Monday, April 12, 2010

Being An Example

People tend to go with what they know. As a whole, humans tend to gravitate towards that which is comfortable and understandable to us. I remember back when I was working at the bank, whenever they tried to implement new procedures for us to use, everyone tended to be hostile towards them. There wasn't anything wrong with the new procedures at all. Sometimes they could be more time consuming than the old way of doing things, but they mostly made sense overall to do. Yet, still the employees tended to only do things the new way for about a week or so until things went back to normal. And then they would only do things the new way when someone was watching. It continued to this way until finally someone said something to them about not doing things the old way anymore.

People aren't as obliged to go with what's easy so much as they are to go with what they know. I think that's why we have such a hard time accepting grace. The things we know in life are control and works. When there's a set list of things to do, even if the things are impossible, we have control over what we do. That's why we love the idea of works based salvation. We get that. Our life revolves around getting what we deserve and giving others what they deserve. The idea of grace is that we get what we don't deserve and there's nothing we can do to change that. Control is completely removed from the scenario.

There are very few examples of grace in our lives, so we have a hard time comprehending it. So here's my thought for the day: We as the Church should start doing a better job of giving people a tangible example of what grace is. In John 13:15 Jesus says that He's our example and we should do what He does. He gives grace freely, so we should start doing the same. That means being more generous with our money, not being mad if someone puts a dent in our car door, showing patience with the person who has to be shown how to do something 50 times and even, Heaven forbid, being a slightly less angry driver. People tend to flock towards what they know, so maybe if we start teaching people what grace is, then more people might accept it from God.

So that's my thought for the day. It's simple enough, but hopefully it's poignant.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

That's His Specialty

He's the God who can allow a 90 year old to become pregnant.

He's the God who can turn a prisoner into the ruler of a nation.

He's the God who can cut the sea in half in order to protect His people.

He's the God who would rather use 300 men to conquer a nation instead of 32,000.

He's the God who lights fire to a wet altar.

He's the God who would rather use a young boy to slay a giant than an army.

He's the God who stands in the fire with His children and doesn't let them burn.

He's the God who will chase His servant with a whale in order to save him from himself.

He's the God who can bring life to a valley of dry bones.

He's the God who can take a virgin teenager and give her a Child.

He's the God who wants to use the B squad to change the world.

He's the God who touches unclean things and makes them clean.

He's the God who heals the sick.

He's the God who will suffer for our salvation.

He's the God who killed death.

I serve a God who specializes in the impossible. No matter how big and impossible your problems seem, God specializes in taking care of them. No matter how small and insignificant your problems seem, God also specializes in taking care of them. There is nothing that He cannot do and no lengths that He isn't willing to go to for you to know that He loves you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Milestone Reflection

If you would have asked me a year ago what what my life today would look like, I would have painted a romantic picture of me working in a foreign country like England, or doing mission work in some magical, tucked far away part of Africa. If you would have asked me even a few months ago, I would have told you that I'd be living in Charlotte with one of my best friends, hopefully with a decent job, starting up a career path that might lead to some good money. But none of those things happened. The Lord apparently has other plans for me. In case you don't know, allow me to share with you a little bit of my story from this past year. And by "a little bit" I mean "a long winded retelling that leave out a lot of stuff."

It's funny how, no matter how good of an attitude you have when you start a job, when the job seemingly has no point, you eventually start to have regular "what am I doing with my life?" check ups in order to find an excuse to quit and do something crazy. This is where I was when the Lord met me in November of 2008. I was driving down the road on a Friday night, pretty depressed about the seeming pointlessness of my life when the Lord spoke to me from my iPod of all things. (It makes sense seeing as how God loves Apple and all.) I had it set to shuffle, and every song that came on kept talking about needing to get away and leaving, which was weird as I didn't remember having so many songs of escape at my fingertips. And then, not audibly, but still very clearly, the Lord told me to quit my job and backpack across Europe.

Isn't it weird how we assume that the Lord is vindictive and would never allow us to do anything that we might actually want to do, even though He's the one who puts desire into our hearts? It's kind of like the person who's afraid to give their life completely to the Lord because as soon as he does, the first thing God will do is make them sell everything they own and move to Africa. And I, falling in line with that reasoning, thought, "Is that really You, Lord? Because that's something I actually want to do. No; it couldn't be."

What followed were some of the most crazy and life-changing months of my life. Work wasn't so bad anymore because I had an exit strategy and plans for my trip just kind of fell into place. Money started showing up out of no where, and my roommate who owned the house I lived in was getting married, so I would have had to have moved out anyway. It was all perfect. I had no idea why the Lord wanted me to go; I was just excited that He was giving me the go ahead and something so amazing.

Then, if you know me at all you know that last February my dad passed away due to complications in surgery that was supposed to remove a significant portion of the cancer from his body and my whole world got turned upside down. A lot of stuff happened in me during that time. It was a very dark, lonely and confusing time. I had no idea how to even begin grieving. But, one of my favorite things about the Lord is how well He knows me. He knows that I'm easily distracted. He also knows that when there are people around me who need help, I'm going to help them long before I help myself. And that's not so much because I'm such a great guy, as when I'm busy helping others, I don't really have to deal with my own stuff. The Lord had me makes plans to travel before my dad passed away because He knew that getting away for a while would help me to mourn and heal the best.

So here I am. One year ago today I was getting ready to board a plane for the first time in my life and head to Egypt to begin the biggest adventure I had ever been on. I had no idea what I was in for and no clue what life would be like when I got back.

It's a year later, and other than a short stint answering phones, I've spent the past year jobless. But I've yet to do without even some luxuries in life. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, a car to drive, gas to put into said car, and family and friends who love me. I've changed more in this past year that I knew I could. I'm still on this up and down roller coaster of figuring out what I'm doing with my life and there's no sign of it stopping anytime soon and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for me. There are times when I start to freak out and worry what I'm going to do when my money runs out, but a little prayer tends to quench that fear. At the end of all of this, probably the most surprising thing I see is that, regardless of what's happened in this past year, both good and bad, I wouldn't change a thing that's brought me to where I am now.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Passion, Identity and Twilight

I have a confession. I judge anyone over the age of 18 who reads and enjoys Twilight. For those under 18, I judge their parents. It's an unnecessary problem. I'll give you that. But it's still there. I will confess that I've never read any of the books. I have, however, read synopses of them and in context excerpts. From them, I've been able to pull that the story is horribly bland, the characters are of the kind where you hope the guy in the hockey mask learns how to run to save you the next 85 minutes of your life, and the writing is so bad that I feel like the editor should be put in a cage with and handcuffed to a cougar for allowing such a monstrosity to leave his office (And not the cat kind of cougar either; the 43 year old woman who hibernated in a tanning bed for most of the 90's kind. Or as she's known in the wild: the Leathery Death.) To put it simply: I hate these books.

But realistically, why do I even have an opinion on this? Why do I so passionately hate them? I'm obviously not the intended audience for these books and their being horrible has no real effect on my life. I hate Twilight for the same reason that anyone else does; because there are people out there who not only love it, but think that it's good, and it's my job to show them that they're wrong.

I think that's the trick with passion, it has to go both ways. No one really hates anything that someone else doesn't love. If people don't think something is worthy of love, others don't think it's worthy of hate. It's almost as if love validates hate. I really can't think of a subject that people passionately love that doesn't have a group of just as passionate haters who feel it is their job to counterbalance the fan club.

But the thing I'm learning is that our identity is found, not in what we loves, but in our passions. That means that when we love something passionately, we're identifying ourselves with it. You can tell this because the haters don't just hate the object of love, but the lovers themselves. But, if passion is a two-sided coin, then that means that the haters are identified with the object of their hate as well. For instance, if I think about abortion, before I picture any type of advocate, I can't get out of my head a picture of a group of activists protesting a clinic. They are identified with what they hate.

This leads me to wonder, am I known more for what I passionately love or what I passionately hate? The beauty of grace is that my identity is found in Christ no matter what I do, but what does the evidence of my life say? Nothing that I do can take away who I am, but if 1 Corinthians 4:20 is true, then I shouldn't have to tell people where my passion lies. It should be obvious.

PS: Kelly, you're the exception. I don't judge you no matter what you read.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Knowing the Ending Ruins the Story

Being a literature lover makes you a little weird. You develop little ticks that make you stand out as the weird, antisocial old man who keeps trying to show kids a magic trick that wouldn't have impressed Cro-Magnon man that you will someday be (or crazy cat lady, depending on your gender).

What is one of mine you ask? I'm a freak about not knowing how a story ends. And when I say freak, I mean that. I'm a sucker for a mystery. I remember when I went to get the last Harry Potter book with my then girlfriend. We waited in line at Walmart for the midnight release and after we received our copies and walked towards the checkout she opened up the book to the last chapter. I almost gave a "spoiled thirteen year old who just heard no for the first time" worthy tantrum and definitely raised my voice more than a little bit (fun fact: the spoiled thirteen year old tantrum thing is where the term "spoiler alert" came from). Mind you, all I saw was the picture for that chapter, but still. From then on I knew that the last chapter had a broom and a bucket in it! Book=ruined. (By the way, if you're reading this "then girlfriend," my bad.)

The cool thing I'm starting to realize about God is that He's a master storyteller and I think we have in common that neither of us like for the ending to be ruined. Well, we sort of have that in common. I mean, I'll freak out over finding out the ending to a story or a movie, but I'm even more frustrated about God not giving away the ending to the "Tale of David" before it's completion. But, God being the master storyteller that He is knows that a story just isn't a good if we know the ending. The ending isn't the most important part of the story, but it's often hard to justify paying attention to the actual story if you already know the ending.

The middle is the most important part of the story and if we know the ending, it cheapens it. And we need the middle. The middle is where faith comes from. The middle is where the adventure happens, and adventure isn't adventure if we know the outcome. So, as much as I want to know how this season of my life is going to end, the most important part of my story would lose much of it's value if I did. So, as much as I wish I knew where or even if I'll be working a month from now, I'll trust that the Lord knows what He's doing. After all, He's not going to give away His secrets when He doesn't want them known. No good author does.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun Facts Friday!

It's that crazy time of the week where you get to learn more about me than you probably wanted to know. I've never been accused of being a private guy, so it's not like I'm opening up Pandora's Box or anything here. But regardless, this week I'm going to share just a few of my life goals to give you an idea of where I'm going. Please take notes as there will be a test.

So, presenting, in no particular order, David's Life Goals:

  1. Visit six out of seven continents. It's nothing personal Antarctica, but unless I get an all expenses paid trip to you, I can see penguins at the zoo. (I've actually hit up four continents already. Just South America and Australia to go, plus a more proper trip to Asia would be nice since I just barely nipped the tip.)
  2. Backpack the Highlands of Scotland with a couple of my guy friends. Not that I have a problem with girls going, I just don't want them to see me in snotty crying mode if the Shetland ponies don't like me.
  3. Go skydiving. Anything that I'm this scared to do is probably something that needs to happen. But logically speaking, this is the most likely goal that will lead to my death, so I might save it for when I'm in my 80's.
  4. Buy a house for each of my kids with cash.
  5. Pay for my kids' and grandkids' college tuitions with cash. (No funny comments for these two. I just think they'd be awesome.)
  6. Get something of mine published in a place where people will actually want to read it. Let's be honest, I have words that need to be heard on a grand scale.
  7. Run a marathon with my wife. This is mainly a precautionary tactic. If she ever runs away from me, I'd like to know if I have a shot at catching her.
  8. Read Moby Dick, Les Miserables, and Atlas Shrugged. Though I realize that at least two of those books are amazing, I mainly would be doing this for pretentious reasons. I mean, it will be awesome to make a reference to these books, and then when people look at me like they don't have a clue what I'm talking about, I'll get to remove my monocle, sneer and say, "Oh...I guess you've never read that before. How quaint." You have to have read at least two of these before you're even allowed to integrate "quaint" into your vocabulary.
  9. Give away $100,000. Again, nothing funny here. But how awesome would it be to write that check to someone who really needs it?
  10. Have a daughter. Hold your aww's. This is for more selfish reasons than it might seem. You see, the thing is, I just inherited a lot of guns and I don't want any of them to go to waste. I might let her start dating when she turns 16. From that point on, let the games begin.
I know that this has been mostly a downer week. In case you're wondering, I'm doing tons better, so no worries there. Next week will be a lot happier. Monday there'll be a crazy cat lady reference and even a story about me freaking out. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Down and Out and Whatnot

I don't feel like I've shared a little bit of what the Lord's been teaching me in a while, so I figure I probably should. I brought it up the other day, but I've been pretty down lately. Downright depressed is probably the best way to put it. Being unemployed takes its tole. I try not to think about it too much, but I've been struggling a lot lately. My self-worth has been taking a pretty heavy hit. Add to that the fact that I really haven't been hearing from the Lord much lately and you've got a good recipe for the mopeys.

But I've had Abraham on my mind lately. Specifically that part in Romans 4 where Paul talks about Abraham. When the Lord calls Abraham and promises that he will have tons of descendants, he's 75. I'm pretty sure that that means that his wife Sarah was around 65. If at that moment God had allowed a 65 year old woman to conceive, that would have been miraculous and the Lord would have received glory from that. But that's not what happens. Twenty-five years pass with nothing good happening in the baby making department.

The way I am, I feel like if God promises me something and I've waited a couple of weeks, I should be exalted as the patron saint of patience. After 25 years, I would had already moved through the doubting phase and moved straight to the "I must have heard Him wrong" phase and moved on. But Romans 4:20-21 says that Abraham never wavered in his faith. It just grew stronger everyday and he held on to the fact that God is able to exactly what He promises. So even when the Lord wasn't doing the miracle, He was still getting glory from Abraham's faith.

And a bit of wisdom that John Flowers told me recently keeps being brought back to my mind. Abraham having a son after he was called would have been a huge miracle, but the longer the Lord waited to give him what he was promised, the more impossible it seemed and the bigger the miracle would be and the more glory God would receive.

That's what I'm trying to hold onto right now. Because that's how I feel right now. It's easy for me to think that everyday that passes without me getting a job, it becomes even more impossible for me to get one. But if I view my situation the way the Abraham did, then I realize that everyday that passes brings me one day closer to the Lord doing a miracle.