Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A season of Hope?

Our problem:

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.  For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness.  No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; He who eats of their eggs dies, And from that which is crushed a snake breaks forth. Their webs will not become clothing, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And an act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil,  And they hasten to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, Devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, And there is no justice in their tracks; They have made their paths crooked, Whoever treads on them does not know peace. Isaiah 59:2-8

Our solution:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;  he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1

Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth;  And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;  You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ Isaiah 58:8-9

So here I am, it's nice to see you again.  Yes, I know I am a bad blogger.  I'm sorry for that, and really I only have myself to blame for this.  But enough of that, let's get to the meat of today's post. 

I suggest everyone read the book of Isiah, if you already haven't.  In my opinion, it's one of the more deep books in the Bible, because Isaiah doesn't shy away from either himself or humanity and our relation upon standing in the face of a Holy God.  We fall short in so many ways.  And it's that difference of who we think we are, versus who we really are in the sight of God that Isaiah gets.

I guess in this world of self-help and wanting to hear how good we are, this is a stark contrast.  Because, let's be honest.  Anyone that says "I want to hear how bad I am" is lying- you and I know this.  But it's truth.  Truth that hurts.  Truth that causes pain.  Truth that cuts to the core of who I really am. 

As I sat here in quiet to collect my thoughts, I was drawn to a sermon I have linked to my browser.  I am attaching it below.  It is from Art Katz, and it is very convicting.  It's from a sermon called "And They Crucified Him", and his point is simply, we fall short.  Even our "best Christians" fall short of the plan of God.  Looking at what the Apostles went through, we fall short.  Even though we have every advantage concievable (such as most people have an idea who Christ is whether they believe or not, or that many of us live in such a manner that we can give to others both time and money), we fall so short of the mark of Christ, it's silly.  And that point emphasizes the idea that I stated above, which is simply "we are not who we think we are." 

Don't be deceived.  You are not ok.  I am not ok.  This world is not ok.  It's a corrupt, defiled, worthless piece of crap, and we, who are just as corrupt, just as defiled and just as worthless, are stuck right in the middle of it.  It's no wonder that Jesus tells us to store up our treasures in Heaven.  Because as far as I can see, whatever you get here on Earth is worthless.  Worthless.  Has no value.  None.

This is a different take than what you typically hear at Christmas.  "The season of Hope."  It sounds kind of hopeless.  And I guess that is what makes Christmas so amazing.  Not the whole presents thing.  Not the magic behind Santa- if you believe that.  Not even that Christ came.  No, the amazing thing is that God even entertained the idea to come.  We are so screwed up, this world is so screwed up, the fact that God even entertained the idea is profoundly amazing in itself.  And yet He did.  That's the Love your Creator offers, and the same Love we take for granted, because "we are ok." 

So I guess the obvious question now is what do we do with this?

Stop here and watch the video.  And I'll pick up in a second.

It's funny that this blog comes out right before Christmas.  I didn't plan it this way.  Really, I didn't have a plan to begin with.  A season that is supposedly filled with hope brought me this message.  Kind of ironic if you ask me.  And yet the truth offered here is real.  We are full of ourselves.  A false sense of hope that is offered when one is not honest with themself. 

I wonder what Christ was thinking when he finally arrived as a human.  Maybe it was something like, "What have I gotten myself into?"  At Christmas, we celebrate His birth, and the love He brought that led to the Cross.  However, without the Cross, what's the point of Christmas?  I mean, does it even have a point?  So, even now right in the middle of Christmas, it's the Cross that's still the message.  And it's our inability to pick up our own crosses and follow Him that's still the problem.

So I asked you earlier, what do we do with this?  I'm not sure about you, but this is a tough message for me to read.  Cause truth hurts.  And this is Truth.  I have some choices that I as an individual, and that my family, as a family, have to make in the near future, that could completely re-shape the way, the how, and the where we function as a family.  I need God's wisdom and leadership to do this.  The only way to get that is to acknowledge the above, and acknowledge the Love He shows me, and humble myself to the point where God can use my family to do what He wants.  It is only through that I can ask him for guidance, because I cannot do it on my own.

As far as you are concerned, my advice to you is to seek His face.  Humble yourself, just like He did when He became a man, and take up your cross and follow Him.  Cry out to the Lord.  Ask the Lord to guide your steps.  And do what He commands you.  Don't just sit around and wait on God to put neon signs in your front yard.

There are commands in the Bible right now that "Christians" do not follow.  Take care of orphans and widows, for example. Love your enemies.  Those are just a couple of commands right off the top of my head.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's been a while

Hello again.  As the title obviously states, it's been a while.  I guess I am a bad blogger.  But here I am, nonetheless.

There's a lot on my mind here lately.  Some good, some bad.  And I will get to that in the future.  But today, I am here for a different reason.  I come to you today to talk about my nephew Levi.  Because of a giant hole in his diaphragm which allowed his organs to creep up onto his heart and lungs,  Levi was born with undeveloped lungs and heart problems.  In essence, he can't breathe and his heart doesn't work right.  So he's been on a machine that has basically put oxygen in his blood and pumped it through his body.  Because of that, he doesn't have baby/mommy time, baby/daddy time, baby/ big brother time.  He is stuck on a table with a machine keeping him alive.  And his time is running out.

When I started this blog back in December, the point was to lead people toward hope.  Hope in each other, hope in our lives, hope in Christ.  Hope.  But how do you describe it?  What is hope?  It's not something definite.  Not something tangible.  You can't quantify hope.  So what is it? 

According to merriam-webster.com, hope can be defined as a noun and a verb.  As a noun, one definition is "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment".  So in a sense, it is something we want with an expectation to get it.  The verb definition is similar in that it says "to desire with expectation of obtainment." So in our journey toward hope, we are not only looking for something, but are looking with an expectation of obtaining it. 

So what does this have to do with Levi?  There is not a lot of hope with Levi's family right now.  To be honest, he is on death's doorstep.  If his condition does not improve, when the machines are turned off, he will die. And the Valley of the shadow of death is not a place any parent wants to go.  Brandy and I have lived there for 18 months.  It is a living nightmare everyday.

I tell you all this, because I think you are important to him.  I think you are just as important to him as the doctors are.  Because you have the power to pray.  God loves Levi, just as He loves you.  Undescribeable love.  And He definitely is in control of this.  But there are times I think when He wants us to show Him we belive in His power.  Not because we can make God do anything.  That's ridiculous.  But showing the faith of a mustard seed can move a mountain.  Showing God we believe in Him.  Showing God we have Hope in him.  Looking toward Him to heal Levi and expecting it, because He can fix this, there is no doubt. 

So I am here to implore you to pray.  Fall to your knees now and cry out to God.  Pray for Levi's healing.  Pray that God fills his lungs with air.  That his numbers get better so he can have the surgery he needs.  Pray for forgiveness of a lack of belief, a lack of Hope.  Pray for faith in God.  We are weak only because we don't believe, because we don't hope in Him.  Not because we are weak. 

God is in control of this.  So don't think I am telling you we can control what He does.  And if He doesn't heal Levi, He is still in control.  But we are so afraid of the result sometimes, we lose our ability to not only want something, but have expectation that it will happen.  That's Hope.  Don't lose it.

Like Andy Dufrense said in a letter to his friend Red in "The Shawshank Redemption," "Remember Red, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things..."  In Lamentations 3:25 (NIV), it says, "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him."

Hope in the Lord, for He is good.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Welcome Home

I am sorry for the long amount of time between posts.  I have had so many things I wanted to talk about.  Several topics I thought were important to share.  However, I have not had any time to do so.  It has been a sprint at our house for the past month.  Everyone's schedule has seemed to be in hyperdrive around our house.  Some of if is the time of year.  We have to celebrate 3 birthday's in a month and a half, have 3 sports going on at the same time, etc...  It feels like everyday is packed from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm.  And it mostly has been.  I should add that we are adopting, so we have a sense of trying to prepare for new little ones we've never met.  So March and to this point in April have been moving at a pace I can't remember ever going at before.  Really fast. 

And then we came to last weekend.  To Abigail's birthday party.  To yesterday.  To today.

It's funny, because I've thought about what to do with this past weekend and today for weeks in regards to this blog.  How to approach it.  What to say.  Frankly, how to honor her here.

All I came up with is this:  A year ago today, my daughter died.  I miss her.

Not inspiring, huh?  I guess sometimes the simple truth is the best.  And I'm a simple guy.  So there you go.

I'm not real excited about talking about what happened today last year.  Because I can't change what happened then.  It is the past, and unfortunately, it will stay that way.  Time is this wierd idea that something linear can also be something cyclical.  As if I can re-live this day again because it is the same date as last year. 

Or yesterday, which was the same Sunday on the calendar that she died on.  I can relive it again.  I can save her this time.  I can do CPR better.  I can lock the door.  I can find the library card.  I can say all the things I want to say to her knowing this is the end, not "Be quiet Abigail, you are driving me crazy!!"  (She was screaming in the car on the way home).  I can put her in her crib so she will take a nap.

Anything to change the day.  Anything.

But I can't.  Because time is linear.  We don't relive April 11, 2010.  We live April 11, 2011.  A completely different day.  The earth is in a similar position in relation to the sun, but not the exact same position.  I am a different age.  I look different- more hair in my nose.  Everything is different.  It is not the same day.

So I can't relive the day because it is impossible.  I will not allow grief to take today from me, because it can't take something that I don't have.  I will live today, because today is a new day.  A different day.

Our sorrow comes from only the fact that we knew her for only a short time.  But not from the result.  The funny thing is I am envious of Abigail.  I titled the blog "Welcome Home" because that is what Jesus said to her when she died.  She is in Heaven.  She feels no pain or fear now, no sorrow, no sickness.  Only joy.  Pure joy to be in the presence of our Father.  And his love is greater than mine.   So my sorrow is not for her.  My sorrow is for Brandy and my kids, who have lost a part of themselves in her.  My sorrow is for you, who are missing out on meeting a special person.  My sorrow is for me, because grief is selfish.

I will see her again real soon.  But for now, my job is to live a life worthy of Christ.  Because we are called to lead other to Him by example.  Be like Christ, so others can see what He looks like. Live like Christ, because that is what He calls us to do.  He wants to tell you "Welcome Home" as well.  So does Abigail.

Spend your time here on Earth trying to get to Heaven.  Trying to meet Jesus.  Trying to meet Abigail.

Because this life is all we have.  But it is temporary.  And our lives in Heaven will be Eternal.

"Dear Abigail,

I will see you soon, little princess.  I love you.

Love Daddy."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sometimes the truth hurts

I have been nagged by a thought for the last couple of weeks, and I need to share it.  Frankly, I'm not really sure how to lead into this topic.  It's kind of deep and difficult to process, and it just leaves me feeling hollow.  But here we go.

Have you ever wept for mankind?  I know that's an odd question, but one we all should consider.  Have I ever felt so moved by our lot, and the lot of all, that I was moved to tears?  The sorrow of all our transgressions heaped upon one person would be too much to handle for anyone.  I know I couldn't.  But what about yourself?  Have you ever wept for you? 

That sounds a little bit silly, and a little bit selfish.  But the reality is we are in such a bad state, even the best of us.  I am a total and complete failure, and my sinful condition is utterly reprehensible to God.  Utterly reprehensible.  Let that sink in.  We are not ok.  We are disgusting to God.

Why?  Because He is holy.  And we are not.  To get a little bit of perspective of the grace of God, consider the most disgusting thing you have ever seen or heard about.  Maybe the most disgusting person, or animal.  Whatever that is, I imagine you are utterly appalled by it.  That's us.  The harshness of this idea doesn't change the fact that it is true.  No one wants to hear they are disgusting, utterly reprehensible.  But it's the truth, and in this case the truth hurts.

The prophet Isaiah had a glimpse of this.  In chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah, he writes,

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
   “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (NIV version)
Woe to me?  Another way to say that is "death to me, because I can't handle this difference between God and myself".  Isaiah, a prophet of God himself called to cry out to the children of Israel to bring them back to Him, cried out to be "utterly destroyed", as a different translation puts it, because he saw God just as he was, and Isaiah couldn't handle it.  And he was a prophet.  What would I do?  Tear myself apart with my own hands?  Find the fastest way to kill myself?  I have no idea.  But I imagin I would be looking for a way to be "utterly destroyed" as well.
I'm not trying to put people on suicide watch in my blog.  However, I did warn you that this post is difficult to consider.  I think it's time we face reality.  We face ourselves.  Because it's only through the reality of who we are, and really knowing that, do we even attempt at understanding how much God loves us.  Because we are utterly reprehensible to a Holy God, because we are not holy.  And frankly unholiness and holiness don't mix.  At all.  Oil and water don't mix.  But they are a bad example here because the oil stll touches the water.  It's more like travelling as far east as you can go til you reach the end of the universe, versus going as far west as you can go til you reach the universe in that direction.  Except that really doesn't cover it.  It's more extreme than that.
Remember my example from above.  Just try and take all the love you have and direct it toward that whatever it is.  So much love that you would do whatever it takes to make that disgusting thing the most important thing in your existance.  You would give your life for that whatever it is.  Seems pretty difficult, doesn't it?  Impossible really.  Yet, we have a Creator that shows us that very thing since before we even existed. 
God's love is bigger than that.  Because he never sees the disgusting you.  He just sees you.  And more importantly, he loves you.  He loved you before you even existed, even though he already knew you were going to be reprehensible to him.  Think about that.
Makes everything else you consider disgusting petty doesn't it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Humbled Thanks

I am usually a very quiet person, and keep my thoughts to myself.  Part of that is my personality, part of that is my non-verbal male brain, and most importantly, part of that is the fact that I know I most likely will offend someone if I speak, because I tend to come across very rough when I don't mean it that way. So that's a major part of the reason why I started this blog- it was an outlet for me to collect my thoughts and to voice some of the things I am thinking, without actually saying anything.  I guess it is a way for me to say what needs to be said, in a forum where others can reflect on the message and not the messenger.  So I say all that to lead me to the point of this post.

Brandy and I, along with another family, hosted a fundraiser for our upcoming adoption and for missions.  The idea was presented back in October or November, and through the leadership of my wife and TW, was organized and executed in a relatively short amount of time.  The inital idea was to have a band playing at our yard sale, which we hoped would help bring more people to the yard sale- and this would be in honor of Abigail, my daughter that was killed.  We wanted to do something to raise money for the adoption and for missions to help other people, but at the same time honor the life of my little one.  However, it grew into something much larger and greater than we would have ever imagined.  It went from a yard sale and turned into an event.  An event that humbled me greatly.

My estimate was about 1500 people (give or take a hundred or so) attended the Hope Project.  Which to us was completely shocking.  We never imagined so many people would come and support us.  We had stories on multiple news channels about our family and about the Hope Project.  Which is awesome in some regards, but also frustrating because I had to lose my daughter to get this type of attention. But nonetheless, all of that was very humbling, because the reality is neither Brandy nor I chase the spotlight.  I could really care less about being important.  It's just not for me. So to watch my family's story as a feature on TV was almost a little out of my comfort zone, to be honest.  Yet, many of the people that came to the Hope Project went out of their way to track Brandy and I down and say they saw our story on TV, and were compelled to come and support us.  That is humbling.  Almost overwhelming.

However, the most humbling thing I saw was the number of people who were willing to give up their Friday night, and Saturday, and volunteer to help us.  My guess is close to 50 people.  Frankly, a lot of which I didn't even know.  There is no way we would have been able to put on this event without the generous help of our volunteers.  And I can think of a lot of things people would rather do than work in the hot sun for 8 hours on a Saturday.  Yet, we had so much help.  So many people showed us the love of Christ-doing something you probably don't want to do because it brings hope and joy to someone else, and brings glory to Christ- that it left me speechless.  I really didn't know what to say. 

So I guess this is me saying "Thank you" to everyone.  To everyone that supported our event, whether through donations, through volunteering, attending and buying stuff, or whatever you did, thank you. Thank you for your help, for your kindness and love toward both our families.  Thank you for giving your time.  Thank you for helping us honor God, and honor the life of Abigail.  Thank you for helping us bring home Malachi and Grace.

Thank you from a humbled man.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dear Abigail

Little Princess,

First of all, I am sorry I haven't written you specifically yet.  Part of me doesn't want to admit you aren't here.  Part of me still wants you to run and give me a big hug like you would do almost every day.  Part of me wants to re-do April 11, 2010, and lock the door when I go in.  So I haven't written you yet, and I am sorry.  However, I had a shock to my system this week.  Your monument marker came in on Thursday, and I got to see it in person today. 

You would be so proud to see yourself on this, Abigail.  I know it.  You loved to look at yourself when you were pretty, and you are so beautiful on this marker.  I remember taking the picture of you in the swing at your 2nd birthday party that was on the marker.  In fact, I can still see you through the viewfinder.  You were waiting on someone to push you on the swing.  Remember, PawPaw came and pushed you right after I took that picture.  You were so happy on that day.

Abigail, it is really hard to see your smiling face on this marker with your birth and death date.  I miss you so much.  Your momma and I cry all the time over how much we miss and love you still.  You made our family whole, and we are just broken without you.

I am so glad I was your daddy for 2 years.  I really miss you so much.  It just hurts.  I am glad you are in Heaven with Jesus.  I can't wait to see you again, and get to hold you again.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our Opposite Perspective on who we are...

I hate Joel Osteen.  Well not really, I guess that is a bit strong.  I don't know him, so it would be hard to hate someone you don't know.  However, I do hate what he stands for.  The Jimmy Swaggert types.  Preachers that stand in a pulpit with $$$ in their eyes.  Preachers that are looking to grow a congregation, rather than really reaching people.  Churches that model themselves after business, rather than Christ.  I hate it because it's wrong. 

Please don't misunderstand me, because it definitely can make you rich and famous.  People gravitate to the wealthy, the powerful, the greatest whatever it is.  That is why politicians and sports figures are so popular.  And the pastors of churches that fall in this category definitely can have it all.  And it's easy really.  It's easy to say the right thing that doesn't make you uncomfortable, that doesn't offend.  God wants to bless you.  God wants to do great things for you.  God wants to bring you greatness.  It sure does sound good, too.  Everyone wants to hear that.  God wants me to have this Porche, because he wants to bless me.  God wants me to win the lottery, and I know he will help me because he wants to bless me.  It really is easy to sell this.  Much easier than you are really screwed up, and its only through the grace of God that you are here.  However, the lie above brings in the masses, because it is easy, it is light, and it doesn't offend. 

I should point out that God does want to bless you, but I tend to think these guy's definition is different from God's.  His definition of being blessed typically doesn't include money or power.  But it does include how you impact others.  Think about where Jesus really stands out in the Gospels.  It's not the "Rock Star" persona he shows a few times, especially when he is headed to Jerusalem.  That was great and all, because it showed that the people acknowledged who He really was.  But in my mind, Jesus really stands out when he interacts with people that are nobodies, people that are broken, people with disease.  People that are hurting.  Because at these points, he is their hero, their savior from themselves, their glimmer of hope in what was to that poiint a hopeless existance.  It's that love He shows people that think He doesn't know them from Adam.  It affects them, changes them.  These are the ones that can't be quiet, because these are the ones who saw who Jesus really was.  His impact on the people was much greater when He did a miracle, rather than when he talked to the people.

Don't think I think the words of Jesus are of little value.  Just the opposite, they are the basis of the description of what we strive to be.  Yet, I think God left the His miracles in the Bible because He wants us to know that is what we are supposed to do.  We are supposed to act.  We are supposed to Pray and ask for guidance, but just as important we are supposed to act when it's important.  When it matters.  It matters when people are hurting.  Orphans and widows are hurting.  Homeless men and women are hurting.  People addicted to drugs are hurting. 

I just watched a documentary about sex slave traders in Eastern Europe, and how they kidnap women from families and sell them to people in other contries for sex.  These were sisters, wives, mothers forced to do something they didn't want to do,  It was horrifying, but was reality for these people.  And they were permanently damaged emotionally, probably never able to truly love again.  I also watched a video the other day about a youth group that visited orphanages in an Eastern European country in the past 10 years.  The video showed images of these orphans that was horrifying.  They looked malnourished, and were desperate for someone, anyone to hold them and love them.  Yes, the youth group went away moved by the horrible conditions.  But they went away just the same, and these children went back to their hopeless existance.  No one to love them, to care for them.  This is just two examples, but this goes on everyday everywhere. 

So what is my point here?  My point is we want to hear that everything is ok, that our world is ok.  But it's not.  It is just the opposite of that.  When I look at myself, I see 2 things.  I see a foolish sinner that has been bestowed with Amazing Grace.  God loves me so much, and I am so grateful.  However, I also see someone who is so lucky I was born where I was, bestowed with the blessings I have been given.  I don't need to be rich or powerful.  God has blessed me because he has shown me love.  Our chase for wealth and security leaves us missing the point.  We are already given so much, yet we are greedy for more.  Our greed for our "place in life" keeps us from really doing what Jesus wants us to do.  From really taking up our cross and following Him.  I am terribly guilty of this.  And I think Jesus cries over the ones above, because they are hurting so bad with no hope, just like the ones in the Gospels that He showed mercy and grace toward.  He wants us to be His body, and do the same.  Yet our own pursuit after ourselves prevents us from seeing this glaring need.  Others need us, but we can't get out of our own way. 

So Mr. Osteen can tell you whatever you want to hear.  And you may even get it.  But I am here to tell you it is a lie.  Our blessing doesn't come from what we can get, but what we can give to the glory of Jesus Christ.  And the gift of ourselves to others is really the greatest gift we can give.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Defining Christianity

That was a bit of a break, wasn't it?  Well, I didn't plan on spacing out my posts so far, but, to be honest, I didn't have anything to say.  I guess I'm like Mr. Ed, I won't say anything unless I have something to say.  But I'm glad to be back here again.  And I hope you are too. 

I said from the beginning that this blog would be about the idea of how do we turn ourselves into Christ followers rather than Christians.  I think there is a distinction.  Jesus was pretty clear in the Gospels that taking up your cross and truly following Him is not easy.  And it's not for everyone, apparently.  I can think of at least one example in the Bible of the Rich Man that when he asked and Jesus responded, he walked away dissapointed.  Because he knew he couldn't do it.  So here we are with this dilema.  How do we be like Christ, rather than just calling yourself Christian?  Rather than just being selfish and looking for "fire insurance" as some well-meaning but ignorant people have put it, give ourselves for the glory of Christ Jesus, because he gave himself for us.  For you. For me.  For men, women and kids we don't know, in places we've never been.  Christ did- his life and death exemplified this.  But how do we do this?

I really liked the definition Eric Ludy used in his video about what we are supposed to look like.  I told you that his message comes from, in my opinion, someone who is ordained by God to cry out to us all.  Just like the Prophets of old did.  We are supposed to be different.  Act and look different.  "Odd" and "from another realm" as Mr. Ludy put it in the video in my previous post.  But the problem is, we don't.  And I think we suffer from the same problem that the Rich Man did.  It's too hard.  It's uncomfortable.  And most importantly, it's real.  You can't hide from your own Cross.  That shows not only others who you are, but more importantly, you who you are.  So we walk away just like he did, because we don't want to see it either.

People who are skeptical of Christians have good cause.  If I wasn't completely confident in my Creator and his love for me, for everyone, I would probably be in this camp.  Because too many people calling themselves Christian do too many stupid things that are directly contrary to Christ every day.  We are all sinners, but come on.  People with fish on their cars driving like fools.  People wearing religious stuff, but talking like drunk sailors.  I fall into these, so I am no better.  Yet, it is hard for someone to accept this kind of action from someone who claims to be a Christ follower, but doesn't act like it.  So I can understand why someone would be skeptical.  And in a lot of ways, I agree with them.

It's real easy for us to trap ourselves into our fake lives.  Go to church- everything is great!  Go to work- everything is great!  Go to school- everything is great!  Go to kids activities- everything is great!  That's the cycle we trap ourselves in, the cycle we fool ourselves with.  But the truth is, it's not great at all.  To be blunt, it sucks. 

It's hard to look at yourself- the real you.  But that is what God sees.  He sees everything you despise about yourself, and considers it great joy just to know you.  He loves you that much.  The very parts you hate, He loves.  He loves you just as you are. 

If we are really trying to know Christ, our definition of what that means has to change.  No more hiding behind ourselves.  We really don't have an option.  We are loved in a way we can't understand.  And because of that, we really don't have any grey area to hide behind.  I challenge all of us to be different today.  Take up our real crosses and follow Him.  Because He loved all of us so much, He took up His.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That's my Abigail

Take a look at the video above before reading.  It will make more sense if you do.

The first time I saw this video I cried for 10 minutes.  Nonstop- couldn't have if I wanted to.  It crushed me.  Frankly, it still does.  I have a hard time watching it now without breaking down. I will get to why in a minute.

God puts certain people on this earth at certain times to champion a message.  Think about how the prophets came at just the right time with the right message from God, and how Israel responded.  Eric Ludy, I believe, is one of them.  Looking past the music and his ability to speak, the message he brings here is what is important.  His message is about Life, and how people are important.  People we have never met.  Children we have never met.  We are important.

The first time I saw this video, God spoke to me.  Similar to Eric Ludy, which is weird, but I think in a more powerful way.  God's question for me was "What if that was Abigail?"  At that point, I broke down.  There is nothing I would not do to get her back.  To be honest, if I had to kill someone to get her back, I would.  That is how strongly I feel.  So when God asked me this,  it was crushing.  I can relate to "calling everyone I know; doing anything I can" that he expresses here.  Because I would.

God poked me with this so I could get a glimpse of how much he loves us, how much he loves me.  He knows how I feel about my daughter.  How much pain and hurt there is that she is not here-how I would just about do anything to see her again today.  It was his way of saying "That's how I feel about everyone..."  We are important.  These kids are important.  Mr. Ludy is correct that we live indifferent to what happens around the world.  It really doesn't affect you or I if a child sleeps alone without a family, or for that matter, starves to death in another country. It should, but it doesn't. 

If we really are followers of Christ, we should do what Christ would do, right?  Christ is clear on taking care of widows and orphans.  It's not ambiguous- there's really no grey area.  James 1:27 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after ophans and widows in their distress..."  Psalm 68:5 says "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."  Zachariah 7:10 states "Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor."  If God is the father to the fatherless, and we are the body of Christ (which is God, by the way), shouldn't we be the fathers to the fatherless?  That's not ambiguous to me- thats a clear command from your Creator.

People that sit around and wait on God to tell them what to do are not really paying attention.  He already has.  No where in the Bible does it say to wait to do something you are commanded.  It's one thing to wait on him when it is not real clear in the Bible, such as who to marry.  Such as what line of occupation should I follow.  Those are two examples that are not directly addressed specific to each of us in the Word.  However, we are all addressed when it says to take care of orphans, widows, and the poor.  You are addressed already.  You have been commanded already.  I have been commanded already.  What are you waiting for?  He is not going to put it in neon lights for you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Are we too fat and happy?

I have been away from the blog for a few days because everyone in my house is sick, except me.  I think Brandy has been away from hers as well, so just bear with her.  Hopefully she will beat this bug eventually, and be back to her normal self. 

I have witnessed something in the last couple of days that has given me pause to think.  For 2 nights in a row, I had to go to the store late to get something for Brandy to help her feel better.  Both times I went to the same store, and saw the same employee working there.  And both times I walked out shaking my head at the lack of respect this person gives to customers. 

I don't really want to single out this person, because I don't think it's their fault.  Just a teenager (at least I think) working a job that makes $7-10 hour trying to make some money for whatever reason.  It wasn't the person at all, but the attitude that caught me off guard.  The entitled attitude she offered just bothered me.  And I have seen it everywhere.  Go into a gas station, a fast food restaurant, a grocery store, wherever- and you see it.  People bothered by helping other people.  I am an inconvience to someone else's time.  Having an "you are an inconvience to me" attitude.  It really bothers me. 

Part of it is the fact that someone should be working hard if they are getting paid, and should be grateful for the opportunity to make some money.  That much is obvious, and it really gets under my skin when an employee is rude to a customer because I used to be a manager at a restaurant and wouldn't put up with it.  But the bigger problem is that we don't look at each other as important, and don't think it is important to help each other.  That was what really bothered me. 

I hear all the time on the radio how we used to be a Christian nation and we need to get back to our Christian heritage, and how all the founding fathers were Christian, blah, blah, blah...  I have my own opinions about this that don't really match up with that, but I digress.  I do agree with them on some aspect of this idea though.  One attribute I do wish we would get back to is genuine respect for each other, and genuine kindness toward each other.   In the South where I am, every one is "so nice" to each other.  Most, if not all, of it is fake.  Holding doors for people- learned behavior.  Taking food to new neighbors- being nosy. There are plenty of other examples I could come up with.  I sound kind of harsh here, but hear me out.  These are not attributes of genuine kindness.  These are nice things, but not back breakers.  Not something that makes or breaks you as a person.  Buying food for a homeless man and spending time with him- that's a back breaker.  That's a tough one.  That's genuine kindness.  And that is exactly what Jesus would do. 

I walked out shaking my head because this employee exemplified how we all act toward each other, how I act toward others.  Fat.  Happy. Satisfied.  Unwilling to be moved to something greater.  The opposite of how Jesus wants me to be.  I can see myself acting just like that employee.  Uncaring toward others.  But its more than that because, how I treat others doesn't start with my attitude.  It starts with my heart.  If I am not right with God, how can I be right with everyone else?  That's the real problem we face- our hearts.  We are so out of tune with our Creator, we don't even realize it.  This leads us to such coldness toward each other.  We act this way, because we don't know any other way to act.  And it's wrong. 

To bring hope and joy to others, we must first have that hope and joy. To bring courage to others, we must first have courage.  These can only be found in Jesus Christ.  The solution to the problem I have been talking about is Jesus Christ.  That's it.  There's no other way. 

We are so blessed to live in this country.  Most of us don't have to sleep outside, unless we choose to.  Most of us eat what we want.  If we are sick, we can choose to go to the doctor to get well.  There are those that don't have these choices.  That is their lot in life.  But when we act so coldly to each other, so un-Christ like, I wonder if our blessed state is a curse.