Halloween is the greatest holiday in the world

Nothing creates satisfaction quite like gooey mouthfuls of melting candy. The sugar rush alone can skyrocket your brain into utopia… if only for a few seconds. It’s for the kids… It’s for fun… It’s just plain good. And who doesn’t like to pretend you are someone or something else for a time? Dressing up creates. It is amazing what imaginations and stories can be spurned from draping a simple cloth over your shoulder while wielding a stick wildly in the air. To give yourself over to these whims is liberating.

Halloween is the greatest holiday in the world because it rejects sustainability in favor of overindulgence. It faces fear not to conquer but to torment the senses. Halloween is the perfect mocking of life. It celebrates the antithesis of health. It pours revelry into a moment of virtual rebellion at odds with the cosmos. It reveals a core problem – we don’t appreciate life.

Obviously I hate fun. You should probably stop reading now.

Halloween is the best this world has to offer. That is why so many people love it. But what if there was something even better?

To suck the marrow out of life with fleeting joys is the stuff pacifiers are made of. To binge is human. I have felt the satisfaction of eating what my mouth wanted even when my stomach said, “Enough!” I have worshiped the porcelain goddess, bowing low over her to deposit my bile, after too many drinks. In this world of pain it is human to escape. It is so much easier to be cynical and satyrical than to care. However we must not confuse escaping with life. We must not call the weekends or the holidays or retirement LIFE.

LIFE is what happens every single day. What we do with our days is what we do with our life. It is a gift to be cherished not a present to be unwrapped and as quickly discarded, in search of the next one. Every moment of the day is pregnant with possibility. Goosebump-raising, spine-tingling, life-building adventure awaits TODAY.

So please, dress up, eat candy, revel all you want (as if you needed my permission), and please do it every single day with:

  • un-fleeting joy
  • a celebration of life not death
  • actions that honor yourself and others
  • strength and power not superstition and escapism

There is more available than the best this world has to offer.

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herringbone and grace

I like to think of myself as a manly man. I love the outdoors. I’m not afraid to get dirty. I have a beard because I don’t want to look young and clean and polished. Yeah… it’s weird. Camping, guns, knives, working with my hands, are all on the list of my loves. Those are things I DO but there are also things I AM that I think define my manliness like: loving my wife, being an awesome dad, looking out for others in a protective way. These things flow out of my core; they are not just hobbies or interests, they are life.

But I have a confession… I like herringbone. Well, I love herringbone. It feels almost unmanly to me to say that. (Insert your deep psychological analysis of me here: ________. That’s enough… Now back to herringbone.) There is something about this pattern that just captivates me. I love the creativity of it. It changes before your eyes. The more you look at it you begin to see multiple facets and patterns that emerge from the simple alignment of short lines precisely angled at 45 degrees to each other. Wherever I see it I am drawn to it. Brick walkways. Inlaid wood. Woven thread. The details intrigue me.

Community is much the same way. Every single time I interact with people in our community I am intrigued by the details. I am talking about real life details – defining moments, wisdom gained from hindsight, or better yet, from not repeating other people’s mistakes. Stats and vicarious joys tend to bore me. I listen for the WHY. I want to know what makes your heart beat, what makes you bring creativity and life to the world around you, what you get angry about, how you wrestle with pain and suffering, why you invest your resources the way you do.

These things used to scare me. I have lived in the place of feeling paralyzed because I didn’t want people to know me. I was afraid of what they would think. I was afraid to be myself.

Healing that wound has taken a lot of time and the more time I spend with God and the people who are following Him, then the more I become comfortable in His grace. Grace allows me to be who God has created me to be. Grace stops the comparison that happens in my head and it heals my heart so I can follow God’s design.

Like herringbone, the grace of God has so many facets. It will unfold in our lives will increasing dimension as we trust in, rely upon and cling to, God’s design. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

A new chapter

A lot has happened in the last month. Too many things and far too valuable a journey simply to list but these words will begin this new chapter.

 

death where is your victory
where is that sting that you so boldly wave
where is your power in light of love

where is your prick of hate in an ocean of grace

death i leave you breathless

Joy shall reign in my soul
Hope unending is promised and received
Christ delivers always
There is life in pain, there is spirit to fill every void, every crevice
-to conquer every fear
-to resolve every chord of bitterness
-to offer the overflow

Christ is King and life unending

 
 
Grace and peace to you.

becoming generous

We have all heard it… “it is better to give than to receive.” And in that instant there is some part of our brain that yells, “ that is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard!” What is that voice? Sometimes the words slip out of our mouths before we can sensor them and we realize that we sound selfish or cold-hearted but there are still those nagging thoughts going on in our minds that fight to try to justify how giving things away is better than feeling the rush of getting something new.

We all want newness. This is part of the struggle. We live in a world where things fall apart and the “sense” to provide for ourselves first and foremost is all too common.

But new becomes old far too quickly. It just doesn’t last and with the passing of days and weeks and months, we have to continue the quest for newness to feed our appetite. Unless… we step outside of this circular thought and let God renew our minds.

Because it isn’t just better… it is best.

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. – Jesus

It is in this struggle that we have an opportunity to walk in the shoes of Jesus. It is in this struggle that we find one of the many treasures of life that God designed – the genius of generosity.

Giving frees me to worship. Giving away our resources and providing for the needs of others provokes worship. Blessing others with your time, abilities, or money accomplishes at least three things that are in line with God’s work in the world.

1)    It relieves stress and offers hope to the recipient by meeting a need.

2)    It humbles both the giver and the recipient if done as an act of worship to God.

3)    It frees the giver from a self-centered mindset.

My wife Rene’ and I have been blessed to realize that we are continually on both sides of this equation. We always have something to give and we always have a need. The genius of generosity is that we have the opportunity to walk hand in hand with people and take another step towards becoming like Christ.

It is a great paradox and it is a great truth – that will resound throughout our lives if we will follow the words of our Lord. We, His people, need to be known for our generosity… for His generosity. When we understand that all we have is because He has given it to us then we also realize that we are to be stewards of His resources.

How are you spending God’s money? What are you doing with the time He has given you? How are you giving yourself away for His glory and your good?

The only reason to ask these questions and to answer them honestly is to take steps, leaps, and bounds towards worshiping God with everything we are. Here is a list of some great steps for us to take as we move closer to the heart of God in generosity:

-intentionally and regularly give time to serve your community

-give offerings (money) to meet needs that resonate with your heart

-give tithes (10% of income) to facilitate the tangible ministry of the local church that you call home

-intentionally use your talents to equip and encourage people

Our precious Jesus gave it all and calls us to be like Him if indeed we are His followers. May we follow in His love and grace and overflow with generosity beyond the smallness of our own lives and resound with joy until the whole world knows the beauty of our God.

loving others

A few weeks ago I found myself alone and hungry one evening so I decided to go out for a bite to eat.  I ordered up my mountain of food with a side of lard and then my heart sank as I reached in my pocket and found… nothing. No wallet. No cash. It was as empty as my stomach.

The girl read my face before she even heard my words and she said, “Don’t worry about it. It happens to everyone at sometime. I will just comp it to you.” She punched in a few numbers and signed a piece of paper as I fumbled with my words and thought of a plan.  I wanted to repay. I didn’t want to rely on grace.

I thought of a plan to repay and told her that I knew someone that worked there and I would give the money to that person to pay my debt. When she heard the name of the person, she said, “That isn’t helping your cause… they don’t work here any more.” Along with those words came some knowing looks between other employees who were watching my awkward reliance on grace and I realized that something had gone terribly wrong with the person I mentioned.  I stopped that part of the conversation and thanked them so much for being gracious and let them know that I was truly appreciative… but inside my heart was sinking.

You see, the person I mentioned is a follower of Christ.  My sinking heart wasn’t because of judgment or condemnation. I wasn’t angry with this person. I was upset because of reputation… because the door was closed to let them know that person was part of my community of faith and that person was an ambassador for Christ.

King David was a man after God’s own heart but he let himself get into a series of events in 1 Samuel 11 that led to lust, adultery, lies, murder and the death of a child. The man who was sent to speak the truth to him told him that he had given opportunity to the surrounding people to blaspheme God. The story didn’t have anywhere to go but forward from there and David repented and God turned the garbage into gold but this was a time where David experienced his deepest and most painful revelation of himself – he had stabbed God in the back and God still loved him.

This week I experienced grace from a non-Christian and the bad reputation from a follower of Christ. It made me realize again the great grace of God that uses people for good whether they acknowledge Him or not and it made me remember the times in the past when I was not the best employee (stealing from an employer, not working diligently, not bringing the blessings of God to the workplace, punching the clock and just working for my money instead of helping the business grow).

Loving others doesn’t just mean buying them a coffee or mowing their grass or giving them a meal. Loving others also means living life in such a way that you don’t hinder them from being able to see and experience God. Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as you continue to live a life glorifying God as His ambassador.

hope in the dark

Summers for me, as a teenager, involved running off to North Carolina to play in the mountains at a summer camp called the Vineyard. One of my favorite activities was a weekly campout. We would hike out to a waterfall or the river or maybe the ‘Burial Mounds’ or the ‘Dinosaur Graveyard’ and spend the night in the woods telling ghost stories of the ‘Blue Light’ or the ‘Rapper Dan Man’.

On one of these adventures, a few of us found ourselves heading back to the main camp, around midnight, for some item that must have had terrible importance to a teenage boy. We only had one flashlight and, about 10 minutes into a 30-minute hike, the batteries died. With that feeble light, died all hope of finding our way back to the safety and security we knew existed at the main camp. Suddenly the woods seem to come alive all around us – scuffling and clawing, grunting, rustling… blue lights flashed in the distance – and we just knew that we were about to live out a ghost story that people would be telling for centuries to come. Like all good ghost stories go, we wandered off the trail, trying to find our way by the light of a crescent moon, and found ourselves lost.

A moment of clarity struck as i reached into my pocket and found a book of matches. i found a stick, ripped off my shirt, tore it into strips and fashioned a blazing Indiana-Jones style torch that fended off our certain demise and made our hearts leap higher than the flames that were illuminating the woods all around us. We forged on, re-found the trail and, 45 minutes later, we emerged from the woods yelling and half naked (we all had to give up our shirts to feed the light of the torch).

Life often plays out the same way for us all. Except now, the ‘Blue Light’ may be bitterness from the past or worries about the future. The ‘Rapper Dan Man’ may be an illness or the loss of a loved one. The scuffling and crawling of relational battles, financial struggles, personal inconsistencies echo all around us in our minds and hearts and hope seems to be lost. The darkness seems to suffocate us and we are certain that we may just become another statistic – another part of a percentage point in the divorce rate, another notch on the belt of obesity, another emotionally scarred victim of parents who didn’t have the ability to love us as we needed to be loved.

You have probably heard it said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or maybe you have heard it put this way, “Get off your lazy butt and do something with your life!” Another way to say it might be, “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.” Regardless of how it is presented, the truth is that we have been given the information we need to walk down the path to abundant life. Now we must follow God’s truth and implement that information and let it become knowledge and wisdom as it is put to work in our lives. We have to reach in our pockets, find the Book and strike the match of hope as we fix our eyes upon Christ.

Each trial is an opportunity to battle out our faith in a context that is open, intimate and authentic. God has placed people around you who are willing to give you the shirt off their back to help light the way to your health, hope and healing. And it all starts right where your feet stand (or your butt sits).

killer bunnies and priceless power

Elijah, my newly 4-year old son, woke up multiple times last night saying he was scared… of a bunny. i will be honest, i almost laughed at him but it isn’t good parenting to make fun of your kids when they are in tears and afraid… just saying. “The bunny has big teeth that stick out and he can’t get them back in.” My middle of the night logic kicked in and I told him that he just needed to face reality –there were no bunnies in his room, therefore he was OK. This didn’t work of course and so we had multiple repetitions of pitter-pattering feet to my bedside accompanied with tears.

We were finally able to agree that: God was with him and would help him be brave, he wasn’t a carrot so he wasn’t going to be eaten and that his stuffed dragon would love to eat any bunnies who happened to come near him.

Distractions come in all shapes, sizes and realities.

We have been given access to the power of God that gives us the ability to define our reality on His terms. A power that refines the information that our physical, emotional and spiritual senses, are delivering to our brains and helps us stem the tide of life’s input with wisdom and discernment based on His truth.

Authenticity decries our natural state and reveals our need for change but only when paired with intentionality will we move from the tears of confusion to the tears of joy.

I believe in abundant life. I believe in the power of God. I believe He is with us and if we are for Him, then His kingdom will be revealed in our lives in abundance.

What stands in the way of your abundance? Busyness? Laziness? Foolishness? Lack of purpose?

Your faith in God was never meant to be merely personal. God didn’t let you know He was real and available so that you could be an island of serenity. His design is to build a family, among whom, Jesus is the Firstborn, the Greatest, the Author and Perfector.

My prayer is that you will join the people of God to move forward in your personal life as you engage the priceless power of God in intimate community –speaking encouragement, challenging faith, working together for the glory of God and the opportunity to bless others.

Watch out for killer bunnies. They will rob you of peace, joy and hope for the future. God has more…