Needs, pain, and grace

I read an interesting note today that has me thinking…alot. 

“I don’t need you” is the language of the wounded heart.  Needs give us the capacity to experience love.” – True Faced

This is one of those moments when it feels like God is doing everything to say, “Um, Jim?  I’m talking to you.”  How many of us have experienced the pain of feeling betrayed by a friend, family member, boss, co-worker, or pastor?  I personally have distanced myself from some of the dearest people I’ve ever known because of such feelings.  Who among us hasn’t?

Now please keep in mind that I’m not talking about someone who has intentionally inflicted such a wound that to withdraw and sever the relationship was  necessary for safety’s sake and the wise thing to do.  That’s a different matter.  I’m talking about the very real hurt experienced when either by action or by word you feel, “Your friendship is no longer valued” or “I don’t need you”.

Ok, we’ve all been there.  Now what?  Well, what example do you think I found?  The only thing I could think of was the relationship between Christ and his disciples.  Christ lived with Judas for years prior to the night of the betrayal.  He knew what the man was doing (stealing) and would do (betray him).  Yet, Judas was afforded the same treatment and love given to all the disciples. 

Stay with me, here is the cool part, the “Needs give us the capacity to experience love” part.  My pain, my sin, my messed up fouled up hurt…is the opportunity to experience grace that I so long for.  It isn’t about cleaning myself up or getting my life right.  It’s about going to God and saying, “God I CAN’T do anything about this.  I CAN’T fix this.”  Now the hard part.  Instead of trying to do something to fix it, what happens if I trust God to fix it?  Scripture says, it is impossible to please God without trusting Him.  His greatest command is to love Him and to love others.  What if, like Christ, I concentrate on showing love even toward those who have inflicted great pain.  If we concentrate on that and believe Him for the rest…I wonder what will happen to this hurt we feel?

It isn’t easy to show grace but then again, things of great value are rarely easy.

It’s All About Me

That’s right, it’s all about me and I can prove it.

I have finally found the answer to questions like; “Why don’t ‘they’ get it?”  “Why can’t they just (enter whatever topic here), like I do?”  Or, my personal favorite, “Why can’t they handle it like I would?”

Well, here is the hard cold truth.  It is because I am the center of the universe and I have scientific evidence to prove it.  Since the universe is ever-expanding, it stands to reason that the further something gets from the center the smaller in size it appears. 

For example, it is a beautiful moonless and cloudless sky.  We walk outside and look up to see tiny specs of light.  Is it not true that those tiny specs of light are actually stars, planets, even entire galaxies that are many times the size of planet Earth?  And is it not logical that we assume the universe is ever-expanding or at some point in time expanded to its current state?  Obviously then, if something expands it starts out from “the center”!  Conversely, if the universe was expanding TOWARDS the Earth, these items would appear larger.   The principle proves that I am that center of the universe.

Please reference this simple illustration.  

I am standing in the front.  As the distance from the person next to me increases then that person begins to decrease in size.  They appear to get smaller, less significant, with less influence and relevance until finally at some “vanishing point” they fail to exist at all.

I’m sure this particular post will be difficult for some to fully appreciate.  However, those who are closest to me and who see life in the same exact manner as I do will no doubt be enlightened.  As you begin to understand this truth you will be closer to me and therefore have greater universal significance.  Should there be dissention or opinion to the contrary do not attempt to correct, argue, or debate.  Simply begin moving to the back as illustrated, please continue back,… keep going,… just a few more steps… 

I have art for sale. Asking $1.5 million.

Thank you to everyone for the kind words and birthday wishes!  It’s a great day. 

My 7-year-old daughter set her alarm and woke up early so she could fix me breakfast in bed.  I had eggs, toast, bacon, and hot coffee.  She also made me a sculpture commemorating our largest achievement of the year; she learned to ride her bike.  More on that later.

My wife and in-laws treated me with tickets to Spamalot, a cultural juggernaut and right up my alley! 

My new job is going well, and if things go according to plan a new office will be in place at the end of the year.  My very gracious employer has already agreed to leverage our grand opening as a fund-raising event for a local children’s charity.  Details will follow after the holidays.

All that to say, I’m enjoying being spoiled! 

I would like to ask a favor.  Check out WorldOrphans.  Their model is one I dearly love.  They empower a local church to meet the needs of their community and then help them create the means to become self-sustaining.  I’ve seen widows and widowers take on six to ten kids and begin their own families.

I would like to ask your help in a couple of ways.  One, post their link to your profile, Twitter, or blog.  They are working in so many areas of the world, you might create a supportive relationship by introducing them to someone in your network.  Two, consider giving a small gift. 

A friend once asked a very legitimate question, “Why are we “helping” orphans in Africa when we have so many challenges right here at home?”  Personally, I don’t care if it is Africa, Haiti, China, Ukraine, or America… one less orphan is one less orphan.  One child with a bed is one less child on the street.  I don’t care where in the world it happens, it just needs to happen.  If supporting World Orphans isn’t of interest, then maybe one of these others are: 99 Balloons, Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.  Or, if you dare, find one near you and give to them.

Being born was great and all, and I would take the credit but Mom really did all the work; however, it would sure go a long way if I knew being born helped someone I would never meet.

Marlow's First Bike Ride

And regarding the artwork:

It is my daughters sculpture of her riding her bike.  The sculpture materials are drinking straws, wire, rings and duct tape.  It’s currently on sale for $1.5 million.

Thanks again for your kind words and for making it a great day!!

Halloween vs. Fall Festival

Another great observation by a friend of mine today got me to thinking about the church’s reaction to Halloween.  And in my typical fashion, I started looking at the holiday and what the church might consider in its marketing strategy.  Before I go too far into my diatribe, I should preface this with some ground rules:

  1. I’m referring to churches that like to provide a “Fall Festival” or seasonal event as an alternative to the traditional Halloween party or Trick or Treat experience.
  2. I’m also making the assumption that these fall festival events are meant as some type of outreach to the community.
  3. Finally, I’m making the slightly cynical assumption that like our fair town, it seems every church on every corner has their own variation on the same theme.

Speaking as someone who enjoys strategic marketing I wanted to pose some questions and perhaps an idea or two.  In my past experience with Fall Festivals, Judgement Houses, Harvest Festivals, or whatever you want to call them; it seems to me the primary objective was to provide an alternative to Halloween.  Is this perception correct? If so, then it begs the question, are we as Christians providing these fall festivals as an alternative to Halloween for the sake of our own membership?  I submit that most churches promote these events primarily to their own church body.  Yes, it is certainly open to the community at large and church’s are rightfully excited to have visitors attend the event; however, the vast majority of those that attend are already members of that body.  The effect of such an effort then actually works AGAINST what the church would like to achieve.  Rather than it being an effective outreach tool, it becomes another event insulating the congregation even more.  The perception being, the church is less in touch with its community.

If the church really wants to make inroads into the community it would seem necessary to change our perspective.  Rather than have an event at the church, which is one of the last places a non-church going person would think to go on Halloween,  it would seem vital to get into the community somehow.  What if the church encouraged families to stay at home and pass out candy to revelers?  What if little notes were given out with the candy sharing God’s sweet love with a sweet treat?  Take it even further…what if strategic homes were decorated with stories from scripture to teach lessons?  I would be happy to turn my garage into a lion’s den.  I would invite all the kids in to meet Daniel (played by someone who is not so bright).  I’m sure the wild nature park would loan me a couple of lions to pull it off. 

Joking aside, the reason for this logic is simple.  If the same number of church goers stayed at home and passed out candy with a positive message to kids in their neighborhoods, a far greater number of non-church going individuals would be touched. 

My discovery today was this; until we start questioning why we do what we do we’ll continue doing what we’ve been doing without really knowing why we’re doing it.

NPR, Seriously?!

Ok, first let’s take a look at the SCANDALOUS video.  The big statement is made in the first minute but please take a moment to hear the whole thing.  Anyone with an attention span longer than 30 seconds will see Juan defend Muslims as a people and his point, WHEN TAKEN IN CONTEXT, is a valid one.

I’ll preface my rant with the following.  I believe firing Juan was wrong and I see it as a threat to the American people.  Here is why.

There are a  million things one can debate on the specifics of the event but let’s step back for one freakin second and look at the big picture.  National PUBLIC Radio is supposed to be one of the stop-gap measures in free speech.  It is SUPPOSED to be a means by which the public voice can be heard.  That’s why any garage band with local support can buy time on a public station.  That’s the concept in a nutshell.

Now we hear outcries for the federal government to cut funding for NPR (which is about 2% of its overall operating budget).  Let’s stop the reactionary, knee jerk, throw the baby out with the bath water manner in which we try to resolve an issue.  A minor one at that!

Freedom comes with responsibility.  You learned it in grade school remember?  You had personal freedoms until somebody hurt someone then a rule was put into place to stop it.  It’s the same thing today.  We have freedoms as long as we except the personal responsibility of those freedoms.  If we decide individuals needs rules to demonstrate societies expectations then we’ll make a law. 

There are a couple of things that have me terrified.  1.  The reaction of the decision makers at NPR to fire him in the first place.  2.  The threat of cutting funding as a means to correct the problem.

The problem to me seems to be with leadership at NPR.  Aren’t they supposed to encourage free speech?  Isn’t it a good idea for debate to put an ultra conservative and a liberal on the shame show for just such a discussion.  Why is it so wrong to talk about what so many people think about?  We’ve all been scared or intimidated by an individual that looks threatening to our own sensory filters.  No discrimination occurred.  No prejudice was exercised.  An emotion was expressed.  And later, the emotion clarified in his defense of a people.  Secondly, how in the world does cutting funding solve the issue?  All you’re doing is limiting the continued effectiveness of the program.  Cutting NPR, one of the “people’s” means of being heard only gives the government more control.

The issue is poor leadership at NPR.  Don’t cut the funding!  Cut the staff!  Replace them with people who are more concerned about responsibly promoting freedoms and less concerned about being politically correct!

I’m done ranting.  I’m going to a football game.

My story doesn’t fit.

A friend of mine recently returned from a conference.  He was telling me about some of the speakers and how impactful the experience was.  It challenged him on multiple levels; professionally, personally, spiritually.  He was genuinely moved by the entire experience.  He then shared something with me that stuck with me.  I don’t know which speaker to attribute it to so forgive me.

As you read the stories throughout scripture, especially the New Testament, consider this.  If your life’s story was put to paper and someone wrote about you, would it fit into scripture?  I have friends that are moving across the globe to be missionaries.  I have friends who adopt orphans.  I have friends who… you get the idea.  Their stories fit into scripture.  They all expressed the same thing.  They saw a need and simply responded to trying to help.  In their own individual ways they expressed Christ’s love.

Now for the tough part.  Turn the magnifying glass upon you.  Or, in my case, on me.  I have a hard time with this part.  If I look at my story… it would NOT fit in scripture.  That’s the tough part.  Keep in mind, I’m not talking about perfection here.  The souls recorded in scripture were flawed in countless ways.  We’re all broken vessels to some degree.  It may be pride, greed, or any desire that places ourselves above God’s command.  What I’m getting at is the manner in which people followed Christ.  It’s an extremely simple, extremely extreme form of commitment.  They changed their lives based on, “Follow Me”.  They dropped careers, family, homes, and even their lives because he asked them to live as he did.

Now, my story doesn’t fit… but here is the good news.  My story isn’t done.  It’s still being written.  Maybe I’ll be like Noah and hit my stride when I’m 70+.  Maybe it will be a flash in the pan moment.  Maybe it will be a lifetime of daily struggle with no apparent result.  Maybe I’ll raise my arms and part Beaver Lake.  It doesn’t matter what or when it is.  What is important is that I live each and every day completely sold out to one thing.  To live as Christ lived.  To love as He loved.  To hold firm on truth and communicating Truth in Love.  I am alive, therefore I can keep writing.  I can change those things I don’t like.  I can write a story worthy of print in scripture.

Suck it up cupcake!

Ok, life’s hard.  We all have “seasons” where life just seems hard.  Getting out of bed is harder than it’s supposed to be.  Working hard never seems to pay off.  No matter how many vacations, breaks, or rests you take, they’re never enough.  Your friends seem to be a million miles away and nobody “understands you”.  Maybe your spouse is looking at you with a curious look and wondering what in the world is going on with you.  Your kids would rather play with a brick than with you.  You can’t get to sleep at night and when you do, it’s guaranteed that you’ll wake up at 3:00 am and then fall back asleep at 4:00 which ensures you’ll not hear your alarm at 5:00.  Any of these things sound familiar?  (These things have never happened to me personally but I’ve read about them in books).

How do you pull yourself out of such a miserable place?  STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.  Focus all 3 ounces of your energy on a positive scripture.  Anything that gives you the slightest inclination of hope.  I’m not giving any verses to you… go look it up.  It has to be yours.  You have to own it.  Why?  Any preacher, teacher, friend or rabbi can give you a verse out of Jeremiah, or Romans or whatever and tell you what they think.  But you lose something in the translation.  IF God’s word is what it says it is.  IF God is who He says He is.  Then YOU have to try to believe that He is talking directly to you and only you.

Go directly to the word of God, find a verse, passage or story that gives you hope enough for today and today only.  Focus on it.  Dwell on it. Do whatever you got to do to think on that each and every time the world starts to crowd in on your thoughts.  Beth Moore, Francis Chan, or Dave Ramsey may be great folks and “experts” in their field but you need to go to the Creator of hope to receive hope.  Look at this way.  Experts built the Titanic, God spoke to an armature to build the arc.

Ok, now let’s open a Bible and find hope.