Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crowd Noise

There is a lot about Catholicism that I disagree with, and even more that I don't understand, but I had a holy experience today nonetheless watching Pope Benedict XVI take his last chopper ride out of St. Peter's.

And I learned something, too.  I always wondered how they came up with the idea of a Pope.  The LIVE! Breaking News coverage informed that it was St. Peter (or just plain Peter, as I call him) who was believed to be the first pope - the first head over the church - and that it is in his honor, memory, tradition, etc. that the Catholics elect a man of God to lead them.

So there's that.

The truth is that I was more listening to the final hours of the papacy than watching it.  I was listening to the crowds - the people gathered outside St. Peter's and those gathered in the garden at the Pope's summer retreat, where he will retire until his new apartment is ready in the Vatican.  Screaming people.  Cheering people.  Crying people.  Praying people.  I was listening to the people respond as the holy man walked his final steps, and I had one profound thought:

I thought about Jesus on His way to the cross.  I thought about the people that would have been around Him, a crowd just like this one.  Screaming.  Cheering.  Crying.  Praying.  A whole gamut of emotions, but the one thing it wouldn't have been was quiet.  It was a scene, by all definitions of the word.

I think we forget that.  I know I do.  I always think about Jesus marching solemnly to Golgotha, crowds looking on but not really saying much.  We know the trial was raucous, that people were shouting, "Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!" but I think we fail to consider that things didn't really quiet down after that.  It was loud.

From that thought spun this one:

It was always loud around Jesus.  Again, I have to admit I had not really considered this possibility.  I pictured people gathered on the mount, listening attentively to what the Messiah had to say.  Raising their hands to ask questions.  I pictured people sitting on a hillside, mumbling to one another while the Teacher divvied up a little boy's lunch.  I pictured crowds pressing down the street, the generic noise you might expect in, say, the mall, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Listening to the people cheer, scream, cry, pray, call out, and make noise over the pope, I had this profound experience of what it must have been like to be around Jesus.  All that hubbub for a holy man.

I don't know what I think about all that.  I'm just thinkin'.  It's just fun to think about - what it must have been like to actually be around Him.  With Christ.  With the crowds.  With the noise.  It would have been awesome.  It would have had to been.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

40 Days

We are well into the Lenten season now, and it's interesting to watch what people are "giving up" for these forty days.  Even many of my non-religious friends participate in Lent, which I guess makes it more of the new New Year's.

I am not one to normally participate in this holiday.  I didn't grow up with a religious tradition, and it's not part of the one I am in now.  But this season, I have had a hunger on my heart for a few things, so I am taking this time to reboot.  Forty days, maybe.  Maybe less.  Maybe more.

And can I tell you?  I don't think we do Lent right.

I think we've made it too much about giving up when it ought to be about giving over.  We've made it about willpower when it's really about surrendering our will.  When I ask people why they've given up this or that, the answer is always "Because I should" or "To see if I can."  And then inevitably, the countdown starts to when they don't have to give it up any more.  To when they can finally have that prized possession again, after earning a new trophy in, "I did it."

Is that really what Lent is?  Maybe it is.  Like I said - it's not part of my tradition.  But when I'm given the chance to change something powerful in my life, given the opportunity to break the hold that something might have on me, I want to go all-out.  I want to go no-holds-barred.  I want to go all-in and do it without putting a time limit on it.  I don't want to say, "I'm not doing this until Easter."  I want instead to say, "I'm walking out of the grave on this one."

So I started this Lenten season with an "I'm not gonna" but that lasted less than a day.  Because I'm not gonna is very, very hard and if it's anything worthwhile, there will be tons of coincidental resistance that will ensure you have to punish yourself to the extreme or fail miserably, and I'm not into that.  After that first day, I changed my mindset.  Instead of I'm not gonna, I asked myself what I really want.  When I figured that out, I decided to go after it.

This season, there is a small icon of a photo on my normally-clear desktop.  It's a picture I found that reminds me what I want.  When I pasted it onto my desktop as a reminder of what matters to me, of what I'm going after this season, I retitled it simply "THIS."  Every day when I'm working on my computer, I am reminded of THIS. and what it is and by the simple picture alone, where it comes from.

And it comes from giving myself over and giving IT up, not giving up or giving in.  THIS. is not something I'm going to stop doing.  THIS. is something I am becoming, by the grace of God, and it's easy to forget some days what the becoming is like.  But THIS. reminds me what THIS. is.  I'm going after it.

It may take me forty days.  It may take less.  It may take more.  So this isn't Lent.  This is just a season.  A season of renewal - with spring on the horizon and Easter just days away - that I am taking advantage of to make some much-needed changes in my heart.  I haven't entered this season to come out the same way I was before I went in; I want to be remade.  I want to be reborn.  By the grace of God, He and I will walk out of that grave together.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Little Things

I've just about given up on the little things.  Because they mean so little...and so very, very much.

It's never the big things that eat away at relationships, or even that gnaw at our own hearts after we turn in for the night.  It's never the big things that turn us away from one another.  It's the little things...that we've made into big things...because if we hadn't, there wouldn't be anything to argue about.

A couple of weeks ago, it finally hit me.  I was in the midst of something fairly routine that involved a couple of those little things.  And I finished the way I normally finish the thing I normally do, and then I sat down for a minute contemplating.  Someone had asked me (demanded, really) that "from now on" when I finish this simple something, "do not" do as I would normally do.  But instead, "do" something totally different or "do not" do the thing itself at all.  The other person was wrong.  I mean, absolutely undeniably wrong because the discomfort she thought her new "do this every time" would fix was not impacted by what she actually asked of me.  So I did what I would normally do, as I would normally do it, and sat down, preparing for the fight in my head and figuring out what I would say to her when she realized that I had done, but did not not do, and how we were going to work it all out.

In other words, I was defiantly prepared to explain to her how wrong she was, and I was determined to make logic stick.

But you know what sticks better than even infallible logic?  Amazing grace.

As I sat there, waiting on the fight, preparing for the fight, knowing I would storm away and not talk to her again for hours, maybe days, I was already calculating in my head how ridiculous she was being.  I was already infuriated at how obstinate she can be.  I was already defending myself against her closed-minded inability to see her own flaws.  I was prepared to lose the fight, and it seemed so stupid to me because it was the epitome of a little thing - the littlest of little things.

And just as I concluded that if it was that important to her for this little thing to be done, she could do it herself...I found myself standing up with this simple breath of peace and saying to myself, "It's just a little thing" then going to do as I was asked to do and remove the evidence that I did not not do as I was demanded not to do.  Then I sat back down and settled in a bit....nothing to wait for any more and nothing to defend myself against.  In fact, by the time the time came when it mattered whether I did or did not or did not not do or whatever...I had forgotten whether I had or whether I hadn't.

It was that little of a thing.

Yet it was realizing how little of a thing it was that kind of sucked it back down to size and made it nearly not a thing at all.  It was realizing that as eaten away as I can get about someone else wanting their little things, the truth is that as hard as it would be for me to convince them to change their mind, or at least see their obstinate, backwards, self-obsessed is much easier for me to just get up and do it like they'd like to have it done.  Particularly when I am able to realize and firmly understand that I, personally, have no emotional big attachment to the little things.  Not any more.

I used to.  Oh Lord, I used to.  And I was hardnosed about it.  Because, you understand, my way was always right and always better.

Now, I surrender to a right and better way.  And that is grace.

Let me tell you this: These little things that it's so easy to fight against, that it's easy to dig our toes in the ground and hold our position and defend ourselves and try to explain to someone else that it's such a little thing - these are not the things that are going to make our relationship; they are only going to break it.  

These are not the things that lovers whisper "I love you" about when they snuggle into bed at night.  These are not the things that families keep bringing up in the kitchen, just to remind you how much they appreciate you.  These are not the stories that friends tell when they come together over coffee every week, month, year, decade.  These are just the little things; the things that only matter when we get them wrong and we can't be lovers, families, or friends any more.  (Which is so dumb, I know, but it happens.  It's happened to all of us.)

In meaning so little, it's the little things that mean so much.  It's the little things that mean respect.  That mean honor.  That mean value.  It's the little things that define our relationships with one another and either give us the chance for the big moment or set the stage for the fight.  In thinking about it, in really thinking about it, I'd rather have the moment.  I'd rather have the big things.

Surrender the little things to grace.  Because no, they don't matter much if we get them "right."  But when we do the little things right, we have the chance for the big things.  We have the chance for forgiveness, for mercy, for grace, for strength, for family, for friends, for lovers.  For love.

That's why when I do what I would normally do, I do not end by doing what I do but instead by not doing what I should not do and instead doing something completely different.  It's grace in the little things.  For the sake of the bigger things.

Monday, February 25, 2013


God must have gotten a few wires crossed - or completely removed - when He wired me.  I say that because I have the cognitive inability to relax.

You might think you know what I'm talking about, if you share this energetic gusto, but as much as I knew I had trouble slowing down, the relax thought was new to me.  It struck a couple of months ago after, by sheer accident, I did it.

I was lying in bed, as any other night, and I'd been lying there for about two and a half hours.  When I'd crawled into bed, I remember it felt so good to settle in for the night.  To settle down for a bit?  I don't remember what exactly I had done that day, but I remember that bed was appreciated and long overdue.  For that first split second as I worked the covers all snug around me, I had the fleeting thought that, "ahhhhh........"  Very fleeting because within a half-second, I was thinking about how relaxed I was.  Thinking about finally stopping for the night.

Thinking about what it felt like to lie there relaxed and ready for sleep.

Thinking about what it's like to fall asleep.

Thinking I ought to fall asleep.

After a couple hours of that, as I was still thinking about the intricacies of sleep, I felt my body actually let go and finally relax.

It wasn't until that moment that I realized that every other time in my life I thought I'd been relaxed, I also had the conscious thought, "I am relaxed now," which was enough to convince me I was relaxed but not actually enough to relax me.

It wasn't until that moment that I realized I had been doing it all wrong.

And it wasn't until that moment that I had the conscious thought to start thinking about what it was that just happened, what I maybe did to make it happen, how "relaxed" felt and how I might be able to achieve it again....and at some point, I realized I wasn't even relaxed any more.  Whatever my body had let go of, I had grabbed back hold of.  Whatever I had finally settled into, I started to stir back up.

You see, I have an incessant internal thought process.  It's not even a train; it's just a process.  A process that doesn't mind thinking about its process when it has nothing else to think about.  I am always thinking about what I am thinking about, and if I'm not thinking about anything, then I'm thinking about why I'm not thinking about anything.  I am trapped in this internal world that is processing everything....but is more focused on processing the processing than anything else, and it's only recently that I have become keenly aware of this.

By the grace of having a few moments of breaking out of it.

A few moments where instead of thinking about what was going on, I was engaging with what was happening.  A few moments where I have listened to other people talk and not been carefully crafting a response.  A few moments where things happen and it's this magical, beautiful, wonderful feeling because whatever has been happening is so absolutely cool and I feel blessed to be in the moment to enjoy it.

A few moments until, inevitably, I realize I am enjoying it and realize that is because I'm hearing something louder than my internal process process and then wondering what is wrong with my internal process process that it doesn't seem to be jumping all over this moment.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, though I won't admit how long it took my process to figure that out.  I don't think my process process is broken; I think it is healing.  Because through the past few months, in the same time span I have become increasingly aware of my internal drone, I have also become aware of my insecurities....and something very secure God has created in me.  Something that is purely His and can rest in that.  And every now and then, more frequently as days go by, I'm getting these moments where I am simply in that and can simply be in that, and it's fantastic.  I'm finding out what rest is.  I'm finding out what relaxed feels like.  I'm finding something awesome in something simple and all that simply is.

It's hard to give up the habit, the voice, the thing in me that's never been able to settle down or to stop thinking.  It's hard not to think about not thinking, which is thinking in itself.  It's hard, too, not to think about the incredible blessing these moments are and how thirsty my weary soul is for them.  But it's awesome to have some tangible experience of what this moment is.  It's cool to understand how God is weaving His rest into my tired heart, how He is knitting together a few torn places and letting me be just as He's created me to be and to stop worrying and wondering about what that is.  It's cool to embrace His invitation to engage with the world instead of always feeling like I have to answer it.  It's really cool...

I think.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Therefore I Am

My problem is that I think too much.

I think.

I am one of those people who can only barely grasp a quiet moment.  When I close my eyes and settle into bed at night, I have this fleeting feeling of gentle rest and settling down into the peace of God as I climb under the covers for another good night's rest, thankful for another day.  That lasts all of about five seconds before my mind starts churning out more ideas, things to think about, things I shouldn't stay up thinking about but do anyway.  I even think about the things I'm going to have to think about later!

The problem with thinking, at least as I find it, is that when I start thinking, I start worrying.  I worry about the things I would never worry about if I wasn't thinking.  If I was just living instead.  But in those moments of raging thought, it seems I can't help but obsess over the things I shouldn't be thinking about.  So I worry.

In direct conflict with the Bible, I worry about what I will eat, what I will wear, where I will stay.  I worry about having a place.  I worry about not having a place.  I worry about having enough, not having enough, whether I'm being enough, and what if I'm not enough.  I worry about tomorrow.  I worry about yesterday.

When I worry, I start to doubt.  I doubt myself, my abilities, my gift, my passion, my purpose.  I doubt whether I have any good in me at all.  I doubt whether I can.  Sometimes, I doubt whether I will.  I doubt God, whether He is good.  I doubt whether He is able.  I doubt whether He loves me as much as He says He does.  Whether I understand His love at all....or whether, I guess, I ever will.  It just seems in a moment of worry, there's a lot of doubt.

Doubt is kind of useless; there is no way to answer doubt except by turning it into questions.  I can ask questions.  So in times of doubt, I do.  I start letting the questions roll around in my head until I've got them formed enough that I might dare speak them.  Or until they are so loud in my head that I can't ignore them any longer.

So in my questions, I pray.  It's the only thing I know to do.

With worry, with doubt, with questions, I only know to pray.  If I knew a better way to answer them, I'd do it, but there simply isn't one.  If I could answer myself at all, then maybe I wouldn't think so much in the first place.  But I am a thinker, and I have no answer for myself.

Thankfully, there is a good and gracious God who is faithful to hear my questions, face my doubts, and comfort my worry.  There is a God who hears me when my questions have become too much and I kneel to pray.  No matter how many times we go through this little dance - which starts with my thinking and somehow always leads back to prayer.

So I guess you might say: I think.

Therefore, I AM.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Old Testament Overtime: Settling East

The Old Testament inspires me.  And quite often, I find it beautiful discordant with life in the 21st Century.  With OT OT (Old Testament Overtime), I'd like to explore some of those contrasts as they strike me.  Today:

Settling East.

In Deuteronomy, we read about the journey of the new generation of Israelites as they are finally able to take possession of the land God promised them.  They are just east of the Jordan River, having wiped out their enemies there, and Moses is giving instructions on how to divide the land once they cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land.

Then a group of men pipes up.  They are the men of Gad, Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh.  "This land that we are in now is good," they concluded.  "May we settle here?"

It was not an easy question.  You see, the army of the Lord depended upon the entirety of Israel's armed forces.  Their battle plan, the formations they marched in, were designed around each tribe holding a certain position.  Pull two and a half tribes out of that equation, and the army of the Lord is not at full strength.  Moses assumed that if you give a man a land to settle in, he has no motivation to help anyone else get what is theirs.  Without Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, it was going to be a tough battle.  And the Lord planned on bringing all of Israel into the land, not 9.5 twelfths of it.

Moses had to cut a deal, on behalf of the Lord, of course.  If the land these tribes wanted was the land east of the Jordan, they could have it.  But only after they not only went to battle for the Promised Land but led the charge to do so.  Their troops would be in front.  They would be storming the new path.  They would be charging in first in order to bless the other tribes with their inheritance, their own parcels of land.

Deal, they said.  Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh agreed to fight on the front lines.  When the others are settled, they were free to return to their chosen land and settle in peace.

This is a story I've been reading in my morning Bible study over the past couple of weeks, watching it unfold.  It's got me thinking a lot about ministry, about what it means to be a minister.  And I think it is exactly this:

Here we are, a people east of Eden.  A people looking for a place to settle this side of the Promised Land.  It's not perfect.  It's not exactly what God intended or even covenanted to give us, but here we are and we find that it's pretty good here.  Not Eden by a long stretch, but pretty good.  We'd like to have a place here to call our own.

And God's ok with that.  He is willing to let us settle in this land, to give us a place here, to give us peace.  Somewhere to stop, to rest, to build a home and live.  Most of us stop there.  Most of us are happy to have a place we feel like God has let us be.  A place of our own.  A city here.

That's not where God stops, though.  God says that when you've found your place to rest, when you've been given your place, your inheritance, your settlement here, you don't get to just stay there.  Your job is to lead the charge.  Your job is to stand on the front lines.  Your job is to cross over first and blaze into embattled territory.  Your job is to fight with all you've got to make sure the rest of God's people get their place, too.  And since you know the place you're coming back to, since you know where your rest is and where you call home, then you go first.  

You go first and take people into the land God is giving them.  That's ministry.

We find our place in the world.  That is God's grace.  To know who we are, where we are, and this place that we call home.  This place where we find rest.  It is our ministry, then, to lead others into finding that place for themselves.  Leading them into the Promised Land, the place God has covenanted to give them.  The place He has ordained them to live.  It is our job to fight for their peace, their rest, and their inheritance while we are comforted by the security of knowing where our place is.  We can't just stay where we have settled; we use that as a launching pad and hit the front lines.  Until all of God's people see His promise.

It's what we do here, east of Eden...with one eye on the Promised Land.  We are called to lead people home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More or Less

As it turns out, everything in this world is worth less simply because you've owned it.  Except for the rare few who achieve immortality or incredible fame to the extent that someone would pay millions of dollars for a used toothbrush, most of us face the reality that in terms of calculated value, we leave this world with less than we entered it.

Your new car is barely worth more than a used one the second you drive it off the lot with papers in hand.  Your clothes start to wear out as soon as you wear them.  Right now, I am trying to sell some items via an online garage sale to raise money for a ministry project I'm working toward, and it doesn't matter if I have taken excellent care of an item, if it is near perfect in condition.  It has still depreciated in value.  For no other reason than that I have touched it.

Really makes a person feel good about themselves, doesn't it?  That you can't touch anything without making it worth less.

Paradoxically, there is within each of us this innate sense that we ought to leave the world better than we found it.  We ought to contribute, to add to this mess that we're in and maybe even clean it up a little bit.  We ought to leave more behind than we came with....even while we're making less of everything we touch.


How is one to balance this burden of leaving more with this reality of making less?  This invitation to enhance with the truth of diminishing?  It's a tough one.

I think it comes down to creation and purpose.  Use, you might say.  

The thing that drains our possessions of their value as we touch them is not within us; it is within our things.  It is that by simply being among us, it is assumed they are giving up part of their value in usefulness.  They are being worn, used, drained, emptied and thereby giving us a measure more while sacrificing a measure of themselves.

There comes a day when the car won't start not even one more time.  There comes a time when the television goes dark permanently.  There comes a moment when the seat rips out of your jeans and there's no way to patch that back up.  The pen runs out of ink.  The last bite of cake is gobbled up.  Stuff is used and then it is gone.  Rendered worthless because there's nothing more to take out of it.

They are rendered worth less by being touched, being used, and giving more.  And we consider them worth the investment.

The same is true for us, as we seek to leave a legacy and give more to the world than we came into it with.  As we seek to serve, the key is to be made less.  We have to let ourselves be touched by this world.  Used.  Put our usefulness to good work and put into the world what we have to give to it.  Not so that we can be cheapened or sold but so that we can be made less, which gives us a certain charm, don't you think?  Like a good used Bible or an old glass butter churn.  There's something about something that has been used well....or rather, has served well.

And an odd thing happens.  While we're being made less, we feel unequivocally like more.  We feel the true measure of our worth and the value of His grace.  We feel every bit what we are as a precious child and intricate creation of God the Father, and it doesn't seem like we're worth less.  We know we are more.

When we know we are more, we aren't concerned as so much of the world seems to be, with getting more.  We are consumed with giving more.  With doing more.  With serving more.  With loving more. That's where we find creation and purpose.  Use, you might say.

More from less.

It was a truth Jesus knew well.  "He emptied Himself by taking on the form of a servant...." (Philippians 2:7)  He gave Himself to the world, against those who wanted to make more of Him and into the hands of those who made Him less.  He gave all that He had to give and humbled Himself....  And today, we know He was more.

More from less.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Yesterday, I shared the story of my almost-famous almost-moment, and I admitted that it sounds kind of arrogant, selfish, and adverse to God's glory to be caught up in a moment like that.  But it doesn't have to be.  Not when I became keenly aware that even my almost-moment was still not about me.

It wasn't about being famous, as fantastic as that fleeting feeling can sometimes be.  It was about being known.  And the thing about being known is that it both frees you and drives you.  It frees you to stop trying to be something somebody will notice because you've been noticed just as you are, and your heart leaps with joy.  That is enough.

And it drives you to be someone worth knowing.  Instead of driving you out of yourself to keep up appearances or prove something, it drives you into your heart, where Christ resides, and invites you to find that thing within you that is worthy of being you.  You know, that thing God nested in there when He created you.

At least, that's the case for me.

It's hard.  I mean, I've spent most of my life as largely a nobody trying to be a somebody, trying to figure out what I could be to get someone, anyone to notice me or even say my name.  There have always been plenty of people around and yet, I have always found myself isolated somehow.  Feeling like I haven't felt in.  Like I haven't had a place.

Then someone dares almost yell my name in a Wal-Mart, and it opens up this giant space for me.  It opens up this hole into which I am able to both rest and grow.  It gives me a place, somewhere more than "down by the deli," where the woman happened to see me.

It is a place called Aidan, a place that it seems so easy to forget exists.  When you're out to prove yourself, to be something maybe the world is looking for in you, when you're trying to figure yourself out and create a place, you start kind of shapeshifting and figuring out what you can be to fit in whatever hole you can find in the world.  Whatever place you might squeeze into for the chance to be something.  And then by name, Aidan.

That simply you.  It is simply where you are with all that is in you.  With all that was created in you.  It's a comforting place to be, a place all your own where you don't have to transfigure yourself into something more or something less but instead, you are invited to be something whole.  To fill your name-shaped hole in Creation.

Isn't that cool?  That in this giant mystery of creation, God saw fit to form both you....and a hole exactly your size for you to fill with the whole of who you are?  It's incredible.

So my almost-famous almost-moment in a rural-ish Wal-Mart isn't as arrogant as it sounds.  It is for God's glory that He gave me that moment.  So that I would take a breath and settle in, calm down and find my place and remember that I never settle for being Aidan; I am blessed to do so.  Even when things aren't maybe as I would hope them to be.  Even when it seems I should be doing something more, or something less, in this place.  Whatever place I've decided to squeeze into.

But in the place called Aidan, my heart echoes.  Mercy reigns.  All that I have been created to be fits perfectly into this place.  All that God has put in me makes sense here.  I am inspired to be the fullness of that which I was created to be, in blessing and brokenness, in gift and grief, in living, in loving.  Because I just fit here.  The whole of me fills this hole and hallows this holy place.  A little place called Aidan, to which God has graciously called me to live.

It took a moment that never was to remind me what always is.  Not that I am famous, but that I am known.  As God intended.  When I am as God has created me to be, His glory is reflected.

And He is known.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Some days, I feel a lot more famous than I actually am.  While it's kind of exciting, this fleeting feeling, I have to admit that I have no aspirations whatsoever to be famous.

This past weekend, more than 500 people around the world downloaded my first book - Recess with Jesus - for free during my birthday giveaway.  More than twice the number of students in my graduating class from high school.  More than twice my current church membership.  More than four times (or about four times) as many Facebook friends as I currently have.  (Hey, I don't friend everybody.)  I have even been officially Facebook-stalked as a result of Recess, although it was completely unnecessary as my email address is conveniently located in the back of the book.  

But it wasn't any of that that made me feel famous most recently.  All that...all that incredible, indescribable stuff that is happening through a few words God was gracious to lend ridiculously humbling and it doesn't make me feel famous; it makes me feel small.

No, what made me feel almost-famous in these past few weeks was something that actually never happened.  Let me explain.

I was in Wal-Mart on a typical Saturday morning, the time of week when I normally do my grocery shopping.  Approaching the meat section, I saw a woman who attends my church and with whom I had been in a small group journey.  I think she's an awesome woman, not too much older than me, so of course I made a small scene in yelling out her name, throwing a hand in the air, and waving.  

At which point, she looked at the woman next to me with a very confused look, then turned back to the chicken selection before her.

The next morning, Sunday, I saw her standing in the coffee area in our church foyer before services began.  I made it a point to walk over to her, just to give her a hard time about the whole scene.  Before I could get within five steps of her, she looked up and smiled and exclaimed, "Aidan!  Did you say 'hi' to me in Wal-Mart yesterday?"

Yes, I told her.  And you looked at the woman next to me with a look, then turned away.  I laughed.

She laughed.  "I thought it was you," she explained.  "I swore I heard my name but I didn't see anyone when I looked up, so I figured it was somebody else.  Then I looked up again and I saw you all the way down by the deli (about 75 yards away, maybe).  I thought about yelling Aiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddaaaaaaannnn but I wasn't sure if I should or not."

Totally should have.

But that was the almost-moment that made me feel almost-famous.  That someone would recognize me from quite a distance away and even consider yelling my name, even if they then reconsider that thought.

As she told her side of the story, I couldn't help but notice the feeling welling up inside of me.  Something about being a big fish in a small pond, about being a name in a sea of faces.  That someone might dare yell after me...declaring without shame, "There's Aidan."  It felt good.

It wasn't the fame, though.  It took me a few minutes to get those thoughts out of my head, but it wasn't the fame at all.  It was something more simple.  Something much more plain.

It was the idea of being known.  It wasn't being anything special; it was being anything at all.  It was having this place, this place within a place - that is, to be by name in someone else's reality even while in the middle of my own reality, which is Wal-Mart.  It's this overwhelming sense of being known, of being named, and of belonging, having a place.

That...that almost moment that never actually was...was more valuable to my heart than a million copies of Recess with Jesus.  (But seriously, pick up a copy.  It's not free any more, but it's affordable.)  Maybe that sounds kind of selfish, self-centered, or arrogant - even more arrogant than fame - but not the way I see it.  Not this moment, anyway.  You might think it doesn't do much for God's glory; it sounds an awful lot like my glory.

Not so.  Tomorrow, I will tell you why my almost-famous moment, and the profound impact it had on my heart, still wasn't about me and what this almost-moment gives to God's glory.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Make Me

Today is my birthday, which means my first book, Recess with Jesus, is FREE in the Kindle store all weekend!  Grab a copy and tell a friend.  (And if you'd be so kind, tell millions of friends by leaving a review online.  Please?  Seriously, it's my birthday.)  

Seriously, though, it is my birthday, which is an opportunity for me for some reflection, some quiet, and a bit of heartfelt prayer.

My prayer on this day is rather a simple one.  It is this:

Lord, make me.

Make me.  This is the day that 28 years ago, You, Lord, made me into this world.  Today, here I stand praying for You to do it again.  Praying for You to make me anew, as I was so many years ago.  Restore me, Lord, to Your original creation.  Create in me the already created.  Deepen my faith.  Strengthen my discipline.  Increase my love.  On this day, out of all of the others, Lord, creation means something different to me.  Because on this day, I was created.  Create me again.

I'm looking around, Lord, and there's much to be repaired.  So much torn.  So much worn.  So much falling short of all that once was in me, and I know it used to be there, but somewhere in the midst of this life, so much has been eaten away.  Make me new, Lord.

There are things I love about the way You made me.  Things I treasure about my intricate design.  And things I'm staring at in the mirror that I've broken and I don't know how I could ever get them back, Lord, unless You set Your hand to work remaking me.  Unless Your healing touch comes down to restore all that I haven't been but was created to be.  All that I am, when none of this other junk gets in the way.

It's an interesting day, Lord, looking back.  To know this is the day You set aside to make me into Your world, after forming me ever so gently for eight months in the womb.  After knitting me together in secret, You chose today to bring me forth.  It's cool to think about.  And very sobering.  Because I wonder, Daddy, if I'm getting anywhere near where You intended me to be.  Move with me, Lord, and let's go there.  And along the way, remake me.

My body is broken.  My spirit is weak.  Fear is my companion; questions, my good friends.  I have everything in the world, it seems, to give but it starts with today, giving my brokenness.  Giving my failings.  Giving my insecurities.  Giving my fear.  Giving my weakness.  Giving my questions to You, Lord, knowing that You will receive them in tender mercy, redeem them, and restore Your daughter as she was created to be.  By Your magnificent hand.

And so there is today, a day on which You created me and a day on which I am taking this unique opportunity to ask You, in the spirit of creation and with honor, mercy, and love, to make me again.  Make me new.  Make me whole.  Make me Yours, Lord.

Make me.

In the same spirit of my prayer, let me share with you a song from Sidewalk Prophets called, "Keep Making Me."  It is one that on a day like today, I cannot stop singing over and over and over in my mind.  While I am praying for God to make me anew, to restore me, to redeem my failings, and to make me whole - in body, in mind, in spirit, in heart, and in love - this, too, is my prayer:

Make me broken, so I can be healed.  'Cause I'm so calloused and now I can't feel.  I want to run to You with heart wide open.  Make me broken.

Make me empty, so I can be filled.  'Cause I'm still holding onto my will.  And I'm completed when You are with me.  Make me empty.  

Til You are my one desire
Til You are my one true love
Til You are my breath, my everything,
Lord, please keep making me.

Make me lonely, so I can be Yours.  'Til I want no one more than You, Lord.  'Cause in the darkness, I know You will hold me.  Make me lonely.

Til You are my one desire
Til You are my one true love
Til You are my breath, my everything,
Lord, please keep making me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Today, I joined the ranks of millions of interwebbers around the world...and went high speed.  Fiberoptic, to be precise.  And while it's been frustrating a handful of times to do some of the work I do on dial-up with staticky phone lines and limited actual function, I already miss it.

I've been high speed for about six minutes.

There are people who believe they need everything to be fast, but I'm not one of them.  I don't need to be connected all the time.  I don't have mobile media.  I don't even text.  That's right.  I don't text.  I have a cell phone for emergencies, and go with far too many unused minutes a month than I should, given what I pay for the measly service.

It's just that I like to take things slow.  I like time to think.  Time to relax.  Time to breathe.  I like time to take it all in and, if necessary, split my brain between here and there.  I don't want to do two things at once.  Or ten things at once.  I want to do two things together, bouncing back and forth because that's how I roll.

So what I'm faced with now is an opportunity, an invitation, and a challenge.  This is a time that I have to make a choice and start being intentional about what's important to me.  Intentional about slowing down, for one thing.  Intentional about creating space.  Intentional about creating time.  And you'd think having the ability to do things faster would create time for me, but the exact opposite is true.  When everything around me moves faster, I feel like I have to, as well.  Or I feel like I already am and maybe I can't slow down.

But slowing down is who I am.  It is in me.  Thus, I'm already looking for ways to create that in my new environment.  To appreciate the capabilities of doing some tedious duties a little quicker and embrace what that may open up for slowing down.  To appreciate that now, when I finish a large design file, it doesn't take me longer to email it to a client or a printer or a ministry leader than it did to create the thing.  To appreciate that now, when I hear that really awesome song on the radio, I can use a service and stream it on my desktop to hear it again.  To appreciate that now, I can use my home phone and my interweb at the same time, and my grandma can start calling me again.

Yet not go overboard and think that everything has to be this way.  Not everything has to be fast.  Not everything has to be this instant.  Not everything has to be here.  Now.

Because there still has to be space for the here and now.

I think so many of us get caught up in this digital, high speed world at our fingertips.  We get hung up on having anything we want in the very minute that we want it, and we miss out on what's right before our eyes.  It's easy to log in and shut out, tune in and tune out until one day, we wake up and realize the world has passed us by and we're longing for the simple joys.

I am keeping those simple joys.  I am making the space for them.  Not because I have to any longer, but because I value such things.  I value the simple things and the slow life, and I will not be giving them up for the luxury of on demand.

Right now, I'm here.  Right here, it's now.  This is not a moment I'd give away.

But to keep it, I will have to be intentional about it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


In early January, my car started making its "old oil" noise, a little earlier than expected.  So I drove up to the dealership for the fancy oil change, the one where they top everything off and check all the belts and whistles.  (See what I did there?)

Much too long later, I was on my way home, but my engine was still kind of buzzing with this weird noise I'd have trouble describing except to say I easily confused it with my "old oil" noise and figured it would wear off when the new oil wore in.  No such luck.  So I've been driving around for the past six weeks with this horrible noise coming from under my hood, laying awake at night wondering where I'm going to get the - I'm sure - hundreds of dollars necessary to get my car back in top working order.

If it's not one thing, it's another.

Those of you who know me know I normally love this sort of thing - the chance to fix something.  The truth is that I'm not that familiar with the inner workings of an engine, and when it comes to things that seem serious and might affect the driving ability of my car, I try not to take too many chances.  I did well a few winters ago with frostbitten fingers to figure out replacing my own windshield wiper motor, but even that took more time than I felt like I had to mess with this engine noise.

And the internet was turning up too many possibilities to count, with words I couldn't really identify.

Sunday, though, it got to me.  I decided there are some things you have to make time for, so I grabbed my mom and made her sit in my driver's seat.  If nothing else, I told her, you're going to rev my engine while I look under the hood.  Then, if I can figure out which part of the engine the noise is coming from, I'm going to take a mental picture and go inside and Google that and see if I can come up with anything that might be helpful.

We never had to get that far.

You see, all my nights lying awake, worrying about the repair bill, working over the engine in my mind, trying to figure a way out of this mess...I'd been too scared to look and try to find the problem.  I'd been too nervous to open my hood because it was going to boil down to, "I don't know, but seems expensive."  It was going to be the kind of thing that when I didn't know what was causing it, I could look at my report sheet from the dealership and see that everything had checked off well and convince myself that my car was just getting old and no big deal, but if I opened my hood and saw something different, well, that changes things.  And I have a hard time not fixing something that's broken.  And I just don't have the money right now.

And all that for NOTHIN'.

Before my mom could even start my car, as I was putting the sustaining rod in the open hood, the problem was painfully, humorously obvious.  As much as I know about engines, and the greater deal that I do not know about engines, I could say with absolute certainty...

There was not supposed to be a wrench laying there.

Now, I say all that to say this: 

How often are we scared to look because we don't know what we'll find, only to worry ourselves to death until we break down and take a peak just to find that it's nothing?  How often do we hold back, afraid that whatever we find will be a wrench in our plans when in fact, it might just be a wrench?

And how great is our God that sometimes, the wrench can be the answer to our worries instead of something to worry about.  Sometimes, the wrench can be grace.

The wrench can be a blessing, if only we're willing to look.

Monday, February 11, 2013

As God Commands

A new chapter in Prayse has me thinking about the obvious pairing of Moses, Jonah, and the rich young ruler.  As I was lying in bed last night thinking about these three, I started thinking about another part of their stories.  What I came up with was this:

It didn't have to be so complicated.

For any of them.  God asked great things of all three of these men, and if you boil it all down, it wasn't God that made things difficult.  It was the men.  They got stuck in the details.

God commanded Moses to lead.  Lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  That's all that God asked of him.  It was Moses who ended up muddled in the details.  How?  When?  Now?  I'm not ready.  Where would we go?  Why me?  I'm no good at this.  There's no way I, piddly little me, can handle this.  Lead God's chosen people to His promised land.  Again, all God said was lead.  Moses stuttered.  They won't listen to me.  I don't know where I'm going.  I don't know what I'm doing.  I'm over it.

So it took awhile.  And Moses never entered the Promised Land.

God commanded the rich young ruler to follow.  Follow me.  That's all that God asked of him.  It was the rich young ruler who riddled his heart with requirements.  I can't just go.  I can't leave everything. I can't sell everything.  I have too much.  I can't do this. 

So he walked away.  And the rich young ruler never knew the joy of knowing Jesus.

God commanded Jonah to go.  Go to Nineveh.  That's all God asked of him.  It was Jonah who juggled with judgment of the place.  Nineveh?  Aren't there only sinners there?  That town is so beneath me.  I must not be hearing God right because He would never send me to a place like that.  I am worth so much more than Nineveh.  I'm not going.  I don't want to.

So Jonah spent weeks washing the smell of whale vomit off his flesh.  And the stench probably made him fit right in with the Ninevites, whom he visited after all.

Lead.  Follow.  Go.  Simple commands, don't you think?  It is the details where things get really messy.

Sometimes, I wonder what I'm missing out on because I'm stuck in the details.  I'm stuck in the questions and the doubts and the demanding to know how it's all going to work out.  I'm stuck in wondering if I can all while debating in my heart whether I want to.

Sometimes, it takes me awhile.  And I don't get to touch what God's promised.  Sometimes, I walk away.  And I never know that joy.  I don't know yet what whale vomit smells like, but I have my own unique stench some days.

It seems like a big thing, to do what God commands us to do.  But I don't think it really is.  I think what God asks us to do is actually pretty simple.  At least, it would be if we'd stop thinking about it so much.

God says lead.  So lead.  He says follow.  So follow.  God says go.  Go!  It doesn't have to be so hard.

Whatever it is God is asking you to do, He's not asking you to consider the circumstances.  He's not asking you to dog yourself with details.  I think everything God asks of us can be boiled down to one simple word.

Lead.  Follow.  Go.  Love.

So love already, would ya?  It's just that simple.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Life Infused

One of the natural consequences of putting my heart into what I do is that I am exhausted.  Emotionally drained.

That has been the case with the Prayse project, for sure.  I imagine it will be much the same with Stations of the Cross.  And probably this Sunday, too, as I prepare to share another thought with my church family.

It's not uncommon to find me wiped out, on the verge of tears, and unsure as to whether I have the strength to do one more any thing - even the normal things like wash the dishes or pick up the yard.  I have to admit, I didn't really expect it.

That's the thing about giftedness, I guess.  And I'm not saying that to sound arrogant; I mean that in light of the gift God has given each of us.  There's something about what we do, what we were created to do, that energizes us.  There's something else entirely about it that drains us.

There's something about pouring your life and your heart into what it is God has honored you to do that both infuses you and sucks it right out of you in order to infuse that thing which you are doing, that work to which you are putting your hands.  Rather, your heart.

For me, it's because everything I do in my gift now depends so much on what my heart is hungry for. It's not the work of it.  It's not the long hours or the revising or the details coming together or any of that.  It's that everything I do comes from this empty place in my heart that God sees fit to fill to running over with His invitation to do what I do, what He has created me to do.

It was easier in the old days, when I thought myself better than all of you.  When I thought I was the best at everything I did.  When I thought I had the special insights to make it awesome.  When I wasn't really putting myself into it because I was more concerned about getting it right than getting into it.

But those days are over, and now I'm fully into it.  (Which is good because those days kind of sucked.  I mean, I sucked.)  While it seems like I do what I do for the sake of an audience, or even for the sake of simply doing it, the truth is that I am a depraved woman.  I do what I do for the sake of the hollow place inside my own heart that is thirsting to have the experience I'm trying to create - whether that is in writing, in speaking, in word, in action, in journey, in thought.  Whatever it is.

I do it because I need it.

It just so happens that very often, I am not the only one.  That is a comforting and humbling understanding to have.

It's an important thing, I think, when you're working in your gift to realize that you're not so otherwise separated from it.  That you're not just and hungry and just as thirsty and just as desperate for what you're infusing into the world as the people you think you're serving with it.

A few chapters ago in Prayse, I wrote that the men and women of the Bible, the prophets of God, the bigwigs of faith so rarely prayed just for themselves.  When asked to pray for their nation, they often prayed "we."  Because they knew they were a part of the community.  They knew they were a part of the people.  They knew that just because they were the prophets, just because they were the pray-ers, this did not exclude them from the very real need for God.

I am honored to be called to pour my heart into doing what I do.  I am honored let life flow out of me and infuse what I am doing with authenticity, humility, grace, mercy, and love.  And I am so, so thankful for those who do the same with their gift of music.  Their worship helps fill up my empty place as I give myself into the hands of God to do what I do, be what I am, live created, and love hard.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stark Absentism

You know what my real problem is with all of this creating, don't you?  (See yesterday's post.)  It's that I try too hard to make things a little too real.  Because my idea of "perfect" is kind of God's idea of "good."

If, for instance, I decided to use an umbrella as a gimmick for experiential worship, my first thought is to figure out how to make it rain.  I will lay awake honestly more hours than I care to admit trying to figure out how to simulate the pavement, the clouds, the storm, and the rain.  When you walk into this holy moment I'm trying to invite you into, I want you to be there.  I want you walk in like that is really the thing.

Then it inevitably occurs to me that I haven't the slightest idea how to make it rain.  Not without some elaborate hook-ups and the church eldership on my back about ruined carpets.  More than that, I'm not even sure I can get the backdrop of "regular church" to go away.  You know, the purple carpets, the toys in the toddler room, the flowers and Bibles and pencils and all the stuff that goes into "church."

Which makes my job harder because I really, really want you to transcend the space and be in a wholly-other holy moment.

At some point, the image in my head shifts drastically.  I can't make it rain.  But what if you walk into the space I am creating and there is just an umbrella?

That's all.  Just an umbrella.  Maybe a few words.

What if that's all you got?

I think that's a holy moment.

It's a holy moment because it's not distracting.  It doesn't risk becoming about "not the thing."  While it makes perfect sense to have an umbrella when it's raining, it is when it's not raining that you get to bring your own storm.  It's when there is nothing else going on that you get to bring your own heart into it and fully engage with the opportunity at hand.

Engage the umbrella.  Engage your God.

The truth is that any holy moment is not so much about what is as what you bring into it.  It is about opening doors for you to bring your heart and still find Jesus.  It's about creating a space for you to have what you have and have a portion of God to go with it.  It's about inviting you to have your experience, not mine.

And it's about leaving no doubt that the wonder of the experience if what God is doing in you and not wondering how I managed to do that.

It doesn't change the goal too much, this stark absentism in place of elaborate realism.  It doesn't change what I'm trying to do; it humbles the arrogance with which I am doing it.  It makes me stop thinking I can create your moment, that everyone's holy is the same, and reminds me that my mission is only to create the space.  And that's still what I am trying to do.  When you walk into a holy moment I am trying to invite you into, I want you to be there.  I want you to have the fullness of the experience, and as cool as it would be for me to make it rain for you, that's not the thing.

The thing is what happens in a holy moment between you and God.  The thing is getting you to walk into that space and encounter God in such a powerful way that you are in a wholly-other holy moment.  The thing is getting you to let down your guard, bring your own rain, and engage.  The thing is getting you to understand what is really the thing.

And that is God.  God is the thing.

Maybe an umbrella.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Holy Moments

Preparations have begun for our congregation's second Easter/Holy Week experiential worship...experience... - Stations of the Cross.  The journey of Christ's final days.  As part of our worship arts ministry creative team, it falls partly on me to bring these moments to life for all who will grace our building in those three days.

No sweat, right?

Wrong.  I gotta tell you - I'm feeling an awful lot like Job right now.  And not the good Job, either.  Not the afflicted, wrongly condemned man who had a right to have a few questions Job.  No, I feel like the Job standing before God while God is railing Him with obvious taunts and rhetorical questions.

"Oh, you think you understand these things?  Well, go ahead!  Create a holy moment.  Just one!  Try it! Do you know what it takes to make one holy moment?  Just one?  Think of the millions I have created, and those are just in your life.  I have made that many for everyone in every generation.  And you think you can make even one?  Go for it!"

I laugh because this is not a new experience for me.  But I'm throwing myself into a little more, for the sheer pleasure of the humor of God, this time around.

This is actually a thought and a pressure I feel every time I put my gift to (hopefully) good use.  Every time I come to this blog and hope to have something worthy to say about my God.  Every time I open up a new chapter in my book and pray that I don't ruin it with my flesh in the way.  Every time I stand before my congregation and share a thought or an invitation.  And every time I try to put something together for them to experience Christ in a tangible, honest, authentic way.

It's a lot of pressure.  And the natural byproduct of being gifted by God as a communicator.  Or storyteller.  I kind of like that better.

Don't get me wrong: this pressure does not come from God.  This pressure comes from love.  That is, it comes from that within me that loves God and seeks to honor Him.  That piece of me that cannot settle for anything less than honor in my gift and honor through my gift.  That part of me that has to get this just right not so that I look good, but so that God looks good (like He needs any help from me).

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

God could not have blessed me with more apt a gift.  Maybe it's because I was created for this, but I feel like I was created for this.  The pressure, the agony over getting it just right, only fuels my fire more deeply.  It only inspires me to throw my heart into it.

And I've found that's really the only way to get there.

When I was younger, I was a timid girl.  I was questioning, afraid, and lacked any measure of confidence.  There were very few times that I would take on a project without asking for multiple input, without letting little hints leak, to make sure that whatever I was about to undertake was not, uhm, "stupid."  It would make sense to me, but maybe nobody else would get it.  Maybe they wouldn't appreciate it.  Maybe it would pass them by and they'd miss out on a moment because I was too stuck in myself.

Not any more.  Now, I just throw my heart into things and trust the creative instinct within me.  Not everything I come up with is going to be a smash hit for everyone, but I consider what it is that would bring me to the cross.  What is it that would connect me with Christ in this moment?  I find that when I go for it that way, the end result hits a lot more hearts than just mine.

Though it hits mine, too, and I can't wait to walk through Stations and participate in the moments this team is creating.  My moments included.

You'd think that by the time I get it all put together, it would be old hat.  That knowing the "gimmick," for lack of a better word, knowing what's coming when I step into that place would take some of the passion out of it for me.  Not so.  Not at all.  Because in putting it together, I play it in my mind.  I schematic it out.  I work it together.  When the moment finally comes, I get to do it - I get to actually do this thing that came from a burden on my heart that wanted to do it in the first place.  Now here it is, come together.  Inviting me to engage with my Lord.

The same is true for blogs I write, books I write, and thoughts I share.  They come from this raw place in my heart that is able in the moment to get just as much into them as anyone else who had no idea this was coming.  I treasure that authenticity in my gift, and I thank God that He has provided the grace for it.

So I'm working on holy moments and loving this one.  I've got the voice of God in my head, asking, "Can you create one holy moment?"  By His grace, I think I can.  He created me to do this.

May I honor Him.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Faith Out Loud

Yesterday, I talked about something Ray Lewis said in a pregame interview on Sunday.  Aside from being grossly inaccurate about the nature of God, there's something else that bothered me about what Ray Lewis said.

The way Ray Lewis said it.

There is a right way and a wrong way to vocalize God the glory, and the way Ray said it rubbed me wrong.  Because what Ray said was: "God uses me because I am a good man."

It's a statement that takes the focus completely off of God and puts it entirely onto Ray.  Or anyone else who dare speak it for that matter.

But I don't think that means we cannot, or should not, speak publicly of our faith.  Or engage in public displays of affection for our God.  Not at all.

Donald Miller would argue with me on that one.  In fact, he sort of did in this morning's post on the Storyline blog.  (If you're not reading and following Storyline, I recommend that you do.  The content there is practical and generally poignant, a good read even if you don't always agree with the argument behind the heart.  The men and women who share their stories there, as an invitation to yours in the grander invitation to God's, simply live - and write - out loud.  It's an authentic read; read it with grace.)

Today, Miller argues that so many of our public displays of faith come off as awkward, contrived, and inauthentic.  That too often, we're playing for an audience of men rather than an audience of One.  He goes so far as to say that it dishonors God for a football player to pray in the end zone.

I disagree.

I mean, I understand the cynicism and I commend Don for speaking up about something I think grates against a lot of us.  As I quoted in another post, a comedian I heard once said, "Even people who love Jesus don't want to talk about Jesus."  There's something about that dude kneeling in the end zone that makes us shudder and cringe a little bit.  It does seem inauthentic.

That doesn't mean it is.  And it doesn't mean there's no value in it.

Maybe it's because I'm keenly aware that I'm living in a culture that progressively tells me that I'm not allowed to publicly have a faith.  Maybe it's because I know the stories of house churches in foreign countries that surge and then die because it is illegal to have faith.  Maybe it's because I repent of all of those times in my life where I've had the chance to say something about God and chosen not to out of my own insecurities, questions, and doubts.  Maybe it's something else, but something makes me firmly believe that we need public displays of faith.

God has always worked best in community.  In fact, God's story is wrapped in community.  It's wrapped in the very public things that God does among His people.  The greatest stories in Scripture - and in fact, heavily most if not all of them - are what God is doing through the people.  Plural.  As much as it seems that way, God's story is not one of a man here, a woman there, another man here, a woman by a well, a Messiah, and a missionary.  Every one of the stories He uses speaks to the broader community of "God's people."

Our relationship with God was meant to be lived out together.  Until we get the Vulcan mind meld down, the only way to do that is to live it out loud.

I don't think that means we speak God everywhere.  We have to live God louder than we speak Him.  But we cannot be afraid to speak Him when moments arise and we really, really want to.  When God feels like more than the right thing to say and simply feels like more, we ought to speak Him.  When God is present and we have nowhere else to turn, nothing adequate to say in our joy, our sorrow, our pain, our triumph, our grief, our harvest, or any other moment - we ought to speak God.  When we haven't given thought to who is looking, who might hear, what someone might say, or what a thing it might be to do so, and instead, we simply feel like it is the good thing to do - we ought to speak God.  And I dare say, in those moments that are good beyond our goodness, when we know we're not even close, when moments arise and we are burdened by knowing we haven't lived what we're about to say - we ought to speak God.

Not because we're doing God well.  Not because we're getting God right.  Not even because we're good at the God thing (if you can narrow God down to a thing).  But because God is.

He is.  And He ought to be talked about.  How else do you give credit to a God who is good than by praising His goodness when you have the chance to do so?  Than by verbalizing the source of the good things in your life?  Than by redirecting the conversation to something greater than yourself?

It works - it works well and it is absolutely necessary - only when the conversation comes to God and nothing else.  It doesn't work if we're all talking about the guy kneeling in the end zone.  It doesn't work if we're debating the authenticity of public displays of faith.  It only works when the result of your actions is that man stops looking at you and starts looking at God.

We can debate all day how to do that.  How to come across as authentic.  How to come across as kneeling before God and not kneeling for the sake of man.  How to come across as being an honest man before God.  How to look like you're not just "doing Jesus" and instead, like you're hungry for something.  But we don't need to debate that.  We know how to do it.

Come before God.

That's it.  Come before God with all you've got - everything you are.  Come honestly before Him for the sake of Him.  For the sake of Love.  For the sake of praise.  For the sake of worship.  Come before God and take the moment captive, not to the cameras but to the Christ.

People will see when the moment is real.  And in the real moment, they will see the real God.

Think again about the man kneeling in the end zone.  It seems fake, doesn't it?  Contrived?  An awkward place to pray?  You'd never really pray like that, not in real life.  Right?  You wouldn't just stop everything in the midst of the action and drop to one knee.  You can't just do that.

But what about the team that drops to its knees while a brother lies fallen on the field?  What about that picture circulating on Facebook?  That is a moment.  A real moment.  We value it as such.

Donald's is right, we should never spend our time orchestrating how our faith looks.  We are best investing our time in how our faith lives.  Or better yet, how it loves.

We should not, however, work on living our faith privately.  A faithful man looks an awful lot like a good man.  Unless we go public with our God, how will an unbelieving world come to know Him?

No man lights a candle and puts it under a basket.  Neither does God.  He does not set a man's heart on fire and then tell Him not to burn out loud.  We were meant to live faithful lives with a world watching.  Not because they are watching.  But because they see us.

Monday, February 4, 2013

For God's Glory

If you watched any of the Super Bowl pregame yesterday, you likely saw an interview with Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.  The interviewer did not shy away from the taboo tabloid question and hit Lewis directly, asking about the murder of two young men in Atlanta.  It is a case with which Lewis was connected more than a decade ago  When asked, Lewis responded in the following manner (words as remembered, not precisely quoted):

"Anyone who knows God at all knows God don't work like that.  I mean, God don't use people for His glory who caught up in that kind of mess.  He just don't."

The implication being, of course, that Ray Lewis has been used for God's glory and that this obviously disqualifies him from any serious wrongdoing or God would have chosen another man.

It made me cringe.  It made me shudder.  And I think it's the kind of statement that made a lot of questioning Christians and seeking hearts hang their heads.

Let me make this clear to both Mr. Lewis and to anyone who heard his words:

He couldn't be more wrong.

It is grossly inaccurate to say that God does not use sinners - even the worst or sinners - for His glory; the truth is that God has only used sinners for His glory.

Go ahead.  Read His memoir.  Check it out if you don't believe me.  Every man, every woman, every Israelite, every foreigner, every king, every priest, every layman, every craftsman, every spy, every warrior, every body God ever used for His glory was a sinner.  Prostitutes among them.  Liars among them.  Cheaters among them.  Thieves among them.  Even - yes, even - murderers among them.

God does not pick perfect men to reveal Himself.  If He did, we would never see His glory.  There are no perfect men to choose from.

God does not even necessarily pick good men to reveal Himself.  There are maybe a handful of those here and there, but what does a good man demonstrate about grace?  What does a good man demonstrate about forgiveness?  What does a good man show for mercy?  If we argue that we serve a gracious, forgiving, merciful God (among many other noble qualities) - then where in a good man does God show that glory?

No, it is in and through the sinners that God reveals Himself.  He even declares as such in His word:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:7-8

God demonstrates His love - His very nature - in His relationship with the sinner.  Not for the righteous. Not even for the Good.  No, He died for the fallen man.

For the man whose fallen shorts bound his ankles, God suspended Himself from the cross for the chance to clothe the man in righteousness.  Then He looked to His side and promised, "Today, you will be with Me in paradise."

That is where God's glory lies.  Not in the good man, but in the redeemed man.  And no righteous man has ever been redeemed.  Only the sinner.  Even the worst of the worst.

You don't have to be a good man to tell God's story.  You simply have to be a man.  You have to be a man who doesn't pretend to be something else.  You have to be a man dependent on God, a man who can humble yourself and show His grace.  You have to commit yourself to telling God's glory with every bit of your life - your breastplate of righteousness and your fallen shorts.

Fallen shorts that can only be held up by a belt of Truth.  The truth is: God has only ever used sinners for His glory.

Be a man.  Be a sinner.  Be God's.  And He will use you for His glory.

He already is.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Unbridled Passion

The following post is for anyone who has ever tried to tap the gift of God in their life.

The gift God has given you - and yes, He has gifted you well - is not unlike a wild horse.

It first catches you with its adventure, galloping and gallivanting about, unbridled and untamed.  Unwilling to settle down but ready to go wherever the pasture leads it.  You get excited because you catch a glimpse of this thing that is in you and it seems awesome and you throw yourself into it with all the wild fancy of a dreamer.

And you suck.  You are so not good at what you think you ought to be doing that you wonder if it's worth doing any more.  You wonder if this wild adventure can be brought down, can be tamed or reined in.  Yet you wonder, as well, if it would be worth the same to you if you corralled it.  Bring a horse into the paddock, and it seems that you've killed something in its spirit.  It's confined.  It's cornered.  It's stuck.

It seems neither a good place for a horse nor a gift.

Yet the wisdom of those who have done this and done this well tells you there is something to be said for the discipline.  So you bring your horse into the stable, rein in your gift, and get down to the nitty gritty of honing your craft.

It's not easy.  With every passing day, you see the way that the bit in the mouth is killing the spirit.  You feel how the discipline is sucking the life right out of the passion.  You understand keenly that this isn't so fun; this isn't the grand adventure that mesmerized you any more.  This is more  It's more like...hard work.

And you still suck.  After all of this investment of discipline, you might even suck worse now than you did before you bridled this horse.  You feel less talented, less steady, and less gifted now than you did when you decided to sit in this saddle.  You wonder if it's worth it, all this discipline, if all it serves is to suck the fun and the passion and the thrill out of everything.  You wonder if this gift is worth this stable.  I mean, if you're going to suck, you'd rather suck in unfenced pastures rather than rot in the excrement of the barn.


This does no honor to the spirit of the horse nor the passion of the gift.

But there is a payoff.  It comes with a delicate balance of the two.

The point of the bridle is never to break the horse; it is to train it.  The point of harnessing your passion is not to break your gift; it is to develop it.  If you find yourself sucking the life out of your calling, then you're not doing discipline right.  On the other hand, if you find yourself running amok and dragged around by the idea of your gift, then you're not doing adventure right.

It's when you skillfully combine the adventure and the discipline that you are able to touch the thrill of the gift and the journey of the ride.  A horse that's been bridled learns to honor its rider and its boundaries.  It learns where it belongs, where it can go, where it cannot go, what gait to use and at what speed.  It learns to travel its terrain without bucking its rider.  As a result, you can set it out to free pastures and trust the horse to remember its discipline in the expanse of its spirit.

You do, however, have to set it free.  You have to let it run again.  You have to give it clean air and green pastures and open space to be a horse.  To do what horses do and go where whimsy takes it.  You have to invite the horse to an adventure.  If you bring the horse in and never let it back out of the barn, it simply wastes away and becomes lame.

Ever feel lame?  Give yourself a little space to roam.

You see, it is this balance that captures the adventure and the thrill.  It is this balance that honors the gift and the journey.  It is this balance that sets the horse free.  It is balance that frees you as a writer.  To maintain the spirit of adventure and passion that drew you to what you do in the first place and to instill in it a sense of discipline that enables it to honor the same.

And you still suck.  Because you're an artist, a creator, and you're never going to be perfectly happy with anything you do.

But something magical happens here, in this unbridled yet disciplined place.  You suck, and it doesn't make you wonder.  It makes you wander.  It makes you take off for pastures unknown, to see where this horse can take you, to embrace the adventure because you have invested the discipline.  You know you're not about to get bucked off.  So you take a chance.  You go on a journey.  You ride your gift wherever it might take you, just to see.

This...does honor to the horse and the gift.