Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thoughts from a dumpy airport in Detroit

When he came down from the Mount, having redefined morality, all eyes were on him, watching waiting to see if he lived what he preached. What would a life lived in such a way look like anyway? He was new on the scene but had made it clear the game was changing.
The other was defiled, outcast. Forced to live on the outskirts . Abandoned and forgotten. This man knew not to go near, the law demanded he keep his distance. He couldn't help himself. He knew that if someone could help him it was this Jesus. The leper comes as close as he dares and throws himself on his knees before his last great hope, "If you're willing you can make me clean."
Jesus is moved with compassion, literally. He closes the gap between himself and the leper. The man on his knees has not known human contact for some time. He longs for it as badly as the healing. Jesus doesn't need to touch to heal, he has healed silently from the county over already. Not this time. This is a about love, this is the sermon's illustration. He touches the untouchable. "I am, you are."
Jesus is speaking in riddles again. Staying a few steps ahead, he will not be caught, not yet. Old wine in old skins. I know it's not what he was addressing, but I keep getting the image of old dusty wine bottles stored in a cellar. The wine may be good but there is no real connection to it. You don't know where it came from or how it came to be in front of you. You sit in polished clothes at polished tables drinking from dusty bottles.
The new is different, you'll pop the cork on this new wine with sweat on your brow from the harvest and feet stained purple from the press. It is personal -near and connected. Jesus came here to be with us, lived as one of us. He wasn't faking it, winking at our humanity while coasting by on his deity. He loved and hurt and was playful and tired and lonely like we are. He had friends and plenty of enemies. He flipped religion on its head, I fear we spend too much time and energy trying to flip it back. What we see as reverence and tradition is often the stuffed religion of the Pharisees.
Jesus was so different, so real. We are his and we can know him. Our relationship with him is not about rule and ritual. It's about long walks down dusty roads. It's fresh fish cooked over a fire on the beach. It's resting against him over a long meal. Being with Jesus is 900 bottles of good wine to keep a party going and catching a fish with money in it's mouth. The reason we don't see or hear from Jesus is that we refuse to believe he still operates that way. He his God and worthy of our praise and worship, but he ripped the curtain and ushered us into a place of personal connection with him. His disciples didn't call him Sir or You're Holiness. They called him Jesus, they were on a first name basis. I believe we can have that same relationship with him. I believe that changes everything.
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Location:Conner St,Detroit,United States

Monday, February 27, 2012

Further Up, Further In

When I was younger my family used to picnic in the mountains at Chimney Tops picnic area and occasionally hiked to the peaks it was named for and rested in the shadow of. I loved it there, I still do. I don't go much anymore because its far away and I think I'm busy.

The river there is powerful and littered with giant boulders. It's wild. Just sitting at a table in at place with a bucket of chicken felt like adventure. As a kid I explored every inch of the river there. Jumped from boulder to boulder, warmed myself in the sun on rocks large enough to build a house on, swam in pools deep and clear, and I hid. I hid behind rocks and under fallen trees. I found places that were mine. I was a great adventurer conquering worlds previously unseen. I laid claim to them and them to me.

Years later, after my dad died, I found myself there again. When I felt alone or afraid in the noise and pressure of life filled with loss and pain I would retreat to the one place I knew was mine. Unchanged and wild. It wasn't adventure I was seeking, it was rest. The things that fill our bellies with adventure often fill our hearts with peace.

I've said I don't go there often. Its not the first place you get to in the mountains. We usually go to Townsend or Cade's Cove, they're closer. On the edge of the mountains. Kind of far, kind of wild. They are quiet and safe. The "Tops" are further up and further in. Less accessible and harder to find. They are difficult and loud. They are rugged and fewer go there.

Today my heart aches for that place. I want to live with a faith and explore with a God that is wild and unsafe. To be further up and further in. I want peace and rest. Not the fake crap I create for myself with apathy and distance. I don't want isolation. I want adventure. The kind of adventure that pours you out and leaves you open and exposed. I want to run and jump and bask and hide in the untamed places of grace. I want to be lost in the call - swept up in the river. I want to forget myself to become small and powerless in a place of God's overwhelming love. I will continue to search every inch of grace until I find a place of truth. A place of rest. A place to hide and be known. I want to lay claim to it the way it has to me.

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Location:State Highway 336,Maryville,United States

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent: Like a cheater on autopilot

I'm terrible at lent. I've rarely done it and when I have it seems that the lack of Coke makes me irritable and gives me headaches until I just drink Dr. Pepper as a substitute and then feel defeated like a cheater. This giving up of a specific comfort seems so small in a life filled with so much abundance. So small, and yet impossible for me. I'm not doing that again. I may be able to do it at some point. I need a heart change that leads to a desire to give up these things. I'm not convinced it can work the other way, at least not in my life. Even if I did succeed in giving up something I'd probably get all proud and make it all about what I accomplished. No, I need something simpler - something more powerful.

I think I've come up with a decent solution. It comes from A.W. Tozer's Pursuit of God. The idea is to live a life were God's glory is paramount. Where His glory matters above all else. I think Tozer's description of such a life is among the most powerful and promising things I have ever read.

"“Be Thou Exalted” is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is a little key to unlock the door of great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let the seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually “Be Thou exalted,” and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once. His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it has been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity. By the exercise of his will he has set his course, and on that course he will stay as if guided by an automatic pilot. If blown of course for a moment by some adverse wind he will surely return again as by a secret bent of the soul. The hidden motions of the Spirit are working in his favor, and “the stars in their course” fight for him. He has met his life problem at its center, and everything else must follow along."

Wow. That's the guy I want to be. I love flying on autopilot. So, for lent I'm going to try and set that course. Tozer ends the chapter containing the above quote with a call to pray a very powerful prayer. I've changed some of the language to make it easier for me to memorize, but the idea and the most moving and beautiful of the language in it comes straight from Tozer. I'm going to pray the following everyday until God, in all his grace, grants it. I'm going to pray it until life and lips line up.

Lord, be exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth's treasures will seem of value to me so long as You are glorified in my life. Lord, be exalted over my friendships. I am determined that You be above all, even if I must stand deserted and alone in the darkest valleys. Lord, be exalted over my comforts. Even if it means the loss of abundance and the carrying of heavy crosses I will keep this promise I make to you today. Lord, be exalted over my reputation. Make pleasing you my only ambition. If I must sink into obscurity and have my name forgotten in order for you to be exalted then, Lord, let it be. Rise into Your proper place of honor in my life, above my dreams and preferences, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that You may increase, let me sink that You may rise above. Use me as a vehicle for Your glory, Lord, that I may hear the world cry out to you, "Hosanna in the highest."


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Voice

Even with good intentions and great talent we will completely destroy ourselves, everything and everyone around us if we are not intentionally and consistently seeking to be in the presence of and in step with the will of God. If we are submissive to the voice of God in our lives we will be powerful, unique and world changing. Even great talent and extraordinary motivation are loss when separated from from the creative voice that brought all things into existence. If we look away for a moment we can, like Peter, succumb to the storm around us and be lost to the waves.

This has been a challenging week. A week where I'm completely off balance. I've felt like a baby deer trying to stand on a frozen pool. No traction. No footing. Nothing to hold on to. I've found some solid ground in Psalms 139 and in The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.

God is everywhere. We can be nowhere that he is not near. He knows us and loves us. Our problem is often that we choose to be blind to His presence and deaf to his voice. I took the above picture last week on a short flight down to Atlanta. It's one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen. The picture in no way does it justice. There can be no doubt that there is a God and that he his powerful and creative and loving and beautiful. This picture is the natural out flowing of his nature. The creator expresses himself in and through his creation. With a simple and powerful, "Let there be..." God spoke all things into existence. John says that in the beginning was the word and that same word is still present, still speaking life and beauty - adventure and love into the lives and hearts of those who will quiet themselves and listen. Allow yourself to hear his voice and submit to his will as he leads you in the way everlasting.

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Location:State Highway 336,Maryville,United States

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Build A Rocket

I'm impatient. I always have been, I'm impulsive and all about instant gratification. I have made some really bad decisions in attempts to get where I think I need to be in the shortest amount of time. I do not like waiting. It seems God enjoys asking me to wait. I think it's our thing. It's way more important than that makes it sound. Like the young ruler and his wealth, I don't want to let go of my timeline. I want to put God's plans on my schedule. It doesn't work, turns out God has a pretty specific timeline in mind for these plans of his.

I had lunch with (I was going to say best friend here, but I think that comes up short. Imagine how little Jimmy Olsen feels when he finds out that Clark Kent, his friend, is also Superman, his hero. It's like that) this guy I know today and he is in the same place I was in before I started flying full time. He hates his job, hates it so bad it effects how he is in other areas of his life. You would think I would be the perfect person to give advice (@jonacuff is the perfect person to get this advice from but he lives in Nashville plus I must of lost his #. Read Quitter). I used to hate my job and now I love it. Anyway, the problem is that when I was there I didn't handle it very well. I gave it very little effort, fortunately it didn't take much. I hated it so bad I started to hate myself a little. I got very good at a dangerous game called self-deprecating humor. It's dangerous because people love it. It's dangerous because you start to believe it. I made jokes because I felt small and everyone laughed and knew they were jokes - everyone but me. I started to believe they were truth. It's hard not to. Then I quit before I really should have. I did not do it right. One major problem, it's worked out beautifully thus far.

What do you say there? I did it this way and it worked great but thats wrong and you should stay in that crap hole you're in until God opens another door.
I doubt that would be well received. Ok, so I don't know.

I do know that God has extended to me more grace than I could ever have imagined. It extends beyond salvation and redemption. This scares me to say, but I think it's bigger than the cross. Its difficult to look at the enormity of what was accomplished on Calvary and continue to look for more - it can't possibly get better. Can it? I'm starting to think it can. This grace has been so freely given that it has begun to wind around and influence every part of my life. What God seems to want is to do life with us. At church we talk talk about joining a life group to find people to do life with. Finding a God to do life with is more than I ever though possible. Jesus provided us a way into the very presence God himself. It's invitation to lay our plans and their time lines out next to God's and see first hand that his ways are better. It's to know that every aspect of your life in the hands of the almighty.

Sometimes these things take time. It's the tension we live in. We are created in God's image with his life breathed into us and yet we live in a very finite space. We seem to only want part - to grow up but not old. We long to take hold of the beauty and adventure that is all around us but our reach is short and our grasp is weak. We need a partner in this. I believe that when we ask God for the moon his response is usually, "Ok, let's build a rocket boys".

Build a rocket is an album by Elbow and I listened to Lippy Kids on flight down today, that's where this idea comes from. Buy the album.

I'm doing these from the IPad, as I'm sure you can tell from the tag it will add just below here. It's going to make this process kind of fast and dirty. I don't know how to do much on this thing and typing is awkward, this has not been proofread. I hope his allows you to get what I'm thinking without all the bull I would edit in later. I'm afraid you may also get a lot of bull I would have edited out. Let's face it, you read this blog and you're in for a lot of bull. This way is faster which may lead to my doing it more. If you hate it let me know and I'll go ahead a block you. Thanks

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Location:Gulf Center Dr,Fort Myers,United States

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I want a little bit of everything, the biscuits and the beans, whatever helps me to forget about the things that brought me to my knees. -Dawes

Over and over again I try to forget. I fly and read and dance with the kids. I smoke cigars and drink whiskey and laugh. I love my wife and watch T.V. I write and Facebook and text. I read everything but Bible - talk to anyone but God.

I try to keep moving, but I'm on my knees. Tonight I remember. My daughter asked why I don't get to have a daddy. Then she wanted to know where he went and why he can see Jesus when we can't.

Those are tough questions, but they lead to more difficult truths. The reason I struggle so much has little to do with my Dad. His death may have been the trigger, but it's apathy and selfishness and pride that destroy me. Oh, and I'm a liar. It's my shield. I do it so you never know me entirely. It's easier to be unknown and accepted than known and rejected. I would love to tell you all my secrets and have you love me anyway, but I know you wouldn't.

It's insanity that, with that mindset, I talk to anyone but God. Every single time I spend any time with God it's always the same thing. "I know you completely and I love you perfectly". Over and over God demands that I remember and then further demands that I accept his grace. Quiet time feels like a game of "who's is bigger". My shit, his grace. He's won, which means I win. The truth is that he offers what I want most: unconditional love and acceptance. I can't understand why I keep running from it. I know I'm holding on to something. I'm afraid if I play this final card he may not have the grace to trump it. I'm afraid I'll win and lose it all. We all do it, I think, accept that God's grace is bigger than any sin but our own. I don't know why. I wish we would stop. I'm not sure how. I'll close with some of the verses I cling to in the hope that you believe them. In the hope that, someday, I can too.

And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:16 (those last three words will be included in the tattoo I may some day get)

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

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