of mine calls it the “sneaky Jesus” approach. It’s when you invite your friend to a “cool music concert” and then a pastor comes out from behind the guitar amps and tries to cram the message of the Gospel into a two min. elevator speech. And they walk out of the “7th Floor Jesus” concert feeling like they got hoodwinked while we got back to church to get our evangelism badge.

I do think our faith could use a serious image makeover. But it has to come from a real place. It has to come from people who are compelled to compassion because of the way the receive love and grace from the Father. Jesus was about His Fathers business; which involved caring for the sick, spending time with sinners, and showing culture a different kind of kingdom. Did he encourage them to live well, do make right choices, and seek after wisdom? Absolutely. But all of those things were based on our relationship with God and each-other.

1 John 4
19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

That term “first love” is less about chronology and more related to the idea of first fruits which in Hebrew culture was not just the first crop of the season but the BEST of the harvest. We love because God gives us the best of His love. So feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and all the other benevolent things we do are good things but when they are rooted in God as a response to love, they can dynamically impact the lives of servant and the served. Changing the “identity” and “public opinion” of Jesus and His followers wont come from a marketing campaign or an advertising strategy. It can only happen one life at a time. You and I have the opportunity to re-define who Jesus is in our friends, family and neighbors. Maybe this love heavy spirituality will taste like chalked up sweet tarts and soda water but I promise the more you give it away freely, the more people will acquire a taste for it; because it’s real and it works.

Also Read ROMANS 12

Christ Tinted Glasses

Day 11
God as deposited in others.

Have you ever had those people in your life that you kind of write off? Not in a harsh way you just sort of dismiss them as possible friend candidates. Michael was that person in my life. He showed up in a small group I was part of at the time seemingly out of nowhere. I never met him at church, bumped into him at a party, or even ran into him at Starbucks. He was just some guy, who was fifteen years my elder, and “not very cool” in my book.

You could say I wrote Michael off. That was until a few months later when I was leading a small group of my own. I was speaking on “loving the un-lovable” . It was a good message too. Well delivered and well received, and then I began thinking about Michael. I felt like God told me I should get coffee with him and listen to his story. Me and God got into a pretty heavy discussion at this point. But I knew that if I was going to preach it I had to do it. I knew that I was judging Michael on my standards of adequate and not Gods’ definition of acceptable.

The truth is we are all created with a unique deposit of God’s image, the “Imago Dei”. So when we discount someone, what we are really saying is, “I’m sorry the God in you is not good enough for me to care”. I realized that I needed to change my lenses. I mean who am I to decide who is and is not “cool”. Let’s be honest I’m not exactly The Fonz myself.

I finally swallowed my pride and called Michael. We sat down for coffee and he told me his story. It was a beautiful story, a tough story, with parts that are still unresolved, scenes that didn’t have a romanticized happy ending with a big red bow. But Michael was living through it one day at a time trusting God and it was incredible. After that we became friends, hanging out together more regularly, and though there are times when I still find Michael a little overwhelming, I love him like a brother. Why? Because God gave me the grace to see him through Christ tinted glasses.

1 John 4
10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

God showed his love for us in this way that He sent his son to “get our backs”. If God can do this for us we can do this for each-other. The unique deposit of Gods’ love in me can build up and care for the unique deposit of Gods’ image in you and we can, as a community begin to change the culture of what is and isn’t accepted around us. The truth is, that while we are all created with a unique set of gifts, talents, abilities and qualities; we are all viewed as equal in the kingdom of God.

Collisions 3
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

There will always be seemingly unlovable people in our lives. But if we are created in the image of God and the nature of God is to go after those the world leaves behind...than maybe it’s in our spirits to go after those would soon to be forgotten by society. Jesus is all about instilling value in the unlikeliest of candidates. In the kingdom, adulterers, murderers, alcoholics, and prostitutes are made heroes. The least we can do is pray that God opens our eyes to see people as he sees them. Because you can’t “love your neighbor” if you have your window boarded up, and keep a lock on the door.

One of my pastor friends is constantly reminding me that in the story of life, I AM NOT the main character. That history is HIS STORY. So if it’s not about me and it is about Him than I should be about His business. And let me tell you my Father is in one business and one business only. Loving People.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Golden Udders and Family Mantras

Day 10
God the provider.

So there’s this scene in Hebrew scripture. The children of Israel have been slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years. Moses finally gets the go ahead to “let my people go” and the land is covered in locusts and smells like dead frogs and oh yeah the first born of all the Egyptian families had just been wiped off the planet. And then there’s the horses and chariots chasing the entire nation of Israel to the banks of the Red Sea. You have to wonder what’s going through their mind at this point. What kind of things are they praying? Dear God, please break the chariot wheels, kill the horses, or and get us the gahena out of here.

You know what they probably weren’t praying? “Dear God, please open up the sea, part it in the middle, let us pass through on dry land, and collapse the waters on our enemies”. I would love to hear the conversations, “Dude did you see that? That Moses guy just held up his hands and a stick and boom! … I didn’t even know that was an option!

And that’s what happens with God, when our backs against the sea and it seems like He’s lead us out of slavery and into our emanate demise, He blows the roof of our understanding of possible and does something completely amazing. Let’s fast forward a bit in the story. Moses, whose arms are probably a little tired from all of that staff holding, is walking down the mountain with a couple of stone tablets that were probably pretty heavy. His face is literally glowing from being in the presence of God. He’s making his descent, and as soon as he’s below the cloud level the first thing he sees is a bunch people dancing around a gold cow.

Sound familiar? No sooner does God do something amazing in our lives, something we didn’t even believe was possible, in way that’s so unique and creative, do we turn around and start bowing down before the golden udder. Yet Jesus when teaching the people how to pray said, “give us this day our daily bread”. Which is kind of an illusion to the manna that fell from the sky each morning while the Moses and the people were wandering around in the wilderness. The term manna literally means something like, “whatever it is” or “whatchamacallit”. Jesus after feeding the crowd with the loaves and fish was talking to one of the many who began following him. The follower was asking for another miracle and Jesus basically says, “you don’t need more bread to be multiplied or manna from heaven, I am the bread of life”.

Praying for our daily bread is kind of like saying to God, “I trust you to send a daily supply of “whatever it is” down to provide with just enough “bread of life” for me today”. I honestly think we are told to pray that way, not so we can remind God, but really to remind us. We have this saying in our family, we have many sayings in our family to be honest. But this particular one comes to mind. Whenever things get tight, and we’re trying to make it through, someone always says, “well it’s tough, but we’ll make it one day at a time.” So far we have.

Jesus is teaching the sermon on the mount and he goes through all this stuff about not worrying on tomorrow, even the lilies are clothed in glory, if God takes care of them He’ll take care of you...and so on. And then He says seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and these things (food, clothing, shelter) will be added unto you. Knowing God, following God, Loving God, it’s all simple it’s just not easy. Saying we trust God and actually trusting God is like convincing a kid they love vegetables. We pinch your nose and go for it. And it's hard every time. But it’s always good for you and eventually you grow up, you mature in God and the things that were scary before aren’t so scary anymore. Sure there will always be new things that come along, but perfect love casts out all fear.

Trust with god is like trust with any other relationship. It takes time, and that’s okay. So one day at a time we get to know God more and one day at a time we learn to believe that He’s a man of his word. A man who loves us and has our best interest in mind. Even when it seems like we are leaving one miserable situation for another. Hold on. Love is patient, it believes all things, and hopes all things. Love God.

Stories of Red Sea and Commandment Exodus 14 and Exodus 20

25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’c”
32Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Matthew 6 (same chapter as Lord’s Prayer)
25“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Grand Canyon Eyes

Day 9
God as Majestic

A few years ago I drove from Los Angeles to Nashville with a photographer friend of mine. If your a fan of Christian music chances are you have some of her work in your home, in the form of an album cover or poster. She flew to LA to buy a Prius and asked me if I would accompany her on her voyage back to Nashville. My schedule at the time was pretty flexible and the idea of driving across the country seemed pretty romantic to me. Enhanced by the fact there was a girl in LA I was interested in spending some time with.

We took our time, we stopped in Las Vegas to hang with a buddy of mine who builds and designs magic tricks. The artistic ability of human beings to construct these architectural monstrosities was fascinating to me. I mean the “bigger and better” mentality permeates the very fabric of Vegas’ history. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty impressive. Humans are clever. Adam the trick maker showed us the “other” side of Vegas. The art galleries, the fancy wine bars, and even the local greasy diner with it’s delicious heart attack sandwiches.

Beyond the bright lights of the Vegas strip just before you get to the Hoover Dam is this great little spot in the desert where you can pull of and take in the scenery. The photographer and I took a little hike through the foot hills around Lake Meade. It was something that I can’t fully explain in words but it was one of the few moments in my life where I really “felt” God. I have not yet been to Israel but this desert space seemed like the kind of place Jesus would hang out. We continued on through the beautiful flats of New Mexico where the stars were like sequins on a jazz singer in the 80’s. That trip also held some skiing in the rocky mountains and what seemed like an eternity in the endless monotony known as Kansas. I remember remarking to my companion something like, “I’m not sure why Dorothy and Todo were in such a hurry to get back here!” .

But the high light of my trip by far was this moment we had at the Grand Canyon. We were at one of the main viewing stations and my friend cut her finger on a piece of equipment. She asked me if I had a bandage of some sort, which I being the failure of a boyscout that I am, did not. Interestingly enough the people, complete strangers, around us jumped into action, offering napkins and tape, handkerchiefs, and one much more prepared traveler even had a butterfly band-aid. I remember thinking, “You can not stand in the presence of greatness and not be compelled towards kindness.” It was like the majesty of the moment, the scenery, the sheer magnitude of this natural wonder had everyone under a “nice” spell.

I began to wonder if this isn’t how God works. I mean if you have a true, honest, and real encounter with God, don’t you leave different than when you came? Isn’t that what happened to the woman caught in adultery? Who was likely naked and smelled like sex. He didn't rebuke her he didn't even make her ask for forgiveness he just loved her, saved her life, told the Pharisees to take a long hard look at themselves before they started stoning people,and sent her home. He basically told her, “Go home, and let this moment make you different.”

As I was leaving the park another man who was walking in, said something under his breath that was truly profound to me. He said, “All of this and not an inch of it made by human hands. Could we do any better? No! we would only screw it up.” Which is exactly what happens when like the Pharisees we try to play the roll of the holy spirit instead of letting the true beauty and greatness of God be the catalyst that brings change. Grace is Gods’ to give and change is Gods’ to bring. And I’m so glad he does. Our roll is to share those revelations with each other and encourage each other to keep walking in the “light of His goodness and grace”.

John 8
4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Campfires and war-zones

Day 8
God as a Dad
A few years back I went home to visit my parents. It was summertime and my Dad and I were sitting by the fire pit in our backyard. I was the kid who graduated early, left home a few months before I turned 18, and didn’t spend much time being “home” sick. The truth is by the time I left, that place didn't feel much like home at all. But you never tell that to you parents. You come in for a visit, put on a happy face and make it through the visit.

A few months before this trip I was having coffee with a friend who had recently gone through some pretty serious group therapy. This lead him to the revelation that a lot of the struggles he was having at work and in his marriage were subconsciously tied to this idea that the only time his Dad was ever proud of him was when he was involved in ministry. He had been doing ministry for years, often not even enjoying it at all. Which lead to personal depression, friction in his marriage, and eventually getting let go from his position. Why was he holding on to this thing so tightly? Because, in his memory, the only time his dad ever said, “son I’m proud of you” was after a random ministry event 10 years earlier.

After coming to this realization my friend decided he needed to confront his dad. Not in anger, just in honesty. He drove the six or so hours to his parents house, sat down with his father, and said, “Dad, this is how I have experienced you. whether you feel like it accurately describes you or not, I just need to share with you how i feel.”.
I’d like to tell you that there was a huge revelation moment between the two men. That there was lots of crying and some amazing testimony of redemption. But that’s not the case, at least not yet. What did happen was some honest discussion. And for my friend, freedom from the lie he had been holding on to for so long. Freedom to start a new chapter with his family, to pursue new work, and freedom from the pressure and fear of disappointing his father.

So sitting by the camp fire with my Dad, I began to tell him lovingly and honestly how I felt. I told him that growing up I experienced him as someone difficult to please. I expressed my frustrations with the fact that almost every compliment seemed to be braided with a humiliating correction. I told him that I appreciated him, showing me a good work ethic, and encouraging me to work with my head and not my hands, like he had. We talked about a lot of things. Some were hard, some were laughable. At the end of the conversation there was something in our relationship that wasn’t before. Mutual Respect, I had to let go of all my judgments and he saw me now as someone who stood up for himself.

Neither of us changed necessarily but our interaction changed. I realized my father did the best he could with the examples and life experience he had. It occurred to me that maybe when the bible talks about the sins of the father being passed on four generations it’s not always as spiritual as we make it. My Dad’s father had been an abusive alcoholic, my dad was distant and work driven, I have insecurities and hopefully by the time I have kids they will be free of the effects of that particular line of garbage in our family. But I’m sure they will have other issues, things they will need grace for, things that I’ll do wrong.

Many of us can relate to God as a “father” but it’s very difficult to engage him as a “dad”. I truly believe honesty is a big step in changing that dynamic. Go ahead. Tell God how you “experience” him. Tell him what you think, and why your frustrated and why you don’t feel loved. David did, heck! even Jesus felt abandoned by God on the cross.

Would a harsh, angry, judgmental, distant, and ambiguous God send his son, into a spiritual war-zone, to be captured, tortured, and murdered, in exchange for the lives of strangers who may or may not choose to engage Him in any way? The answer is in John Chapter 3.
The Father showed his love for the world, in this way, by sending his most prized possession out of perfection and into the dirt. So that the curse of sin could be lifted and we could have a loving, perfect, relationship with Him. The work of the cross is done. Jesus was dead, buried, and resurrected. God sees us as we should be, as we will be in eternity. There is no way to impress Him, no way earn His love or respect. We already have it. It’s ours, It is our inheritance. Do we sin? Yes. Must there be repentance? Yes. I’ve spent most of my life trying to perform for God. Trying to “do” enough to make him proud of me. I’m realizing now that's not how he works. I believe "repentance" is not a reaction to MY "badness" it is a response to HIS "goodness".

1 JOHN 3
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.