Sunday, June 29, 2008


The reason lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice is that the same place isn't there a second time.
-Willie Tyler-

And His lightning conquered everything around
That dark had to flee
-Caedmon's Call-

Several nights ago I went outside to let the dog take a piss. It had been storming all day so it felt fresh. The air smelt clean and there was a slight breeze. It was really late (sometime between 1 & 2 in the morning) - quiet. There was no moon and the sky was clear over our house. I turned off the light on our mailbox and laid in the bed of my truck for a while. You could see more stars that night than I had ever seen from our house. The thing that made it so impressive was that there were thunderstorms all around. At the edges of my view there were huge dark clouds that were moving fast, but above me the sky was clear and still.

I felt and thought so much in that moment. I felt small and insignificant for a while. Then I began to feel like that night- the hole in the clouds - the breeze- the stars were all there for me. I'm not sure why God created the rest of the universe (maybe just because he could - for fun, maybe because he can't help but create, maybe its all just an overflow of his creative beauty) but that night I became certain that it was all there the proclaim his name to me, in that moment. I thought about how huge the universe is. I thought about how powerful light is. One tiny ray of light created by a distant star can penetrate billions (I'm sure that's too small of a number) of miles of space. I thought about my dad. I read somewhere that light from some stars takes so long to get to us that we may be seeing a star that burned out long ago. The star is gone, but its light remains.

My favorite thing about the other night was the lighting. It was all around me but I couldn't see it directly. I never saw a single bolt of lightning, but every now and then a distant strike would light up the sky. It would wash across my little opening in the clouds and all the stars would disappear. As quickly as it came it went away and I was left anticipating its next strike. That's often the way God shows up in my life. He has rarely been as bright or (obviously) consistent as the sun. I always have the feeling he's out there, somewhere just out of sight. It often becomes easier to focus on lesser lights. I get caught up in things, experiences, and relationships. They are my stars. I'll be cruising along fine and BAM, lighting. When God shows up its impressive. It becomes difficult or impossible to focus on anything else. In those moments everything else fades into the background and there is only Him. I am startled, often frightened. Stunned. Amazed. Completely in awe. I am comforted. Inspired. Moved and forever changed.

I've come to enjoy experiencing God this way. Do I long for dawn? Yes, more than anything. But there is something wildly exhilarating about knowing God is out there, just waiting. I think this is good for me because through most of my early life I was living a high noon type of spiritual life. I think I sort of took it for granted. I may have even come to resent it a little. I talked with a guy once that had spent several months in the Arctic Circle. The whole time he was there the sun never went down. He said it was nice for a while but it eventually became exhausting. He couldn't sleep, his body clock got all screwed up. He said he found himself hoping for and even seeking out darkness just so he could feel normal. I've said that but now I'm not sure its a great analogy. I never wanted to be out of the light, never sought darkness. I do think I became exhausted. My Christianity was based more on adherence to rules than reliance on grace. That'll wear you down after a while.

I have become thankful for the night. The transition was a bitch, but the rest is nice. Its here in the night that I've experienced times of real peace. I've begun to see and experience the heart of Christ. Growth isn't as constant as it might be in the sun, but when the lightning comes its powerful and change happens instantly. Between strikes there is calm - between them I find Jesus. Yesterday I was unable to understand and experience God and Jesus at the same time. I saw God's hand, but not Jesus' heart. I hope that when tomorrow comes I'll be able to simultaneously experience both (I think that's the center point of the cross). For now I'm grateful for the experience of the night - resting in the arms of Christ, waiting for lightning to strike again.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The bigger picture- I obviously really messed this one up. I never meant to imply that Jesus doesn't or didn't meet the needs of the individual. Christ has been involved in my life in an exceptionally personal way, it just seems to me that its done in service to and in order to further God's glory. I would agree that its in serving the small picture that the big picture is taken care of. I just think its important to remember that there is a big picture. For every blind man who sees there is a Job, for every lame person who walks there is a Lazarus. While both those stories end well there are times in them its clear God isn't doing anything. I've been there, when it feels like God's hiding from you its important to remember that there is a bigger picture. It makes the waiting bearable (barely). Understanding the big picture reminds me that Job was restored, Lazarus was raised. Healing is coming. The big picture is that God is good, in the long run. Knowing we're in it for the long run provides hope in the here and now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Bigger Picture

I have a God whose tears fill the scars that cover my heart. -Lindsay Mizell-

I have two very close friends whose compassion leaves me in awe. Its hard for me to understand how one individual can be so willing and able to help carry the burdens of so many. I love to be around these people, it makes me better - more aware. I will say, however, that it also annoys me a little. I often think they get so caught up in the needs of one they loose sight of the big picture. In my opinion they are in such a hurry to come to the rescue here and now that they forget to address or even recognize root cause of the problem. The simplest example to explain is the belief that pharmaceutical companies are evil and the government should step in and force them to sell medicine at a fair price. In most ways she's pretty conservative, but show her that one old man who can't open the mayo jar because he couldn't afford his arthritis medicine and she goes all to pieces. She wants to government to step in and make his medicine affordable. Now, we all know (as does she) that the problem with that is government sucks at it. Need an example? Check out Canada. The solution to the problem is to keep the government out of it and let the market regulate price. Takes too long for my friend. While we're waiting on that the old guys hands keep right on hurting. The difference between she and I is that she sees the individual in pain now and I see a major problem that needs a long term solution. I do this with everything - except my own life.

A while back in a small group a friend of mine was telling the story of Lazarus and began to talk about Jesus weeping out of compassion for the pain Mary and Martha felt. As he talked about Jesus' compassion he become so moved that he began to cry himself. He looked right at me and through his tears told me that Jesus wept for me, for my pain. It really pissed me off. The part of the Lazarus story that gets me is the part where Jesus waits around for Lazarus to die before he does anything. Lazarus didn't have to die, no one had to hurt. It angered me that Jesus would allow the pain and then act hurt by it himself. If Jesus didn't want Mary and Martha to hurt he should have come when they called him. If he really cared he would not have let them experience that pain.

This story has been difficult for me lately. I've seen so much of the heart of Jesus that is so beautiful. The story of Lazarus seems so strange to me now. It shouldn't - I've seen it played out in my life and the lives of people I love so many times over the last ten years. The only difference is we don't get to see our loved ones resurrected - yet. I know Jesus lets us hurt but I also know he weeps for us. Its difficult for me.

It has occurred to me lately that the reason its so difficult for me to understand is that in this story I'm the one hurting . That makes it difficult to see the big picture. I want God to prevent my hurt - put a band-aid on my wounds. Jesus sees a bigger problem - one that requires a long term solution. Christianity is a long run experience. In the long run the best thing for the world is to see Jesus. The only way to fix the problem is to have God glorified and his name lifted up. Jesus let Lazarus die so we could see that God has power over death. Jesus allowed Mary and Martha to hurt in order to show a dying world that there is hope.

I don't think Jesus wept as much for Mary and Martha as he did for a world that is lost in a broken system. Jesus wept because things are not as they should be. Jesus spoke of his coming kingdom, a kingdom where the blind received sight, where the lame walk and the dead rise. He spoke of a perfect kingdom - free from pain and despair. I believe the man in Jesus wept in longing for that kingdom. I believe the God in him wept because he knew what it would take to usher it in.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." Leonardo Da Vinchi

Monday, June 16, 2008


"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

I took my dog through a car wash tonight. My wife and daughter were both in bed (one sick the other an infant), the Lakers had just stretched the series to game 6, and wasn't even close to tired so I figured I'd go for a drive. Duke loves to ride in the truck so I took him with me. I hadn't planned to get the truck washed but I drove by and the truck was dirty so I figured why not. I let Duke in the cab and settled in with my milkshake (I love having a milkshake in a car wash, weird but true). It became obvious pretty quick that I wasn't going to be able to enjoy the milkshake.

I turns out my big boxer dog is a sissy. As soon as the wash started he freaked out. He laid in the back floorboard for a while and whined, then barked and pawed the window, then just paced back and forth. He ended up on my lap watching the horror out the window. During the soap cycles he watched nervously as the machine moved down the truck. During the rinse cycles he laid with his head on my leg and growled deep down in his chest. When the wash was over I couldn't get him out of my lap so I pulled out of the bay and opened the door. Usually when you open any kind of door Duke is out in a dead run, but this time he just sat up on my lap sniffed the air and growled. He would raise up like he was going to jump and then loose his nerve. After a few minutes the lure of fresh air and open spaces became too much and he took the leap. You should have seen him run once he hit the ground. Not from anything or to anything he just ran because he could - because he loves it. He wasn't afraid anymore, he was free.

As I watched him run around the parking lot I couldn't help but think about how similar I am. I do the same thing all the time. God puts me in a situation I'm unfamiliar with or does something I don't understand and I do the same thing. It seems like when I'm not sure what to feel I just run through them all until I find one I can handle. Most of the time, like Duke, I settle on a combination of fear and anger.

This being Father's Day I'm sure you know where this is heading. That's where I was - afraid and angry. For years after dad died I didn't do church on father's day. I played golf, drove through the mountains, slept in - anything to avoid going to church and listening to some preacher talk about what a great father God is. Last year was different. Kyla was pregnant and I was technically a dad. I had to go. I'm glad I did. Not because I got to stand up and be recognized, because I had the opportunity to share my story.

Several weeks before last father's day I ordered a poster from a website where I get a lot of my favorite tee shirts. It is a picture of a Bible opened to Jeremiah with 29:11 underlined. I didn't get it because I like the verse, I'm not sure if I even read it before I bought it. I got it because I thought, as a Christian, it would be good to have a poster like that in the house and it was only a dollar. Several days after I put it up I was having a particularly bad day. Father's day was so close people had begun to plan for it and I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to go, but I didn't feel like there was anyway around it. I sure didn't feel like a dad. I came out of the nursery and as I rounded the corner into the den the words or Jeremiah jumped off the wall at me, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper not to harm. Plans to give you hope and a future." I that moment I heard God as clearly as I ever had or have since. I heard him say, "You know that I will take. Now know that I will give, that I am good."

Its difficult sometimes for me to remember my dad the way I want to. The images of the last several weeks of his life a so terribly powerful that they often overshadow the previous twenty years. I can see him in that hospital bed sick - weak and yellow with his hair all fallen out. That's the memory I most often have of my dad. However, I find that when I'm doing something I love (especially if its something that he loved) all the other memories of him come rushing back. When I play or watch basketball I can see the first video he ever shot of me dunking in a game. I got a steal and was in front all by myself and he got so excited he watched with his eye and not the camera and missed it. I can hear him yelling and then explaining to the camera how great it was and how he couldn't believe he didn't get it on tape. Every time I take off in an airplane as soon as the wheels leave the ground I can see his smile. His face bright with barley controlled excitement. I loved the way he tried to act like he wasn't just a big kid, like it was no big deal. I swear I think things like that excited him more than they did us, he always seemed be having more fun than everyone else. At night when I sit alone in the dark I can still hear his voice, all of our best talks were in still dark of night after curfew. I would come in from being out and he would be there, sitting quietly in the dark. I would come in and sit with him, sometime we would talk - more often then not we just sat there together in the dark. He always seemed to know what to say, what I needed to hear. Tonight in the dark of my kitchen, with my daughter asleep in the next room, I hear the echo of his voice again.

Run. God has opened the door. There is nothing to fear. You are free. Run.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
—Barry Lopez

I was talking to someone the other day and they kept referring to their "own personal testimony." The thing that bothered me about it was that they never shared it with me (I guess that's why they call it personal). That bothers me for two reasons: 1. I'm nosy 2. It really could have touched me in some way and I think sharing it is the least they could have done. I know your testimony is usually an intensely personal thing but I don't think its a excuse to keep it a private thing. I think its a special sort of arrogance to assume God changed you just so you would be happy. God changes things, its what he does (when he's not creating them). Your personal testimony is not yours, its God's.

Having said that it occurs to me that I haven't shared my story (in its entirety) with you.

I got saved when I was six or seven in a church in South Georgia. I don't remember much about it. The pastor's name, the prayer I prayed, the feeling I had - all lost to time. That always created a problem for me. You hear people all the time talk about how God radically changed their lives. I spent years embarrassed by the simplicity of my "conversion experience."
Over time I began to doubt if I was ever really saved. It seemed to me that being saved is something you would remember. It was on a little mission trip doing some revivals with a pastor that God began to show me the truth of my testimony. The pastor we went with had a nasty habit of asking you to get up in the middle of a service with no prior warning and give your testimony. I knew I had to come up with something. As I began to think about my story I began to pray. That was it, I prayed. Why, because I am saved. It occurred to me that God had saved me from the things others had been delivered from, he just did it before I had the chance to be hurt by them. I'm convinced I was saved the minute I stepped out of the pew as a child, but I also think its something I grew into. As I grew God grew. When the world pushed to increase its influence over me God pushed back. I am his - always have been.

Before I get into this next part I want you to know that I love the church. It was the church that introduced me to Jesus and when I turned away it was the church that paved the way back. That said, I think in all my years of attending church I never really got a clear picture of who God is. They tell you a lot of nice stories in Sunday School. You hear a lot of pretty sermons in "big church." They paint a picture of a God who is nice and fun. A God that gives, and God that defends and protects. Its a picture that is altogether accurate and beautiful. The problem is that it is also incomplete. God gives, but he also takes. He is merciful, but he is just. They tell you how simple it is to be saved, how basic the gospel is. They often fail to mention that God is infinite and we are not. They don't tell you that God will do things you won't understand and if you bring it up they tell you to have faith. The church likes to shy away from difficult questions. The thing is, life is difficult. When my dad died I was not equipped to handle it. I had no framework through witch to understand a God who would let that happen. How could God be good and my dad be dead at the same time? I couldn't make sense of it. For me it became an either or sort of thing. Either God is good or my dad is dead. Every minute of every day I know dad isn't here. Its hard to have that kind of certainty with God. I didn't know what to think or feel. Doubt and confusion created an emotional void, anger quickly filled it.

Most of the rest of the story is contained in earlier post so I won't go through it again. The important thing to know now is that I know God is good. Not because good things have happened in my live but because God had allowed me to see more of his heart. I see it in my community. I realized how and to what extent in a recent conversation with someone I hadn't seen in like ten years. She lost her husband several years ago and asked how I dealt or deal with dad's death. I told her that I have great friends and that I leaned on them really hard. She asked how they helped and without thinking I said,"they leaned right back." I meant it in the Forrest Gump, don't sleep with our heads in the mud, sort of way but it made realize that the thing that helps me the most is not their strength. Its their vulnerability. I want to know I am not alone in my pain and doubt. I want to feel normal. Not having a dad makes me feel like an outsider, an orphan. I need to know how God changed you because it helps me understand how he changed me. I need to know that my story is your story. The only way that can happen is if we both tell ours.

Monday, June 2, 2008

All That Used To Be

And again I see my yesterdays in front of me
Unfolding like a mystery
You're changing all that is and used to be
-Garth Brooks-

I feel like my discussion of pain was both incomplete and inaccurate. So I'm going to try and revisit that in a minute, but first I'd like to talk about the Old Testament. A friend sent me a link to a blog site where a guy was talking about stoning. He seems to think its a practice the church (and society in general) should bring back. That's the last I'll mention him (he's obviously a complete moron) the problem it created for me is that it got me looking up information about the Old Testament. It turns out that a lot of Christians seem to want to apologize for or dismiss the Old Testament. That really bothers me. I know that Jesus fulfilled the law so we're not subject to it, but that's not grounds to dismiss over half the Bible. I don't get offended, but I think I was as close as I've ever been today reading that crap. The Old Testament is a beautiful picture of who God is and what he wants for his people. To me it has always been a story of how far God will go to restore, about his willingness to pursue and rescue us. The Old testament is about love not anger - hope not judgment - promise not punishment. The laws and the consequences for breaking them seem harsh if not viewed through the cross. Why, on this side of the cross, would we afraid to discuss the harshness of Old Testament law? It seems a perfect opportunity to mention that Jesus paid that price. Yes, the price for rebellion is high, but it has never been ours to pay.

Ok, so my problem with my previous post on pain is that it seems to suggest that pain is what we were created for. That was never where I was coming from. I do think that pain is what's left when hope and beauty are gone, but I don't think its the whole story. I think the reason I'm uncomfortable with my last post is that I've has a little shift in my understanding of my struggle with pain. I used to think that I was 200% man. 100% fallen and 100% forgiven. I thought my struggle was with the other side of who I am. My dark side, the spirit battling the flesh. The problem with that is that it suggests that the blood of Christ did completely cover me, that somehow my sin is still part of my identity. I've come to realize how destructive that view is.

I had a little moment in my car outside a Mexican restaurant last week. Something I was counting on had fallen through and I thought I wasn't going to be able to do some things I was planning on. It seemed so typical. I had really thought this was going to be different. I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, so I couldn't understand why God would end it before it ever started. I was devastated but not surprised. I heard this Garth Brooks song on the ol' IPod (God's favorite way to communicate with me) and it was like God was asking me what I was actually afraid of. I was afraid that things would always be what they had always been.

It seems my struggle is not with dual identities, its with a past I can't completely shake. I remember. I remember quitting, failing, loosing. I have of history of loss and disappointment. I don't have a problem identifying what I should do, I have a problem getting it done. Its difficult for me to believe its going to be different this time. In those moments of doubt and fear God has always found a way to reach me, reassure me. This is my time. I've been waiting so long to be completely healed. I know that this is my moment. I may not be able to forget my past, but I believe God has the power to change it. Its time I shake off whats left of my former self. Its time to change all that used to be.

This new position shifts the way I view pain. I used to think it was the default human feeling (wow, its sounds really bad to say it that way). I no longer think pain is what happens when we the good is gone. I think its what happens when what we were created for is in conflict with what we're actually doing. For me this has played itself out in countless different ways. Its easy to identify most of the time. When someone dies, when relationships end, we understand that it wasn't supposed to be that way. We know we're created for community and when we loose that we hurt. I think we were created for more than just life and community. I think God gives us individual passions. I think they all in some way reflect the heart and personality of God. I've been reminded of mine. Its always been there, I'm excited to rediscover it.

I don't think this new thing is the answer, but I believe its an answer. Its another piece in the puzzle. God has been at work in my life for so long. He's revealed himself in powerful ways. I have a better understanding of who I am and who I'm supposed to be. I've been given community and family. Its nice now to have something to do.