Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's This For

Today I had every reason to have a great day. The weather was beautiful, work went smoothly, I read something that moved and encouraged me. I had every reason to praise God in every way, but I didn't. In fact I consistently chose to do what glorified God the least. I feel like every decision I made today was the wrong one. It seems to be the pattern in my life now. No really bad decision just a lot of poor decisions. I didn't do anything I'll regret weeks from now because I didn't do anything worth remembering. I live like the absence of bad is good when I know perfectly well the opposite is closer to true. God didn't put me here to not screw up or stay out of the way, he put me here to bring him glory and advance his kingdom. I did neither today.

Tonight I read Deuteronomy. The thing I love and hate about Deuteronomy is that in it you see how serious God is about himself and his glory. It terrifies me. He keeps saying do this or I'll kill you. Don't do that cause if you do I'll have to kill you. Something about me loves that he doesn't make any excuses about it. He doesn't apologize for his justice, he doesn't down play his sovereignty. He simply says do it my way or I'll have to kill you. I love that he can do that. I love that he's justified in doing that. I hate that he has to kill me.

I hate that on several occasions today I chose my way. I hate my inability to simply obey. I hate that when the chips were down I forced God's hand. I chose death - over and over again.

As I read Deuteronomy my mind raced over all the things I've done that I may be able to give God in exchange for my life. What do I have to offer? I went to church Sunday. I prayed almost every day last week. I told some folks about Jesus sometime last month. I went to game night with my small group. I played games and met new people. God knows I hate that - it should be worth something. In my mind I offered these thing up to God to try to settle the score - pay what I owe. As quickly as I did I heard his response. "What's this for?"

What do you mean what's this for? You saw what I did today. You know the choices I made. The thing is I could hear in his voice that he didn't have any idea what I was talking about. Not like that guy that bought you dinner last week and remembers but doesn't want you to pay him back. There was no laughter in his voice. Not a hint of sarcasm. No sly smile that says I know but don't worry about it. In my head I'm standing there holding all my crap up to God like its a trophy or credit card or whatever and I realize that he seriously has no idea what I'm talking about. He has forgotten - all is forgiven.

With all the bad choices I made today I'm amazed to realize that one good choice I made 20 years ago in a small church in South Georgia trumps them all. I have already chosen life. Christ has already provided it.

Friday, April 18, 2008


...but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Romans 5:20

Several years ago I had a series of, well, driving incidents. I got three tickets, a fender bender, and totaled my Explorer in a fight with a tractor trailer all in the same year. The tickets were bull (at least two of them, really) and the big wreck wasn't my fault, but my insurance company called and I had to have a meeting with my agent. It wasn't a big deal, he just informed me that if I had any more incidents they would drop my coverage. He said he didn't think I had a problem but they wanted to make sure before those small incidents turned into something more destructive. It wasn't the individual instances they were worried about, it was the pattern.

I'm afraid I'm having the same problem again. I don't think I'm making really bad decisions right now, but I know I've made a lot of kinda bad decisions. A couple days ago I lost my head a little. I had a really bad day at work and when I got home my daughter screamed at me for a good 45 minutes. The thing that really set me off was my wife's suggestion that I let her calm my daughter down. The thing that pissed me off about it was that I knew it would work. I knew that I was pretty well at the end of my rope and I knew that my seven month old daughter could tell. My wife suggested I go for a drive, it always calms me down, and I decided to slam doors and throw things on my way out. These little drives of mine always have two things in common, I go towards the mountains and my Ipod is on shuffle. I do the latter because God always seems to play the song I need to hear (I need a "God is my DJ" bumper sticker). That night it was the sweater song, that's right, Undone by Weezer. God tends to get to me in weird ways, at least it wasn't George Michael.

Watch me unravel, I'll soon be naked. Lying of the floor, I've come undone
. I kept thinking about the way Satan takes my smallest imperfections and hangs them out there for me to mess with. And I how I can't help but pull at them. A lingering thought - a loss of temper - a slip of the tongue. Each pull is so small that I barely notice. Its a slow process until I'm suddenly undone - completely exposed.

I love that in that place God always shows me something. Lately its been unpleasant things about myself, but Tuesday was different. This is what he showed me: I found myself stopped on foothills parkway staring at one of the most breath taking sunsets I've ever seen (I took the picture with my phone). God chose to remind me that he is beautiful. Where there is pain He brings beauty. Where there is sorrow He provides comfort. Where there is rebellion He offers forgiveness. Where there was debt He provided justification. In despair He is hope. When I am stained by sin He washes me in grace.

Right now God is constantly reminding me to be mindful of the choices I make. Tonight I'm reminded to be careful of what I choose to see. I really have a hard time understanding why I choose to see the bad. Why can't I see the future in the face of my screaming child? In my house I see clutter where there is abundance. At work I see stress instead of provision. I see immaturity instead of youth. Age instead of wisdom. I see the world where I should see creation.

I'm sure by now its obvious that I don't know where I'm going with this or how to end it. I guess I just wanted to say that in every moment we have a choice. My hope is that I choose life. And I'm thankful that when I don't grace abounds.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Choose Life

Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Every time I come across these verses in Deuteronomy I find myself wishing it was that easy for me and knowing that is should be. Today was the first time I've read it since becoming a dad and I was really bothered by it. When my inability to choose right affects me I can handle it. When through my actions I choose death and pain - when I don't obey - when I let go - I'm ok with living where that takes me. It seems fair that its often difficult for me to choose life because I don't deserve it anyway. My daughter does. She deserves life and she deserves to see her father choose it, for himself and for her. She should be able to see that her dad loves the Lord. It seems that I have no choice but to obey. I must hold on. The question is - and for me always has been- How? Its a question I need to have answered.

After reading Deuteronomy today I felt really defeated. I was reminded of what's at stake. I have to choose life, if not me, for Aliza. I knew I didn't know how. I became really frustrated. I didn't understand why God would give me such a beautiful daughter and not show me how to do right by her. As it often does confusion turned to frustration and frustration to anger. I was angry. I had taken the time out to be in the word and all I got was mad. About the time I got so angry I couldn't continue reading there was Acts 18:5. Paul was occupied with the word. Yea he was. That's it. Q: How do you choose life? A: Be occupied with the word.

What an amazing concept. I've had it backward for so long. I've been occupied by life trying to take time out for God. My occupation should be Christianity. Its my job to live well. My full time job. Its time I got to work.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Problem with Freedom

The problem with freedom is that it rids us of excuse, and in the absence of excuse lies responsibility. My faith -my life will be what I make it. I know of nothing more terrifying.

I think the idea of reaping what you sow is lost on a generation that can so easily go to the grocery store. I've been guilty of trying to buy faith with tithe and church attendance. It seems easier to do than be. While we're talking about freedom I feel like I should mention that I love America. It seems to me that if your a Christian living in America you probably have more freedom than you know what to do with. It seems that every brand of freedom has a price. To date my freedom comes at a price of over 650 thousand American soldiers and one perfect lamb of God. God forgive me for ever taking that for granted. (If your in the military or ever have been and have stumbled across this blog, thank you). Wow, I just got really off topic. I'm not sure now where I was going, but I think what I was trying to get at is that instead of working at my faith I've been hiding in my past - behind my pain.

I'm beginning to think that I fear freedom more than pain. I think I've been relieved to have a reason for the brokenness. An excuse to be less than I what I've been called to be. I've heard, read, and thought a lot about forgiveness lately. The problem with forgiveness is it frees us from our past. As I begin to embrace God's forgiveness I can feel the shackles of past sin fall away. As it turns out, I can't embrace the forgiveness of Christ without being changed by the reality of grace. As I accept forgiveness I learn to forgive. This has proven to be an inconvenient lesson. Its nice to not be burdened by the past. It sucks to not be able to use it as a crutch. Before I can run without burden I must learn to walk without aid.

I'm rambling, and probably not making any sense. I heard a song I haven't heard in a long time this week and its become the soundtrack of this way of thinking for me this week. I'm obviously not going to be able to make a point here so I'm going to leave you with the song and hope it hits you the way it hit me.

If ever you are feeling like your tired
and all your uphill struggles leave you headed downhill
if you realize your wildest dreams can hurt you
and your appetite for pain has drinken its fill
I ask of you a very simple question
did you think for one minute that you are alone?
and is your suffering a privilege you share only?
or did you think that everybody else feels completely at home?

Just Wait..........Just Wait...........Just Wait.......And It Will Come

if you think I've given up on you,your crazy
and if you think I don't love you well then your just wrong
in time you just might take to feeling better
Time is the beauty of the road being long
I know that now you feel no consolation
but maybe if I told you and informed you out loud
I say this without fear of hesitation
I can honestly tell you that you make me proud

Just Wait..........Just Wait...........Just Wait.......And It Will Come

if anything I might've just said has helped you
if anything I might've said helped you just carry on
your rise uphill may no longer seem a struggle
and your appetite for pain may all but be gone
I hope for you and cannot stop at hoping
until that smile has once again returned to your face
there's no such thing as a failure who keeps trying
coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace
-Blues Traveler-